Before we can discuss what Christian education is, we need to ask ourselves what education is. Education is not simply the acquiring of factual knowledge. Although facts are necessary in the process, they do not constitute education. “Getting an education” is not synonymous with “passing exams”.
If we compare education to a fruit tree, the facts would be represented by the leaves. Leaves are very necessary to a tree, and without them, a tree will die. However, there is more to a tree than just the leaves. Leaves die and fall off the tree, just as facts (so-called) change with increasing knowledge, or are forgotten. We do not keep a fruit tree for the leaves.
More permanent than the leaves are the trunk and branches of the tree. These represent the world view that we are being taught. It is important for us to realise that all education teaches a world view of some kind – either a theistic world view, in which man is directed to an authority above and beyond himself, or a non-theistic world view, in which man assumes himself to be the ultimate authority. Another way of saying this is to say that all education is religious education – there is no such thing as so-called “secular” education. When schools move away from a Biblical world view, in which God is acknowledged as the ultimate authority, they substitute for that a humanistic world view, in which man is regarded as the ultimate authority. As neither of these two positions lie within the realm of scientific investigation and proof, we have to face the fact that both are positions of faith. In the last analysis, everybody lives by faith – faith either in the God presupposed to be there, or faith in the conclusions of men known to have lived.
Does it matter what world view we are taught at school? Yes, because this is a fruit tree. The fruit that it bears will depend on the type of tree it is. As Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit; nor can a bad tree bear good fruit”(Matthew 7:18). If children are educated in terms of a humanistic world view, the fruit that is produced in their lives will be humanistic fruit. Even if that child becomes a Christian, his thought patterns will be humanistic. This is why the Bible tells us in Romans 12:1-2 that we are to “be renewed in the spirit of our minds” – we need to change those humanistic thought patterns for Biblical thought patterns. Because God is God, this can be done. However, it would be much better if we had Biblical thought patterns to start with.
What “fruit” do we get from our education tree? First of all, we get the fruit of “values”. Our values in turn produce our “behaviour”, and our collective behaviour makes up our “society”. When we look around at our society today, we certainly do not see evidence of a Biblical world view – rather, we see the fruits of humanistically inspired selfishness, arrogance, laziness, dishonesty and immorality.
Those of us who know something about history will realise that this has not always been the case. In Great Britain in particular, there was a Biblical world view that pervaded every area of society for a long time. When Queen Victoria was asked by an African chief what the secret was of England’s greatness, she gave him a Bible. After the Reformation – and particularly after the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 – the people of England had become people of the Book, and that Book was the Bible. This position was renewed in the Wesley-Whitfield Revival of the eighteenth century. As a result of that Biblical world view, England became a great nation. Now that they have moved away from their Biblical foundations, they have declined as a world power.
What God has done in the past He can and will do again. However, we need to do our part. A very important part in the process is the restoration of Biblical Christian education, so that a generation can grow up with a Biblical world view. This brings us to the roots of our tree – it needs to be solidly rooted in God Himself, and grounded in His Word, the Bible.
A world view is a philosophy, or, more simply, a way of looking at life. Every world view has the following components:
1. A system of authority.
2. A belief about where we come from.
3. A belief about what is right and wrong.
4. A belief about who man is.
5. A belief about where we are going.
Let us compare two diametrically opposed world views to see how this works out in practice:
System of Authority: As a fundamental doctrine of humanism is that there is no God, there is no possibility of a supernaturally inspired authoritative work such as the Bible. Instead, humanists accept as authoritative the works of philosophers from ancient times (e.g. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle), down through history (e.g. Voltaire, Descartes, Rousseau), to the present (e.g. Darwin, Marx, Freud, Engels, Nietszche, Dewey, Spock).
Where do we come from? A humanistic system presupposes that there is no supernatural being “out there” controlling our destinies. Man is therefore a product of evolutionary chance, a series of genetic “accidents”. He is responsible to no-one except himself. “Every day, in every way, he is getting better and better.” We also need to take great care of our environment – there is nobody else to look after it. It all depends on man – if we fail, our grandchildren will have no world to live in. This is the basis of the “Greenpeace” movement.
