What Makes Christian Schooling Different?
Before we go back to the topics that we were considering last spring, we need to look a little farther at the differences between secular and Christian schooling. They both have nothing but the creation for curriculum. The secular school, however, in its goal of preparing students for today’s culture, is really trying to help students gloss over or forget the void, which exists in the heart of every human being. It seeks to equip students for success. In this connection, Nord says in Religion and American Education, “Indeed, much of what contributes to the success of America—our deep felt cultural commitments to competitiveness, individualism, liberty, technology, material affluence and a market economy—indirectly and ironically undermines the content of our character.” (p.321)
Christian schooling seeks something radically different. To see the difference we need to note what the gospel is. When John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus, he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Jesus and the gospel writers equate the gospel with the arrival, in the Person of Christ, of the kingdom. And Paul says in Colossians 3:13-14, “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Salvation involves our induction into a new life in Christ’s kingdom. We give up our own imagined kingdoms and accept Christ’s kinship in all of life.
Now the goal of life, and so of education, is changed. Instead of seeking ways to forget or downplay the void, the goal is Christ’s kingdom. The threat of the void, and so of death, is gone, because Christ killed death in His own death. Hence Galatians 2:20 can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” This means that we have gone beyond the void to the Source of life, to the knowledge of God. This is the only place where the human person can truly be itself. Since God is love, we begin to live in our love to Him and to our neighbor. This is the mark of our being in the kingdom. “By this means, men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Much of Jesus’ three-year ministry was given to training His disciples. He chose them, and still chooses them, to witness to His saving kingship. This does not necessarily mean being ministers or missionaries; it does mean seeking to demonstrate in Christ’s kingship in whatever calling we are given and in all of life.
But, you may say, isn’t this the objective of home and church rather than school? A stool is not steady unless it has at least three legs. The objective of schooling, as of home and church training, is responsive discipleship. God made and upholds the creation, and the study of the creation is as much of a way to know the Lord as are the love of the home and the gospel ministry of the church. Failing to practice this, we become dualists and are involved in that side of life in idolatry. Thus Christian schooling is radically different from secular schooling.