Category Archives: Education

A Powerful World War 2 Resistance Story

Faith and Victory in Dachau, Jack Overduin.  St. Catharines: Paideia Press, 1978. 

Back in 2018 and early 2019, dark times seemed to threaten Christian education in the Canadian province of Alberta.  The radically left-leaning NDP government of Rachel Notley was pressuring Christian schools to abandon biblical teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity.  There were threats of not only defunding, but also removing the accreditation of Christian schools.  All of this was thankfully averted by the sound defeat of the NDP in the April 2019 provincial election.

Today other threats are looming in both Canada and Australia.  In both countries, there’s impending legislation in relation to so-called “conversion therapy.”  Canada’s legislation is being discussed in federal parliament (Bill C-6); in Australia the legislation is being put forward in the state of Victoria, but with potential impact across Australia.  Such legislation would make it illegal even to pray with someone who struggles with their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Offences under this legislation could result in prison sentences.  This is another thinly veiled attack against Bible-believing Christians, churches, families and education.

In times like this, the temptation is strong to lie down and play dead.  We might hope that we can just quietly go on with our lives and the powers that be will just ignore us in our little corner of society.  However, their agenda is clear.  They won’t stop until they bring us to heel.  That means bringing us to celebrate and affirm their ideology in every corner of life.  It’s a totalitarian agenda.

We need stories from our past to inspire us to resist the temptation to give up and give in.  Jack Overduin’s Faith and Victory in Dachau is one such story.  Overduin was a pastor in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland) during the Nazi occupation.  While he was serving the church at Arnhem, the Nazi occupiers tried to seize control of the local Christian school.  One of the teachers was a Nazi sympathizer.  He made accusations against the principal.  That led to the attempted Nazi take-over.  When the school board resisted, two of its members were arrested and control of the school was turned over to the Nazi education department in the Netherlands.  When this happened, the parents refused to send their children to the school and the teachers refused to teach. 

Rev. Overduin was convinced that he had to provide leadership to his congregation at that moment.  He prepared a sermon on a relevant Bible passage.  As he climbed the pulpit, he spotted two Gestapo agents sitting in the pews.  He had a choice.  He could boldly preach what he prepared and face the consequences, or he could back down and remain relatively free.  He chose the former.  After the sermon the congregation sang, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” the famous hymn by Martin Luther.

Some days later Overduin was arrested by the Gestapo.  The rest of the book describes his initial imprisonment in Arnhem, his transfer to a camp in Amersfoort, a brief time in Nuremburg, and then finally a lengthy stay in the hellish concentration camp of Dachau.  This part of the book vividly describes the brutality of many of the Nazis, but also the surprising humanity of a few others.  Eventually, in late 1943, Overduin was released from Dachau and allowed to return home to Arnhem.

If you have a Dutch Reformed heritage like I do, this book will resonate with you.  It’ll give you a profound insight into how our forefathers resisted Nazi totalitarianism and the price some were willing to pay.  It’ll embolden you to do the same in our day against the totalitarian forces we’re facing.  However, even if you don’t have such a heritage, seeing Christians of deep conviction standing up to resist anti-Christian persecution should be inspirational.

Throughout Overduin made it clear that we shouldn’t look at him as a hero.  His story is really a story about the power of Christ in the lives of his people.  In his grace, Christ gives the power to resist evil forces which seek to destroy the gospel.  He concludes, “My prayer is that this story has made a God-glorifying impression on you, and that you will say with me, ‘How great and good Christ is, how faithful and merciful!’” (p.252).

I need to make a couple of remarks to finish off.  First, in a number of places, Overduin spoke quite favourably about some Roman Catholics he encounters in Nazi custody.  Two of these Roman Catholics die and he speaks about them going to heaven.  In a spirit of Christian charity, I’ll assume Overduin said this because he personally heard these men profess faith in Christ alone as the only Saviour.

My other remark has to do with another struggle against oppression taking place around the same time, this one in the church.  During the Nazi occupation, there was a doctrinal and church political struggle going on in the Reformed Churches.  Synods made heavy-handed doctrinal declarations that were imposed upon the churches.  When ministers like Klaas Schilder refused to fall in line, a synod suspended and then deposed him, even though this was contrary to the agreed-upon Church Order.  This resulted in the Liberation of 1944.  Jack Overduin didn’t agree with the Liberation.  After the Second World War, he continued to be a minister in the so-called synodical churches.  It’s regrettable that Overduin didn’t take the same bold stand against synodical oppression that he took against the Nazis.  Nevertheless, I don’t think that takes away from the value of Faith and Victory in Dachau.  In fact, in my lifetime it’s never been more relevant than it is today. 

