July 15: God versus Utter Chaos

Every once in a while we will dispense with people and events tied to the calendar. I think this particular piece warrants your attention.

The following article is from among the Papers of the Rev. Vaughn Hathaway (graciously donated at this recent PCA GA), and it was the lead article in a  1935 publication of the National Union of Christian Schools,an effort largely connected in those years with the Christian Reformed Church. And since today is a work day, for your convenience a shorter, edited version (with emphasis added) is posted “above the fold.” Please come back later when you have time to read the full article (posted below the fold).

Time has proven Kuiper’s words to have indeed been so very accurate and true, and still so very applicable.

kuiperRBTHE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL A NECESSARY WITNESS IN THE MODERN WORLD.

by R. B. Kuiper

It is sometimes possible to characterize an age in one word. The antediluvians, for example, lived in practical atheism. They went about their pursuits as if there were no God. Soon after the flood men turned to polytheism, and for many centuries the human race remained steeped in this sin. I believe that antitheism describes today’s world as accurately as any one word can. At the very least it may be asserted of our age that it indisputably manifests a strong strain of antitheism. Modern man is not merely forgetting God, or even wilfully ignoring Him, but he emphatically denies God. He hates God and is eager to express his hatred. He flies in God’s face.

More fully expressed, it is characteristic of the modern world to cast overboard God and His Word and, consequently, His answer to the question what is true as well as His norm of goodness. The world will have nothing of God, the Absolute, nor of His objective standard of truth and morality.

The inevitable outcome is here. Modern man has lost his moorings. He finds himself at sea, surrounded by the thick mist of doubt and uncertainty and enveloped in the black darkness of hopeless pessimism. “Whirl is King, having driven out Zeus,” said the Athenian comic poet Aristophanes. “Whirl is King, having driven out the Absolute” describes the wicked and adulterous generation in which divine providence has cast our lot.

*     *     *

Small wonder that the modern man finds no satisfying answer to the question what truth is. Divine revelation has been thrown into the discard and science has come to take its place, but the knowledge proffered by science differs so radically from that received by revelation that it hardly deserves to be called knowledge at all. I well recall when I began the study of physics at the Morgan Park Academy. In the very first lesson we were taught certain axioms. One of them was the indestructibility of matter. Now Webster defines an axiom as “a self-evident truth.” But modern science is by no means sure of the self-evident character of this proposition. The following quotation from Walter Lippmann is as true as witty. I find it most delightful. Says this modern sage: “One can by twisting language sufficiently ‘reconcile’ Genesis with ‘evolution.’ But what no one can do is to guarantee that science will not destroy the doctrine of evolution the day after it has been triumphantly proved that Genesis is compatible with the theory of evolution.—The reconciliation which theologians are attempting is an impossible one, because one of the factors which has to be reconciled—namely, the scientific theory, changes so rapidly that the layman is never sure at any one moment what the theory is which he has to reconcile with religious dogma.”


*     *     *

If he who denies the absolute God and His Word has no reply to the question what truth is, neither can he say what is good.

The modern man does not know what is right and what wrong, and, as has been aptly remarked, he is giving himself the benefit of the doubt. Modern youth revolts against the restraint of God’s law and passionately lends its ear to the siren song of Freud. The divine institution of marriage is unblushingly violated even in the first family of our land. Supposedly Christian Italy seems eager to follow the example of pagan Japan in carrying out a selfish program of imperialism through ruthless and bloody conquest. Not only numberless individuals, but whole civilized nations, have lost the sense of financial obligation and are laughing just debts out of court. Capital continues to exploit labor, while fanatic reformers and windy demagogues are applauded by hosts for their communistic dreams. “All thine is mine” might well be called the slogan of our generation.

But human beings must be held in restraint somehow. Even man himself realizes that. And so it comes about that modern man, having turned his back on the law of God, which is the law of liberty, yields to a multiplication of human laws, which is tyranny. The great war was fought avowedly to make the world safe for democracy. But the post-war period is one of dictatorships. Despots are crushing whole nations under their heels. Everywhere governments are trampling upon the sacred rights of individuals. The totalitarian state is in the ascendancy. Democracy is rapidly becoming a huge joke, personal liberty a relic.

*     *     *

What is our duty as Christians in this present evil world? If that question were to be answered in one word, I should choose the word witness. Just before His ascension our Lord said to His disciples: “But ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” That is a succinct statement of the Christian’s task in the world.

