A Denomination Going More Wrong

PRCA synod votes to require clergy to send their children to denomination’s schools.


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34 Responses to A Denomination Going More Wrong

  1. Pingback: PRCA Synod on Christian Schools « YINKAHDINAY

  2. Zrim says:

    Let’s take a roll: denial of common grace and the well-meant offer (i.e. hyper-Calvinism), and now formalized educational legalism for extraordinary members. Watch out, ordinary members, you’re next. But doesn’t anyone remember that unspoken legalism is way more compelling?

    And you all give me grief for (unhappily) staying in the CRC.

  3. drollord says:

    Why are you unhappy?

  4. efwake says:

    “But doesn’t anyone remember that unspoken legalism is way more compelling?”

    I talked to a PR about this today when I read it this morning. She said that this “rule” was already basically implied and that they’re essentially making it explicit. She also said that if a man was nominated to office he’d already be sending his kids to their schools anyway… unspoken legalism, you could say.

    My respect and appreciation for the PRCs is similar to that which I maintain for Roman Catholicism. In so many ways the PRs are very much like the RCs. I love the respect for forms and tradition, and a faithful witness to children and what appears to me an ability to effectively communicate this stuff to the kids and keep ’em coming as adults.

    On the other hand, the realities behind the forms have been lost altogether. What is Protestant about this abuse of church power? Where in the world does one find biblical prescription for so-called Christian schooling (I think of it more as Dutch enculturation myself)??

    The thing that is most astounding to me is that a denomination can be nearly 100 years old and still have no positive identification for itself. I’ve been to many of Cardinal Hanko’s lectures, and all I ever hear is some argued connection to common grace regarding all the things they don’t do that all the lost churches continue to do. I never hear anyone say, “…and all the things we continue to do we stick with because…”

    Pastor Lems and I used to make bets on how fast any given lecture would run before some connection to the topic at hand and common grace was mentioned. It was rarely more than 10 or 15 minutes MAX.

  5. Zrim says:


    In a word, the CRC is a borderline denomination, moving away from its embarrassing sideline heritage to a more respectable mainline one. It is on a trajectory toward broad evangelicalism. That is why I am unhappy.


    I talked to a PR about this today when I read it this morning. She said that this “rule” was already basically implied and that they’re essentially making it explicit.

    Some folks might sigh at this suggestion, but I wonder if there exists the same implication in Article 14 of URC Church Order (the same URCs around here, by the way, that I understand received many disgruntled PRCers who got up and left wink-wink sermons given by two deployed apostles from the Sem about the evils of non-Christian day schools, including the horrors of home-schooling the particular PRC pastor had the audacity to choose):

    “The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, promote God-centered schooling, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.”

  6. Todd says:

    Do the PR’s still not allow union members to be members of their church?

  7. drollord says:

    As far as I know, that is the case.

  8. Rick says:

    You forgot monocovenantalism and a near-presumptive regeneration view.

  9. Rick says:

    I sigh. But do think think that the line needs to be taken out of Art 14. I’ve argued with many-an-elder on this one. It has no biblical or confessional support. Off with its head.

  10. efwake says:

    Right on, Rick.

    God-centered schooling in WM=enculturated Dutch fundamentalism.

    Off with its head indeed.

  11. HH says:

    bad decision in re: homeschooling.

    However, does acceptance of points two and three of ’24 not lead to the transformationalism you deplore? You know, God through H.S. restraining sin and producing civic “good” in unbelievers. Maybe I don’t understand what you mean by the word.

    H. Hoeksema does set out his positive view in “Sin and Grace” of cultural development/history, i.e. it develops along the lines of “sin” and “grace,” not “‘common grace'” and “grace.” — first generation (and maybe second and third) “PRCers” may not have done such a good job moving beyond that — but it was a pretty traumatic split. There is an interesting “A Theological Biography” of the man HH by P.J. Baskwell from the Free University available online.

    If public, compulsory education is Marxist in root — and cultural Marxists, statists and totalitarians of every stripe control the education departments, is there such a thing as non or anti-christian education? And if God created the world and sets the rules, and if God gives children to parents, and if these parents are Christians and teach their children (either directly, or via hiring it out though an association) is that not “Christian education?” Which of the two should be supported?

    Terms need to be defined (maybe Christian education is a tautology). I don’t know, just asking.