What is right and wrong? For a humanist, there is no such thing as an absolute moral standard. Each individual decides for himself what is right or wrong, and society determines the framework of what is acceptable or not acceptable. This framework changes with the generations. What was wrong for our parents is not necessarily wrong for us. For example, there was a time when “living together” was considered wrong, but now it is considered normal, sensible, even desirable. Man is responsible to no-one but himself.
Who is man? According to the humanist, man is simply the highest product of evolution. He is superior to all other creatures (sorry, evolutionures) because of his well-developed brain. Man, by taking thought and acting collectively, can control his destiny and the destiny of the whole earth. Man has the potential within himself to solve all known problems, such as poverty, disease, ignorance and war. In order to do this he must work together with others. Thus, for a humanist, “socialization” is of paramount importance. Man is not created by any supernatural force or being, and is therefore not responsible to anyone except himself.
Where are we going? Humanists believe history moves evolutionarily. We are moving towards the perfect, utopian society, in which there will be no problems such as poverty, disease, ignorance and war. We will achieve this by working together and by putting our superior brain power to work. We will select from all mankind the most intelligent people to rule over us all. There will be no more divisions such as national barriers, economic barriers, language barriers, racial barriers or even gender barriers – all will be equal. There will be perfect equality, perfect freedom, perfect brotherhood. This is why humanists have such a positive attitude towards Marxismand Communism – their world view is virtually identical to the Marxist ideal. In the struggle to reach this perfect state of things, there is going to be war, bloodshed and great loss of life. Humanists have therefore divided wars into two types: “good” wars and “bad” wars. Any war that advances the cause of global utopia (communism) is a “good” war (e.g. the Gulf War) and should be fought. Any war that does not do this is a “bad” war, and should not be fought (e.g. the Vietnam War). When we understand this, we will begin to understand international politics.
Think about what your child is learning at school and watching on T.V. Doesn’t it correspond to the above ideas?
System of Authority: As Christians we accept the Bible as the authoritative, infallible Word of God. It is the final authority in the life of a Christian, and is the “Source Book” for every discipline of study and every area of life. There is no area of life about which the Bible says nothing. In Biblical Christian education, therefore, the Bible has to be central.
Where do we come from? God has told us in His Word that He has created all that exists, including man. Each person is individually created in the image of God, and is unique. Man is thus responsible to God, his Creator. God is also the Creator and Preserver of His creation. Although man is responsible to look after the earth, God is the One Who preserves the earth. We don’t have to worry that there will be no earth for our grandchildren to live on, because God is in control. At the same time, we are not to be careless and wasteful in the way we treat the earth, because we will have to give account to the true Owner one day. Thus we avoid simultaneously the twin errors of earth-worship and earth-neglect.
What is right and wrong? As God is our Creator, He has the right to determine how we should live. He has given us full instructions in His Word on how we are to live. Our first responsibility is to worship and obey Him in all things, and our second is to act in love towards all other people. God’s moral laws are unchanging. We don’t break them – just as we don’t “break” the law of gravity – they break us if we ignore them. In our present society there is ample evidence to show that it is sheer folly to ignore the laws of God. Doing so does not harm Him, as He is always the same, but it does harm us, and eventually destroys us and our society.
Who is man? Man is a being created in the image of God, the highest point of creation. Man is neither free nor determined – he is responsible to God. Each person is who he is because of his response to God, whether positive or negative. No person can refuse to respond to God, and God knows the response of every individual human heart. No man can successfully oppose God, for He is Sovereign Lord over all mankind. However, man is in a state of rebellion against God. In spite of this, man is loved by God, to such an extent that God was willing to die for man in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who bore our sins in His own body on the Cross. The Bible tells us that all mankind will live for ever – either in heaven with God, or in hell without Him. Each individual person is therefore of eternal significance. There is no higher view of man than the Biblical view.
Where are we going? God has set up His Kingdom on this earth by coming and living among us in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross and rising again from the dead. Each person who comes to Him through the Lord Jesus Christ, turning away from his sin in true repentance and asking His forgiveness, is born again into His Kingdom. Our duty as Christians is to establish His Kingdom in our own lives and in every area in which we live and work. One day our King, Jesus Christ, will come back and be acknowledged by all, Christians and non-Christians, as the Lord of all. His Kingdom will last forever.
If our children are taught in accordance with the above framework, it will make a tremendous difference to the way they live.