Christianity is not merely a theology; it is also a cosmology. Christianity tells man the truth, not only concerning God, but also about the universe. It is more than the true doctrine of salvation; it is also the one correct interpretation of life and the world. It is a comprehensive system of all revealed truth—not only the truth of God’s special revelation, the Bible, but of His general revelation in nature and history as well. And this system derives its unity from God, who is Himself the Truth as well as the Revealer of truth. Christianity is theism.

God has seen fit to reveal Himself to man in two books—the Bible, the book of special revelation, and nature and history, the book of general revelation. Now it is the duty of the organized Church to teach men the content of the former of these books, while it is the special task of the school to open the latter. To be sure, the two may not be separated. Truth can hardly be dealt with so mechanically. After all, truth is one because God is one. Truth is organic. And only he who has learned to understand the Bible can really know history and nature. Yet the distinction is a valid one. The Church can hardly be expected to teach the intricacies of mathematics, physics, astronomy, or the history of the Balkans. Nor does any one demand of the school that it preach the gospel. But Church and school together must declare the whole of God’s revealed truth.

*     *     *

All we can do is witness. While doing so, we hope and pray that our witness may find response in the modern world. But whether this will actually occur we cannot say. Nor are we responsible for results. Dean Inge once said: “The strength of Christianity is in transforming the lives of individuals—of a small minority, certainly, as Christ clearly predicted, but a large number in the aggregate. To rescue a little flock, here and there, from materialism, selfishness, and hatred, is the task of the Church of Christ in all ages alike, and there is no likelihood that it will ever be otherwise.” This is not a good statement of the task of the Christian Church. Reference to the preaching of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ is altogether too obscure. Nor is anything said about the Church’s being the salt of the earth. But who will deny that there is a great deal of sanity in the apparent pessimism of these words? Perhaps the witness of the Christian school too, like that of the Christian Church, is destined to fall in large part on deaf ears. But witness we must. And our witness should ever be clear and strong, and winsome withal.

And who will gainsay that the witness of the Christian school is precisely the witness which is needed by the modern world?
Modern man has forsaken God and His Word. He has turned antitheistic. He has cast overboard the absolute and put the relative in its place. For the objective he has substituted the subjective. In consequence he is hanging between heaven and earth. Nothing is certain save uncertainty. He asks questions innumerable but finds no answers. He is ever seeking but never finding. He hungers and has no food. He thirsts and finds no water. His soul is a great void. And the world is in turmoil. “Whirl is King.”

But the Christian school is characterized by theism, by recognition of God, by submission to the absolute and the objective. It not only asks questions but also solves the most fundamental problems of life. Accordingly it is marked by the calmness of certainty, the tranquillity of power, the serenity of the eternal.

The Christian school offers the troubled world certainty for bewildering doubt, rest for unspeakable weariness, peace for terrifying turmoil, order for maddening confusion, liberty for abject slavery, hope for black despair,—God for utter chaos.

Full article:


THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL A NECESSARY WITNESS IN THE MODERN WORLD.

by R. B. Kuiper

I. A Characterization of the Modern World

The theme which I am about to discuss was assigned to me. Whether the choice of subject was wise or unwise it is not for me to say. However, I am certain that if the choice had been left to me it would have fallen on something far simpler. I sometimes wonder whether others are like me in as a rule not assigning to themselves harder tasks than seem necessary. And again I often wonder why it is that others experience so much difficulty in discovering themes on which I can speak with anything like authority. The reply that very few subjects belong to this category is, of course, as obvious as it is humiliating.

Manifestly one cannot say anything worth saying about the Christian school as a necessary witness in the modern world without knowing considerable about the modern world, in fact without being able to characterize it pretty accurately. It is that which makes my task onerous. How much more difficult it is to know the world of today than to describe the world as it was even as little as twenty-five years ago. One cannot see his own day and generation in perspective. It is easier to give an accurate description of a forest as a whole when one has flown out of it than while one is walking in it. While in it one is sure to have difficulty seeing the forest because of the trees.

An yet, may it not be true that we Christians, who are not of the world, though to be sure in it, are able to view the modern world more objectively, and therefore to characterize it more accurately, than are those who are both in and of it? The figure is a bit bold, but in a sense we, whose citizenship is in heaven, may be said to be flying over the world. Paradoxical though it is, we are at once in the world and outside of it. Surely our description of it should be worth something.

