One of Reformed Christianity’s strengths lies in its persisting effort to fathom what the faith implies for the various dimensions of life.
—James D. Bratt
Defining Calvinist/Reformed Christian day school education
The time period from the mid-1980s through approximately 2010 saw Calvinist/Reformed Christian educators further define and apply their approach to educating Christianly in response to a changing world.
During these years, movement leaders sought to define both what being Reformed means and the essence of Calvinist/Reformed day school education. Below are landmark publications from this era:
- Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony (1984). This document sought to apply Reformed thinking to all spheres of life and is still so applicable today. In this CACE post from last year, I describe why the Contemporary Testimony is still critical today. My favorite phrase from this short creed is the following: “In education we seek to acknowledge the Lord by promoting schools and teaching in which the light of his Word shines in all learning. There students, of whatever ability, are treated as those who bear God’s image and have a place in his plan” (Paragraph 53).
- Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (1985). Albert Wolters from the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto wrote what became one of the most quoted books on what constitutes a Reformational worldview.
- Viewpoints: Exploring the Reformed Vision–Selected Readings (1992), ed. James D. Bratt. Although not specifically about education, this collection of readings demonstrates how Reformed Christians can live out their faith in their public and private lives.
- From Vision to Action: The Basis and Purpose of Christian Schools (1993), published by Christian Schools International. This short pamphlet attempts to “maintain the centrality of Scripture in the education of our children and to speak about it in language that is fresh and meaningful” (p.4).
- The Christian School and the Christian Story (1993) by John Bolt. The author identifies both secular and Christian threats to Christian education and reminds readers we need to focus primarily on God’s story that connects memory, vision, and mission.
- Reformed: What It Means, Why it Matters (2001) by Robert De Moor. In a short, accessible book De Moor lays out the topic and the terminology along with great study questions.
- Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living (2002) by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. This book should be required reading for all faculty involved in Christian education! Here is Dr. Plantinga’s presentation at our recent 2021 Engage gathering.
New Directions for Calvinist Day School Education
The manifestation of Kuyperian transformationalist thinking has always been a significant stream in Calvinist/Reformed education—with this approach held highly as the ideal, yet not fully realized by schools in practice. There was a gnawing sense that the lofty missions of Calvinist/Reformed schools were not producing world-changing students, a feeling borne out years later by the results of the first Cardus survey. The Survey found that Christian schools were producing personally moral students who were not particularly outward looking or engaged in impacting the world beyond their family or local community.
Christian school leaders came together at three summer conferences in Chicago from 1986-1988 at the invitation of Steve Vryhof and Joel Brouwer to address the gaps between rich philosophy/heritage and mediocre practice. The attendees brainstormed how Christian schools might prepare for the future. Although in public education administration at the time, I had the privilege of attending the 1988 Chicago Conference. For me, it was a career-altering event. I was encouraged by the level of passion for Christian education and the urgency to imagine how Christian education needed to change to meet the future.
The conference leaders produced a short summary of the conference series entitled 12 Affirmations: Reformed Christian Schooling for the 21st Century. It was intended for easy access as a study guide for teachers, parents, and churches. The 12 Affirmations were updated and published as 12 Affirmations 2.0: Christian Schooling for a Changing World following an interactive workshop at a 2008 CSI leadership convention. These affirmations fed a new vision for living out a reformational approach that is manifested today in the Christian Deeper Learning movement (to be explored in an upcoming post.)
In 1993, after a year of study at the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, six Christian educators published A Vision with a Task: Christian Schooling for Responsive Discipleship. This book addresses mission, vision, curriculum, pedagogy, and communities with substantive recommendations for change. The vision of this book is stated on the back cover: “An educational community that unveils gifts, shares burdens, and enables a new generation of responsible disciples to seek shalom in the world.” Beautiful!
The next post in this series will share more about Calvinist/Reformed day school education in the years 1990-2010.