Christian Education Awareness Network (CEANet)
from The Quarterly Journal, Spring 1997
There is a quiet revolution taking place in America. Even though private schools have been around since the founding of our country, the private school movement has exploded in the last twenty years. In contrast, State-controlled public education has only been around since about 1830. My purpose in writing this article regarding the Christian philosophy of education is to set forth a positive, scriptural position of why we should train up our children in the Christian faith (Deuteronomy 6:1-11; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4). There are many justifiable (and negative) reasons cited by parents for taking their children out of public schools. And my hope is that more and more parents will begin to do so. However, it is important to establish a positive philosophy toward Christian education. Our main reason must be to obey God (John 14:15).
Christians are supposed to believe and behave in accordance with the biblical declaration that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10), and that "in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). Scripture also instructs each of us that "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). Therefore, a true Christian education is founded upon the teachings of God’s Word. We need to self-consciously teach our children that all subject matter (math, science, history, etc.) is integrated from a biblical perspective, and is therefore worthy of study. We must earnestly contend for the faith "which was once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Christian education should not be characterized as an "anti-public school" movement. Our major focus should be positive, as opposed to a negative reaction against what occurs or does not occur in public schools today. For example, the rival religion of our day, secular humanism, is an established faith commitment in public schools. Other problems such as falling test scores, peer pressure, lack of godly discipline, and a whole host of other problems could be cited to justify why our children should not be in public schools. However, this is not the true cause of our problems today. They are merely the results of an evolutionary worldview whereby Bible-believing Christians have failed to obey God’s Law-Word in every area of life, including education. A distinctly Christian education must exist for its own reasons, not as an escape from something else. After all, if the failure of the public schools is the right reason, why not try to help them out? Why abandon them by taking our children out? Why not try to reform them like many Christians are doing today? This article will hopefully summarize a positive philosophy of Christian education and answer those questions from a biblical perspective.
Christians Need Vision From God’s Word
The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18:
Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he (King James Version).
The word "vision" in the Hebrew means an open declaration or revelation of what God requires of us. The word "perish" in the Hebrew applies to people who cast off the restraints of an ordered life under God’s Law. In other words, when there is no open declaration of where God is taking us, people have no desire to restrain themselves and they become totally useless, pragmatic, and non-discerning in their thinking. Sometimes, they literally do perish or die. Pragmatic thinking ("whatever seems to work") has become the norm in the minds of most Christians today. The Bible tells us what happens when men disobey God and why He brings judgment upon us (Deuteronomy 28:15-57; Jeremiah 9:2; Peter 2). However, people who seek and love the Law of God shall prosper.
In 1987, University of Chicago professor Allan Bloom, published a best-selling book on education entitled, The Closing of the American Mind. Although Professor Bloom never addressed the first thirteen years of schooling, he cogently identified the problems inherent in education today. What Bloomed observed at the university level could be equally applied to the kindergarten through high school levels. John Robbins of the Trinity Foundation wrote:
"...[I]n his book, Professor Bloom, who is not a Christian, offers a brilliant analysis of the moral and epistemological relativism that now controls our entire culture, including education, the view that all values are relative, and there is no truth, but only various "truths," ..."There is no vision, nor is there a competing set of visions, of what an educated human being is."
Bloom accurately described the sense of hopelessness and confusion experienced by many of our youth on college campuses today. What type of vision or mission statement did the early colleges have in this country? Many would be shocked to learn that nearly all of the colleges and universities established in this country were founded for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith. For example, Reverend John Witherspoon, first president of Princeton, once said, "Cursed by all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ." John Harvard donated his money and Christian books to launch Harvard college. The mission statement for Harvard was that "the great end of all education is to know the Lord Jesus Christ who is eternal life." The entrance requirements for fourteen through sixteen-year-olds seeking admission to Harvard were rigorous to say the least: One had to understand Latin and one had to be able to read the Bible in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek.
The standard at one time in America was that one had to produce a thesis to get into college. Now one is required to produce a thesis to get out of college. One had to be well-versed in the classical authors, and already show competence in the higher math and science courses that would be studied. Today, children go to school in order to learn how to read, and that idea is even an abject failure because of the modern reading methods being taught.
How tragic it is that virtually all of these educational institutions have, in our own time, become totally humanistic and man-centered in their faith presuppositions (many "Christian" colleges and seminaries could be included here as well). And even though Professor Bloom brilliantly diagnosed the problem, his solution to the many social ills plaguing us today was to return to the old books and pagan scholars of the past. However, the ultimate question for all of us is: What is our final authority? Everything, including education, flows from this question.
If man is our only authority, then we will think only the thoughts and ideas of man’s so-called wisdom. (1 Corinthians 2; Colossians 2:8). However, if we accept the Bible as our only source for faith and practice, then the Bible must be the main textbook for our thinking (2 Timothy 3:14-17). As Cornelius Van Til once pointed out, we as creatures of God, created in His image, must "think God’s thoughts after Him." Only the Bible can provide us with the vision that we desperately lack today.
