1934 Synod Convention Essay
It is a singular privilege to be here with you at this convention of representatives of your Synod, at this meeting of men of God, a council of workers together with God. And you have asked me to present a discourse on a most practical and popular topic.
Education, in a way, is now being given due, universal recognition. It seems that in our day practically everybody considers education important and a discussion along educational lines interesting and profitable. True, there still exist — and, permit me to say it, there always will exist — great differences of opinion in the field of education. There need be no elaboration of this statement. There are those who say that “education is a process of unfolding;” others, “education is a living over, or recapitulation, of the history of the race;” still others will simply call education “an acquiring of knowledge,” “a preparation,” “a reconstruction of experiences;” and it seems that at this moment those are in the ascendancy, perhaps recognized most prominently and favorably, who call education “life,” “growth,” “social progress.” Over against all this, a representative of the United States Bureau of Education very recently made the sweeping and staggering statement: “We have no American philosophy of education because there is no real philosophy of life in America.” A leading Lutheran student of education has expressed as his belief that the most generally acceptable definition would be: “Education is the symmetrical development and proper training of the whole human being.” I readily agree that it should be worth our while to discuss the various opinions and trends in education as they were briefly indicated by what has been said and, of course, I merely pinpunctured the great reservoir of pedagogical or educational scholarship.
There is complete agreement to-day, however, that education in its intent and purpose is directed at character, at the inner man, at the very personality of a human being. The influence of education must be cultural, serving for intellectual and moral enlightenment, discipline, and improvement. Let us not forget that this is the present-day general attitude toward education and schooling, and that this principle is in operation in every educational system conducted anywhere in our country. The means applied for the attainment of the education so intended are numerous and varied, depending on the knowledge, conviction, and inclination of the educator and his educational group. We may readily observe the ceaseless endeavor ever to detect, devise, and put to use additional, new, modern and, if possible, better and more efficient means and agencies which may tend to the desired objective. Not only men and women, but their products as well — in the form of curricula, courses of study, text-books, and general school regulations of diverse nature — bear witness that character building, character education, is the purpose at which all designs aim.
But, my Christian brothers, we are assembled here to seek and give counsel upon Christian education and training. The Father having graciously “translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1,13), looks upon us when we ponder and advise on the bringing up of His children. We know that to engage in Christian education is to have entered into divine domain. Christian education is of lasting, divine quality. It is the education which prevails and stands approved scripturally in the unique kingdom of the unchangeable Christ. In Jesus Christ’s kingdom of grace. It surely were contemptible arrogance on our part, bold usurpation on the rights of the Lord on High, should anyone dare to define, expound, or determine Christian education according to human opinion and judgment — including the findings, opinions, and judgments of the science of pedagogics-to establish aims at will, or to choose, organize, and use his own means. Every detail in Christian education of necessity must be in harmony with God’s guidance and government of grace, as provided, revealed, directed, and applied by Christ Himself for the well-being and welfare of His chosen children. This glorious reality does not merely make us carefully aware of the grave responsibility for and in the exercise of a sacred duty and obligation, but is the primary cause for our joy, delight, and gratitude in contemplating, as parents and educators, the topic which is ours to-day, as well as in performing our tasks of Christian education and training in home, church, and school when we shall have returned to our local fields of endeavor as workers together with and witnesses unto our God and Savior. How happy we ought to be, and of right can be, that the great God has honored us so significantly as to give into our charge a wonderful heritage, — yes, we know long ago that children are “an heritage of the Lord;” that He has had us experience previously His nurture and admonition, so that we, having freely received, can now freely give (Matt. 10,8) in behalf of our children; that He has implanted and preserved in our hearts the yearning love of our Redeemer, so that thereby we have the sufficiency for the feeding of “His lambs” within His flock, within His Church, constrained thereunto by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5,14); that He has supplied the necessary basic and unfailing proper appraisal of the worth of those “lambs” (Matt. 18,1–11); that He who has built all things (Hebr. 3,4), has prepared everything for Christian education and character building, — the aim and purpose, the course, the plan, the equipment, the means, the success, the blessing, so that we might “walk therein.” Christian education viewed with eyes enlightened by God’s Holy Spirit is not an impossible or even an arduous and trying task, nor is it a nebulous perception of a remote truth. No indeed! It is a delightful, genuine, positive service by and for those upon whom the Father hath bestowed even that manner of love that they should be called the sons of God (1 John 3,1).
One other preliminary consideration: “See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the clays are evil” (Ephes. 5,15). Christian education is occupied with true, eternal wisdom, it counteracts foolishness, actuates and advances circumspection and discernment with regard to all conditions and situations in life. For that reason, too, a study of Christian education in all its ramifications always is a needful and timely occupation, and it is just that in the year of our Lord 1934. Christian education is a vital issue, fundamentally affecting the very life of each congregation and the Synod, not only the individual member, young or old, and the family group. It is, therefore, truly a matter of congregational and synodical concern. Your Board of Christian Education, in regular reports to your conventions, as well as your honorable Synod, by various resolutions, have time and time again argued the cause, and many a serious plea has gone forth, also, from our educational center, Bethany College, for proper Christian education and training at institutions maintained by Synod or by a single congregation. And no one here present will gainsay that the following statement on the part of another synodical Board is to the point and timely: “We believe that the consciousness of our people, both clergy and laity, must be thoroughly aroused, if we are to retain our glorious name of being a Church which indoctrinates its children.” My brothers in Christ, as long as we remain “sons of God” and “laborers together with God,” we shall be controlled by the love of Christ to look zealously and jealously to that prime duty and privilege: to bring up those of the rising generation, the children, our children and God’s children, given into the care of their parents and their Church, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; to assist by means of the superior and powerful assets of God’s Church to teach and train them thoroughly in godliness, that in every thing they be enriched by Him in all utterance and in all knowledge (1 Cor. 1,5). We shall also seek fervently, as laborers together with God, to defend them against all danger, and guard and protect them from all evil of body, mind, heart, and soul.
With this firmly set before us let us joyfully “redeem the time” of this convention allotted to the meditation and study of that education, Christian education, which is in truth the work of the Holy Spirit, as we confess in the Third Article of our Holy Christian Creed, and the blessed results of which, in the final analysis, are miracles of the grace of the Lord which He can well perform, and which He so often has wrought, through His servants in home and church, who say with Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4,13).
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In presenting this preface, I felt constrained to furnish a prelude, an overture as it were, in order to indicate definitely the character of the essay. In closing, permit me, first, to offer a personal declaration and, then, to voice a most cordial request.
