A Brief Apology for Christian Education
Consider the closing verse of the Old Testament predicting the coming of the Messiah: “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction." It would be tragic if people did not love their children. We take for granted that people have everywhere and always had a solicitous attitude toward their children. We want the very best for our kids—not just materially, but spiritually, too. We want our children to value what we deem important. Particularly, as believers, we desire them to come to faith in Christ, and consider the ramifications of Christianity for their world-and-life view.
God has made parents stewards of children, to mold and shape. Our children, says the Psalmist, “are a heritage from the Lord,” indeed, “the fruit of the womb is a reward.” We are called to elicit from our children those things that are pleasing to God. Ultimately, they belong to Him, and that is why Christian education is imperative.
In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked about paying taxes, “’Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’"
His response is interesting: “But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar's.’ Then he said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.’"
If Caesar’s image is on the coin and he calls it back, says Jesus, then you pay your taxes. But, he continues, we should render to God the things that belong to God. By way of contrast, Jesus is saying that those items bearing God’s image, rather than the visage of Caesar, must be given to God. But where is God’s image found? In man, and that includes our children. They are not only an inheritance from God, but His image-bearers, too, and we should render them unto the Lord. We must turn them over to God. Our children ultimately do not belong to themselves or us, but only to God.
Teachers play a powerful role in shaping pupils. Jesus points to this truth in Luke 6:40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” As a student matures and becomes “fully trained,” says Jesus, he will become like his teacher.
Likewise, Scripture warns against identifying too closely with the world and its philosophies. Paul says in Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
If we give our children to those who hate or ignore God, mock His Law, and love the world, Jesus tells us that they will emulate their teachers. Christians believe they can turn their beloved children over to an avowed a(nti)theistic educational establishment for 30 hours a week and undo the damage by spending a handful of hours teaching Christian truths. We seem to believe that our kids can be just as worldly as your average pagan as long as we toss in a little Jesus here and there and maybe a slightly different view of creation. But in the end our children become rag dolls, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
If our kids are taught to see the world as unbelievers see the world, they will ultimately be conformed to the world. We must not turn over our children to those who deny and mock our God.
Moreover, education is primarily an extension of the family, not the state. "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. 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. 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.”
The Word should be on our minds constantly. We should be enraptured by it. If we are in covenant with God, we will love him single-heartedly and single-mindedly. And yet, that is not enough to remain faithful to God. For God says that we must also teach these precepts diligently to our children. Parents have a duty to show their children the world as God’s world, to think His thoughts after him. If his Word is written on our doorposts and a sign on our hands then it must not be compartmentalized. God’s Word speaks not to merely “spiritual” matters, but also authoritatively speaks to how we should think about science, economics, politics, and art. Do we diligently teach our children to do such things by handing them to teachers who do not love God, or ignore God?
Why are Christians so socially impotent? Why are we not light scattering the darkness? Why has the salt lost its savor? Why are we faithless in heeding Jesus’ command to occupy until He returns? I would argue that the Church has ceased to look at life in terms of the fullness of God’s Word. We have not made his Word central to our lives. Likewise, we have turned our children over to Molech. We give our children to covenant breakers and then are surprised when they don’t grow up to be covenant keepers. We’re shocked that our evangelism seems so lacking and our influence is so minute when we don’t even reach our own children with the Truth.