By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs
Secular education in a Christian environment is good. The Firm Foundation is solidly behind training youth in temporal disciplines in circumstances where the Bible is respected and obeyed. Nonetheless, there is an ever-present danger that schools will attempt to control the church under the guise of serving the church. Something of value, like Christian education, can lose its way and become a hindrance to the very thing it set out to promote. Like fire, it needs both tending and guarding.
The schools are empowered by the home. God has appointed the home and the church. They are divine institutions on separate, parallel lines. Families and the church interface but have different purposes and objectives. If there is no dissimilarity between the home and the church, the church would never have come into being. The home was first, and if it serves the same purpose as the church, the church is an unnecessary appendage. Jehovah appointed the church, and Jesus purchased it with his blood. This priceless sanctuary must not be degraded.
The church is not to provide merely commonplace instruction. Her purpose is higher than that. It is the business of the church daringly to confront the sinner with his idiocy and condemn his rebellion. It is the work of the church to show people ruined by evil the divine scheme of redemption, imploring the lost to obey the gospel of salvation. The church comes together in one place upon the first day of the week to worship God and edify itself. The church is saved people adorning the Gospel of God by "visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction" and keeping itself unspotted from the world. The aims of the church are simple and momentous. She is to defend and promote the everlasting truth of the Gospel of the Son of God.
The home also has a high and holy calling. The purpose of the family from the beginning is companionship. God made the woman so the man would not be alone, and appointed them to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
God made marriage, and marriage makes a home. Humans rule over fish, birds, and beasts. The sweaty work of earning a living and the job of procreation belong to the home. Mothers and fathers are to provide daily bread and raise children. They do this under the watchful eye of the Almighty and with proper appreciation for the life that is in the seed, giving thanks to God. Parents are to train the child "in the way he should go" and bring him up in "the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
The responsibility of the home is to engage in worldly pursuits with a religious emphasis. Mom and pop give God-fearing instruction to their offspring and teach them secular subjects. The home furnishes everything necessary to the care and keeping of children. This includes reading, writing, and arithmetic and any other discipline needful to "make tents." It also includes recreation and rigorous training in good character, which includes respect for law and order.
The church operates on a higher plane than does the home. It is to be free from unnecessary emphasis on earthly matters and devote its energy to spiritual concerns. The church does not instruct in science, math, liberal arts, medicine, civil and criminal law, nor any other subject dealing only with making money. Neither should the church potty-train babies, spank kids when they misbehave, and supervise playground activities. These legitimate worldly interests are within the province of the home — not the church.
The home is obligated to provide secular education in spiritual surroundings. The home, therefore, empowers temporal schools. God has given the home a work to do, and the home may use any device to accomplish its task that does not violate moral law. Primary, secondary, preparatory, undergraduate, and graduate schools are appointed by the home and exist to serve the home. We must get that straight!
Universities are not necessary to the success of the church. When the flowers cease to grow on the forgotten graves of the universities, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ will still be marching on. The church lives in the indestructible Word of God. That enduring Word is the seed of the kingdom. Heaven and earth may pass away, but the Word of God shall never die. "The Word of the Lord abideth for ever. And this is the Word of good tidings which was preached unto you."
Jesus did not say, "Upon this rock, I will build my university." The church in the first century enjoyed uncommon success. Its early growth was sensational. Half the world was converted to Christ within one generation. An amazing increase took place without a single school or college or university. No apostle ever commissioned the establishment of a secular school.
The church did its work and grew without the service of any man-made institution. The secret of its triumph was the conviction of its converts. Christians knew what they knew, and believed what they believed, and were willing to die for it. They held to absolute truth and defended and promoted it at awful cost. The blood of the martyrs was proof of their devotion and confidence. Neither crosses, nor wild animals, nor fires, nor swords, nor perils could separate the saints from the love of Christ. The world looked on in amazement. The saved proclaimed in word and deed the beauty of holiness and the reality of eternity. "They went everywhere preaching the word."
A modern church possessed with that same consecration would "turn the world upside down" in the absence of any university at all. Universities are not necessary to the success of the church.
The university is the invention of the home. All public and private schools are arranged by the authority of the family. They have no higher commission. Secular schools, even when operated by people who are believers in Jesus, are subservient to the home. The home appoints them, and they are answerable to their creators. The function of the school is to serve the home in its responsibility to train children in a religious circumstance. The university is neither the church nor the servant of the church.
Secular schools are vital. They do important work. We applaud the assistance they render to the home. When members of the church provide schools where young men and women can be taught mundane subjects in the fear of God, it is a good thing. Still, we must keep in mind the pedigree of the school and never allow it to control the church — or the home, for that matter. Keep the school in its proper place, and it performs an invaluable service to the home. Out of their place, schools of every variety can do much devilment.
Public schools can stray from the purpose for which the home appointed them and damage the home. Private schools can lose their way, misunderstand their purpose, and rend the very homes that authorize them. Homes can be deceived into allowing the school to dominate and wag their owners. The church can be tricked into thinking she is
A prime example of extreme confusion about the function of the church, the home, and the school is the current issue of Abilene Christian University’s Directions in Ministry (Spring 1993). Page three is entitled "The Center for Church Enrichment: An Interview with Dr. Ian Fair," written by David Wray. Note the following excerpts:
An exciting new center has been established in the College of Biblical Studies. .... Churches of Christ ... have mislaid some of the passion for the lost that once characterized us. ... Evangelistic fervor, however, is no longer a driving force in many of our congregations. ... The purpose of the Center for Church Enrichment is to identify and address the needs of enrichment among Churches of Christ. ... The mission of the Center for Church Enrichment is to serve church leaders needing assistance regarding information, resources, equipping and consultation for enhanced outreach in the church and in the world. ... The vision for Church Enrichment is to serve the church. ... We would like to believe that the center could ultimately address the needs of Churches of Christ throughout the world. Secondarily we will be targeting church leaders and Churches of Christ in North America. Church leaders are the primary group with whom we want to communicate. Yet the entire ‘body’ and the interests of all church members will be a constant concern for those working in the Center.
In his speech, "On This Rock," Royce Money, president of Abilene Christian University, said:
We are not the church, but our primary reason for existence is to serve the church and its families by equipping men and women for service and leadership as God gives us the gifts, all to His glory. ... The church has prospered and grown and world missions have prospered and grown where there is a healthy mutual dependence and support between the church and our fine Christian colleges.
Which is the dog, pray, and which the tail?