The declaration: I shall endeavor to supply a straightforward, simple, brief reflection of firm Christian convictions on education. I shall do so from fear, love, and trust in God, with the constant prayer in my heart:
“Save now, I beseech Thee, O Lord:
O Lord, I beseech Thee.
Send now prosperity!” (Psalm 118,25.)
As to the request: May I urge upon every one here present to join in the discussion of our beautiful and blessed topic. You will notice all along that my discourse is of such a nature that joint activity, not merely reaction, is wanted and needed. This includes each one, be he pastor, professor, teacher, or layman. And I add a special brotherly invitation to the delegates from the voting membership of the churches to speak often and freely, be it to tell of experiences in child training in home or school, to offer encouragement or constructive suggestions, to voice a Christian plea or admonition, to state misgivings or objections, or to point out difficulties. A candid, brotherly, bountiful expression of sound views and attitudes on the subject is seasonable, urgent, altogether necessary to the purpose of this convention, and will best serve the great cause, our commonwealth, our churches, our homes, children, and-to the glory of God.
“I will praise the Lord with my whole heart,
In the assembly of the upright,
And in the congregation.” (Psalm 111,1.)
Christian Education Is Education by the Grace of God, to the Glory of God, and for the Service of God.
Education has the general, threefold significance of intellectual, volitional, and emotional discipline, in other words, of imparting knowledge, directing the will, and animating the affections and feelings. It has to do with mind, soul and heart. This process is constantly in operation, is practiced everywhere and by almost everybody, consciously or unconsciously. These facts dare not be overlooked.
Then, too, we must recall at this time the popular, superficial use of the word “education,” making it synonymous with “schooling.” This misappropriation has done much harm and has already been given wide adoption, creating in such instances an almost absolute position for the school, lower or higher, which it cannot rightly assume. This one-sided notion has done much in making “education” an ambiguous term, as well as initiating a dangerous shift of responsibility. We record these adverse circumstances at this time in order to guard against error and injury through a faulty sense of relation, proportion, and balance in the realm of educational obligation and liability.
In giving our attention to Christian education, we shall determine at the outset not to be misled into identifying education and school, or of fostering the unjustifiable idea that Christian education is the concern and procedure of the Christian school alone. It will be well, therefore, to interpose here the essential truth that the first and foremost center of Christian education is the Christian home, that the Christian education of children is the paramount function and privilege of Christian parents, by divine arrangement and command. It is their most sacred obligation and business, and represents a problem which they dare not shirk, and an intimate, personal duty which they cannot shift.
Parents are, however, not isolated as to contributing, effective, and additional resources. The Lord has gathered Christian parents and children into His kingdom, into the communion of saints, has made them members of His own family, of His household of faith, of His Church on earth. The Church is an exclusive, richly endowed instrument of God’s grace, glory, and service. The Church as predicated in the local congregation, or church, also is prayerfully eager “that the Word of the Lord may have free course” (2 Thess. 3,1), that disciples of Christ be made of all nations, including the children, and that they be not only baptized but taught as well all things which Jesus has commanded (Matt. 28,19–20). Neither has Jesus restricted or in any way limited His Church in her choice of agencies for Christian education, and the Church will be found ready to supply serviceable agencies when and as the need arises, being ever bent upon the promotion of God’s cause. Self-imposed restrictions and limitations stifle Christian zeal and obstruct the expansion of the Kingdom. They are not pleasing unto the Lord of the Church. All educational helps, arrangements, and institutions are proper when they are God-pleasing supports to the work of the home and the Church, and they will be welcomed as such. These reflections will be recalled at a later time, when the matter will be given further consideration.
It is necessary for our guidance throughout our discussion to have a clear, definite statement as to the nature of Christian education. We should fail to understand one another, should we differ with regard to the thing whereof we speak. To forestall the possibility of disparity in terminology with respect to the initial word, you will permit me to fix the definition. What constitutes Christian education? What is Christian education?
Christian education and training (“training” will always be included!) is the service of the educator which promotes growth and strength in the faith-life of a Christian child.
So, — Christian education is essentially included in sanctification of life, or the renewal of the heart. It is, therefore, a work of the Holy Ghost. It is incorporated in the Third Article of our Holy Christian Creed. A Christian cannot be willfully neglectful regarding Christian education, non-observant as to its application, or inclined to make it a side-issue in life; he would in that instance fail to be a Christian.
On the other hand, a child of God will always esteem Christian education a most careful pursuit, a painstaking procedure and function. Particularly when placed in the position of an actual educator — as parent, pastor, or teacher — the child of God will in the faithfulness of his Christian stewardship know his occupation to be a distinguished and sacred calling within the Father’s house and household, will carry on as one charged to be about the Father’s business (Luke 2, 49), and will study to show himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2,15), to be truly a laborer together with God (1 Cor. 3,9), be it within the Church or in the family, the root of the Church or, as one of your men, now sainted, has called it — “the church or the congregation in miniature.”
Christian Education Is Education by the Grace of God.
Our thesis sets forth that Christian education exists by the grace of God. All good things come to us as gifts of a gracious God. However, Christian education issues from that transcendently glorious source in a very special sense, as may be readily ascertained by every faithful Lutheran. A distinctive Lutheran doctrine — I should say, the distinctively Lutheran doctrine — the chief doctrine, heart and essence of the Holy Word of God, is here involved directly. This fact will induce us to recognize clearly the magnitude and joy attached to genuine Christion education. The forgiveness of sins by grace through faith in our Redeemer Jesus Christ — the doctrine of Justification — which is the power for and source of all spiritual activity, the very charter and life of Christianity, and which constitutes the “Material Principle” of the Lutheran Church, supplies the Diploma to all Christian educators, and opens the door to Christian education to all Christian children. A Christian education independent of justification by grace through faith never will stand approved before God. And when an education dares to stand disconnected from this doctrine, it is no more Christian, but will, in the final analysis, reveal itself to be perversion and corruption, a drawing away from Christ, the Crucified. The only education which can be called Christian education is not alone a Christ-centered (Christocentric) education, but it arises by virtue of the redemption wrought by Christ, is fruit and blessed result and — yes, we may say it gratefully — is a monument to the grace of God which made it possible. It would be utterly impossible to promote strength and growth in the faithlife of a Christian child — to educate a Christian child — if there were not that source of the life of faith, the gracious forgiveness of sins through the merits of our blessed Savior. The child must first of all be a Christian, must be in Christ (2 Cor. 5,17), and thereafter Christian education may set in. Indeed, without Him we can do nothing (John 15,5) in Christian education. There is but one reason why Christian education can be, but also must be, carried on: The grace of God in Christ Jesus. Here, too, we praise the “sola gratia.”
