Monday, August 31, 2009

Teaching Bible in the Christian School

As a new catechism season is upon us (we start up on September 13th), I've been thinking lately about teaching children and young people the essentials of our Christian faith. I've been looking over curriculum for our various classes and thinking about memory work. All of this has got me to thinking about the responsibility of the church (as well as parents) to train children and young people. But what about the Christian school? Should the Christian school be teaching the Bible? It might seem like a no-brainer to say "Yes, absolutely!" But is that really the case? I came across a blog post by Dr. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California. Following is some of what he writes...and I think he makes some excellent points:

I have a radical idea – well it might not be as radical as it seems–but in our current context it’s likely to seem radical. Perhaps it’s time for our Christian schools to stop teaching the Bible? Before you go on the warpath hear me out.

Is everyone authorized to teach the Bible? Yes, we believe in the priesthood of believers, but does that mean that just anyone can anoint himself a “Bible teacher”? I guess most of us would say no, it doesn’t. Well, who authorized the local Christian school to teach Bible? Most Christian schools are operated by a board, a private society — which is perfectly appropriate. Where does Scripture teach the establishment of such societies for Bible instruction? It doesn’t. To whom did Jesus give the “Great Commission?” He gave it to the visible, institutional church (Matt 28:18-20). He did not commission the local Christian school to baptize or to make disciples or to preach the gospel. Christ has ordained the visible church to preach the gospel, to administer the sacraments, to make disciples (Christian education) and to exercise church discipline.

The visible church is not called to operate schools, to teach history, geography, math, or physics. The school has these vocations. The Christian school has one sphere of responsibility and the Christian Church has another. They are complementary. There is one God who is our Creator and the same God who is our Redeemer but that doesn’t mean that we don’t distinguish between creation and redemption. The same God who created and by his providence sustains and governs and operates through creation also redeems through the preaching of the gospel, but that doesn’t mean that we hike at church or preach in the forrest.

In the same way Christian schools should focus on creation (nature) and let the church instruct our children about redemption (grace). Do we really need our math teacher to show how math relates to redemption? No. What we need is for the math teacher to teach math and, perhaps, to show it relates to the rest of creation. Is our math teacher really trained to explain the Bible? Is our Christian school Bible teacher actually trained to explain the Bible? Does he or she read Hebrew and Greek? Has he or she taken courses in Church History, Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology and the like? Has the Christian school Bible teacher been examined by a consistory and a classis? I guess that few Christian school Bible teachers are so prepared. Most of them have a BA from a Christian college. Perhaps your Christian school Bible teacher had a Bible major.

Whatever the case regarding the Christian school teacher, your minister is so prepared and he doesn’t (or shouldn’t) pretend to be a math or physics teacher. Let us (follow Kuyper) and distinguish the two spheres of creation and redemption and our children will actually be better catechized because of it.


Mike said...

Eh. Not sure about this one. Is "preaching the gospel" the same thing as "teaching the Bible"?

To take this to its logical extent, we should not have secondary Biblical education either, right? Or perhaps should I even try to undertand the Bible better through personal study--or should I only study in the context of some kind of supervision? See, it gets all weird.

At first I thought "interesting take, this has merit" but as I read on I tend to think that it's little more than an interesting mental exercise.

I would certainly say that the impetus for Biblical instruction to children falls primarily on the parents, with the chief means of such instruction being the local church. But I don't think I would put Bible classes in the same category as ark-touching.

I would similarly not hold a Christian school to some kind of regulative principle. It isn't the church, after all.

I guess it goes back to the idea of there being a difference in Bible instruction and preaching the gospel. Does dominion over the latter assume a monopoly on the former?

As I said, it is something interesting to think about.

Kevin Efflandt said...

I guess my point...or I should say the point that Clark seems to be trying to that the school has not been given any authority to teach the Bible. Shouldn't the catechizing of our children be done by the parents and the local church? Now that certainly doesn't mean that we shouldn't study the Bible on our own...Scripture is quite clear that we are to spend time in the Word of God. But I guess what troubles me is when Christian schools teach the Bible in such a way to subvert or even contradict what is being taught in the church.

Kevin Efflandt said...

I want to clarify a bit here: My concern is that a Christian school that is teaching the Bible should come under the authority of the local church. The elders of the church, who have been given the task of maintaining purity of doctrine, should ensure that what is being taught in Bible classes (whether in catechism classes or in day school classes) is faithful to God's Word and to our doctrinal standards.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a member of your church, but I'm disappointed & surprised that you would quote/agree with this from R. Scott Clark. It reminds me of the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation, where the church elites were the only ones "qualified" to teach about the Bible. BTW, R. Scott Clark doesn't even mention parents being qualified to teach the Bible to their children, as you do.

It seems to me that this is completely and radically opposite of Calvin's teachings (and more importantly, the Bible).

I can agree somewhat with your comments here on this page, but your blog entry & quote makes quite a different point.

The children in Christian schools are there under the authority of the parents. The teachers are there to represent the children's parents while they are at school. Parents are given this command, directly following the giving of the 10 commandments (Deut. 5:6-9):

"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates."

It's clear from this that the Bible has to be taught in all of life. To leave it just to evenings and weekends (church on Sunday, and parents, when they have the time, in the evenings), is not in compliance with this command to teach in every moment of every day, integrated into everyday life.

Rev. Christopher J. Gordon said...

hmmm, I wonder who anonymous really is?