  12. Drew Barnes says:

    There is definitely an allergy to public education among reformed people. It’s rather hard to ignore, especially for my wife and me as she is a public school teacher. Everyone we have come in contact with has been gracious about it, but the fact remains that we encounter very few in reformed circles who utilize public education.

    I certainly see this a one of the barriers to more urban churches for the OPC (our denomination). Lower income parents have fewer options for education and many of them use the Public Option. How does that fit in with the anti-PS ethos of the OPC and others?

    Check out the latest issue of Evangelium. It’s theme is education. Out of the 8 contributors, according to the biographical information after each article, only one has utilized the Public Option for his children before college. That speaks volumes.

    I wonder what public schools would be like if there were more Christians willing to participate in them. Not antagonistically, not as aggrieved parties looking for special treatment, but as salt and light in a flavorless and darkened place.

  13. churchmouse says:

    Umm, Christians and their values are not very welcome in the public sphere, including state schools. Yes, of course, they can attend and the majority do, but there are few Judeo-Christian values to speak of in state education these days.

    Good for the PRCA — I wish there were more schools for Protestants, especially of the Reformed persuasion, to attend. Going to Catholic school (and ever so grateful), I always felt sorry for my Protestant friends who had to attend state school. They deserved much better. Nowadays there are more Lutheran schools now in the US, but it would be great to have more Reformed schools, too.

    I know this blog is not reputed for its social conservatism, and I respect that, but this synod is making a valid point, IMHO.

    All the best

  14. Zrim says:


    I’m having a really hard time not taking your pity as a thinly veiled disdain and a back-handed comment. And my Calvinism is having an equally hard time swallowing the jagged little pill of “deserving” (supposedly) good things.

    But, you’re right, my daughter’s secular school doesn’t welcome the “values” of baptism, catechism or communion on school grounds, and that seems right to me. The Golden Rule is another matter. And speaking of values, a friend of mine teaches at a local (Reformed) Christian school where a student clocked him, and punishment was virtually suspended because “we’re all about forgiveness.” The point is not to counter useless horror stories with more useless horror stories, but to wonder what in the he he heck you’re implying when you say Christian values are not welcome in the public square when, by way of this example, law and gospel are so confused in parochial ones. Given that that very same student would’ve been (rightly) out on his ear in a secular school, I seriously wonder what exactly your point is about values.

  15. churchmouse says:

    Wow, Zrim — I’m surprised at your own comeback. My comment was meant with a sincere heart, otherwise I wouldn’t have said anything.

    Well, I have not heard before of kids not being punished in a parochial school for assault. I didn’t even know that type of thing went on with regularity. Please excuse my ignorance.

    Gee, I’ll think twice before I comment — or visit — again. I have an extremely high regard for Calvinism, as a matter of fact. You neither know me nor my church-related story.

    Nonetheless, no hard feelings from my perspective.

    Best wishes

  16. Zrim says:


    I’ll admit a certain measure of sensitivity when it comes to this topic. But, when one has a more or less positive experience in secular education one’s whole life, comments like “I feel sorry for your having to settle for educational ghettos” don’t exactly read like altruism.

    And when the PRCA is given kudos for its royal misguidedness here, it only reinforces my suspicion. But thanks for the clarification anyway. I hope I didn’t scare you too much.

  17. Todd says:

    “Yes, of course, they can attend and the majority do, but there are few Judeo-Christian values to speak of in state education these days.”


    What is a Judeo-Christian value? Though this is popular speak in our day, it finds no Biblical support. The ethics of the Bible are covenantal; in other words, the imperatives are never divorced from the indicatives. God’s law is given to his covenantal people in response to him entering into covenant with them.

    Other than those explicitly Christian ethics, there is the law of God on the heart, common grace ethics, and they belong to all religions, people, times, etc… My kids in the public school are expected to show respect to their teachers, to study well, to treat one another kindly, not to fight, to be on time, etc…all common grace ethics. I don’t want schools to teach Christian ethics; that is for the church and family.

  18. churchmouse says:

    Okay, thanks, Todd.

    The state schools in the suburb I lived in — well, girls were ‘shaken down’ for lunch money, there were no locks on the washroom stall doors, etc. Kids were beat up every day, and this was in the 1970s Midwest.

    I guess I’ve ventured into the wrong audience.