This same grace of God is the creative and sustaining influence in every activity and acquisition of Christian education. I shall point very briefly to a few New Testament testimonials. St. Paul states the reason why he could serve wisely, and every Christian educator can associate himself — in a becoming measure and degree — with the Apostle: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon” (1 Cor. 3,10). Then, every Christian child and pupil will share the conviction conveyed to Titus, “For the Grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us” — educating us, training us — (Titus 3,11–12). Experience in Christian education to-day also shows a great variety of gifts and talents for and acquirements in education, be the educative effort ever so thoughtful and the tests standardized ever so scientifically, the cause of which was set forth 1900 years ago by the Holy Spirit, “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephes. 4,7). And St. Peter points out that every man of God will use his gifts, including all those which may be classed as educational attainments, as a steward of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4,10), and admonishes to persist in Christian education throughout life: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3,18). Truly, Christian education exists and is completely encompassed by the grace of God!
Christian Education Is Education To The Glory Of God.
To assert that Christian education tends to the glory of God is to proclaim that the glory of God is the purpose of Christian education. This purpose conforms to the First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” To hallow God’s name is to reverence Him, to honor Him, to glorify Him. Luther’s answer to his question, “How is this done?” will clearly designate the relation of Christian education to the glory of God. It is: “When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as “children of God also lead a holy life according to it. This grant us, dear Father in heaven.”
This interconnection appears perfectly obvious to us; we have professed it throughout our lives. However, it is by no means evident in the practice of many who call themselves followers of Christ, nor is it manifested in the transactions of large groups and organizations ostensibly interested in what they call Christian education. Let us think of one great and powerfully influential concourse of churchmen and churches, the Modernists and Unionists. They talk much of Christian education and have been highly successful almost everywhere in gaining enthusiastic and mighty adherents and supporters for their educational program. Their processes amount to about this: Everybody has the ability and the free will to choose the good and to avoid the evil: he can do the one and abstain from the other. Religion is the best means for his further development, his natural evolution. According to modernistic principles the purpose of religious education is to influence the child in such a manner that he will gradually work his way up from a lower to a higher moral and social position. There will be about this training procedure: “Observe the thief and the murderer: What advantages have they on account of their horrible conduct? Nothing but trouble, disgrace, punishment, and, finally, ruin. Those surely are evil consequences. So you see, you must not do such things as they do; it doesn’t pay. But now observe yonder influential business man. Through honesty and industry he has elevated himself to a high position in life. He lives in a fine house, has a lovely family, many respected friends, many comforts, conveniences, pleasures, etc. They are the highly desirable results and consequences of his efforts. Now, you may choose one or the other of these two ways of living, either the honorable or the disreputable, the one which will lead to disaster and shame or the other which is the best and sure road to success and honor.” When the child has arrived on the proper grade in his social and moral education and elevation, he must be led to the Ideal, the Perfect Man, the Nazarene. He must learn all about Jesus. The model life of this extraordinary Leader will so enrapture the child that he will eventually be qualified to work out his own salvation, inasmuch as he can and will in all his undertakings and experiences with intelligence and discrimination make the proper choice as between heaven and hell. But, my friends, be sure to remember that expressions like “heaven,” “hell,” and “salvation” refer to conditions in this world: Salvation is happiness on earth; heaven, the good and pleasant life on earth; hell, the evil and dire consequences in this life. Religion is to mean nothing beyond “the highest social consciousness.”
Summarizing the modernistic religious education, it is this: The beginning is made with life. From good and evil experiences one will learn what is good and profitable as well as what is evil and unserviceable. Then there must be much exercise and drill in careful choosing, followed by the copious references to the life of Jesus and other good and prominent men, and all this will form proper concepts, convictions and bents. In this manner a higher moral consciousness is developed. That is religion, produced and enriched in him who seeks moral rectitude and ethical excellence.
We shrink from all this and adjudge it blasphemy and sacrilege, not at all Christianity. I regret that it was necessary to present this review to you. But I know no more impudent program of education, flagrantly dishonoring God (Rom. 2,23), at the same time so imminently and eminently dangerous, through its insidiousness, nearness, and wide-spread use, to the souls of our own children, nor is there an instance more suitable to illustrate Luther’s second statement anent the First Petition: “But he that teaches and lives otherwise than God’s Word teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, Heavenly Father!”
And, my Christian brothers and “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8,17), there is no educational system in our day which does not seek in one way or the other to convey life principles and to minister to character building. I do not refer to school systems only, but to various systems of propagandism in education with their various expedients, artifices, projects, agencies, and what not, disseminated through literature, the press, the radio, theaters, libraries, pictures, and other means, ostensibly for the special benefit and advancement of the children and youth of our land. Upon investigation it will be found that the same satanic poison, together with other venom and virus, is being spread in that way. An onslaught is now in effect to “deceive and seduce, if it were possible, the very elect” (Matt. 24,24; Mark 13,22). Our Savior once asked the question, and He asks it to-day: “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18,8.)
What are we to do? The disciples of Christ knew: They prayed to the Lord. This is part of that prayer (Acts 4,29): “Lord, grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word.” We are to glorify God by making use of His power, His Word. We are to serve by means of an education which has for its purpose the glory of God. “Pray and work.” Work and pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.” “Our Father in heaven, grant that Thy Word be taught in its truth and purity, and that we as children of God also lead a holy life according to it.”
We must be roused from a state of complacency, which induced even us to neglect God’s honor and glory; failing to be alert, bold, confident and eager with reference to Christian education. We shall, of course, have to begin with self-education, and with discarding all selfishness. In applying education to our children, we must discern clearly that human effort will fail completely, that honor and glory of self and of any purely human purpose spells disaster. Denial of self, self-effacement — all glory to God! We can but confess that we and our children are wretched sinners, and there again — to make even that confession genuine and salutary, we need God. vVe need His grace all the time, and not at all by our own reason, choice, or strength, but in the strength of God alone hope to the end for grace (1 Peter 1,13), or, as Luther translates, place our hope entirely on grace. That is implied by the statement that Christian education is an education to the glory of God.
