The Three Pillars of Christian Education
It is my firm conviction that if we are to remain strong as a denomination, and even as a nation, it is essential that we redouble our efforts in regard to the Christian, covenantal training of our sons and daughters. Christian education is the crying need of the hour. And when I use the term Christian education I do not mean education which is limited only to the field of religion. That idea is held by many people who seem to think that God is connected only with the salvation of people's souls and has nothing to do with the world and with life as a whole. Such an idea, of course, is too narrow, for it fails to glorify God in all of life and knowledge.
Nor does Christian education mean secular education with some religious features externally added. This is a very common misconception of Christian education even among earnest Christian people. The common idea of a Christian school, for example, is that it is just like any other school as far as subjects are concerned, but that in addition to the regular curriculum it includes Bible study, daily chapel exercises, seasons of evangelism, a religious-emphasis week, prayer groups and so forth. Those specifically religious features are certainly of great value and importance, but they do not of themselves make an educational institution truly Christian any more than merely attending church and carrying a pocket Testament makes an individual a Christian.
By Christian education, we do not mean secular education with Christian features added on externally. Christian education means education that is Christian in its essence or inner character and consistently Christian all along the line, not only in the chapel and Bible classroom, but in every classroom, as well as in the life and thinking of every teacher. God must be the major premise of every textbook. God must be the great assumption in every classroom. God must be the One whose handiwork is investigated in every laboratory. This means, of course, not some vague and distorted idea of God, but the living and true God, the God of the Bible. In textbook, classroom, and laboratory, the student will learn to think God's thoughts after Him. He will learn that human thought is never really creative in the strict sense but always derived from the prior thought of God. What is new to the mind of man is as old as eternity to the mind of God.
With those remarks as a background, let me elaborate on what I consider to be "The Three Pillars of Christian Education." It is my judgment that in Christian education there are three basic principles; three fundamental pillars upon which Christian education stands. If they aren't present, you may have a religious school, you may have a school attended by Christians, you may have a school in which some of the faculty members are Christians — but it won't be a Christian school.
1. The Infallibility and Verbal Inspiration of the Bible
The first of these three pillars is the infallibility and verbal inspiration of Scripture. This is the principle without which there simply can be no such thing as a Christian School.
The Bible, of course, claims this infallible, verbal inspiration for itself. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," and it is for exactly that reason that it is "also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Peter tells us that "holy men of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). What we have in The Bible are the very words of God written by men whom God used to put His words on paper. And we dare not budge for a moment from the proposition that the Bible is as much, word for word, the very Word of God as if the Lord had run it off on a heavenly mimeograph and sent the pages down to earth in a tidy little package. We have the very words of God. And every word of God, says the Scripture, is pure (Psalm 12:6; 119:140).
If there is no infallible Bible, there is no such thing as the Christian school, for the first principle of the Christian school is that it teaches all knowledge from the standpoint of the normative authority of the Scripture. And if you try to teach without the authority of the Word of God you discover, in fact, that you have no authority at all. This, of course, is the tragic situation of public education in our day. The fact is that its against the law for the teacher to tell the children in her classroom that she believes on the basis of the Bible that the universe operates as it does because the Living God made it that way. And so when a youngster who has a little perception comes to the teacher and begins to ask "Why?" the best that the teacher can say is: "That's just the way it is." And if that's all the teacher can say, and hasn't any authority from the Word of God, not only is the youngster left unanswered and dissatisfied but the God of creation is, in that school, robbed of His glory. And those who seek to glorify Him within such a system are trying to do so by disobeying the law, and one simply can't do that to His honor and glory either.
In the Christian school, it is absolutely essential that in every area of learning the authority of the Word of God shines clearly and plainly before the minds of the youngsters. If it were not for the fact that there is a Creator God who is responsible for all reality, including the human mind, we would find ourselves intellectual aliens in the earth. And the only way one can really educate a child so that he or she serves and glorifies God is to teach him, or her, to know that reality.
We are living in a day when virtually no one any longer knows anything about the nature of government. The public schools have virtually abandoned all reference to God and the Bible as being authoritative for anything but religion. When they teach the nature of government they can, at best, say that government exists for the good of the people. And if one begins with that supposition its no wonder that schools teach socialism. Its no wonder that schools are day after day grinding out a product that's indoctrinated with Marxist humanism. And when youngsters have been taught that government exists for the greatest good for the greatest number of people, then its only a hop, skip, and a jump from there to the idea: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need;" and that's full-fledged Marxist, socialistic, humanism. In the Christian school we can say, that government exists because men are sinners, and God has appointed government to restrain evil. People who know Jesus as their Savior must take the leadership in all of society in giving honor and respect to civil government because it is "the minister of God for righteousness" (Romans 13:4). And we respect government because we love Jesus. You can only teach that in the Christian school.
In the area of economics, public schools may teach that prosperity is the result of proper governmental manipulation of currency and of production. Praise God that we can have at least one school where youngsters are taught that prosperity is the result of the blessing of God upon obedience to His precepts.
