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America's Most Important Battleground: Christian vs. Secular Education

During the colonial era of the 1700s, the most important battleground in America was in our churches. It was from the pulpits of Christian churches that faithful preachers of the gospel of Christ sought to ignite the glorious flame of God-given freedom and self-responsibility in the hearts and minds of Americans.

  • Tom Rose,
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During the colonial era of the 1700s, the most important battleground in America was in our churches. It was from the pulpits of Christian churches that faithful preachers of the gospel of Christ sought to ignite the glorious flame of God-given freedom and self-responsibility in the hearts and minds of Americans. And they applied the practice of this godly freedom and self-responsibility to the home, to the church, to business and society as a whole, and to the state. Without this continual educational effort by Christian preachers, which lasted for generations, there would have been no American Revolution, no history of Christian-based education in our country, nor would there have evolved an America which came to be known all over the world as "the home of the free and the brave." Indeed, the British crown so feared the power of America's preachers that they were dubbed the "black brigade!"

But the stentorian cry of freedom from most of America's church pulpits has long been silenced. And the scene of our spiritual battlefield has now shifted to the classroom — from pre-kindergarten to college and even post-graduate. It is in the humble classrooms of America's struggling Christian schools — homeschools, elementary schools, high schools, and colleges — versus the classrooms of richly endowed, secularly oriented private and tax-supported educational institutions — that the continued battle of freedom for the hearts and minds of American youth will be won or lost. And this ongoing intellectual and spiritual battle must be fought anew for each generation.

Secular Education
Some years ago I was invited to speak to the combined student body and faculty of a state university in North Texas on their "Free Enterprise Day." I chose "The Biblical Basis of the Free Market" as my topic. And, believe it or not, I received a very warm reception from the students. Then I got a surprise. The head of the Business Education Department asked me to meet with him in private.

"I liked what you had to say in your talk," he said. "How can I implement what you talked about here, at a state teachers' university?"

I replied that I didn't think he could do so on a consistent basis.

"Why not?" he asked.

"What view of man does your state university hold to?" I queried.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Doesn't your school hold to the view that man is the result of organic evolution, instead of being created in the image and likeness of God? As long as your institution holds to an anti-Biblical view of man," I explained, "you will eventually run afoul of the bureaucratic structure here if you attempt to consistently teach the Biblical view of man that I spoke about today."

"I see," this fine Christian man replied. "What you are saying is that I should quit my job."

"No, though that is always an option. What I'm saying is that you must recognize the basic conflict of views that exists between the humanistic view of man your institution holds to and the Biblical world-and-life view I expounded today. And then you must be willing to pay the price when the eventual confrontation comes to a head and you are asked to change or to resign."

I don't know what choice that well-intentioned Christian man made, but it is practically impossible for anyone who is part of a humanistically oriented institution — especially a tax-supported one — to consistently present a Biblical view of man to students. To do so would strike at the roots of the secular institution. This is also why parents put their children in grave spiritual danger by allowing them to attend tax-supported schools and universities.

John Dunphy, a "New Age" leader, clearly laid out the spiritual battle that Christian young people will encounter by attending tax-supported schools:

[T]he battle for humankind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity....
The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and miseries, and the new faith of Humanism, ... will finally be achieved.1

Dunphy's statement of the spiritual warfare that exists in tax-supported education not only warns parents against the foolishness of entrusting their precious children to humanistically oriented educators, but it also should warn them about the textbooks that are used in tax-supported institutions: True Christian education also requires Biblically oriented textbooks!

Christian Education
To develop a consistent approach to Christian education, we must first start with a Biblical view of man — that man is created in the very image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-28) and that man, therefore, has the right to be free2; but he also has the duty to stand before God as a self-responsible individual (Ex. 8:1). In other words, freedom and self-responsibility to God go hand in hand. Then, too, we must recognize that man is a fallen creature in need of salvation by God's grace alone and that he is condemned to live in a world that has been adversely affected by Adam's sin as man's federal head (Gen. 3). This presents a number of problems and contradictions: First, while it is God's plan for man to be free and self-responsible, he can't be trusted to wield power over others (Jer. 17:9) because of his sin problem. Thus the need for a civil government with limited authority. In short, the civil authority is to be a negative force in society (Rom. 13:3-4; 1 Tim. 2:1-2).

