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Reformed Theology

Our Priceless Heritage

"Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. (Isaiah 51:1 ESV).

There is much interest today in genealogy, with many people researching their family history. Also, TV series such as Who do you think you are? (SBS) remain popular while, on the commercial channels, advertisements for Ancestry.com regularly appear.

I consider this renewed interest to be of some value as it serves as an antidote to the spirit of individualism so prominent in our society. It reminds us of our connectedness which in turn is part of the divine plan and purpose for creation, for it was God who established the family as the fundamental unit of society. Many who have taken the time to research their family history derive great satisfaction from learning something of their ancestors or, to adapt Isaiah’s language, the quarry from which they were dug.

While in Isaiah 51:1-2 the prophet calls upon the people to remember their family history, this of course was closely intertwined with their spiritual history generally and with God’s unique covenant relationship with the nation of Israel specifically, beginning with Abraham and Sarah. Indeed, Isaiah’s reminder to Israel to ‘look to the rock … and to the quarry …’ is one we would do well to remember today, for as a covenant community at Tyndale Christian School we have a priceless heritage. But do we value it as we should? Are we even aware of it?

The history of Tyndale Christian School is inextricably linked with the history of Australia in the period immediately following the Second World War. As Europe in particular had been devastated by five years of war, many of those who had survived sought to escape from the ruins and begin life anew in places such as Australia. Among the flood of migrants were those from The Netherlands, a nation where the Protestant Reformation had taken deep root and flourished during the early 16th century, despite long and cruel persecutions beginning in 1523 under Emperor Charles V and continuing until 1609 when The Netherlands and Spain finally agreed upon a truce. It was during this period of struggle for religious and political freedom that Dutchman Guido De Bres drew up the Belgic Confession of Faith which expressed what the Reformed Churches of The Netherlands believed concerning the Bible, God, man, the way of salvation, the church and government. This was the faith that many of the Dutch migrants brought to Australia.

It must be said that many Christians today are not familiar with the historical confessions of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. There are two reasons. Firstly, some Protestant denominations that adopted confessions of faith long ago no longer speak much about them or draw attention to them in the teaching ministry of the church, for various reasons. Other Protestant churches reject confessions of faith altogether as unnecessary and even unhelpful. But, for those who seek to understand the priceless heritage of Tyndale Christian School, it is necessary to have some understanding of the theological views of those whose labours, blessed by God Almighty, resulted in the formation of the Association in 1957 and the commencement of the school in 1966.

When Dutch migrants began to arrive in Australia in greater numbers during the early 1950s, those of Reformed persuasion were dismayed to find that Christian schools like those they themselves had attended in The Netherlands did not exist in the new land. Rather, government schools dominated the educational scene, with Roman Catholic parish schools offering the only real alternative. Of course, Protestant schools did exist but were not numerous and, besides, the fees charged by such schools were far more than most migrants could afford. So what did they do? They set about establishing a completely new type of Christian school in Australia, unlike anything previously known.

The vehicle the Dutch migrants used to establish this new type of school was the Reformed Churches of Australia, as it was then known. This denomination also was new, having likewise been founded by Dutch migrants in 1951. It is important to understand, however, that it was not the local Reformed Churches that established or operated the new schools like Tyndale, for the Dutch migrants believed that responsibility for educating their children belonged to them as parents, not to the church and certainly not to the government. This understanding of education, virtually unheard of in Australia at that time, was a practical out-working of their Reformed faith.

Of course, the fact that the Christian school associations that began to emerge in Australia in 1954 were independent does not mean that the Reformed Churches had no role to play. Rather, the Reformed Churches nurtured the fledgling Christian school associations, widely championed the cause of Christian parent-controlled education and provided the vast majority of volunteers who became office-bearers in the new Christian school associations as well as the members of those associations.

Personally, I am greatly encouraged by the history of Tyndale and its sister schools in the Australian Christian parent-controlled schools movement. This history is all the more astonishing when the particular circumstances are recalled – migrants who fled a small, war-ravaged nation in Europe in order to establish themselves in another country on the other side of the world, an unfamiliar country with a different language and culture that lacked at least some of the institutions taken for granted in The Netherlands, such as Christian schools. Despite the acute pressure they experienced in learning a new language, finding suitable accommodation, finding employment and establishing a church, these faithful folk brought to Australia a vision for Christian parent-controlled education that in turn was shaped by their Reformation heritage and world-view. As a result, my own family and many others besides have been greatly blessed and continue to be blessed, thanks be to Almighty God whose is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.

Reformed Theology - The Reformed Reader