Christ-centered education is sorely needed today
“Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well the maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life (Joh.17.3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”
The first call for education in the Bible is found in Genesis 18:18-19: “Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him. For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has promised him.” This is the heart of our Heavenly Father addressing the heart of an earthly father to train up his children in the ways of God, so that his family and future nation will be blessed and will, in turn, bless all nations. God gave the responsibility for educating children in the nurture of the Lord to parents.
The cornerstone of early American education was the belief that “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). America’s colonial period reflects the fruit of parents who took seriously their role to provide their progeny a godly education, as well as a Christian model for righteous living. Like the practice of the ancient Jews, education and discipleship began in the home at mother’s knee and often ended in the cornfield or the silversmith’s shop apprenticing with father. Most colonial families had a copy of the Bible and attended church regularly. Dr. Lawrence A. Cremin, distinguished scholar in the field of education, wrote that during America’s colonial period the Bible was “the single most important cultural influence in the lives of Anglo-Americans.” Parents taught the rising generation to think and reason with biblical principles, which prepared them to establish the world’s first Christian constitutional republic. Another word for constitution is covenant. The propagation of God’s covenant promises to Abraham has been dependent upon parents teaching the next generation His commandments and ways.
America’s first 150 years provide a strong model of education
Eighteenth-century clergymen were also instrumental in preparing the colonists in their struggle for independence from Mother England, a monarchy whose king violated their individual rights as English citizens. It was the clergy’s vigorous preaching and active participation in the war itself that gave the religious sanction and inspiration for the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Those first 150 years produced a model of education worth replicating in the family and the church today.
As sovereign ruler of the universe and the author of human history, God governs in the affairs of men and nations. History is “His story.” A Christian history timeline is a helpful tool to trace His providential hand in His story, so a simple Timeline of Education is provided for your reflection. It begins from creation to the founding of the United States of America, her flowering as the first Christian constitutional republic, and, sadly, the erosion of her educational underpinnings and Christian character. Tracing God’s hand highlights how He has used both key individuals and nations to move the Gospel and its effect of internal and external liberty from Jerusalem to the remotest parts of the earth.
God has always placed a great emphasis on His people remembering His mighty acts and teaching the knowledge of them to the next generation (Psalm 78:1-7). Sadly, few Americans are aware that twentieth-century, revisionist historians and secular educators have robbed them of knowing their Christian legacy by intentionally removing from textbooks all remembrance of God and His miraculous providence in the founding and constitutional eras. This has been a deliberate act to deprive Americans of their individual liberty. The American Church today is in need of a “Great Awakening” from her ignorance and lethargy in order to recognize and own God’s mandate for godly education and Christian discipleship. Too often, this mandate is met in the local church with an “educational” program for children designed to babysit and entertain them. Children hunger and thirst for righteousness and yearn for instruction that transcends the mediocrity and perverseness of the popular culture to inspire their imagination to nobleness of thought and deed.
Bible examples of godly education
This is precisely the testimony of Samuel, the child dedicated by his mother to education under the nurture of Israel’s high priest and educator, Eli. Samuel knew firsthand the tragedy of the omission of godly education and the lack of role models in a nation. He had witnessed its effect in the moral degradation of his people. His solution, which birthed a great awakening in Israel, was to establish schools of the prophets to restore to his whole nation the study of God’s Word and the knowledge of God in all subjects—in literature, history, natural science, and the arts. In only twenty years, Samuel’s restoration of biblical education turned his nation back to God and established her character and identity as God’s chosen people—a nation called to be a light unto the world!
Another biblical example of the role of godly education in deliverance from sin, oppression, and ignorance of God’s Word is the reconstruction project of the civil governor, Nehemiah, and the high priest, Ezra. After 70 years of exile in Babylon, the “Hollywood of the ancient empires,” God sent them back to the desolate capital city. Nehemiah and the returning exiles, with the help of the local Jewish remnant, rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days! He then gathered all the families into the marketplace to listen to Ezra, the premier Jewish educator, read aloud and teach the meaning of God’s Law (Nehemiah 8:1-3). Those who had been left behind in Jerusalem after the Babylonian destruction had lost contact with God’s Word. As Ezra opened the scroll and began to read, the people soon wept profusely as God’s living Word pierced their hearts. They cried out to God for forgiveness and repented. Nehemiah called for a festival and the people joyously celebrated, “because they could understand the words which had been made known to them” (Nehemiah 8:12). Ezra then taught them their glorious, providential history (Nehemiah 9). Their ignorance of God’s miracles and guidance throughout the history of their nation had robbed them of their knowledge as a divinely chosen people. Once their understanding was illumined, they renewed God’s covenant in writing. The reconstruction work was not complete until Jerusalem’s families were rebuilt spiritually and her cultural institutions rested solidly on God’s Law! God was consecrating His people, so that in 400 years He could send His only Son to earth to atone for the sins of the world and fulfill His eternal plan for mankind.
- Elizabeth Youmans
… to be continued
Dr. Elizabeth Youmans is founder and director of Chyrsalis International. With 30 years of pioneering experience in Word-centered education at the local and national level, she now imparts the vision for educational reform internationally by laying teaching and learning on the foundation of Christ and His Word. In 2002 she launched the AMO curriculum, a program designed to help children in impoverished communities to flourish, and become servant leaders in their communities. Elizabeth is the mother of four grown children and grandmother of eight grandchildren.
 First Fruits of New England, a portion of Harvard College’s Mission Statement, 1643.
 American Education: The Colonial Experience 1607-1783, 1970, p. 40.