Why Christian Schools? (part 2)

Here is a second article written by a Lutheran pastor and headmaster of a classical, Lutheran school in Idaho. It is posted here with his permission. Though He refers to the LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), the church body of his church and school, our readers will still find his comments relevant.

Why Christian Schools? (part 2)

By Rev. Sean L. Rippy

There is an old Lutheran joke that goes something like this: Once upon a time, there was a Lutheran church that had problems with bats in the belfry. The trustees of that congregation tried everything they could think of to get rid of the pesky bats but nothing worked. At length, one of the trustees was complaining to the pastor of the congregation. “I’ll take care of it,” the pastor said confidently. The next week the bats were gone. When asked how the pastor got rid of the bats, the pastor responded, “Well, I just baptized and confirmed them, and I haven’t seen them since.” This joke is funny (and a little painful) because we can relate to it. We hear it and we nod our heads knowingly because we’ve seen it happen. It’s kind of sad, but when we look around at our churches, we see the same story repeated over and over again: we lose many of our children after confirmation. We lose even more after they go off to college.

In last month’s article, we saw how God commands parents and churches to provide a Christian education for their children. This command, however, begs the question what does God mean by a Christian education? For example, in the Lutheran church, we offer Sunday school from preschool to high school and Confirmation for 7th and 8th graders under the category of Christian education. Is that all that God means by providing a Christian education or does He also require Christian schools to be built? First of all, I don’t think it’s too radical to suggest that Christian Schools are the best way to teach children God’s Word. In fact, I think we have enough evidence to suggest that Sunday School and Confirmation do not provide nearly enough Christian education to either sufficiently understand the Word of the Lord or to combat the unchristian influences that seek to devour our defenseless and impressionable children.

The joke I opened with about confirmation confirms my own personal experiences as well as the recent history of the LCMS and thus it illustrates the point that Sunday School and Confirmation are simply not enough. Based on the number of children and college students leaving the church every year, it seems clear that we need to do a better job of providing our children with the spiritual defenses they need to combat sin, the devil and the world. This is one of the reasons I believe God gave us Christian schools.

Let’s look at confirmation for a moment. The average confirmation lesson is 1 hour. The average confirmation class meets weekly, usually on Wednesdays, for about 9 months (the length of a school year). Subtract 4-6 weeks for Advent and Christmas and 6 weeks for Lent and it comes to about 27 hours a year or 54 hours over the two year span of confirmation.

On average, Jewish boys and girls receive about 248 hours of religious instruction a year, and Roman Catholics average about 305 instruction hours a year. The average Protestant averages only 52 hours a year (weekly Sunday School). And due to tardiness, absences, poor lesson materials and surroundings, it is said that even those 52 hours of instruction actually only average about 17 hours a year. For Lutherans, you can add about 27 extra hours a year for confirmation in 7th and 8th grade.

In comparison, the average U.S. child will, by the age of 65, have spent 9 full years of 24-hour days sitting in front of a TV set. If that same child goes to Sunday School and Bible Study every Sunday during those same years plus 2 years of confirmation, he will have spent only a little over 4 months studying the Bible. That’s 9 years of 24-hours of education from the TV and 4 months of education from the Bible. This doesn’t even begin to include the years of antichristian teaching from music, movies, books, and the public school system. If we don’t teach them, the world will.

I think few today would disagree about the unchristian influence of the media, but what about public schools? Isn’t public education neutral, allowing any child to believe what they want? I know this is a touchy subject because there are many faithful Christian teachers who are trying to do their best in a public school system that tries to straightjacket them, and my sympathies truly are with them. However, I think we have plenty of evidence that public schools do lead our children away from the Christian faith. Some of these are overt attacks on the authority of God’s Word and the Christian worldview such as the teaching of evolution which is unavoidable in a public school today, and some of these are subtle attacks on Christianity such as the secular teaching of critical thinking apart from the Word of God. A Christian simply cannot learn critical thinking without first subjecting his/her reason to the scriptures. Any form of critical thinking apart from the Word of the Lord is a path to destruction. As Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10).

In one of my articles for the Zion Christian School newsletter, I summarized a report from 2006 that found that 40% of those who eventually left the Christian faith started doubting in a public Middle School with another 40% starting to doubt in a public High School. There can be no doubt that public schools do influence our children in a negative way.

However, unbelief is not the only way that public schools affect our children. The schools may not entirely crush faith, but their influence is such that they can warp what our Christian children believe until it is no longer Christianity.

Quoting a study by Josh McDowell from his book The Last Christian Generation 2006, Alan Pue wrote:

“McDowell then gives some startling facts about young people. For example, 63 percent don’t believe that Jesus is God’s one true Son, 58 percent believe that all faiths teach equally valid truths, 51 percent don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, 65 percent don’t believe that Satan is a real entity, and 68 percent don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real entity. He then observes, ‘It’s not that they haven’t embraced a version of Christianity; it’s simply that the version they believe in is not built on the true foundation of what biblical Christianity is all about’ (2006, 15).” (Pue loc. 241)

“How can these startling finds be true? How can our kids be so wrong about such fundamental truths? How can they embrace God and spirituality and yet hold such profoundly wrong beliefs? In answer to that question, McDowell writes, ‘In the absence of foundational training, our young people have been influenced by a philosophy that permeates much of our society- government, schools, movies, television, and music- and guides much of their behaviors without them (or most of us) even being aware of it’ (2006, 43).” (Pue loc. 241).