    Apologies. I didn’t expect Calvinists, whom I had regarded as the ‘purest’ of Christians — and I really mean that — to start bullying me.

    I won’t comment again, and I shall be removing Confessional Outhouse, which I have read weekly, from my blogroll. It’s been on there for about five months.

    I have attempted to be ecumenical and, with this post, met with something I have not run across before. That’s all I’m going to say on that subject.

    Maybe this blog should have a warning about what points of view should be accepted.

  19. Todd says:


    Touchy lately? Since when is debate “bullying?” That’s what we do on lists like this – debate. You are free to respond, challenge – no need to wipe your feet in protest.

    Yes, bad stuff happens in public schools, as well as Christian schools and home schools. You need to choose wisely for your children based on your own situation.

  20. churchmouse says:

    If this is Christian debate, then count me out. This is not reasoned discussion.

  21. Zrim says:


    I feel your pain, honestly; Reformed blogdom has something of a built in “dukes up” trait to it. Let’s start over and see if we can get somewhere here.

    I have said before that when our oldest started school the public institution was unacceptable for reasons that were in the ball park of your anecdote of shake downs, etc. So, it isn’t that there is something inherently “righter” about public education. But by the same token, there is nothing categorically wrong about it either, nor is there anything categorically purer about parochial schooling. And for every shake down story you have for a public school there is a story about Christian-school parents who don’t go to church.

    But Todd’s suggestion that “I don’t want schools to teach Christian ethics; that is for the church and family” is well worth considering here. Whatever else sphere sovereignty teaches, one is that different institutions have different ordinations for good reason.

    Your first comment seemed to lament that “Christians and their values aren’t welcome in the public sphere.” But from where I sit, we are, so I don’t really know what you mean. My guess is that you may be repeating a lot of what you’ve been told as opposed to what you have actually experienced. My “values” are that the home, in conjunction with and in submission to the local church, are the two institutions that are ordained to nurture religious devotion. My public school respects that value. The local Christian school seems to be at odds with it.

  22. drollord says:

    “I feel your pain, honestly; Reformed blogdom has something of a built in “dukes up” trait to it. Let’s start over and see if we can get somewhere here.”

    -Charmin rather than sandpaper. Good call for TCO, Zrim.

  23. Todd says:

    Zrim and Drollard,

    Yes, it is a good reminder as to how comments are often read on the Internet, they often appear much more harsh than intended, and commonly people are much nicer in person than they appear in print. But on the other hand, given that Mouse said he had been reading Outhouse for five months, he has surely seen the type of debate common here. I guess we could end each post with; “what do you think?” to appear nice and open. So part of me thinks, yes, we need to be more careful, the other part, o come on now, no one is beating you up. What do you think?

  24. churchmouse says:

    Hi, everyone!

    Hope I can clarify my previous comments to you.

    Maybe it’s because I live in the UK now, but, through my reading of news sites, there appears to be a real hostility to Judeo-Christian values in Western society today. Certainly there is in the UK, but it is also taking root in the US. TCO bloggers and commenters might be living in areas that are unaffected by this. One doesn’t dare admit to being a Christian in the UK. It’s not entirely safe to be Jewish in this country, either. It seems to be okay to be of other faiths, though. The ‘best’ thing to be, though, is atheist. But that’s another subject for another time.

    However, I wonder why there is such an increase in homeschooling in the US if there is not a breakdown in values being transmitted through state schools. I used to think it was for fringe types, but now I’m not so sure. In fact, I couldn’t blame parents for homeschooling their children now. Homeschooling is also becoming more popular in the UK for the same reasons (lack of values in schools) although it is not yet as mainstream an alternative as it is in the US.

    Re faith-based schools and me: I went to a state school for a year. Then my family moved and wherever we lived afterward, I always went to a Catholic school — including college. My choice and I’m grateful to my parents for sending me to them. (Tuition was a lot cheaper in those days!) I went to visit my old high school last year and it was heartening to see so many happy students. Some didn’t want to leave at the end of the day. They asked the principal (a nun) if they could *live there*! Imagine! 🙂 One of my classmates teaches there now and so does the daughter of one of my former teachers. I visit my alma mater (college) from time to time, too. It’s a warm experience for me.

    That’s just my perspective. I agree that values need to be passed along in the home, but if school doesn’t reinforce them or if the child is in an unsafe atmosphere, it can affect not only their education but the rest of their life.

