My father was a missionary educator whose work influenced government as well as mission schools in what is now Zimbabwe. Due to his premature death, I, though born in Zimbabwe, grew up in my parents’ homeland of Scotland. Christian day schools and colleges were not available there, nor were they considered essential to a Reformed worldview.
Godly nurture in both home and church was strong, however, and I had many opportunities for Christian witness at school and university.
Today I’m a Christian Reformed pastor in Canada, and my own sons have attended Christian schools, for the most part. I’m currently part of a group of local pastors who meet regularly with school administrators to discuss how we can best work together.
I have no doubt that Christian day-school education is the CRC’s gift to North America. It reflects the legacy of Abraham Kuyper, a Reformed leader whom I admire and respect.
I wonder, however, about two of Kuyper’s teachings, which affect my view of Christian day schools as I have experienced them.
First is the social theory of “sphere sovereignty,” which states that every sphere of society—church, education, government, business, and so forth—is independent of the others and directly accountable to God. This theory is sometimes raised to a doctrine of almost biblical authority when we talk about the institutions of home, church, and school. But the biblical institutions are not home, church, and school. Rather, they are family, church, and state. I would judge that each has its own interest in the education of our youths.
Then there is Kuyper’s doctrine of “presumptive regeneration”—the belief that we presume our children are “born again” unless they reject Christ later in life. I know that’s not official CRC teaching, but I fear its influence lingers in the way we talk about and to our covenant children, often assuming levels of spirituality that may not always be there.
For the above reasons I was intrigued by the openness of a recent synodical report—for all its reliance on Kuyperian categories of thought—to the idea of seeing Christian day schools, in part, as opportunities for Christian witness, not only to our own youths but to those from non-Christian families.
Such a model (which has been followed for years in world missionary settings), challenging children from Christian and non-Christian homes alike to consider the claims of Christ on their intellectual and spiritual development, holds out the promise of lasting Christian influence on the family, church, and state. It might even be close to what public (state) education was once intended to be.