A biblical worldview is what our youth (indeed all people) need today. After all, the Bible claims special power:
The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division between soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
A biblical vision of Christian education is summed up in 2 Timothy 3:14-17:
But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Do we really think the average child in America today is thinking God’s thoughts after Him? Is there not a connection between the biblical illiteracy of our youth and the confusion and moral relativism which surrounds us? The great Reformer Martin Luther once said that "education without God will turn men into clever devils." Commenting on Ephesians 6:4, John Calvin wrote:
"It is not the will of God that parents...shall... corrupt their children. Let their conduct towards their children be... to guide them in the fear of the Lord, and correct them also when they go astray."
Noah Webster likewise considered education "useless without the Bible."
Developing a Positive Philosophy of Christian Education
Our starting point has to be the Bible and everything must flow out of that inspired Word. Professor and Reformed theologian Gordon Clark wrote:
"The first and basic point in a Christian philosophy of education, or a Christian philosophy of anything, is Biblical authority. Just as Platonism is defined by what Plato wrote, and not by the decadent skeptical Academy of later years, so the ultimate definition of Christianity is not the decadent confusion of liberal churches, not the pronouncements of the Pope, not the inconsistent opinions of a so-called Christian community, as is so frequently asserted in ecumenical circles, but what is written in the Bible."
What is a Christian philosophy of education? First, a Christian philosophy of education helps us to learn how to live the Christian life. It is a way of life (a biblical worldview), not just learning skills and facts at random (in a so-called "neutral" environment), which is inherent in a man-centered, evolutionary worldview. To adopt a Christian philosophy of education is to teach the student that all facts and skills are integrated within the nature of God (and His inspired Word) and, therefore, have order and purpose for our lives. It is to enable the child to grow into a mature adult, to equip him to shoulder his responsibilities as God’s image-bearer, and to equip him with the tools to glorify God in his particular vocation.
The child becomes motivated to study and train his mind because he is taught the true purpose of life (1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Timothy 2:15-16). My own son is in the process of learning his math facts by memory. We tell him that the true purpose of learning these math facts is because God gave us numbers to reflect the order and direction of His world. Therefore, math facts are important.
We have already noted that the Scriptures will make us wise unto salvation in Christ Jesus. The Scriptures will mature and equip us for every good work through which God has called us to glorify Him (2 Timothy 3:14-17). If a child is really going to be useful to God in society, he must have biblical wisdom; this should be the primary aim of education. The Bible says wisdom is primary (Proverbs 4:5-7) and if we need wisdom, we are to ask God for it (James 1:5). Biblical wisdom is not merely quoting Bible passages, obtaining biblical "head knowledge," or acquiring a lot of facts in an educational setting. It is not just memory work; it must encompass our total life. We are to be God-centered, not man-centered.
Biblical wisdom is submitting our lives and our minds to God’s Word in every field of study. As stated elsewhere, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The wisdom literature in the Bible is practical and full of godly advice about how to live in our world. How many children understand and practice this biblical wisdom today? For that matter, how many parents know about it and teach it to their children? To somehow think we can accomplish this biblical mandate with one hour a week in Sunday school is foolishness.
The use of the word "wisdom" in normal conversation today is on the decline. Reformed author and Bible counselor Dr. Jay A. Adams commented on the nature and meaning of the biblical concept of wisdom:
"The principle Hebrew word for wisdom, chokmah, which permeates the thoughts of Old Testament and New Testament writers and has given rise to a genre of writing we call "wisdom literature," denotes wisdom by experience, not just by study. It also includes the idea of discrimination between good and evil, the receiving of instruction, attitude (or mind set), and the exercising of correct judgment and skills. The scope of the word is large, encompassing the totality of one’s intellectual, living and performing experience. We have no equivalent term in English. Our own word, "wisdom," by contrast is impoverished. It is a word that in fact, rapidly seems to be disappearing from our vocabulary. Fundamentally, the biblical word wisdom brings together three factors: knowledge, life, and ministry. It is knowledge, understanding from God’s perspective, made profitable for day-to-day living for Him, and (as a part of that) shared with others and used to minister to them (emphasis in original)."
Let us begin with the word "Christian." The Bible constantly compares and contrasts Christianity with anti-Christianity. Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me" (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23). A Christian is a real disciple of Christ--one who loves Christ and obeys His Word (John 14:15).
Secondly, the word "philosophy" literally means the love of wisdom. Biblically speaking, we are to become wise in the things of the Lord as opposed to the ways of the world
(1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Therefore, the key to human happiness is to have biblical wisdom--to love and serve God and our neighbor--in whatever vocation He has called us to (Ephesians 3:14-17; Ephesians 4:12).
