Biblical worldview: Education

Today, you will hear my brother in Christ, Nate Blair, who happens to be a public educator, address the biblical worldview regarding education.

  • Over the past several weeks it has been demonstrated, everyone has a world view. It doesn’t matter if a person is a theist, atheist or a pantheist their feelings, desires and actions are motivated by how they perceive the world around them (BJU).
  • A world view can be defined as a set of basic beliefs, assumptions, and values that arise from a narrative about the world that produces individual and group actions that shape human culture (BJU).
  • An individual’s worldview isn’t formed in isolation but is influenced by media we watch and listen to, information we read and people we cross paths with.
  • World views are malleable. Each of us is exposed and susceptible to influences outside the world view defined by God’s word.
  • Today we will continue our examination of a biblical worldview in education.
  • There is a cultural battle being waged but Scripture is clear we are engaged in a broader spiritual war on many fronts.
  • In addition to ideologies that contradict what the Bible tells us about who we are and how we are to think and act, we are at war with our own sinful flesh which is inclined to conform to the ideas of men.
  • Finally, the great enemy satan is a relentless foe. Many of the letters written by the disciples and apostles in our Bibles contain warnings against false ideas seeping into the early Churches. In I Peter 5:8 Peter warned the leaders of the persecuted Churches in Asia Minor against false teachings and described the nature of their foe.
    • I Peter 5:8 says, Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.
      • There are at least four valuable applications for each of us as we confront contrary world views.
      • Firstly we are to be sober minded, grounded in God’s truth as expressed in scripture, not subject to our emotions or susceptible to whims.
        • In Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth Chapter 10:5 he is defending his ministry and the gospel against false apostles who had begun teaching and spreading false doctrine in the city. (starting at verse 3)
          • To take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
      • Secondly we are called to be alert and aware of our surroundings.
        • We need to be acutely aware of our limitations, temptations, and the methods Satan might use to conform us to the world’s mold.
        • In the case of the early Christians in Asia Minor there was enormous social and political pressure to embrace the pagan hellenistic worldview they had been saved out of. At the time of Peter’s letter Nero had singled out followers of Christ for persecution.
      • Thirdly, young and old alike are not to be passive but are called to action, to resist the devil’s devices or in our case false ideas about the world we live in.
        • Romans 12:2
          • Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
          • There are no spectators or neutral parties in this battle, as obedient followers of Christ we are to immerse ourselves in reading and meditating on the Word to know how we are to think about the world around us.
          • We are to be Continually at prayer asking for wisdom that the same Holy Spirit that ministered to Christians in the first century would counsel us that we might not dishonor the name of our lord and savior Jesus Christ in our day.
      • Lastly Peter describes Satan as a lion. Lions are opportunistic predators. Their objective is to kill their prey while expending as little energy as possible in the process.
        • Out of a herd of gazelle, lions instinctively find individuals who show signs of infirmity, frailty or weakness. Often it is the young inexperienced members of the herd who break ranks and find themselves isolated and vulnerable to be taken.
  • In the same way, Children, teens and young adults are often the most vulnerable and least equipped to identify and confront Satan’s lies that permeate the secular worldview that has taken root in western culture.
  • For this reason Christian parents who seek to be obedient to scripture and fulfill their God given mission to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord must be diligent and equip them to identify and reject worldviews not consistent with God’s design for his creation.
  • Public education can be thought of as a mission field. Where else can you find a thousand or so young people confined in a building for seven hours and day 180 days a year.
  • I am a World History, American History and American Politics teacher. I teach at a public school of around 1500. By all indicators it is an intercity school system. After my day is finished there I teach the same subjects at two Orthodox Jewish Schools, one for boys the other for girls. Misty has homeschooled all three of our children. When people I meet learn this about me they ask, why would a public school teacher homeschool.
  • There are a variety of reasons, but the longer I am in public education the more confident I am in that decision.
  • In a week I will begin my 22nd year in education and confess that public education is a less hospitable environment to the biblical worldview today than when I began my career.
  • As is stated in Romans 1:25 We have exchanged God’s truth for lies.
  • Don’t misunderstand, I think there are advantages to public and private education.
  • I believe public education has and continues to play a vital role in society if done correctly.
  • Everyday I cross paths with dedicated teachers and administrators, many who embrace a traditional worldview, some even a Biblical Worldview.
  • A public school is a direct reflection of a community and predominant culture. The student body at my school is quite diverse in every way possible. I am often mindful of the common grace displayed daily by acts of kindness or just relative harmony among students and staff.
  • The vast majority of students who sit in my classroom are unChurched. And those that are, attend Churches that function more as community centers and have been pressed into the world’s mold.
  • There are many opportunities in my discipline to expose students to a biblical worldview.
    • According to State Standards I am required to teach about the origins and significance of Christianity in western culture and the impact of the Protestant Reformation.
  • When the topic of the Reformation comes up I usually ask students if they attend a Church and if so what denomination. Every year it seems that fewer and fewer students raise their hands. Many don’t have the most basic knowledge of Christianity much less our nation was shaped by a biblical worldview.
  • According to a Gallup poll from last month. (This is a generic poll)
    • Belief in a God has reached an all time low of 81% That is a 6% decline from 2017.
    • Most alarming is a 10% decline over the same five year period among 18-29 year olds to 68%
    • Though this is a generic poll measuring belief in the idea of a god. It does indicate that more Americans, especially young Americans than ever before are rejecting the biblical or at least traditional world view of their parents for a secular worldview free from accountability and moral constraints.