A starting point for our thinking about how to teach Biblically is to understand how man thinks and acts to improve his feeling of well being. As indicated above, we must consider what man is (a fallen sinner), his origin (a God-created being), and his destiny (to spend eternity either in heaven or hell). He is a self-responsible individual who is subject to God's universal law-structure that reigns over the whole creation.

For analytical purposes we can divide God's law-structure into:

  1. the spiritual sphere (moral law),
  2. the physical sphere (the laws of so-called natural science: mathematics, physics, chemistry, electronics, and other sciences),
  3. the political sphere (that is, how civil rulers are to discover, discern, and apply God's laws of governance in society: Ex. 19 and 20; Dt. 17:14-20), and
  4. the economic sphere (man is to "work by the sweat of his brow" in a fallen world to care for his family while honoring God; and man ranks available choices on an internal scale of value and then acts outwardly in mutually beneficial economic exchanges in his business and personal life).

With regard to the spiritual sphere of life, we should recognize that it encompasses all of God's creation. It envelops both the economic and political spheres. Accordingly, because of man's fallen nature, we must recognize that there is a constant tension between the political sphere and the broad economic sphere (of family, church, work, and play in society). For instance, we see through the study of history how civil rulers have always shown a seemingly inescapable tendency toward tyranny by attempting to overrule God's established laws.3 It is because of man's fallen nature and his tendency (even the Christian) to sink into humanistic thinking, that all teaching must be based on God's Word. If we are to replace ungodly foundations and institutions with godly ones, we must be guided by the Apostle Paul's admonition in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds:)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

The points listed above touch upon just a few of the rich insights regarding education that can be garnered from the Bible, which was the daily handbook of the early Christians who settled in colonial America. Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited America in the 1830s, was amazed to see the strong influence of Biblical Christianity in our young republic, and he specifically wrote in his Democracy in America about finding the Bible in daily use on the far frontiers by backwoodsmen and their families. America was built on the Bible and the Christian world-and-life view the Bible produced. We have largely lost this necessary and blessed influence in our modern society, but it can be regained if Christian families become more faithful to God by turning away from the false promises of secular-based, tax-supported education to true Christian education either by homeschooling or by attending honest-to-goodness, real Christian schools and colleges.

The choice between government-imposed tyranny or self-responsible freedom is always but one generation away, depending upon whom we invite or allow to inculcate our children, our most precious heritage and responsibility. J. Gresham Machen said it well:

But while tyranny itself is nothing new, ... the tyranny of the scientific expert is the most crushing tyranny of all. That tyranny is being exercised most effectively in the field of education. A monopolistic system of education controlled by the State is far more efficient in crushing our liberty than the cruder weapons of fire and sword. Against this monopoly of education by the State the Christian school brings a salutary protest; it contends for the right of parents to bring up their children in accordance with the dictates of their conscience and not in the manner prescribed by the State.4


1. John Dunphy, "A Religion for a New Age," The Humanist Magazine (Jan./Feb., 1983).

2. Man's right to be free follows logically from the creation account: God shared His free nature with man.Would God gift man with an attribute He did not expect man to enjoy and use? Biblically, man's freedom cannot be separated from his responsibility to God. Readers who are interested in a more-in-depth treatment of this topic can refer to: Tom Rose, Economics, Principles and Policy and God, Gold, and Civil Government (Mercer, PA: American Enterprise Publications).

3. See: Tom Rose, Economics: Principles and Policy, Chapter 4, "The Relationship Between Economics and Political Science" (Mercer, PA: American Enterprise Publications, 1996), 61-88.

4. J. Gresham Machen, "The Necessity of the Christian School," chap. in Education, Christianity, and the State, ed. by John W. Robbins (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1987), 67-68.

  • Tom Rose

Tom is a retired professor of economics, Grove City College, Pennsylvania. He is author of seven books and hundreds of articles dealing with economic and political issues. His articles have regularly appeared in The Christian Statesman, published by the National Reform Association, Pittsburgh, PA, and in many other publications. He and his wife, Ruth, raise registered Barzona cattle on a farm near Mercer, PA, where they also write and publish economic textbooks for use by Christian colleges, high schools, and home educators. Rose’s latest books are: Free Enterprise Economics in America and God, Gold and Civil Government.

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