Lastly, "education necessarily deals with facts. And it is impossible for non-Christian education to properly handle facts for at least two reasons. Reformed scholar Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry wrote:
"One is that all facts are God-created facts and nothing else. All truth, therefore, is God’s truth. You do not properly understand any fact unless you understand it in terms of its source, meaning, and relationship to God
"Secondly, if education considers facts, especially important facts, how in the world can it be a well-rounded and meaningful education if it overlooks and even outlaws instruction in and reference to the largest fact in all of reality: God? Not only so, but non-Christian education treats all other facts as if this one, tremendous, all-controlling fact does not even exist!" (emphasis in original)
As professor Bloom observed, students have no vision or purpose for their existence today:
"...I began asking my large introductory classes, and any other group of younger students to which I spoke, what books really count for them. Most are silent, puzzled by the question....
"There is no printed word to which they look for counsel, inspiration, or joy. Sometimes one student will say "the Bible." He learned it at home, and his Biblical studies are not usually continued at the University."
The one thing each school has in common today is the efficacy of man’s wisdom--the idea that everything is relative, and there can be no absolutes for life. The only way we can really learn something is through our senses and feelings (or as Bloom believed, from the pagan scholars of the past). In other words, only the "external" and "natural" is all we can ever know or have any hope for in this world (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Furthermore, too many Christian parents succumb to the argument themselves, or it is thrust upon them by relatives and friends, that their children will miss the "socialization," or sports, or computers, or some other aspect of schooling if they have a home or private education. "The children must be exposed to the real world to learn how to live with people," the modern proverb goes. Or the alternate argument is raised that somehow Christian children need to go into the schools to be witnesses for Christ. I am almost embarrassed for Christians when I hear them advocate that reason, because it is always a rationalization to justify a decision made for other reasons (usually sports). Or if all else fails, they will say, "What do I pay my property taxes for if I am going to give my child a private Christian education?" R.J. Rushdoony called this type of thinking "intellectual schizophrenia." Many professing Christians have mastered the art of avoiding their responsibilities spelled out in God’s Word (1 Timothy 5:8). These parents must begin to think within a biblical framework (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Discerning Christians believe in positive socialization for their children. It is not a question of socialization versus no socialization. Parents, acting as God-appointed role models and examples, do not want their children exposed to evil influences of bad companions. Positively speaking, discerning Christians want their children socialized with those who are wise and mature:
He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20).
Children will learn to be foolish around foolish peers, or to be wise around mature adults and peers. A child’s primary education must be with wise and mature Christians who fear the Lord.
The notion that home-schooled children will be social misfits if they do not attend government schools, which is bandied about as the "common wisdom" of the biblically undiscerning today, just simply demonstrates how far we have gotten off track in this country. And, some of the "educated" ones even say that children must be exposed to the negative influences of the peer group in order to have a "well-rounded education." This pragmatic thinking is a distorted view of reality, and simply stirs up the sin nature and fleshly passions of children. Rev. Steven Schlei, writing in the Reformed Herald, stated:
"To be deprived of a great deal of peer socialization, is not a minus for homeschooling. Rather it is a plus! The Bible teaches that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and when you put a lot of fools together, you get a great deal of foolishness. Unfortunately, children, being the fools they are, think foolishness is something neat. Their sinful natures gravitates toward foolishness, and children become peer dependent. In other words, they are more concerned about pleasing their peer group than they are their teachers and parents (emphasis in original)."
How true are these words! Within a biblical framework, we are not isolating or sheltering our children from the government schools, any more than a parent would allow their child to have a "safe" abortion, read "soft" pornography, or any other such thing. And, if parents do allow it, then this simply demonstrates once again how far away we have strayed from biblical reality in this country. We should be training our children to be mature and fully equipped to advance the Kingdom of God and His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
There is now an international organization called Moms in Touch International (MITI), dedicated to praying an hour a week for their kids in government schools! There are approximately 30,000 organized prayer groups worldwide! According to Christianity Today, Ruth Hilden of Rockford, Illinois, says that she is committed to the concept of MITI "because prayer works," and "...because we’re all scared enough of the public schools to get down on our knees." Scared? Of what? "You name it," Hilden says. "Curriculum. Racial issues. Peer pressure. Sex. Gangs. We’re talking reality here."
This is clearly just more "intellectual schizophrenia"! MITI reminds me of the immortal words of comic-strip character Pogo Posum, who said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." No doubt, many of these moms teach Sunday school for an hour each week to supposedly erase thirty-five hours of systematic humanism imbibed by their children throughout the week. If Christians were empowered with a positive philosophy of Christian education and a biblical vision, they would be meeting weekly to decide how and when they would start homeschooling, or launch a self-conscious Christian school. It is simply disobedience to God to knowingly expose one’s child to anti-Christian education and then attempt to "baptize" it with prayer (1 Timothy 5:8; James 4:17). Are we going to knowingly turn our children over to an evolutionary, anti-Christian worldview for thirty-five hours a week, and then wonder why they have problems?
