Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

[Appendix II.] — The Secular Education League. — An Appeal by Churchmen to Churchmen

[Appendix II.]

The Secular Education League.

An Appeal by Churchmen to Churchmen.

The Secular Education League, without committing itself to the views expressed by the signatories of this Manifesto, issues it as a valuable contribution to the discussion of the principle of the education provided by the State in Elementary Schools.

Among the many forcible arguments which have been adduced in favour of the "Secular Solution" there would seem to be comparatively few-which deal with the subject on distinctly Church lines. The object, therefore, of this appeal is to offer Churchmen a few reasons why they, before all others, should support the cause of the Secular Education League. And be it noted that the phrase "Secular Education" by no means implies hostility or indifference to religion, but simply restriction, on principle, to secular subjects in the education which is provided in schools supported by the State.

If there is one thing which differentiates a Churchman, it is surely the second of the three baptismal vows by which he is under obligation to "believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith." These, according to his Catechism, are summed up in the twelve clauses of the Apostles' Creed. He cannot, therefore, be satisfied with any religious instruction other than that which is based on these formulae, and which obviously cannot be given in schools which are as much the property of those who do not believe them as of those who do.

"Simple Bible Teaching," as it is called, does not provide him with his religious knowledge, which is not derived primarily from the Bible, but from the teaching of the Church whose doctrine is anterior to the Books of the New Testament, and was at first transmitted by "oral tradition." Cardinal Newman, in "The Arians of the Fourth Century" (written fourteen years before he left the English Church), says:—"Surely the Sacred Volume was not intended, and is not adapted, to teach us our Creed, however certain it is that we can prove our Creed from it when it has once been taught us, and in spite of individual producible exceptions to the general rule. From the very first that rule has been, as a matter of fact, that the Church should teach the truth, and then should appeal to Scripure in vindication of its own teaching."

page 22

The converse of this is likewise a necessary axiom; for, just as the [unclear: Bibles] vindicates the teaching of the [unclear: Church], so also the teaching of the Church interprets the Bible, which otherwise might be misunderstood, for "[unclear: N] prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 Pet. i. 20). [unclear: Hence] for the Churchman, religious instruction is based upon the teaching of [unclear: the] Church plus the Bible—the two cannot be separated—for, according to [unclear: the] Articles, while (Art. VIII.) "The Church hath authority in controversies [unclear: of] Faith," yet (Art. XX.) "Whatsoever is not read—in Holy Scripture—[unclear: m] may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should [unclear: be] believed as an Article of Faith."

This being the case, it stands to reason that in education provided by [unclear: a] State which is bound to respect the convictions of those who adhere to [unclear: all] sorts of beliefs, and of those who adhere to none, a Churchman cannot [unclear: recognise] a pro rata system of religious instruction.

And, further, supposing that some contrivance could be discovered [unclear: whereby] the State might authorise the teaching of Church doctrine in all its [unclear: fullness,] he could not conscientiously be a party to it; for, according to his [unclear: theory,] there is only one body divinely commissioned to decide what is to be [unclear: taught,] and that body is not the State, but the Church; and there is only one [unclear: set] of persons qualified to teach it—viz., those who are duly authorised by [unclear: the] Church and are fully persuaded as to the truth of what they teach.

Ever since the divine command to "Go and teach all nations" there [unclear: has] been laid upon the Church the obligation of providing for the [unclear: religion] instruction of the people. It is an obligation which cannot be transferred [unclear: to] an external body like the State, which, although it may be composed [unclear: of] those who profess Christianity, yet may include those who do not, [unclear: and] which does not in any way assume itself to be ecclesiastical. To hand [unclear: over] the right of imparting religious instruction to such an institution is [unclear: so] surrender one of the most sacred trusts committed to its charge, and [unclear: one] which, from the first age of its existence, has ever been most [unclear: jealously] guarded. For the history of [unclear: the] methods employed by the leaders of the early Christian Church is an evidence of the extreme caution with which they proceeded in the matter of religious education.

It is sometimes asked how the Church is to fulfil its obligation [unclear: without] being subsidised in some way by the State. The principal requisite is [unclear: greater] faith in its divine mission. If the bishops and clergy had a stronger [unclear: conviction] that what they are divinely commissioned to undertake they will [unclear: be] divinely assisted to fulfil, this question need not be suggested. The [unclear: first] teachers of the Christian religion performed their task without either rate-and or State-aid, and the result of their labour is still to be seen. [unclear: Whereas] now the object of leaders of religion seems to be to get done for them [unclear: what] they ought to do for themselves. Apropos of this it may be well to [unclear: quote] an utterance of the Bishop of Birmingham (Dr. Gore). Speaking to [unclear: the] Society of the Catechism in the Church House, he said: "We are now, more or less, in the middle of a [unclear: crisis]. We are always in the middle of a crisis. This crisis is about the religious question in our day schools. I would [unclear: ask] you, then, to get at the root of our difficulty. What is it? The heart of our difficulty is partly that we have shifted on to the wrong shoulders the central function of teaching children; secondly, that we have so lost the idea of what the teaching of the Church is and the meaning of religious education that we are considered by the public to be unreasonable and uncompromising people if we are not disposed to admit that the County Councils can settle the standard of sufficient religious knowledge for everybody."

The difficulty as to means might be overcome to a considerable extent if the Church would mind its own business, and leave to the State what the latter can do so much more effectively—and there is historical precedent [unclear: for] this—pace those who assert that education of all kinds can only be [unclear: given] in "a Catholic atmosphere." "During the first three centuries the [unclear: Christian] parent justified himself in sending his sons to pagan schools on the [unclear: ground] of simple necessity; and while Christian doctrine was taught by Christian, secular knowledge was sought in the ordinary channels . . . and [unclear: even] page 23 the recognition of Christianity by the State does not appear to have produced any sudden change in these conditions. The 'Schools of the Empire,' as they were termed, not only continued to exist, but maintained their traditions of education unmodified" ("Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,". Smith and Cheetham; Article "Schools," vol. ii;, p. 1847).

It is not to be assumed that either Cardinal Newman or Bishop Gore would avowedly uphold the Secular Solution; but, both being men of integrity and sound common sense, they have made admissions which tell strongly in its favour.

Most assuredly, then, is it to the highest interest of Churchmen that they should unite with men of goodwill, who, although differing in their views of religion, are at one in their desire to promote peace and justice in the upbringing of the future generation.


W. Busby,

M.A., Rector

St. John's

, Maddermarket, Norwich.

G. K. Chesterton.

C. Hallett,


Vicar St.

Barnabas, Oxford.

Stewart D. Headlam

, B.A., L.C.C.

George R. Hogg

, M.A.,

St. Albans,


Donald Hole

, A.K.C.

Selwyn Image

, M.A.

D. C. Lathbury

, M.A.

J. Mitchinson

, D.C.L., Bishop, Master of Pembroke College, Oxford.

W. E. Moll

, M.A.,

Vicar St. Philip's,


Conrad Noel.

George W. E. Russell

, M.A.

W. A. Spence

, M.A.,

Vicar St.

Frideroide, Oxford.