Teaching in the Christian School, Part 2

Today’s post is continued from Tuesday.  If you missed it, be sure to check it out here.

Next, let us consider service in a Christian school from the viewpoint of teacher efficiency and effectiveness. Every teacher has available to him what I call “Package X.” This package consists of the sum total of his intelligence, knowledge, mental acumen, skills, drive, stamina, enthusiasm, etc. The Christian teacher will be able to do a much more effective job in the Christian school because, for the most part, certain prerequisites for a profitable teaching/learning situation are met, such as acceptable student behavior and discipline, openness and responsiveness, nonhostile attitudes, inclination toward Christian precepts and philosophy.

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While none of the above can be taken for granted, it is a matter of record and experience that in these areas a marked difference exists between the Christian and the public school. In the Christian school, a greater portion of “Package X” can, therefore, be expended in the actual teaching, molding, and guiding of the learner rather than in enforcing discipline, overcoming hostility, establishing one’s own credibility, and all too often attempting merely to survive in a place that resembles a battlefield rather than a classroom. Clearly, if a teacher must concern himself with such challenges, little time or energy is left for actual teaching.

Does this mean we are surrendering and giving up on education? Most assuredly not! We are building and working for an institution where proper teaching and learning can take place; and that institution is the Christian school. The Christian teacher who decides in commendable but misdirected zeal to persevere in the public school and be the “voice in the wilderness” will have no peer or administrative support, since the aims of Christian education to which he must be committed are mutually antagonistic with those of modern secularist governmental education. He may become a martyr, but he will not be an effective teacher.

An examination of origin and purpose of the Christian school compared to those of the public school will profit the Christian teacher as he seeks his God-appointed place of service. Scripture abounds with references that the responsibility for educating their children was given to the parents and not to the states. While both the home and church have received a clear biblical educational mandate, no mandate can be found in Scripture for the school, Christian or otherwise.

The Christian school, therefore, derives its authority from the parents who, individually or in concert, as members of one church or many, establish a school in order to enhance their educational ministry and protect it from corrupting secular influence. The Christian school thus accepts part of the parental educational responsibility as it stands in loco parentis; and it can point to clearly derived authority. No such authority exists for the public school, which is a usurper of undelegated power. It must be remembered that the final responsibility for the child’s education rests with the parents, not with the school.

If the proper meaning of education is to promote Christ-likeness in the student, that is to say, guide him in the truth in order that he might recognize and reach his potential and perfect the image of God in him, it becomes obvious that such a function cannot be carried out in the public school, which rests on a philosophical foundation that is entirely alien to and radically different from the Christian philosophy. Let me emphasize again that the Christian teacher cannot cooperatively participate in an educative process that is built on the wrong foundation.

Since it is inherent in the concept of education to give the student clarity about his origin, purpose, and destiny, an absolute fixed reference point is needed. Without it, education is directionless, relativistic, devoid of value, and lacking in purpose. The only true reference point is Jesus Christ (Romans 11:36) – not society, community standards, or ideologies. Since the Christian teacher is not allowed to use or mention this reference point in the public school, he must build on the shifting sand of human philosophy and, in doing so, sacrifice his distinctness.

The argument that we “must go into the public schools in order to establish a Christian witness and get people saved” is a fatuous one at best. Any plan to establish such a witness is simply wishful thinking which lacks the basis for fulfillment. Since the Christian teacher is not allowed to educate his public school students in the truth because of fundamental differences in philosophical orientation, his so-called “witness” is restricted to matters of personal standards, morality, integrity, etc.; but such a witness is not necessarily exclusively Christian since many nonbelievers exhibit morally impeccable behavior.

The establishing of a Christian witness in the public school should rather be done through extension ministries where the professional restrictions do not apply. It is in this activity than in the public school classroom where the satanic storms of secular philosophy would soon extinguish its light. A Christian teacher must conceive of his calling as a teaching ministry and not merely a job. He may perform his job obligations at public school, and he may perform them exceedingly well. However, even the best-intentioned Christian teacher could hardly consider his public school teaching a ministry where the state dictates content and philosophy, just as a dedicated preacher could not acquiesce to state censorship over his sermons and other utterances.

The doors of the Christian school are wide open to those who, indeed, seek truth and want an education. As individuals, let us make the public aware of the difference between public and Christian schools; as Christian teachers, let us minister at the place where true education is the avowed goal of all those who serve there.

Finally, to serve the Lord in a Christian school is, for the Christian teacher, a matter of dedication. Usually, the financial and other material rewards are greater in the public school and the hours perhaps not as long; and the fringe benefits of the public school, such as paid vacations, retirement plans, etc., may look inviting. Such enticements, however, are of small consequence in light of eternity. Read John’s words” “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (I John 2:17). Considering the various points offered in this article, the Christian school seems to be, indeed, the appropriate place of service for the Christian teacher.

What do you think? 

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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.