There are vast differences in people’s understanding of each term in the title so it is appropriate to briefly describe the perspective of this paper to eliminate uncertainty or confusion. The definition of education will be directly related to Jesus Christ so it is authentically Christian. The philosophic presupposition is that ultimate reality is intimately related to the triune God who has revealed Himself[1] through His created world—the spiritual and physical universe, His written word—the Bible, and the living Word—Jesus Christ. Because the scope of this paper is limited, the implications of this perspective will be considered instead of arguments for this presupposition. The unity and consistency of a perfect God’s self-revelation requires that the Bible be accepted as the infallible measure of the accuracy of the perception we have of God from our environment or from our personal relationship to Him. Thus the strengths of mysticism and pragmatism are preserved while their limitations are avoided by depending on the Bible as the final authority in all matters which it addresses. This paper, therefore, quotes the Scriptures as justification for the concepts that are presented.

Education is the process of preparing people for life. This definition implies at least two participants, the one who is doing the preparing and the one being prepared. The roles may be formal or informal, rigid or shifting, but both are necessary. Usually the one doing the preparing is designated "teacher," while the one being prepared is "the student." Although both participants must be active in the process of education, there is a definite burden of responsibility on the one who is doing the preparing,[2] for he must determine what preparation is necessary,[3] and eventually, the student will become like him.[4]

It is important to understand that God has given primary responsibility for teaching to parents.[5] There has been considerable emphasis over the past years on the family, but often the input of the parents has been assumed to be devotional, social and recreational. The presupposition seems to be that academic preparation for life can be left to a state system without worrying about the choices that it makes regarding life preparation. The truth is all parents are involved in home schooling. The only differences are in the breadth and depth of the curricula offered. The informal teaching that begins as an infant[6] and continues throughout the maturing process[7] is vital, and has a lasting effect,[8] but that instruction can be forgotten or repressed under the influence of other teachers.[9]

The connection between the world-view of the school teacher and the content and effect of his teaching, seems to have been largely ignored. While struggling to convince and prepare parents to spend a few minutes (hours?) each day with their children against the ungodly pressure of peers, TV, Internet, music, etc., the working arrangement seems to be to ignore the long, structured input of a system where God is at best tolerated, usually ignored and often ridiculed. A dozen years in the care of people with this kind of perspective can be very influential because they are communicating vital life skills along with their world view.

A child who has been properly trained to be submissive to authority[10] is in a particularly vulnerable position when he is voluntarily placed by his parents under authorities who give him false instruction. He has not yet learned enough of God's Word to distinguish right from wrong[11] and yet is expected to learn from a teacher who ignorantly or deliberately distorts the truth.

Parents are not expected to be the only teachers of children. Throughout the Bible spiritual leaders within the community and church were responsible to teach.[12] When gathering as a church, the instruction of others has priority over personal worship.[13] It is, therefore, consistent to establish schools where parents delegate the responsibility of teaching to others God has especially gifted to teach.[14] However, any school that calls itself Christian must also remember that parents are responsible for their children, and thus their education. It must never consciously or unconsciously adopt the "normal" attitude that because it has the "answers" it is best fitted to make decisions regarding children. Parents need to be informed and consulted. In the elementary and secondary school, the students are under their parent's authority, so it is the parents to whom the school is responsible, not the student.

For education to be Christian, it is necessary for both the teacher and student to be Christians. If the teacher has not confessed his sin and by faith, trusted what Jesus Christ has done for him, his view of life will be perverted[15] and his preparation misleading.[16] The Apostle John urges us to carefully determine whether the instruction we receive comes from God[17] and Luke praised the congregation that checked Paul's message with Scripture.[18] Paul himself tells us to refuse false teaching no matter how much we care about the teacher or what his credentials or past performance may be.[19] It is a delusion to think that a teacher without spiritual life can produce positive results in the spiritual life of a student.[20] God can keep the blight of a godless teacher from defiling His children, as He did in the case of Daniel and his three friends, but such a situation is not to be considered normal. Indeed, none of the other Hebrew students survived their training with their concept of a holy, jealous God intact. Even in the case of Moses, God spent 40 years getting Moses to the place where He could use him after 40 years of the best in Egyptian education.[21]

