As some of you may have noticed, this last weekend I put up a post that went kind of nuts. I am talking about Tolle, Leg It, in which I encouraged Christian parents to take this particular rainbow moment as an appropriate time to remove their kids from the government schools, select a tall object on the horizon, and head for it in all due haste.
My point garnered a lot of attention and sparked quite a bit of debate. There are 488 comments there now, and the post gathered up 5.4K Facebook likes. John Piper did his bit by tweeting a quote from the post, and I can tell you via the wonder of Google Analytics that 17,639 people showed up the day after it was posted to gawk at it — and on a weekend too.
So maybe we should talk about this topic a bit more. Before going any further, let me extend my thanks to everyone who showed up to discuss it, particularly to those who differed with me. I will not be able to manage a detailed response to everyone, obviously, but I would like to say just a few things here. For those who want to follow up in detail, there is plenty of material available. In that post I put up links to four books. The best introduction to the subject I have is Why Christian Kids Need a Christian Education. The book that interacts the most with standard arguments for keeping our kids in the government schools is Excused Absence. The other two books represent the same basic outlook, but in the context of arguing for classical Christian eduction.
Well, then. One objection was that I posted this view under the category “Engaging With Culture” while I was ironically calling for disengagement from culture. Now is not the time to disengage, the response goes — now is the time when the government schools need salt and light, now more than ever.
The answer is that engaging with culture wisely is something that requires training. So the issue is not whether we want soldiers who are ready to engage with culture, but whether our army is going to provide those soldiers with training in boot camp. More than that, will we provide them with guns and ammo? To change the metaphor, Nairobi requires salt and light also, but you don’t put your seven-year-old on a plane to go there. The reason you don’t is that they are not yet equipped.
My education was entirely secular, from kindergarten through my M.A. I regard it — spiritually speaking — as a best case scenario. Because my parents were such consistent and conscientious Christians, whenever I saw a conflict between what they had taught me and what I was being taught in school, I always sided with my parents, no question. But I didn’t always see what was being done to me, particularly when I was younger. You can’t choose sides before you can see the sides.
So education provides the “lesson” that a kid takes home, but education also rests upon a network of foundational assumptions — and many of those foundational assumptions are now being given far more authority in the church than they should have. It makes no sense for pastors to look around astonished at what passes for rational argumentation in their congregations — liking and sharing rainbows on Facebook, for instance — when that same pastor has adamantly insisted for decades that the children of his congregation be trained by specialists in that very way of thinking. As Voddie Baucham put it memorably, if you render your children to Caesar, don’t be surprised when they come back Romans.
Another argument appeals to the sovereignty of God. God can save a person anywhere, including government school, and another person can reject the finest upbringing and education in order to fall away in unbelief. This is quite true, but to use it as an argument against the use of scripturally appointed means is to teeter on the lip of hyper-Calvinism. Jacob and Esau went to the same school, but the fact that Esau rejected his birthright is no argument for withholding it from Jacob.
The issue is whether God has required us to use particular means. Of no authority whatever is any particular line of reasoning from the bare fact of God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign, why pray? Why preach? Well, we should pray and preach because it was the sovereign God who told us to. In the same way, Christian parents are required to bring up their children in the paideia of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Covenant children must grow up in an environment completely dominated by the Word of God (Deut. 6:4-9). Our children bear the image of God, and so it is forbidden to render them to Caesar (Matt. 22:21). There are exegetical arguments for the necessity of Christian education. We must work through those first before getting to the hard cases, which brings us to the next point.
A third issue has to do with money. I would want to divide my response here into two. The first would be to agonize with those parents who want a Christian education for their children, but who do not see any practical way they can do it. In such circumstances, it is the responsibility of church communities to help out. At Christ Church, we baptize infants, and every time we do, the congregation takes an oath to help these parents in “the Christian nurture of this child.” In Baptist churches, something similar can be done when children are dedicated, or when they are baptized later on. Regardless of denominational distinctives, Christian churches carry a responsibility to help parents in the momentous task of Christian nurture. At Christ Church, we have a Christian Education Fund because we do not want any covenant child in our community to fail to receive a Christian education because of money. Sometimes there are other factors — say a nasty divorce that resulted in a court order requiring government school. But taking one thing with another, a Christian community dedicated to Christian education can do an awful lot — and can do it all without legalistic rules. At Christ Church we have hundreds of kids, and only a handful, less than five percent, are in the government school system.
But there is another half to the money question. I wish I could say that Christian fathers rarely put monthly budgetary issues ahead of their children’s educational welfare — but it is not true. There are unfortunately many instances when it all comes down to the money, and not in the right way. There is no way to build a Christian educational alternatives without sacrifices — and people won’t make sacrifices when they don’t understand the issues. And getting someone to understand the issues when understanding them will cost him a thousand dollars a month is frequently a tough sell. It is often hard to persuade someone when the cost of him following the argument will be him not following the money. Teaching children to love Christ with all their heart, soul, mind and strength is expensive. So is feeding them — but we still do it.
Twenty years ago or so, I was a participant on a panel having to do with homosexual rights. Gay activists were there in force, and were as well-behaved as they usually are on such occasions, which is to say, not very. I remember standing in the hallway afterwards listening to a lesbian screaming — “in ten years, your children will be ours!” My kids were all still at home and in school at the time, but not in the system of indoctrination she was apparently counting on. My response was, “Not my kids.” This was not said in presumption, or on the basis of any carnal boast. We are commanded to bring our children up in the faith, and that means bringing them up in faith.
And here we are, decades later — four families, seventeen grandchildren, all of us loving Jesus Christ. If there is one place where I am hungry to be able to imitate the Lord Jesus, it is in repeating His words first given through the prophet Isaiah: “Here am I and the children whom God has given me” (Heb. 2:13).
They have taken a sign of God’s gracious promise, and turned it into an emblem of their defiance. We should be grateful that our children will not be destroyed by a global flood, but if we trust God with the education of our children appropriately, neither will they be destroyed by all the rainbow lies. God in His goodness will summon them all to His throne room, where purity dwells, and the rainbow is emerald green (Rev. 4:3).