1930 Synod Convention Essay
The Christian day school has been discussed and written about at almost every Synod meeting of the old Norwegian Synod and of our present Synodical body. Never, as far as we know, has a voice been raised in our conventions protesting against the Christian day school. But, if you will search the Synodical reports, you will find that our Synod again and again has passed resolutions urging all our congregations to establish such schools, yes, even declared it a matter of life and death for our church.
One of the great arguments for union in 1917 was that it would help the cause of the Christian day school. At our Jubilee Synod in 1928 we had a special souvenir on the Christian day school. We seem to be agreed, then, that the Christian day school is necessary, but what troubles us is the carrying out of God’s will and command.
What I have to offer on this subject will not, therefore, be anything new. But I shall endeavor to review, as it were, briefly the main arguments for the Christian day school, showing our duty, and urging all under God to do their duty in faith and trust to Him who has promised to give us all things in and through Jesus Christ.
The Christian day school is a school that takes care of the child’s entire elementary education; a school where the Christian religion and the secular subjects, prescribed by the state, are taught side by side; where the entire plan, discipline and instruction, is based upon the word of God. Such a school, when properly conducted, can and will be of real assistance to the Christian parents and the congregation in bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Children are a gift from God. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord and his reward,” says the Psalmist, “Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” God has given them to us that we should care for them according to his will and word, so that they may be given back to him. They are not ours to do with as we please. We have no right to starve them, neglect them bodily, or kill them. But just as we must care for their bodily welfare, so we must also, yes, first care for the soul. Here, too, we must do what God wants us to do. We are to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are to care for them: as God’s children. How are we to do this? We must pray for our children, bring them to God in baptism, teach them to observe all things whatsoever God has commanded and set them a good example.
God says: “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.”
“These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
“Feed my lambs.” “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
God has promised to bless all those who seek to do his will, but he has also threatened to curse all those who disregard his commandments.
The commandments of God to parents and the church regarding the training of the children include the whole training of the child in body, mind and soul. The child is to be brought up in such a manner as to be sound and useful for the state and community and not to be a burden or a parasite. But above all the child is to be prepared for eternity. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Can the parents alone, in our busy and complex civilization, train their children and attain the best results? We readily admit that if the parents have the time and the ability they are nearest to the child-understand the child best, and have the greatest influence over the child. But when we take the average home, we find that in most cases the child’s training would be sorely neglected if left entirely to the parents without any outside assistance.
Can the public school help the Christian parents as they should be helped? We answer, No!
Because our Lord has commanded that our children should be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This the public school is forbidden by law to do. In 2 Tim. 3,16–17 we read: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and it is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
In Jeremiah 8,9 we read: “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?”
How then can the Christless public school give this most important element in education which it does not have? Finally, we know from the word of God that all things are hallowed and sanctified by the word of God and prayer. This the public school lacks. Is it right then for the Christian parents to seek help for the training of their children in the Godless public schools?
We do not propose to do away with the public schools. They are needed for the fifty per cent or more of our citizens who are not Christians. A fundamental principle of our beloved country is the separation of church and state. We would not give up this principle. But as long as this law shall stand there can be no religious instruction in the public school. Therefore, if we believe what God declares and what our church has always maintained, that the most important thing in life is our Christian faith and Christian life, then we will and must provide for the Christian training of our children in body, mind and soul.
The Christless school, be it ever so good, is not good enough for us Christians, because it leaves out the most important factor in the training of our children, namely the word of God.
Martin Luther said: “Where the Holy Scriptures do not rule there I certainly do not advise any one to send his child. All must be ruined where the word of God is not constantly exersiced, I have a great fear, that the schools are wide portals to hell, when they do not persistently and diligently use the word of God and impress it upon the young.”
Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia University has said: “Religious training is a necessary factor in education, and must be given the time, the attention, and the serious continued treatment which it deserves. That religious training is not at the present time given a place by the side of the study of science, literature, art or of human institutions, is well recognized.”
The supreme court of the state of Wisconsin declared many years ago in a case concerning the reading of the Bible in the public schools, that such practice was sectarian and contrary to the statutes of the state. The court furthermore stated: “The priceless truths of the Bible are best taught to our youth in the church, the Sabbath and parochial schools, the social religious meetings, and, above all, in the home circle. There those truths may be explained and enforced, the spiritual welfare of the child guarded and protected, and his spiritual nature directed and cultivated in accordance with the dictates of the parental conscience.”
Most educators today admit that the Sunday school is entirely inadequate. And aside from the fact that the secular training in the public school is Christless and often anti-Christian, stressing out of all proportion the material and temporal side of life, is it reasonable that an hour in Sunday school once a week could begin to feed the lambs of Christ as he wants them feel?
But some say we have a religious summer school for a month or two. Well and good, this does help to give the children some added historical knowledge of the Christian truths, and we would not belittle it. And still we must admit that it is forced feeding and can never take the place of the constant daily training that God has described.
The only real solution is the Christian day school. This can and does give and provide just what the Lord has prescribed. It is the best plan of all plans. To such a school the Christian parents can send their children, knowing that they are doing what God wants them to do. The only time that a Christian day school falls short of its God-given power and influence is when a teacher is unfaithful to his trust and a congregation is too stingy to provide what is necessary for the best interests of the school.