It goes without saying that I shall attempt to characterize the modern world only in the most general way. That every one of you will be able to think of phenomena which do not seem to fit into my picture is a foregone conclusion. But that will in no wise prove that I am wrong. It may mean one or more of a half dozen other things, as, for instance, that the world is not consistent, or that the God of all grace is still striving with modern man.

 *     *     *

It is sometimes possible to characterize an age in one word. The antediluvians, for example, lived in practical atheism. They went about their pursuits as if there were no God. Soon after the flood men turned to polytheism, and for many centuries the human race remained steeped in this sin. I believe that antitheism describes today’s world as accurately as any one word can. At the very least it may be asserted of our age that it indisputably manifests a strong strain of antitheism. Modern man is not merely forgetting God, or even willfully ignoring Him, but he emphatically denies God. He hates God and is eager to express his hatred. He flies in God’s face.

More fully expressed, it is characteristic of the modern world to cast overboard God and His Word and, consequently, His answer to the question what is true as well as His norm of goodness. The world will have nothing of God, the Absolute, nor of His objective standard of truth and morality.

The inevitable outcome is here. Modern man has lost his moorings. He finds himself at sea, surrounded by the thick mist of doubt and uncertainty and enveloped in the black darkness of hopeless pessimism. “Whirl is King, having driven out Zeus,” said the Athenian comic poet Aristophanes. “Whirl is King, having driven out the Absolute” describes the wicked and adulterous generation in which divine providence has cast our lot.

 *     *     *

That Russian Sovietism is openly and aggressively antitheistic is a matter of common knowledge. The banishment of all religious instruction from the schools is but one bit of evidence. That Hitler would force upon Germany a resurrected paganism seems beyond cavil. And in Mexico the situation is apparently no better. I stand amazed at the coolness, the indifference almost, with which we Christians view these events. That whole nations which until recently were at least nominally Christian are now at the mercy of positively anti-christian despots who are actively persecuting Christ’s faithful ones, is nothing short of appalling. One wonders whether it is actuality and not a dream.

Contemporary philosophy is more polite than are Stalin, the Nazis, and the Mexican overlords. Yet much of it too is outspoken in its opposition to the absolute God of Holy Scripture. It is extremely significant that John Dewey, that eminent American pragmatist who has long been exerting a profound influence on educational ideas and ideals, entitled his contribution to the second volume of Contemporary American Philosophy, From Absolutism to Experimentalism. Elsewhere the same author informs us that “according to the religious and philosophical traditions of Europe, the valid status of all the highest values, the good, true and beautiful, was bound up with their being properties of ultimate and supreme Being, namely God,” and then proceeds to state as his opinion that “the first problem for philosophy would seem to be to clear itself of further responsibility for the doctrine that the supreme issue is whether values have antecedent Being.” It is heartening to hear Henry Nelson Wieman of the University of Chicago say:

I am well aware that such noted physicists as Millikan and Compton are religious men, and I find extremely interesting their testimony that their studies are making them increasingly so, but, surely, no one is so gullible as to identify their God with the only true and living one, the God of the Bible. I fear that they have little more respect for Him than does H. L. Mencken.

As might be expected, the hostility of the present generation to the God of Scripture has found expression in fiction. A notable instance, I believe, is Thornton Wilder’s puzzling book Heaven’s My Destination. To my mind it presents a venomous caricature of the Christian God and His service. Typical of the book is the sacrilegious doggerel:

George Brush is my name,
America’s my nation,
Ludington’s my dwelling-place,
And Heaven’s my destination.

But what of the Christian Church? Is it not, in spite of apparent weaknesses, one of the world’s strongest institutions, and does it not uphold the absolute God of historic Christianity? Alas, the Church of Jesus Christ has forsaken God, the fountain of living waters, and has hewed it out cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water. It has fallen under the spell of modernism. And Harry Emerson Fosdick, one of its leading exponents, informs us that the modernist God is not a “king on high,” as our fathers, who lived under monarchy, conceived of Him, but “the place where man vitally finds God is within his own experience of goodness, truth, and beauty, and the truest images of God are therefore to be found in man’s spiritual life.” After thus quoting Fosdick, Walter Lippmann in his Preface to Morals gives a stinging characterization of the New York preacher’s God. Says he: “This is not God the Father, the Lawgiver, the Judge. This is a highly sophisticated idea of God, employed by a modern man who would like to say, but cannot say with authority, that there exists a personal God to whom men must accommodate themselves.

