If theology drives methodology, and it does, then the particulars of Reformed theology must drive methodology. This is as true in theological method as it is with apologetics.
It must also be true of Christian education. What’s the Reformed foundation for Christian education?
If you are a Christian educator, what foundation do you stand on?
The fact is that in our struggle for Christian schools the doctrine of the covenant was always the great presupposition.
—Louis Berkhof, “Covenant: The Covenant of Grace and its Significance for Christian Education” in Foundations of Christian Education: Addresses to Christian Teachers pg. 66
Louis Berkhof points out that in the battle between the Modernists (theological Liberals) and the Fundamentalists in his day, serious-minded Christians naturally sided with the Fundamentalists since they believed the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. Yet, there was something to be desired. You see, they were Premillennialists (Dispensationalists). They denied that the covenant made with Abraham extends to us and our children, sealed by baptism. As he eloquently puts it, “Experience has already taught us that those who come under the spell of Premillennialism finally lose their covenant conception and turn to the position of the Baptists” (Ibid.).
Lose that, and you lose the “great presupposition” for Christian schools.
Why should Christian parents provide a Christian education for their children?
. . . the children of Christian parents should be religiously educated in view of the fact they they are covenant children, and that, when they were brought to baptism, their parents promised to provide such an education for them.
Here’s where Reformed theology must be applied consistently. To flux or waiver on the theology will lead to a faulty method. Remove the foundations, and the building will come tumbling down. Theology must always be the basis for whatever you’re doing. And if you are reformed (adhering to covenant theology), then you should know the covenantal basis for Christian education. If your theology is Reformed, then your education should be Christian.
Sounding very much like Cornelius Van Til, Berkhof emphasizes Reformed theology’s relationship to Christian education. Specifically, the covenant of grace.
In what way does the covenant relation involve the duty to give the children of the covenant a truly Christian education? There are especially three lines of thought that suggest themselves here.
Berkhof’s three lines of thought are “Adoption and the Honor of God”, “The Promises of the Covenant”, and “The Requirements of the Covenant.”
Can we really suggest in all seriousness that in a world such as we are living in Christian education in the home, in the church, and in the Sunday school is quite adequate? . . . Let us ever be mindful of the fact that the King’s children must have a royal education.
Regarding covenant children as heirs to the covenant promises:
Many children of God are even today living in spiritual poverty, though they are rich in Christ and heirs of the world, because they have not been taught to see the greatness and splendor of their spiritual heritage. . . . we must employ all the means at our command to unfold before their very eyes the treasures of divine grace of which they are heirs in Christ Jesus.
God requires of covenant children that they believe in Jesus Christ unto salvation and that they turn from sin to holiness, i.e., follow the highway of sanctification through life. It is a very comprehensive requirement, the nature of which ought to be well understood. Hence the need of Christian education. . . .
The life of the covenant child should ever increasingly become a true inflection of the life of Christ that is born within the heart. Nothing short of the perfect life is its grand ideal.
Now surely it needs no argument that children of whom such great, such spiritual, such heavenly things are required must be educated in the fear of the Lord. Christian education is one of the means which God is pleased to use for working faith in the heart of the child, for calling an incipient faith into action, and for guiding the first faltering steps of faith.
The essay is excellent. It’s important that we be aware or conscious of the fact that theology needs to drive the way we do things. There’s a why before a how. We need to be conscious of what that theological foundation is. Theology must determine our approach to education. And our approach to education must be intentionally aligned with our theology.
If you are in any way involved in Christian education (that pretty much includes every believer), then I hope this read helps.
Covenant – The Covenant of Grace and Its Significance for Christian Education Louis Berkhof