To expose a child to approximately 15,000 hours of such a godless worldview, from kindergarten to the 12th grade, is simply an overwhelming assault on the child. When we send our children into these schools, we are placing our stamp of approval upon them, and encouraging our children to learn from the schools rather than from the Bible. In reality, we erect ungodly standards for our children to adopt--and adopt them they will. Children need to be subjected to parent pressure, not peer pressure (Proverbs 15:5). The Bible clearly warns us against offending believing children:
But whosoever causes one of these little ones who believes in Me to sin, it would be better for him of a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6).
Are we going to positively obey God’s Word or be double-minded in our thinking? (James 1:8)
In summary, Stephen C. Perks wrote:
"The biblical philosophy of education, therefore, embraces more than the mechanics of acquiring knowledge or technical education. It aims at far more than the child’s fulfillment. Nor is it concerned merely with enabling the child to play a useful part in society. It is concerned with the attainment of wisdom, and this involves an attitude of orientation in life of submission to the word of God and commitment to the truth revealed therein. Its purpose is to enable the child to fulfill his true calling to live in covenant fellowship with God and thus "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever" (emphasis in original)."
Modern Education as Applied Pelagianism
The Lord God said in Exodus 3:14, "I AM WHO I AM." He does what He pleases in heaven and on earth (Daniel 4:35). He knows the end from the beginning and He will bring it to pass (Isaiah 46:9-11). God works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). He is sovereign (Romans 9), and therefore, He can command of us whatever He pleases. History is His story and the Bible is the written chronology of how He works in history. History has meaning and purpose only because He directs it according to His plan (Psalm 47).
In 1980, Christian historian Greg Singer related an experience he had a few years previously at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association. A half-dozen history scholars were at lunch informally discussing their belief that history had neither decisive meaning nor discernible purpose. Singer then asked, "If this is so, why do we teach history then?" The scholars were both surprised and disgusted at his inquiry. They offered no answer and walked off to the next "meaningless" lecture.
God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), and our actual existence and reference point begins with Him (Acts 17:28). Knowledge, and thus education, has a sure and stable foundation in the absolutely self-sufficient God. As to what man ought to believe concerning God, the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith states:
"God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."
The founders of public education (Horace Mann, Robert Owen, John Dewey, et. al.) had a common faith that the State should control and educate children. Did they believe in "neutrality" when it came to the orthodox Christian faith? Hardly. No, the founders of public education, who were mostly Unitarians, detested biblical Christianity. They believed that all men are naturally good, and that if we can just cast off the "burden" of our Christian upbringing and moral absolutes, it would bring us great blessing and peace. Not only were they wrong about the nature of man, but they demonstrated that they had an agenda which was certainly anti-Christian to the core. They did not fall into the trap that many well-meaning, but ignorant, Christians fall into today; they did not believe the "myth of neutrality." We will discuss this more later.
What did these men believe about the nature of man? They believed that man was born with a neutral nature, or a "blank slate," upon which his experience and environment writes and determines either his "goodness" or "badness." In the year 1818, socialist Robert Owen announced his humanistic discovery that a person’s character is determined by education and upbringing, not be a sinful nature. Thus, man was born tabula rosa--an innocent and neutral person. Furthermore, they believed that if men could only free themselves from belief in sin, judgment, and ultimate damnation, they would be able to form a truly liberated society. In other words, if we just throw out God and His Word and worship at the altar of man’s so-called reason, everything will be okay. In fact, this supposedly would even eliminate the need for future prisons and jails. Certainly, the casual observer today can see the crime is out of control, and prison building in the United States is a growth industry. Noted Christian author, R.J Rushdoony, wrote:
"Thus, for Dewey, orthodox Christianity, with its belief in truth and error, good and evil, heaven and hell, the saved and the lost, is antidemocratic and irreconcilable with a democratic life."
Thus, modern education is applied Pelagianism. Pelagianism is a theological system that is constructed upon the premise that man has the inherent ability to save himself. It is a belief that man does not need God to attain a sanctified or perfect life. Again, Rushdoony wrote:
"Education in this perspective becomes a program of salvation. Through education, all man’s problems will be solved. Knowledge is power, and the educator is thus the key to the social regeneration of man. The Pelagian school sees ignorance, not sin, as man’s basic handicap and problem, and, accordingly, it seeks to remove this impediment. Man must be awakened out of his ignorance to the vast world of his potentialities. The school is the institution whereby man can enter into his godlike powers and master himself and the world."
The Bible teaches in Psalm 51:5 and other passages that man is conceived and born as a fallen, wayward creature. In Romans 5:12 we are told:
...[T]hrough one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned...