Let us arrange for and use, in families and congregations, a complete education for our children, which leads them solely to rely on God, an education wholly to His glory, to show forth His salvation daily, to declare His glory among the heathen (Psalm 96,2–3) through our children and His children from out of whose mouths shall issue strength which he has ordained and praise which He has perfected (Psalm 8,2; Matt. 21,16).
At this stage of our discussion we shall note but one observance of true, Scriptural education, an unchangeable Scriptural procedure: I: “How shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard” (Rom. 10,14)? II: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10,17). III: “These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3,8). So: — Teaching, definite, positive teaching, teaching the Word of God, the complete Word of God, but dominatingly that Word which is God’s means of grace, the glorious, powerful Gospel of Christ unto salvation, which produces faith: and from faith there will unfailingly issue godly living and good works, the sanctification of life. No other religious education than this stands accredited before God, the education to the glory of God, to which everything in life is to be subservient, by which every activity is controlled, educational and any other, even the commonplace affair of eating and drinking (1 Cor. 10,31).
That, brethren, is the education by the grace of God, through His Word, totally dependent upon His grace, based on and permeated by His Holy Scriptures, and so existing for, and redounding to, His glory. To that we give not merely our good will, interest, and attention, but our whole-hearted devotion.
Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria!
Christian Education Is Education for the Service of God.
Service is labor in behalf and, at times, by the direction of another. The implications of service are rather distasteful to such as prefer to “look out for themselves” and to “do as they please,” and that is not a small group. It is not represented at this meeting.
Some years ago, a learned and experienced educator, a man well advanced in years, a distinguished professor of our oldest university, had been given the assignment to survey American school conditions with the purpose of ascertaining, “Do the citizens of the United States receive their money’s worth through the schools of our country?” I heard his formal report at a general convention of school superintendents. The gentleman, conveying the results of his finding to upward of 10,000 administrators of school groups from all parts of the United States, stated very frankly that he would rather not report, but would prefer to continue his investigations, in the hope that he would eventually, perhaps, come upon something that would prove reassuring. Having made a study, however, of conditions in hundreds of schools, elementary, secondary, and higher, over a period of several years, he felt constrained to submit the statement at that time that, pursuant to the courses of education uniformly adopted, and the aims and activities universally prevalent, the youth everywhere were being trained consistently toward selfishness, self-aggrandizement, treasure- and pleasure-seeking, luxury, and general high living, with a decided penchant for aloofness, snobbishness, intellectual and otherwise, and that a sense of humility and the desire for service to humanity at large, and human beings singly, seemed entirely out of the question in, and alien to, their education and training. He concluded his report with pronouncing the crushing verdict that such an “education” is indeed not rendering equitable returns for the vast amount of money invested and annually expended, but that this “training,” if permitted to continue, would “inevitably spell the ruin of civilization in our country.” Shocking information and inference, that!
Since that convention much has been suggested and attempted to improve conditions by other, new, corrective, remedial, experimental, anticipatory courses, syllabi, curricula, manuals, textbooks, methods, and procedures of various nature, but the success has remained negligible, as is unfortunate, but well known. True, we hold that there should be and could be at least somewhat more satisfactory results in outward civic righteousness and morality obtainable even through a legalistic education of human persuasion and coercion, punishment and reward, and we shall not lose hope in that respect when considering and praying for the welfare of our nation. “Righteousness exalteth a nation” (Prov. 14,34).
Christians know that quite different forces and an entirely dissimilar education must be applied in order that real service of God be realized. Nothing need be said here with reference specifically to the service of our fellow-man, which is an indirect service of God. That differentiation is not even made in the advance account by our Savior of the Last Judgment, — “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25,40).
Neither is the process in supplying a Christian education for service of God that of following in the main the general fashion, prevalently swimming with the current, and merely adding a few Christian features here and there, occasionally, periodically, and, possibly, incompetently, awkwardly, or uninvitingly, rebukingly, painfully, — as it actually has been done in some parts. No, it is something else, entirely, and immeasurably greater. Explicitly, it is to receive a genuine, regular and thorough, enduring and dynamic guidance which prepares and induces and sustains sanctified service of God. Foundation and superstructure in every detail, the entire educational building, must be according to God’s own specifications. Of this more will be heard as we proceed in our discussion.
At the present point we have in mind that specific result of Christian education which is comprehended in a life consecrated to God; the life of a child of God. Let us recall Luther’s statement in the first of his ninety-five theses, that “the entire life of believers should be repentance.” “That is a great art, indeed!” as someone has exclaimed. That is the aim which we now wish to contemplate, to which every other aim in a life of service of God is a sub-aim. The Holy Spirit, who graciously supplies the life and the power in such a life, furnishes the complete and greatly needed instruction, but the indispensable thorough exercises as well, tantamount to constant practice. According to His plan the curriculum — the race-course, if you will — cp. 2 Tim. 4,7; 1 Cor. 9,26, but by all means also Rom. 9,16! — in the faith-life of a Christian child offers this regular, daily, I should say uninterrupted, circuit: He considers his station according to the Ten Commandments, the Law of God, and realizes his damnable sinfulness, not superficially or merely in a general way, but as a matter of knowledge (“By the Law is the knowledge of sin” — Rom. 3,20). — A merciful God at the same time, through the influence and operation of His Gospel of salvation, does not permit him to despair, but has him fly to the arms of his Savior and Redeemer to obtain through and from Him the forgiveness of all his sins; he is by the blood of Jesus Christ cleansed from all sin (1 John 1,7). He has now the “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” as a saint within the kingdom of God (Rom. 14,17–18). — This joy breaks forth into gratitude by word and deed, and the faith-life of the Christian child is in truth also a life occupied in the service of God. That service shows forth his right relation toward God with respect to trust, love, reverence, worship, obedience in all the activities of Christian stewardship; toward man with respect to charity, fellowship, the demands of his daily occupation, and all branches of practical Christian service, chief among which will always be the efforts in mission work; toward life in general with respect to God’s Providence in nature and God’s dispositions and dispensations in the experience of the individual, personal and social. —
All this is the service of devotion to God, the Father, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier, the devotional life of a child of God, a manifestation everywhere, at all times, in all conditions and situations, a manifestation of the life and growth out of Christ (John 15,5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches”), into Christ (Ephes. 4,15: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ), up to Christ (Col. 2,19: “… the body … increaseth with the increase of God” — Luther’s translation: “… wächst zur göttlichen Grösze,” “groweth to the divine stature”), a glorious testimony of his estate of grace and of the reality and actuality that Christ is formed in him (Gal. 4,19). —
And now the day is over. The Christian child, reflecting upon the happenings of the day, finds that he is by no means perfect; but encumbered with all the misery which persists in clinging to him on account of his sinful nature — Old Adam; that the good he would do he did not, but the evil which he would not do that he did (Rom. 7,19), sin in him thus acting contrariwise, —reviews battles and victories, but sorry defeats as well-falters at his wretchedness, but — oh, God be thanked through Jesus Christ our Lord (cp. Rom. 7,15–25, esp. here, v. 25!) — all his deficiencies are washed away, all iniquities subdued, and all sins cast into the depths of the sea (Micah 7,19), and with a prayer of happiness in and praise of “Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” in the peace and joy of his “sonship of God” (John 1,12), he commends body and soul to the protection and safekeeping of God, and smilingly falls asleep in Jesus for the night — and, finally, too — at the end of his life.
