What does the Bible say about education? By Jack Kettler
What does the Bible say regarding education? As much as it seems unthinkable, should Christians turn over their children to non-believers to be educated? In this study, both the Old and New Testaments will be surveyed to answer this question. Some noteworthy Christian thinkers will be quoted who have worked out the philosophy and theology of a distinctively Christian education.
Old Testament texts that mention education:
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (Psalm 32:8)
“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” (Proverbs 1:8)
“Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.” (Proverbs 4:13)
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD, and great shall be the peace of thy children.” (Isaiah 54:13)
New Testament Texts that mention education:
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
“And, ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Colossians 1:28)
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
Some of the passages above do not specifically mention the Word of God, like “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
To believe that Proverbs 22:6 can be understood to be instruction minus the Word of God is preposterous. It is presupposed in Scripture, exhortations to learn, educate, and to seek knowledge and wisdom embraces the Word of God as the starting point and ends with man. Government education starts with an autonomous man and his wisdom as the starting point and ends with man’s opinions. Since both approaches have different starting points, both will end at different end places.
The above is a shortlist of passages on the topic of education. It is incontrovertible that the Word of God is the fountainhead of righteous education. Furthermore, it is indisputable that not one example of Christians being encouraged or commanded to submit their children to non-Christians for education can be shown.
Reasons for a distinctively Christian education:
1. God commands it. See above (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
2. God, in general, forbids socializing with the pagans. – “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV)
3. It is profitable. See above (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
The wrong reasons for sending children to pagans to be educated:
1. Socialization is important and supposedly missing from a Christian education.
2. Who will evangelize the pagans in the government schools?
The supposed lack of socialization in Christian education is an outright lie.
No doubt, there are cases where Christian students witness to others in pagan government schools. However, evangelism can be a two-way street. What about the recruitment techniques conducted by pagans in ongoing attempts to convert Christian students into paganism? The main thrust of Christian education is learning to think biblically and evaluating ethics, science, and history in terms of a Christian theistic worldview.
There is no such thing as neutrality. The next two points are reasons to protect Christian children from ungodly educational indoctrination.
1. Creation is not taught in government schools. Christian children are subjected to ongoing Darwinian propaganda. This propaganda has been the ruin of many.
2. The sex education in government schools in an abomination to God. Examples need not be given. It should go without saying, how could any parent allow their children to be subjected to this type of perverted indoctrination? In the past, Christian children could, with parental requests, have their children opt-out of the ungodly indoctrination.
Observations and implications of non-Christian education by notable scholars:
A bio: Gordon Haddon Clark was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a leading figure associated with presuppositional apologetics and was chair of the Philosophy Department at Butler University for 28 years. Wikipedia
Gordon H. Clark has this to say when summing up his chapter on neutrality:
“There is no neutrality.
Obviously, the schools are not Christian. Just as obviously, they are not neutral. The Scriptures say that the fear of the Lord is the chief part of knowledge; but the schools, by omitting all reference to God, give the pupils the notion that knowledge can be had apart from God. They teach in effect that God has no control of history, that there is no plan of events that God is working out, that God does not foreordain whatsoever comes to pass. Aside from definite anti-Christian instruction to be discussed later, the public schools are not, never were, can never be, neutral. Neutrality is impossible. Let one ask what neutrality can possibly mean when God is involved. How does God judge the school system, which says to him, “O God, we neither deny nor assert thy existence; and O God, we neither obey nor disobey thy commandments; we are strictly neutral.” Let no one fail to see the point: The school system that ignores God teaches its pupils to ignore God; and this is not neutrality. It is the worst form of antagonism, for it judges God to be unimportant and irrelevant in human affairs. This is atheism.” (1)
A bio: Rousas John Rushdoony was a Calvinist philosopher, historian, and theologian and is widely credited as being the father of Christian Reconstructionism and an inspiration for the modern Christian homeschool movement. Wikipedia
Rushdoony’s book was on the Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til, was titled By What Standard deals with many ideas relevant to education:
“The Christian thinker, laboring as he often must on alien ground, has too often embraced as his own a non-Christian principle which he believed would be fruitful in terms of Christian thought. He has made bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh a principle which he has believed would bear fruit in a Christian world-view. This resultant hybrid world-view he believed would fall heir to this world’s substance and show mastery and dominion over the human mind. In this expectation, early Christian thinkers embraced Platonism; the scholastics, Aristotelianism; the men of the enlightenment era Cartesianism and rationalism, and men of the 19th and 20th centuries, Kantianism, existentialism, and other alien brides, hoping thereby that in the dark they held Rachel. But, ‘in the morning, behold, it was Leah’!” (2)
In his book, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, Rushdoony analyzes both Greek and Roman education. He identified both as humanism and as statist:
“The statist purpose of humanistic education was even more clearly emphasized by the Romans. According to Grimal, “Roman morality has a very distinct aim — the subordination of the individual to the City.” Religion and piety had reference to the City, for the gods with the gods of the City, and religion, by binding man to the gods, bound them to the City of the gods. . . .
The liberal arts curriculum thus had a statist orientation. Man’s liberty, man’s salvation, was to be found in faithful subordination of himself and all his being to the City of Man. The chief end of man, a political and social animal, was to glorify the state and to serve and enjoy it all the days of his life.