    In terms of state school, my perceptions started changing in the 1970s. The two high schools in the town where I spent my formative years were huge (still are) — a few thousand kids altogether. Students had to go in shifts — morning and afternoon. This might still be the case. Yes, there were honors classes for the brightest, and, I guess it was okay. Not every student respects school and learning, though, and that can be damaging to those who do want to learn.

    Thanks for your time.

  25. Todd says:


    Nice to have you back. The important thing to understand is that public schools are not monolithic here. Not only am I putting five kids through public schooling, I have been a substitute teacher in the schools. There are so many variables that make a school safe with good values and sound education; area of the country, city, the principal of that school, etc…Our last experience with a public school was so positive that the values they learned there even put me to shame. The kids were very disciplined. And though there was the occasional problem with a teacher expressing his/her own personal religious or political preference, which we dealt with, for the most part teachers are simply interesting in teaching math, English, etc…Now in different places people have different experiences, and if school wasn’t safe for my kids they would not be there. But we still consider it terrible legalism for a denomination to dictate how its ministers or members should school their kids, which is the point of the original post.

  26. churchmouse says:

    Thanks, Todd. Maybe the denomination is concerned about public schools in general? Or is it to further promote their own schools? The article didn’t seem to state.

    I can see your p.o.v. re the legalism involved.

  27. Zrim says:


    The PRCA is local to my culturally Dutch Reformed area (the Sem is right up the street). The brouhaha had nothing whatever to do with public schools. It started with a PRC pastor pulling his kids out of the Christian schools in order to homeschool. My hunch is that, along with finally institutionalizing an already unspoken legalism when it comes to education, the push has a pragmatic dimension in a time when everyone’s hurting, especially private schools: “we need those dollars.”

    Ironically enough, the local Baptist University (Cornerstone) just recently removed dancing from its list of institutional legalisms. They celebrated with line dancing on campus. No accounting for taste, I guess. But you still can’t drink, smoke, go to R-rated movies or play cards as either an employee or student. The legalist mind is funny–why is dancing less evil than a round of poker? And if it was evil then how can it be not evil now? Isn’t that the same sort of situational ethics and moral relativism they accuse pagans of?

    Anyway, for those of us who are public school advocates in theory and practice the notion that they are “bereft of values” is just plain quizzical, at least for me. I still wonder what you might mean by this suggestion. Er, I mean, what do you think?

  28. churchmouse says:

    There was a great line in John Updike’s ‘A Month of Sundays’: ‘The devil speaks in pips’, referring to the prohibition on cards! 🙂

    Yes, the legalism thing is an odd one, and I agree with you there. Catholics did that, too, in the late 60s — all of a sudden we were allowed to eat meat on Fridays! It was okay, after **centuries**, to eat meat. Then the Vatican faffed around with the saints, getting rid of a bunch and subsequently reinstating them in the 1990s. All because of Vatican II — ugh.

    Re values and state school in the US. Do they teach ethics? (No, they cannot.) Do they promote abortion — provide ‘counselling’ for one, tell you where to have it done, etc.? What about sex ed and marriage? (Sex ed for me at school was in a Christian context and, yes, we also had ‘clap films’.)

    We’ll disagree on state v public schools until the cows come home. I don’t really have anything more to add, I’m afraid. 🙂

    Must go now, as it’s early morning here.

    Thanks again!


  29. Zrim says:


    I’m not sure I understand your questions. Are you saying that the absence of direct instruction in ethics means none exist? And by ethics, you mean, what? (Besides, I’m of the view that education is primarily an intellectual endeavor, not an affective one. The charter school our oldest attended briefly was wild about their “character education” element, which was basically the cardinal virtues of western culture. While I had no problem with those virtues, I couldn’t have cared any less, really, since we took care of virtue at home.)

    No, to my knowledge and in my experience nobody “promotes abortion.”

    Yes, we have what is commonly referred to as “sex education.” But when I was in fifth grade at East Bay Elementary I was sorely let down when it became clear that it was really nothing more than something about sweat glands and tips on bathing. In grade 7 things got spicier but still didn’t come close to living up to either a young man’s hopes or a theonomist’s fear mongering about public schools. And, after having recently previewed my daughter’s public school “sex ed.” curriculum, it looks as if nothing much has changed after 25 years.

