ACSI — Vol 17.3
In Psalm 78:1–8, David wrote one of the earliest descriptions of what should be the result of effective biblical instruction:
O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would be like their forefathers—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him. (NIV 1984)
This passage points out that the end result of effectively teaching God’s principles would be for the next generation to put their trust in God, not forget His deeds, and keep His commands.
Christian schools should at their core be institutions of educational excellence. As Richard Riesen so aptly states, “It will not do for Christians simply to complain of the godlessness of modern science or philosophy. They must themselves engage the world intellectually, even at the cutting edge. Far from enervating our interest in academic things, our faith ought to inflame it. That should be the message students are getting in Christian schools. There is no such thing as Christian education that is too academic” (2002, 107).
With a commitment to educational excellence, how does a Christian school respond to the government-sponsored charter school in town that makes a subtle claim to offer a “free” Christian education (at taxpayer expense) because they have a predominantly Christian faculty and administration? What is the distinctive of a Christian school that makes it worth the extra expense? These are all implicit or explicit questions that both the Christian community and the general public are asking of Christian schools
In response to these questions, an argument can be made that the true distinctive of a Christian school in the United States is that it is the only educational setting1 in our pluralistic society that can truly and fully address the fulfillment of Christ’s two great commandments: “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22: 37–38). As Dr. Glen Schultz points out in his book Kingdom Education, “There can be no doubt that God cares how our children are educated. He makes it abundantly clear that the two most important things in life for an adult are to love God with his or her whole heart and to teach his children to do the same. Once a person enjoys a love relationship with the Lord, he needs to focus on instilling this love in the hearts and minds of the generation to follow” (2003, 29).
Christian schools are the only schools that can be intentional about teaching students to fulfill Christ’s two great commandments. At best, public schools in the United States can only make a hopeful attempt to accomplish this vision as an indirect by-product of other goals. This vision cannot be their primary objective since they are required to impartially and equally serve a diversity of religious and nonreligious perspectives. This is often done by maintaining a separation of religious faith and academic learning. In contrast, an effective Christian school makes an effort to integrate faith and academic learning by permeating all school activity with a biblical worldview; its goal is to achieve a true biblically based, Christ-centered education that can truly fulfill David’s teaching in Psalm 78, to pass on God’s wisdom from one generation to another.
1. This column confines its discussion to traditional schooling options rather than addressing nontraditional schooling options such as homeschooling.