Elsewhere, the Scriptures tell us that "there is none righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:10), and that "all our righteousness are life filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6), or as the Apostle Paul described them in the epistle to the Philippians, "rubbish" (Philippians 3:8). We must remember that God destroyed mankind once because of our rebellious nature (Genesis 8:21). Like fallen Adam and Eve, we want to be autonomous and do our own thing. Naturally, we do not want to take responsibility for our lives before God. It is not natural for us to want to do right, think right, and live right.
In short, man is a doomed sinner in need of Christ as his Savior. The effects of Adam’s fall into sin infected every child’s whole being henceforth-- his intellect, will, emotions, attitudes, everything. Therefore, the primary purpose of learning, as John Milton once said, "is to repair the ruin of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him." Apart from the grace and mercy of God through Christ, the Bible says we are hopelessly lost in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-10). What is the good news with which our children must be inculcated? It is the same message that was preached so long ago by the Apostle Paul:
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures... (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
This basic message, with all its implications and relevance for our lives today, brings our children face to face with the reality and purpose of their life here on earth and the judgment and glory to come at the end of history (Matthew 25:31-46).
The many humanistic programs in the schools about self esteem, values clarification, and classroom sex talk, are all lies and a colossal failure. This humanistic "faith" doctrine simply stirs up the child’s fleshly passions and natural desires and encourages more sin and rebellion in their young lives. A local pastor in our area recently remarked that it is a wonder there are not more suicides among the youth of America considering the kinds of pressures (internal and external) these children are facing today. The sad truth is that many Christian parents contribute to this madness in the name of Christianity! They have become "Christian humanists" and buy into the idea that God’s laws and man’s laws are not in conflict after all. They think that they can do whatever they want and "baptize" it with a prayer, and then everything will turn out fine in the end. Noted Christian economist and author Gary North has written:
"Protestant fundamentalist Christians have their eyes on the sky, their heads in the clouds, their hearts in Egypt, and their children in government schools. So, for that matter, do most of the other Christian groups."
For whatever pragmatic reason, they think it is their moral duty to send their children to the local public school, and, in effect, sacrifice their children to a rival religion that is opposed to nearly everything they are taught on Sunday.
Survival of the Fittest or of the Righteous?
As R.J. Rushdoony once stated, "The Enlightenment exalted reason rather than regeneration, with devastating results." What if we believe that children are simply higher-order animals with no souls? The humanistic textbooks are direct and explicit (as well as implicit) in this evolutionary approach. Facts really do not have meaning and no curriculum is integrated in a logical, and historical approach. Professor and Christian scholar Gordon Clark observed:
"Suppose a child, the human being, is an evolutionary product, simply a more complicated animal, without a soul, especially without an immortal soul..."
"The end of man is doom, pitiless and dark. All the labor of the ages is destined to extinction and must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruin. Suppose on the other hand that God created man in His own image and breathed into him the breath of life, with the result that those redeemed by Christ shall glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
We must tell our children the truth about their fallen natures and how they can be redeemed and sanctified in Christ. How can an anti-Christian school help our children to understand such things? Again, R.J Rushdoony noted:
"The god of society is the controlling force in society. In the modern world, that power is the state. The God of scripture controls man from within: the "coercion" is regeneration, a new birth, and it does no violence to the person or his will. Statist coercion is external; it seeks to remake man by the total control of man’s environment, mind, and education. The school is the key to statist coercion and control."
When our children begin to systematically understand the purpose for their existence, they truly do well in academics. But, in the hierarchy, God’s Word comes first, and everything else flows our of it.
Rushdoony, in discussing the democratic world of George Orwell’s 1984, and the differences between the old and the new totalitarianism as set forth by Roland Huntford in The New Totalitarians, stated:
"The old totalitarianism, according to Huntford, applies to physical coercion and torture to bring men under control. The new totalitarians use the schools and mind control. Sweden represents the new model totalitarian state, and its inspiration comes from American philosophies of education...
"Pupils are taught to reject traditional authorities in favor of the new, statist authorities. Prime Minister Olaf Palme, in speaking to school children, said, ‘You don’t go to school to achieve anything personally, but to learn how to function as members of a group.’ Huntford comments, ‘To remain outside the group is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and immense pains are taken to round up the independent and unwilling. The Faith is seen as a form of mental illness. The purpose of education is to serve the state and to promote economic efficiency.’"
The Myth of "Neutral" Education
Perhaps one of the greatest lies that has ever come upon the visible Church is the myth of neutrality. What are the origins and purposes of Sunday school? It began as Evangelical "outreach" centers for destitute children who were poor, or orphaned, and those who could not read in England. This concept migrated to America in the eighteenth century.
