Herman Bavinck on Parenting and Education

This is a modified excerpt from chapter two of “The Sacrifice of Praise,” written by Herman Bavinck. For an introduction to Bavinck, a biography can be found here.

[Note: My apologies to Gilbert Zekveld, who translated the text into English from the Dutch. I modified quite a bit of it so that it would be easier to understand.]

With all learning, attention, interest, and love are needed. We only truly know what we love in the depth of our soul.

That is why upbringing does not succeed education. The heart does not get its turn . . . after the mind; we do not first teach pure concepts in the hope that they will later be accepted in true faith and have their influence on life. From the beginning education must be coupled with upbringing. Education must at all times have a [character of] upbringing. God’s truth [by] nature . . . cannot be rightly known without upright faith in the heart. To memorize [truth] without the heart is like just having an image of the matter but [remaining] foreign to the matter itself.

Therefore influencing the conscience and will, the training to know and to do, imparting clear [and] pure images, and arousing deep impressions of the mind must always go together. We may not separate the matter from the words or the words from the matter, for God united these two. He has bound Himself to give [the matter expressed in the Word] to everyone who believes the Word in truth . . . To know God in the face of Jesus Christ is to have eternal life. When we speak of God, Christ etc., these names may not just be sounds, but we must think of those who are indicated by them. Then there is a rich gospel, not something unimportant, but a world of invisible, eternal goods, which are signed, sealed and given to us.

When home, school, and catechism classes — education and upbringing — work together, we may expect that with the Lord’s blessing, spiritual life will increase, lead to faith and repentance, and reveal itself to the outside world into a confession of mouth and heart.

These truths certainly provide incentives for homeschooling. However, the context of Bavinck’s writing here is mainly about covenant children and infant baptism, issues that can actually get quite controversial for some of my friends. Nonetheless, I think we can all agree with what Bavinck is essentially saying here — education and upbringing must go hand-in-hand, especially in matters of faith.

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