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Christian Ethics and Reformed Education August 28, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Antithesis, Christian Education, Christian Parenting.
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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on Christian Education as my son will be attending a Pre-K program at our public school next year. We visited our local Christian schools and there is one we like but they do not have a Pre-K program. These visits and our eventual decision to enroll in the public school got me think about; What should I expect from a Christian School? What is a Chrisitian education? and How do I know they’re not just slapping the Christian label on the sign like so many churches, books and music?

In searching the web I found the transcript of a speech by a Rev. C. Stam, of the Canadian Reformed Church. It is titled ‘Christian Ethics and Reformed Education’. In his speech Rev. Stam concentrates mostly on ethics but his analysis has implications on other areas of education as well. He divides his analysis into 6 sections:

1. Ethics and Dogmatics

He starts out by explaining that ethics is a refection on morals, which are the customs adopted by a certain group. He then explains the function of Christian ethics, ‘(In) Christian ethics we subject such morals to the only norm of the Word of God!’ In addition he ties ethics into dogmatics explaining that ethics are part of dogmatics and ‘life and doctrine are not to be separated’. In order to illustrate this he explains that we must understand mans nature as taught in the Bible before we can apply morals to children.

This is important as I do not believe that ethics/morals can be appropriately taught in a public school environment and many subjects touch on issues where ethical implications will be discussed. Parents are to be the ultimate teacher of ethics to their children, so is a school education that supports what is being taught at home important?

2. Empathic-Critical

He then moves to describe a ‘Empathic-critical’ approach that should be used by Christian teachers. A teacher (or parent) must be empathetic as we understand behavioral difficulties in children, as we to struggle with sin in our own lives. The teacher should also be critical of the behavior and able to provide correction this extended quote summarizes this section well.

“For empathy should not be taken to mean: overlooking or shrugging oft wrong behavior. We are to be critical of the youth, in the sense that we must discern what is right or wrong, and the youth must be made to understand this as well. We cannot condone wrong behavior, no matter how much we understand its reasons. Being empathic to the person, we must be critical of his behavior.”

Here we begin to see additional development of the antithesis between Christian and secular education. Although there may be Christians involved in secular education, at a Christian school we can be reasonably assured that the teachers can empathize with our children as they grow in the faith and that their criticisms or corrections will be based on God’s word.

3. Positive-Covenantal

As Reformed believers we see our children as part of God’s covenant and should treat them as God treats his covenant people- ‘with great patience and compassion’. Being a part of God’s covenant is therefore a positive thing. The positive factor is best explained in this quotation:

“we should unceasingly approach the children as being in grafted into the covenant of grace, as heirs of the kingdom of God! That is, so to speak, their status and privilege. The binding factor of this covenant should be a joyful reality, not a gray prison.”

He cautions not to conclude that covenant children are converted, for that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

“We must unceasingly use the means – the Word – and let the Spirit of God bring this to fruition. We expect it positively from the power of the Word of God, also in the classroom – above any technique which we might employ. Failure to see the decisive work of the Holy Spirit also results in failure to see the prime place of the Word in the classroom!”

Again I see this as a reinforcement of what is being taught at home. An important key though is the fact that our children are not converted, therefore we should desire that they encounter ‘the Word’ as much as possible as it is the way through which the Holy Spirit works.

4. Church-Oriented

There should obviously be a connection between the Christian school and the church. Rev. Stam describes the proper relationship with the school as the tutor the church as the mother. As we see in the next section the school needs to point back to the parent (5th commandment). So to must the school point to the church. Children need to be taught the importance of the church and the value of being Reformed. Further we see how the school and church fill different functions in the Christian life. In all of this though the church is primary while the school supportive.

The public school will never be church oriented, nor should we desire it to be. In fact it may be openly hostile to the church. On the other hand we need to be careful of not letting the Christian school over take the church in level of importance.

5. Norm-Conscious

“We must confront the students not with our own opinions (no matter how noteworthy these may be), but with God’s revealed norms, His Law of love.

Rev. Stam points specifically to the 5th commandment (Honor your father and mother) and how the teacher must not try to replace the parents but help to develop their honor. The parents must also be aware of their need to impart Biblical values to their children.

In order to do develop Christian norms the Bible must be open in the classroom. If these norms are properly developed he shows how the antithesis is developed in Christian thought.

“Christians are not better than others, but they are certainly called to be different. We have a different motivation, for we know Christ, our Saviour. We “think” differently, namely, “spiritually.” We have a different outlook on life, different expectations, and, therefore, a different life-style. Only from inward renewal comes outward obedience which is pleasing to God.”

By learning the Biblical norms children will be able to react to different issues in life. It is more than do’s and don’ts, it is teaching children to think ‘Gods thoughts after him’. This was a great section with a lot of good insight, the article is worth reading for this part alone.

6. Maturity-Directed

This sections builds well on the development of norms in Christian thinking. Showing the result of Christians who can discern right and wrong in a Biblical way.

“Lead the students to a responsible discerning of what is right and wrong. You cannot live their lives; you must give them the tools to live their own lives.”

This is what every Christian parent should want of their children, that they are discerning on the basis of the Bible- in short that they are able to take their thoughts captive to Jesus Christ.

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