As we have said, all education is religious. Education in the West has been based during the twentieth century on the humanistic world view. One of the most influential people in this regard has been John Dewey (not to be confused with the John Dewey who drew up the Dewey Decimal System used in libraries).
John Dewey was a dedicated humanist and an atheist. He drew up and was a signatory to the First Humanist Manifesto, published in 1933. He was an educator, a professor at Columbia University, and had tremendous influence on teacher training in the United States. He is known as “The Father of Progressive Education”, and our new Outcomes Based Education is the best expression to date of his ideas.
John Dewey became very dissatisfied with the American system of education in the 1930’s. He objected to the absolutist nature of the curriculum, and to the obviously Christian foundation. Here are a few quotes from John Dewey:
“Elementary schooling was everywhere in the past devoted to the promotion of literacy. It was identified with acquiring skill in reading, writing and figuring … higher education was almost equally controlled by concern for symbols, namely advanced mathematics and foreign languages.” … John Dewey, 1930.
If children are not meant to learn to read, write and cipher at school, what are they meant to do? John Dewey believed that schools should be agents for social engineering:
“Schools do have a role – in the production of social change.” … John Dewey, 1930.
“It is the business of the school environment to eliminate … the unworthy features of the existing environment …Selection aims not only at simplifying but at weeding out what is undesirable.” … John Dewey, 1938.
And what did he consider “undesirable”?
“We must drive the very idea of God from the mind of man.” …John Dewey, 1938.
In an educational setting, this means simply leaving God out of the subject matter being studied. Religious Instruction is permitted – as long as it is kept separate from the “important” subjects in the curriculum. In this way children will get used to thinking of the practical issues of life without any reference to God whatsoever.
“The teacher is the new missionary – it is his job to spread the new gospel of Humanism to the children.” … John Dewey, 1938.
Notice the religious terminology used. Humanism is a religion!
These ideas of John Dewey – and many more – have formed the basis for Western education (including South African education – even so-called “Christian” National Education) for the second half of the twentieth century. When we understand this, we will understand why educational standards have plummeted, both in the United States and in South Africa.
Some of the important results of humanist-based education are:
A de-emphasis on the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. The “Look-and-Say” method of teaching reading has virtually gutted the literacy of the nation. Children are taught to guess words rather than to read, and are unfit to read anything except the newspaper, magazines and popular novels. This effectively cuts them off from the world of ideas and serious thought. The “New Maths” has had a similar effect on the mathematical prowess of the nation, producing a generation of people who are dependent on calculators for even the simplest calculations, and who seem to be completely devoid of the ability to think logically.
A de-emphasis on factual knowledge. According to humanists, the facts are not important. After all, there is such a great amount of knowledge in the world. It is impossible for anyone to learn it all. Pupils need rather to learn how to access information – in encyclopedias, the library, on the computer, etc. What is really important is that the pupils “grow together in the process of becoming”. We therefore find that the actual content of the subject is played down, while more emphasis is placed on project- and group-work.
A strong emphasis on socialization skills. According to humanists, people need to learn to work together in order to solve all the problems of our world. At school, then, pupils must above all else learn to work together. In the practical classroom situation, this can take the form of group discussions, group projects, class debates and so on. What is discussed is not as important as the discussion process. The democratic procedure is also used extensively to teach the children to bow to the majority view of the group.
A strong emphasis on self-expression. For the humanist, there is no absolute standard of right and wrong. Personal opinion becomes the final authority. Children must be encouraged to “express themselves” without limitation. As knowledge is found within ourselves, we will discover what we need to know without being told by some outside authority. There is therefore a strong emphasis on “discovery learning”. In the new “Outcomes Based Education” the role of the teacher has been further de-emphasised, so that now he/she is called a “facilitator” rather than a teacher.
A strong emphasis on “fun” in education. If children are to be free to express themselves, they must not be forced to do things that they don’t want to do. All “drudgery” must therefore be removed from education. Everything should be “fun” and attractive to the child. “Drudgery” would include anything that takes some effort, for example, memorising poetry or the tables, practising long division, learning lists of dates, rivers, mountains or products of countries, etc.
As we have said, all education is religious. Biblical Christian education is based on the Biblical Christian world view, and this will affect all areas of study.
What does God say about education?
