One of the most important questions Christian parents face is how to educate their children. For many Christians in the US and UK, the natural decision is to send them off to the government schools. This may be because they have no other choice due to their circumstances (i.e., financial, single parent etc.), they are unaware of other options, or they just don’t think there is anything wrong in doing this.
One of the objections Christians raise to taking their child out of government schools is that they need to be “salt and light” in that school system (see Matthew 5:13–16). However, this argument is not based on a proper understanding of the text. In Matthew 5, Jesus is telling his followers (those who believe) that they are salt and light, not that they should be salt and light. It’s a statement of fact, not a command to go and do something. The purpose in educating our children is to train them with the intention of sending them into the world.
The purpose in educating our children is to train them with the intention of sending them into the world.
Some Christians also argue that we do not find the word education in the Bible. That is true, but there are many passages that deal with the issue of training our children intellectually, spiritually, philosophically, and morally (Deuteronomy 6:4–25; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). At the same time, there are also numerous passages that warn us of allowing the world to influence us intellectually, spiritually, philosophically and morally (Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 1:21 and 15:33; Colossians 2:8).
Below are some reasons that I believe we should provide our children with a Christian education:
1. Leading Them Out
Have you ever stopped and thought about what it means to educate? Well, etymologically the word educate means to be “led out.”1 But what is it that we are being led out of? Classically, the idea of education is to be led out of darkness. A biblical education leads us out of the darkness of the fallen mind into the wisdom of God. We need to be informed by the One who is the source of all truth so that we escape the inerrant darkness that plagues us in this fallen world. However, in the Western world today, education is plagued by humanistic thinking. Sir Julian Huxley, a proponent and founding father of evolutionary humanism, said of education and humanism:
Education must be concerned with man’s place and role in nature, and its raw material is man himself . . . a lot of cargo will have to be jettisoned [from the Christian model of education] . . . man was not created in his present form a few thousand years ago. Mankind is not descended from Adam and Eve. . . . Children are not born with a load of original sin derived from the Fall. . . . There are no Absolutes of truth or virtue, only possibilities of greater knowledge and fuller perfection. . . . How should the new humanism’s evolutionary approach take effect in education. . . . [It must be] comprehensive, in dealing with every aspect of life; it must have a unitary pattern, reflecting the unity of knowledge and the wholeness of experience. It must attempt to give growing minds a coherent picture of nature and man’s role in it, and to help immature personalities towards integration and self-realization.2
Huxley’s ideas have influenced modern education. Huxley believed that the human mind starts out unaffected by sin and that human nature could be changed by the environment in which we live. He saw religion as the cause of all our problems and believed that children should be educated in such a way without it. Biblical Christianity, however, teaches that the mind has been affected by sin (Romans 1:21, 28, 8:7; Ephesians 4:17–18) which is why it needs to be renewed (Romans 12:2). It was the Puritan poet John Milton (1608–1674) who described education this way:
The end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright. And out of that knowledge to love him, imitate him, to be like him.3
If you ignore this notion that the mind has been affected by sin, then you end with a secular mindset which builds an impenetrable wall between the imminent world and the transcendent world. The secular worldview attempts to keep the heart and the mind apart when the Bible brings these two together (Matthew 22:37).
2. Worldview Development
Education is also about worldview development. A worldview is the basic beliefs about the world that dictate your actions. As Christians we need to understand that there is no neutral ground when it comes to worldview issues such as education; the Bible makes this clear in a number of ways (Matthew 12:30; Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 2:14; James 4:4). Since the Bible indicates that there is no such thing as “neutrality,” when it comes to our thinking about worldview issues, the claim of neutrality is unbiblical. Because there is no such thing as neutrality, we must understand that there is no such thing as a neutral education, which means all education is inherently religious. In the Western world, the secular education system is inherently humanistic in its worldview. Therefore, a child in a government school will be receiving an education that is at least partially humanistic in its foundation, if not completely so. For example, the theory of evolution is taught as fact in the government school system and is a major doctrine of modern humanism.
|Christian Worldview||Secular Humanism Worldview|
Consider this point: Christian parents would not send their child to Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu schools, yet many Christians have no problem with, or have not thought through, the implications of sending their children to humanistic centers of learning. The goal of many humanistic educators is to purge the knowledge of Christ from your child.4 The likely consequence of a humanistic school system in structure and content creates students that are dependent on the government for information, purpose, direction, self-esteem, and provision. The anti-Christian results from this are clear to see, because we are told that Christianity has nothing to do with truth, God is not the source of wisdom, the government is responsible for your well-being, and that nothing is connected to anything else. As Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til stated,
Non-Christian education puts the child in a vacuum. The result is that child dies. Christian education alone really nurtures personality, because it alone gives the child air and food. Modern educational philosophy gruesomely insults our God and our Christ. How, then, do you expect to build anything positively Christian or theistic upon a foundation which is the negation of Christianity and theism? No teaching of any sort is possible except in Christian schools.5
This is why we need a biblical understanding of education. Where we are as a culture has very much to do with the fact that some forward thinking people with a multi-generational vision decided to use the education system, make it mandatory, and make it their goal to eliminate what they thought was religious superstition and to establishment a socialistic, secular worldview. We are now seeing the fruit of that.6
3. The Beginning of Knowledge
What is the purpose for which we acquire knowledge? In our Western culture, we believe acquiring knowledge is an end in itself. In other words, people think they acquire knowledge so that they can pass the exam so that they can qualify for a job so that they can acquire all the things that they want in life. Rather, we ought to pursue the knowledge of God because, if we pursue God, we have the greatest good that there is to attain (see Philippians 3:8).
