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Thesis: A Reformed world and life view demands the establishment and maintenance of Reformed Christian schools.

“And Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And they shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.” (Deut. 6:5-7)


What is a world and life view?

A “world and life view” refers to one's perspective on all of life. It helps us see life as a whole and to enable us to find meaning in each part.[1] It has been described as a global view; an outlook that characterizes a people or culture;[2] a set of beliefs that underlie and shape all human thoughts and actions.[3] Furthermore, it is said to be simply the sum total of our beliefs of the world; in other words, our Big Picture.[4] Prof. David Engelsma, of the Protestant Reformed Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan, in a recent lecture defined “a world view” as a comprehensive unified view of the whole of creation and its history, including the origin of creation, the meaning of creation and the goal of creation. He went on to say that one's view of the world is determined by one's submissiveness to the triune God in faith or by one's rebellion in unbelief. He considered that submission or rebellion to the true God was the underpinning notion of any world view.

Every person has a world view whether they are able to articulate it clearly or not. Our world view defines our life. It is our world view that gives our life its distinctiveness. It is our world view that drives every sphere of our life, whether it be in education, worship, work, lifestyle, leisure, entertainment, marriage or family. Our world view is closely related to our regard for this world's culture and its products. This includes creation ordinances, such as marriage and family, labor, and civil government. It also encompasses man's development of creation, including the development of man's abilities and gifts, such as the production of various inventions, fine art, literature, music, leisure activities, and the ordering of human life in society.

The Reformed World And Life View

What do we mean by a Reformed world and life view? Such a world view is distinctive and ought to be evident in the lives of all professing members of a Reformed and/or Presbyterian church. It has as its basis the entire content of the Word of God and can be described as the Reformed faith; a faith which was systematised by John Calvin, and which is summarized in the Reformed confessions, such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Three Forms of Unity. This world and life view calls the believer to live distinctively and openly in all spheres of life. Prof. Engelsma described this as exclusively an ecclesiastic and dogmatic world view.[5] This world view encompasses all of reality. It states emphatically that there is no area of life over which Jesus Christ does not reign supreme and it enthusiastically calls for those who propound it to go into the world and proclaim the gospel.

This is a world view of faith and belief. Belief in the sovereignty of a triune God over all of creation. It involves belief in the original creation of a perfect world created in the space of six, 24 hour days, and the fall from that perfection into sin, by real people, Adam and Eve (Gen. 1 & 2). It concerns a belief that Adam, as our covenant head, represented us in his disobedience, with the result that now all mankind are born with corrupt human natures and death entered into the world; a belief that God in His infinite grace has redeemed His elect people by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ into this world to save the elect from their sin and misery with the ultimate goal of establishing peace and harmony in a new world.

It is a belief that God regenerates His chosen people and by His irresistible grace they are drawn to Him to serve and praise Him. Throughout history, God has and is gathering the elect as the body of Christ. This is the goal of all history.

This world view implies all individual creatures collectively form one organic whole and that man is the prophet, priest and king of creation. Herman Hoeksema gives substance to this notion of the organic development of the world when he says that all creatures must serve man with the purpose that man serve God.[6] When sin entered into the world it did not destroy the creation and upset the organic order of it. Each creature in its organic connection with all of creation continues to receive God's sustaining and governing power, despite sin, so that the original creation plan of God can be attained.[7]

Hoeksema contends that God continues to work in all of creation according to the counsel of His providence. Whilst human nature is corrupted and rejects that which is good, the unity of the life of the creation remains entirely untouched. This is seen in the fact that the essence of man is not affected by sin; he continues to exist as a rational, moral creature, not as an animal. The change wrought by sin is a “spiritual/ethical”[8] change only, not a change of essence. In the same way, electing sovereign grace does not affect the essence of humans or the original creation relationships and divine ordinances. Rather, it affects the spiritual/ethical character of all that undergirds the actions of men. The organic oneness of the life of creation is therefore never altered.