With the rise of modern education, and the idea that the State should educate children, churches inaugurated the concept of Sunday school. They were self-conscious in their emphasis that Christian churches would "offset" what children were learning (or not learning) throughout the week. In reality, they were saying that these children were spiritual orphans, lacking in the biblical faith. Hence, the churches and parents began to give up the Faith.
Spiritual life was relegated to a prayer before meals at home and whatever was done in church on Sunday, or the middle of the week. This obviously set up a dichotomy in people’s minds that one only learns about the Christian faith one day a week, and then one learns about the "real" world the rest of the week.
Christian author and homeschool advocate Gregg Harris noted:
"It is obvious that training a child in secularism, humanism, and evolution, while raising him in the Church and in a Christian home, will confuse and distort his mind. However, providing a Christian education while raising a child in the Church and in a Christian home will lead to a Christ-centered mind. God, through his mercy, will protect his children. However, that does not relieve us of our Biblical responsibilities.
"While we recognize the importance of raising our children in the "fear and admonition of the Lord," many don’t seem to recognize school as being a part of that raising even though that is where the children spend the majority of their waking hours. It is where they receive a great amount of training.
"If we argue that the children are only in school for "factual education" (reading, writing, science, and math), not needing to be taught from a Christian perspective, what are we saying? We are saying we only recognize God in certain areas of our lives. The remainder can be lived in a sort of spiritual vacuum. I don’t believe that will stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture. "And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by Him" (Colossians 3:17)."
Most people are still not aware that humanism is a religious faith and has been so declared by the Supreme Court of the United States. Humanism is the view that man is the authority in terms of knowledge or behavior. Every way of life and thought has a faith to which it is committed. Notice the deeply held faith of John Dunphy, writing in The Humanist magazine:
"I am convinced that the battle for mankind’s future must be waged and won in the public classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between old and new-- the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of ‘love thy neighbor’ will finally be achieved."
In 1978, J Catherine Conrad, a signer of the 1973 Humanist Manifesto, explained:
"We must help the God-indoctrinated person to realize that morals and ethics are man made. We must teach him he must update and discard his outdated, immoral, or evil values, replacing them with rational ones."
Many modern educators have been eager to carry out this mission. As Paul Blanchard wrote in The Humanist:
"Our schools may not teach Johnny to read properly, but the fact that Johnny is in school until he is 16 tends to lean toward the elimination of religious superstition."
Thus, in one sense, we cannot say that the public schools have been a failure. They have, in fact, been very successful in capturing our children and taking our money because of our lack of biblical discernment. We can see what 150 years of humanistic philosophy in public education has brought us: vandalism, violence, rape, rebellion, ignorance, and illiteracy.
In 1963, liberal Church historian Sidney Mead and conservative theologian R.J. Rushdoony recognized that the only established "church" in America was the government school system. If humanism, with its maxim "man is the measure of all things," became officially recognized as a religion by the U.S. Supreme Court, then it certainly is unconstitutional that Americans are forced to pay for it with both their property and income taxes. The two scholars clearly recognized that Christianity and humanism were rival creeds based upon radically different views of God, man, law, and time.
A religious faith is practiced in any system. It is never a question of faith versus no faith; there is no such thing as a neutral, "faith-free" system. In this case, the real issue is whether our children will have a man-centered humanistic education, or a God-centered Christian education.
The humanists captured the schools over a century ago and set up a "church" for the religion of humanism (they were never "our" schools in a biblical or even constitutional sense). This is why reforming government schools to make them Christian is not only a waste of our time, but would not be biblical or constitutional with tax-financed funds.
It is a fact that Christians have been financing the humanists’ worldview with our money for over a century! Likewise, Christians have been sacrificing their children on the altar of secular humanism for the same length of time. The Bible says in James 4:17, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." Christian parents need to wake up and take responsibility for their children.
There was indeed a time in history when Christians had more "elbow room" with humanists. There was a time when humanists were completely "covert" in their plans to destroy Christianity. Humanists such as John Dunphy are explicitly honest and bold in their worldview agenda today. For example, Dunphy, writing in the Secular Humanist Bulletin, commented on the previously quoted essay of 1983:
"Have I mellowed over the past 11 years? Of course, who hasn’t? But have I repudiated or even questioned the basic tenets of ‘A Religion For a New Age’? No, nor can I envision myself ever doing so. How do I respond to the fundamentalists who are so incensed by the essay? If they have the decency to confront me to my face instead of sending anonymous hate-letters, I usually say something to the effect that Pat Buchanan was right at the 1992 Republican National Convention when he stated that a cultural civil war rages across America. While the struggle is certainly quite complex and multifaceted, I continue, a significant aspect of it is comprised of the conflict between totalitarian Christianity of the Radical Right and the forces of humanism."
