Once a Christian school teacher told my wife and me that she believed it was important for the children in her kindergarten class to know why they were attending a school with “Christian” above the door. Hearing this, I thought, how wonderful. Here is a teacher who knows her responsibility as a teacher. Soon, I was adding, how courageous! She spoke of one mother who had taken her to task for this. She had said, in effect: “Why are you telling the children the importance of a Christian school? I don’t want my child to think he is different in any way!” What was wrong with that mother? If she had stood with her husband with that child at the baptismal font years earlier, she certainly ought to have had a deep and abiding desire that her child would know what it is to live as a covenant person. She should have!
While this is only one instance, it does point out that there is great confusion and fuzzy thinking as to the reasons for Christian education.
There was a reason why Christian schools were organized; in previous generations. They developed out of a covenantal consciousness. We are to be a distinctive people who, by God’s grace, seek to live according to God’s Word in every way. Our children, in their formative years, need to learn this, even as do we in our advanced years.
These schools say loudly that godly parents desire their children to walk before the Lord in all of life. Secularism is the religion of the age. In the face of this, God’s people—young and old— have a distinct need. In humility we must hear God say, “You shall teach [the ways of the Lord] to your children, and shall talk with them, when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:7). While this commands their children, it also puts some parents on the spot. Many are unable to do the quality of teaching called for because they do not have the background, the understanding, or even the patience. They need help. Thus godly parents organized Christian schools.
Psalm 8 tells us something of the reason behind Christian education. In this psalm we are brought to see something of the glory of God in all of life. We look around and see the greatness of his power, the wonder of his works. We see the heavens, the mountains, the oceans, the plains, the trees, the works of God’s hands. We see man—and we say, “What is man over against all this majestic wonder?” Secularism has its answer. So does Scripture. But these answers are very different.
The believer knows that Jehovah’s name is to be seen in all the earth. This must be seen by our youth. As God’s people, this is our confession, a confession that is seen.
Why is it that God’s people are to be concerned about Christian education? David makes it clear: the name of Jehovah, the Lord, our covenant God, is seen in all of creation. Perhaps the meaning is somewhat obscured because names do not mean much to us anymore. For us, a name has become nothing more than a tag or a title that sets as apart from someone else. The letters of the word properly arranged form a tag. In Scripture a name has significance.
By the name of someone, your know something about him. When Napoleon decreed that all the citizens of the Netherlands were to have a surname (though the royals had them), the common people often developed a surname from something about themselves: where they lived or what they did.
When we speak of God’s name, we are speaking about all that God is. God’s name speaks of his power. It speaks of his justice, condemning sin. His name speaks of his grace: He is the God of our salvation. All of this and ever so much more is bound up in the name of God. And so when we sing “How excellent is thy name” we are singing about all that God is, not just the letters arranged as a tag. As David looked about, he saw the reality of God. When we are given the eye of faith by grace through redemption, we are able to see that there is nothing in life that is neutral. Of course, there are many who make a distinction between life as everyone knows it and the area of life which they call religious. They view the former as neutral and the religious as an extra aspect of life. Yet, absolutely nothing is neutral!
An unbeliever and a believer do not and cannot approach life in the same way. Spirituality is not like a bit of frosting put on the way of the world to make it look different.
Those who champion some parts of life as being neutral do not see that all of life has a relationship to God. For instance, there are discussions and even arguments about whether creationism should be taught in school. Those against this say that creationism is religion. However, they do not or do not want to understand that evolution is also a religion—the religion of the devil.
In reality, every area of life and therefore every discipline in life shows something about God.
Consider art, for instance. Is the work of art just a way for us to express ourselves? Hardly. That is man-centered, or humanism. It is an opportunity for us to praise God with talent he has given us. And we should so use it!
What about history? Many groan at the sound of this word. For some, it is merely memorizing names and dates. But few will ever be given an opportunity to play Jeopardy. A Christian approach is to study and observe how God’s eternal plan and purpose is being worked out.
You cannot study church history separately from the history of Europe or North America, or anywhere else in the world. God moves in strange and wondrous ways to bring about his plan. To study the Reformation means you must see it in relation to the political situation of that day, but you also must see it as God working out his perfect plan. The Renaissance, though purely humanistic and not God-centered, was used of God so that we would have the texts of the Bible in the original languages, and printed books so that the truth of Scripture could be spread. God has a goal for history, and it does not come about by chance or luck.
Then there is geography, sometimes given a new and fancy name today. It is not just merely a study so we can distinguish the continents one from another. It is the study of the distribution of natural resources so that we can see God’s hand in this. But this is not so we can gloat but rather understand stewardship. We are not humanists!
We study physiology—the study of the body God has made. Every part is put together properly, and we can see that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We learn what sin has done to our bodies, and yet we can praise the living God. Every part has a purpose. We do not study the body so we can engage in lust and vanity. The Bible tells us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.”
Even mathematics is not neutral. Underlying math is the order and arrangement of God. One is always one. You cannot define it in any other way. Or, take for example, the difference between 12 and 21, or 13 and 310. You understand what we are doing: we are transposing the digits. When you do this, the difference is always a multiple of nine. Always. Even in mathematics we see God’s organization and order. From this we learn something about the nature of truth. Truth does not change.
