December 16, 2017

The Education Dilemma Faced by Christian Parents

Phil Suiter

What is a Christian parent to do? Faced with the clear teaching of Scripture about the education of children, the Christian parent is often limited in the options available to provide the education prescribed in the Word of God. Secondly, the Christian parent is not always firmly grounded in the teaching of Scripture regarding child rearing and thus does not address the matter of education with the resolve that is found in God’s Word.

What does the Scripture say about the education of children?

First, the Bible is clear in teaching that children belong to God. This is the issue of child ownership. If one reads the literature of the day, two other teachings regarding child ownership are often stated. Sometimes children are identified as belonging to parents. Even many Christian parents subscribe to that teaching because the matter is seldom addressed in churches. What is of greater concern is the second teaching by many in the public arena—that children belong to the state for purposes of education. The legal basis for all compulsory attendance laws is that the state has a “compelling interest” in the life of each child and, therefore, can compel each child to attend a public school. Compelling means “enforceable by law.” The word interest means “legal entitlement.” Such thinking conflicts with the truth of Scripture.

The truth about child ownership is basic to thinking about the education of children. Ezekiel 18:4 says, “All souls are mine.” The verse goes on to clarify that God owns each of us, including adults, and that each one of us stands individually responsible before God. An individual can blame no one else for wrong choices that are made. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” The expression “they that dwell therein” includes each of us.

The New Testament also contains clear teaching about child ownership. Romans 14:7, 8 says, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”

At the very least, these verses teach that children belong to God and that He should have first claim upon their lives. That claim can be exercised only as children are taught Biblical truth about God, about responsibility, and about accountability to Him. One need only be reminded of the words of Solomon in Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This fear of God should be viewed as both reverential and judicial. Each of us must answer to God for the decisions we make about all things, especially the decisions we make about the education of children.

Second, the Bible is clear in teaching that the older generation of any age is responsible to educate the next generation in the ways of God. Deuteronomy 6:7–9 places that responsibility upon the shoulders of parents. Psalm 78:6 makes the same declaration. Psalm 145:4 identifies the responsibility of an older generation to a younger generation. Ephesians 6:4 highlights the responsibility of fathers. Any study of the Old Testament will show that God had a special role for fathers in the homes of Hebrews—the spiritual education of his children. Those truths have not changed.

It can be added that the church has also been assigned a vital role in providing proper instruction for both children and adults. No pastor can afford to ignore this.

Any study of the Bible concerning the education of children reveals the following truths:

  1. God owns the children and should have first claim upon them.
  2. Parents are responsible for the education of children and thus serve as stewards in matters of education. Responsibility means parents must one day account for decisions they make about education.
  3. The older generation is responsible to the next generation for teaching Biblical truth. This places a great responsibility upon churches and pastors.
  4. The education of children must include the vital component of knowledge about God, particularly His role in creation and redemption. It must also include knowledge that enables one just to get along in life, contributing to the church and to the culture.
  5. The purpose of education is first and foremost the preparation of children for service to God, regardless of the vocational or professional choices in which that service might be offered.

What is happening in the arena of public education?

Parents should know that the battle to preserve the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation is being lost. That battle, which is really a cultural war, is being waged in public settings across this nation as public policy is defined. The prime arena for the cultural war is the public school system. Children are the targets for the new philosophy of the new culture. Paul warns the church at Colossae to “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit” (Col. 2:8). The word “spoil” in that verse comes from a root referring to valuables. Children become the “spoils” in any cultural war. They are the valuables of that war. They are worth a strong effort and sacrifice by parents to preserve them with the truth of the Word of God.

All education deals with matters of ultimate concern. Ultimate concern is what educators consider important for life. Issues of ultimate concern provide the broad philosophic framework within which education occurs and further define the focus and emphasis of a curriculum. For example, all education, private or public, deals with issues of origin, issues related to the meaning of life, and issues of destiny. Be assured of these things: (1) public education defines the origin of life only in terms of a chance factor operating in some evolutionary process; (2) public education attaches meaning to life only in terms of the here and now and in terms of the subjectivity of human choices and human experience; and (3) public education sees no destiny beyond the human life that we now know. In other words, there is little if any restraint to be placed upon human behavior since there is no higher authority and there is no ultimate truth to which humankind is responsible. Children are left with no strong understanding of responsibility and accountability.

