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The Purpose of Education
by Stanley Jebb

Extracts from the printed lecture The Importance of Christian Education, (2002), by Stanley Jebb
Reproduced with permission

What is education for?  Surely it is to prepare children for life.  And how can a secular education that leaves God and the Bible out adequately prepare for life?  John Robbins expresses this point well: “’The end of learning,’ wrote John Milton, ‘is to repair the ruin of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him…’  If this be so – and the Bible says it is so – then the aims of education in America [and Britain] are all wrong.  The purpose of education:

·         Is not to enable the student to earn a good income,

·         Is not to preserve our American [British] style of government and political freedom,

·         Is not world unification,

·         Is not to teach young people a trade,

·         Is not to encourage the never-ending search for truth,

·         Is not to put the student in harmony with the cosmos,

·         Is not to raise the consciousness of students and train them for world revolution,

·         Is not to prepare students for productive careers,

·         Is not to integrate the races,

·         Is not the social adjustment of the child,

·         Is not to stay ahead of the Russian (or the Japanese) in technology,

·         Is not to create good citizens.

No, the purpose of education is far different, far more noble than any of these things.  The purpose of education is to make Christian men [and women], men [and women] transformed by the renewing of their minds after the image of Him who created them” [From the Foreword by John W. Robbins, to A Christian Philosophy of Education by Gordon H. Clark, The Trinity Foundation, P.O. Box 68, Unicoi, Tennessee 37692, U.S.A., Tel: 423 743 2005]. 

“The Bible teaches that for a Christian, life is not divided into the secular and the sacred. It is not up to the home and church to train the child in ‘spiritual’ matters while the school teaches him ‘secular’ subjects. Such a dualistic approach often leads to conflicts and frustrations in the mind of the child when he hears one philosophy at home and another at school. ‘The teacher says,’ or ‘the coach says,’ carries much weight in the mind of the child. The home and church and the school should all be moving in the same direction with the same philosophy and goals. … The school which your children attend should be an extension of the training program of your home – not of the state or federal government.  Please keep in mind that the Christian school is not to take the place of the home. The Christian school is designed to help parents fulfil their Christian responsibility ‘to train up a child in the way he should go’” [Paul Kienel, The Christian School, p.62 (our emphases - Bayith)].

The Necessity of Christian Education

The Scriptures teach that the Lord brought into being three institutions: the family, the state, and the church. While He commanded parents to teach their children, and gave teaching as a ministry to the church, nowhere does the Bible tell us that God gave the responsibility for teaching children to the state.  

Let us consider some salient Scripture passages:

Deuteronomy 6:4-7: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up".

This is a key passage not only because it contains the "first and great commandment" but also because it lays a solemn responsibility upon parents to teach their children.

It may be argued that this refers only to religious teaching (or that it is only 'Old' Testament - Bayith), but let us consider another scripture:

Ephesians 6:4: "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord".

Does "bringing children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" refer only to religious instruction?  Or does it relate to the whole of life?  Remember that "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein", and it is in "all things" that He is to "have the pre-eminence".

Stephen Perks writes: “As Christian parents we are commanded to train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that is to train them in godly discipline by means of godly learning. How can this be done if our children receive ungodly learning in state and pagan schools? Ungodly learning produces discipline in terms of ungodly principles. To subject our children to ungodly learning is to subject them to ungodly discipline, and thereby to train them up to be pagans under a pagan discipline. Such an education is a total reversal of the biblical pattern of education” [Stephen Parks, The Christian Philosophy of Education Explained, Whitby, Avant Books, 1992, p80.  Available from the Kuyper Foundation,].

Perhaps we do not take seriously enough our next Scripture passage:

Romans 12:1-2: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God".

J.B. Phillips has famously translated "be not conformed to this world" as "don't let the world squeeze you into its mould".

But so often we do allow the world to squeeze us into its mould.  And so consciously, or more often unconsciously, some Christians come to hold the presuppositions of the world, accept the values of the world, believe the doctrines of the world, act according to the philosophies of the world, and even mimic the behaviour of the world.

Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Does that include only religious teaching?  Does it not include our whole lifestyle, our manners, our behaviour, as well as our beliefs?

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 strong holds;) 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".

Many passages of Scripture teach us that we are engaged in warfare, spiritual warfare, a war of ideas.  It is a real war, not an imaginary one.  We must never forget this fact.

Dr. Howard Hendricks writes: "Christian education is not an option, it is an order; it is not a luxury, it is a life.  It is not something nice to have, it is something necessary to have.  It is not a part of the work of the church, it is the work of the church.  It is not extraneous, it is essential.  It is our obligation, not merely an option" [Dr. Howard Hendricks, Professor of Christian Education, Dallas Theological Seminary, cited in Christian Education: Foundations for the Future, by Clark, Johnson, Sloat (eds.), Moody Press, p11].

Time does not stand still.  As our children get older they are absorbing alien ideas.  Every day they are being influenced through television, films, video recordings, newspapers, magazines, and their peers.