Every discipline in school teaches us something about our relationship with God, if it is taught from a Christian perspective. The purpose of the teacher teaching from a Christian perspective is not first of all to teach the children the hymns of the church, though certainly this has its place. Nor is the teacher’s purpose to make the children better. This is evolutionism. The teacher’s purpose is to teach the students to be faithful to the Lord in all of life, to reflect the glory of God in all they do. Just as the teacher has a calling in life, so the students have a calling. They must learn how to fulfill it in whatever their task in life shall be. In school their calling is to study. Then, that education is to show them how to fulfill in life the glory of God.
We must learn how to read. For some older folks this is sometimes difficult for a number of reasons. But our offspring must learn this, as difficult as it is for some. This is a preparation for life. We must be able to distinguish truth from error. Reading is more than recognizing words. It is comprehending them. Do we act as blotters as we read, or are we able to say this is true and that is false? We must learn spelling and grammar so that we can speak and write correctly so we can communicate that God is our God. We learn other languages not only so that we can develop our mind but also so that we can communicate to others the message of truth and grace.
The majestic works of our covenant God must be shown to our youth. These are not too deep and wonderful for them. It will not do to say that our children cannot understand because these things are too hard. Remember that through David God says in Psalm 8:2, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies” (New International Version). We all know that there are many in this world who oppose the truth of God. Even our little ones must learn, so they can understand at their own level and in turn glorify God.
Take a walk with your children and show them the beautiful evidence of God’s hand. Show them the vastness of the heavens and all that the heavens hold. Show the tiny evidence of life as it is seen in early spring. Observe them studying and learning in class. How will they live in God’s world? They need a God-consciousness for all of life. We live in an amazing time. How full must be their God-consciousness!
There is a current and strange philosophy about education that says there are so many things children cannot understand. We live in an age in which it is popular to dumb down many things. After all, the works and being of God they cannot understand, we are told. David didn’t agree. Such an attitude denies Scripture, and more, it is insulting to our youth. Our youth can speak of space, euthanasia, stem-cell research, and they can understand them. But let’s not trouble them with the things of God in all of this? And though the world has become very small, nothing less than a Christian education will give guidance for covenant living.
True, there are many arguments for passing by the Christian school. We have heard them all. Some say that mathematics is mathematics, spelling is spelling, history is history. Others remind us that there are Christian teachers in public schools. Indeed, there are, and thankfully so. Yet, they are in a harness so they cannot do the complete task of educating because non-Christian education is built on an evolutionary foundation, a Godless philosophy of life. They cannot even motivate the students to praise God. Still others piously submit that their children can bear witness to the Light life. But these children and young people feed a proper understanding of Life before they face the difficulties of life.
What do we want for our children? Above all, it should be a firm foundation for all of life. We must want what is best for them. This is not just things! Covenantally this means a knowledge of God and open opportunities to serve him. This necessitates a Christian education.
You realize, of course, that such an education is not a guarantee. There are those who say, “My children go to the church activities, catechism, worship, and I send them to the Christian school. They should have no problem in life.” AH of this is no guarantee that all will turn out well. They must know God, not just about him. Yet, all of this education is our responsibility. It is heeding God’s commands. Has not God said, “Train up a child in the way he should go”? By this training and causing them to be trained, we are praising our covenant God! And of course there must be godliness in the home, too.
There is also a goal in our education. Our song of praise becomes that of Psalm 8. This means that we praise our covenant God. When we survey the heavens at night and during the day, do we see in them the greatness and power of God? Do we see ourselves as small and powerless over against our great God? Or, do we think ourselves as great because we have so much, and even a name and place in society? If so, where is our praise?
When you and I survey history, current events, and political movements, do we become fearful? Remember God has a goal and therefore a purpose in all that he does. He is working so that he will arrive at his goal. He is not weak and powerless. See his power in the heavens, and see his program through his providence. We hear of ISIS, and we see what it does. We shudder, but even in this God is working out his purpose so that goal—the Last Day— will come about and we shall know eternity with our God through Christ.
Of course, we can praise God for his wonderful work of salvation, and we should. That in itself is amazing. But we must see the name of our Lord in all the earth. We sing, “This is my Father’s world.” This is what Psalm 8 is all about. But if we fail in giving children this education, they do not receive a well-rounded education.
When we are faithful we are saying with the psalmist, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”
Yet there is more to this praise. It includes and involves a commitment to the cause of Christian education. By no means do we desire a private school so we can think we are much better than others. We are, in reality, no better than others. Rather, being the Lord’s people, we are different. We are people who belong to the Lord. Knowing our weaknesses, we want our children to be trained to fulfill God’s calling in life as wholehearted servants of our majestic God—the God of the covenant, in line with his covenant demands. All of this grows out of a spiritual reason and commitment. It turns into a prayerful concern.
This is much more than saying, or having a bumper sticker saying, “I support Christian schools.” This means that we are concerned about what and how our children are being taught. This means that we know what Christian education is and that we pray for the teachers, students, staff, and board. We pray that they will develop in their calling. This means we do our best to help financially. This God-centered education is getting more and more expensive. Some can’t afford it. God’s people must help. There is need to give visible support so our youth will see how important this is to us.
Remember, what we do as children of the King is being done to our King. We desire the very best for our offspring. Of course, we desire that they may know Jesus Christ as Savior. But there must be more: they must see the majestic God of the Bible as being the center of life, the center of all being.
Rev. Jerome M. Julien is a retired pastor and is a member of Walker United Reformed Church.