Rev. Paul Madson
1974 Synod Convention Essay
The topic given for this first section to a three part treatment of Christian education is: “The Purpose of Instruction.” This is in keeping with the general theme of the convention, taken from the 23rd chapter of Proverbs, v.12: “Apply thine heart unto understanding, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.” The kind of instruction which is referred to may be gathered from succeeding passages in the same chapter. In v.23 we read, “Buy the truth, and sell it not, also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” And in v.26 we find this exhortation, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” The instruction which we therefore are concerned with in Christian education is that which pertains to the “truth,” and to the “heart.”
It is not our intent in this paper to dwell on the area of learning which the usual education can give us, such as developing one’s mental abilities and natural skills. These things can be accomplished in both Christian and secular schools. But as persons who believe that the training of the heart should accompany the training of the mind, we maintain that Christian education has a higher purpose than any other, and has much more to offer. It is concerned not with just one half of a person but with the whole man.
For lasting influence and value to a child’s life there is no substitute for the Christian home. The education which the child receives there, together with the help of its church, ranks first and foremost in all education. Nevertheless, whatever other instruction the young can receive by way of Christian elementary and higher education is an invaluable supplement to that provided by the home and the basic instruction given by the church. We believe that the more Christian-oriented education a person can receive the better it is for that person, for his church, and for his country. So, when we speak of the purpose of instruction with a Christian setting, we have in mind not just that which is learned at mother’s knee, but that which also follows the child out of the home, away from its local church, and into the world at large.
The only true view of life is that which is taught in God’s Word. It is so important to us that we ought to make it our virtual obsession to have such instruction and, once we have it, never to let it go. No one who has ever received such instruction with the spirit of the wrestling Jacob (“I will not let thee go except thou bless me,” Gen. 32,26) has ever lacked for the Lord’s blessing on such education. Furthermore, this instruction is the best equipped to deal with life, because it deals with the heart, and it is from this source that the issues of life proceed. (Prov. 4,23)
To be sure, Christian education has one great ultimate goal, and that is to prepare our children for the world to come. But in so preparing for that life in heaven, we are not to think that this present life is then unimportant. Sometimes the subtle suggestion may creep into our way of teaching religion that makes it seem religion has no relevance for our life here. So the impression then is left that religious education is something good for the life to come, but that it isn’t very practical for here on earth. This is the attitude some parents may have toward a Christian Day School, or toward a Christian high school and college. They think that for their children to attend a church school will deprive them of the seeming natural advantages of a public school. For example, what pastor hasn’t heard some parents at one time or another express the feeling that a Christian school is too sheltered an environment for their child, as if the child is not going to become worldly wise enough. Or they may have said that they want their child to go to school with the children it grows up with in the neighborhood. So they choose a secular school over a Christian one.
This is not to say that such parents do not care about religion for their children. They do not want to deny their offspring the benefit of Christian instruction, but they do not see why it should be integrated with their general education, such as in the Christian school. They in effect are compartmentalizing religion and life, when it comes to education. They see it as religion and life, rather than religion in life. It is pretty much the same way in which Christians are tempted to compartmentalize religion for themselves, when they develop the attitude that religion is nice to have on Sunday but that it can get to be a burden the rest of the week. Would that all parents could be moved to view education in the light of St. Paul’s dedicated motto: “For me to live is Christ.” (Phil. 1,21) In recent times the moral conditions in many a secular school have caused more parents to have a change of mind about how much of that kind of exposure they want their children to have. The shelter of a Christian school doesn’t look so bad to them after all. Shelter is a pretty good thing, if it keeps you from getting pneumonia. And there are worse things than pneumonia from which to shelter one’s children these days.
We are all well aware of the inroads the drug culture with its attendant evils has made among the nation’s youth, particularly in the halls and on the campuses of secular schools. Still. of more serious concern to us about the secular school than the threat of such things as drugs which addle the mind and harm the body are the more subtle forces of atheistic and evolutionistic philosophies which have a way of poisoning the heart. It not only does a child no earthly good to think that he is just the product of a chance and aimless evolutionary process, but it can ruin him eternally. If he is not conscious that man is the product of God’s creative power and wise design, that he is a unique creature who originally was made in the image of God—if he is not conscious of this, it isn’t strange that he should try to ape the animal kingdom in the way he treats himself and his fellow man. The prevailing moral perversions of our day — drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, abortion on demand, a high homicide rate, and the like — are all by-products of the pernicious philosophy that man is just another member of the animal kingdom. True, these perversions have always been present in the world to some degree ever since the Fall in Eden, for now wherever man goes sin goes with him. We, however, contend that the evolutionistic, atheistic philosophy is more prevalent than ever in our secular schools today, and that this has provided a most fertile soil for the roots of unbelief to take hold and grow. The fruits of such unbelief are all too apparent in our society. By their fruits ye shall know them.