What we now have in this world is a spiritual, ethical antithesis of light and darkness, of grace and sin, of eternal life and eternal death. The original organic creation life is ended. God now curses the earth and it is subject to vanity. The creature and the creation are subject to sin and death. There is now a spiritual battle and the creation is the battle field. Cf. Eph. 6:12. “The battle is for man and his world, in man and through man.”[9] Every thing participates in this battle and all of history testifies to this organic development of life. “In their mutual organic relationship, all created things have developed through an appalling struggle to bring the covenant of friendship of our God to the antithetical fellowship of love and wrath.”[10]


What does all this mean for the believer? As subscribers to a Reformed world and life view, we are called every day to live and work in this world. The world, in essence, is not evil. We are to do this with all our God-given abilities, by means of faith in Christ and the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Spirit of Christ. It is by this same power that we are enabled to live a godly life in this world and to worship faithfully on the Sabbath.

We are called to live in this life in all spheres, though we are to do so antithetically; opposed to the life and work of the ungodly who are given over to their own lusts and the total corruption of sin, but who also live and work in those same spheres. Cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-18. We are not called to be physically separate from the ungodly and the world. Our separation is to be a spiritual one. We do this by living in obedience to the law of God.

We are not to focus on this world, nor are we to be motivated simply to find success in it, or be driven to “christianize” it. Cf. 1 Cor. 3:18-23. Our victory is already won. Cf. John 16:33.

Implications For Reformed Christian Schools

How does this impact on Reformed Christian schools? Since the Reformation there has been a strong interest in the education of the children of believers. Martin Luther,[11] John Calvin[12] and John Knox[13] all wrote convincingly of the need for the education of the children of believers to be in harmony with the truth of God's word. The fundamental reason why these Reformers and others earnestly strove for Christian education was their understanding that the children of believers belonged to God's church and covenant and therefore they required an education that was Christian.[14] This was consistent with their Reformed world and life view.

If our Reformed world and life view calls us to be in the world, we may well ask; why then are we not also to be in the schools of the ungodly world? We may think; surely there we and our children can witness and show forth our light? However, this question and thinking ignores the baptismal requirements of parents to instruct their children in the way they should go.

Furthermore, as the Reformers clearly saw, an ungodly or unchristian education is one of the most effective weapons of Satan upon covenant children[15]. Slyly, Satan inculcates them, at a vulnerable, immature age with the ways of the world, luring them into a false sense of security and tempting them with the attractions of the world. Neither we nor our children enjoy immunity from the evil influences of the world.

As the Reformers were not only interested in Christian schools, but in the totality of Christian upbringing of covenant youth, they saw that Christian schools were imperative to the training and safeguarding of the covenant seed and to prepare them to live antithetically in all of life. They maintained that the same zeal for Christian instruction in the home, ought also to engender enthusiasm within the Christian community for Christian schools.[16]

We are not driven to keep our children out of secular schools because they are man centred only; that would be Anabaptistic world flight. Rather, we are called through our Reformed world and life view to see the education of our children as our God-given parental responsibility. Our world and life view forces us to see that we must train our children about creation, as opposed to evolution, and to see history as the organic development of the world; to recognize that to the ungodly, man is god, that his/her focus is upon themselves and their glory; that the world considers we are all intrinsically good beings, and that the world can be made perfect, if we work at it.

A Reformed world and life view necessitates the training of our children to see music, art, language, sport, math in the light of God's world. We want our covenant seed prepared for the battle that is before them, and to understand their place in this world, and their purpose in it. Subscribers to a Reformed world and life view must see that we have a Godly heritage handed down through the covenant, and that we must take up the baton of responsibility when it is passed to us, and work with all our gifts and abilities to hand on to the next generation, the necessary tools to equip them to live in this world. Cf. Ps. 78: 2b-4. To do that, they must have a Christian education.

They are not equipped without proper instruction to see the beauty of God's creation in every sphere or to live out their lives in spiritual separation. Nor are they equipped to fight the spiritual battles that rage around them. They will never be properly instructed in these areas if we give our children over to the training by the ungodly or even the unreformed Christian.

The trainers or teachers of our children must also share our Reformed world and life view. We are called to train up our children in the way they should go. Cf. Deut. 6:5-9. It was accepted by the Reformers that it is the duty of parents to educate their children, not the church or state. As parents can not effectively, and in fact historically never did, train their children solely in their private homes, we are called to establish and maintain Christian schools, staffed by teachers who share our Reformed world and life view.