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe … so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands … so that you may enjoy long life … be careful to obey so that it may go well with you … these commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads … be careful that you do not forget the Lord. …Deuteronomy 6:1-12 (NIV)
Education, according to God, is supposed to take place all the time, within the context of normal, daily life.
“We will not hide them from our children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power … wonders … statutes … and … law … so the next generation would know them … and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God … and … would keep His commands. They would not be like their forefathers … stubborn and rebellious … whose hearts were not loyal to God. … Psalm 78:4-8 (NIV)
Notice the order of things here: we are to teach the next generation about Who God is and what He has done, and then they will put their trust in Him. God does not expect us or our children to make “blind leaps of faith”. He wants us to know in Whom we are putting our trust – and we can only know that by being taught by somebody else who already knows Him as Lord in every area of life.
What does God have to do with a normal school curriculum?
“For by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” … Colossians 1:16-17 (NIV)
As all things were created “by Him and for Him”, it follows that He must be the centre of every discipline of study. To ignore the Creator when attempting to study His creation is sheer folly:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” … Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
“… Christ, in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” … Colossians 2:3 (NIV)
Let us remember, then, that God has a purpose in education:
“And He made known to us the mystery of His will … to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one Head, even Christ.” … Ephesians 1:9-10 (NIV)
From this we know that God’s purpose in South Africa is to bring this nation into submission to our Lord Jesus Christ. When we teach a Biblical Christian world view to our children, we become part of this great work and endeavour of His. What a privilege!
Some of the features of Biblical Christian education are:
A strong emphasis on the “relevants”, i.e. the “Three R’s”. Because God has communicated with us through a written Word, it is of vital importance that we learn to read, write and cipher well. In reading we teach the most logical method: that of learning the letters and the sounds corresponding to them and learning how to put letters (and sounds) together to make words. At the same time we learn to write and spell what we are reading. In Maths we teach first the basics: number combinations, tables, how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, how to work with fractions, decimals and percentages. When these basics have been mastered, we teach our pupils how to apply them in real-life situations. For this logical thought processes are vitally important, as well as a “tidy mind”. One reason why Biblical Christian education is always popular with the ordinary man-in-the-street is because normal parents want their children to learn to read, write and cipher, and they recognize that these skills are taught in schools based on the Biblical Christian world view, while they are lacking in humanistically controlled schools.
A strong emphasis on discipline and order. Christians recognize that man, though created in the image of God, is depraved. This means that he is fallen, ruined by sin, and is unable to respond properly to God apart from the grace of God. It also means that man in his natural condition is a rebel. That rebellion must be dealt with early in a person’s life, so that later they will be able to turn to God and obey Him. Children are not “naturally good” and “naturally keen to learn”. They have to be trained in diligence and good study habits. They have to learn to do patiently work that sometimes seems tedious and even (to the child) unnecessary. They have to submit themselves to the teacher’s way of doing things, even if they themselves think that they can find a better, shorter and easier way. They have to have humility of mind in order to be able to learn from others. They have to submit to the discipline of exams. These, and many other things, contribute to the discipling of the child in the ways of the Lord.
A strong emphasis on hard work. A Biblical Christian realizes that work is not part of God’s curse on man. Work was given to Adam before the Fall. The Bible tells us that God works continually – in the hearts and lives of His people, in the affairs of nations, in the care for and upholding of His creation. Work, therefore, cannot be a bad thing. In fact, work is a form of worship, and is a great blessing to mankind. Children have their work assigned by God just as adults do. The work of a child is to study, so that he can be trained in the ways and works of God and can one day take his place as a faithful steward of God’s creation in whatever field to which God may call him. Children will one day give account to God for the way they have done their work, just as adults will. We do not do our children any favours when we try to make school one long fun-session. Children who learn to work hard are the ones who find deep enjoyment and satisfaction in their studies – not those who do as little as possible hoping to have more leisure time.
The realization that God is Lord over all of life. As a child studies the different subjects from a Biblical Christian perspective, he begins to realise that God is in control of every area of life. God is a wonderful Mathematician, a skillful Scientist, a brilliant Strategist, in control of History (which is actually His Story), a great Artist, and so on. God has given directions on such practical matters as buying and selling, employers and employees, dealing with crime, family relationships, and many, many more. Just as there is no place where we can flee from His presence (Psalm 139), so there is no area of life in which He has nothing to say. All life is sacred. All legitimate work is done as unto the Lord. All relationships are subject to His scrutiny.