At this point it might be in place to add this comment. Though the thrust of this essay is to promote the cause of Christian education, and as a consequence it will incidentally refer to shortcomings of secular education, this is not to claim that all is bad in the secular school. All Christians share a deep gratitude for those Christian teachers and administrators who have found a place in the public school system. Though they are not allowed to teach the Christian religion directly, surely their manner of teaching and way of life in some way will project the high ideals of their Christian faith, which has a wholesome influence on the schools and their pupils. And who can honestly deny that the public school system has rendered a very valuable service to our country in training its youth for a useful life. But as Christians we are concerned with more than that Dick and Jane just learn how to do something useful with their lives. We want them to have happy lives as well, and in this regard we are confident that a Christian education offers the best promise of success. “Whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” (Prov. 16,20)
To make a distinction between Christian and secular education by saying that one has a moral purpose and the other does not is not a true distinction. Secular education does have a moral purpose, also. It aims to help a person lead a useful and respectable life, and to make him a good citizen. That, we will have to admit, is moral purpose. However, Christian education purposes to do more than that. It not only aims to help a person lead a useful and respectable life, but that he should serve God while doing it. It desires that the child should not only grow into a good citizen on earth but that he should, by God’s grace, also become a citizen of heaven. This higher aim which Christian education has demands a motivation which secular education can not produce. This particular motivation is wrought only by the Holy Spirit through the use of the Gospel. It is the crowning jewel which sets Christian education above and apart from all other.
To emphasize the spiritual training of a child in no way detracts from its total education. In fact, we maintain that this kind of education, far from weakening their preparation for life on earth, better equips the youth for this life. It excels in at least one area of education, and that is in the perspective which it gives. It should excel in this important area, for it is its purpose to give a true perspective in all things. The word, “perspective,” from the Latin, literally means “to look through.” The purpose of Christian instruction is to enable the young person to “look through” what lies on the surface. To see and understand one’s self and his fellow men, to more fully understand issues, events, teachings — in brief, to better understand life — this is its purpose.
Perspective of Life: The Past
To know history is to know and understand our present world better. However, to have a proper knowledge of history it is necessary to have the Christian view, which takes into account the hand of God in human events. At the beginning of the 20th century the world thought that a great world war was impossible. People were too well educated, too enlightened for that. But then it happened. Since then there has been World War II and almost World War III, plus other maxi-wars and mini-wars. It is not difficult to find a philosophy of pessimism among many because of this. This is the other extreme from that false optimism with which this century began. On the one hand you have people saying, “How is man ever going to get out of this mess?” and on the other hand you have the humanistic dreamers who say, “Man can take care of all his problems. Just give him time.” But with all his sophistication and education man is only compounding the problem. Herbert Spencer, a well educated man himself, once said, “To educate reason without educating desire is like selling a repeating rifle to a savage.” The Christian can agree that to educate the mind without educating the heart is a dangerous thing. We have seen its effects all too often in history. We appreciate this observation of an old churchman, now deceased; “There is an old saying that ‘some people are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly use.’ But it is our observation that those most concerned about eternity are now doing the most for the world. Humanism is not making the world better, but only a more pleasant place in which to serve the devil.”1
The troubled world in which we live is not easily understandable. People wonder what this life is an about. They wonder where it is all going to end. It all seems so purposeless. Dr. Francis Schaeffer calls it “Death in The City.” In his book by that name he writes: “We recall Nevil Shute’s ‘On The Beach’ which pictured the world after the bombs have fallen and men have died. The scene is powerful: the lights are still burning; the generators are still running, but there’s nobody there. It’s an awful loneliness that Shute builds. But what he is saying is something more profound than that we live in an age of potential nuclear destruction. He is saying, ‘Don’t you understand? This is where man really is today, whether the bombs fall or not, because there’s no final purpose to his existence.’ There is death in the city of men. And if we are really alive to the issues of our own day we should at least understand as well as the unbelieving poets, writers, painters, and the others, that this is the real dilemma: there’s death in the city — death in the city of man.”2
This is a rather dismal view of the human dilemma, but it is true. St. Paul stated it centuries ago: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Rom. 5,12 That would be a most bleak outlook if we were to let the matter stand right there. But the purpose of Christian education is to bring life, not death. Only Christian education can tell the student the sequel to the dismal picture of “death in the city.” St. Paul also tells us this blessed sequel: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 5,19–21 As Christians we can tell our youth that there is another city than that which they see doomed to destruction here on earth. There is a city which God has prepared, eternal in the heavens. In that city is life. With their eye on that celestial city they shall be given the proper perspective to survive “death in the city” here on earth.
