The Necessity for Christian Schools
Chalcedon Report No. 136, December 1976
Jesus is Lord!” This is the summation of St. Peter’s proclamation on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36) and of St. Paul’s declaration in Philippians 2:9–11. The demand of Rome on the early Christians, when they were arrested, was to stand before the image of Caesar and declare, “Caesar is Lord.” If they did so, they were free to practice their faith minus one ingredient: they could not declare “Jesus is Lord.” These three words, however, were the basis of the first baptismal creeds.
What does it mean to declare “Jesus is Lord?” It means that Jesus is very God of very God, ruler over every realm, not merely in the future, but now. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). He is Lord now. As He declared, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). Every sphere of life is thus under His authority: if it does not serve Him, He will in due time destroy it. This means, not the priority of the church but the priority of Christ the Lord. Both church and state must serve Christ the Lord. So too must the individual, the family, the arts and sciences, the vocations, recreation, all things, and this clearly includes the school.
There is no obligation for the school to be under the church’s authority, and good reasons against it. The school does not belong to the state, nor to the teachers, not even to the parents, let alone the pupils. The school must be under the authority of Christ the Lord.
What does this mean educationally? It means that Bible study is not the only religious subject taught in a Christian school. Every subject is inescapably religious. It either sets forth in its premises and implications the Lord who made all things, or it presupposes an ocean of meaninglessness. (For a development of this for various fields of thought, see Gary North, ed., The Foundations of Christian Scholarship [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books]). The unity of all things is in the fact that Christ is their Creator and Lord.
Humanism seeks to unify all things under man. The result is statism, churchianity, or an educational bureaucracy. The assumption is that some elite men must control things, or trouble ensues. The result is a gradual slide into lukewarmness and fence straddling.
The Christian school, however, must separate itself from humanism in its every form. It must develop its own liberal arts curriculum. The liberal arts are literally the arts of freedom; such a curriculum is an education into freedom. For the orthodox Christian, Christ the Lord is the principle of freedom (John 8:34–36) and of truth (John 14:6). The curriculum premise is the Creator-Lord, who, having made all things, is also the source of all interpretation.
All education defines man’s cultural task. For humanistic education, man’s cultural task is to build the kingdom of man and to realize himself as a free, autonomous being. For Scripture, man’s cultural task is to exercise dominion and to subdue the earth under God (Gen. 1:26–28), and to seek in all things first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). For humanism, man is sovereign and lord over all things; for Scripture, the triune God alone is Sovereign and Lord. As Christians, we must thus hold, in the words of Dr. Cornelius Van Til, “God is in control of history and all that comes to pass comes to pass because of his ultimate determination. Nothing less than this idea, directly taken from Scripture, will do justice to the unity of culture” (C. Van Til, The Dilemma of Education, p. 47).
The Christian school therefore must train youth in the art of freedom, Christian faith and knowledge, so that they may occupy (Luke 19:13) every area of life and thought for Christ the Lord.
More than all others, the orthodox Christian stresses education, because he alone has the faith which makes education possible. Unlike all other faiths, Scripture gives us God’s infallible word, propositional truth. On any other foundation than propositional truth, meaning wavers and disappears, and education becomes finally impossible as Gunther Stent, a humanist, admits in The Coming of the Golden Age: A View of the End of Progress (1969). Only the sovereign Lord who created and totally governs all things can speak a true and infallible word, because His Word alone is total in knowledge and power. As a result, education can only endure if it is Christian. It is not an accident of history that schooling has thrived in Christendom, nor is it an accident that humanistic education is now in chaos and decay.
The Christian school is therefore a necessity. There can be no Christian future without the Christian School and a Christian curriculum.
Topics: Culture , Education, Family & Marriage