In 1988 the Board of the Association for Christian Education Inc distributed these statements of Foundational Principles to the Members of the Association.
It was considered that it was important for Association Members to have a clear understanding of and commitment to these principles.
These statements were unanimously endorsed by the Association and are now issued to all prospective members.
The concept of parent-governed Christian schools can be traced back to Holland in the 1800s. During this period of Dutch history, the country was strongly influenced by Calvinism. However, the Dutch government’s view of the public school was that:
This was clearly opposed to the view that God has sovereignty over all of life.
Prior to 1795 the Dutch public school system was under the strong influence of Christian teachers; so much so that, in effect, these were Christian schools.
In the early 1800s attempts to bring the Bible back into the public school system and to establish separate government-funded schools for Christians were not successful, as the State maintained its view. Then, in the late 1800s, parents belonging to the Reformed Church established the first ‘Schools with the Bible’. These were the beginnings of parent-governed Christian schooling. The schools were established by Christian associations which were not only free from state control but also church control. However, as they were established by Christians of strong Calvinistic persuasion, who acknowledged that God has sovereignty over all things, the Word of God as interpreted in the Three Forms of Unity (consisting of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort) was the constitutional basis of these associations.
The motivation in establishing these schools was to ensure that children would be taught on a Biblical basis, consistent with the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, distinct from the so-called neutral basis taught by the State schools. From this time it was viewed that parents, rather than the State or the Church, held the God-given responsibility to educate and raise their children in the fear of the Lord. The Church and State both come under the authority of God, yet have distinctive primary tasks and responsibilities. Parents have the primary task and responsibility for nurturing their children, and this includes their education.
The Schools with the Bible and other similar schools eventually received government recognition and full government funding. These schools still exist in Holland today, although many have lost their distinctive Christian character.
It was with this background in Christian education that many Dutch migrants, who themselves had attended a Christian school in Holland, came to Australia in the 1950s. They believed strongly that God had made a covenant of grace with believing parents and their children. These children were viewed as covenant children and therefore part of God’s chosen people, who had received the promises that God made so long ago with Abraham (Gen 17:7 and Acts 2:39). They therefore took the command to train their children in God’s ways seriously, so that the children, as they grew up, would accept these promises and respond in gratitude to God’s claims on them.
On arriving in Australia these parents soon realised that the Australian education system was basically State-controlled and that many of the Church schools which existed were not distinctively Christian. The basis of these schools was not consistent with their understanding of Christian education.
In 1959 a number of these migrants, who were members of the Reformed Churches of Australia, established the Association for Christian Education in Perth. It was not dissatisfaction with the State education that drove this move, but a deep and heart-felt conviction that, as God’s chosen people, they had the responsibility to ensure that their children were educated on a basis which was consistent with God’s Word.
The basis of the Association, as set out in its Constitution, is the belief that the Bible is the infallible Word of God and to accept it as a guide and final authority in matters pertaining to faith and life.
To ensure that the school would retain its distinctive Calvinistic identity and to provide a basis for the interpretation of Scripture, the Constitution required that Board members must be able to undersign the Three Forms of Unity and/or the Westminster Confessing of Faith. The Westminster Confession, which was the traditional confessional standard of the Presbyterian Churches, was better known to those from an English-speaking background. Staff are also required to agree to abide by the teachings and views as expressed in these confessions.
We believe the Bible clearly outlines the responsibility of parents to nurture their children in the training and instruction of the Lord (see Eph 6:1-4, Deut 6:6-9, Ps 78:1-4, Prv 1:8, Prv 22:6).
The Bible does not commit to the Church or the State the responsibility for teaching Maths, Science, Reading, Writing, and so on. Parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children. As parents, we accept this responsibility for that part of our children’s education which takes place outside the home, in the school.
The Christian school is therefore an extension of the Christian family home. We make use of the skills in teaching and knowledge which God has given to others; however, the responsibility remains that of the parent.
Hence, we consider the establishment and maintenance of parent-governed Christian schools to be a covenantal life-long duty (see statement on Life Long Commitment) and our God-given privilege.
Via membership in the Association, parents are able to direct the character and direction of the education provided by the school, subjecting themselves to the Biblical absolutes accepted as the basis of the Association.
Parental governance is communal and not individual; it is the community of parents that is involved in the process of governing. The control exercised by parents is administered representatively through the school Board, which is elected by Association Members (see statement on Board membership).