Christian youth should not be given any illusions about a utopia here on earth. We know that the devil is still the god of this world. It is clear to anyone who views the world candidly that it is not getting better with each succeeding generation, as some would have us believe. Nor do we have any reason from Scripture to believe that this world is going to become better. As long as man remains what he is, conditions will remain what they are. They may vary a little one way or the other, but essentially it is still as St. John declared, “The whole world lieth in wickedness.” 1 Jn. 5,19 This can be expected as long as man remains an enemy of Christ’s cross, because then his nature remains unchanged.
We know what the nature of man is and how it got that way. To have a true perspective of the world and of its history means that we start at its very beginning, in the garden of Eden. The wise of this world will continue to make themselves foolish by ignoring the historical fact that man fell away from God and the state of bliss into which he had been placed. All the subsequent course of the world was to be affected by this tragedy, and history can not be properly interpreted without this background from divine revelation.
Henry Ford once said, “All history is bunk.” He could well be right, except for one decisive factor. History would indeed be completely useless and irrelevant to men, except for the fact that at a certain point in time, a point which the Bible calls “the fullness of time,” “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Gal. 4,4–5 This puts history in an entirely different light. The history of Israel in the Old Testament is not just a dry recitation of the events surrounding a certain people. The events that took place then, and that have taken place in history since the beginning of time, are all effected by what God has done in “the fullness of time.”
Education with a Christian perspective does not give its youth a false optimism. It does not lead them to believe that man can solve all his problems. With the history of sin in the world lying in the background, and knowing how it carne to pass, the Christian youth has a better understanding of why things go awry in his world. He is better able to cope with such situations because he understands them better. He has some answers — maybe not all the answers, but at least the important ones.
Perspective of Life: The Present
“Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” and “What am I here for?” These questions can be expected to come at some time or other to the minds of most young people. Important questions these are, because they are basic life questions. The proper answer to them can set the whole tone for their attitude toward life. It will affect their moral and spiritual attitudes, which in turn will affect their life’s future happiness. It, for instance, makes quite a difference whether a person thinks he is just a blob of protoplasm put here by blind fate, or that he is a uniquely created being put here by divine design. It makes a difference whether he thinks that he had primordial ancestors who answered each other with brutish grunts or that he knows his very first ancestors were made in the image of the eternal God and could sing his praises. “What difference does it make?” one may ask — “What difference does it make as to where a person thinks he came from? How can that have any bearing on his life?” A person can not truly know himself unless he knows his true origin. And if he has false notions about his origin, he is going to have false notions about life. His life is going to be an illusion and a lie. If he thinks that he is merely the biological product of his father and mother, and that God had nothing to do with his being here, he is going to live life on that lower plain where he has no sense of God’s divine purpose for him and divine interest in him.
