This is the third in a series of talks delivered by Rev. Jones on “Successful Education.” The first two asked Who and What are we dealing with? and are titled “The Two Concepts of Education” and “The Nature of Man in Education.” Both can be found on the HCS website under articles.

When does it become true education?
or…
The Christian Curriculum


I am much afraid that schools will prove to be great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the scriptures are not paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt. – Martin Luther 

     The educational accomplishments in colonial America were without equal in the world. A Frenchman, DuPont de Nemours, wrote a report in 1800 entitled, National Education in the United States of America. It revealed that illiteracy was almost non-existent, and only four in a thousand were unable to write legibly and neatly, with excellent abilities in the basic skills manifested by virtually all. The report cited that the religious instruction was also excellent. But then education was controlled by the family and implemented by voluntary associations and by churches.  In 1815, the average age of criminals in the United States was forty-five, by 1960 it was nineteen. Anyone under eighteen is considered a juvenile and is not figured into the average.  The extreme rise in juvenile convictions over the last fifty-five years would lead to the conclusion that the current average age is actually two or three years younger.

     The true purpose of education is “to bring out” the abilities and talents in the student and to develop him in terms of the person God meant him to be, then true education involves change and growth. R.J. Rushdoony wrote in The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum concern-ing education during the era of colonialization,  “The function of education and of the curriculum was the preparation of man to glorify God, to enjoy Him, and to serve Him in and through a chosen calling.”

     The emphasis now is on the needs of the child, not on the demands and expectations of the culture or more properly the demands and expectations of the Lord God Himself. The first change God demands is a change in heart.

     When correcting a list of math problems, we do not tell the student, “You have the wrong solution to one of these ten problems, correct it!” without pointing out which solution was incorrect. The student cannot know to change something until they know what is wrong. Thus we must be forthright in revealing the truth of Scripture regarding our hearts. This is a truth which is greatly neglected in today’s evangelical church. We speak much of our need for a Saviour, but refer only to an inner emptiness or a desire to escape hell or a need for greater satisfaction in relationships. The reason such circumstances abound is the Biblical truth – our sinfulness.  

     The Bible tells us that we cannot trust our heart to determine what is right. The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?  (Jeremiah 17:9)  Just because it “feels” right does not make it right, whether in the way we act toward others or the way we act toward God (this includes but is not limited to our repentance, our prayer and our worship). Children must come to an understand-ing that our “wants” are not necessarily what we need.

     Denial is abundant in the wicked heart and we all possess a wicked heart! Why do the wicked renounce God?  He has said in his heart, "You will not require an account." (Psalm 10:13).  Our deception is that there are no consequences, our denial is – God never delivers judgment.

     Another area of our wicked deception is the thought that as long as we do something, we are functioning properly before God.  A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin. (Proverbs 21:4).  But wickedness extends to everything we do, even what we are doing right, if the heart is not repentant.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.  
Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice wicked works
With men who work iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.
—Psalm 141:3,4

     The only protection and the only possibility of change is that which comes as a gift from the Lord Almighty.  Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried. The third day He arose to make us a “new creation.”  And the Scriptures tell us that He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, so that from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.  Not only do we need to be reminded of this, but our children need to know it.

     One of the most prevalent of mistakes in biblical teaching is moralism, which reduces biblical faith from religious to moralistic dimensions.  This is especially prevalent in the teaching of children.  We teach children to be good, we ask them, “What would Jesus do?”  But Christianity is fundamentally anti-moralistic because in the Scripture, the godly man is the saved man, not the self-consciously good man.  Good works must be taught as our proper response to God’s grace, not as the means by which to obtain His good favour.

     Our choices are rarely black and white ones; we rarely have the luxury of an absolute choice.  But we do have the continual opportunity to make decisions in terms of an absolute faith, however gray the immediate situation.  Again, R.J. 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.”

     A second demand which God makes is that the teachers of a child, beginning with their parents and continuing on to others placed in authority over them, must administer correction both in instruction and in punishment.

Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.
—Psalm 141:5

   We have seen the removal of corporal punishment as a possible means of correction statist schools as well as private and parochial schools. Appropriate and measure-ed correction is a blessing to us all, and we should say with the psalmist, “Let my head not refuse it.”

     A third demand is that our presuppositions in education must be Biblical.  A presupposition is by definition that factual or philosophical starting point; an assumption which forms the foundation for our argument or activity.
     We assume:

the sovereignty of God, and the authority of His infallible word.  The only real world is the world which has a Creator. And the only real world is ruled by His word, the Bible.

that critical thought can better flourish within the context of Biblical Christianity than autonomous humanism.  “If God exists and we are made in His image we can have real meaning, and we can have real knowledge through what He has communicated to us. If this is taken away we are left only with man and his finite self-expression.” Francis Schaeffer (“The God Who Is There”)

that Christian education is frankly and honestly authoritarian even as all education is authoritarian.

that Christian education must assert at all times the absolute law of God.

that the purpose of Christian education is not academic; it is religious and practical.

     A fourth demand is the application of knowledge, which is wisdom.  From the Christian point of view, failure to act on knowledge is a sin.  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.  (James 4:17)

     In humanistic education, man’s goal in knowledge is the increasing release from the responsibility of knowledge.  But the very essence of biblical manhood is responsibility, and a rebellion against responsibility means a rebellion against the condition of being human, of being the creation which God intended.