Biblical Purpose and Responsibility for Education Children.

  • I doubt if anyone here had aspirations for their children to grow up to be ignorant and flounder aimlessly through life.

  • I am sure all of us went to great lengths to give our children opportunities to gain knowledge and skills necessary to be a productive member of society. There is nothing unbiblical about that desire.

    • Proverbs 12:11, he who works his land will have abundant food but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.”
    • We have a responsibility to raise functional adults.
  • So is an education simply the process of gaining knowledge and skills in order to have a fulfilling career. Of course not.

  • The biblical purpose of educating our children is to impart wisdom that they would be able to discern between God’s knowledge which leads to life and the folly of man.

    • Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”
  • God delights in wisdom and discernment.

    • God himself tells us where wisdom comes from. Job 38:36 who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?
      • God has given man the capacity to learn and know his ways.
  • Many if not most Americans believe access to education is a civil right, or a government service every child is entitled to. According to the laws of man they are correct. This perspective is not a biblical one. Far from being a right, an education is a responsibility.

    • Parents are ultimately responsible for imparting wisdom to their children.
      • Deuteronomy 11:18-19 In reference to God’s commandments, Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you lie down and when you walk along the road Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many”
      • Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not turn from it.
      • The task of educating our children in the knowledge of God is a 24/7 process. It requires effort and intention and should take priority in our family lives.
    • In the same way children have a responsibility to pursue an education.
      • Proverbs 1:8 Hear, my son, your fathers instruction and do not forsake your mothers teaching”
      • Proverbs 4: 8-13 Listen my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths When you walk your steps will not be hampered; when you run you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.”
  • Though parents are ultimately responsible for educating their children others can assist.

  • Their is nothing umbilical about seeking knowledge and wisdom outside the home.

  • I trust each of us came to this building this morning to receive instruction in God’s word from pastor Jon. In I Timothy 3:2 Timothy lays out qualifications for elders. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.”

  • As an obedient child Jesus listened to teachers and most likely attended torah classes with the other children at the synagogue.

  • It is easy to understand the role of a biblical worldview in a moral education; what is the biblical purpose of teaching math, science and history?

  • God made man in his own image yet man is not God. God describes himself among other attributes as infinite and omniscient. God doesn’t grow or learn new information. Man though finite and limited in knowledge was blessed with a capacity to reason and learn. Beyond that to communicate knowledge verbally and through writing, resulting in a storehouse of accumulated knowledge preserved for posterity.

