Two Prayers for the Start of School – M. Coverdale and J. Calvin

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor the start of the school year I find these two prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (complied by Clyde Manschreck, London: Muhlenberg Press, 1958) fitting.

For scholars (M. Coverdale)

O God, thou that of thy grace and fatherly love hast given such good and excellent gifts with singular light in all sciences; grant unto such as be learned a heart and mind that in all things they may have respect only to thy glory, and that in all their readings, writings, teachings, and doctrines they may prefer the same. For ‘knowledge puffeth a man up, but love edifieth.’

O suffer not thy holy and excellent gifts to be stained, defiled, and marred. Grant that our studies be not heathenish but godly and Christian. Preserve the tender and good youth from wicked and ungodly schoolmasters; that the pure hearts which thou hast consecrated to be a temple for thee and thy Holy Spirit be not defiled with vice. Amen.

On preparing to go to school (J. Calvin)

O Lord, who art the fountain of all wisdom and learning, since thou of thy special goodness hast granted that during our youth we be instructed in the good arts which may assist us to honest and holy living, grant also, by enlightening our minds, which otherwise labor under blindness, that we may be fit to acquire knowledge. Strengthen our memory faithfully to retain what we have learned: and govern our hearts, that we may be willing and even eager to profit, lest the opportunity which thou now givest us be lost through our sluggishness. Be pleased to infuse thy Spirit into us, the Spirit of understanding, of truth, judgment, and prudence, lest our study be without success, and the labor of our teachers be in vain.

In whatever kind of study we engage, enable us to remember to keep its proper end in view, namely, to know thee in Christ Jesus thy Son; and may every thing that we learn assist us to observe the right rule of godliness. And seeing thou promisest that thou wilt bestow wisdom on babes, and such as are humble, and the knowledge of thyself on the upright in heart, while thou declarest that thou wilt cast down the wicked and the proud, so that they will fade away in their ways, we entreat that thou wouldst be pleased to turn us to true humility, that thus we may show ourselves teachable and obedient first of all to thyself, and then to those also who by thy authority are placed over us. Root out all vicious desires from our hearts, and inspire us with an earnest desire to seek thee.

Finally, let our only aim be so to qualify ourselves in early life, that when we grow up, we may serve thee in whatever station thou mayest assign us. Amen.

Luther, Libraries, and Learning (3) – John W. Montgomery

Luther&LearningAs we take another look at Luther’s love for and support of libraries and learning at the outset of the Reformation – through the great essay by John W. Montgomery, “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”, as found in his book In Defense of Luther (Northwestern, 1970) – Montgomery directs us to Luther’s most significant piece of writing encouraging the establishment of libraries for the sake of good learning.

That work is Luther’s treatise of 1524 “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany, That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools,” which Montgomery quotes in full. As soon as I read it, I recalled that I had done a post on this before, and sure enough, you will find it here (from 2011). And you may find the complete treatise on this website (scroll down until you get to the pdf by this title).

I am not going to re-quote from that treatise today, but I am going to give you Montgomery’s evaluation of it – at least part of it today. Because he asks and answers the question, Why did Luther have such a passion for learning and libraries (the same holds true for the entire Reformation movement)? He finds it in several truths Luther rediscovered. We give two of these in this post:

Thus the reading of the Bible, the study of the original languages of the Scriptures, and the collection of libraries became mandatory in Luther’s program. The chain of reasoning was inescapable: To be saved a man has to believe in Christ the Word; to comprehend who Christ is, one must meet him in the preaching of the Gospel and in Holy Writ; and to understand what the Scriptures say, pastor and even layman cannot avoid the tools of scholarship.

Certain corollaries of Luther’s basic theological principle provided added motivation toward library establishment. The universal spiritual priesthood of believers was one such corollary. In his Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520) Luther declared: ‘Let everyone.. who knows himself to be a Christian be assured of this, and apply it to himself, that we are all priests, and there is no difference between us, that is to say, we all have the same power with respect to the Word and all the sacraments.’ In practice this view freed the layman from the legal demands of a priestly caste, but at the same time it placed a great personal responsibility on him. The matter of salvation could no longer be handled for one by a hierarchy; now, each man would have to confront the Word. Luther’s monumental translation of the Bible into the German vernacular testifies to his conviction that the Bible must not be allowed to remain the property of a special class of believers. Compulsory education, and municipal schools with libraries in conjunction with them, were thus essential for making the universal priesthood a practical reality” (pp.136-37).

I also appreciated the way Montgomery concluded his essay on this subject:

…Luther’s concern for library promotion may also suggest revision of the old aphorism that ‘it matters little what you believe as long as you are sincere’; in the realm of books and libraries, as in all other realms, what one believes makes all the difference in the world as to what one does (p.139).

Antiques and Our Heritage (4) – The Importance of Christian Education

Four weeks ago we began to quote from a selection by John J. Timmerman, former English professor at Calvin College, found in a collection of his writings titled Markings on a Long Journey (Baker, 1982). It is an article he originally wrote for The Banner in September of 1972, and includes his thoughts on some things “old, precious, and beautiful” in the Reformed tradition.

