By Jim Drexler
“I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme.” Martin Luther’s bold admonition reflects the teachings of both the Old and the New Testament. Throughout the Bible, God differentiates between light and darkness, wisdom and ignorance, saved and unsaved, and Jesus himself clearly teaches that “he who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). Whether you have been committed to Christian education for years or whether you are just now exploring the possibilities, consider the following from this perspective: How can Christian parents best fulfill their obligation to train and nurture their covenant children (Deuteronomy 6:4–8)? Specifically, what type of education effectively prepares children for “works of service” (Ephesians 4:12)?
Misconceptions about Christian education
A Christian school is not a place where a few “ornaments” like prayer, chapels, and Bible classes merely complement an otherwise secular education. Genuine Christian education seeks to integrate God’s Word into every facet of the curriculum as well as all co-curricular activities. As the Puritan theologian Charles Bridges wrote in his commentary on Proverbs, “The religious training must not be the border of the garment, which might easily be cut off. It must be the pervading substance throughout.”
Second, the phrase “Christian education” should encompass more than the study of religion. Unfortunately, many evangelicals have too narrow a definition. Christian education, they think, takes place only in Sunday school, during Bible studies, or at home during family devotions, but this view is too limited. The apostle Paul exhorts us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Saint Augustine wrote that “every good and true Christian should understand that wherever he may find truth, it is the Lord’s.” Reflecting the same conviction, John Calvin wrote, “We shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it whenever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God.” True Christian education relates God’s Word to every aspect of life.
Third, a Christian school is not a “safe house” from the world. Many well-meaning parents think that the Christian school offers protection from the evils of the world. A Christian school is not a guarantee against sin. The difference, however, is that the Christian school disciplines by teaching students about God’s demands, and His forgiveness, grace and mercy.
Finally, the Christian school is not a reform school for families who have exhausted other options to solve their problems. The Christian school should be their first choice, the place where Christian families, the church, and the Christian school can prepare students for effective lives of service in God’s kingdom.
The necessity of Christian education
We are living in what some have labeled a “Post-Christian Age.” In Against the Night, the late Charles Colson described our “barbaric” and “decadent” times as “The New Dark Ages.” The church itself is reeling under the onslaught of secularism as noted by the late Francis Schaeffer in The Great Evangelical Disaster. Waging an all-out attack in order to win people’s hearts and minds, secular forces are winning on many fronts, including education.
How should Christian families respond? Clearly, we should never despair, for the Bible teaches that “the earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1), that God’s Word will “not return … empty,” (Isaiah 55:11), and that the “gates of Hell will not overcome” His church (Matthew 16:18). God’s purposes and plans cannot be thwarted!
We can do more than just hope and pray—this is the role of Christian education. We in Christian education do not want to destroy public schools. Their efforts involve Christian students, teachers, and administrators, and we need to support them. However, an educational philosophy that does not explicitly declare Christ as Lord, that does not integrate God’s Word into every action, that does not acknowledge God as the source of all truth, can only, in the words of Jesus Christ, “scatter.”
The Bible clearly states that the unregenerate mind cannot please God because it places man at the center, assumes that human beings are basically good, actively suppresses the truth about God, and denies the supernatural realities of heaven and hell. The regenerate mind, from which Christian education flows, affirms the opposite: God is the creator and ruler of this universe; human beings, sinners from birth, are in need of redemption; all truth is God’s truth; and, man is not dependent on human reason alone.
The question, therefore, is this: Does a secular education enable a student to think biblically about the world? Consider the reasoning of Charles Bridges: “To expand, without soundly enlightening, the mind, is but to increase its power for evil. Far better to consign it to total ignorance, inasmuch as the uninstructed savage is less responsible, less dangerous, than the well-furnished infidel.” Similarly, John Calvin believed that “a knowledge of all the sciences is mere smoke where the heavenly science of Christ is wanting.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series in next week’s blog.
Jim Drexler is Dean of Social Sciences and the Graduate School of Education at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga.
This essay was posted Sept. 13, 2014 on worldmag.com and reprinted with permission of the author.
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