  • Man was created to learn. In Genesis we get a glimpse into the first class room. A perfectly ordered environment with the wisest teacher, God himself. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden to care for it as stewards. They had an intimate relationship with God. God taught Adam and Eve everything they needed to know to exist in the sinless world he had created. They had an unblemished worldview. Nothing was withheld from them with the exception of the fruit of one tree. Then the serpent introduced an alternate worldview, that God was not good and they too could be like God. Adam and Eve were tempted and fell and brought the curse of sin and death to the world.

  • -Banished from the Garden, Adam and Eve would have been surrounded by reminders of what they had lost. Imagine witnessing the predation of one animal upon another for the first time, or finding weeds had choked out a plant that once produced good fruit. Adam, Eve and their descendants had to be reoriented to a fallen world.

  • Though tainted by sin, creation still reflects the goodness and majesty of God. Though cursed, still bears the marks of its creator who delights in order not Chaos.

  • So God created man with a capacity to learn and a highly ordered world that can be understood. Beyond that he gave us his inspired word by which we might know him, ourselves and our place in his creation

  • In a very real sense every student who ever sat in any school environment is being oriented to the world God had placed them in. And should be taught to see God’s providential hand in every subject they learn to the glory of God.

  • Therefore without a correct biblical Worldview and ultimate goal to bring glory to God, any attempt to understand the world is ultimately futile, counterproductive and destructive.

    • There is no such thing as a neutral education as some advocate. R.C. Sproul said every education, every curriculum has a viewpoint. That viewpoint either considers God or does not. To teach Children about life and the world in which they live without reference to God is to make a statement about God. It screams a statement. The message is either that there is no God or that God is irrelevant, either way the message is the same.”
  • Over the past sixty years great effort has been made to remove God and his worldview from public education by individuals, political and social movements and organizations like the Freedom From Religion foundation, committed to a secular worldview. Academia and by default K-12 public education has been infiltrated by elements of secular modernism and postmodernism. And depending on who is standing in front of the class will determine the dosage.

So how did we get here?