It is also necessary for the student to be a Christian. Because everyone is born with a sinful nature and cannot understand the things of God,[22] he must be introduced to Jesus Christ. The living Word of God, the Bible, is used by the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, repentance and faith so that the student is born again.[23] Evangelism is, however, the preparation for Christian education rather than a part of Christian education. Jesus said, "Go and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"[24]—Christian education. Evangelism is assumed, but not specifically mentioned because education of a spiritual corpse—“dead in…transgressions and sin”[25]—is not possible. One of the reasons that evangelism is so difficult is that people have not been given the facts that the Holy Spirit can use to convince them that it is reasonable to believe in Christ. The truth about God, His Word, His Son and our sin that is communicated at this stage is the "ammunition" used by the Holy Spirit within the heart of the individual. As an example for us,[26] God's people in the Old Testament extended their teaching to all those who were associated with them.[27]

Pre-Christian education is essential, for without it a student can only be influenced by his own sinful heart and an ungodly world. Leaving a child to “make his own decision,” by denying him godly input is at best an abdication of parental responsibility, and at worst, a reinforcement of the child's sinful disposition. In our zeal to reach a needy world, however, we should be careful not to confuse our goals. Our desire to be both salt and light in the darkness of the secular educational system doesn't require us to sacrifice our children to the misguided instruction of that system. Christians are needed in all areas of life and the world as Christ's witnesses and their children may be a key to opening the doors to hardened hearts, but too often children are sent to secular schools without any real thought about who will be most influenced—the child or his peers and teachers.

There is a definite dichotomy involved in a Christian view of students. Because students are created in the image of God, they are worth teaching.[28] Investing in their lives has eternal significance because they, unlike anything else on earth, are eternal creatures.[29] However, because all men are fallen creatures, they are sinful. Rather than expecting them to be naturally interested, respectful, diligent, patient, etc., the teacher expects their first impulse, like his, to be wrong. Putting children into a godly environment will not change this natural tendency although it may supress its darkest manifestations.

Because the teacher recognizes that all manner of negative behavior is the result of the student's nature, he will not be personally crushed if a student doesn't respond to him. He will, however, be searching for every opportunity to introduce the student to Jesus Christ whom to know is life eternal.[30] He will try to develop an environment where students are kept from temptation because he knows they will naturally fall. He will clearly present God's standards so everyone can recognize their sinfulness and thus their need of a Savior. Sin always destroys, so choices will be limited so that as little as possible of sin's destruction may be experienced.

Students do not need to be introduced to sin, but to holiness. The human mind records every experience so we wish to add as little nourishment to the natural man as possible. No one needs to experience sin to know right from wrong, even though Satan keeps playing variations of his original lie that godliness (god-like-ness) requires you to know evil as well as good.[31] This perspective makes the Christian classroom fundamentally different from those controlled by human philosophies which have accepted Satan's lie.

One of the objections to special Christian schools is that they are “hot-house” environments which do not properly prepare students to live in a world that operates in opposition to God's ways. This objection ignores the detrimental effects of exposure to error, especially in a context of approval. Just as people learn to discern counterfeit money by exposure to "the real thing," so people learn to discern error by exposure to truth, not lies.

It is easy to assume that only human participants are involved in education, but unless Christ Himself controls and motivates the process, it cannot claim to be Christian. Christian education is the life-changing preparation of Christians by Christians, under the control of the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit who speaks only of Christ,[32] is the one who works within the individual to produce real change.[33] When a person is born again, He comes into his life, transforming the individual, giving him both the desire and power to live life according to God's standards.[34] Because He is the only one who can really communicate what God thinks about any given situation,[35] He is the real teacher even though He works through human teachers.[36] As Elihu observed in the book of Job, "Who is a teacher like him?"[37]