Teachers are accountable to the parent community (the Association) for their classroom practice. They are not directly accountable to the individual parent, but to the parent community via the Board. Parents need to be involved and informed as extensively as possible; hence, parents should communicate freely with teachers on all matters of classroom practice.
Parents are expected to exercise their governance via attendance at Association meetings.
A person wishing to become a Member of the Association for Christian Education must make a commitment to prayerfully and financially support the Association and become actively involved in Christian education for their entire lives.
Recognising that, throughout the Old and New Testaments, God dealt with families of people, Members of the Association will support Christian education not only for their own children but for their children’s children and, indeed, for all of God’s covenant children.
In Genesis 17:7 we read that God, in His grace, made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. We as believers then, all being children of Abraham (Gal 3:7), are responsible for the nurture of the children of all believers, not just our own. This ‘covenantal concept’ is basic to the structure of the Association.
Because the Association is a covenant community, it derives its support not only from parents with children at school, but also from parents who, although they have no children at an Association school, are so convinced of the Scriptural mandate that they give the Association their lifelong support.
The continued involvement of parents even after their children have completed their schooling provides an ever-expanding community ready to lend its support, knowledge and prayer to the work of the Association.
The Association also consists of Members who have never, and are unlikely to ever, use our school system. These Members have simply recognised the Scriptural imperative for Christ-centred education and have pledged their life-long support for this cause.
The Association certainly encourages all people – whether they are likely to send children to our school or not – to support the work of educating covenant children by becoming Members.
Those who are unable or unwilling to commit to a life-long financial support of the Association are still able to send their children to Rehoboth, as Affiliate Members. To be eligible to do so an Affiliate, like an Ordinary Member, must be a committed Christian who:
Affiliates simply use the school system for the duration of the children’s education and will be ineligible to vote at Association meetings or stand for nomination to the Board.
The Association elects a Board from among its Members and this Board, together with any of its subcommittees, is responsible for the governance of the schools.
Although our schools are not church-controlled and therefore are not specifically affiliated with any particular denomination, the schools do have a particular doctrinal basis. The seeds of the Association were sown in the 1950s by members of the Reformed Churches of Australia (see Basis and Historical Perspective).
The foundation members of the Association were thus people of strong Calvinistic persuasion. To maintain the long-term stability of the schools, the management of the Association’s affairs (via the Board) will always be limited to those who understand Scripture from a traditional Calvinistic perspective. As stated in the Constitution, this means that Board members, in addition to having a living faith in Christ, must subscribe to and uphold the doctrinal standards of the Association, namely, the Three Forms of Unity and/or the Westminster Confession of Faith. Board members are required to make this declaration annually, and it is expected that they would verify this doctrinal position in their daily life and by their church affiliation.
It should be clear then to all Members of the Association that, although the schools are not controlled by any particular church, a seat on the Board of the Association for Christian Education is limited to those Members who have shown a long-term association with a ‘Calvinistic’ church.
The following principles are fundamental to the approach to education and the practices of Rehoboth Christian College.
In brief, the Association is a Christian, parent-governed school. As Christians, we accept the authority of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. We find our basic principles in them. We consider it the responsibility of Christian parents to provide for their children an education in keeping with their own Christian faith.
We believe this Christian education must be of such a nature that the entire curriculum must be taught in a Christian way and from a Christian point of view. The Biblical revelation of God, creation, man, sin, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and redemption must pervade the whole curriculum.
We believe God is Creator of all things, including man, to whom God has entrusted the care of His world. Man has been created in the image of God, and, as such, is a religious being through his whole life. He is created to glorify God with his whole being in all of his life. He is therefore in the office of a steward to live in loving obedience and service to God and his neighbour.
We believe that the fall of man (through Adam) into sin and disobedience to God’s command has had a totally alienating effect on man from God, and, as a result, all men are born with a sinful nature; that this sinful condition of man with its punishment of death from God has been removed through Jesus Christ’s atonement on the cross.
We believe that God has made a covenant of grace with believing parents and their children. We view such children as covenant children (that is, children belonging to God) who have received the promise of redemption from God.
As they grow up, these children are to be encouraged to accept these promises for themselves and respond in gratitude with a committed Christian life.
In summary, we view this world as God’s and, as His children learn about His world, and equip ourselves with skills and abilities to fulfil our task to Him and to our neighbour in all spheres of life.
The approach in the Association’s educational task is to provide a distinctly Christian education:
Here is a concise version of the eight Rehoboth distinctives.
Not all schools are the same.
Even among Christian schools, there are differences. This series of articles aims to look at some of the distinctives behind our particular school community.
