The Environment Required for a Godly Education
The Bible teaches us that the Lord’s will for Christians is that they remain in society and do not seek to flee from it. Different groups have made that mistake throughout history, perhaps thinking that they will thereby be free from many harmful influences. But experience has shown that whether we are found on a mountain, in a cave or in a desert place sin will always be found in our hearts. Are we not told, ‘But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed’ (James 1:14)? In addition it is a fact that we are organically linked to the rest of the human race and we are commanded to take part in all the lawful activities which concern mankind – marriage, work, education and so on. The separation to which we are called is a spiritual and ethical one rather than a physical one (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Jesus says that if we have His grace and His truth in our hearts then we are the salt and light of the world. Such things can only have a good effect when they are scattered abroad. Therefore we are challenged by Christ to lift up our candle:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.Matthew 5:16
What a responsibility we have to bear public witness to the Lord by the character of our lives! And then there are the dangers we are warned about. Unless we are watchful and careful to guard our souls, rather than influence the world for good the world may influence us and press us into its ungodly mould. In the extreme case the salt may ‘lose his savour’ (Matthew 5:13): a professing Christian may be found after all to be empty of grace and in love with sin and its pleasures. We must take heed how we hear the gospel!
The Young are Unsuited to a Hostile Environment
One lesson which flows from these things is that it is really only the mature, those who have sanctified the Lord God in their hearts, that are ready to make a defence of their faith before unbelievers (1 Peter 3:15, 16). While the Lord may on occasion perfect praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, in order to shame the wicked (Matthew 21:16), the exception is not to be made the rule. When we read of Daniel and his companions making their stand for the true and living God in heathen Babylon, braving the fiery furnace and the lions’ den, we should remember that these ‘children’ had already been so trained in the truth at Jerusalem that they were ‘skilful in wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and ... had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace’ (Daniel 1:4). They were teenagers or young men by the time they were put to such a test.
Young life of any kind is unsuited to a hostile environment, the sort where it will be blasted by the elements and a target for predators. Yet for many children from godly homes this is now the reality, in spiritual and moral terms, with regard to their everyday education in the schools of our land. What then is the right educational environment for these tender olive plants?
The Right Educational Environment
It must be an environment where the curriculum is consistent with the Bible. This should be obvious to us. If the Scriptures are the Word of God then they are ‘the only rule of faith and obedience’ (Larger Catechism Q./A.3). Each subject taught to our children should be conformed to the truth of Scripture, our infallible guide in comprehending the world in which we live and our place in it.
It must be an environment where the teachers fear the Lord. Teachers should model themselves on the great Teacher Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. Children are great imitators: they will more easily follow the instruction of actions than the instruction of words, for the eyes receive more information than the ears. Christ spoke with authority and won respect because His life matched His teaching in every detail.
It must be an environment where the discipline encourages godliness in all its aspects. The tendency today is for authority at all levels to indulge sinfulness. What else would we expect?
How can men reprove sin in those under their rule when they practise the same things themselves? ‘The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted’ (Psalm 12:8). It is no kindness to a child to spare the rod when disobedience demands its use: it is part of training for life – eternal life.
Education ‘in the Lord’
If the above principles necessitate separate Christian schools or homeschooling then so be it: we must be subject to the will of God. It is significant that Scripture says effectively that education should be ‘in the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4). As we know, Scripture requires that another vital aspect of life, marriage, should also be ‘in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 7:39). The same standard applies to both. Now, if disobedience to God in the matter of marriage is unthinkable then should it not also be in the matter of education?
It is a sad feature of modern society that the freedom to spend our money on homes, holidays and a host of unimportant trivia is readily acknowledged but there is continual interference in the rights of parents to bring up their children as they wish, including the vital work of education. This is surely a perverse state of affairs.
We surely wish to see every child attending a school where Jesus is honoured as Lord, just as we desire to see every child (and adult) attending a church where Christ is acknowledged as the only Saviour. After all, this is nothing but part of man’s duty under the first and great commandment – the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37, 38). The fact that all men do not obey God means that biblical Christianity is viewed as ‘divisive’ or ‘exclusive’ by many today, particularly when faithfulness to the Scriptures means separation from apostate churches. This does not mean that true religion lacks divine approval however – neither Christian schooling.
Who will have the pre-eminence in the education of our covenant children in the future (Colossians 1:18)? Will it be Christ or will it be the current secular consensus? We can only say that in education ‘there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed’ (Joshua 13:1).
Let us endeavour to gain the ground for Christ.