With this philosophic base serving as a framework for making decisions, what has resulted? Many major tenets of our Judea-Christian heritage are being called into question. The sovereignty of God has been replaced with the sovereignty of man. It is now man himself, armed with this new religion of choice, who determines what is right and what is wrong. Rather than the Word of God serving as truth and serving as the final authority in matters of life, truth has become totally pragmatic. If it works, it must be true. Education for the individual child is focused on self-development or self-actualization rather than preparation for service to God.

In implicit ways, children are taught that society is all wrong and must be remade to conform to the will of man. The family as created by God and the role of parents in the family have become obsolete. Government as expressed in public education is more and more assuming the role of the family in the lives of individuals, especially the children.

Student achievement in such critical areas as science and mathematics now ranks near the bottom when compared to the industrialized nations of the world. The school day in the public system now includes such programs as anger management, anti-bullying, sensitivity training, and programs to teach acceptance of different lifestyles and different cultures.

This is not the public education that this nation once knew. In 1647 the state of Massachusetts passed the Old Deluder Satan Act, the purpose of which was to teach children to read so they would not be deluded by Satan. From that beginning, education today is no longer an education under a body of truth, specifically the Bible; but it has become an education that elevates humankind to a position of sovereignty, making truth subjective and a matter of human choice. Children in such an education setting can only be influenced in negative ways by that system.

What do Christian parents think about Christian education?

Thankfully, many Christian parents understand very well the prescription for education that is given in the Word of God. To provide that type of education for their children, they establish priorities and sacrifice to make an education with a Biblical base possible. Sometimes they work two jobs. Sometimes they establish a home industry. Sometimes grandparents offer to help. Older siblings now in the work force may also help. Sometimes churches are able to offer scholarships for children within the church. In all of these cases, a Biblical education is established as a top priority and the necessary sacrifices are made to enable that to occur.

Unfortunately what is described in the previous paragraph is not always that which prevails. Administrators of Christian schools hear many reasons that Christian parents do not take advantage of a Christian education program even when that choice is readily available. Among the reasons given are these:

My family cannot afford it. This is probably the reason most frequently given. And one cannot deny that private Christian school education is expensive and requires sacrificing other things so that Christian education can be provided. But many times that reason is given when the family is able to afford many other things of lesser importance.

There are many good teachers in the public system. Again, that statement is probably true. Many good Christian teachers are employed in the public systems of education. Yet an individual teacher cannot overcome the impact of a system that seeks to remove God. The curriculum is literally filled with knowledge that does not conform to the truth that is known by the Christian believer.

We leave the decision about education to our children. This reason places the child in a position of making a critical decision when that child does not possess the knowledge and experience to make a wise decision.

The public school offers more opportunities in athletics. Again, that statement is probably true. But that reason also reveals the faulty reasoning of parents and a failure to prioritize the teachings of the Bible concerning children.

The public school offers a broader course selection. That statement may also be true. But the core of a sound curriculum is available in a Christian school setting and such schools are now being able to expand the breadth and depth of their curricular offerings. This reason lacks merit when examined in light of data from follow-up studies of Christian school graduates. They do well in college and in life.

The public school offers a greater opportunity for scholarships. This statement may not always be true. Scholarship opportunities are growing in the Christian education movement. This reason pales when contrasted with the benefits of a Christian education.

In summary, the reasons given by Christian parents for choosing a public education for their children lack substance. Generally, it is a matter of priorities. Or it may be a failure to take advantage of help that may be readily available. Public education simply cannot be viewed as an acceptable alternative. It is anti-God. The Word of God gives an explicit prescription for the education of children and parents must be concerned with what God says.

Phil Suiter served as an educator for forty-eight years in both public and private Christian schools and as a senior pastor for twenty-six years. In retirement he continues to be busy in both education and ministry.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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