A strong emphasis on our personal relationship to God. A Biblical Christian realizes that a person is who he is on the basis of his response to God – either positive or negative. Thus the primary relationship for any person is that person’s relationship to God. After that, his relationship with his fellow man is of great importance. The child is “vertically socialized”; i.e. he is taught how to relate to God, his parents, older and younger siblings and other relatives. In this way he is fitted for society, and is able to relate to all kinds of people on the basis of the Biblical principles governing relationships that he has learned at home.
The basic principle at the root of the Biblical Christian world view is that Jesus Christ is Lord over all of life. This means that there is no such thing as “sacred” versus “secular”. Jesus Christ is Lord in politics, in the family, in the business world and in education just as much as He is Lord in the Church. Our duty as Christians is to bring this perspective to our world, to inform others of His Lordship in these different areas, and to implement this practically wherever we can. This is why a Biblical Christian has no use for the term “full-time Christian service”, as this implies that there is simultaneously a “part-time Christian service”. Every Christian is called by God to implement His way and will in the area of life in which they are involved.
There are seven areas of life which influence all people. They are as follows:
The Church – because man is a worshipper. Ever since Jesus Christ came to invade the history of our world, every person has had to come to terms with this fact, whether they accept Him as Lord and Saviour or not. Those who have never heard of Him, or who have rejected Him, are involved in false worship of one kind or another. God calls upon us to worship and praise Him as the highest Being over all that is.
The Arts – because man is a creator, being made in the image of God. God has endowed man with differing gifts and talents. Every person has some creative ability within himself or herself. We are to use these gifts and talents to the glory of God.
Education – because man is a learner. Children are born curious. (The only way to destroy that curiosity is to send them to a humanistic school!) God’s first commandment to man was to “subdue the earth”. In order to do this, we have to know about our world. God wants us to know – but we are to observe His basic principle in this too: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). It is significant that as education has moved away from its Christian basis, so the standards have dropped. People today are far more ignorant than people of, say, a hundred years ago, even though they theoretically know more facts. In Science we have been living on the capital of the past, and that cannot last forever. As we return to the Lord in education, we will find that the standard of work and study is raised, and new discoveries will once again begin to be made.
- Economics – because man is a worker. God instituted work before the Fall, and God Himself set the example by working in creation, and by continuing to work, not only in the lives of individual men and women, but in preserving and maintaining His whole creation. Man’s work is to be done as a form of worship to God. God has so ordained that man will earn his keep by honest, hard work, and He blesses diligence with prosperity. We have to be careful, however, not to forget that it is God “Who gives us the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18), and be thankful to Him. One way of doing this is by honouring Him with the first-fruits of our labours, by tithing our income faithfully. When we do this, we acknowledge His Lordship over us in this area. We are also not to fall into one of two errors: either seeing work as an undesirable thing and trying to get out of it as much as possible, or becoming so involved with our work that we become workaholics. Both errors are wrong. God has given us one day in seven to rest, so that we will work hard for six days (countering the first error) and will rest on the seventh (countering the second).
The Media – because man is a communicator. It was God Who first said “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). In our relationships with others, we are to honour the Lord by dealing truthfully, fairly and respectfully with our fellow human beings. This applies at the individual level, the national level and the international level.
The Government – because man is a ruler. God is the Author of government, which He instituted for the orderly procedure of fallen man. The God-given responsibility of government is to provide protection for its citizens, whether from outside attack or from criminal activity within the country, and to see that justice is done. Those who govern are to do so in submission to Jesus Christ, Who is King of all kings and Lord of all lords. When this is the case, a government will be operating from a position of strength – the strength of the Lord Himself. It is not the function of government to provide education, medical care and financial help for its needy citizens. These functions are to be undertaken by families, the private sector and/or the church.
The Family – because man is a procreator. God has ordained that human beings will be involved with Him in the bringing into being of new people. This is a sacred responsibility, and must not be treated lightly. God has ordained the marriage relationship, so that two people who love one another and are committed to one another will be able to bring into the world more people, whom they will love, feed, clothe and provide for and raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In doing this important task parents are given the privilege of working alongside the Creator Himself. The marriage relationship must be kept pure and free from sexual immorality of any kind, so that this can be done.