Friday, July 8, 2011

Christianity and Education

I've recently been embroiled in a debate at Tim Challies' website on the topic of public education. The assertion of Challies and most of the other commenters is that the choice of education for Christians is a matter of Christian liberty, the adiaphora discussed by Paul in his letters to the Romans and the Corinthians. One minister argued that Scripture is unclear on the matter of education, and therefore anyone claiming education as adiaphora is not subject to providing justification for the claim's truth. Aside from the fact that he did not establish the previous claim that Scripture is indeed unclear on the matter, in a debate concerning whether or not education is adiaphora, both sides are obligated to at least present a prima facie case. In any case, I posted an argument in propositional form in order to establish the clear position of Scripture for an epistemologically Christian education, which excludes public education in its current form from qualifying as such. I thought it might be of interest to those who read my blog, and so I'm reproducing the argument here. Others interesting in reading the full exchange may go to Challies' blog.

Let me give you a formal argument with which to interact, and with the additional purpose of providing to all who read it that the position is not derived from "questionable deductions and extrapolations" but upon "unambiguous directives" regarding the education of children unto the Lord.

1. Deuteronomy 6 commands parents to disciple their children to know, love, and therefore obey all the commandments of the Lord.
2. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is useful to make the man of God complete, equipped for every good work.
3. Given that parents are commanded to train their children in godliness, and Scripture is useful for the completion of equipping the godly, it follows that Scripture is all-sufficient for the training of children in godliness. (implication from 1 & 2)
4. Colossians 2:3 tells us that all wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, therefore it is only through Christ that knowledge and wisdom may be found.
5. Because all Christian thought and life is to be directed toward godliness, and because godliness depends upon knowledge and wisdom, and because knowledge and wisdom are found in Christ, therefore all education that is not grounded upon the knowledge of God and directed toward godliness is antithetical to the law of God. (Implication of 2 & 4)
6. Parents who educate their children apart from the knowledge of God in submission to Christ as the revealer of wisdom and knowledge contradict the revealed truth and commands of Scripture, and therefore stand in disobedience to God. (implication of 3 & 5)
8. Insofar as homeschooling, private schooling, or public schooling depart from grounding education in the knowledge of God in submission to Christ, they too are in disobedience to God. (Implication of 5)
8. All public education is non-Christian by it present definition and purpose, by the very by-laws of the government, and therefore it does not accept the knowledge of God and His law as true or binding upon education.
9. All public school stands in disobedience to God and cannot therefore be an obedient option for Christian parents who wish to train their children in the way God has commanded. (implication from 6 & 8)

Anyone who wishes to argue that Scripture is 1) unclear, 2) silent, or that public school is 3) a choice obedient to Scripture ought to either deny one of the premises above (giving justification for such denial) and/or show the contradiction or other logical error sustained in the argument presented above.

Just because an individual or group of individuals claim that Scripture is silent or unclear does not itself constitute an argument that Scripture is in truth silent or unclear. I maintain that any claim of silence or ambiguity in reference to the education of children is false, according to the argument here presented.


Jacob Haynes said...


I’ve been following the discussion over at Tim’s as well and while agree with him that education is a matter of Christian liberty I don’t think he made a very strong argument. As expected you got to the heart of the argument. And as expected I find myself disagreeing with you.

On your points, I mostly follow with you until number 5 from which I diverge. To keep things comparable I rewrote it and the subsequent point (all I needed was through point 6):

5. Because all Christian thought and life is to be directed toward godliness, and because godliness depends upon knowledge and wisdom, and because knowledge and wisdom are found in Christ, therefore all education that conveys truth will be speaking of Christ regardless of the worldview of the one conveying it. (Scriptural basis being Colossians 1:15-17, Romans 1:20, 1 Timothy 4:4, Genesis 50:20)

6. Parents are then to educate their children by showing them the knowledge of God and Christ that is within everything else the child learns in the world.

Joshua Butcher said...


As usual you have provided a thoughtful response with an attempt to honor the Scriptures. I appreciate that, as always in our disagreements.

But (you knew it was coming), your argument falters when considering the perspective on the truth conveyed by the "general revelation" aspect of education that you point out.

The telos of proposition 1 is that Christian parents are educating their children in obedience to God's law, which requires an epistemology that assents to the knowledge of God in Christ. A pagan teacher, whatever subject he may teach, cannot provide this epistemological foundation, and in fact, will provide some other foundation which is necessarily antithetical to the Christian one. While a parent may try to counteract this antithesis by providing their own, the child who has not yet been given a foundation must necessarily be forced to decide between two competing authorities, both of which have been given sanction to command his obedience (the parents by God, and the teacher by delegation of the parent). The perceptive child begins to question why it is that the parent who seeks to undermine the teacher's philosophy when it cannot be conformed to Scripture is put under the tutelage of the teacher in the first place. It is a self-defeating means of educating a child in the truth.

Now, once a foundation has been laid and the child possesses the ability to draw conclusions on the basis of a thoroughly Christian mindset, then the value of pagan scholarship becomes apparent, for what the pagan discovers in his rebellion to God about God's own creation can be analyzed from a grounding in the truth of revelation, as opposed to a foundationless or a still undeveloped foundation.

My argument is not that children should never encounter unChristian teaching, but that until they have been thoroughly indoctrinated into the truth all such teaching should come filtered directly through Christian education, so that their minds are not polluted by unbelieving presuppositions.