First Principles of Education
The need for a renewed mind:
The battle in the twenty-first century is for the hearts and minds of our youth! That means that God’s people need a Christian mindset to defeat the enemy and move forward on the offensive. Unfortunately, most Christians around the world today have been educated in the “world’s system” – in secular schools and institutions that teach secular humanism. If you’re like me, I received my elementary, high school (college in some nations), and university education in public or government schools, where all the decisions about what would be taught, who would teach, and what methods would be used were chosen by individuals whose minds were not renewed by the Word of God or His “first principles of life!” Ponder the writings of Paul to the Church at Colossae: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
It is a grievous fact that even many theological seminaries and Bible colleges teach from a secular philosophy of education. There may be pockets within the curriculum that are biblical, however, the worldview of most instructors, certainly the textbooks that they use, and the methods they employ to teach are progressive and humanistic. Their students do not graduate with a renewed mind or supernatural faith. By and large, our colleges and universities worldwide espouse humanism. Professors seek acceptance by other scholars based on common-ground presuppositions. These presuppositions are always humanistic, for they assert the existence of authoritative standards apart from God and a confession of supernatural faith. This is a declaration of the existence of an independent truth higher than that of the Bible. Therefore, most Christians have a secular view of education. It isn’t that they are not born again believers who love God with all their hearts, attend church routinely, and may even teach Sunday School or Bible study; however, their minds are unrenewed. Most believers have a dualistic worldview, they separate their secular life from their spiritual life.
Sunday is God’s day and Monday through Saturday they spend thinking the world’s way, solving problems the world’s way, doing business the world’s way, and teaching and learning the world’s way.
Many Christians, who place their children in private Christian schools, believe if they can just enroll them in a Christian school where God is honored, the day begins with prayer, there is weekly Chapel and a Bible verse to memorize each week, that their child will receive a Christian education! This is just not true! This is not Christian education, nor a Biblical view. We cannot lacquer Christianity over a secular philosophy, a secular curriculum, and secular methods and expect to provide the kind of education that God instructed His people to endow their children.
God’s first call to education:
God’s first instructions for educating children were spoken to the heart of an earthly father, one who would become a blessing to many nations:
The Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth wil be blessed? For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him’ (Genesis 18:17-20).
God chose Abraham knowing that he would instruct and guide his children and those in his household in the ways of God. God’s ways are not man’s ways, nor are God’s thoughts, man’s thoughts. His ways and thoughts are higher! (Isaiah 55:8-9).
God’s “first principle” for education has always been for parents to nurture their children in the ways of God, bringing them up in His love and admonition, consecrating their hearts and minds to love, obey, and serve Him, and commissioning them to go teach and disciple all nations. His first priority is one of holiness. God’s people are meant to look different, act differently, and be set apart for His purposes. In educational terms, this is spiritual growth and character training. The mind must be instructed with God’s principles in order that the heart, the command center for all decisions and choices, can make wise choices. Aesthetic tastes and sensibilities must be cultivated with truth and beauty, the body must be strong and vigorous. Our children must be equipped with a strong spiritual demeanor, a renewed mind, selfless Christ-like character, skills and arts in all the disciplines of study, and habits and manners of scholarship and civility, so that they can fulfill their destiny fully trained and prepared to be salt and light in society, serving and leading, not self-serving and following, providing solutions, not being part of the problem of the degeneracy of society.
In order to win the battle for our children’s minds and see the fruit of biblical, Christian education, parents and teachers need to be equipped with the mind of Christ and teaching and learning need to be founded on God’s Word, His principles and precepts. Subjects need to be taught with biblical principles at the heart and God as the author of that subject, so that the nature and character of God are revealed in the study of each discipline, whether math, grammar, science, or history! The Bible is our handbook for all of life, our “educational manual.” It is our source of truth and authority. It is our “political textbook,” as well!
As God’s people, few of us have been taught how to think and reason with the revelation of His Word. As parents and teachers, we handle eternity everyday when we teach, instruct, discipline, and mentor the hearts and minds of our children. “God’s Word is alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12), will “live forever” (Matthew 24:3 5), and “will not return to God void without accomplishing what He sent it forth to do” (Isaiah 55:11). We need to know how to direct our teaching and their learning with eternal concepts, so that the mind of the teacher and the mind of the learner can be renewed. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We need to be able to apply principles to our thinking and reasoning and the eternal and living Word of God to education!
What is a principle?
Principle is defined as “the cause, source or origin of anything; that from which a thing proceeds; foundation; that which supports an assertion, an action, or a series of actions or of reasoning.” (Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, see www.Christiantech.com)
Jesus Christ, the Logos, is the first great Principle!
Principles are the source or origin of all things, invisible, but lively and active. Biblical principles are like “seeds,” which contain all the elements and energy for producing endless, mature fruit and multiplied seed — the seed within itself! Consider an oak tree that produces acorns. With the planting of one acorn, there grows over the years a giant oak tree that produces thousands and thousands of acorns in its lifetime! Within one acorn (the seed of the oak tree), there is an endless supply of acorns! Biblical principles are the seeds that must be sown in the cultivated soil of our hearts and minds, in order for our minds to be renewed. Seeds, that must be watered, fertilized, cultivated, and tenderly nurtured. This is the foundation upon which Christian education must be established. All other foundations will not withstand the wiles of Satan and sin. Christian education, which is not founded solidly on God’s precepts, Biblical principles, cannot accomplish God’s mission for education.
Example of ‘first principles’ in education:
- God mandates parents to educate their children.
- Children are to be trained in the ways of God.
- The Word of God is our “first book of instruction” for training the “whole child.”
Genesis 18:18-19; Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 7, 20; Proverbs 22:6; Galatians 4:2, 1 Timothy 3:4; John 6:63; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Principles Applied to Education
- Authority for a child’s education resides with parents.
- Parents are their children’s first teachers and first models of the character of Christ.
- Parents may delegate their authority to a tutor/teacher.
- Christian education begins with instruction in God’s ways.
- Christian education is both instruction and discipline and should enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, furnish students with manners and habits, and prepare them for their divine calling.
- Parents are responsible to train their children in Christian character.
- The parents’ duty to educate should not be abdicated nor usurped by the school or the state.
- Education requires from parents a daily investment of time and instruction.
- When enrolling children in a school, parents should remain active and involved in their child’s education.
- The parents’ voice should be sought and honored by the school or tutor in all decisions that affect the child.
You can reason from the Biblical principle to its application in education and see how your policies can be developed for the founding of a school, or how your home school setting can rest securely on the Word of God.
- Select a topic or subject of your interest and reason through the biblical and educational principles, discerning the flow of power and authority. Take fatherhood or motherhood, teaching or learning, leadership or servanthood. The Bible has many principles for these topics. Or perhaps, you would like to examine politics, mathematics, geology, or communication. It’s a wonderful exercise that births new understanding of the subject chosen. First and foremost, this exercise will introduce you to the nature and character of the Author of the subject in a way, perhaps, you’ve never experienced.
- It would benefit you to share what you’ve learned with others. May the Lord bless this small beginning with inspiration and fresh insights for each of you.
For Christ, His Story in the Nations, Elizabeth Youmans, Ed.D.
© Principia, February 2001
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