Teaching in the Christian School, Part 1

Knowing the commitment of Bob Jones University to the cause of Christian education and its desire to place into Christian schools as many qualified teachers as possible, a letter writer recently asked me to comment on the apparent inconsistency of its position with Matthew 5:13-16.

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This passage identifies the Christian as the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and the city set on a hill. To withdraw our influence from the public schools and leave their teachers and students without a Christian witness, she stated, seemed to render ineffective the Christian’s role defined in the above verses.

We administrators at Bob Jones University find in our commitment nothing that contravenes the Scripture. To begin with, we do not take the elitist position that a Christian should never teach in a public school. We do affirm, however, that to find God’s will for his life and then serve the Lord in accordance with that will is every Christian’s foremost obligation.

There are a number of convincing reasons and ample scriptural substantiation supporting the view that for the Christian teacher the appropriate field of service is the Christian school, unless the Lord specifically directs him elsewhere. We do not know the Lord’s will for anyone’s life save our own. To pretend that we do would be not only presumptuous but scripturally untenable as well. Nevertheless, trusting the leading of the Holy Spirit as we examine our obligations and available evidence, we must conclude that in the absence of divine direction to the contrary, the Lord prepares the dedicated Christian teacher to serve Him in the Christian rather than the public school.

This conclusion is based on the following considerations:

First, the purpose of all teaching is to establish belief; and no teaching can be done from a neutral standpoint. Our background, predispositions, values, beliefs – in short, our philosophy – is reflected in our teaching far more than the subject matter per se. As a Christian who is committed to the truth, one cannot teach in a “neutral” manner, but must teach according to Christian principles. Such teaching, of course, cannot take place in the public school where the religion of secular humanism prevails.

The courts have consistently ruled against Bible reading and prayer in the public school. Science textbooks affirming or merely presenting the Creationist view were banned on the erroneous assumption that such action was constitutionally mandated by the church/state separation doctrine. It matters little that the state’s irrational educational policy is expressed in the persistent confusion of the problem of the relationship of church and state with the problem of the relationship of religion and life itself. Since all of life is rooted in religious ideas, religion cannot be filtered out of life in general nor out of education in particular. Therefore, to eliminate Christianity from the school is to establish another form of religion in it; and it is well known that the tenets of the Humanist Manifesto guide public education today.

While a teacher might possibly still be able to witness in a public institution, he certainly may not teach in a Christian way. If he did, he would not last long in the public school, unless, of course, he compartmentalized and modified his teaching – and his philosophy – to the point of becoming eclectic and pragmatic.

Thus he might be able to continue teaching in the public school, but his effectiveness as a Christian teacher would be severely hampered. On a personal level, he would experience a high level of frustration emanating from continual and unresolved cross pressure as his Christian convictions and state-imposed dictates vie for preeminence.

Another reason for urging Christian teachers into the Christian school movement is the scarcity of dedicated, competent, qualified teachers. At this time we do not produce a sufficient number of teachers to satisfy the ever-increasing demand of the Christian schools. To encourage our graduates to seek employment in public institutions while the Christian schools go begging seems to be an unconscionable act – at the very least a callous one.

The scriptural exhortation to take care of the believers’ needs applies here. Paul instructs us: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Since the primary mission of the Christian school is not to proselyte but rather to promote Christ-likeness in its students, the Christian teacher’s obligation is, therefore, defined by this scriptural reference. As we serve the Lord, we must gain conceptual clarity of our primary responsibility.

God calls some men as missionaries to the heathen, some as evangelists to the unsaved, others as pastors mainly to maintain and feed the flock, and still others to serve as teachers. Thus, since it is the purpose of the Christian education to develop redeemed man in the image of God, and since the Christian educator must point students to the Original of this image, who is God Himself, the appropriate place of service for the Christian teacher is the Christian school; for these purposes cannot be accomplished in the contemporary public school.

In Matthew 15, where we find recorded Christ’s discussion with the Canaanite woman, there is a corollary to the above-mentioned reference. Jesus said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. . . . It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs” (vv. 24,26). The woman, of course, replied that the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from the Master’s table.

Nevertheless, the principle of primary obligation is clearly enunciated here. If the Christian schools cannot find enough Christian teachers to meet their needs, what is the alternative? Clearly, there is none! Based on this consideration alone, every Christian teacher should make himself available for service in a Christian school, unless the Lord directly and unmistakably issues a different call.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Friday…

What do you think?  Should the Christian teacher feel an obligation to teach in the Christian school?  

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Used with permission from Some Light on Christian Education by James W. Deuink. © 1984, BJU Press. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.

The late Dr. Guenter Salter faithfully served as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Bob Jones University from 1971 to 1998.