The Christian and State Education

 A seminar given in 2019.

Further reading:

“What are they teaching the children” ed. Lynda Rose

“The case for classical Christian education” by Doug Wilson


A danger of being critical /

Q: What are the goods you want to be thankful for when it comes to your kids education?


[A] Why we should be thankful:

opportunity, professionalism, resource

[B] Why we should be thoughtful:

1/ Schools developed from Christian foundations / Our topic is something we should as Christians be eager to think about…

1.1 The Christian worldview implied it : I can have no confidence in any system of education which is not based on the great doctrines of religion and which does not impart to the mind of a child a deep sense that it is an immortal and responsible being … and that there will come a day when it must tender an account not only of its actions but also of its thoughts." The Earl of Shaftesbury debating the elementary education bill in the House of Lords, July 1870[1]

1.2The Christian worldview enables it : The Oxford University coat of arms displays the words “Dominus illuminatio mea” (“The Lord is my light” - Ps 27v1)

 Christianity gives us a sense that we are not just serving ourselves but God and the world he has made – and so we want to be educated so we can take responsibility for that / But it also teaches that all truth is God’s truth – so the more we understand him and his ways, the better educated we will become – as we will better understand his world and how to live within it / Example – CS Lewis – we have no basis for reason without God / Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London.”

2/ Schools are wandering from their Christian foundation

2.1 Concern about dangers: bullying, drugs, temptation, numbers, moral confusion / We are very aware of these concerns / and the sheer numbers make school difficult to control and police / where else would you allow your 11 year old to join a crowd of 1500 other kids with only one adult for every 30 / the NSPCC recommends 1 for every 10 for Safeguarding purposes

2.2 Concern about ideology: in brief - secularism – keeping faith from public life, relativism – treating morals as mere preferences and so equally valid, pluralism – treating beliefs as mere preferences and so equally valid / Now you may feel some of what I’m about to say is controversial – but I’m happy to chat about it later on /

2.3 Becoming re-education camps?

“The protests outside a primary school in Birmingham which teaches the fact that same-sex relationships are normal and are as loving and supportive as any heterosexual relationship are in my view wrong.” Nick Gibb, Minister for schools[2] / Note he accepts the primary school was teaching homosexuality is normal and equally valid – and that it was not wrong to do so / but that is a reflection of someone’s beliefs and morals / and so although people might say everything is equally valid, by teaching in that way they are actually teaching that some views are note – such as the view that homosexuality is not normal and is morally wrong / In fact the education minister is quite prepared to say that / And so we’re told our schools are very inclusive, when actually they are being used as places to re-educate our children in whatever the state and its shapers most want to promote / That this should not surprise us / Everyone reflects beliefs in their behaviour / So every government will seeks to govern according to the religion that denominates – and the religion of our day is one that worships the individual and believes there are no real truth for all – except the command – thou shalt not criticise another / so…

Ofsted inspectors are to evaluate how well leaders “promote British values through the curriculum, assemblies, wider opportunities, visits, discussions and literature” and “pupils’ understanding of the protected characteristics” of the equality act.[3] / Key here are the following ideas / but in the hands of our secular, relativistic and pluralistic society, although each seems like a good thing, it is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing…

1)   Liberty – freedom that flourishes / Jesus – “the truth will set you free” / or freedom that enslaves – the massive rise under individualism of abortion, STDs, childless families

2)   Tolerance - respectful disagreement / 1 Peter 3v15 – “give a reason with gentleness and respect” / or uncritical affirmation – one of our children telling us after writing Muhammad they must always write an abbreviation of “peace be upon him” – but (a) that’s a prayer to a false god (b) its to affirm a warlord who killed many 

3)   Equality – affirming dignity / All made in God’s image / or justifying discrimination / the equality act means that it is wrong to treat anyone in a way that they may find humiliating or offensive / And what this means is those who hold views that are critical of others, are often silenced whilst those feeling aggrieved are allowed to speak – and so a concern for equality discriminates 

4)   Anti-bullying – encouraging kindness – a biblical principles / or supressing thought / so what follows from above is that any disagreement about a child’s self-designation of themselves as gay or transgender can easily be labelled an example of bullying / and a concern for the in vogues issues of the day keeps people from thinking through other forms of bullying over race or whatever 

5)   Sex and relationships education – promoting what is best / God’s way protects children and marriages / or celebrating whatever is practiced / [I]Vicar of church school – someone briefing staff on relationships education / She began – the key is that “we celebrate all forms of family” / When I questioned whether that was helpful because it just perpetuated the social problems the school was having to struggle with – I was silenced

2.4 Lacking educational foundations? / This is rarely thought on / But it’s not just the above issues / because we cannot understand the world apart from the God who made it - the secular ideology actually undermines education itself

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.” CS Lewis, the Weight of Glory

1)    Inconsistent in thinking? / So teachers want to teach kids to be honest – whilst encouraging them to enter into someone’s self-deception about their gender by calling them a boy when a girl / or they affirm the importance of biology and the environment – but teach that the fact that the male-female sexual organs were designed for one-another, has no place in determining the appropriate partners for sex / do you see?

2)   Limited in perspective? God’s word brings a much bigger perspective to every subject – it teaches the defining nature of nature discerned by science / the power and use of words / the order and wonder of maths / the importance of nations in geography / a grasp of providence in history / the benefits of maths and art / the respect for the body that drives sport / do you see? 