A true education is not just the transfer of knowledge from one individual to another but as Dr. Voddie Baucham points out “education is about discipleship and whoever educates your child disciples your child” (see Luke 6:40).7 Discipleship is about one following another, learning to emulate, learning to walk in certain ways, not just acquiring information. Therefore, if we separate knowledge from discipleship, then we begin to see the acquisition of knowledge as being more important than the development of character. Knowledge needs to be integrated with discipleship, because by itself knowledge is not enough; it will merely puff up (1 Corinthians 8:1). In order to have knowledge, the Bible teaches that
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Is an education system that is not rooted in the fear of the Lord really a place you want to entrust your child?
Is an education system that is not rooted in the fear of the Lord really a place you want to entrust your child? The Bible tells us that we are to apply our minds to knowledge because knowledge is a necessary ingredient for wisdom. In other words, you can have knowledge without wisdom, but you can’t have wisdom without knowledge (Proverbs 4:7, 22:17). We need to keep in mind that the Bible tells us that in Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). For Christians, this is a statement relevant to all other philosophical statements. Paul is saying that all knowledge, not just spiritual knowledge, is to be found in Jesus. Therefore, Jesus triumphs over all other claims of wisdom and knowledge because of the fact that he is the Creator of all things and therefore knows all things (Colossians 1:16). Therefore, the most important thing we can teach our children is to know Jesus as Lord, and if the education system is not for Jesus it is against him (Matthew 12:30; John 13:13).
4. Teaching Them Diligently
It is the responsibility of parents to raise children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). In Deuteronomy 6 we see the goal and the process of teaching our children when the people of Israel are called to acknowledge the one true and living God as they prepare to go into a pagan land. The future failure of Israel was a failure in teaching: they failed to pass on the knowledge of the Lord (Judges 2:10; cf. Psalm 78:3–11). Israel went into exile because of a lack of knowledge (Isaiah 5:13; cf. Hosea 4:6).
Deuteronomy 6 gives us a framework for teaching our children so that they can understand the world.8 First, all education and all discipleship is theological at its root:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4–5)
You cannot truly know anything if you do not know that there is one sovereign God who spoke the world into existence (see Hebrews 1:1–3). Education inherently presupposes the need for the revelation of God. What we need is the Word of God, a revelation of himself, a revelation of his wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and truth that reveals his decrees, providence, eternal purposes, holy will, sovereign intent, direction, and guidelines. Second, there is a teaching bias, diligent teaching, which requires hard work:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6–7)
This is about the instruction between the parent and the child and is not merely an after-hours pursuit; we are commanded to teach our children throughout the day. The Bible will not teach you how to program computers or engineer buildings and bridges, but it will teach you to be an honest and diligent person. Third, there is an aesthetic aspect:
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:8–9)
The picture here is that the word of God governs the whole of our lives and not just a part of it. Fourth, an ethical bias is also part of the commandment. These are not just theoretical; they are commands. We are to be obedient to the teachings of Scripture in our Christian living:
And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers. . . . You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you. (Deuteronomy 6:10, 14)
If we can ground our children in biblical truth, then chances are they are going to be productive Christians throughout their lives.9 Fifth, there is a paradigm for godly education through a historical bias:
When your son asks you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deuteronomy 6:20–21)
The meaning of Scripture comes alive when we tell of what God has done for us in history. With the lens of the Word of God, we can look back at history and see the hand of his providence is an example for us (see 1 Corinthians 10:1–11; cf. Romans 15:4). The past is the means for direction in the present and our trajectory for the future in walking in the ways of the Lord.
When it comes to deciding how to educate our children, we should ask ourselves these question: will the education that my child receives acknowledge Christ’s lordship, point them toward Christ, and form in them truths that glorify and honor Christ? Are we laying a foundation for them to withstand anti-Christian ideas and ethics when they do have to engage them? Are we spending enough time with our children to know if they are picking up ideas from the world or if they’re struggling in their faith? Are we praying for our children and living out how a Christian should live before them? Whether you send your child to a “Christian” school (some may be that in name only), a secular school (some are worse than others, but all seem to be getting worse), or teach them at home, it is sobering to think that parents ultimately are responsible for the soul of their child—making sure he or she is exposed to the truths of God’s Word, praying, and diligently working to keep them open to the work of the Holy Spirit. Consider these things carefully and prayerfully.
Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)