What is Christian Education?

The following message arose from a discussion on a email list which is for Evangelical Christian (mainly in the UK) who home educate. The discussion started when a question was asked about Christian Universities in the USA. This broadened out into a wider discussion and at some point it became clear that there were two types of people who were contributing to the discussion. The first were Christians, who also happened to home educate (or perhaps home educators who also happened to be Christians) and secondly those who would see themselves as Christian home educators. It was in this context that the question which my comments are responding to was asked. Whilst this discussion arose in the context of home education my comments are equally relevant to Christian school based education and, dare I say it, Christian Universities.

A few days after writing this note I received a request for permission to pass it onto another home education bulletin board. The person making the request had received a note from someone else which said, “the question ‘what is Christian education?’ is perfectly addressed in this post”. That comment prompted me to put it on my web site. I hope you find it as helpful as the my reviewer did.

Dear All,

Many, many postings ago someone asked "how people would define ‘Christian education’ as different from ‘ordinary education’, if it’s not - in the end - about the heart of the student for God."

There have been various thoughts expressed and to some extent our concerns have been aired. There is some confusion I think between Christian Education and religious education - putting unrelated texts in the middle of work book pages and the over use of Biblical incidents for mathematical problem solving should be defined as the latter in my opinion.

In contrast to the above, perhaps simplistic approach, the comment has been made, "Remember that we are talking about training and education, not employment, and that our children when at university, while hopefully already well trained in Christian conviction and behaviour, are still having their world-view and philosophy formed..."

For me the real differences in educational approaches are to be found in world-views/philosophies of life. The majority of people think education is about passing facts and skills to others so that they can be equipped to live. However, that is only the shop front as it were and behind it lies the deeper issues of a philosophy of how the world and therefor life works best. Now in the majority of subjects world-views are not taught up-front, yet it is impossible to teach any subject without the teacher making known to the student something of his or her world view. Usually this is in the unspoken underlying assumptions about life. And sometimes it is only indirectly connected to a good understanding of the subject. One example (which crops up regularly in our discussions) is the value of exams and "going to university". This is not in itself directly relevant to how well a student understands the subject concerned, but is a reflection of the world-view of most Western adults.

Now I don’t want to give the impression that I think it is wrong to pass on to others one’s own world-view. Actually I believe it is impossible not to! Therefor our concerns should be first of all what world-view are our children being exposed to and secondly, what criteria are they collecting to themselves so that they in time are able to refine their own world-view in the best way possible? I suspect that several so called Christian cirriculums actually fail to encourage a Biblical world-view. Certainly far too many adult Christians continue for years after their conversion with a non-Christian world-view. (Here church leaders and teachers carry a heavy responsibility.) I doubt if any of us have escaped totally from the world-view we were fed as children, and the residue is one of the things we should be inviting the Holy Spirit to refine out of us.

The initial question asked for the difference between "Christian" and "ordinary" education to be defined. But even in that comparison there is the influence of a world-view creeping out. What is ordinary? I suppose most people would see it as what the majority of people I know do. However, is that really a satisfactory understanding. In our culture the majority of people give their children a secular education. Is "secular" the ordinary standard by which all alternatives must be judged? In an Islamic state, secular education is not "ordinary", Islamic education is! Islamic education has the world-view underlying it that Allah is central to everything. In Islamic education 1+1=2, just as it does all around the world, but the philosophy which underpins the world-view which is promoted is very different to that which we perceive as "ordinary".

In the West, as I have said, ordinary education is secular. A secular understanding of life considers The LORD irrelevant to everything (except the residue of religious superstitions that some people fail to shake off). This is most obvious in the science of origins, but it pervades the whole of the curriculum, right through to the things we struggle to see as anything other than neutral. Christian education places both the Father and the Son as central to everything past, present and future. There is nothing which our God is not relevant to.

I am told that first century Greek philosophers used to debate the reason for life, the universe and everything. They tried to discover "the reason why" we existed. The word they used to define the objective of their enquiries was Logos (logic). It was in this context that John opened his gospel of Jesus Christ with the words, "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God." Jesus is the reason why! Christian education builds upon this world-view.

Most people think that there cannot be a specifically Christian understanding of mathematics but is there? Undoubtedly. It has already been said that maths reflects the order of God. Perhaps I can be permitted to pose a very simple question, "What is the reason why we count in 10s?" The ordinary answer to that question (and I jest not) is we count in tens because we happened to evolved with 2 hands with 5 digits on each. If Jesus is the reason why we count in tens, what is the Christian answer?

Again Information Technology (IT) can seem to be a very neutral topic dealing ultimately with noting more than electronic 1 & 0’s. But we all know that it is more than that! What is the world-view that accompanies the bits and bytes? What is the moral context in which the skills learnt are to be used? Is a programmer only a programmer or are they somebody’s neighbour? Is their knowledge and skill to be developed so they can earn an inflated salary, or to enhance their country’s military supremacy, or......

Did The LORD know all about computers before He laid the foundation of the world? Now we have the knowledge of good and bad in electronic communication how are we going to use it. What criteria will tomorrow’s programmers have in their minds? Which world-view will it arise from?

The purpose of Christian education is to encourage children to become teenagers who become adults who understand this world from The LORD’s perspective and who are prepared to live the way He wants them to, whatever it costs them in human terms.

Seen from His throne room, Christian education is ordinary education. Secular education is one of several alternatives which a rebellious world has chosen to prefer. Sadly many Western Christians are not those "who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and bad" in this and other areas. (Heb 5:14).

In the hope that this will encourage us all to press on towards a growing Christian world-view.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Randall Hardy - June 2002

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This page last edited on June 2002
© Randall Hardy, 2002