Christian education gives youth a true perspective of life, because it has the answers to such questions as “Who am I?” and. “Where did I come from?” It can give them the assurance that before they were even born God knew them. He told Jeremiah the prophet, “Before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee; and before thou earnest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.” Jer. 1,5 Far from being anonymous persons without identity, youth can be told that long before they were given a name by which to be identified they were well known to God. And when the world of sin causes them to have doubts and fears, God comes to them as He did to Israel of old and says, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” Is. 43,1
The answer which Christian instruction gives to the question “Who am I?” not only gives youth a feeling of identity in a complex world, but it gives them a much more significant answer when it tells them who they are in the eyes of God. They learn that they are lost and condemned creatures and that, but for the grace of God, they would remain that way. God’s Word tells them they were brought into sonship with Him through the mediation of His Son. He who created them has now also redeemed them. They not only have been given identity, but they have also been given worth. In the words of the Psalmist, “the redemption of their soul is precious.” Ps. 49,8 How precious it has become is explained by Peter, saying, “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold… But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Pet. 1,18.19 We can’t really estimate the value of the individual, because we have no earthly measurements that can correspond to the value God has placed on each one when He gave His dearest treasure for their ransom. And the effect of this for an who believe it is to bring about a complete reversal in one’s relationship to God. We were enemies of God, so far had sin removed us from Him. But if while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Rom. 5,9 Only a Christian education can succeed in giving children a high sense of their worth in the eyes of God and of their personal identity with Him. Every Christian school might well have written over its portals the exclamation of St. John, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” I Jn. 3,1
How can it be that we poor, unworthy creatures have been given such worth? The answer to that is simply profound, and yet profoundly simple. It is God’s love. He paid the price — a tremendous sacrificial price: He gave His Son. He did this for the world. It therefore is a purpose of Christian instruction to show that other people are worth something too. They can be worth no less in God’s eyes than the very blood of His own Son. So, to know one’s own worth in the light of Christ’s redemptive work is to know also the worth of our fellow men. Our neighbor is not seen as just another taxpayer. He is seen as someone of much worth, whether he knows it or not. The same blood that redeemed us redeemed also our neighbor. Many of our fellow men do not know this, and many of them won’t care one way or the other when they do hear it, for “the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” II Cor. 4,4 But this does not in any way change the fact that the soul even of one person is of great worth in the eyes of heaven.
The high value which God has placed on the individual soul is so clearly evident, not only in the redemptive price which He paid, but also from the way in which His Son spent the years of His earthly ministry. He did not just preach to the masses but showed love and concern for the individual, especially for those whom society had deemed rather unworthy of its attention. “A man looking down from the top of the Empire State Building in New York, seeing the people like little midges on the sidewalk one hundred stories below, not as large as ants, said, ‘I guess that’s the way the world looks to God.’ That is not the way God sees men. Jesus gives us another view, Here is the way the world looks to God: ‘There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold, But one was out on the hills away…’”3 Yes, we all know the story of the lost sheep. Like the skilled violinist who knows how to get sweet music even out of an old beat-up violin at an auction, so God has reclaimed many a soul from the rubbish heap where society might otherwise have left him. In the words of the poet, thus “many a man with life out of tune, And battered and scarred with sin, Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, Much like the old violin. A ‘mess of pottage,’ a glass of wine; A game — and he travels on. He’s ‘going’ once, and ‘going’ twice, He’s ‘going’ and almost ‘gone.’ But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd Never can quite understand The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought By the touch of the Master’s hand.”4
The perspective that young hearts are given concerning the value of spiritual things, and the perspective they have of man’s worth in heaven’s eyes ought also to help give them perspective for their mission here on earth. Whatever various secular callings they may end up pursuing, there still will be one calling they will feel constrained to share in common with their fellow believers. This is the calling to serve God, especially through the work of the church, which has as its commission to disciple all nations by baptizing and teaching. We are to go out and take our places in the long line of Christ’s witnesses. Christian education provides us the motivation to go out and do our part in life. This means not only to exist from day to day, and when the evening comes around to be glad we are still living and have enough to eat. There is more to life than that, when united with Christ. Christian instruction has not attained success in the instructed until they in some measure carry on for the Master as the apostles did. This can take us into the whole area of stewardship and the use of one’s time, his means, his talents. Suffice it to say that to know the worth of spiritual treasure as opposed to that which is material, and to know the worth that God places on the recovery of even one soul unto Himself—this has a lot to say about one’s stewardship.