Observe that when we compare Christian education with public education, we're not talking about two parallel institutions, in one of which there is a little peppering of religion; we're talking about two institutions that are on diametrically opposed paths, with two radically distinct objectives. They operate on two entirely different bases. It is no wonder, then, that the secular school with its present neutral strait jacket isn't educating. Every attack, then, on the infallibility of Scripture; every person that advocates the idea that the Bible is only infallible "in what it intends to teach;" every person that attacks the idea that the Bible tells us normatively what we are to think about government and economics and all the rest; all such persons are attacking the Christian school. The Christian school stands on the infallibility and verbal inspiration of the Scripture — that's its first pillar. Without that kind of a Bible there is no such thing as real education at all.
2. The Absolute Ethical Antithesis
The Christian school stands on the pillar of the absolute ethical antithesis. You have undoubtedly heard that expression before, but let's remind ourselves that it means that every human being is either for God or against Him. There is no neutrality with respect to God, absolutely none. Jesus says in Matthew 12:30: "He that is not for me is against me. And he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." Let's be very frank about it; much of what goes on during the week in many classrooms is not gathering for Jesus! Need we wonder why in so many churches we seem to knock ourselves out futilely trying to capture the minds of young people in a few hours that we have on Sunday or in a catechism class, when those youngsters are being trained five days a week to adopt the cultural mind-set of our times? To effectively withstand this anti-Christianity of our times, every subject must be taught under the authority of the Word of God and in obedience to Jesus Christ and acknowledging Him as Lord. And this is vitally important because we live under tremendous pressure to compromise. We need young people growing to adulthood who think God's thoughts after Him, if they are not to be swept away with the tide of unbelief. I am grieved to see how many people do not see the need to train their children to think on God's side of the antithesis before they face the worldly pressures that would break down all Christian faith and morals like a rock crushes tissue paper. We recognize the absolute ethical antithesis. Therefore we believe that there is only one way that we can properly educate, and that's under the authority of the lordship of Christ by His written Word, and with the determination that we will obey God. Decidedly, the Christian school must stand on the absolute ethical antithesis.
3. The Covenant of Grace
The last of the three pillars of the Christian school is the covenant of grace. And this is the most beautiful and the most glorious of them all. The Scriptures clearly teach that Christians have promises from God with respect to their children. This glorious truth finds expression in the oft repeated words: "I will be their God, and they shall be my people." "I will be a God unto you and to your children."
The promises of the covenant are exceedingly comprehensive. There are promises for the present and for the future; promises for days of prosperity and for seasons of adversity; promises for the living and for the dying. There are promises of renewed strength for those whose strength seems to fail; promises of courage for the fainthearted and of rest for the weary. There are promises of guidance through life and of deliverance out of temptations; promises of good cheer for the afflicted and discouraged; promises of security for storm-tossed souls; promises, too, of an everlasting home for weary pilgrims. And the promises, all the promises, are for us and for our children. That is the glad assurance we have in the covenant of grace. And for this reason Christian parents who take their baptismal vows seriously, may always plead these promises for their offspring. The Form for baptism clearly implies that there is a close connection between the two.
At the time of baptism three questions are put to the parents. The first question asks recognition of the fact that although our children are born in sin and therefore subject to condemnation, they are nevertheless sanctified in Christ and as such are entitled to baptism. The second question requires a renewed confession of the parents that the doctrine contained in Scripture and taught in the church is the true and complete doctrine of salvation. The third question extracts from the parents the promise that they will be faithful and diligent in teaching their children that glorious saving truth.
We ought to note that the duty which parents publicly assume is very comprehensive. They assume the responsibility of instructing their children not only in the doctrine of the covenant, but the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testament; the whole realm of Christian truth, touching every realm, every sphere, and every relation of the Christian life. In this we have a clear commitment that directs and controls the instruction of covenant children. Can we at all doubt whether this calls for Christian education?
Can we seriously suggest that in a world such as ours Christian education limited to the home, the church, and the Sunday School is quite adequate? Ought we not rather to ask: Is the best religious education we can give our children, no matter how comprehensive and how thorough, really commensurate with the high dignity to which our children are called? Should we not bend all our efforts to make that education richer and fuller, and to bring it more into harmony with their high calling and their exalted duties? The king's children must have a royal education.
If the promises of God are to promote the real happiness and blessedness of their recipients, they must learn to understand the wide implications of these promises and to know what treasures they include. Many children of God are living in spiritual poverty, although they are rich in Christ and heirs of the world, because they have not been taught to see the extent and the splendor of their spiritual heritage. If we do not want our children to live as paupers in spiritual poverty while untold riches of grace and mercy are at their disposal, we must employ all the means at our command to acquaint them with the treasures of divine grace to which they are heirs in Christ Jesus.
The money you put down for Christian education is far and away the best investment that you will ever make. It's an investment in your child, in your home, in the integrity and the Christian church, and in the building of the Kingdom of God. For that, you and I should be ready to turn over every dollar that comes into our possession into the coin of the realm of God's kingdom.
Consider the three "pillars" of Christian education. The Christian school exists because there is such a thing as the infallible Word of God, and we must teach our children to think God's thoughts after Him. The Christian school is necessary because of the absolute ethical antithesis. And the Christian school is glorious, because it is one of the means by which His covenant promise that He will give us a godly seed that will stand for Jesus and worship Him until He comes again, becomes a living reality.
You and I are called to engage in an enterprise that is glorious beyond the ability of human language to describe. Let's give ourselves to the building of God's great kingdom by providing Christian education in our Christian schools. Then God will receive all the honor; and we, together with our children, will sing unending praises to His glorious name.