Markings on long journey-TimmermanThe first one was the “antithesis”; the second one was “a sense of sin”; and the third one was “the priority of the sermon in our Sunday services”.  His next one is also significant, because it touches on another matter close to our Reformed hearts – our Christian day schools. He titles this element of our Reformed heritage “the importance of Christian education.”

Here is what he has to say on this subject:

The present Christian school system is a monument to severe early sacrifices and stellar devotion, a genuine attempt to provide an education that tried to apply the best Reformed tradition to the manifold problems of life. I have known men who walked a long way to work all their lives, who denied themselves and their families a car to provide a Christian education for their children. I have known gifted teachers on all levels of teaching who declined prestigious and lucrative positions to serve this cause. I have known board members who spent almost as much time in working for their schools as for their business. All was done in the belief that God would bless a distinctively Christian training for their children and a sound factual and theoretical knowledge of Scripture.

So it is with acute dismay that one sees a gradual erosion in attendance and support of these schools. They have given our children something to give the world; when they vanish, much of this unique knowledge of Scripture and interpretation will also disappear. Particularly distressing is the fact that only about 20 percent of our college youth attend one of our colleges. There may be good reasons why 20 percent should not attend these colleges; I can conceive of no good reasons why 80 percent should fail to do so – unless one calls indifference, apathy, or hostility to these uniquely excellent institutions good reasons (158).

I can only add, What would Timmerman say if he saw things in his denomination now? May we listen and learn, and not lose our zeal for and commitment to our own precious PR Christian schools.

New Reformed Education Blog

RefdEduc-DJEAs a fitting follow-up to yesterday’s post about the book on Christian school Board leadership, I want to make you aware of a new blogging venture on Reformed education. Rick Mingerink, administrator at Adams Christian School, has started a blog on this subject with the sub-title “Thinking about the Calvinist day-school”. This is how Rick introduces his blog in his first post:

In 2009, I started a running commentary on various matters and issues that pertain to Reformed education.  For two and a half years, I filled the back of Adams’ Monday Note with my thoughts, concerns and ideas in regards to education in the Calvinist day-school.

I’m looking forward to using a new format for my thoughts.  The blog is ideal for an activity such as this.  Among other conveniences, it also allows others to respond.  For me, that is important.  Whether you challenge my thoughts or you encourage them, I would be appreciative if you contributed your own thinking.

One of the biggest threats to Reformed education is not thinking about it.

His most recent posts concern the educational views of Rev.Herman Hoeksema in a sermon he preached in 1916 on Deut.6:7, when he was still a minister in the Christian Reformed Church (later published in The Standard Bearer, 1927). I encourage you to check out Rick’s blog, support and encourage him by subscribing to it, and begin following these interesting and informative posts on Reformed education.

We must think about it! And talk about! Thanks, Rick, for continuing the conversation in this powerful way!

P.S. Thanks to those who responded to my post on Christian school Boards yesterday too. If you haven’t checked out  the comments yet, do so. Three people – all involved in Christian education at different levels and ways – left helpful notes that are of benefit to all of us.

Training Our Children by Delighting in God – T.Tripp

TT-June2013Tying in well with the wonderful event of yesterday (See my previous post.), I read a fine little article in this month’s Tabletalk yesterday morning. It was the weekend article following the daily devotions for the week. Written by Dr.Tedd Tripp and titled “Delighting in God”, the article describes how Deuteronomy 6 calls us as parents to the task of teaching our children. And that calling relates not simply to the “what” of our teaching but also to the “how”. I.e., not only are we as parents called to teach our children the things of God but we must do so delighting in that God ourselves. It is a good reminder of the way in which we must teach the generation to come.

I will leave you with a few of his thoughts, but unfortunately I have not found this article online at the Ligonier site, so I cannot link you to the rest of it.

Deuteronomy 6 is a formative text for those who are serious about passing the blessings of God’s covenant from one generation to the next. This chapter calls us to frame the entire day with talking to our children about the ways of God. …Obviously, presenting God’s glory and goodness to our children is an essential part of our calling.

Something else catches one’s attention in this passage. Deuteronomy 6 is not just about truth spoken like a newscaster reading from a teleprompter. Our joy in God and persuasion of His worthiness is the foundation for teaching His ways to our children: ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your hearts and with all your soul and with all your might’ (vss.4-5).

If the wonders of God’s sovereign power, mercy, and grace have not melted your heart, shaping in you a profound love for Him, you will never impress His glory on your children. If God’s Word is not precious to you, it will not be important to your children. It all begins with being dazzled by God.

…All Christian parents say ‘Yes’ to the idea of showing God’s goodness to our children. Yet we are keenly aware of our failures to help them love Him as we ought to love Him. Where are you going to go with that sense of failure? Don’t go inside with guilt and self-condemnation. Go to God for the grace to love Him as you ought as well as to show His glories to your children.