In the previous chapter we showed that the Great Commission gives the authority for the church, and for each individual Christian, to teach the Scriptures and to proclaim the Gospel. This is important because one of the objections that the Hardshells and other opponents of Sunday Schools and Bible classes give is that there is no Scriptural basis for it. The Great Commission and other new testament texts do not give detailed instructions for how this teaching is to be done, and to insist that such is necessary to justify Bible classes is ludicrous. This is typical of those who adhere to "patternism," a concept I will deal with later in this series. Those who insist that the Bible must specifically mention every aspect of a church's or Christian's practice do not fully follow their own rule. Hardshells have many practices that they cannot find a specific reference to in Scripture, so their insistence that Sunday Schools and Bible classes be specifically mentioned is hypocritical.
"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." (Titus 2: 3-5)
One of the objections that Hardshells make against Sunday Schools is the fact that they often, though not always and necessarily, have women teachers. But, clearly Paul thought it proper that women teach, albeit with restrictions. If an aged woman in the church holds classes for younger women in order to teach the things Paul mentions, is this not in keeping with his counsel?
Many cite these words of Paul in order to affirm that women are not to do any teaching at all.
"But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." (I Tim. 2: 12)
But, these words do not forbid women doing any teaching at all. If it did, then it would contradict what Paul said in Titus 2: 3-5. "Over the man" connects both with "to teach" and "to usurp," that is, women are not to teach over the man nor usurp authority over the man. She may teach, but not so as to teach over men or to usurp the authority of men. Also, the word for "man" is anēr and refers to adult men.
They will also cite these words of Paul:
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law." (I Cor. 14: 34)
But, clearly this prohibition cannot possbily mean absolute silence or else women would not be able to sing in the church. But, other Scriptures command all the members of the church to sing unto the Lord. (Col. 3: 16, Eph. 5: 19) Further, she sometimes is called upon to bear witness in disciplinary cases. What Paul is condemning is the practice of allowing women to teach the entire assembled church, or a mixed assembly. But, interesting is the fact that Paul also mentions women prophesying in the church. (See I Cor. 11: 5) This was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel that “your sons and daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17). It seems to me that what Paul forbids is the speaking of women ahead of men. If men are talking then women are to remain silent. But, it there is no man who desires to speak, then women may. Women are to give way to men.
Further we read this about Priscilla:
"And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." (Acts 18: 24-26)
Though this was in the private home of Aquila and Priscilla, yet they both "expounded" unto Apollos, a preacher, "the way of God more perfectly." Thus, it is not forbidden that women should do absolutely no teaching at all. Further, women are commanded to teach their own children, along with their husbands, "training them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph. 6: 4) Further, Peter said that every Christian ought to be able to give an apology or defence of his/her faith. (I Peter 3: 15)
But, Sunday Schools may be conducted with only male teachers, so the objection against Sunday Schools and Bible clases on this ground does not invalidate the appropriateness of such with adult men. Further, churches have historically had men who were gifted as either "lay preachers" or as exhorters. These make excellent teachers in Sunday Schools and Bible classes. So should deacons. It is an error to think that only those specially called to preach and rule in the church should teach.
Now let us resume our look at the objections given by the Black Rockers. The Address continued:
"Secondly, because such schools were never established by the apostles, nor commanded by Christ. There were children in the days of the apostles. The apostles possessed as great a desire for the salvation of souls, as much love to the cause of Christ, and knew as well what God would own for bringing persons to the knowledge of salvation, as any do at this day. We therefore must believe that if these schools were of God, we should find some account of them in the New Testament."
This is an argument from silence and carries very little weight. Just because there is no mention of Bible classes by churches is no proof that they did not have them. In fact, as I shall show, the early church often taught people various levels of catechism. It is interesting how such logic as is employed in the above does not seem to apply to associations. Where is there mention of associations in Scripture? If Hardshells followed their own advice, they would do away with associations for the same reason they do away with Bible classes.
