The best of Conservatism has a place for the family and of the families’ education as a principle mechanism of the conservation of the good and the transmission of knowledge. Reformed Theology, likewise, maintains that the children are a vital part of the covenant life who are members being trained up for the conservation of the Gospel, the highest good and most important knowledge. Thus their education is key.
The Idea of the Conservative Attitude
There are many different conceptions of Conservatism; there are Burkean Conservatives (those who follow the tradition of Edmund Burke), National Conservatives (those who seek to maintain the distinct identity of their nation), religious Conservatives, and the like. Modern parlance, for those of us in America, would associate the word “Conservative” with those who, at a socio-political level, advocate for traditional morality and free-markets. This contemporary viewpoint, though a real form of conservation, should not be confused with the more general conception of Conservatism I am articulating here. Broad Conservatism, at the human level, encapsulates the attitude of one who believes he has something, deeply tied to his identity, that is worth defending and holding fast to.
Conservatism in this broad sense esteems the social mechanism for the education and preservation of knowledg—an intergenerational duty. As Burke pointed out, society is a “partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are dead and those who are to be born.”
The Reformed Doctrine of the Covenant
The Reformed doctrine of the Covenant details the manner in which God relates to mankind throughout history (WCF VII:I). God, to our human father Adam, gave a covenant of works. He, the representative of all mankind, was called to keep all God’s commandments as our righteous head. “Life,” as the confession says, “was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon the condition of perfect and personal obedience” (WCF VII:II). Yet Adam did not obey, and man is consequently fallen. Having fallen, God mercifully initiated the covenant of grace and continually and effectually conveys the substance of that covenant, Christ, to His elect. This covenant, for us, is received by faith alone and not by works (WCF VII:III).
God historically, substantively, definitively, and eternally inaugurated this covenant of grace in Genesis 3:15. And it’s substance, Christ, is progressively revealed throughout redemptive/scriptural history. Initially, we learn of the substance of the covenant when we are taught about a representative unlike Adam who will come to crush the head of the serpent, (Genesis 3:15). Then under Abraham, we learn that this substance, in fact, a person, the Christ, will be a blessing unto the nations (Genesis 17:7-9). Under Moses, we learn in detail and clearly how this substance, the Mediator, will become a sacrifice for us. Under David, we learn that He will be a king. And in the New Covenant, we know Him, His name, and His works, – He is Christ, the Lord Jesus, God almighty – the One who came to save His people from their sins.