 *     *     *

Perhaps Fosdick’s well known book The Modern Use of the Bible may be taken as a fair sample of the attitude of the modern world to God’s Word. It does not represent the most extreme position. There are many who think even less of the Bible than does Fosdick, but surely his estimate is low enough.

To Fosdick the Bible is not an infallible record of divine revelation, but a fallible record of the religious experiences of certain devout men. He denies the fundamental difference between the Christian religion and all others—namely, that in Christianity God reveals Himself to man, while in every other religion man is groping after God. He rejects certain parts of the Bible as patently false, and when he accepts other portions as permanently valid, he does this not because they were spoken by God, but because they can stand the test of human experience. Thus he denies the authority of the Bible over man altogether and places man in authority over the Bible.

That all certainty is thus destroyed is perfectly obvious. The Bible is stripped of its authority, not only in the field of history and astronomy, but in the moral and spiritual realms as well. It is reduced to a more or less noble collection of views which each individual may accept or reject according to the dictates of his own intellect and conscience. Man is made the measure of truth and goodness, and each man is the measure of truth and goodness to himself. My opinion on a given subject is as good as Fosdick’s and his is no worse than mine, though the two may contradict each other as absolutely as do pure light and utter darkness.

 *     *     *

Small wonder that the modern man finds no satisfying answer to the question what truth is. Divine revelation has been thrown into the discard and science has come to take its place, but the knowledge proffered by science differs so radically from that received by revelation that it hardly deserves to be called knowledge at all. I well recall when I began the study of physics at the Morgan Park Academy. In the very first lesson we were taught certain axioms. One of them was the indestructibility of matter. Now Webster defines an axiom as “a self-evident truth.” But modern science is by no means sure of the self-evident character of this proposition. The following quotation from Walter Lippmann is as true as witty. I find it most delightful. Says this modern sage: “One can by twisting language sufficiently ‘reconcile’ Genesis with ‘evolution.’ But what no one can do is to guarantee that science will not destroy the doctrine of evolution the day after it has been triumphantly proved that Genesis is compatible with the theory of evolution.—The reconciliation which theologians are attempting is an impossible one, because one of the factors which has to be reconciled—namely, the scientific theory, changes so rapidly that the layman is never sure at any one moment what the theory is which he has to reconcile with religious dogma.”

A conclusion of A. S. Eddington’s lectures on Stars and Atoms is often quoted as an example of the uncertainty of one of the greatest of modern scientists. It is indeed a striking instance. Says the famous astronomer: “I have dealt mainly with two salient points—the problem of the source of the star’s energy, and the change of mass which must occur if there is any evolution of faith stars from bright stars. I have shown how these appear to meet in the hypothesis of the annihilation of matter. I do not hold this as a secure conclusion. I hesitate even to advocate it as probable, because there are many details which seem to me to throw considerable doubt on it, and I have formed a strong impression that there must be some essential point which has not yet been grasped. I simply tell it you as a clue which at the moment we are trying to follow up—not knowing whether it is false scent or true. I should have liked to have closed these lectures by leading up to some great climax. But perhaps it is more in accordance with the true conditions of scientific progress that they should fizzle out with a glimpse of the obscurity which marks the frontiers of present knowledge. I do not apologize for the lameness of the conclusion, for it is not a conclusion. I wish I could feel confident that it is even a beginning.” To be sure, Mr. Eddington deserves praise for his frankness. Not all scientists are so honest. It seems that only the greatest can afford to be. And it goes without saying that no sane person will assert that the Bible answers every question that baffles Eddington. God never intended that it should. But the point is that he who substitutes the certainty of human science for the certainty of divine revelation is to be pitied for the exceeding greatness of his uncertainty.

An inevitable consequence of the rejection of the absolute God and His infallible revelation is the dissolution of knowledge. There is but one God, and not only the Bible, but the entire universe with all that it contains, reveals Him. All the facts of science together with all the events of history converge in God. Truth is one as God is. But the modern man rules out God and by so doing breaks up the truth. All he has is isolated facts. To the question what truth is he is dumb.

*     *     *

If he who denies the absolute God and His Word has no reply to the question what truth is, neither can he say what is good.