The dominant motivation for the founders of Rehoboth to take the huge step of starting a Christian school was the idea of God’s covenant relationship with Christians and their children.
Let’s look at what we mean by the Covenant of Grace.
Because we believe that God has made a covenant (partnership commitment) with his people (see Gen 17) and that His covenants are everlasting (Ps 105:8-10) and still applicable to us as New Testament Christians (Acts 2:39, Gal 3:29), our children are special children (1 Corinthians 7:14) and we still have a special responsibility to train them to love God and to see Him as the beginning of all wisdom (Deut 6:6-9, Ps 111:10 and Prv 22:6).
In His covenant, God promises to be our God and we will be His people. He extends these promises to the children of believers.
Christian parents therefore need to raise their children to know and love God, leading them to faith and conversion by instruction, prayer, and the example of Christian living. The task of the Christian home is enormously important! The responsibilities that we have before God as Christian parents are awesome!
To nurture our children to love and obey God and see Him behind all things (Col 1:16-18) is not easy. We want our children to learn to see life from a Christian perspective. We want them to develop a Christian character. We want them to respond in love and service to Jesus Christ.
Parents who take these things seriously find that the Christian school can be a great help in shaping Christian minds and lives. Rehoboth has always been about ‘serving Christian families with Christ-centred schooling’.
It is a community of Christian families working together to help each other obediently carry out the covenant responsibilities they have to bring up their children to respond to God in every area of life by providing schooling that is Christ-centred.
One implication of the Covenant of Grace is Rehoboth’s Enrolments Policy.
The reason that Rehoboth exists is primarily to assist Christian parents in the Christian nurture of their children. We see the College as being an extension of the Christian home.
Rehoboth is not a school for children who do not come from Christian homes. Rehoboth does not exist primarily as an evangelical organisation to bring the Gospel to those who might not otherwise hear it.
That in itself makes Rehoboth quite different from most Christian schools which adopt an ‘open’ enrolment policy and allow a certain percentage of enrolments from children who do not come from Christian homes. We are certain Rehoboth could have a much larger student population if we had a different enrolment policy, but we would also have a very different type of school.
Another implication of the Covenant of Grace is how it affects the way we should view the children in our Christian school.
We should see the children of Christian parents also as members of God’s covenant community. They are still growing in their understanding of God and perhaps are often inconsistent in their response to Him, but we view our students as citizens of God’s Kingdom, needing Christian nurture. They are children who have God’s covenant claims on them and they need to be reminded often of this. They either accept God’s claims, or they turn their back on Him. These children need to surrender to Christ and to commit all their life to God.
We view this growing knowledge of God and response to Him as an integral part of the total education process. It is not just a matter of looking at a child as being either ‘saved’ or ‘unsaved’. Rehoboth aims not so much to lead children to a point of commitment to Christ (which is more properly the important role of the home and church), but to teach children who have been dedicated to Christ to live their lives obediently, consistently, competently, and joyfully in service to God in everything they do.
The College aims to take students’ Christian commitment further so that they grow in their ability to think and live as real and significant Christians who are ready to make a difference in this world!
The other major distinctive area of thought which is foundational to the existence of Rehoboth is the sovereignty of God.
The sovereignty of God means that God is King. We believe that He wants us to acknowledge His kingship over every part of life. Abraham Kuyper, an important Christian thinker, theologian, and politician, put it this way, ‘There is not an inch in the entire area of human life which Christ, who is sovereign of all, does not call “Mine”!’.
God does not want to be Lord only of certain parts of our lives. He wants to be a total God, touching every part of our being. So it is not enough to say that our faith only affects our salvation or our devotional life or what we do on Sundays. As Christians we cannot just cut ourselves off from the evil world and live in isolated spiritual huddles. We cannot just wrap ourselves, or our children, in nice safe spiritual cotton wool and avoid the ugliness of a broken world that needs reconciliation with God. We cannot just take the attitude that God’s Kingdom is only about what will happen after Jesus comes again.
Our faith should also affect such things as our career goals and financial choices, our attitudes to politics and justice, the TV programs we look at, the way we raise our families, what we think about issues such as Aboriginal reconciliation, the environment, sexuality, popular culture, and so on. The Bible should not only guide the moral choices we make. We need to develop Christian perspectives and worldview which keeps God as King in the centre of all our thinking – and we need to help our children to do the same.
We cannot make a distinction between some areas of life which are ‘religious’ and some which are ‘secular’. Being a Christian means that we know that God wants to have the supremacy in everything (see Col 1: 15 -20, Col 2:8, Col 3: 23). It is all or nothing!
