By Dr. Josh Mulvihill
Many arguments are made against Christian education by some parents and pastors. In response to some of the most common objections, we’ll examine some of what the Bible says about education, evangelism, and discipleship. What is the biblical vision for a child’s education?
Objection #1: Christian education shelters children from the real world.
The Truman Show was a blockbuster movie that told the story of a man named Truman Burbank. He grew up living what he thought was an ordinary life, but unbeknownst to him, the world he lived in was a large set for a 24/7 reality television show with thousands of hidden cameras, populated with actors, and he was the unsuspecting star. Truman’s hometown Seahaven Island is a set built within an enormous dome, which allows the producer to control every aspect of Truman’s life, including the weather. As the movie progresses, Truman begins discovering unusual elements, questions his life, and begins a journey to discover the truth about his world. His journey leads him on a long trip where he runs into the wall of the dome and discovers a nearby staircase leading to an exit door. As Truman considers leaving his world, the producer speaks directly to Truman through a speaker system and tries to persuade him to stay by claiming there is no more truth in the real world than in his artificial one, where he has nothing to fear. After a moment of contemplation, Truman bows to the audience and exits.
Millions of children live a different version of The Truman Show based on an artificial world, except it is called public school. Non-Christian education presents a world where God does not exist and is irrelevant to life. In the illusionary world taught to children in non-Christian schools, the universe came into existence through evolution, children can choose if they are a boy or girl, and marriage can be between two men or two women. It is a fantasy world where morality is a social construct and promiscuous sex is a good thing. An artificial world built on faulty beliefs produces devastating results for children. Like Truman, parents are faced with a choice to keep their children in the artificial world of non-Christian education or exit it so their children can enter the real world of biblical worldview education.
In the real world, God reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In the real world, God created the universe. He defines what it means to be human and what marriage is and is not. In the real world, morality is based on God’s absolute, unchanging law in the Bible. The real world is a place where God is sovereign, controls the laws of science, gave us language and mathematics, created the world to display Himself, and is the author of history. Good Christian education teaches these life-giving truths and helps children become deeply rooted in the Christian faith while exposing children to worldly ideas to be analyzed through the Bible (Col. 2:6-8; 2 Cor. 10:5).
Education should be built on a solid biblical foundation, not an artificial world built on falsehoods. If the choices a young person makes are to be wise, this person must understand the actual reality of the world and understand the framework for truth. In biblical language, this is called knowledge. This is why the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). This, of course, is not any knowledge but knowledge of the truth: God exists, and He created the world for a purpose; we are sinners, and Jesus is the only Savior. These truths are the essential knowledge that a true education teaches and reinforces.
Objection #2: I went to a public school, and I love Jesus.
Many Christian parents rationalize that they went to a public school and still love Jesus, so why shouldn’t their children do the same? I know smokers who never got cancer and obese individuals who never had heart disease. Certainly, we wouldn’t point to these instances as a reason to start smoking or eating poorly. We can also point to Christian children who attend a non-Christian school and love Jesus. Similarly, we would be unwise to use the positive outcomes of the few as justification for choosing non-Christian education. We must remember the end never justifies the means, and experience is not our standard of authority. Please do not make the mistake of using your experience, or that of others, as the standard for your educational decisions. The Bible must be our authority, and it tells us the what, why, who, and how of education.
In addition, public schools today are fundamentally different than the public school you remember and exponentially more secular in every way. Gone are the days when chewing gum in class and running in the halls were the biggest concerns. Christianity and biblical morality have largely been banned from schools and replaced with a woke agenda, LGBTQ ideology, declining academics, escalating violence, anti-family agendas, and atheism in the curriculum. Voddie Baucham once said, “We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.” We would be wise to recognize this reality.
Objection #3: Parents choose Christian education because of fear rather than trusting God.
The primary reason Christian parents should pursue Christian education is to obey the commands of Scripture so that they raise children to know, love, and serve Christ their whole life. The Bible has a lot to say about education, using the words knowledge, learn, instruct, teach, wise, mind, and think. The Bible is very prescriptive about what children are to be taught (Deut. 4:9; Ps. 78:4; Ps. 34:11), who is to instruct a child (parents, grandparents, and the church, not the government), the purpose of education (2 Tim. 3:17; Col. 1:28-29; Col. 2:6-8), and how children are to be taught (Deut. 6:7-9; 2 Tim. 3:14-15; Eph. 6:4). The biblical vision for a child’s education is centered on and saturated with God’s Word, laws, work, and character, the fear of God, and godly living.
The Bible also provides principles about what Christians are to think about and the kind of people Christians are to be around. Paul tells the church at Philippi, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). Christians are called to meditate on God’s Word day and night (Josh. 1:8). We are told that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33), and that education is discipleship where the student becomes like the teacher (Luke 6:40). If anything, it is the fear of the Lord that drives parents to choose Christian education, not fear of man. Parents can no longer accomplish what God instructs through public education.
Objection #4: You should send your children to a public school to evangelize others.
The desire to be salt and light and share the gospel with others is a noble thing, but it is a fundamentally flawed argument as a motive for choosing non-Christian education. Jesus never said, “Go and be salt and light.” He said, “You are the light of the world.” We are already salt and light to a dark world, and we are called to live this out right now, not use this as justification to immerse a child in a world of darkness. Christian schools and homeschools are salt and light to non-Christian education and a dark world. Unbelievers should see the attractiveness of Christian education and be drawn to it and Christ. Christian education is an evangelistic engine to lead children to saving faith in Jesus Christ. According to the Bible, the gospel is central to teaching children (Ps. 78:5-7). Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he has learned as a young child, “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:14-15). What led to saving faith for Timothy? He was taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the teaching of the Bible. Any form of education where the gospel is not central and regularly proclaimed is a departure from Scripture.
