Hello readers! It has been a while since I last updated this strand. My courses at Calvin have picked up again and I’ve had to make some priority adjustments!
In the last post I briefly made some points concerning the early history of the Calvinist day-school. We noticed that the day-school was originally parochial, that is, the church had direct maintenance of the school. This, however, changed with the coming of the 20th century. I will talk briefly about what helped instigate this change.
Also, remember, this is a strand on what Hoeksema says concerning the relationship between the school and the church. I will be diving further into his writings, but I think this preliminary discussion on the background history is important. I will, therefore, continue to devote another post or two to this topic.
What prompted the schools to make the shift from church maintained schools to parent maintained schools? This is an important question and one worth pursuing.
Let’s look at some data:
1889: 14 church schools out of 79 CR congregations; 1,390 Christian school pupils out of 28,732 total denominational members
This equals to…
- 5.6 congregations/Christian school
- 5% of the total denominational membership are Christian school pupils
1930: 63 parent schools out of 263 CR congregations; 11,391 Christian school pupils out of 76,130 total denominational members
This equals to…
- 4.2 congregations/Christian school
- 15% of the total denominational membership are Christian school pupils
We can see that in 40 years time, some large changes took place. Notice the following changes:
- schools went from parochial to parental
- the number of schools increased at a greater rate than the number of congregations: the number of Christian schools increased by 350%; the number of congregations increased by 232%
- the Christian Reformed church membership swelled during this period: 165% increase in 40 years.
It is interesting to note that the Christian school movement gained momentum during this period, but it occurred at a time when the Christian Reformed church was gaining many new members. Certainly, we can make the connection that as more families joined the CRC we would expect to see a growth in schools. But we cannot attribute the growth in the school movement only to a growing church.
The data shows us that a net gain of 49 new schools emerged during this period. In order for this demand to be there, church communities that were previously sending their children to public schools had a change of heart. Something incentivized them to start all these new schools. Something motivated them to abandon either the existing church schools or the public schools. What was this incentive?
The answer is not as simple as we may like to think. A couple of factors, however, played a significant part.
- Theological factor: Rev. Klaas Kuiper’s emphasis of the covenant of grace as a motivation for parental schools Reference: Zwaanstra, Reformed Thought and Experience in a New World (Kampen: 1973) 137-149.
- Philosophical factor: Abraham Kuyper’s idea of Sphere Sovereignty which, among many things, removes the school from the sphere of the church and state. Reference: Van Brummelen, Telling the Next Generation (University Press: Lanham, 1986) 77-81.
- Practical factor: Poor conditions of original church schools; desire to retain cultural/spiritual distinctiveness as public schools became more secular Reference: Zwaanstra, 139; Van Brummelen, 73.
In summary, the Christian school movement gained new footing with the help of these factors: covenant, sphere sovereignty and practicality. The practical factor needs no more explaining. As I noted in the previous posts, the church schools had much to be desired and many parents were eager for a change. It is the theological and philosophical factors that are worth investigating. Both the covenant and sphere sovereignty had a great impact on the school. Both these factors were promoted by men with the same last name, yet with different spellings: Rev. Klaas Kuiper and Abraham Kuyper.
There is little agreement among writers on which was the primary reason for the schools to become parental in North America. Was it the covenant? Was it sphere sovereignty? Are they even mutually exclusive?
The Kuyperians claim Kuyper. Others have laid a case for Klaas Kuiper being the “father of the Christian schools.” I think both were prominent in advancing the Christian school movement and both deserve attention.
We will look further into this next time!