A Christian school adds a third dimension to learning. Religion is taught there in formal classes, but is that the only way in which it gives Christian instruction? There is more than just the formal teaching of religion in the school’s curriculum. There will be a certain continuity of the Christian perspective carried over into the teaching of all the subjects. The teacher in a Christian class room can use an approach to History, or English, or Science, for example, which can employ the third dimension of the Christian perspective. A tract entitled, “You Ask Me Why,” published by the Association for Christian Schools, gives this food for thought: “But, you say, what’s the difference if my child studies arithmetic, history, or literature in a public school or in a Christian school? Much. I want my child to learn, from his earliest years, that all of life belongs to God and was made for Him. — In science I want him to know that he is studying God’s laws for the universe. — In history, I want him to see the unfolding of God’s plan for the ages and the redemption of His people. — In literature, I want him to test other writers by Christian standards so that he win appreciate what is good and true and beautiful, and discern what is false or dishonoring to God. — In civics I want him to know that true government is ordained of God and requires our loyalty and support. I want him to learn the principles of honesty, decency, co-operation, and fair play because these are rules that God has set up for the ordering of our life together. — All this a big order. It can’t be accomplished in fifteen or thirty minutes a day. It takes everything we’ve got to install in the hearts of our children that true fear of the Lord which is ‘the beginning of all wisdom.’”5
Referring to the teaching of religion in the Christian Day School a magazine called the “Lutheran Educator” also stressed that religion was more than just a course there. It said; “When the Bible and Catechism are used, that period is merely the preparation for the living which is carried on during the balance of the day and the rest of life. Opportunities and encouragement for the children to give expression to such activities, habits, and understandings will be sought in as many curricular and co-curricular activities as possible. It will be seen also that rather than replacing, submerging, or losing the democratic values which are stressed in the field of American education today, the Christian approach to education undergirds and strengthens these values. The children win have the opportunity (vicariously or intellectually, of course) to experience the value that Jesus placed upon even young children; the value that Jesus gave to every individual regardless of station or rank or condition; to see that even the Ten Commandments are given, not to deprive people of some pleasure or freedom. but in order to provide the greatest amount of happiness and freedom to every individual.”6
The learning environment of the Christian school does not stifle the creative instinct and urge. Rather, it provides a motive and incentive for using all the powers and abilities with which God has blessed the individual. An education with a Christian basis aims to help the student make the best use of those talents he or she possesses, and to use them in the service of God and to the welfare of one’s fellow men. A mistaken opinion that the outsider sometimes has of Christians is that they are a group of idle people sitting with folded hands waiting for the so-called “rapture” and the Lord’s return. If this is the impression some people have about Christian education, then we can understand their reservations about it. This, however, is not a true picture of the effects of Christian teaching. On the contrary, the prospect of another life beyond this one gives an added dimension to this present life, the motivation for doing the work which God has given us to do while it is day, before the night cometh when no man can work. (John 9.4) It has the motivation for this that no secular education could ever produce. This motivation arises from an understanding of the fact that Jesus Christ rescued mankind from the guilt and punishment of sin by willingly sacrificing Himself for them. With that understanding the underlying life principle becomes this: “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again.” II Cor. 5,15. John Milton was echoing this principle when he wrote, “The end of all education is for the child the knowledge of God in Christ and out of that knowledge to love Him, to imitate Him, and to grow like Him.”7
What about success? Does Christian instruction concern itself with this? The world puts a high premium on this item, namely worldly success. The usual means to this end is education. Man likes to think, “Knowledge is power. With it I can do all things.” But realism and honesty compel the Christian to say, “I can do nothing. I can do nothing of myself.” If this is the result of Christian learning, the world isn’t very impressed by it. People do not exactly admire self distrust. However, that is not the extent of the Christian’s philosophy of success. That is only the first step, to acknowledge that without God he can do nothing. But then the Christian learns to say. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Phil. 4,13
As for the world’s notions of success, it is intensely busy ever striving for baubles. Then at the end of the road what have they to show as the fruit of their work? Nothing. As someone once put it, “They try to run the clock of life, but they take out the mainspring.” Success, measured from the perspective of Christian education, is not determined by how far up the ladder we may have come by ingratiating ourselves with men, but rather how closely we have become united with Christ. With Him we have the Vine and branches relationship. This is success as Jesus defines it, “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” Jn. 15,5 We are in Christ if we have learned to trust in Him. We are in Him if His will becomes the motive power of our life. This is the secret of success for God’s children. They have union with the hero in the greatest success story ever lived. Of course, this success can not be measured by the standards of the world. According to those standards our Master was the greatest failure. They crucified Him between two thieves. That looked like supreme failure. But He said, “It is finished,” and a few days later He rose again. That was supreme success.