I have had occasion to refer to some of Lippmann’s well directed blows at present-day modernism. Now I must record that after all he stands shoulder to shoulder with the most advanced liberals in their attack on divine authority. His Preface to Morals constitutes a denial of the sovereignty of God. Says he: “Insofar as moral wisdom is entangled with the premises of theocracy it is unreal to us. The very thing which gave authority to moral insight for our forefathers obscures moral insight for us. They lived in the kind of world which disposed them to practice virtue if it came to them as a divine commandment. A thoroughly modernized young man to-day distrusts moral wisdom precisely because it is commanded.” And Lippmann approves of this distrust. So do a host of other influential authors and teachers.

No wonder that the bottom has fallen out of present-day morality. Kant was right when he maintained that without belief in God there is no valid morality. If God’s answer to the query what is good is rejected, who will tell us? No one can with certainty. Aristotle virtually admitted this in his Ethics when, after defining virtue as a mean between two extremes, he proceeded to stress strongly the difficulty of discovering where the mean lies. Modern man is waking up to the fact that to find it is impossible. The law of God has been set aside and no substitute has been discovered. Surely, men are told that it is their duty to satisfy the conditions of human happiness, but no one dares to claim dependable knowledge of these conditions. Lippmann’s suggestion of “disinterestedness” is neither new nor positive. The teachers of humanism can speak only as the scribes, never with the authority of the Son of God. Objective moral certitude has vanished. “To the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them.”

The modern man does not know what is right and what wrong, and, as has been aptly remarked, he is giving himself the benefit of the doubt. Modern youth revolts against the restraint of God’s law and passionately lends its ear to the siren song of Freud. The divine institution of marriage is unblushingly violated even in the first family of our land. Supposedly Christian Italy seems eager to follow the example of pagan Japan in carrying out a selfish program of imperialism through ruthless and bloody conquest. Not only numberless individuals, but whole civilized nations, have lost the sense of financial obligation and are laughing just debts out of court. Capital continues to exploit labor, while fanatic reformers and windy demagogues are applauded by hosts for their communistic dreams. “All thine is mine” might well be called the slogan of our generation.

But human beings must be held in restraint somehow. Even man himself realizes that. And so it comes about that modern man, having turned his back on the law of God, which is the law of liberty, yields to a multiplication of human laws, which is tyranny. The great war was fought avowedly to make the world safe for democracy. But the post-war period is one of dictatorships. Despots are crushing whole nations under their heels. Everywhere governments are trampling upon the sacred rights of individuals. The totalitarian state is in the ascendancy. Democracy is rapidly becoming a huge joke, personal liberty a relic.

 *     *     *

The absolute, the objective, the certain, has been rejected, and “it is plain that we have succeeded only in substituting trivial illusions for majestic faiths.” Humanity is at sea. Yes, the superficial optimist is still with us. Robert Briffault, for instance, assures us in Scribner’s for July [1935] that “man’s power, the power to control his destiny and his life by means of an equipped intelligence free from stunting and intrinsically base and mean illusions, was never greater than it is today.” But on every hand we find those who are too hardheaded, too realistic, to swallow such pollyanna poppycock. The realization is spreading rapidly that not only Roosevelt is experimenting but humanity is. Our generation has the problem complex. Everybody is asking questions, but answers, authoritative answers, are not forthcoming. Every one wants to know what is going to happen next, and about the only reply men agree on is that David Lloyd George is right when he predicts another great war and sees western civilization tottering on the brink of ruin. Many feel that humanity is riding on a merry-go-round and that the best thing to do is to while away the time giggling, because we are getting nowhere anyhow. Others, more serious, and therefore more melancholy, sigh with Nietzsche: “Where is my home? For it do I ask and seek, and have sought, but have not found it. O eternal everywhere, O eternal nowhere, O eternal in vain!”

 *     *     *

II. A Statement of Our Task in the Modern World

What is our duty as Christians in this present evil world? If that question were to be answered in one word, I should choose the word witness. Just before His ascension our Lord said to His disciples: “But ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” That is a succinct statement of the Christian’s task in the world.

But how shall we go about our witnessing?

Shall we testify against the world by withdrawing from it? Shall we protest against the evil in the world by becoming pillar saints or back-woods hermits or perhaps Trappists, vowing nevermore to part our lips in speech for the remainder of our earthly days? That were a negative witness indeed, so negative as to constitute unpardonable neglect of duty.

