Christian Education – The Command

In the last article we introduced the Concept of Christian Education by looking at a variety of definitions that established the principle end of education as something moral and spiritual. Then we traced how this was the stated philosophy of education for schools, colleges and Universities that were established by the Reformers and which grew out of the Puritan era.  It is vital however that we understand that this concept of Christian Education is founded on Scripture. Then men who held it believed in the Reformed Principle – Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) and endeavoured to make the will of God revealed in the Bible to be their rule for the whole of life. So they asked the question, what does the Bible say about the education? This seems a very obvious thing to do, not at all profound yet it is a question the Church and Christian families have not asked for a long time in UK. 


If however we allow ourselves to be controlled by the will of God in this area we will consider it to be sacred duty laid on us by God to provide our children with explicitly and thorough Christian Education.


Christian Education – The Command


An Old Testament Requirement.

In Deut 6:4-7 Moses spoke to Israel words that are very important to any study of the Biblical view of Education. ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, & with all thy soul, & 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, & when thou walkest by the way, & when thou liest down, & when thou risest up.’ Here God revealed that responsibility for the education of children rested upon the parents and it was their obligation to provide their children with an education in the whole of life that was directly related to the Word of God.


From these verses we see that:

a)      The environment of that education was to be dominated by God’s Law. The Word of God was to permeate every sphere of the life of the Israelite – Everywhere and always!

b)      The content of that education was also to be expressly Biblical – they were to be taught everything from a Biblical standpoint so as to be trained to think about everything from Biblical perspective, in contrast to the unbiblical worldviews of the surrounding nations.

c)       This was to be proof & consequence of their love to God with all their heart, soul and might.  


Other passages in the Old Testament establish the same thing e.g. Deut 11:18-25; Ps 78(particularly v1-8).

The whole book of Proverbs is also case in point. Consider the words ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge’ Prov 1:8 or ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.’  These verses are often pressed upon men in personal evangelistic application, but there is much more in these words than this. There is a Biblical Philosophy of Education that grounds all true wisdom & knowledge exclusively in a Biblical worldview and understanding of reality.


The Old Testament gives no room for an artificial sacred/secular distinction when it comes to education. The whole life of the Hebrew, including his education, was to be founded on and governed by the Word of God.


A New Testament Requirement

The New Testament confirms the teaching of the Old and lays the same duty on the Church today. In Eph 6:4 Paul writes ‘And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ It is evident from this command that parents are again addressed as being the ones responsible for the education of their children. Furthermore this education is again to be explicitly Christian.


According to this we are to:

a)      Bring them up – that is to raise and guide them to maturity, from childhood to adulthood all the while they are under direct parental care.


b)      This upbringing however is specific. It is to be in the Nurture and admonition of the Lord – where the word translated ‘nurture’ is the very significant and informative Greek word paidea.


In ancient Greece ‘paidea’ described the entire process of educating humans into their ‘true form,’ seeking the perfection of ‘the real and genuine human nature.’ It involved the whole training and education of children in the development of mind and morals, and for this purpose it employed instruction, commands, admonitions, reproofs & punishments.


In Eph 4:6 this idea is taken from a Greek culture and rooted in a Biblical one. Paul is not concerned with ‘nurture’ alone, the command concerns the NURTURE OF THE LORD. In other words, the whole process of instruction & discipline of the child is to be in the Lord. To paraphrase what he is saying correctly we could say ‘Fathers give your Children a Christian Education in all things.’


Charles Hodge comments on this verse ‘It is the nurture and admonition of the Lord, which is the appointed & the only effectual means of attaining the end of education. Where this means is neglected or any other substituted in its place, the result must be a disastrous failure. The moral & religious element of our nature is just as essential and universal as the intellectual. Religion therefore is as necessary to the development of the mind as knowledge. And as Christianity is the only true religion and God in Christ the only true God, the only possible means of profitable education is the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That is, the whole process of instruction & discipline must be that which he prescribes and which he administers, so that his authority should be brought into constant and immediate contact with the mind, heart and conscience of the child... It is only by making God in Christ, the teacher and ruler, on whose authority everything is to be believed and in obedience to whose will everything is to be done, that the ends of education can be attained.’ [1]


Implication for today.

From what we have established we are faced with a hard and unpopular conclusion. The implications of these texts of Scripture do not permit the sending of our children to an unbelieving institution for 30-35 hrs per week to be instructed in an unbelieving curriculum by unbelieving teachers through unbelieving textbooks; all of which either do not mention Christ as though he were irrelevant to their field of study or openly mock, undermine and oppose the teaching of the Word of God.


Parents do have the right to delegate the responsibility for educating their children to those who are better able to teach them in the different fields of study. That teacher will then act in loco parentis (in place of the parent). But that right of delegation only extends to those who in the place of the parent will facilitate and promote the bringing up of the child ‘in the nurture & admonition of the Lord.’

To do otherwise in Old Testament terms would be akin to Israel putting the education of their children into hands of Philistines to be instructed in a pagan worldview, but we are commanded to give our children an explicitly Christian Education in all things.

[1] Charles Hodge. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, p360-1.