That is the life of a Christian child created in baptism. He is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that he should walk in them (Ephes. 2,10). That life is nurtured, fostered, increased, and promoted by the grace of God revealed in and imparted by His Gospel, to the glory of God in time and eternity, and for the service of God here and hereafter. That service of nurture, direction, and guidance we call Christian education.
The possessions and powers involved in the faith-life of a Christian child are valuable: They did cost the very life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. An education dealing in these surpassing, divine values that came to mankind by “a price” (1 Cor. 6,20), commands our love and esteem. We cannot prove our appreciation of the gifts and our desire to be workers together with the Giver in a better way than by bringing up the children of our homes and churches by means of the education of the Lord, by the Lord, and for the Lord. God works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Phil. 2,13)!
Christian Education Is the Only Safe and Valid Education.
It is of paramount importance, of course, that the education imparted to our children be safe. It would be infinitely more than a rash waste of time and effort to prepare them for life in an unreliable, questionable way, to promote the growth of an unworthy character, and to intensify dangerous tendencies. That is done when in the training of a child the natural traits and trends of the sinful nature are not properly curbed, when the evil counsel and will of the flesh is not broken and hindered from the beginning and enduringly; for, according to our Catechism (explanation of the Third Petition) this would include the disastrous situation that the name of God could not be hallowed and His kingdom could not come. Not only such curbing and breaking of the evil inclinations is needed — the putting off of the “Old Man,” which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts (Ephes. 4,22), but there must follow a replacement, by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, — the putting on of the opposite new attitudes, the “New Man,” which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephes. 4,24). The education which is to prove itself safe in this direction cannot be any other than that intended and prepared by the good and gracious will of God, the education by the Gospel. It alone will safely and reliably promote the faith-life of a Christian child, — Christian education.
The education must be valid — true, fully justified, and effective — must, therefore, not be a doubtful, uncertain, problematical undertaking, not a clever experiment, but a competent service, irreproachable before God and irresistible in its promised results. These are, as has been stated time and time again in the course of our discussions, the peculiar properties of Christian education, because it has its roots in the redemption through Christ, who came to earth that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly (John 10,10).
Christian education, again is safe, inasmuch as it is the guidance of the Good Shepherd, His satisfying pasturing, His bringing to still waters, His soul restoration, His soul comfort, His leading in the paths of righteousness; it offers, as a service of the Good Shepherd, everything needed to supply our wants (Psalm 23). The divine means applied in Christian education are as safe in the promotion of spiritual life as they were competent in originating that life in our children.
And, again, Christian education is valid, both fully justified and effective, being a further rooting and grounding in love of the child of God in whose heart dwells Christ by faith, so that our Christian child may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that he might be filled with all the fulness of God (Ephes. 3,17–19).
As a distinctive mark of its safety and validity we also recognize specifically the exclusive appropriateness of Christian education for God’s own children, the children born again of water and of the Spirit (John 3,5). Who and what are these children? We do not ask this question to elicit the answer of popular or traditional child appraisers. We are mindful of the utter futility and fatal blundering of human judgment in the matter, and shall go to our Lord on High for an answer.
The very designation, “child,” is one used ever so often in Holy Writ as a term of attachment and endearment. Leaders in the kingdom of God, such as David, Solomon, John, and Paul, lovingly address their subjects and the members of their flocks as their “children” (Psalm 34,11; Prov. 4,1; 1 John 2,1; 2 Cor. 6,13); our Lord Jesus endearingly calls his disciples “children” (Mark 10,24); even the angels in Heaven are called “sons” of God, and what a delight it is to be known as a “child,” or a “son,” of God, a name often conferred on believers in the Word of God (Rom. 8,16; 1 John 3,2, etc.)!
Moreover — there need be no inferences! By direct precept and example the Lord has instructed us with regard to the right estimation to be applied to God’s little ones. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke (respectively chapters 19, 10, 18), preceding the statement of the blessing of little children by the heart and hands of Jesus, we “are told by Him of their citizenship in the Kingdom; in the 18th chapter of Matthew, Jesus is shown pointing to a little child as a pattern of highest and greatest citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven; then His revelation recorded in the same chapter, that receiving a little child in His name is tantamount to receiving Him, followed by the well-known, though not well-observed, dreadful verdict upon him who would “offend one of these little ones which believe in Him;” and, to preclude any misunderstanding, He had “called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them” (Matt. 18,2). This is plain, striking evidence, indeed, of the high value in His sight of His children, for whom the angels of God are, by His testimony (Matt. 18,10), commissioned as special guardians. The reason for His high appraisal He gives in the very next sentence (Matt. 18,11). It is: The Son of Man is come to save them. — Who, and what are Christian children? They are His own, who live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. This is most certainly true. (Luther’s Small Catechism, explanation of the II. Article of the Holy Christian Creed.)
Would it not, my friends, be an unfathomably gross breach of trust over against the Lord, who has given children to parents as a heritage and gift, and to the Church by their rebirth in baptism, to turn these beloved and honored little ones of God over — for a long or a short period of time — to caretakers of the species described in the Letter to the Ephesians (Ephes. 4,17–18), “walking in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” or to have such a child trained for hours each day according to an educational program which of necessity and by design is without Christ, having no eternal hope, and without God in the world (cp. Ephes. 2,12!), and then endeavoring merely by a slipshod admonition here and there in the home and by some short-time, makeshift arrangement in the Church, to counteract contrary, but well-planned and captivating, habituating influences? To expect such an inexperienced, young Christian, meagerly trained in his devotional life, but daily tossed to and fro in his soul-life, somehow to weather the squalls of childhood and the hurricanes of youth, could not be to trust in God; it would, rather, be a challenge of divine protection upon sinful neglect of one’s God-imposed duty of providing for one’s own and, especially, for those of one’s own house (1 Tim. 5,8), and that of doing good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6,10), with regard, particularly, to their blood-bought souls of inestimable worth (Matt. 16,26; Luke 9,25).