  • Today’s system of free and compulsory education in all 50 states is less than 150 years old.
  • For most of human history homeschooling was the only viable option.
  • A child’s education reflects the education and skills of their parents. If a parent was literate, so were their children. If the father was a blacksmith, so was the son.
  • A child’s education was mainly practical with little need for academic pursuit.
  • If literate, reading materials were scarce and limited for most. In many cases a Bible was the only book accessible.
  • Relatively few had access to an education outside of the home. In colonial America access to education varied widely depending on where you lived.
  • To find the roots of public education in America you need to travel to Puritan New England. By examining the origins of public education we will also see how far it has deviated from its original mission.
  • The first three English colonies established in North America in the 17th century were Jamestown in VA (1607) and Plymouth Plantation and Mass. Bay Colonies in 1620 and 1630 respectively.
    • Jamestown was a secular colony in that it was established by private investors for the purpose of turning a profit.
    • Plymouth and MA Bay, as most of you probably remember, were settled by Separatists and Puritans fleeing religious persecution and motivated by fervent devotion to a thoroughly biblical worldview.
    • History textbooks are generally unkind to Puritan New England and present them as unhappy religious zealots who stole land from the Natives.
    • It is undeniable that when compared to their cousins in Virginia, settlers in Massachusetts enjoyed a far better standard of living, lived substantially longer lives and enjoyed better general health and were almost universally literate.
  • Literacy and learning were an essential part of Puritan culture. MA Bay colony, what is Boston today, was less than a decade old when Harvard College was established to ensure Puritan ministers were thoroughly equipped to lead their flocks.
  • Puritans held firmly to reformation principles of sola fide and sola scriptura. Salvation and sanctification through faith by reading the word. The ability to read was crucial for salvation and sanctification.
  • The first education laws in American History date to Massachusetts in 1642 requiring every parent to educate their children in the principles of the Puritan faith and the laws of the commonwealth. It was literally illegal to have illiterate children unable to read the bible.
  • Puritans firmly believed as should we what is taught in 2 Timothy 3:16, All scripture is God-Breathed and is useful in teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  • Apparently not everyone was adhering so In 1647 a law that was commonly referred to as the Old Deluder Satan Act” was passed to enforce compliance.
  • It appointed selectmen from the Church to investigate derelict parents who didn’t educate their children and left them without defense against the wiles of satan.
  • In 1675 William Scant of Braintree MA. Had his children seized and placed with another family for not ordering and disposing of his children as may be for their good education and refusing to consent to the selectmen of Braintree”.
    • Towns of 50 or more were required to hire a schoolmaster to teach reading and writing and towns in excess of 100 established grammar schools with the bible as their primary text.
  • By God’s providential hand the bible centric education first established in New England became the norm throughout the colonies aided by events such as the Great Awakening.
  • A proper education was nearly universally thought of as a three legged stool consisting of religion, morality and knowledge. They believed religion was the basis for morality and if religion were removed morality would soon collapse. And knowledge without morality was dangerous.
  • Noah Webster, sometimes referred to as America’s Schoolmaster said, Any system of education…which limits instruction to the arts and sciences and rejects the aids of religion in forming the characters of citizens is essentially defective.”
  • Following the American Revolution our nation was floundering. Our national government under the Articles of Confederation was ineffective, State governments were behaving erratically and schwabing with each other and we were flat broke, owing money to everyone. What we did have was land. All the land west of the Appalachian Mts to the Mississippi River. The Congress eventually began to organize the land to be sold to settlers and the money would be used to pay off our war debts.
  • Congress passed the Land Ordinance of 1785, which provided for the surveying western land North of the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. What will become the Northwest Territory. It was divided into 6MX6M squares called Townships. Within each Township there was 36, 640 acre sections that could be subdivided to as small as 40 acres. The law required that the 16th section be set aside for the maintenance of public education. .
    • Think about what the founders and framers were trying to create, a Republic based on civic virtue.
    • If individuals were to be empowered politically, they understood that an educated moral citizen was key to the success of the Great Experiment”
    • Additionally our founders were committed to creating a society free of caste systems like the aristocracies that dominated Europe. Access to education would be a way for Americans to move up through society.
  • Gradually public education expanded.
  • Throughout the 19th century American school children learned the three R’s and received a steady diet of civic and moral lessons based on biblical principles.
  • As the 19th century came to a close and the tumultuous 20th century opened western culture began to experience dramatic changes and new ideologies and worldviews began to emerge challenging the biblical worldview, in particular modernism and postmodernism.

What is Modernism and Postmodernism?

