Are You Against Christian Education?
William B. Wright
Weirton, West Virginia
Generally, when people ask the question, "Are you against Christian education?" they refer, of course, to education offered in schools operated by members of the Church of Christ. In keeping with this notion of the meaning of Christian education, this little essay will deal only with that phase of the question.
To this question I would answer unhesitatingly, "NO." I believe that as long as schools are operated as a private business, supported by private funds, brethren have every right to operate an educational institution in which an atmosphere is created that is Christian. I affirm their right to employ a Christian faculty and to cater to Christian people.
I deny, however, that just because some Bible is taught, the teachers are Christian, and the atmosphere maintained is Christian, that such an institution has a right to be supported out of the treasury of churches of Christ.
To put matters in the proper perspective let us consider the following: Suppose that I establish a plumbing and heating business. I employ only Christians, create among my employees and the places where we work a Christian atmosphere, use the lunch hour for teaching the gospel, and make pointed use of the contacts thus obtained to pursue a personal work program to convert people to the Christ. What is the difference between supporting a plumbing and heating establishment under such circumstances out of the treasury of churches of Christ and a so-called Christian college? Each has something that is secular about it. The Christian college teaches science, history, and literature, and maintains an athletic program. The plumbing and heating establishment is a business and needs funds to improve its business stature. Yet both are secular.
Why Not Support Both?
The question in the minds of some undoubtedly is, "Why can we not support both for both are doing good in advancing the Christian faith?" To answer this question we must go back to the basis of the movement of which we are a part and the difference between the Church of Christ and other churches. We have long taken our stand upon the declaration made many years ago that "Where the Bible speaks; we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent.'' Since the Bible sets forth only a presentation of the gospel and care for the needy as activities of the early church, it follows that if we hold to the position of honoring the Bible absolutely, any other form of activity we can think of is not a function of the church.
Precept, Example, or Necessary Inference
It is a well-known fact that we have held historically to the position that in order for something to be practiced by the church it must be understood to be the will of God by precept, approved example, or necessary inference. Necessary inference is not understood to be some fuzzy notion that we ought to do this or that, but is the clear import of the text. For example, the command to assemble implies a place to meet. The command that people believe and be baptized implies that those who have not the mental capacity to believe need not be baptized.
Since precept (command), approved example, or necessary inference are not present in the New Testament that the church should support any institution such as a college, it follows that when we support institutions out of the church treasury we deny the very basis upon which we contend for simple New Testament Christianity. For my part, if I believed the law of God as detailed in the New Testament could be set aside in any one particular without sin, I would also believe that sprinkling could be substituted for baptism, or baptism could be rejected altogether.
The Middle of the Road
Unfortunately, there are a number among us who take what is sometimes called the middle of the road position. They state that though they are opposed to contributing church funds to support colleges, they believe we should not become involved in controversy with our brethren who "see it" differently.
Not long ago I was handed a copy of a religious journal published by members of the Church of Christ. In an article published several years ago the Editor said: "We realize that some good and fine brethren believe that a college can be supported from the treasury of the churches. We do not feel that way. We do not intend to start a brotherhood fuss over it." & It would appear that this brother regards the matter as one of expediency. If not, he is unwilling to oppose something that is unquestionably wrong. Would he say: "We realize that some good and fine brethren believe that sprinkling is baptism. We do not feel that way. We do not intend to start a brotherhood fuss over it?" Of course he wouldn't! He would attack it with all his editorial might. Evidently, he does not regard the two issues in the same light. One is a matter of expediency, the other a matter of faith. We, he and I, are then at issue. I regard both as a matter of faith.
Which Side Are We Really On?
In this connection it seems strange to me that brethren can operate a college saying that they stand solidly behind the principle that church funds should not be used to support colleges yet employ teachers and administrators who have been fully indoctrinated in schools where the opposite is believed and when they have lectureships will invite speakers who openly advocate the use of church funds to support colleges. Tell me you who are in this compromised position, which side are you really on? Would you hire a conservative Christian Church preacher to occupy your pulpit either in located work or in a meeting if he agreed not to make the mechanical instrument of music in Christian worship an issue? Of course you wouldn't.
Two Issues the Same
But these two issues are the same. The use of church funds to support institutions and the use of the mechanical instrument of music in worship are on the same plane. Neither precept, example (approved), nor necessary inference may be found in the New Testament for the practice of either. If I invite a man to occupy the pulpit in a church of Christ who sets aside the law of God in one particular by adding thereto, why not invite the Christian Church preacher who is baptized in water for the remission of sins to preach in the same pulpit since he only adds the instrument of music to Christian worship? And further agrees not to make it an issue.
Where Should We Educate, Our Children?
Some may, who read this essay, think its author would not want his children educated in a Christian atmosphere. This is completely false. I would to Gad that I could have my children educated in an environment that is thoroughly Christian. I would much prefer to have my children taught by God-fearing Christians than by men who are not.
But just here another problem arises. Let us suppose that I send my sons to a school operated by men who worship God as I do and meet in a meeting house which bears over its entrance the name "Church of Christ." I say to my sons, "You may have confidence in these men, for they are Christians." But these men have either studied religion in theological seminaries and hold the B. D., Th. M., D. R. E., and Th. D. degrees or are second generation and have been educated by men who were corrupted from the simplicity of New Testament Christianity in theological seminaries. My sons then become third generation and are likewise corrupted, because they are unsuspecting. Their father told them these men were teachers of simple New Testament Christianity.
The alternative is that I may say to my sons, "The teachers you encounter in the state university do not hold the same faith that we do. Beware of them when they start teaching religion. When this happens, come and talk with me. "I'll help you."
Where do you stand, dear brother?
1. Earl I. West, The Search for the Ancient Order, I, 47
2. Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:14-16; Lk. 24:46-47
3. Acts 11:27-30
4. Matt. 28:18-20
5. Acts 20:7
6. Heb. 10:25
7. Mk. 16:15-16
8. Clifton Inman," Why Is it There?", Bible Herald. Vol. VI, No. 18 (October 1, 1958), p.2
TRUTH MAGAZINE XI: 2, pp.8-10