Faith in the sonship that we have with God will have its effect in a prevailing sense of gratitude. Where people can see nothing but bread and butter in their lives, if the time should come when they have little or not bread and butter, they may feel their world has fallen in. They say, “What is there to be thankful for? All we have is high prices and poor jobs, while all around us is extravagance, and graft, and profiteering. Don’t ask us to be thankful.” The Christian philosophy of life is not insensible to the needs of the body. Yet the bread and butter needs do not loom so large that they hide from the Christian’s view the things that are ever greater and vastly more important to us. Jesus asked, “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?” Matt. 16,26 The thrust behind Christian education is to uphold the learning principle of the greatest Educator of all time, who said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6,33 The Gospel tells us that we have His righteousness, and that our sonship with Him makes us heirs of His kingdom. What greater reason for being eternally thankful is there than that? Only a Christian education can help the youth to realize the true significance of the Savior’s words, “I am come that they might have life. and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jn. 10,10
Another way in which we may enrich the lives of the young is to teach them to let God be God. How frustrated man is when he doesn’t get his way. But the Christian is taught not to fret when things go contrary. He may have prayed for some blessing, but did not receive it. The world walks by sight, and if its purposes are not accomplished it becomes most pessimistic. The Christian walks by faith. So if he sees that his prayer for blessing is not answered in his way, he does not therefore conclude that all is lost and that God is not true. He trusts that God has other plans, and that He blesses in His own way in His own time. There is a good illustration from the life of Joseph that tells us something about God’s ways. Joseph brought his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to his father that he should bless them. Joseph purposely set Manasseh, the firstborn, at Jacob’s right hand and Ephraim at his left. But old Jacob knowingly crossed his hands and laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head. Joseph, thinking it was all wrong took his father’s hands to change them. But Jacob said he knew what he was doing. He meant it to be that Ephraim should have the greater blessing. Like Jacob, God sometimes bestows His blessings with crossed hands. Men often want to dictate to God the way they think He should bless them. When they walk by sight they see only the crossed hands and, thinking it is all wrong, they sink into pessimism. The Christian, walking by faith, sees the blessing despite the crossed hands. He knows that even when God crosses His hands they still bring blessing. This is a fruit of Christian education, and such education can hardly lead to pessimism. It aims to put a song in a person’s heart at all times, whether in good or evil days.
Call it God fearing realism or Christian optimism, the philosophy of life that emerges from Christian education should lead to lives of grateful joy. As the Master, so the disciple. In spite of infinite suffering in bearing the burden of sin and misery of all the world, Jesus’ life among men was pervaded by a constant joy, which He called “My joy,” and which He imparts to all who follow Him. After comparing Himself to the Vine and His disciples to the branches, He declares, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” Jn. 15,11 Of all human distortions there is none more grotesque than this, that to live a Christian life means to drag one’s self through a tiresome religious world weighed down by heavy burdens. What a distortion of Christianity it is to act as though God were a devil who delighted in robbing the poor human heart of the joy of life, and as though Christ had not come to us bringing with Him heaven’s treasure of eternal joy. The truth of the matter is just the opposite. Jesus said, “Ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Jn. 16,22 That is the realistic picture which Christ-centered education purposes to give to those who use it.
In this day and age when rationalism and science, particularly pseudoscience, are worshipped as twin gods, when man himself pretty much determines what his moral standards are to be, and when disrespect for the Bible seems to be a status symbol for many a man or woman, it is particularly important that our young people be as well grounded as possible in the tenets of their Christian faith. They should know what they stand for, so that they will not be so apt to fall for the same tactics that fooled Adam and Eve. They ought to be ready, as far as their God-given abilities will permit them, to give an answer to every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them (I Pet. 3,15), and to confound the wise in their own conceits. This is to be done in meekness and fear. The success of one’s Christian testimony lies not in himself, but it is in the Spirit of God working through His Word. This is the armor which St. Paul tells us to take unto ourselves, and surely it is not too early to start with the children in teaching them how to wear this armor well. The more familiar and accustomed to that armor they become, the better prepared they will be to parry and counter the devil’s thrusts. With all the anti-Christian forces at work in our sacrilegious, sophisticated, and superstitious society it is not hard to believe Paul’s warning, that “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph. 6,12 It is one of the purposes of the Christian school to help the young take unto themselves the whole armor of God, that they “may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Eph. 6,13