It is only then that we can be assured that our children will receive an education that is Christian. By Christian, it is not meant merely that biblical instruction is present, that after all is the responsibility of the home and the Church, but rather instruction in all subjects, from a soundly Reformed perspective. This means that all subjects must be taught in the light of Scripture through the “spectacles of faith” as Calvin describes it. This training is not to be limited to the training of the mind alone, but also in the body. Athletics and sports should taught in a Christian school. An appreciation of music and art should also be fostered. All these things are to be seen as subject to God's word and the student taught to appreciate them only in that light. Cf. 1 Cor. 2:3. It is imperative that our children understand that no true knowledge can be acquired apart from God.

What is required is an educational system that is based on the sovereignty of God. There God will be given His proper place. Humanism will have no place and a Reformed world and life view will be joyously promoted.

The Reformers saw Christian education as rooted firmly in the covenant. Christian schools are to be seen as places where believing parents fulfil their God-given covenantal mandate to train their children in the fear of the Lord. They do so because their children are included by God in the church of Christ. Such schools are to be seen then as an auxiliary to the covenantal home. The school is a human creation brought about by the conditions of life, which historically have always been recognised by believing parents. As parents we place our children into the care and instruction of Godly teachers, for proper instruction. Christian schools are not extensions of the Church. They do not take the place of it nor are they to be run by it. However, the school is dependant on the church for its support, and assistance. “It is no accident that the establishment of Christian schools arose in history out of the reformation of the Church.”[17]


If we subscribe to a Reformed world and life view and we must if we profess the Reformed faith, then we must also see the awesome responsibility we have to live in this world antithetically, as pilgrims and strangers, to enjoy it, to take pleasure in it and to glorify God in it. We also must see, however, that our children need to be prepared for life in this world, if they are to fulfil their responsibilities before God.

We must look again at the solemn vows we have taken at the baptism of our children, to train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. How are we doing that? Are we leaving that to the Church and to the catechetical and moral training of the home, and then thrusting them inconsistently into an educational environment that is diametrically opposed to our world and life view? How does that fit with our Reformed world and life view, that states that every aspect of our life and our children's with us, is under the sovereignty of our Maker? We are not being faithful to that, unless we have our covenant seed trained for all of life in an environment that is consistent with our world view. To do otherwise is to live lives inconsistent with our Reformed world and life view and therefore, contrary to the word of God, our Creator and Redeemer.

Rev. & Mrs. Mark Shand
The Evangelical Presbyterian

Volume 20, January 2003


1. Arthur F. Holmes, Contours of a World View (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1983), p. 3.
2. Brian Walsh. World Views, Modernity & the Task of Christians' College Education p16
3. Peter Heslam. Creating a Christian's World View, pp 88,89
4. Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live? (1999) p14
5. Engelsma, David : Lecture on a World and Life View delivered May 3, 2000
6. Herman Hoeksema, “Our View,” Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, (April 1998), p. 1.
7. Ibid. p. 2.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid. p. 4.
10. Ibid. p. 5
11. Luther's Works, Vol. 45, The Christian in Society II. “To the Councilmen of all Cities in Germany that they Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.” (1524) Muhlenburg Press, Philadelphia, 1962), p. 252; “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate.” (1520); Martin Luther, Luther's Works The Christian in Society II Vol 46, “A Sermon on Keeping Children in School” (1530) (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1967), p. 218.
12 John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Cor. 3:9; E. William Monter, Calvin's Geneva, (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York, London, Sydney, 1967); All of the above are cited in The Standard Bearer articles by Rev D Engelsma, : “The Concern of the Reformation for Education,” The Standard Bearer, Vols. 47, 48.1970-71.
13. First Book of Discipline (1560) The Fifth Head, “Concerning the Provision for the Ministers, and for the Distribution of the Rents and Possessions Justly Appertaining to the Kirk”, Subsections: For The Schools & The Necessity of Schools; Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol 8, (Hendrickson, 1996).
14. David Engelsma, “The Concern of the Reformation for Education” The Standard Bearer, Vols 47-48, 1970-1971, p. 21.
15. Ibid. p. 21.
16. Ibid. p. 22.
17. Ibid. p. 332.


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