No one outside of our family and Church can or will take over this service; it is our responsibility to be caretakers at home and to arrange the facilities for proper, congruous, Christian education in home, church, and school, a continuous, harmonious procedure for the promotion of growth and strength of the faith-life of our Christian children. And our children confidently look to us that we be vigilant and circumspect in our concern for their well-being and conscientious and solicitous in providing for their welfare. They need our constant, sympathetic care for body and soul. They need a well-anchored, Christian education and sturdy, faithful Christian educators everywhere.
Christian Education Accords the Proper Position to and the Right Application of the Word of God in Education.
Christian education is education not merely based on religion, or on Christianity, but an education religious and Christian throughout. There must not only be periodic instruction in the Word of God. That is by no means sufficient, be the instruction ever so methodical, thorough, and intellectually profitable. It must ever be kept in mind that religious instruction is not chiefly a matter of knowledge only, much less of the memory alone, but primarily and effectively of the heart. The Lord told us to teach all nations “to observe (preserve, watchfully keep) whatsoever I have committed unto you.” The sainted Prof. J. Ylvisaker insists in his excellent book on “The Gospels”: “His instruction shall be kept both as to the Law and the Gospel, inwardly and outwardly, in doctrine as well as in life, in our confessions — this is His will to all who would be His disciples.” We recall that it was embodied in our definition of Christian education that Christian training be always included, throughout our present discussion. Mere head knowledge has no value in the Kingdom of Christ. I quote the Savior: “Knowing all these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13,17), happy in being assured of the approbation of Christ.
But, furthermore, — the Word of God must control and permeate everything in education when it is Christian education. All the various requirements of learning and doing must be unified. It can never be tolerated to have taught on the one hand what must be discounted or discountenanced on the other hand, to have inculcated something on the pupil here and then have it refuted or condemned there, to permit a mode of living at one time and place which at another is branded as wicked.
There is but one unifying directive: The Holy Word of God. That Word must reign supreme everywhere and always, and that is its position in Christian education.
This reminder, very brief at this time, will be recalled when we shall discuss later on how this principle is applied, practically, in the schooling of the Christian child on the part of our parochial school system.
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The requirement that the Word of God occupy the proper position in Christian education will be met then only when the Word is given the right application in education. This right use of the Word of Truth — the entire Scriptures — is a matter of superior importance as well as great difficulty. It is premised upon the singular ability of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2,15).
The Lord Himself has divided the Bible into Law and Gospel. Both must be used, and, their difference must be observed, conscientiously, carefully, and knowingly, also in the delicate service of Christian education.
The Law has its definite purposes for which our Lord God wants it used, also by Christians and for Christians; — as a curb, a mirror, and a rule. It reveals the actual character of sinful man, but it does not build the God-required character. It converts no one; it improves no one, not even him who seeks to find God by means of the Law. It demands godly life and good works, mercilessly exposes man’s wretchedness and ruin, and pronounces the sentence of eternal damnation upon every sinner. That is the office of the Law of God, and this God-ordained position, majesty, service, and purpose of the Law must be fully recognized and adhered to in the course and plan of Christian education.
The Law of God is and remains a curb and check, but it does not release and set free; it is and remains a mirror, but it does not correct our deformities or clean away our filth; it is and remains standard and rule for Christian character, but it does not create and supply such a character; it is and remains our dietetics, but it does not nurse and nurture; it is and remains an infallible diagnosis, but it does not cure and heal.
The Law of God is inexorable and inflexible; it cannot be sidestepped, juggled, dissuaded, amended, or silenced, and there will be no repeal. Moreover, it is as indispensably useful as it is appallingly majestic in its preparatory, informational, instructive, revealing, denuding, directive, guiding, curbing, checking, restraining, and overwhelming office and function unto man, including the Christian, as he dwells on earth, and it surely must not be slighted or in any way treated neglectfully, but must be given due reverence and most careful attention and efficacious application. The Law of God is the holy will of God, wherein and whereby God tells us how we are to be and what we are to do or not to do. It shows us our sins and the wrath of God; it demands, threatens and condemns; it works wrath and kills, and this Law must be preached and flashed into the consciousness of the secure sinner. Those are the God-prepared functions of His Law, and it must be employed in these functions conscientiously and purposefully.
But, wherever and whenever, since the fall of man, the demands of the Law have been met, ever so feebly or in great measure, by thoughts, words, or deeds of sinful man, that miracle was accomplished through the power of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sin by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus, our crucified and resurrected Savior.
Christian education is engaged in the affairs of regenerated children. That must not only be constantly kept in mind, but that truth must be reflected in the education which they receive. They are children to whom, the Lord says, “Ye are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6,16). They are not objects of human solicitude only, but the Holy Spirit is zealous and jealous for them. He has created the new, divine life in them, that they be perfected, and He Himself, the Holy Spirit, maketh intercession for them (Rom. 8,27). They are elect of God, holy and beloved (Col. 3,12).
The entire service of Christian education is for the grand purpose that these children be preserved and advanced in the one true faith, the faith in the forgiveness of their sins. Through this same faith they will be enabled to strive victoriously against the perverse tendencies of their Old Adam, against their innate enmity toward God, and to “run the way” of the commandments of their God (Psalm 119,32), as children of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8,17), of whose fulness have they all received, and grace for grace (John 1,16). In like manner they have ever been preserved in the spiritual life of the children of God, that they might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of their lives (Luke 1,74–75).
How is this life-long service made possible? What is the means to that end? Whereby are these results obtained and conveyed? Which is the miraculous, wonder-working, exertive power of God by which he preserves and promotes and increases the life of faith in a Christian child? That one means and power is the Gospel of Christ, the means of grace of our God unto man revealed in His Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament.
All acts of doing good and avoiding evil, the various and manifold activities of spiritual life, Scriptures designate as consequence and fruit of faith in the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake. Note the following specific instances clearly stated in the Bible: To love God: “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4,19). To love the neighbor: “If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4,11). To walk in love: “Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephes. 4,32). To praise and thank God: “Giving thanks unto the Father …, who hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1,12–14). To endure and conquer in tribulation: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom. 8,37). To crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts: “They that are in Christ” — that is, through faith in Him — “have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5,24).