  • They are both 20th century philosophical movements that have shaped western intellectual thought.
  • They are both worldviews that directly and openly challenged the Biblical Worldview.
  • However they differ in important ways.
  • Modernism emerged in Europe around the time of the American Civil War and was widely accepted by western intellectuals by 1920’s and 1930’s.
  • The historical context of the movement was rapid industrial expansion and innovation.
  • In 1790 the first U.S. census indicated that only 10% of Americans lived in cities. We were largely an agrarian society living relatively isolated lives. By 1920 the U.S. census indicated for the first time as many Americans lived in cities as in rural areas.
  • The nation was becoming two different places. Rural Americans tended to embrace a biblical or traditional American WorldView. Many Urban dwellers with access to cutting edge technology and ideas were far more likely to embrace alternative worldviews such as modernism.
    • Modernists embrace Nihilism - rejection of all religious or moral truth claims.
    • Modernism is an atheistic worldview, rejecting the existence of God but not the existence of absolute truth.
    • Instead of God’s word being the foundation of truth Modernists assert that true knowledge could only be attained through human experience, what is commonly called empiricism.
      • Think back to science class when you learned about the scientific method. A theory can only become a scientific principle after it has been demonstrated to be true by repeated experimentation.
    • Ultimately modernists put their faith in human achievement and believe firmly in the inevitability of human progress through science.
    • In the study of American History we call the period between 1900 and 1914 the Progressive Era. As a society we set to work addressing social problems to perfect society. Take the problem of urban poverty.
      • Some progressive reformers embraced what was called the social gospel. The practical application of Christian principles and established settlement houses in poor immigrant neighborhoods that provided basic assistance, education and even Biblical teaching to the poor.
      • Others Progressive modernist reformers embraced eugenics, or the science of social engineering as a solution. For instance Margaret Sanger promoted easy access to birth control and abortion to control less desirable populations as a means to eliminate poverty.
      • In 1907 Indiana became the first State to pass Eugenics Laws which gave the state authority to forcibly sterilize criminals and people with mental disabilities. All in the name of progress.
    • Romans 11:36 says For from him and through him and to him are all things.”
    • Modernists exchange the truth of God’s providential design and natural order for impersonal forces of time and chance.
    • This exchange is most obvious in the sciences but In the humanities.
    • reference to God’s sovereignty over the hearts of kings and the affairs of man is absent rather man is sovereign master of his own destiny.
  • Modernism faced challenges that eroded its foundation. WWI 1914-1918 and WWII 1939-1945.
    • More than 100 million people died in those conflicts. The Western world was shaken to its core. Clearly science had not delivered the progress it promised.
  • Out of the chaos emerged Postmodernism
  • Like Modernism postmodernism is nihilistic and atheistic, but unlike modernism Postmodernism rejects modernist notions of rationality and objectivity for relativism, the worldview that there is no absolute truth.
  • Where the biblical worldview finds truth in God’s word and the modernist tries to establish truth based on logic, reason and human experience, postmodernists reject the existence of truth and seek to deconstruct cultural norms.
  • After all cultural norms such as gender, sexuality and marriage are merely social constructs to the postmodernist.
  • Furthermore postmodernists assert social constructs such as gender, sexuality and marriage are tools of oppression. A means for the powerful to oppress the weak.
  • Within nearly every subject taught at universities today you will find a feminist theory. Or the perspective of the oppressed being taught. Therefore to truly maximize human existence one must deconstruct the social norms that constrain.
  • Chief among those constraining social constructs is the biblical worldview.
  • The cultural revolution of the 1960’s and the current movements are a direct result of postmodernism deconstructionism.

Most likely your K-12 student setting in a history class isn’t going to be exposed to raw postmodernist theory. Their teachers aren’t going to quote influential postmodernist philosophers, they probably don’t even know any. However the effects of these worldviews reign unchallenged in most secular universities and inevitably find their way into the courses K-12 educators take in preparation for careers in Public School and by default find their way into the curriculum.

So what are we to do? Some practical suggestions.

  • Firstly we need to take refuge in our God who is sovereign over the affairs of man.
  • It is important to recognize how blessed we have been and continue to be as a nation through God’s providential care.
    • We live in a free society whose laws are constrained by a written Constitution which severely limits government’s power.
    • Unlike most western nations we have a federal system in which individual States have real authority. The constitution clearly lays the responsibility and authority of public education to the states. State Governments tend to be more responsive to the will of the voters.
    • We also have a long tradition of local control in public education.
    • School boards are incredibly influential and can be shaped for better or worse easily through the political process.
  • Parents need to maintain open channels of communication with their child.
    • Preview their textbooks, look at their class notes and homework assignments.
    • Most curriculums are online. It’s just a matter of using your student’s username and password and in most cases you will have access to the majority of what will be taught.
    • Parents have unprecedented access to their students’ classes.
  • If there is a matter of concern, communicate directly with the teacher. Most school systems have a 24 hour policy to return communications with parents.
  • When addressing the issue recognize that they most likely have no malintent and would be willing to accommodate you and your student.
  • Avoid emails with accusatory language. Recognize that most likely they care about your student and have the best intentions.
  • If a teacher’s intentions aren’t pure or they refuse to take your concern seriously, take the matter to the building principal.
  • Take your responsibility to educate your student seriously.
  • Finally keep Christ’s followers, students and teachers alike entrenched in public schools in your prayers. Pray that there would be revival and that our nation would once again seek God’s face.

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