Education & the Christian Parent

How believers are to go about educating their children has been a matter of debate for many years, especially since the advent of options such as government schools, private schools, and all the other variations (“home schooling” was all there was, originally). Every parent should take the issue seriously, and thoughtfully consider all the biblical evidence that sheds light on how parents are to submit to God and make wise decisions in these areas.

Apple for the Teacher

Apple for the Teacher (Photo credit: George C Slade)

One viewpoint is that Christian parents should not use public, government schools at all (other options will be presented below). Douglas Wilson, author of Standing on the Promises: A Handbook of Biblical Childrearing (Canon Press: Moscow ID, 1977) argues that “Christian parents are morally obligated to keep their children out of government schools.” While I don’t necessarily agree with his conclusion, we should see in Wilson’s reasons the important issues that parents cannot neglect:

  1. [The] Scriptures expressly require a non-agnostic form of education.  Wilson bases this reason on Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which is the foundational biblical text for parents regarding teaching their children. Education is inherently spiritual in nature, and government schools increasingly claim that they are unable to address legitimate spirituality in their education.
  2. [The] requirements involved in keeping the greatest commandment. Jesus requires His people to love the Lord their God with all their minds (Matthew 22:37). Similar to the first, this reason would prompt Christian parents to ask about their children’s public, government school (or other school, for that matter) whether it facilitates loving God with all their mind, or impedes it.
  3. God expects parents to provide for and protect their children…sending children into a intellectual, ethical, and religious war zone without adequate training and preparation is a violation of charity. Parents should recognize that public, government education is not neutral with regard to thought, ethics, values, moral and even spiritual instruction, and likely contradicts the biblical worldview in those areas.
  4. [The] declared intellectual goal assigned to the Church in Scripture (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Believers are to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The point of education is to glorify God, exercise dominion over the earth, and engage in spiritual battle in the realm of thoughts and beliefs. The goals of public/government education are quite different.
  5. [The] continued presence of Christians subsidizes a lie [that government is independent of God in all things, teaching without submission to God and his word]. Wilson’s argument here is that by continuing to utilize government education, Christians implicitly agree with the government’s idea that education is God-free.

Whether or not you, as parent, agree with Wilson that government schools should be avoided, you should seriously consider whether these principles about education are what the Bible teaches, and, if so, how you will follow God in them while participating in government schools. This applies equally to private and/or Christian schools: the crucial criteria for any non-home school is whether the Christian parent can abide by God’s teaching on education while sending his children there.

Many Christians teach in government and other non-home schools. It may be appropriate to remain there, but Christian public educators, too, should be deliberate and intentional about how they will honor biblical teaching regarding education while working in a system that, by definition, will not honor that biblical teaching.

There are, obviously, viewpoints other than Wilson’s regarding Christian education.  The Gospel Coalition (www.thegospelcoalition.org) has a series of articles written from the various perspectives: Favoring Home School; Favoring Public School; and Favoring Private School.

The Christian parent has significant responsibilities regarding his children’s education. The primary duty is to examine the Scriptures diligently regarding education, and submit to the Lord in what you find, regardless of how it changes your thinking or how it differs from the world or how it might change your life.

If the Christian parent concludes, after faithful examination of the Scriptures and diligent prayer over the matter, that public/government or private school is the way to go, he must recognize that God does not shift the primary responsibility of education to that public, government school, or even to that private, Christian school: the parent remains responsible to God to teach his children. The decision to send children away from home for schooling does not end the parent’s obligation to teach, or permit the parent to put the child’s instruction out of his mind; in fact, the parent may need to do more to ensure that such education is proceeding in a way that honors God.

The point is that God will hold parents accountable for how they instruct their children. If you are a Christian parent, examine the Scriptures for what God says on the subject. Humbly submit to that teaching, and pray for wisdom to apply biblical truth to your life. Once you make a decision, regularly review whether your choice remains the wisest and most faithful.

Copyright 2013 Rob Faircloth

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