Our children also need to be taught to think Christianly if anything is to make sense to them. The Christian home, church and school need to shape minds which become attuned to ‘taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (see 2 Corinthians 10:4,5).
It is because we believe that God is sovereign, that we know that all the different areas of learning and life are not senseless and disjointed. God demands that in education we train children to see this whole world as his. He wants us to give him the glory in all things (Soli Deo Gloria), putting him on the throne in every area of endeavour.
Everybody has a worldview.
Our worldview is determined by what we consider to be our basic beliefs and values. Our answers to a range of questions combine to determine our worldview:
Even documents such as the Western Australian Curriculum acknowledge that people’s values influence their behaviour and give meaning and purpose to their lives.
In fact, our worldview not only gives purpose to our live, it determines how we make meaning out of information and knowledge. Our worldview determines how we combine everything we observe and learn into a framework by which we can try to make sense of life and our place in the scheme of things. We will reach different conclusions based on the presuppositions we hold.
As Christians we are to be ‘transformed by the renewing of our mind’ (Rom 12:2) taking ‘captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Cor 10:5) and ensuring that our thinking acknowledges that Christ is ‘head over every power and authority’ (Col 2:10). We are called to develop a Christian view of this world and our lives, putting on Christ-coloured spectacles (John Calvin’s term). Such thinking is to be foundational to what is taught to God’s covenant children at home and in the Christian school.
A useful framework to provide a structure for a Christian worldview is:
These Biblical themes should distinctively shape our view of life and our thinking about curriculum in schools.
When we consider Creation we consider how God created things to be in their perfect state and ask questions such as Where am I? Who am I? and How does God intend life to be?
When we consider the Fall we look at how sin has misdirected what God created, how it distorted God’s good structure, and how this now determines how we see things.
When we consider Redemption we look at the remedy and Christ’s redeeming of His whole creation (see Rom 8:19-22).
When we consider Restoration we look at the world with fresh eyes and renewed purpose. We are called to bring healing, beauty, life, and relationship in every area of the world we live in.
The world we study and live in and relate to is one which God created with structure. Albert Wolters, in his book Creation Regained: A Transforming View of the World (IVP, 1986) tells us that structure refers to the fact that everything is God-created, and thereby has a particular nature ‘after its own kind’.
As well as considering the structure of all things, we should also consider direction. Direction refers to the fact that creation is misdirected because of the fall into sin, but can be redirected to serve God through the redemption of God’s people in Christ.
God created all things with purpose and structure and for His glory. Sin threw everything out of balance, and we live in a world where we must acknowledge both the structure of the creation and the effect of sin in misdirecting things. As Christians we do not just leave things there however. Just as we ourselves are redeemed, so we now work towards the redeeming of creation for Christ. Think of some other words that express something about our redemption – restoration, reconciliation, renewal, renovation, re-creation, reclamation, reformation, regeneration – and our task becomes clearer. The whole point of redemption is to restore the creation to obedience to God, for His glory!
Wolters quotes Bavinck’s definition of the Christian faith: ‘God the Father has reconciled His created but fallen world through the death of His Son, and renews it into a Kingdom of God by His Spirit’. This helps to explain the distinctiveness of a reformational worldview. The central insight that ‘grace restores nature’ (i.e. ‘created reality’) should clarify three fundamental dimensions for us:
These three themes should be fundamental to the way we as Christians look at our world and the approaches to learning about this world that we adopt in educating our children.
Consider also the following Scriptures in this regard:
Now we look at some implications in terms of curriculum choices.
Let me ask you a question first of all: is there any question which your child might ask you that you would refuse to answer?
What if your child asked what AIDS was, or why people abort unborn babies or pollute the environment. What if they asked what cancer is, or why some people get divorced? We might feel overwhelmed, but would we remain silent? Would we say that as Christians we should not even think about these things but should focus instead only on what is pure and noble and good (see Phil 4:8)?
Most of us would probably try to respond, but we would also qualify it by saying that the type of answer and amount of detail would depend on the age and maturity of the child. We would not respond to a 6 year old the way we would to a 16 year old. We would make decisions about what was appropriate and exercise discernment. We would try to relate our answer to a wider view of what life is all about and the Christian values and beliefs we have (i.e. our worldview). We would probably also admit that on many of these issues we might need to seek input from other people or resources to help us out.
