Why Secular Education is Christian
A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
12th February 2012
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As we start another school year it is worthwhile taking some time to ponder the aims and purposes of our education system. This is particularly needed in the age when atheists are trying to turn our secular education system into a secularist form of social engineering.
Everybody alive today in NSW has lived in the age of universal compulsory education. From our own experience we have certain assumptions about what a school is or should be. But we need, from time to time, to ask the more fundamental questions such as: Why do we have school? What are our educational goals? What responsibilities do governments, parents, churches or other voluntary bodies have for the education of the next generation?
As Christianity created the universal education system that we now take for granted - here are some basic pointers from the Bible, which gave rise to our philosophy and practice of education. They may also help clarify where we need to modify or develop education in the future.
1 God and Creation.
1.1 The foundation stones of education are laid in God and creation. God made the world by his Word - not as chaos but to be habitable, ordering it by his will, and declaring it to be good. Thus the material world is good, ordered rationally by one personal, powerful and speaking God. (Gen. 1, John 1:1-3, Psalm 33:6 Isaiah 45:18, 1 Timothy 4:4f)
1.2 Humanity’s place in God's creation is both part of it and lords over it. We are creatures; all made by the one God but with a unique relationship with our creator – for only humans are made “in his image”. (Genesis 1:26-28)
1.3 The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect image of God. All things were made in him, by him and for him. As such he is the heir, ruler and owner of all creation. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 1:15-20, 2:3)
1.4 God created and commissioned humanity to fill, subdue and have dominion over his creation. Each and every human, by virtue of being human, shares in this appointment by God. “Image of God” refers to our appointment, not to our abilities. However, God also gives us skills and abilities to rule over and care for his world – especially the ability to know and speak. (Genesis 1:26f, Psalm 32:8-9)
1.5 God, who created the world by speaking, has told us of our responsibility for his world. We think and speak because God has created us with eternity in our hearts to think and know and communicate. This is the basis of human knowledge and language. (Genesis 1:28, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Romans 1:19)
1.6 Even after our sin and God’s judgement, humans continue in God’s image; multiplying and working, albeit with difficulty. It is humans who build cities and make tents, who keep livestock, create and play musical instruments, and forge implements from bronze and iron. (Genesis 3:16-19, 4:17-24, 11:6, James 3:9)
2 Family Education
2.1 Built into our creation in God's image is the unity of the human family. Male and female together we were created in God's image to fill the earth. God created the woman to be united to her husband; that godly offspring may be born and raised in the fear and nurture of the Lord - remembering that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Genesis 1:27, 2:24, Malachi 2:15, Proverbs 1:7, 9:10)
2.2 Teaching is enjoined upon parents in the Old Testament law as well as in the wisdom of Psalms and Proverbs. The New Testament underlines this responsibility for Christian families. Nobody other than parents is given the responsibility of raising and teaching children. (Deuteronomy 4:9f, 6:4-7, Psalms 78:3-8, Proverbs 1:8ff, 22:6)
2.3 Parental teaching is in how to live in God’s world. It is training a child in the ways of God - the ways of honesty and integrity, wisdom and understanding.
It is raising the child to participate in humanity's commission - in knowledge and skill, in work and family relationships. (Proverbs 1-4, Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8)
3 School Education
3.1 Within the New Testament, the words ‘teacher’ and ‘disciple’ are primarily concerned with adult education rather than with raising children. A key function of the Old and New Testament church was teaching and learning. (Deuteronomy 4:9-14, Nehemiah 8:1-8, Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Timothy 3:14-16, 4:11-13)
3.2 There is nothing inherently wrong and everything right in parents introducing their children to the world through communities dedicated to and specialising in caring for children and adolescents in their development. The Bible tells of the specialised education of youngsters such as Moses, Daniel and friends, and Paul (Acts 7:22, Daniel 1:4, Acts 22:3).
3.3 A key, but not the only aspect of such care, is intellectual development especially in the complexity of modern information and other cultures that no single parental family is likely to have.
4 Governmental Role
4.1 The fundamental task of Government in the Bible is that of justice - to punish evildoers, reward the righteous, and protect the weak and defenceless (Proverbs 31:5-9, Romans 13:1-7)
4.2 Government has no direct role in the education, other than ensuring that evil parents do not abuse or neglect their children. Governments set appropriate standards of education for parents to be responsible to provide for their children and create justice in the provision of education for all.
5 Christian Education
5.1 Therefore, Christian education is not limited to knowing about Christianity.
5.2 Christians believe that all children should be educated about God’s world and how to function within it as his image bearers – being responsible for his world as we relate to each other with justice and righteousness. (Proverbs 1-9, 6:6f, Amos 5:14f, Micah 6:8, Romans 12:2, 2 Timothy 2:2-8)
5.3 However, such education should not ignore the one whose world we rule or whose justice and righteousness we administer. The Christian educator desires people to be reconciled to God. For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. (Proverbs 9:10, 2 Corinthians 5:20, Colossians 2:5).