This We Believe
By John A. Vander Ark
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The basis article of any constitution, whether of a corporation or non-profit organization, comes closest to an official statement of its purpose for existence. In the case of an educational organization, the Basis article comes closest to its philosophy f education, and defines by means of such a statement who qualifies for membership in the body. In this essay NUCS director John Vander Ark describes both why and how the national Union altered its Basis article to make it both less ecclesiastical and more focused on education.
Seldom can one ascribe to a period of historical significance to an exact starting date. This applies to the efforts of a decade or more to elaborate on "basis" articles.
After a few years of self-persuasion, the NUCS officaldom in 1965 decide to rewrite its constitution, a part of which is the article called basis. In 1968 a first draft of this article was submitted, bandied about for a year, and after minor revision presented in 1969 to the voting (school) membership where it was provisionally adopted. Then a period of critiquing, discussion, and rewriting was cycled. Now, four years and nine drafts later, the NUCS Board of Directors has adopted a version which hopefully will be approved at the forthcoming Annual Meeting on August 4, 1971.
One of the contentions of the NUCS official family was that a basis article must reflect insights into Christian philosophy of education which were not previously possessed. An earlier rendering was just not explicit on what the Scriptures had to say about education. Earlier versions, moreover, made appeals to church creeds but they did not indicate what these creeds had to do with an educational enterprise except that it must be made clear to emphasize the authenticity of the Scriptures.
The NUCS submits the following statement of principles as its studied attempt nor only to clarify its own basis but also to give schools a model. The emphasis is that this is what we believe concerning Christian education.
The issue whether this kind of statement should be called a creed is moot. Actually the NUCS has viewed that more of a semantic problem than a vital issue. To what does one appeal for an answer? The dictionary is not a final court of appeal in this instance because one can find a definition to suit his argument. I am inclined to this – and this is the mind of the board in general – that there are more problems than defenses to call a "summary of principles professed or adhered to in education" a creed even though it is essentially affirmational.
No one claims that this statement is faultless. A sharp student of language, for example, may challenge the word "inscripturated" in the first paragraph. True, it is not in the dictionary, and although it is a theological coinage, it's meaning is clear. This summary of principles may not settle for all time some of the controversies which are raging among Christian school patrons, but we trust it does much to illuminate discussions.
And now some acknowledgements. It is simply impossible to give credit to everyone who made a worthwhile contribution to the framing of these principles. There is a hazard in revealing some names; someone who contributed even one significant phrase – and several did – will be omitted. Running that risk we must acknowledge Dr. Henry Beversluis, Dr. Gordon Spykman, and the Reverend Henry Van Andel as the principal writers. Copy editing was done by Miss Beth Merizon and the writer of these lines.
ARTICLE II – BASIS AND PRINCIPLES
The basis of the National Union of Christian Schools is the Word of God manifest in creation, incarnate in Jesus Christ and inscripturated in the Bible as it is confessed to be God's Word in the Reformed creedal standards. On this basis we affirm the following principles for Christian education:
That God by His Word in the Scriptures renews man's understanding of God, of man himself, of his fellowman, and of the world; directs man in all his relationships and activities; and therefore guides His people also in the education of their children.
That in their education children must come to learn that the world and man's calling in it can be rightly understood only in their relation to the Triune God who by His creation, restoration, and governance directs all things to the coming of His kingdom and the glorification of His name.
That because man's sin alienates him from God, his neighbor, and the world; distorts his view of the true meaning and purpose of life; and misdirects human culture, then man's sin also disrupts the education of children.
That through Jesus Christ there is a renewal of our educational enterprise, because He is the Redeemer of, and the Light and the Way for, our human life in all its range and variety. Only through Him and the work of His Spirit are we guided in the truth and recommitted to our original calling.
That the purpose of Christian schools is to educate children for a life of obedience to their calling in this world as image-bearers of God; that this calling is to know God's Word and His creation, to consecrate the whole of human life to God, to love their fellow man, and to be stewards in their God-given cultural task.
That the primary responsibility for education rests upon parents to whom children are entrusted by God, and that Christian parents should accept this obligation in view of the covenantal relationship which God established with believers and their children. They should seek to discharge this obligation through school associations and school boards which engage services of Christian teachers in Christian schools.
That Christian teachers, who thus cooperate with parents, in obedience to God, have a unique pedagogical responsibility while educating the child in school.
That Christian schools must take into account the variety of abilities, needs, and responsibilities of young persons; that the endowments and calling of young persons as God's image-bearers and their defects and inadequacies as sinners require that such learning goals and such curricula be selected as will best prepare them to live as obedient Christians; and that only with constant attention to such pedagogical concerns will education be truly Christian.
That because God's covenant embraces not only parents and their children but also the whole Christian community to which they belong, and because Christian education contributes directly to the advancement of God's kingdom, it is the obligation not only of parents but also of this Christian community to establish and maintain Christian schools, to pray for, work for, and give generously in their support.
That Christian schools, organized and administered in accordance with legitimate standards and provisions for day schools, should be fully recognized in society as free to function according to these principles.