Shall we limit our witness to the proclamation of the gospel of strictly individual salvation, joining hands with those fundamentalists of our day, also known as dispensationalists, who tell us that this present world belongs to the devil, that it is folly even to attempt to save it, that we should leave it to Christ to take care of that at His second coming, and that, in the words of the late I. M. Haldeman, “the work of the Church in this age is not to save society but individuals out of it”? But that were to deny the plain Scriptural teaching of Christ’s present kingship, not only over the Church, but also over the world, and to overlook the evident social implications of the gospel. This view ignores the fact that Christ has “all power in heaven and on earth” and that God “gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church.” It fails to do justice to the Christian’s function as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It robs of its present significance the prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.”

Shall we then unite with the modernists of our day in the proclamation of the social gospel, stamping interest in personal salvation narrow and selfish, denying the necessity of individual regeneration, stressing deliverance from physical evil at the expense of redemption from sin, ridiculing the Jenseitigkeit of the old gospel with the dictum of A. E. Garvie that “men are saved by Christ, not for safety hereafter, but for service here,” laughing out of court the old-fashioned notion that such evils as war and poverty are under the control of divine providence, placing the cart before the horse by positing the betterment of society as a prerequisite for the improvement of the individual, and making common cause with the communists and collectivists of the day? God forbid! Let our witness by all means be Christian!

Then shall we declare the full gospel of Holy Writ, placing the primary stress on individual redemption and giving proper emphasis to the social implications of the gospel? Emphatically yes! By all means!

But even so we shall not be doing our whole duty. Our task will not be accomplished until we shall have presented to the world, in addition to the true gospel, a complete theistic view of life and the world.

 *     *     *

Christianity is not merely a theology; it is also a cosmology. Christianity tells man the truth, not only concerning God, but also about the universe. It is more than the true doctrine of salvation; it is also the one correct interpretation of life and the world. It is a comprehensive system of all revealed truth—not only the truth of God’s special revelation, the Bible, but of His general revelation in nature and history as well. And this system derives its unity from God, who is Himself the Truth as well as the Revealer of truth. Christianity is theism.

God has seen fit to reveal Himself to man in two books—the Bible, the book of special revelation, and nature and history, the book of general revelation. Now it is the duty of the organized Church to teach men the content of the former of these books, while it is the special task of the school to open the latter. To be sure, the two may not be separated. Truth can hardly be dealt with so mechanically. After all, truth is one because God is one. Truth is organic. And only he who has learned to understand the Bible can really know history and nature. Yet the distinction is a valid one. The Church can hardly be expected to teach the intricacies of mathematics, physics, astronomy, or the history of the Balkans. Nor does any one demand of the school that it preach the gospel. But Church and school together must declare the whole of God’s revealed truth.

Would you know where lies the strength of thorough-going liberalism? In its consistency. It is consistently antitheistic. The same antitheism that is proclaimed from liberal pulpits is taught in the public schools, which by and large are hotbeds of modernism. And would you know where lies the weakness of American fundamentalism? In its inconsistency. It aims to preach the true gospel in the churches, but it either does not have a theistic view of life and the world or, having one, fails to present it to the world through Christian schools. There is truth in the statement of Herman and John Herman Randall, Jr., that “evangelical orthodoxy thrives on ignorance and is undermined by education.” Many of our fundamentalist brethren would add a little Christian education to the pagan instruction of the public schools, by way of weekday religious education, summer Bible schools, and the like. But, in the words of J.G. Machen: “What miserable makeshifts all such measures, even at best, are! Underlying them is the notion that religion embraces only one particular part of human life. Let the public schools take care of the rest of life—such seems to be the notion—and one or two hours during the week will be sufficient to fill the gap which they leave. But as a matter of fact the religion of the Christian man embraces the whole of life.” [quotation from The Necessity of the Christian School (1933).]

How extremely thankful we should be for our Christian schools! How amazingly wise were their founders! Or let me rather say: how marvelous they were led by the Spirit of wisdom and an all-wise providence! Thanks to these schools we have at least begun to place over against the world’s antitheism, which is rapidly becoming more and more consistent, a unified theistic system of truth. Our witness, however weak and inadequate it may still be and admittedly actually is, is even now in principle complete.

*     *     *

It may not be out of place to enlarge a bit on the theism which underlies our Christian schools and is taught in them.

