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“Learn Not the Way of the Heathen”

  • Stiles J. Watson
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More than five years ago when my wife and I first decided to homeschool, I still believed that our decision was simply a personal choice and every Christian family had to do what was right for them. I have long since abandoned any such humanistic thinking.

As believers we are slaves to Christ, and as such we are not “free” to simply live any way we see fit (Romans 6:18–22). When we professed Christ, we professed Him as Savior AND Lord (Romans 10:13). Unfortunately, “Jesus as Lord” is a concept that is completely lost on the modern “New Testament” evangelical (even though in the New Testament Jesus is referred to as Lord more than He is as Savior). And in light of the recent Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) decision, it appears it is lost on many who call themselves “Reformed.”[1]

Scripture is clear on the matter of education, and it makes NO allowance for His people willingly subjecting their children to pagan education.

Jeremiah 10:2: “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen” (KJV).

The Hebrew word translated in Jeremiah 10:2 as “heathen” is Goyim. The Hebrew word can be translated as “heathen,” “people,” or “nations” and refers to non-Jewish peoples — the Gentiles or unbelievers. We can understand the passage this way:

The Lord commands us not to learn the ways or customs of those who do not believe.

Young’s Literal Translation has it as “Unto the way of the nations accustom not yourselves.”

Do believers really need any other argument to pull their children out of the pagan public school system? The Lord has explicitly commanded His people not to learn the ways of those who do not believe in Him, but when Christian parents insist on immersing their children under the pagan floodwaters of the statist, humanistic, anti-God, public school system, they are teaching them nothing but “the way of the heathen.”

Don’t believe me? Read the humanists’ own words, written by their own pens. Charles Francis Potter, signer of the Humanist Manifesto, in his book Humanism: A New Religion, makes some shocking remarks:

“So Humanism is not simply another denomination of Protestant Christianity; it is not a creed; nor is it a cult. It is a new type of religion altogether.”

Education is the most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday Schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?[2]

Ben Rast of Contender Ministries notes that “[h]umanist educator John Dewey [father of modern progressive education], also a signer of the Humanist Manifesto, called for a new humanist religion in his work A Common Faith.” [3]

This is not simply a natural “evolution” of education as might be claimed. It is a direct assault against God, Christianity, and your family.

In 1897 John Dewey wrote that the teacher is always “the true prophet of the true God, and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God.”[4] But what “God” and what “kingdom of God” is Dewey talking about? Is it the God of the Bible? The answer is emphatically “NO!” His idea of God is the union of the “ideal” and the action or experience that supports the realization of that ideal. In other words, his “idea of God, or of the divine” is the human experience as one seeks to bring one’s own desires (or the desires of the community) to fruition. In A Common Faith, Dewey writes:

The idea of God, or, to avoid misleading conceptions, the idea of the divine is, one of ideal possibilities unified through imaginative realization and projection. But this idea of God, or of the divine, is also connected with all the natural forces and conditions — including man and human association — that promote the growth of the ideal and that further its realization. We are in the presence neither of ideals completely embodied in existence nor yet of ideals that are mere rootless ideals, fantasies, utopias. For there are forces in nature and society that generate and support the ideals. They are further unified by the action that gives them coherence and solidity. It is this active relation between ideal and actual to which I would give the name “God.”[5]

His god being now the creation of man’s own experience as he works toward realizing his own ideals, Dewey destroys any foundation for the existence of an absolute truth. By defining God this way, Dewey has created a god who is constantly evolving as man’s ideals change and as he experiences new ways to actualize these new ideals.

His philosophy, his god, has actualized into what we see today in the public school system:

  • Moral Relativism (no absolute truth, no ethics or morals, no fixed standards)
  • Academic Dumbing Down (everyone must be equal, lowest common denominator)
  • Far-Left Programs/Socialism (cradle to grave security, complete dependence on the state)
  • Near Absence of Discipline (no concept of real authority)

Twenty years ago parents would have been appalled at the idea that the state owned their children, but now many are appalled at the thought that the state does not and should not own their children. “Yes,” many of today’s parents would say, “parents have certain responsibilities toward their children, but in the end it is the state’s responsibility to feed, educate, train, and employ them.”

But what does God’s Word say?

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:4–9 NKJV)

We are to teach our children. And what are we to teach them? “These words which I command you.” We are to teach our children to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” We are to teach our children that Jesus is the King who rules and has dominion over all things.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9–11 NKJV, emphasis added)

We must teach them that since God created everything, they must understand all things according to how He defines them in His revealed Word. We are to teach them to walk in the way of the Lord and “learn not the way of the heathen.”



[1] Lee Duigon,“PCA Rejects Proposal to Pull Kids from Public Schools.” http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/article.php?ArticleID=95.

[2] Charles Francis Potter, Humanism: A New Religion (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1930), 3 and 128, cited by Ben Rast in “Humanism — The Established State Religion,” http://www.contenderministries.org/humanism/humanismreligion.php, emphasis added.

[4] Lawrence A. Cremin, Public Education (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 76–77, cited by R.J. Rushdoony in The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1981), 175.

[5] John Dewey, “Faith and its Object,” abridged from A Common Faith, http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/unitarians/dewey.html.


  • Stiles J. Watson

Stiles J. Watson is the Webmaster for the Chalcedon Foundation and is a graduate of the University of Houston, where he received a B.S. in Computer Science. He has also taken courses at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife homeschool their children and attend Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. He is also the editor of FaithAndDominion.com.

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