Recently an e-zine came to my inbox that included advice from Dave Ramsey, a well-respected "financial guru" who is also a professing Christian. His column often deals with questions that have been submitted to him and his responses to them. Here's one on Christian education:
Q. We have three kids enrolled in Christian schools, and it's very expensive. We truly believe they're getting a great, faith-based education, but they're only in elementary school and already we've had to dig into our savings.
A. Private schools can have academic advantages, and in some cases a good Christian school can have spiritual advantages. But if you can't cash flow it, you can't do it. It's just that simple. My kids didn't go to private Christian schools, and they're all strong Christians. They went to public schools and learned to interact with people of no faith, different faiths and how to display their faith adequately in the marketplace. Lots of times people send their kids off to a Christian school, only to find out they still have to teach them about life – the good and the bad. And the fact is, you're just kidding yourself if you think sending them to a Christian school means they'll be in a perfect world where no one ever acts mean or nasty. I hope you can find a way to continue, since this is an important decision to you. But from what you've said it just doesn't make good financial sense.
This answer is wrong from the root outward.
First, God mandates that Christian children have a Christian education. The multitude of Christian parents who believe Christian education is an option they may choose for their children will be shocked on Judgment Day to find out how wrong they were.
Second, there are no neutral facts. A key component to a Christian education is accepting the reality that all facts come from God. Any educational enterprise that does not begin with God and celebrate Him as the foundation and fountain of all learning is based on lies.
Third, public schools do not provide a Christian education for Christian children. In fact, Christian children are often persecuted for making any public expression of their faith in the public school setting. Anyone who believes a public school is an acceptable environment for any child needs to read Bruce Shortt’s The Harsh Truth about Public Schools. I am glad Mr. Ramsey’s children survived it. Many children have not.
Fourth, Mr. Ramsey does not suggest that the parents look for ways to economize and cut expenses to keep the children in the Christian school. This would require more personal knowledge of the family and its finances. Usually there are always ways to cut expenses so that a family can pursue something that is a high priority. In this vein, he does not even mention homeschooling as a viable option for pursuing a Christian education with a minimum of expense.
Fifth, apparently having a "sound" financial footing is a more important priority for Christian families than pursuing a God-mandated Christian education. I do not know a living soul who would not like to be financially secure. And many have won financial security at a great cost. God promises to give us the things we need, not the things we want. And the Bible teaches us over and over that the true path to blessing is obedience to the law-word of God. Disobedience always brings God’s curses. This is a fact that cannot be escaped.
Yet, Mr. Ramsey has pit debt free living (a Biblical principle) against rearing children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (another Biblical principle) and in the process has ostensibly likened Christian education to a decision to buy a new car or a vacation home. Do it, but only if it is in your budget.
The result of such a mindset and the worldview it presupposes was astutely described in a recent article in Faith for All of Life when Martin Selbrede used the phrase Grand Theft Doctrine to identify what happens when the faith is “skeletonized” -- pieces cut away, on various grounds and pretexts -- leaving something less than the whole behind .
The Kairos Journal in an e-zine essay, “Teenagers Losing the Gospel,” coined a phrase to describe the actual religion of many young people who profess to be Christians: "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism." The article listed five basic tenets to this modern counterfeit of Christianity:
1. God created and watches over human life.
2. God wants people to be nice and fair.
3. Life’s ultimate goal is for each person to be happy and to feel good about himself.
4. God does not need to be intimately involved in anyone’s life—He is just there for emergencies.
5. Good people go to heaven.
"Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" is the sort of religion easily adopted after a steady diet of 12 years of 5 day-a-week menu offerings of humanism mixed in with Sunday smatterings of Scripture. But, God will not be mocked. Those who take His commandments as mere suggestions (and encourage others to do likewise) will bear the consequences of compromise and spiritual malaise. They will continue to support the strongholds of rebellious man rather than tear them down. They will continue to fail to cast down the imaginations of every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Rather than bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, they will continue to learn how to be more adapted to being slaves of sin.
Christian education is not a luxury. Christian education is not one choice among many. Christian education is a mandate and one when embraced and obediently carried out, reaps greater treasures than any financial guru can ever help you attain.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].