The core of Christian education involves discipleship, where the student learns to live life as a follower of Jesus Christ. It is God's desire, and always has been since before creation and the Fall, that He have a family of sons like His beloved Son, Jesus. Because it is God's goal that we become like Him,[38] meaningful preparation for life must have the same purpose. Although this supernatural work by His indwelling Spirit cannot be accomplished by any human teacher, Christian education cooperates with God, rather than opposing Him.[39]

Because God made people to live forever after physical death, preparation for life cannot legitimately focus on only the first 100 years of life. It is ridiculous to focus attention on the briefest of introductions to a life that continues forever and say that a person is prepared for life. Only a Christian education can put the daily decisions of life into their proper eternal, rather than a temporal context.

The purpose of Christian education is reproduction where the student becomes the teacher of others.[40] God is glorified as His will is done in generation after generation of those who have learned His will and have allowed Christ Himself to do God's will through them. God wants everyone to be able to say like Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”[41] This is the culmination of the becoming-like-the-teacher process.

It is, however, necessary to consider in some detail the contents of the process, as well as the participants. The Bible lists many things that are to be taught such as:

  1. Commands, decrees and laws that God gave Moses[42]
  2. God's ways of operating[43]
  3. God's actions in our lives[44]
  4. God's words[45]
  5. The way to live[46]
  6. God's power[47]
  7. Knowledge and good judgment[48]
  8. Discernment[49]
  9. How to pray[50]
  10. God’s will[51]

However, the content of teaching has three basic dimensions: knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

The first dimension involves the learning of information and skills. It is the dimension that is available to all whether Christian or non-Christian. Although no one knows everything, only the Christian is free to explore all areas of knowledge. For the non-Christian, black-holes of ignorance prevent the light of truth from penetrating and prevent the knowledge which a student gathers from being balanced. Paul confirmed that "all the treasures of…knowledge" are hidden in Christ[52] so ignoring Him is definitely a handicap for any student.

Because the Bible is God's sufficient revelation of Himself, it must be at the center of Christian education. Although God has also revealed Himself in nature,[53] His primary revelation of Himself is in Christ, the living Word[54] and in His written word. The Bible must interpret all natural revelation, because God's infallible word must supersede man's fallible interpretations. A thorough knowledge of what God has specifically said is, therefore, an essential element of Christian education.

The second dimension is understanding. In this dimension the knowledge gained is related to all other knowledge and a framework is developed into which new knowledge can be fitted. If a framework is developed that does not acknowledge the centrality of God who both created us and wants to recreate us in the image of Jesus Christ, it will be inadequate because it does not conform to reality. To be properly prepared for life, a person must understand that God exists and what He is like.[55]

God has given specific instructions about how to live in the world He made. These laws are absolutes that neither time nor culture can change, for God never changes.[56] He did on occasion give new instructions for new situations,[57] but the Scriptures are now complete and unchangeable.[58]

In many situations God has given no specific instructions. The Bible does, however, provide principles upon which an individual must act. These principles are applicable for all time and in every culture, but the way an individual acts may vary from situation to situation as the Holy Spirit helps him understand how the principles apply.

The final dimension of education is wisdom. This involves living according to the understanding that has been developed. Because it is impossible to live life the way it should be lived without the Spirit of God, only Christian education can be a complete education.[59] Knowledge without understanding always develops pride, and understanding without application always develops guilty responsibility. A secular perspective cannot provide either the godly perspective needed to truly understand life or the power to live out what is understood.