If we believe that God made and upholds everything and that even though sin affects all of life, ‘there is not an inch in the entire area of human life which Christ, who is sovereign of all, does not call “Mine!”‘ then we must agree that we cannot cut our children off from reality and only expose them to some parts of life. Because God is sovereign, we want our children to learn to think Christianly about all things under His rule – even those things which make us very uncomfortable or where the affects of sin are very obvious.
Therefore, in the Christian school, we do not avoid discussion of nuclear war or diseases or relationship conflicts or political greed and so on. Our curriculum will not just try to be ‘sanctified cotton wool’ which avoids anything ugly and tries to keep our children in a naïve state of ignorance. While we would certainly maintain that a child’s innocence should not be violated by an ‘in-your-face’ confrontation with issues beyond his or her maturity and readiness, neither should their need to be nurtured to competent and knowledgeable maturity in all things be neglected.
The task of teaching our children Christianly in the home, church, and school is one which needs great wisdom and prayer! Thank God that we can support each other in these things and have the support of Christian schools as we nurture our children to know that our God is King of all!
An important Bible passage which helps us understand Christian education is Deuteronomy 6: 4-9.
The passage connects some of the ideas about parental responsibility, the role of the home, the need for pervasive and repeated Biblical direction, and the fact that God wants a total response.
In this passage God has just given His laws to His people to help them enjoy life to the fullest. He gave them directions on how to enjoy their God and to bring Him glory and how to be happy. It is all very positive! God passes on a key to life and then tells parents how to pass on that key to their children.
God says that we should impress these truths about Him on our children by talking about them when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we lie down, and when we get up. God says to bind them as symbols on our hands, bind them to our foreheads, and to write them on our doors and gates.
In other words, God is saying that all of our thinking and doing and coming and going should be touched by awareness and response to Him.
We need to get this across to our children. It is not an option to dangle in front of them; it is something we are told to impress on them. We need to immerse our children in God’s truths and perspectives in all areas of life. God wants us to point our children to Him through all of our common activities so that thoughts of God and His guidelines to love Him and enjoy life in turn shape all of their thoughts and actions.
That is what Christian education is. It is something that is meant to be total and natural. It is meant to be ‘taught’ and ‘caught’. God does not tell the Jews just to teach the Torah in the synagogue on certain days of the week. He does not say just to talk about God at certain designated times of the day. No, it is meant to be total and permeating all of life. We cannot just say that the education our children receive at school each day is not part of shaping their total minds.
Why should we do this? Because ‘the Lord our God, the Lord is one’. He does not want us to share our allegiances with anyone else. He hates the thought of us wasting ourselves searching for the meaning of life anywhere else but in Him. He knows that all things hold together in Him alone and urges us to impress these things on our children so that they also share the riches of His covenant promises.
What a wonderful thing that we can work together to set up Christian schools which can help us carry out that vision and mandate!
Prospective parents who visit Rehoboth often ask the Principals about discipline. Sometimes what they are asking is, ‘How strict is the school? What punishments apply and why?’
One of the ways in which the Christian school is distinctive is the way in which discipline is viewed.
The word discipline looks very much like discipling and that is an important starting point in our thinking. Discipline is first of all about making disciples, not about punishment. We need to be careful that we do not get discipline and punishment confused in our minds.
As Christian parents and as a Christian school, our vision for our children is that, as covenant community members, and though living in a sinful world, they will develop to maturity and be conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The discipline of our children in the Christian home and in the Christian school should include all the constructive measures we can draw on to guide, train, educate, instruct, and encourage them to be mature disciples of Jesus. It is all very positive. It is something which is done for the children, not to them. It is about discipleship and developing Christ-like character.
As such, discipline can include words of praise, gestures of encouragement, speaking honestly about our faith, teaching God’s truths, celebrating God’s goodness, providing security and affirmation, giving assistance and guidelines to grow and further develop gifts and skills, and much more. It is so much broader and more positive than just thinking about the corrective measures (or rather the discouragement of un-Christlike behaviour) which are also necessary at times.
Harro van Brummelen, in his book Walking with God in the Classroom puts it this way:
‘The purpose of discipline is to disciple students in the Lord’s way. It addresses the future, while punishment only looks back. Discipline is an opportunity to redirect students: to strive against sin and to overcome weakness, to build inner peace and righteousness, to partake in the holiness of God. Through discipline students must realise the grace of God. Discipline must not be harsh retribution. It may not cause bitterness from perceived lack of grace and forgiveness’.
Let us look at a few more important ideas regarding discipline in the Christian home and school:
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