The Bible in the School - T.M.P. Vanderven

Taken with permission from Clarion Vol. 35, No. 25 (1986)

Perspectives on teaching and learning [1]

"Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119: 105


No one will want to deny that a school cannot truly call itself "Christian" unless the Bible is there. Traditionally - and correctly - the school day starts with devotional exercises during which God's name is glorified, and the needs and cares of the day are put before the LORD. Bible reading and Bible storytelling form an important part of the daily activities in each classroom at a Reformed school.

The Bible, however, is not merely a source-book for devotional exercises. The daily prayers and Bible readings might seem routine, yet they may never take on the sense and character of pagan worship which does no more than attempt to satisfy one's religious obligations. Routine is good, at home as well as at school. We get used to wholesome patterns in our life. Prayer and Bible reading certainly must be part of such a daily pattern, a daily routine. Don't skip it, and don't argue that it is merely formalistic and therefore of little importance.

Is the Bible perhaps a book which can be used at school to study the discipline of theology, of dogmatics, of ethics etc.? The answer is a resounding no! Such studies are the domain of a seminary, and children at the elementary school have no taste for such matters. A school with the Bible is certainly not a place where children find a sort of watered-down theology on the timetable.

The Bible-at-school does not mean either that we try to satisfy religious obligations, nor does it suggest a course in religious theory and dogma. The Bible speaks of our great and glorious God. Already on the first page we read of God's great deeds as Creator of heaven and earth. Bible storytelling leads the children away from any glorification of man and sings the praises of the LORD, the Father of us all. Whoever tells of Genesis 1 and 2 is busy teaching the children that awe and humility for the great works of God is so necessary for us, human beings. It leads them to understand that the LORD is LORD of all. The children know that He is the "boss" of ail the money in the world; He owns all knowledge and science; He controls the forces of nature; He governs the people; He determines what happens - He even breathes life into our nostrils! Telling God's story means telling the children that it is God Who gives rain, and Who causes it to snow. He, the creator of the eye certainly will see what goes on; and He who made the ear will also hear the daily news bulletins.

And the children may learn that we can count on it that tomorrow the sun shall rise, and that after the winter it will be spring. No, not because that happens to be the course of nature - God promised that to Noah when He made a new covenant with man.

In this way the children - and we ourselves - may (again) learn that the future of our world, the future of our society does not depend an the power of science and technology. They will learn that we are not dependent on forces of nature, let alone on forces of revolution. . . . Our future is sure. Why? Because the LORD promised this; the rainbow was a sign that the earth will never be destroyed by water. And that is what the children learn at school. They also learn that all people Christians, Jews, Mohammedans, socialists, communists - depend on the Lord God. God does not exist because we believe in Him, no, we exist because in Him we have our being: He made us and He sustains us.

How terrible is therefore sin, the rejection of the God who owns it all. How shameful, if we merely try to satisfy our religious obligations, and for the rest live our lives for our own gain.... The world is full of such an attitude, as was the world of the Romans, of Medieval man.

Yet a Reformed parent or a Reformed teacher may tell the children of the riches of our only comfort, of our only surety. He or she may tell them that God knows us "right well;" (their) frame was not hidden from (Him) (Psalm 139:15). He or she may tell them that all things are His, and are part of His plan of love with His creation.

It is beautiful to be able and to be allowed to tell the children of the riches of God's covenant. First of all there is redemption: On the lid of the ark Israel found the blood of atonement. Because of that blood the LOAD repeated - and it is a refrain throughout the books of Moses - 1 AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, And there is His law with which He told them how they should live, and how they could bring forth fruits - fruits of the Spirit - so that they would not be destroyed as a nation.

And perhaps, when God shows a little of His great might in thunder and lightning, the child will become afraid of such a God, such a King! We may then tell him of Yahweh, who says, "Be still, and know that 1 am God" (Psalm 46:10).

But we may also tell of Christ who paid for all our sins - and we do not have to repay any of it, no required religious exercises, no series of formula-prayers. A Reformed school which uses the Bible properly is not a school that trains its students in religious behaviour. A Reformed school and a Reformed family are Scripturally-prophetic witnesses, and a priestly praise to our God and Father in our LORD Jesus Christ.

The latter years of the 20th century are fearful times; we live in times of war; we live in constant tear for a possible nuclear holocaust. And yet the children of God may know of Christ's promise, " Lo, 1 am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20). And then our children can also prepare themselves confidently for their life's tasks.

ReturnT.M.P. VANDERVEN Based on A. Janse: Het Eigen Karakter der Christelilke School. Hoofdstuk ll: De Bijbel op School, pp.30-35. J.H. Kok, Kampen, 1935.