When Bible knowledge is understood and applied, it is often restricted to the area of behavior or Christian life-style. The Bible confirms, however, that a change of the mind is necessary before a change in behavior can be expected[60]. It is the thinking of an individual that must be first changed and then quite naturally the behavior will change. If this priority is neglected, behavior will depend on what values are reinforced by the circumstances. As soon as the person moves into a situation where pagan (godless) values are accepted and encouraged, it will be natural for the person to behave in an ungodly (without God) manner. This kind of situational ethics can only be avoided by a transformation of the thinking process, not the environment. It is important to anticipate the kind of demands that will be encountered so that the individual is prepared to respond in a godly manner[61]However, we are encouraged to know that when we find ourselves in situations for which we are not prepared, the Holy Spirit will give the exact words that are necessary for that moment.[62]

It is unfortunate that many schools that train Christian leaders still think of Christian education as only involving Sunday School, youth groups, etc., thus promoting a dichotomy between the sacred and secular. Instead of seeing every area of life as vitally connected to the Lord and Creator of this universe, Scriptural principles are often only applied to human relations, personal self-image and eternal destiny. People are not developing a comprehensive world-view with God at the center and all areas of life and thought fitting together around Him. They are, therefore, poorly prepared to bring transformation to their own culture or any other.

If the need for Biblical integration is dealt with, often only a few students are involved who plan to deal directly with schools, rather than all students. Pastors and missionaries, are usually not required to consider the issues even though they must have answers for the people to whom they minister about how to deal with the conforming pressure of the world[63] on their children. However, every Christian worker and parent needs to consider carefully all that is involved in preparing those for whom they are responsible to live in both time and eternity.

Christian education occurs when each individual involved allows Christ Himself to work within to transform them completely—heart, soul, mind and strength[64]—by the living word of God so that they become like Jesus. This kind of preparation for life must be based on God’s revelation of Himself as His nature defines what is real, what is right, and what is beautiful. As all the implications of God’s revelation are explored and integrated into life by the power of the Holy Spirit, God will be glorified as He deserves. Anything less does not deserve the name of Christian education.

Footnotes

[1] Amos 4:13 He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth--the Lord God Almighty is his name.

[2] James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

[3] Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. [10] The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.

[4] Luke 6:40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

[5] Deuteronomy 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deuteronomy 11:19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Psalm 78:5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children

Proverbs 31:1 The sayings of King Lemuel—an oracle his mother taught him

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

[6] Isaiah 28:9 "Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast?

2 Timothy 3:15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

[7] Psalm 71:17 Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

[8] Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

[9] Deuteronomy 20:17-18 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. [18] Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.

[10] Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

[11] Isaiah 7:15-16 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. [16] But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

[12] 2 Chronicles 15:3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law.

1 Tim. 5:17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

[13] 1 Corinthians 14:19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

[14] Romans 12:7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach

[15] Jeremiah 3:21 A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the Lord their God.

[16] Matthew 15:14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

[17] 1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

[18] Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

[19] Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! [9] As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

[20] Matthew 15:14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

[21] Acts 7:22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

[22] 1 Corinthians 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

[23] Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

[24] Matthew 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

[25] Ephesians 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,

[26] 1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.

[27] Deuteronomy 31:12 Assemble the people—men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns—so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law.

[28] Matthew 10:31 So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

[29] Matthew 25:46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

[30] John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

[31] Genesis 3:5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

[32] John 16:13-15 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. [14] He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. [15] All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

[33] 2 Cor. 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

[34] Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

[35] 1 Corinthians 2:11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

[36] 1 Corinthians 2:13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.

[37] Job 36:22 "God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him?”

[38] 1 John 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

[39] Acts 5:39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

[40] 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

[41] 1 Corinthians 11:1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

[42] Deuteronomy 5:31 But you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess."

[43] Exodus 33:13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.

[44] Deuteronomy 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

[45] Deuteronomy 4:10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children."

[46] 1 Kings 8:36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance.

[47] Job 27:11 "I will teach you about the power of God; the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal.

Jeremiah 16:21 "Therefore I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord.

[48] Psalm 119:66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.

[49] Ezekiel 44:23 They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.

[50] Luke 11:1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

[51] Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

[52] Colossians 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

[53] Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

[54] Hebrews 1:2 but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.

[55] Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

[56] Malachi 3:6 "I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

[57] Acts 10:13-15 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." [14] "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." [15] The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.

[58] Revelation 22:8-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. [19] And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

[59] John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

[60] Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he….(KJV)

[61] 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

[62] Mark 13:11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

[63] Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

[64] Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

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