We are living in instant times. We are fixated on the newest and latest. Sometimes we forget how we have gotten to where we are. Since CSI just celebrated 90 years, I thought it might be a good time to consider some of the rich history that is ours to see what can be gained from the past for living in today’s times.
A book that I recently read was 22 Landmark Years, Christian Schools International, 1943 – 1965 written by John VanderArk, who served as Director of CSI from 1953-1977. The comments below are reflections and quotes from that source, published by Baker Books.
VanderArk begins his preface with a quote: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well (that) the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning…”. Would you be shocked if I told you that this was a September 26, 1642 letter explaining the reason for establishing Harvard College? He goes on to say that “the purposes of life and learning are essentially theological issues, and one’s theology is important. Consequently people who take their faith seriously wish to entrust the education of children to those of a similar faith.”
While there were schools started by various denominations, VanderArk states that many of them closed as civil education gained ascendancy and can’t truly be considered the forerunners of today’s Protestant Christian schools. He points out that the rise of secular education that focused students on national citizenship to the exclusion of the consciousness of the kingdom of God was a primary cause for the establishment of Christian schools. While many in the late nineteenth century were enamored by Enlightenment thinking that promoted the concept that “knowledge is power” and that man is the measure of all things, the Netherlands immigrants who began many of the schools in CSI thought otherwise. While they taught their children to appreciate their heritage and to embrace citizenship in their new country (whether Canada or the U.S.A) their focus for their children was on preparation to live and worship God above all in this world and the world to come.
We are linked to those who have gone before us and their story can both enlighten and encourage us. Their struggles are our struggles, just in different clothes. We seek to show students that all of life belongs to God, that no part of it can be understood apart its Creator. It is our turn to share the story. As VanderArk warns: “The distance between a goodly heritage and its extinction is but one short generation.” Let us be faithful!