First I shall give a description of a Christian school. I regard this description as essentially adequate, though it is not meant to be complete in details. If it seems somewhat idealistic, I would have you remember that the best Christian school must become much more Christian; in other words, that the very best Christian school is still a very poor Christian school. A Christian school, then, is controlled by the God-appointed parents of the pupils, views all truth in the light of the Bible, God’s Word, regards man as created by God in His image, recognizes as sin all transgressions of the law of God, demands that the scholar be obedient to his superiors for God’s sake, relates to God, Creator of the world and Ruler of the destinies of men, every subject that is taught, and employs one Christian teachers, men and women who know God in Christ. A Christian school is theocentric. In every one of its phases it revolves about God. In the words of T. van der Kooy: “That which makes the Christian school distinctive is, in general, its being rooted in the life view that takes its departure from the absolute sovereignty of God.”

I have already referred to the dissolution of knowledge as an inevitable consequence of the rejection of the absolute God. Now I wish to say that conversely the recognition of the absolute God renders possible the unification of all knowledge. He who denies the Absolute cannot offer anything like a comprehensive solution to the problem of what is true, good, or beautiful. But he who knows the Absolute, however incomplete his knowledge of details may be, yet has an essentially adequate answer for this all-important question. To him every creature is the expression of a divine idea, and all things together constitute a revelation of God. Let us suppose that I have in my home a portrait of my deceased father. I am visited by an artist who never knew my father. He notices the portrait and studies it. As I am not an artist he can tell me several things about it of which I was not aware. He knows much more about such details as shading and coloring than do I. But after all I know whose likeness all the details together constitute, and that is something of which he knows nothing. He knows only isolated facts about the portrait. I know him whom the portrait represents. In the same way he who knows not God may be acquainted with isolated facts about the universe, but only he who knows God sees the universe with all that it contains as a revelation of God.

And in last instance, only he who sees the parts of a given subject in proper relation to the whole has true knowledge of the parts. Therefore it cannot even be said of the man of the world that he really knows isolated facts. The Christian, on the other hand, because he has essential knowledge of the whole, is in a position to understand the parts also. He has potential knowledge of everything. That, I think, John, the mystic, must have had in mind when he wrote those profound words: “Ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”

I like the quaint lines of George Herbert:

A man that looks on glasse
On it may stay his eye,
Or, if he pleaseth, through it passe
And then the heavens espie.

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things these to see,
And what I do in any thing,
To do it as for thee.

The modern man, also the modern teacher, stays his eyes on glass. In the Christian school the pupils are taught to look through glass up to the heavens, there to see him “that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy,” and to aim in everything, in work and play alike, at His glory, the supreme end of all things.

*     *     *

All we can do is witness. While doing so, we hope and pray that our witness may find response in the modern world. But whether this will actually occur we cannot say. Nor are we responsible for results. Dean Inge once said: “The strength of Christianity is in transforming the lives of individuals—of a small minority, certainly, as Christ clearly predicted, but a large number in the aggregate. To rescue a little flock, here and there, from materialism, selfishness, and hatred, is the task of the Church of Christ in all ages alike, and there is no likelihood that it will ever be otherwise.” This is not a good statement of the task of the Christian Church. Reference to the preaching of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ is altogether too obscure. Nor is anything said about the Church’s being the salt of the earth. But who will deny that there is a great deal of sanity in the apparent pessimism of these words? Perhaps the witness of the Christian school too, like that of the Christian Church, is destined to fall in large part on deaf ears. But witness we must. And our witness should ever be clear and strong, and winsome withal.

And who will gainsay that the witness of the Christian school is precisely the witness which is needed by the modern world?
Modern man has forsaken God and His Word. He has turned antitheistic. He has cast overboard the absolute and put the relative in its place. For the objective he has substituted the subjective. In consequence he is hanging between heaven and earth. Nothing is certain save uncertainty. He asks questions innumerable but finds no answers. He is ever seeking but never finding. He hungers and has no food. He thirsts and finds no water. His soul is a great void. And the world is in turmoil. “Whirl is King.”

But the Christian school is characterized by theism, by recognition of God, by submission to the absolute and the objective. It not only asks questions but also solves the most fundamental problems of life. Accordingly it is marked by the calmness of certainty, the tranquility of power, the serenity of the eternal.

The Christian school offers the troubled world certainty for bewildering doubt, rest for unspeakable weariness, peace for terrifying turmoil, order for maddening confusion, liberty for abject slavery, hope for black despair,—God for utter chaos.

[Kuiper, R. B., “The Christian School a Necessary Witness in the Modern World,” in The Christian School A Witness of Faith: Supplement – Christian School Statistics, 1935-1936. Chicago, IL: National Union of Christian Schools, November 1935, pp. 7-23.]

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