Faith and Victory in Dachau is available from

New Teaching Tool Added

I’ve just added a resource entitled “A Basic Christian Vocabulary.”  I use this with my pre-confession students to ensure that they’re adequately familiar with the important terms of the Christian faith.  I should say that it has been revised and adapted from the work of someone else.  However, I don’t know who, so I can’t give the appropriate credit.  If someone out there knows, I will leave the comments open on this post.  It was originally published as “Appendix II” in a book, if that helps.

Herman Bavinck on Education

One of the hats I wear is that of a sessional lecturer in church history at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers College.  Tomorrow I’ll be lecturing on Herman Bavinck and I’ll also be discussing his contributions to educational philosophy.  Here’s an excerpt from my lecture notes:

Also, I want to spend a few moments on Bavinck’s views of education.  As mentioned earlier, he did a lot of work in this area.  He was an educator at the seminary level, but he was also interested in the philosophy behind education at every level.  He wrote at least three books on the topic, plus numerous essays and articles.  He was among the pioneers of careful Reformed thinking about the philosophy of education.  Unfortunately, nearly everything Bavinck has written on this subject is still in Dutch.  We do have a couple of books in English about Bavinck’s educational philosophy.  One of them is Cornelius Jaarsma’s 1935 book, The Educational Philosophy of Herman Bavinck: A Textbook in Education.[1]  Following Jaarsma, let me just summarize three of Bavinck’s contributions to this area.

Bavinck was conversant with contemporary educational philosophy in general.  For instance, he had read John Dewey and was quite familiar with his views.  Bavinck recognized the antithesis in educational philosophy.  He saw that Dewey and others represented a man-centered (anthropocentric) approach to education.  Instead of that, Bavinck insisted that we need to maintain a God-centered (theocentric) educational philosophy.[2]

Another interesting element of Bavinck’s educational philosophy was his view of the one to be educated.  This brings him to the subject of creation and evolution.  Jaarsma summarizes Bavinck’s position like this:  “Bavinck proceeds from the creative principle rather than that of biological evolution.  He fails to find adequate evidence in biology, archaeology, geology, etc. that man finds his progenitors in lower animal forms.”[3]  Man is a special creation of God.  Here too, he insists on the antithesis.  Jaarsma again:

 Man is either a creation of God or a descendant of lower animal forms.  One who rejects the former, must resort to the latter, not because of adequate evidence, but as one’s only alternative.  If man is a developed form of animal life, he remains an animal, and brute nature will always remain with him in some form.  Education then becomes a process of embellishment in eugenics and euthenics.  ‘Man’s animal origin is no more than an hypothesis, and really no more than an opinion of the present day.’[4]

Instead, Bavinck insisted that man was a special creation of God and that humanity not merely possesses or bears the image of God, but is the image of God.  Education then is the purposeful process of perfecting man in the image of God.[5]

Finally, Bavinck also reflected on the ethical element of educational philosophy.  He recognized that education also has a behavioural component.  Here again, he draws out the antithesis between a biblical approach to education and that of secularists in his time.  Bavinck wrote, “Modern education in various ways has undermined the authority of parents, has made the child the center of all education, has exchanged the moral relationship of teacher and pupil for that of contact.”[6]  Modern educators follow the thinking of Pelagius and assert the inherent goodness of human nature.  A Reformed and biblical view of education proceeds from a position that takes total depravity and original sin seriously.  Children need discipline.  However, mostly for practical reasons, Bavinck was not an advocate for corporal punishment in schools.  He was also aware of how corporal punishment has become abusive.  Other means should be found to keep children in line and they should be:  1) geared towards the individual, and 2) positively geared towards correction.[7]  But we need discipline as part of our education, because discipline teaches self-control, and self-control is the way to true freedom.

Now there is much more that could be said about Bavinck’s educational philosophy.  I’ve just hit on three of the more interesting points.  If you want to find out more, read Jaarsma’s book.

[1] There is also J. Brederveld, Christian Education:  A Summary and Critical Discussion of Bavinck’s Pedagogical Principles (1928).  The English book, Essays on Religion, Science and Society has a couple of shorter writings of Bavinck on education as well.

[2] Jaarsma, The Educational Philosophy of Herman Bavinck, 134.

[3] Jaarsma, The Educational Philosophy of Herman Bavinck, 149.

[4] Jaarsma, The Educational Philosophy of Herman Bavinck, 140-141.

[5] Jaarsma, The Educational Philosophy of Herman Bavinck, 215.

[6] Jaarsma, The Educational Philosophy of Herman Bavinck, 172-173.

[7] Jaarsma, The Educational Philosophy of Herman Bavinck, 173.