That is the new dispensation of God Himself, the new covenant of the forgiveness of sins through faith without the work of the Law, which His incomprehensible love and grace established in place of the old covenant of the law, which on account of our sinfulness could not cause sanctification and good works. We read His emphatical declaration, Jeremiah 31,31–34: “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the House of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Note the fourfold “Saith the Lord”!)
That is the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. It teaches what God has done, and still does, for our salvation. It shows us our Savior and the grace of God. It promises, gives, and seals unto us, forgiveness, life and salvation. It invites and draws us to Christ, works faith, and thus gives us spiritual life. Without this faith in our hearts, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11,6). But faith, and faith alone, produces the fruits which manifest the character of a Christian. These fruits are the good works which a child of God performs through faith, according to the Ten Commandments. The Law is powerless to realize its own demands (“What the Law could not do” — Rom. 8,3 —) , the Gospel, however, does not only accomplish its own purposes (“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” — Rom. 10,17 —), but it accomplishes the purpose of the Law as well, for which reason the apostle upon raising the question, “Do we then make void the Law through faith?” immediately ascribes the answer: “God forbid: yea, we establish the Law” (Rom. 3,31).
Many serious thoughts here press in upon us relative to the present-day proclivity in education, on the one hand to weaken and soften the Law, and on the other hand to warp the Gospel of Christ into a “Social Gospel,” a set of moral principles taught by Christ, eliminating the message of grace — Christ’s atonement — which is plainly a perversion and denial of salvation through faith. O, for the pity of it!
The position of the Word of God as well as its discriminative fundamental functions in Christian education, the crucial influence of which has merely been indicated, demand daily, life-long scrupulous attention. May the Lord through His Holy Spirit graciously endow all educators in our Christian homes, churches, and schools with the will and the wisdom ever to give God’s Word its supreme position in Christian education, that both doctrines of His Word, Law and Gospel, be taught as He determined them to be taught; that they have studiously in mind and carry out loyally, vigilantly, prayerfully, and confidently His will with regard to the ministration of His Word, by applying His mighty and majestic Law and His glorious saving and sanctifying Gospel, without adulteration, distortion, intermixture, or any form of invalidation, as the yearning Father’s sovereign godsend to His redeemed children!
Christian Education Alone Has Divine Aims and Means.
It is neither necessary nor possible to present here a complete exposition of the aims in Christian education. Such a guide is indispensable, of course, and a committee of Missouri Synod’s General Board of Christion Education has been at work for some time compiling a comprehensive curriculum for the teaching of Christianity as carried on in the Christian Day-Schools of that Synod. We shall at this time set up merely the most general, essential aims.
The aims of Christian education cannot and dare not be proposed by human wisdom, but can and must be those alone which God Himself has graciously and fully revealed in His Word. We find them fixed definitely, clearly, and completely in 2 Tim. 3,14–17: “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned, and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
vVe immediately observe that there is but one all-inclusive aim in Christian education, as the Apostle observes and proclaims it, and which Timothy and all Christians shall continue to seek and pursue: The child of God is to be made wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. St. John states it thus: The child of God is to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing he might have life through His name (John 20,31). We know that to believe is not only to know and accept as true what the Scriptures say, but with firm confidence and trust to rely on God and His Word. Christian education has the one chief objective: that our children have that knowledge and wisdom of faith and trust in and reliance on God, our Savior, and His love. That is the marvelous and miraculous knowledge and wisdom, unfathomable to any faculty or competency of human knowledge and wisdom, and it endows more fully than can be expressed or comprehended, being the knowledge which supplies the fulness of God unto us (Ephes. 3,19). Wisdom, indeed!
This indescribably rich and profound wisdom includes all the dynamics of the Christian’s new life principle, and the forces of that wisdom assert themselves in the attitudes and various activities of the New Man. On the foundation of the same knowledge and wisdom, and that knowledge and wisdom alone, it is possible to build up completely all those aptitudes and skills of body, soul, heart, mind, intellect, will, emotions, affections, desires, and dispositions, which constitute a Christian personality, or character, all put to the devoted and enduring services of God and man everywhere and all the time.
In Christian education, the aims and the means toward such aims cannot be separated; the Word of God does not merely set up the aims, but also achieves them and carries them into effect. Thus Scripture is the source of doctrine, but at the same time profitable for doctrine. It states its eternal truths simply and clearly; its teaching can be readily learned, and the child of God is thereby empowered to discern and embrace as well as to use its infallible, pure, productive teachings. Scripture is profitable for reproof. False doctrines are made known and published, and the ability is conveyed by Scripture, and in Scripture, for the refutation of all error. Scripture is unfailingly useful and profitable for correction, since it lays bare all wrong conditions and actions of sinful self and all sinners, furnishes the will and strength for their removal in a God-pleasing manner, and supplants them by rectitude, virtues, and well-doing. Scripture supplies instruction as to works which are good in God’s sight and is truly profitable for instruction in righteousness, inasmuch as it enables for, trains and habituates the Christian in the righteousness of life that pleases the Lord.
The means for the attainment of the aims in Christian education is always and solely the Word of God. The Law will be the antecedent and preparatory instrument, the power that wrecks iniquitous obstructions and clears away the rubbish — all the stoppages for the Gospel — which Gospel, however, is the only means, or agency, to accomplish the positive and constructive aims of Christian education. The Gospel, therefore, dominates all plans, activities, and processes of Christian education. Everything contrary to, not in harmony with, impeding or antagonizing the Gospel’s salutary, vitalizing influences must be kept carefully out of its current, in order to assure its free course and, when encountered, must be swept aside, ejected, and destroyed.
Christian education is the only education dealing in such superior abilities, energies, values, and gifts. It alone uses divine means to arrive at its divine aims, and both aims and means are assigned as well as provided and imparted by the Word of God alone.