We have already seen how Paul mentions older women in the church teaching the younger women. Is this not a special Bible class, whether done on Monday, Tuesday, etc.? Also, did we not notice Paul's admonition in Heb. 5: 12? Where Paul willed that all the members mature into teachers? Did he not divide people into two classes? There were those who were styled as "babes," and those who were "of full age." Those who are babes or novices should not be fed "meat" but "milk" only. Would it be wrong then to divide people into at least these two classes and feed them accordingly? Certainly it would. In fact, Paul does not think it good to feed meat to babes, and so, by implication, it justifies separating them from the meat eaters and feeding them milk. It is the duty of the father especially to teach his children, and this is not limited to religious instruction. And, though he bears the chief responsibility to see that his children are educated, this does not preclude him delegating authority to others, such as his wife, and others. When he sends his children to school to be taught by teachers, they do it by his authority. Paul alluded to this practice in Galatians 4: 1-2 where he said regarding children:
"Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father."
These "tutors and governors" were the teachers and guardians of infants and children and were given the authority by the father to instruct and care for his children. What is Sunday School for children but the appointing of "tutors and governors" for the education of children? And a father who had many children of various ages would not have them all in the same class, but would separate them by age and learning just as we do in public education.
The Address continues:
"Thirdly. We have exemplified in the case of the Pharisees, the evil consequences of instructing children in the letter of the Scripture, under the notion that this instruction constitutes a saving acquaintance with the word of God. We see in that instance it only made hypocrites of the Jews; and as the Scriptures declare that Christ's words are spirit and life, and that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, we cannot believe it will have any better effect on the children in our day."
One is simply stunned and bewildered to hear any Christian speak of "the evil consequences of instructing children in the letter of the Scripture." Did God order the Israelites to do such an evil thing when he commanded the Israelites to teach their children the Scriptures? The Black Rockers added - "under the notion that this instruction constitutes a saving acquaintance with the word of God." If not with the intention that their children would be saved by hearing and obeying the word of God, then for what other reason? Do the Hardshells not know that the Bible says that the word of God is the instrument of salvation? Certainly the word alone is not sufficient, but there is no salvation apart from it either. Does not the whole 119 Psalm glorify the word of God as a means of salvation? Did not the Psalmist say - "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word"? (vs. 9)
The Black Rockers, in the above, speak evil of the teaching of the word of God to others! For shame! They say that teaching the Scriptures "only made hypocrites"! Did it do so in the case of David? Of the other godly men and women in the Old Testament? They say that "Christ's words are spirit and life" as if the Scriptures are not also words of spirit and life! By this they mean that only the words that Christ, supposedly, speaks to the sinner directly and personally are spirit and life, but that there is no life or spirit in the words of Scripture. Further, when they speak of the inability of the natural man to receive the words of Scripture, they use it as an excuse to not teach the word to any lost soul! But, the prophets and apostles, nor even Jesus, believed such nonsense, for they were often found teaching the Scriptures to natural men.
The Address continued:
"The Scriptures enjoin upon parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; but this, instead of countenancing, forbids the idea of parents entrusting the religious education of their children to giddy, unregenerated young persons, who know no better than to build them up in the belief that they are learning the religion of Christ, and to confirm them in their natural notions of their own goodness."
Just how does supporting Sunday School and Bible classes lead to "parents entrusting the religious education of their children to giddy, unregenerated young persons"? Are the Hardshells saying that because some church has had someone teach a Bible class who fits this description, who is unregenerate, therefore the whole idea of Bible classes are wrong? If we accept that kind of logic, we would have to quit holding church services because some minister was unqualified! Just because some churches put unqualified people into teaching Sunday School does not mean that Sunday Schools themselves are the problem.
Further, as I have already shown, though the parents have the responsibility to insure that their children are educated, this does not preclude them delegating to others the authority to teach their children.
The Address continued:
"But whilst we thus stand opposed to the plan and use of these Sunday Schools, and the S.S. Union, in every point, we wish to be distinctly understood that we consider Sunday Schools for the purpose of teaching poor children to read, whereby they may be enabled to read the Scriptures for themselves, in neighborhoods where there is occasion for them, and when properly conducted, without that ostentation so commonly connected with them, to be useful and benevolent institutions, worthy of the patronage of all the friends of civil liberty."
Again, this is pure nonsense. No Christian in his right mind will accept such reasoning. It is okay to teach children to read, so that they can read the Scriptures, but it is not okay to also teach them the Scriptures? What if the only thing that was done in Sunday School classes was to read Scripture? Would not the Hardshells find fault even in this?