It is not surprising therefore, that Christianity came into rapid conflict with Rome and the entire world. It was a battle between Christ and Caesar, between the City of God and the City of Man, for control of the world and of history. One hand, the emphasis was on the triune God and His eternal decree, and on the other hand the emphasis was on the primacy of time, on the civil order as the order of the incarnation and divinity, and on the temporal decree of the total state.” (3)
Rushdoony makes another astute observation that has implications for all of life and in particular, education:
“God is thus the principle of definition, of law, and of all things. He is the premise of all thinking, and the necessary presupposition for every sphere of thought. It is blasphemy therefore to attempt to “prove” God; God is the necessary presupposition of all proof. To ground any sphere of thought, life, or action, or any sphere of being, on anything other than the triune God is thus blasphemy. Education without God as its premise, law which does not presuppose God and rest on His law, a civil order which does not derive all authority from God, or a family whose foundation is not God’s word, is blasphemous.” (4)
A bio: John Gresham Machen, (born July 28, 1881, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.—died January 1, 1937, Bismarck, North Dakota), American Presbyterian theologian and fundamentalist leader.
Born to a prominent family in Baltimore, Machen later studied at Johns Hopkins University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the universities at Marburg and Göttingen. In 1906, he joined the faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary. He criticized liberal Protestantism as unbiblical and unhistorical in his Christianity and Liberalism (1923) and struggled to preserve the conservative character of the Princeton Theological Seminary. He left Princeton in 1929 after the school was reorganized and adopted a more accepting attitude toward liberal Protestantism, and he helped found Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1914, Machen was suspended from the ministry by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., for his opposition to modern liberal revision of the 17th-century English Presbyterian creed, the Westminster Confession. Following his suspension from the ministry, he helped found the Presbyterian Church in America, which became the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1939. Machen was a major theological voice in support of conservative Christianity. Encyclopedia Britannica
Machen had this to say about public education in 1923: “A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument for tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the Middle Ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective.” (5)
Another incisive observation from Pretoria, South Africa: “What is more, the Old and New Testaments are not only the basis and pattern for Christian education; they also constitute its content. Christian education is through and through about these two Testaments, otherwise it ceases to be Christian education, unless it has been used to mean the approach in all teaching, and not the content. It is for this reason that Paul the apostle reminded Timothy, “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16, 17). It is against this background that the history of Christian (Religious) education is traced from the Old and New Testaments.” (6)
Christian education is in direct conflict humanistic or statist ungodly education. Christian education requires a sacrifice financially; nevertheless, Christian education is the standard and the fountainhead of all knowledge. This view can be called “Scripturalism.”
Scripturalism, the following is a paraphrase of Gordon H. Clark on the Christian starting principle: “Scripturalism (all knowledge must be contained within a system and deduced from its starting principles, in the Christian case, the Bible).”
From the principle of Scripturalism, the implications of knowledge are stated. The Bible contains the Christian’s starting principles or presuppositions. Therefore, it can be said that God speaks to us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. The Christian worldview has the necessary preconditions to talk intelligently and give justification for the use of logic, science, and morality. In ungodly education, nothing can be defined as right or wrong since there is no fixed law system.
The mixing or synthesizing a God-centered and man as the ultimate determiner of interpretation-centered education is the destruction of knowledge. How exactly? The following quotes from Cornelius Van Til explain:
“How shortsighted and how uncultured, then, are the efforts of believers in Christ when they seek for snatches of worldly culture for themselves by placing themselves, as they think, on common ground with those who are not believers in Christ. How dishonoring to their Christ if they allow that any culture endures unless it be because of the power of his resurrection in the world. If you have been taken out of the miry clay, do you jump back into it because of some glistening objects that you see in it? Do you run back into the house now almost burned to the ground in order to save your silverware? It is only those who are believers in Christ that will inherit the earth and all the fulness thereof.” (7)
“Non-Christian education is Godless education . . . Godless or nontheistic education is therefore also non- or anti-Christian education. Godless, non-Christian education naturally becomes humanistic, i.e., man-centered. If man does not need to live for God, he may live for himself. If then we want a God-centered and truly Christian education, we will have to break away completely from the educational philosophy that surrounds us.” (8)
In closing, the Bible, the fountainhead of all education and knowledge:
“The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity.” – Immanuel Kant
“The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law, and they are to be found only in the holy scriptures…[and] are found upon comparison to be part of the original law of nature. Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.” – Sir William Blackstone
“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.” – Patrick Henry
“Should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a schoolbook? Its morals are pure; its examples are captivating and noble. In no Book is there so good English, so pure and so elegant, and by teaching all the same they will speak alike, and the Bible will justly remain the standard of language as well as of faith.” – Fisher Ames
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” – James Madison
“By removing the Bible from schools we would be wasting so much time and money in punishing criminals and so little pains to prevent crime. Take the Bible out of our schools and there would be an explosion in crime.” – Benjamin Rush
“If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instruction and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” – Daniel Webster
“Education is useless without the Bible,” “The Bible was America’s basic textbook in all fields,” “God’s Word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct.” – Noah Webster
“It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.” – Horace Greeley
“The Bible is the only force known to history that has freed entire nations from corruption while simultaneously giving them political freedom.” – Vishal Mangalwadi
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
1. Gordon H. Clark, A Christian Philosophy of Education, (Jefferson, Maryland, Trinity Foundation), p. 60.
2. R. J. Rushdoony, By What Standard? (Tyler, Texas, Thobern Press, reprinted 1983), p. 1-2.
3. R. J. Rushdoony, The Philosophy Of The Christian Curriculum (Vallecito, CA, Ross House Book, 1981), p. 5-6.
4. R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law Vol. 1 (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1984), p. 127.
5. John Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans Publishing), p. 14.
6. THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION The University of Pretoria, Chapter 5, page 2.
7. Cornelius Van Til, Essays on Christian Education, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1979), p. 8.
8. Louis Berkhof, Cornelius Van Til, Foundations of Christian Education, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, reprinted 1990), p. 3.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
Education and Upbringing in the Old Testament – by H. J. SCHILDER http://www.spindleworks.com/library/ilpb/education.htm
THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION The University of Pretoria
A Christian Philosophy Of Education by Gordon H. Clark http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=93