If a person is being slowly poisoned, how long do you wait before cutting off the poison, or at the very least, providing a powerful antidote?  Moreover, many, many children are profoundly unhappy in school.  Why is that?  Is that right?  But all the home-taoght children I have met are very happy with their system of education.

Some of the strongest words our Lord ever used were directed at those who cause little ones to stumble - "...But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matt. 18:6; cf Luke 17:1,2).

Dr. Wayne Grudem makes the following points:

(1) All of a child’s education should be Bible-centred and God-centred.

If we give our children ‘training and instruction’ that excludes God’s words 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for 12 formative years, can we honestly say we have continually brought up our children in instruction that is ‘of the Lord’? ... Every part of the day should be 'educational' from a Biblical perspective.  Can we then exclude the most important learning times for 12 years of a child's life and say these should be 'secular', empty of Biblical teachings?  Could Moses have said, "Talk of God's words all day long - except when your children are being educated"?  No, I am convinced he could not.

(2) Education should be positive and truthful.

Sometimes parents think that a secular environment will 'strengthen' their children by forcing them to stand up for their beliefs.  But God’s Word does not endorse that viewpoint.  It does not say, “Give a child twelve years of training in the way he should not go, and he will be made strong by it".  I know of no verse in scripture that tells me that secular training will 'strengthen' Christian children. (Or that our precious God-given children are to be daily immersed in humanistic, evolutionist, multi-faith, neo-pagan instruction in order that they can witness the gospel to their unsaved peers - Bayith.)   It may callous them so they view sin as more 'normal'.  It may harden them so they care more about the things of the world and less about God.  It may desensitise them so they are more comfortable living in the midst of repeated sin against their Lord.  But it will not strengthen them as Christian men and women.

(3) Peer influence should be positive and Christlike.

Parents sometimes think it helps or strengthens their children to spend much time with children who have different moral standards and goals for life.  But God’s Word disagrees and reminds us that children will tend to become more and more like their frequent companions: "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20) and "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

(4) Every teacher’s pattern of life should be worthy of imitation.

Children a re great imitators.  A teacher they like will have tremendous impact not only on studies, but on attitudes toward all aspects of life.  Parents, do you want your children to be like a teacher who is never able to apply principles from God’s Word to the subject being taught, or the real life situation being faced? ... I realise that there are many excellent Christian teachers in public [State] schools. ... But ... we seldom realise how little freedom Christian teachers have to teach Biblical moral standards (such as the Ten Commandments) or even belief in God generally in the classroom.

(5) Only God-centred education gives true wisdom.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10) and "In whom [Christ] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).  This is the reason our secular educational systems have strayed from the truth.  Isn't it foolish to think we can get a true perspective on God's creation from a system that begins by excluding His words?

(6) Christian schooling is the best hope for transforming society.

School is where we learn to think.  It’s where we learn how to work and relate to others and influence the world. But if that whole process excludes God’s own viewpoint in Scripture for twelve years, our Christian witness grows accustomed to being mute, and it remains uneducated, never growing beyond the ‘Sunday School’ level.  Christian parents sometimes say they want their children to be 'salt and light' in secular school.  But how much salt and light can untrained, silent Christians be? [Extracted from the leaflet, Biblical Reasons for Sending Children to a Christian School, by Wayne Grudem, PHD, Professor of Theology and Bible, Phoenix Seminary, USA].

Joseph Bayly writes: "As Christian parents we believe that each child of ours is a divinely created and inseparable combination of spirit, soul, and body.  When we bundle a child into his coat and rubbers and send him off to school in the morning, we are handing over a total person who will be influenced by a teacher in all areas of his life before he returns home in the afternoon.  It is imperative that the influence upon that child's total person be in keeping with our heavenly Father's view of life and the world ... It is impossible for us to prevent our children from being spiritually affected for better or worse during hours of classroom exposure while they are away from home.  Will our children be disciplined at school on the basis of the Bible and prayer, as is the case at home?  Or will discipline be on some other basis?  What motives will the teacher appeal to in guiding our children?  In a Christian school we know that there will be one motive: 'Do all to the glory of God'" [Joseph Bayly, The Basis for a Christian School, p1f].

The Purpose of Education

Education is not just about getting a few GCSEs, going to university, and starting a career, commendable though these aims may be.  Education is for life, and fro the Christian, this means a God-glorifying life, a life of sanctified service of God and man.

J. Gresham Machan wrote: "A truly Christian education is possible only when Christian conviction underlies not a part, but all of the curriculum of the school.  True learning and true piety go hand in hand, and Christianity embraces the whole of life ... I can see little consistency in a type of Christian activity which preaches the gospel on street corners and at the ends of the earth, but neglects the children by abandoning them to a cold and unbelieving secularism" [cited in David B. Cummings (ed), The Basis for a Christian School, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1982, p4].

This is a vital and urgent matter.  There is nothing more important than the spiritual welfare of our children.


Copies of the booklet
The Importance of Christian Education
can be obtained from the Author at:
19 Bos Noweth, Probus, Truro, Cornwall, TR2 4HE, UK
Price £1.50
£1.85 incl. P+P (UK only)