“Reread that quotation. Then focus on the phrase ‘in the absence of foundational training.’ I would argue that the foundational training to which McDowell refers can best take place in Christian Schools. It’s not that I think the church unconcerned or even incapable. And I would not even argue that every Christian school does a good job of equipping our young people to think and act Christianly. I would make the case, however, that Christian schooling, properly done, does provide the best context for the kind of in-depth discipling demonstrated in the Scriptures.” (Pue loc. 241) Rethinking Sustainability: A Strategic Financial Model for Christian Schools 2012 Purposeful Design Publications, CO Loc. 241. I would agree. I also want to draw your attention to the phrase “our young people have been influenced by a philosophy that permeates much of our society- government, schools, movies, television, and music- and guides much of their behaviors without them (or most of us) even being aware of it.” That’s the subtlety of the devil’s conceit. An antichristian philosophy permeates our society. It’s in our governments, our movies, our tv shows our music and in our schools, and we don’t even realize its influence until it’s too late.

I think most people in the United States (including most Christians) believe that education is spiritually neutral. They believe that educational philosophies are only good or bad as they pertain to a child’s academic success and have little to nothing to do with a child’s spiritual development one way or the other. The problem is that this ignores the reality of worldviews. All ideas have worldviews. All philosophies are based on certain presuppositions. Insofar as those philosophies are based on Biblical presuppositions, they may be called Christian. Insofar as those philosophies oppose Biblical presuppositions, they may be called nonChristian.

To put it simply, we must divorce ourselves from the myth of neutrality. Nothing is neutral. It is not possible to have a neutral government- Government principles and laws either agree with God’s Word or they don’t. It’s not possible to have a neutral tv show- the show either promotes views that agree with God’s Word or it doesn’t. And there is no such thing as a neutral school- schools either teach subjects in such a way that they agree with the Word of the Lord or they don’t.

When we look at scripture passages like Eph. 6:4, “raise your children in the admonition and instruction of the Lord,” as well as the multitude of Bible passages that teach us to avoid those who do not teach according to the Word of the Lord (i.e. 2 Tim. 4:2-5; Titus 1:10-2:1-15; 1 Tim. 1:3-11; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Tim. 6:2-10 etc., etc., etc.), it seems clear that Christians are to avoid any school that does not teach according to the Word of God or that teaches in such a way that they contradict or undermine the authority of God’s Word. We are to teach Christian things in Christian ways.

To be clear, God does not require an academic education. In other words, while we are commanded and required by God to teach our children the teachings of God as He has given them to us in the Bible and give them a proper education enough to be able to read and understand the Bible, a person does not have to learn math or secular history or science or many of the topics taught in a public school or college in order to be saved. However, He also says that if we are going to teach our children those subjects, then they must be taught in a way that does not contradict the Bible. In essence, if we must have an academic education, then we are to provide our children a Christian academic education.

When pushed, someone will ask if Christian schooling is necessary for salvation? Of course not. One can go through the worst of public education and still come out a Christian. It is possible. I made it, though I can’t say I made it without some dangerous and costly detours along the way. I was essentially a humanist when I came out of High School with a high trust in human reason and a weak trust in the authority of the Bible. If I had to admit it, I’d say Seminary with its intense study of the Bible saved me. I have friends who were not as blessed, however, and quite frankly, public schools have even less Christian influence today than they did when I was a child. The question, however, isn’t, how much can we put our children through and hope they’re one of the lucky ones. It’s what does God want you to do with your children? The scriptures say “The devil prowls like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” And you can bet that anywhere where Christ does not reign as supreme is his feeding grounds. Why put our children in harm’s way and hope for the best?

No parent would expect their children to physically compete with a professional athlete on the athletic field. Yet that’s exactly what we ask our Christian youth to do in the world. During their formative, immature years we expect them to contend successfully with an antithetical academic and philosophical system manned by college trained professionals and jazzed up by the best in technological entertainment. We expect them to take this all in, at least 12 years of schooling and 4 years of college, with only a few hours of Bible to counteract it, and then we expect them to emerge at the end with their faith and their beliefs intact. As early as 1941 Walter Lippman said “Day after day young people are subjected to the bombardment of naturalism with all of its animosity to Christianity. In the formative years of their lives, or at least during the period of their education when their ideas are crystallizing, they must listen and absorb these ideas of man, the world and religion. With these facts before them, why do Protestants wonder that Christianity has so little influence over young people!” 1941 folks!

Towards the beginning of the Reformation in the year 1520, Martin Luther wrote, “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.” & “I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount.”

Teaching our children is the most important thing parents can do on this earth. It’s us versus the world. It’s Jesus versus Satan. It’s heaven versus hell and the prize is the souls of our children. It is not enough to merely cast the seeds about and hope that the garden tends itself. We must do everything we can to protect our precious children from the many antichristian philosophies and worldviews that our present society with its media, government, and schools are actively pushing on them.

After many years of being duped by the myth of neutrality and the separation of church and state, I am now firmly convinced that when God commands us to provide a Christian Education for our children, He means more than just taking our children to Sunday School and Confirmation. He means that we need to provide a Christian school for our children- a Christian school that both protects our children from unchristian influences and teaches Christian things in a Christian way.

For Christian parents, I believe that this command of God to train and teach their children means that not only should they diligently protect their child from unchristian influences at home, teach the Word of God to their children at home and take them to Sunday School and confirmation, but it also means that they should be willing to suffer and sacrifice all in order to safeguard their children from the devil and his ways by putting them in a faithful Christian school. For congregations, I believe that this command of God means that for the sake of our own little ones, we must not only provide the best Sunday School and Confirmation programs we can, but it also means that we must provide the best Christian school we can. To do anything less, I believe, would be to abandon our children to the devil and the world and hope they make it.

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About Jesse Jacobsen

Pastor Jacobsen moved with his family to the Columbia Gorge in January, 2006. He has been a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod since 1998. He resides in The Dalles, serving Bethany Lutheran Church, Concordia Lutheran Church, and Columbia Lutheran School.

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