A recent survey on a state university campus showed a noticeable decline in church attendance the longer a student stayed in the secular college. The study suggested that the reason for this is “the more education a student receives, the more his mind begins to question and mold a new religion, a new set of rules for himself.” Concerning this survey the president of Northwestern College, Watertown, Wisconsin made this pertinent comment: “It is also quite evident from the report and the interviews that secular education tends to turn young people into self-worshipping gods. As if they were conscious of their humanistic and scientific divinity, they decide what is right and wrong; they believe that from them flow the springs of religious knowledge; they determine their own hereafter. They are above the church, and above the tenets of their faith. What a person thinks and feels, they hold, is truth for him, even if Scripture says otherwise… What else can one expect when scientism and humanism are preached daily from class room lecterns and are inculcated by books that become class room bibles! And while their faith is being subverted, these young people think they are being enlightened. Eve once thought so too.”8 Luther’s oft-quoted statement has not lost any of its relevancy for our time: “Where the Holy Scriptures do not dominate I certainly advise no one to send his child. For everything must degenerate that does not continually use the Word of God.”9
We make no apologies for basing our education on what the world considers undue emphasis about “a book.” The Bible is life’s text book. We join Daniel March in giving it this fine tribute: “The Bible is the oldest and newest of books. It surveys the whole field of time, and it looks farthest into the infinite depths of eternity. It lends the most vivid and absorbing interest to the scenes and events of the past, and it keeps us in the most active sympathy with the time in which we live. It gives us the most reliable record of what has been, and it affords us our only means of knowing what is yet to be. It is so conservative as to make it a solemn duty to study and revere the past, and it is so progressive as to be in advance of the most enlightened age. It is strict enough to denounce the very shadow and semblance of sin, and it is liberal enough to save the chiefest of sinners. It is full of God, and must therefore be read with a pure heart or its true glory will not be seen. It is full of man, and must therefore always be interesting and instructive to all who would know themselves.”10
There is a temptation to take something for granted when one has grown up with it, such as the Christian faith. This can easily happen to those who have had the influence of a Christian home from birth. A noted French philosopher, though born in such a home, did not have such a matter-of-fact view of his religious faith. He said: “We have to admit that there is something astonishing about the Christian religion. ‘It is because you were born in it,’ someone will say. Far from it; I set my face against it for this very reason, because I was afraid that prejudice would influence me; but though I was born in it, I soon found that it was astonishing.”11 This is what we would aim to accomplish also through Christian instruction. Though the children may have been born into circumstances where they have had the influence of God’s Word from their birth, they still should explore that Word more so that they may become established in it. And the more they explore it, the more they will be moved to wonder and admiration. Do we want a generation of children growing up in the church who only pay lip service to the Christian religion just because they were born in it and it seems the thing to do? On the contrary, we want them to explore the Christian faith and the basis for it, that they may know all the better the wonders of that which is their Christian heritage. God grant that they will then begin to grow in appreciation as they grow in understanding, and embrace their priceless heritage with a passion.
Perspective of Life: The Future
We have already spoken of the future indirectly when speaking of the past and of the present. In the Christian world view it is pretty hard to avoid this, for the Christian’s perspective of the past and of the present are intertwined with his perspective of the future. He knows he would have no future except for that great event of Redemption which has happened in the past. As for the present and its relation to the future, we might best illustrate this by recalling a familiar quotation: “So live as though you will die today, that you may die as though you will live forever.”
The personal vital questions — “Who am I?” “Where did I come from?” and “What am I here for?” may be followed by still another, “Where am I going?” All education worthy of the name should give some direction, some guidance, for the future. None succeeds so eminently in this as does Christian education. It does not leave us hanging in a world of doubt and uncertainty as to our ultimate future. The future in this life, we must admit, is fun of many variables. No amount of education, secular or Christian, can tell what the morrow will bring. The future is like an unbeaten path. For this it takes courage and here again a Christian education can succeed where none else can. We have an example of such courage from the life of Joshua. He and his people were to cross the Jordan river and pass into a strange land. It took courage for Israel to cross the Jordan. What gave them the courage? We find the answer in Joshua’s reply: “Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you… Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is to pass over before you into the Jordan.” Josh. 3,10.11 Their courage was to be derived from this that God, the living God, knew the way even if they didn’t. So they built their future, not on their own strength and wisdom, but on the wisdom and power of God.
