The Foundation of the Christian Curriculum
Let’s say you wanted to prepare an ambassador for diplomatic service. What would be involved?
For starters, you would ensure that the candidate was well versed in the ideology and practices of your country and was prepared to discuss, defend, and promote your nation’s interests in the country where he was going to serve. Selections would be made on the basis of those who were in wholehearted agreement with your country’s goals and purposes, and verified so as to ensure loyalty when living in that foreign culture. You would make sure that anyone sent out was additionally versed in the culture and perspectives of the destination country to be able to conduct the duties and responsibilities of the calling effectively and productively.
Aren’t Christian parents charged with the same responsibility as they train their children to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ according to the Great Commission? Before we would consider sending them on such a mission, would we not need to be certain that they were well schooled in the particulars of the Christian faith as it applied to daily situations? Wouldn’t we want them to be able to articulate in a coherent way what makes Jesus Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life?
In other words, what would a Christian curriculum look like—one designed to impart a Biblically Christian world and life view?
I’ve irritated more than a few people by challenging the enrollment of their children in the public school system. In fact, I’m repeatedly told by Christian pastors and elders that it is important not to be divisive on this issue. To many, it is an issue that is summed up in agreeing to disagree.
Their underlying presupposition is that education is a subject that the Lord has no definite opinion about. To them, attendance at church on Sundays and further participation at Sunday school or Awana clubs is all the requisite Christian education that children need: religious training is best handled at church, with there being no need to examine all disciplines (history, science, literature, etc.) from the Word of God.
I often challenge such folks and ask them this: as a Christian, why wouldn’t you send your children to a Muslim school? A Hindu school? A Mormon school? The answer: because they are Christian and they wouldn’t want their children to be influenced against their religious beliefs! My next question is: as a Christian, why are you sending your children to a missionary school that teaches, preaches, and mandates the state religion of humanism? As Rushdoony so ably puts it,
A state curriculum to be true to itself must teach statism. A Christian curriculum to be true to itself must be in every respect Christian.1
Many professing Christians continue to enroll their children in state-run schools, thereby setting up a schizophrenic situation: Jesus Christ is professed King of kings and Lord of Lords on Sundays (and in church), but Monday through Friday, His name is forbidden to be acknowledged or even prayed to inside the walls of the state-run school where they go to be educated. In fact, often the only acceptable way to mention the name of the Lord in a public school is to take His name in vain!
That said, there is much more to the primary and secondary curriculum than just including the name of Jesus prior to or during the school day. Christ must be the root and branch of every subject—diffused throughout the entire course of study of history, science, literature, language, and mathematics. Children must understand that they cannot adequately comprehend the world in which they live and move apart from the Word of God as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Again quoting Rushdoony:
The sound curriculum will be the relevant curriculum, and relevancy requires two factors, a world of absolutes, and a world of change. It is not enough to hold to God’s absolutes: they must be continually and freshly related to the changing times.2
Rushdoony used to come and lecture at my home back in the early nineties and would repeat again and again the necessity for us to view all areas of life and thought through the glasses of Scripture. For without this vision correction, we are doomed to both the nearsighted and farsighted distortions brought on by sin and disobedience. Through the impetus of his teaching, I came to understand that I was personally responsible to understand the implications of my faith in order to adequately teach and prepare my children for adulthood.
Therein lies the rub. Too many Christian parents have abdicated this role of being the primary educators of their children, passing the baton to a school system to take care of preparing their children for life and the world as adults—apart from submission to the law-word of God. In many cases, these same parents have little to no interest in becoming educated themselves with a Biblical worldview. They profess with their lips that they want children who will live and act as Christians, but with the jello-like standards of the world, almost anything qualifies. What we get is a church full of “baby Christians,” at best (Heb. 5:13) and hypocrites, at worst (Matt. 7:21).
Parents must be able to discern all current events and issues of the day from a Biblical perspective. Then, should they decide that the best method of education is a day school rather than homeschooling their children themselves, their quest should be for a school that is committed to teaching ALL subjects from a Biblical perspective. What’s more, regular “dinnertime” and “in the car” discussions should be maintained in order to evaluate the fruits of the school’s teaching, not to mention the effect the values and standards of fellow students have on their children.
What follows is a non-exhaustive analysis of some of the fundamental differences between Christianity and humanism as they affect education, excerpted from Rushdoony’s Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum.3
|1. The sovereignty of the triune God is the starting point, and this God speaks through His infallible Word.||1. The sovereignty of man and the state is the starting point, and it is the word of scientific, elite man which we must heed.|
|2. We must accept God as God. He is alone Lord.||2. Man is his own god, choosing or determin- ing for himself what constitutes good and evil (Gen. 3:5).|
|3. God’s Word and Person is the Truth.||3. Truth is pragmatic and existential: it is what we find works and is helpful to us.|
|4. Education is into God’s truth in every realm.||4. Education is the self-realization and self-development of the child.|
|5. Education is discipline under a body of truth. This body of truth grows with research and study, but truth is objective and God-given. We begin by presupposing God and His Word.||5. Education is freedom from restraint and from any idea of truth outside of us. We are the standard, not something outside of man.|
|6. Godly standards grade us. We must measure up to them. The teacher grades the pupil.||6. The school and the world must measure up to the pupil’s needs. The pupil grades the teacher.|
|7. Man’s will and the child’s will must be broken to God’s purpose. Man must be remade, reborn by God’s grace.||7. Society must be broken and remade to man’s will, and the child’s will is sacred.|
|8. Man’s problem is sin. Man must be recreated by God.||8. Man’s problem is society. Society must be recreated by man.|
|9. The family is God’s basic institution.||9. The family is obsolete. The individual or the state is basic.|
As is apparent from this comparison, the products (graduates) of a secular education and those of a deliberately Christian education will be radically different. What’s more, these same individuals will perceive issues and ethical choices quite differently. Why should we expect the conversion of the non-believer when those who profess the faith more often than not share with him the same economic, political, and social premises?
We must always remember that there is a war that has been raging since the Fall of Man. Again to quote Rushdoony,
Education is thus the power area in the modern world and the arena for the struggle between Christianity and humanism. If humanism can retain control of the schools, the logic of education will then create more and more modernism, because modernism is simply humanism in charge of the church. It will turn evangelicals into neo-evangelicals and neo-fundamentalists. It will produce, in the supposedly Bible-believing churches, a faith having the form of godliness but lacking the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5).
The recovery of the power of godliness requires a radical break therefore with humanism and humanistic education. It means that a thoroughly Biblical doctrine of education must govern the Christian school. Our hope then is not in externals and methods but in that meaning and truth which is incarnate in Jesus Christ.4
There is too much at stake for this continual disobedience among professing Christians to continue. All the considerations that have been used to justify and baptize the sacrificing of our children on the modern altars of Baal must be confessed and repented of. We should encourage Christian education in both the homeschool and day school. If we truly want to see disciples made of all nations, we must begin in our own homes and churches.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books), 12.
2. Ibid., 14.
3. Ibid., 172–173.
4. Ibid., 161.
Topics: Biblical Law, Christian Reconstruction, Dominion, Education, Family & Marriage