We are indeed in a war to the death. The philosophical struggle we are in today in America and the practices of mind control in Nazi Germany are strikingly similar. Adolf Hitler’s goal was always to break down the Christian resistance and to destroy Christianity. For Hitler, there was no neutrality or common ground wherein the opposing parties could peacefully co-exist. As Martin Borman, one of the men closest to Hitler, said publicly in 1941, "National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable."
The statist policy planners, along with those of the educational establishment, naturally do not want to let go of our children. Every year the National Education Association (NEA) meets and passes a resolution condemning homeschooling and the ‘non-certified’ personnel in the homes and unaccredited schools across our land. Test results are not the issue, nor is the fact that children in unaccredited schools annually out-perform their public school peers. The issue is about mind control and having children think the way the world and the State would have them think.
When it came to education in the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler wanted absolute control over the affairs of Germany’s youth and education. His main objectives were to control the curriculum and to mandate compulsory attendance in State schools. He wanted all his National Socialist principles included in the curriculum to control the thinking of the children. After becoming the German dictator, he said:
"When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’ I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.’"
Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, writing in That Hideous Strength, declared that there is no historical "cease fire"--no neutrality--in the war between the forces of Christ and anti-Christ. Lewis made this cogent observation:
"If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family--anything you like--at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren’t quite so sharp; and that there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and sharper."
There is no neutrality. As Lewis said, we have to be decisive. Are we going to train our children in the light and hope of the Christian faith, or send them off every day into the confusion and darkness of secular humanism?
Education is not the responsibility of the State, nor is it the responsibility of taxpayers. The Scriptures positively present education as a parental and family obligation; it is primarily the responsibility of parents, with the help of the churches.
Government schools are unbiblical, unconsitutional, socialistic, and engage in mind control of students. We must obey God and train our children in the Christian faith. Professing Christians show themselves to be intellectually schizophrenic if they approve of and support government education. There is no biblical basis for turning our children over to an anti-Christian environment for most of their young life, and then "praying" for them while they are being systematically trained to turn against us and Christ.
Man cannot save himself. Education or knowledge is not salvation. Man is a sinner, and apart from the finished work of Christ and saving faith in Him, man is doomed (Ephesians 2:1-10). The purpose of Christian education "is to repair the ruin of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him." It is to enable the child to grow into a mature adult, to equip him to shoulder his responsibilities as God’s image-bearer, and to equip him with the tools to glorify God in his particular vocation. Strengthened with biblical wisdom, the child is motivated to study and train his mind to serve God and man (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
The reason public education is perishing (and dangerous) is because it is not built on the truth of God’s Word. There is a war in progress for the hearts and souls of all of us, especially our children. Christians will win this war in time and history (1 Corinthians 15:24-25). The question we must all ask ourselves is, "Which side are we on?"
Evidence abounds that the present humanist education system is falling apart. This is even admitted by many within the system itself. Let us take a look at what the leaders of the two national teacher’s organizations had to say in this regard:
"There is no question in my mind that we are either going to change as an organization or we probably will and should go out of business."
"The schools will have to change. Otherwise public education will continue on its present course to destruction."
Of course, the humanists’ solution will be to propose grand designs to "reform" public education, with more of our taxes. We need a separation of school and State, just as there is of Church and State. We need to return to "true" public schools, where they are free-market driven and private. The keys are competition and parental control. They will be open to the public, but they will be privately controlled, market driven, and run by parents.
In the early days of our country, if the parents did not like what was happening, they could either change it, start their own school, head across the street or county for a better school, or simply home school their children. Hopefully, most parents would desire a self-conscious Christian education for their children, but it would at least be private and in the hands of parents.
In addition, people would get a true tax break on their property or income taxes. Three-fourths of the people who pay property taxes now do not even have children in the public schools! It is a bureaucratic monopoly that must be dismantled, not reformed.
From the beginning, tax-financed public schools have never been biblical or constitutional. It is the only established "church" for the religion of humanism and it needs to be abolished. The State has absolutely no authority to be in the education business; it is the duty of parents and families.
Pastor and author Robert Thoburn wrote:
"The church should begin to examine members who are sending their children into public schools. Pressure should be placed on them by elders. This would include discussions, loaning them a copy of this book or the books by R.J Rushdoony on education, and similar materials. If a church has a two-tiered membership structure which acknowledges the difference between non-communicant members (such as children) and voting members, then it should limit voting members to those who refuse to send their dependent children to public schools."
The Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostle Paul, forbade just such a spiritual union as that which results from sending our children into the public schools. Furthermore, 1 Timothy 5: 8 tells us:
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Hopefully this brief overview and summary of a positive, biblical philosophy of Christian education has been helpful to the reader. Let it be remembered that everything is inherently religious; this is an inescapable concept. There is no neutrality. Either we are training our children to think God’s thoughts after Him, or we are surely training them to deny Him and to think the thoughts of the world. So much is at stake! As nineteenth-century theologian Robert Lewis Dabney explained:
"The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which all of earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; and every parent especially ought to feel, every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is kept alive by God--this is his task on earth."
1. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (Simon and Schuster, 1987).
2. John Robbins, A Christian Philosophy of Education (The Trinity Foundation, Jefferson, Maryland), p.x.
3. John Witherspoon, quoted by Paul Jehle, "Philosophy of Christian Education" (Heritage Institute Ministries, Post Office Box 1353, Buzzard Bay, Massachusetts 02532), Tape One.
4. Cornelius Van Til, quoted by Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard (Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), pp. xv-xvi.
5. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle to the Ephesians (Baker Book House, 1993), p. 329.
6. Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (1828; reprinted by the Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco, California).
7. Gordon Clark, A Christian Philosophy of Education (The Trinity Foundation), pp. 124-125.
8. Stephen C. Perks, The Christian Philosophy of Education Explained (Avant Books, 1992), p. 64.
9. Kenneth L. Gentry, excerpt from lecture entitled "Reformed Theology and Christian Education," delivered on March 26, 1985 in Columbia South Carolina.
10. Alan Bloom, American Mind, p. 62.
11. R.J. Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia: Culture, Crisis, and Education (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1961), p. 14.
12. Steven M. Schlei, Reformed Herald, February/March 1988, p. 9.
13. Christianity Today, January 8, 1996, p. 23.
14. Stephen C. Perks, Christian Philosophy, pp. 64-65.
15. Greg Singer, quoted by Kenneth L. Gentry, "Reformed Theology."
16. Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger Catechism, Question 7.
17. In the Bible, prisons were not a part of penal system of Old Testament Israel; restitution or capital punishment are the biblically-prescribed methods of dealing with crime. See Rev. Steven M. Schlei, article: "America’s Human Zoos: A Plea for Biblical Penology," Quarterly Journal, Fall 1994 (available for $5.50 from the Foundation for Biblical Studies, PO Box 823, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57101).
18. R.J. Rushdoony, The Philosophy of Christian Curriculum (Ross House Books, 1981), p. 9.
19. R.J. Rushdoony, The Foundations of Social Order (Thorburn Press, 1978), p. 117.
20. John Milton, quoted by Paul Jehle, "Christian Education."
21. Gary North, Tools of Dominion (Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), p. 1.
22. R.J. Rushdoony, Christian Curriculum, p. 178.
23. The late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "I can see no reason for attributing to man a significant difference in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand... I wonder if cosmically an idea is any more important than the bowels." (quoted by Gordon Clark, Christian Philosophy, p. 8). Fabian Socialist Bertrand Russell believed that life and education are built "only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair" (quoted by Gordon Clark, ibid.).
24. Gordon Clark, ibid.,pp. 8-9.
25. R.J. Rushdoony, Christian Curriculum, p. 188.
26. For documentation of what is really taking place in our schools, see Phyllis Schlafly, Child Abuse in the Classroom (Crossway Books, 1988). See also Thomas Sowell, Inside American Education (Macmillan, Inc.).
27. Roland Huntford, The New Totalitarians (Stein and Day, 1972), p. 223ff.
28. R.J. Rushdoony, Christian Curriculum, pp. 189-190.
29. Gregg Harris, quoted by Christopher Klicka, The Right Choice: Home Schooling (Noble Publishing Associates, 1993), pp-167-168.
30. 367 U.S. 495.
31. John Dunphy, article: "A Religion For A New Age," The Humanist, January/February, 1983, p. 26.
32. J. Catherine Conrad, quoted by Blair Adams and Joel Stein, Who Owns the Children? (Truth Forum, 1984).
33. Paul Blanchard, quoted by Blair Adams and Joel Stein, ibid.
34. Sidney Mead, The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America (Harper and Row), p. 68. See also R.J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education (Craig Press, 1963).
35. John Dunphy, quoted by Gary DeMar, War of the Worldviews (American Vision, 1992), p. 22.
36. Martin Borman, quoted in William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Simon and Schuster, 1960), p. 332.
37. Adolf Hitler, quoted in William L. Shirer, ibid., p. 343.
38. C.S. Lewis, quoted in Gary North, Political Polytheism (Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), pp. xviii-xix.
39. Keith Geiger, (President, NEA), quoted by Marshall Fritz, The Education Liberator, December, 1995/January 1996, Volume I, Number 4, p. 12.
40. Albert Shanker (President, AFT), quoted by Marshall Fritz, ibid.
41. Robert Thoburn, The Children Trap: The Biblical Blueprint for Education (Dominion Press, 1986), p. 143.
42. Robert Lewis Dabney, quoted by Douglas Wilson, Classical Education and the Home School (Canon Press, 1995), p. 59.
© 1997, Fred Carpenter. Posted on CEANet with Permission.
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