God is very much alive, and with Him we entrust the future. This is a prevailing theme in the Christian school: God lives! What better preparation for the future can we give to the coming generation than to give them an Easter faith. For “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead.” (I Cor. 15,19.20) And we know what He told His disciples before His visible presence was taken from them at His return to glory: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matt. 28,20
A well known historian once wrote: “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe,”12 as if education were going to ward off catastrophe. For rather than avoiding catastrophe, some education has led the world to the brink of it. If we could insert the word “Christian” in that statement, then it would be correct. It would read, “Human history becomes more and more a race between Christian education and catastrophe.” This is not to claim that we can ward off the final cataclysmic day of retribution for this sin infected world. That day must come as surely as its prediction in the sacred record. But it will be no catastrophe for the child of God. The effects of Christian education will be in evidence on that Day among those who escape the cataclysm. Even now they who through such education have been led to their Savior can have St. Paul’s confidence to say: “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for ever and ever.” II Tim. 4,18
The Christian child’s belief in his ultimate future has its wholesome influence on his life here. The Scriptures remind us that we are only strangers and pilgrims on earth, and that we therefore should have no intention of making this brief pilgrimage the end and goal of life. Rather than harming one’s attitude toward this life that is a truth which in it. self gives incentive for a godly, respectable, and useful life. Peter uses this as the basis for his exhortation to make void the slander of unbelievers, saying: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” I Pet. 2,12
Glorify God! — What greater aim can an education have for this life than that? But this glorifying of God does not come naturally. All the powers of His arch-enemy are employed to prevent His being glorified in His children. Therefore, we need to give intensive instruction to the young, providing as much as possible with a Christian basis. The Word should have a throne in their lives, not just an occasional chair. “If ye continue in my word,” said Jesus, “then are ye my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jn. 8,31.32 Those who use the Word only as an occasional chair often end up walking in the counsel of the ungodly, standing in the way of sinners, and sitting in the seat of the scornful. Ps. 1,1
We can not afford to use the Word just as an “occasional chair.” That cheapens it in the eyes of the world and gives no glory to God. Only when we give it that high place in our lives so that it becomes the throne upon which our education rests, only then are we giving it the place God intended it to have. “I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches,” declares the Psalmist. “I will meditate in Thy precepts, and have respect unto Thy ways. I will delight myself in Thy statutes: I will not forget Thy Word.” Ps. 119,14–16 Such a devoted use of God’s Word will have its blessing in the realization of another throne, which the Savior promises us in the book of Revelation: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.” Rev. 3,21
In a convention essay several years ago on “Educating for Eternity,” the now sainted Luther Vangen then said, “Such education for eternity never ends. It continues as children grow to become young adults and until at last they leave their parental home to establish homes of their own. Then father and mother will steadfastly continue their education for eternity until at last they leave their earthly home to join the family of saints in heaven. The process of educating for eternity never ends this side of the grave.”13 These words were spoken by one who himself was a product of Christian education. Many others, like him, through the efforts of dedicated parents, and by the Spirit’s grace, have graduated from the humble circumstances of one or two room Christian schools to the incomparable majesty of the mansions in heaven.
Yes, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22,6 Train him to hold on to that unique identity he has received in his baptism where, upon being brought into a covenant relationship with his Savior, he was declared to be a child and heir of heaven. Holding on to that identity he shall one day experience the truth that the Great Shepherd knows His sheep, and that no man can pluck them out of His hand. Jn. 10,28
Incidentally, the learning process doesn’t stop here. There will still be something to learn in the life to come — if we read Revelation 14,3 correctly. But what a profound pleasure that learning will be! It reads: “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth,” If we have learned “to sing below For mercies freely given,” we will have no trouble learning that New Song, “the triumph song of heaven.”
“Lord Jesus, give us grace
On earth to love Thee more,
In heaven to see Thy face,
And with Thy saints adore.” Amen.
1 Dr. L. Nelson Bell in “Christianity Today.” March 15, 1963, p.23
2 Francis Schaeffer, “Death In The City.” (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.), p.30
3 Halford Luccock Treasury, Edited by Robert Luccock (Abingdon Press. New York, 1961), p. 50
4 Myra Brooks Welch, “The Old Violin”
5 Quoted in “A Christian Handbook on Vital Issues” (Leader Publ. Co.. New Haven, Mo., 1973) p. 118
6 Arthur L. Amt in “Lutheran Education” magazine (Concordia Publ. House) Sept., 1954, p. 15
7 Edward Koehler. “A Christian Pedagogy” (Concordia Publ. House. 1930), p. 121
8 Carleton Toppe, “Northwestern Lutheran” (Northwestern Publ. House), March 24. 1974, p. 83
9 F. Painter. “Luther on Education” (Concordia Publ. House, 1928)
10 Daniel March, Preface to “Night Scenes In The Bible” (Zeigler, McCurdy & Co., Philadelphia, 1868).
11 Blase Pascal, “Pensees” (Harper Brothers, New York, 1962), p. 231
12 H. G. Wells, “Outline of History.” ch. 15.
13 Luther Vangen. “Synod Report,” (1966) pp. 37 & 38