  30. Renee says:

    “Ironically enough, the local Baptist University (Cornerstone) just recently removed dancing from its list of institutional legalisms. They celebrated with line dancing on campus.”

    Holy Smoke!! I thought the movie Footloose was fiction.

    I think there was a time when the quality of education was higher in private schools then public schools. I also think that when one is paying from their own wallets for something they respect it more. I went to public school and enjoyed it. I had friends who went to Catholic school, they also enjoyed it (I did have a boyfriend who was kicked out of the neighborhood Catholic school for throwing a M-80 in the toilet of the boys bathroom) Discipline was a non issue for most Catholic schools, the nuns did not take to foolishness well,my friends would tell me that they would grab your earlobe and lead you from the class down to the office. Discipline was always an issue in the public schools I attended. Jr. High found me in the principals office weekly (Sicilian temper,what can I say). For some reason girls had issues with me because they thought that my boyfriends would be better off dating them or something goofy like that.

    All in all, I have to say that Religious beliefs, morals, values etc. should be taught in the home by the family and only reinforced in The Church. The Church cannot be responsible to teach each and every child personally these things and neither can their schools, it would be impossible and it should not be expected.

  31. AVr says:

    I have been a member of a PRC for six years, and the minister dismissed because of his home schooling was my pastor. I thought I’d give you guys some of the facts 🙂 By the way, I strongly disagree with the recent decisions and was one of the protestants at the synod of this year.

    Originally, the local consistory allowed the minister to home school on the ground that there are no Biblical or other principles that would prohibit him from doing so. This led to unrest in the congregation, and a few formal protests. However, none of these protests were upheld (even when appealed to the classis) and I imagine that the issue would have dissipated if the consistory had been given a chance to work with those who disagreed.

    However, the classis took it upon themselves to declare that the consistory had been mistaken. There is, they said, an article in our Church Order (art. 21 of the Dort Church Order, as modified by the CRC in 1914 and translated into English). “The consistory shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.”

    Based on this, the classis concluded that individual office bearers must urge the establishment, maintenance and use of these schools. Only in exceptional cases (to be approved by the consistory and, apparently, the higher assemblies) is home schooling allowed. (Of course, this only applies if a “good”/PR school is available.) The minister must be an example.

    A discussion erupted about the meaning and substance of Art. 21. A group of “200%-ers”, including some retired sem professors, claims that “according to the demands of the covenant” speaks about the communal schooling. They consider home schooling sinful because it denies the covenantal unity of the church (denomination?).

    This extreme view was officially rejected by the classis and synod. According to the more “moderate” position taken by the PR assemblies, there is no biblical requirement for communal schools, but there is an ecclesiastical rule, namely CO art. 21. This led to the discussion whether art. 21 ever intended to choose a particular schooltype for generations to come; and whether the church has the right to make ordinances concerning the daily life of the members. Historical and biblical counterarguments have all but been ignored at the recent synod.

    Perhaps the most interesting theological statement of the recent synod–without any proof–is that “the unity of covenant and election urges to parents the wisdom of educating their children together”. (The original statement of Classis East was “recommends”, but was amended to “urges”.)

    An overture to include home schooling in art. 21 was rejected because, says synod, Christian day schools are in most cases the best way for parents to fulfill their covenant obligations.

    Mind you, home schooling was never declared to be wrong; it was only treated as inferior. The synod even stated that the minister had the “Christian liberty” to home school, and should not be compelled against his conscience to use the day schools. Only, as an office bearer he should willingly forego his liberty. Holding on to his conscience of home schooling “may jeopardize his office”, said the classis already two years ago, and indeed it has.

  32. RubeRad says:

    one of the protestants at the synod of this year

    So mostly at synod you find Catholics?

  33. Zrim says:

    The synod even stated that the minister had the “Christian liberty” to home school, and should not be compelled against his conscience to use the day schools. Only, as an office bearer he should willingly forego his liberty.

    So take away with the left hand what is given with the right–sounds like how my old IFCA spoke of alcohol consumption (and other worldly amusements). Thus, I stand by my interpretation of “educational legalism.”

  34. AVr says:

    “So take away with the left hand what is given with the right” — exactly the same words I used 🙂

    Indeed, the classis at some point stated that the minister had the right to home school, but not the right to exercise that right.

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