Education and a Theology of Children

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Education, like everything else we undertake, has countless methods we can get tangled up in. Instead, we need to be using those same methods in faith.

Covenant keeping cannot be done by our works, or any autonomous effort that we might supply. Covenant keeping is promise believing — nothing more, and nothing less. But many of the promises given to us by God are promises that concern our children. This means that numerous covenant promises are promises concerning the process of education. At the center of these promises, God offers us the salvation of our children. Now the only way to apprehend this kind of promise is by faith. But the faith that apprehends such promises is a gift from God, and the only kind of faith that God gives is a living faith. God only gives the kind of faith that is capable of receiving His remaining gifts. God gives us hands so that He may then give us all the remaining presents.

Now rigorous Christian education (with regard to the curriculum) can be established, maintained and encouraged in a spirit of unbelief. In short, it is possible to have our lips approach God and yet have our hearts remain far from Him. This approach was discovered by Cain, the third human being ever. Adam and Eve discovered disobedience and repentance. Cain discovered false repentance and false worship, and people have been offering strange fire ever since.

But even though the outside of the cup can be washed without affecting the inside, the reverse is not true. Whenever the inside of the cup is washed, the outside will also be clean. And so if we believe God concerning our children, this will necessarily result in rigorous Christian education.

Use the illustration of farming. If God promised a farmer a glorious harvest, and he really believed the promise, this would not induce him to stay home instead of plowing and planting. And it would be wrong-headed to accuse him of unbelief because he was out there plowing and planting — even though his neighbors are also plowing and planting precisely because they are trusting in themselves, and not in God.

Those unhappy Christian parents who believe that the beneficial results of education are somehow “up to them” will often be frantic in their pursuit of educational resources, ideas, schools, etc. But the parents who believe God will not answer this problem by lounging about and eating grapes. They will work also, just as hard. But a vast chasm separates faith working its way out in love and unbelief trying to fill up their covenantal black hole with autonomous human striving.

All this is to say that godly Christian education is impossible apart from a right mind about the covenant and a sane heart with regard to faith and works. And this is one of the central reasons we have controversy on other “more doctrinal” subjects. The Auburn Avenue imbroglio is not a useless battle over abstractions. It is really a controversy over whether we should have a robust theology of children.

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