Non-Christian education may be a mission field, but this does not require the missionaries to be children, nor does it limit the church from evangelizing non-Christian children in their community in other ways and at other times. Soldiers are not sent into battle until they are trained, which should also be true for Christian children. Evangelism should happen at public schools, but it is through the effort of Christian adults. As a pastor, I was invited to speak every year to all the eighth graders in one of the largest school districts in Minnesota. I was given a whole class period for an entire day during the unit on world religions in history class to explain Christianity, and I shared the gospel with every eighth grader in our community. As a church, we share the gospel with hundreds of children through Awana, VBS, ministry in community parks, camps, retreats, and countless other ways throughout the year. The children at non-Christian schools can be evangelized in these kinds of ways.
Education is an evangelistic endeavor where children are the objects of mission, not the agents of mission. To confuse these two items is a major error. Would you send your children to a Muslim, Mormon, or Hindu school? Parents are wise enough to recognize this would be highly problematic for their children. Public education is highly religious in every way, with its own secular creeds and doctrine. Children are taught what to believe about the origin of all things, the purpose of life, the meaning of marriage, what it means to be a man or woman, what went wrong in the world, and what the solution is. Then, they are provided a secular moral code to live by.
Public education has removed God and substituted man in His place. There is no such thing as religious neutrality in non-Christian education. Secular humanists like Charles Potter have been very open about this fact for decades. He states, “Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday School meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?” Children from Christian homes are being evangelized and then catechized to believe in the religion of secular humanism. Non-Christian schools are winning vast numbers of converts from Christian homes. Education is evangelistic, which is why every child from a Christian home needs a Christian education.
Objection #5: Parents can unteach and reteach their children after school to counter secular thinking.
Parents who are careful about their child’s diet, medications, or media are often far more lenient regarding the mental ideas fed to children in education. Every idea is like a seed placed in the soil of a child’s heart that grows over time and produces deep roots that are not easily removed. Parents try to convince themselves that a strong home with Christian teaching can offset the false teaching of non-Christian schools. This perspective ignores the plain teaching of Scripture that what is sown today will be reaped later.
Children spend approximately 16,000 hours at school between K-12 grades, and the seeds sown from atheistic secularism will likely be absorbed, in part or total. As a pastor, I often had parents urgently ask for help in the late middle school or early high school years. By this point, the seeds had become invasive weeds and the student had proclaimed they no longer believed in God, did not want to attend church, hated their parents, or embraced LGBTQ ideas.
If I were to name this approach, I would call it educational bulimia. The child consumes secularism seven to eight hours daily and is encouraged to vomit it up after school. I don’t know a single parent who thinks it’s a good idea for a child to literally drink poison and then purge it later, yet somehow this is acceptable for the soul and mind day after day. It is questionable if such a method is successful and what lasting impact it will have on the child.
Can an hour or two of discussion neutralize a week of influence on a child? Will parents fully be aware of what the child is learning from the curriculum, peers, and multiple teachers? Is it realistic that a parent will read and watch everything to know what is being taught in detail? Are schools and young children reliable and trustworthy to accurately and regularly communicate what is being taught? If Christians are spitting out those views and values upon tasting them, why continue consuming them? If a child were in Christian education, such a radical approach would not be needed. The best choice is to avoid educational poisons and provide healthy educational meals.
Objection #6: Christian education is too expensive.
Christian education is expensive, but we must think according to biblical principles first and order our life accordingly. The reality is that the cost of non-Christian education is far more costly from an eternal perspective. We may need to make financial sacrifices, but it is well worth it to know this increases the likelihood of our children walking in the truth and spending eternity with Jesus. For some parents, selfishness and misplaced priorities are the real problems, not the cost of Christian education. Some individuals value a large home, a new car, an exotic vacation, or time at the gym. They don’t want to do the hard work of homeschooling or financially sacrifice for Christian education. It is not a money problem but a heart problem. One couple told me they feared what their friends and family would say if they chose Christian education for their children. Christians are allowing the world to educate their children and are now paying a huge price.
My wife and I have sacrificed significantly to homeschool our five children. However, what we first believed was a sacrifice has become a huge blessing in our life. God has provided more richly than we ever could have imagined. This didn’t happen overnight. There were some lean years financially, but I cannot think of a better investment in a child than Christian education. For us, choosing Christian education was a step of faith and an act of trust that God has honored.
For the budget-minded family, affordable Christian education options include homeschool, iLumenEd Academy, school choice dollars (if available in your state), Christian school scholarships, or financial support from grandparents. Many of you reading this article know the value of Christian education and understand the commands of the Bible. What is needed is a step of faith and belief that God will provide a way. I encourage you to set your objections aside and choose Christian education.
Dr. Josh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at RenewaNation. He served as a pastor for nearly 20 years, serves on the board of Awana, and helps to provide leadership to the Christian Grandparent Network. He holds a Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting, Preparing Children for Marriage, Biblical Worldview, and 50 Things Every Child Needs to Know Before Leaving Home. Josh is married to Jen, and they have five children. Josh blogs at GospelShapedFamily.com.