Now, we admit that many have been able, by the grace and power of God, to bring their children to God without the Christian day school. But such parents devoted a great deal more time to instruct their children in the fundamentals of Christianity than most parents do today and they did not have the dangers to cope with in education that we have. We are living in a much more complex and diverting age than our forefathers did. Furthermore, the public school is not only a Christless school, but in many cases even an anti-Christian school, where soul-destroying doctrines contrary to the Bible are being taught.
Therefore, unless the Christian parent is able to give his child all its schooling at home, he is endangering the child’s spiritual life by sending it to the public school.
Today more than ever the Christian day school is needed. The great loss of newly confirmed is a sad commentary on the lack of daily Christian training. That religion is needed in education is heard on every hand from leading educators. The flood of crime and immorality is traced to the lack of religion in education.
Our goal must, therefore, be a Christian day school in every congregation of our Synod. We have agreed to this, at least on paper. How shall we reach this goal? By preaching and practicing the word of God. We have been preaching for 75 years, but few have taken God’s word to heart and done what God has commanded. Would the storm of 1917 have destroyed the old Synod house, if the Synod had practiced what it preached with regard to the Christian day school? Let us beware lest we fall into the same lukewarm indifference and be satisfied because we have preached the necessity of the Christian day school and then do nothing more about it. Shall we not take God at his word? Has he not promised to provide all things necessary for the carrying out of his will and the work in his kingdom? Why not begin at the beginning in our church work and lay the foundation that God wants? I fear that we have been so busy with the stray sheep that we have neglected the lambs that God has placed within the fold.
When we send missionaries to the foreign fields we begin by establishing schools for the children. In the same manner we carry on the work among the American Indians and the Negro in the south. Why not do the same when we send our missionaries to start new missions on the home mission fields? Are we not agreed that the training of our children is just as important as preaching to the adults? Why not start at the bottom and lay a foundation that will carry the superstructure?
Let our missionaries begin by starting a school. If necessary, leave out all other activities such as young people’s societies, ladies’ aids, men’s societies, choirs, suppers and sales, until those things can be taken care of. First teach the children during the week and let all worship together on Sunday. Wherever this method has been tried, and it has been tried again and again, there the results have justified the procedure. The fruits may seem small and insignificant to begin with, but in the end you will win out.
But where will the money come from? is the cry that we always meet. I ask, where does the money come from to carry on any and all of the work in God’s vineyard? Is it not God who provides by opening the hearts and the purses? Has he not asked us to prove him or try him? Malachi 3,10: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Here we see that God has promised to bless our offerings so that there will be plenty if we give of his gifts as he has ordered. Would the expense for a missionary starting a new mission be much greater if he started a school at the beginning and did the teaching himself? Hundreds of Missouri Synod congregations have been started in that way. Could we spend our mission treasury in a more profitable manner?
In old established congregations it is often more difficult to overcome the life-long apathy and unmask the seeming impossibilities and objections. I am bold to state that it is not impossible for any well established self-supporting congregation to have its own Christian day school, if the members really want it. Is anything impossible with God? If we really gave according as God hath prospered us. If we really dedicated ourselves and our money and goods to the service of the Lord, there is no doubt but what we would have all we need and more to carry on this work. But so many forget to place the kingdom of God first on their budget. Instead most people do not place it there at all or place it last and give only the left-overs. The love of Christ should constrain us and will constrain us to do everything to feed the lambs of God. But where there is no real love for God there is no concern for his little lambs either. In many congregations a school could be had for the money that the members spend for newspapers. The average person in the city spends ten dollars or more a year for newspapers. Is that more important than a Christian day school?
We shall briefly mention and answer some of the worn-out objections to the Christian day school: That it is unnecessary, inefficient, narrow, un-American, too expensive and too far for many of the children. In the light of God’s word we have seen that it is necessary, if we are to do what God wants us to do. Where properly conducted the results prove that the Christian school is more efficient than the public school. It is broader than the Christless school, because it develops Christian character and has the only true means of dicipline, namely, the word of God.
The Christian day school is most American, because the principle of separation of church and state intends that the church shall educate the children. And the record of our parochial school trained boys in the world war, together with the commendations received from superior officers who were not Lutherans, contradicts the statement that our schools cannot produce good Americans. Our schools are also the most economical of all schools, but even if they were not, what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his soul? That some children have too far to go can always be overcome in this age of transportation. Where there is a will there is a way and where there is love of Christ and love for the children there will be a way.
We must not expect to get all the members of a congregation with us from the start and make a big beginning. But let those who see the necessity and whose consciences are bound by the word of God start by praying and giving and open a school, be it ever so small. The large schools of today all had a small beginning, and you never know till you try what the outcome will be. And what of it if your school never grew large, you would at least have done your duty — the growth and the increase rests with God. All the work in God’s vineyard demands sacrifices. So also the work of carrying on a Christian day school. This is God’s order of things. He wants us to make sacrifices because it is good for us. Why not be glad to make sacrifices because it is good for us. Why not be glad to make sacrifices if the Lord wills it and makes it possible for you to make them. Let no one delude himself into thinking that an old established school will run of itself without sacrifices. Oh, no! The devil takes care of that. He hates the old established school fully as much, if not more, than the little beginner, and therefore, he is ever busy seeking to destroy it. I once heard an old pastor say that it was a continual fight to keep a school going even after fifty years.
Therefore, if we are certain that the conditions and problems of our age demand a Christian day school, if we as a congregation are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and feed the lambs of Christ as he wants them feel, then let us go forth to battle in the name of the Lord God Almighty, merciful and good, knowing that with God all things are possible and that he will guide and keep and bless to the glory of his name and the salvation of our souls.