Published with permission of BJU Press. Written by Dr. Dan Olinger
Christians have been educating their children since the time of Christ and have been doing so in officially labeled “Christian schools” for decades, but there is still confusion as to just what Christian education is.
Education is the developing of character, knowledge, and skills for a desired purpose. Most educators would agree that education should prepare the student to function well throughout life. But secularists and Christians disagree on their definitions of the word well. What is the core of Christian education—that without which education is not Christian at all?
At the core of Christianity is Christ Himself—His person (who He is) and His work (what He does). Christian education begins by introducing the student to Christ—by bringing him to realize that there is a God (Gen. 1:1) to Whom he owes allegiance and obedience (Hos. 13:4) and that this God has revealed Himself perfectly in His Son (Heb. 1:1-3). It does this for two reasons: that he may know Him (Phil. 3:10; John 17:3) and that he may be like Him (I Cor. 11:1; II Cor. 3:18). Once the student is regenerate, genuine Christian education can occur.
Just as Christ is the perfect revealing of God, so the Scripture is the perfect revealing of Christ (John 5:39). Christian education must recognize the Scripture as its primary written text. The student will learn theological doctrine from the Scripture, but Christian education depends on the Word for more than that. Since God is the Creator (John 1:3) and since He is truth (Ex. 34:6; John 14:6), then all that is true comes from Him, and all subjects must be taught from His perspective. The Bible was not intended to be a science textbook, and a chemistry course will include large amounts of material that is not in the Scripture. But the Bible is accurate whenever it speaks to any subject, and perhaps more importantly, it sets forth a worldview—creationist and providentialist—that must inform and direct the study of every subject.
Education includes development of character as well as transfer of information. The character goals of Christian education will be Christian in the narrowest sense: they will imitate the character of Christ as revealed in the Scripture. Every part of the student’s school day will reflect the purposeful discipline that is necessary to the development of Christ-likeness. And since the goal is personal and all-encompassing, that discipline will extend beyond the campus to the student’s entire life. What the student does “on his own time” is of great interest to the Christian educator and falls under his oversight.
What, then, will the product of truly Christian education look like? He is a born-again Christian who is purposefully pursuing Christ-likeness in himself and others. Accomplishing of the will of God is his primary purpose for living. As his God-given talents and abilities allow, he is a critical thinker. He enjoys learning and is devoted to continuing his education throughout his life because it leads him to glorify God. And because he has the intellectual and character-based tools, he will be good at whatever God has called him to do.