To clear the way for, and to progress toward, the realization of God’s superlative objectives in education, His Word must therefore dwell in us richly in all wisdom (Col. 3,16). Lack of it spells inevitable failure. Our children must be equipped properly and fully in order that they be strong in the Lord. Only in the strength of His might, of His Word, will they be able successfully to face the unavoidable, trying realities of the life of a Christian on earth. By His grace and the power of his Word they shall be “able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephes. 6,11). Blessed, indeed, the child which is being held and led by the hand of workers together with God, in the home, the church, and the school, taught and trained by servants of God and wrestlers against His enemies, the powers of darkness and wickedness (Ephes. 6,12). Blessed, indeed, the child which is in the charge of a Christian father, a Christian mother, a Christian pastor, and a Christian teacher, who themselves have, and who for their children and pupils seek to make ready, the panoply, the whole armor, of God: Loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, the feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, covered with the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation, always ready to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, — effectually prepared and alert, praying in the Spirit, watching with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephes. 6,14–18)!
“Let the beauty (the delight) of the Lord our God be upon us;
And establish Thou the work of our hands upon us;
Yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it!” — Psalm 90,17.
Christian Education Possesses the Certainty of God’s Blessings.
Christians know that wherever the gracious Lord appears, He leaves a blessing behind Him (Joel 2,14). They, like Jacob of old, boldly and confidently ask it of Him and cleave to Him until they receive it (Gen. 32,26). Divine blessings consist in the manifold and sundry spiritual and material, temporal and eternal, earthly and heavenly, gifts and benefits which His loving-kindness bestows. They come to us, not on account of any merit or worthiness in us, but purely out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy. They prompt His children to greater gratitude and praise (praise is unreserved, cheerful, resounding tribute!), and they encourage and impel the recipient of such blessings to increased service and obedience. We often ponder upon these gifts, benefits, and favors of the Lord’s mercy and truth, which He showers upon His servants (Gen. 32,10). And those who love Him recoil from and oppose every deed, word, or thought which would not be attended by and conjoined with, or which could, possibly, prevent His blessings.
That, too, is the Christian’s first and chief concern with regard to the education of his children. He must by all means be sure of the blessings of God upon them and their education. He, whose peace with God, together with the peace of his heart and conscience, has been realized through the vicarious life, suffering, and death of God’s own Son, is willing to do and to sacrifice anything to retain safely the glorious blessing first conveyed to him, as also to his children, by and in Holy Baptism: “The answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3,21). That pledge, that contract, must remain inviolate, that covenant which on the part of God has been guaranteed and sealed by the resurrection of Jesus. That blessing is indeed one that “passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4,7). That peace of the forgiveness of sins, which also protects against the attacks of sin, Satan, and hell, shall at the all events rule in our hearts (Col. 3,15).
Is it not noteworthy that the Apostle, immediately after this plea for the government of peace in our hearts, proceeds to admonish: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col. 3,16)? This surpassing blessing of the possession of the Gospel of Christ, the Crucified, predetermines all other blessings. Christian education itself, therefore — the education not only in and by, but consistently and persistently according to, never separated from, contrary to, or out of harmony with, the Word of God — will be plainly recognized as being a blessing of supreme greatness and a carrier of blessings of indescribable value.
From out of the certainty of that evaluation of Christian education will result the certainty of the many blessings of God concurrent with the growth and promotion of the faith-life of a Christian child. They are so numerous and momentous that, in the brief period of time which can be given to this meditation, we can merely hint at a host of tangible values that accrue to self, the family and its members, the church — its membership and its diverse activities — the community in which he who is so blessed resides, and where his actions and attitudes are being observed, the State and Country, the world at large. To do justice to a full description of this phase of the values of Christian education, its fruits and profits, it would be necessary to devote the entire time of this convention to this one topic. And eternity shall reveal still another series and multitude of blessings which will remain invisible until then. There are, and ever will be, a multitude of witnesses, also on yonder day, to the blessings of Christian education. All of them will glorify, not the excellence and influence of human education, but the life-giving, sanctifying, and preserving power of the Word of God.
These blessings are assured us by the eternally faithful God. In closing, a word of the Prophet Isaiah and the announcement of its fulfilment by our Redeemer: “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord (by the Lord); and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54,13); “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall he all taught of (by) God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me” (John 6,45).
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”
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My Friends and Brothers in Christ Jesus.
Among the duties of my present office, one stands forth, in my estimation, as a privilege of singular delight: To plead the cause of our Lutheran children. It is a most stimulating obligation, a sacred and God-pleasing service, indeed. May I now, in closing, exercise that function here, among you at this convention? It is, after all, the right of every Christian.
Nor is a plea for the well-being· and welfare of another merely a human endeavor: Our beloved Savior is our “Great Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2,1), and the Holy Spirit of God “maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8,27). He, too, dwells in the hearts of our baptized children, there “crying Abba, Father” (Gal. 4,6), using that name of God which our little ones love to lisp.
What will the Holy Ghost, “The Spirit of Grace and of Supplications” (Zech. 12,10), ask for our children? O, very many things, as we can readily gather from His Word. And the blessings which we contemplated in the course of these days surely are among the good gifts which He asks for them. He is the One who is directly, and enduringly, creatively active through the Word of Grace to call, enlighten, sanctify, and preserve. He pleads with and for our children, “Teach me Thy way, O Lord; I will walk in Thy truth; unite my heart to fear Thy name” (Psalm 86,11).
That, my friends, is a prayer for teaching which prepares disciples of Christ, teaching which tends to observe whatsoever He has commanded us, teaching which enables to know Scriptures which are able to make wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, teaching which is truly and engrossingly profitable, teaching which thoroughly furnishes unto all good works, teaching which amounts to a bringing up in the nurture and admonition which is of the Lord, teaching which promotes growth and strength in the faith-life of a Christian child, or, as we called it: Christian Education and Training. It is the education which truly teaches the way of the Lord, which safely guides the child to walk in the divine truth, which effectively unites and preserves the heart to fear the name of the Lord, to combine all the powers of one’s personality, giving the Lord an undivided heart, in clinging faithfully to Him, in arranging one’s life in conformity with God’s will and living a reverent and faithful life of sanctification before God.
Let me say it again: That prayer of our regenerated children through the grace of the Holy Spirit is a prayer for their Christian education and training, including a Christian school.
May their prayers not be hindered by our neglect or interference! May, rather, the loving Lord and Father use us in the fulfilment of those prayers!
We will join our children, carrying their desires and our desires regarding Christian education to God in prayer, and say trustfully in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit:
“When thus my heart in prayer ascendeth
Through Thine own Holy Spirit unto Thee,
Thy heart, O Father, kindly bendeth
Its fervent love and favor unto me,
Rejoicing my petition to fulfil
Which I have made according to Thy will.” Amen.
(Fifth stanza, “Jehovah, let me now adore Thee.”)
(continued in 1935)