3)   Narrow in curriculum? / The concern with just achieving also breeds a narrowness / But the richness God’s word brings to subjects shows how important a broad education is that doesn’t drop subject and limit options to get the best results / it sees the importance of shaping character and faith too, above all else

[C] Thinking Christianly about education:

1/ Its aim: All life under God / We must start as we so often do – at the beginning…

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1v27-28)

“For the Christian the purpose of education is to facilitate maturation in the image of God and thus growth into true manhood or womanhood, so that the child might be able to fulfil his creation mandate in obedience to God’s word. It follows from this that the kind of education we give our children must be one which is thoroughly grounded in the Christian worldview and which seeks to subject every discipline to the authority of God’s word…to deny our children such an education is to abandon our responsibilities as the covenant people of God.”[4]

5 key lessons…

1 Education has the most exciting of goals / nothing less than serving God in family and industry so that our world flourishes as he is honoured / far more inspiring than being about getting a good job

1 Education is subject to God’s will, wisdom and word / it is to image him as we relate to him / so his word must govern the manner and boundaries of how we educate and act – giving a richer understanding of our subject manner, and joined up thinking that relates it all to God

1 Education should respect creational diversity / because this is to fulfil the purposes of creation, anything that goes against the order of creation on gender, relationships or anything else is unthinking / moreover the nature of creation recognizes some difference of activity and ability between men and women, and between individuals with different gifts – so education should never be a one size fits all approach

1 Education should be engaged in as worship / this is why church schools and the Christians assemblies and prayers are so key / they remind us that what we do in education is an offering to God – for his sake and according to his ways / And what this means, is for the state to require Christians – and especially Christian schools, to educate in a way that is contrary to God’s will couldn’t be more oppressive and outrageous, as it is to require them to worship false gods – the gods of secularism / can you see?

5 Education is more than the school curriculum / because its about equipping the individual for all life before God – education is not just about subjects and careers, but faith and obedience, family life as well as vocational life, and gaining wisdom on living for God in a complex world / In fairness, education policy does understand this to an extent / the problem is that it has an alternate view of what this all should look like

2/ Its methodology: / For time I’m not going to comment on this / as it’s the role of the experts / But I’m Christians thinkers point out the following…

1 Manner : instruction, practice, example

2 Content : facts, reasoning, presentation

3/ Its spheres: / This is key / Education covers a lot – but school is not the only place we education / The bible emphasizes the family above all / As a couple Adam and Eve were tasked with filling the world with those who would image God and subdue it for him / Read Proverbs, Deuteronomy 6 or Ephesians 6 / It is parents who have the ultimate authority over the education of their children / So to it is profoundly wrong for a government to say parents have no right to remove their children if they disagree with what’s taught / Parents are accountable to God if they get that wrong / but they have an authority to do it / the government only has a right to intervene in the family if a parent is committing a crime that corresponds with God’s law / But with family, God has also set up the church as an educational institution – and in my mind, permits human beings to co-ordinate education together too in schools / so the diverse nature of education the Bible calls us to doesn’t all need to be delivered at school / and to my mind, one way of getting around the problems of our day if kids are required to go to a school that doesn’t reflect their religion, is keep all issues of morality and values out of it – which is almost impossible / 3 three spheres of a Christian education then are...

1 Family

2 Church

3 School

The problem / Here we see why in a post-Christian society we are having the problems with education that we are…

Q: Read Ephesians 4v17-24: “Gentiles” here refers to non-Christians. What do these verses tell us we might expect to see in secular education? / Teachers aren’t thinking straight / They will shape their teaching to justify their own morality – we are led by our hearts over our heads – by what we want and desire rather than what is right and true / So if we want to feel accepted by our culture and inline with the spirit of the age – we will won’t think hard enough about the new morality that we’re being asked to promote – nor be ready to resist it if we are uncertain about it / But incase we are too pessimistic about education, here’s a word from John Calvin in the sixteenth century…

But: “Whenever we come upon [matters of art or science] in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent giftsShall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labour to our benefit?  What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences?  Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen?”[5]

The point is that in his kindness, God enables non-Christians to discover truth in all sorts of spheres / So of course we can learn from non-Christians / But we should train our kids to do so cautiously, especially when it comes to matters of belief or behaviour

School options: Consider at primary, secondary and sixth form / The three options for Christians are below / Can I say none are perfect options / [Explain home schooling] Christian schooling is in my view the ideal because it has the benefits of state education but protects against the downsides – however, it’s not perfect either [explain] / Finally, I’ve called standard state education supplementary schooling because it is only an option for Christians if we are prepared to supplement it in the areas it lacks / And that leads us to our final point / Most of us will end up with our children in normal state schools / And if so, how should we engage with them…

Home Schooling

Pros: Can ensure a Christian education

Cons: Lack of time and preparation to do well, lack of resource and opportunity, lack of engagement with others and the realities of society, lack of being salt and light

Christian schooling

Pros: Can ensure a Christian education without the homeschooling problems, and commending Christ to society

Cons: Complacency that assumes all is well, being overly sheltered from the world

Supplementary schooling

Pros: Benefitting from the opportunities, professionalism and resource, being salt and light, training for life in our society

Cons: Susceptibility to the ideologies and dangers mentioned above.

[D] Engaging with state education:

1.   Pray / It’s obvious – for our kids, their teachers, appointments, policy, influence

2.   Participate / If you become a governor you may have a chance to influence policy – although you will need wisdom and courage in how to do so / You will also be upholding the biblical principles that education should be under the oversight of parents / And if you get involved the parents groups you will be better aware of what goes on and respected too

3.   Protect / Listen, listen and listen to your kids / chat with them about how to view and engage with things as a Christian / and if you have concerns be prepared to graciously but firmly air them

4.   Plunder / This is from Exodus 12, where we read that God enabled his people to plunder the Egyptians who gave them whatever they asked for / In God’s providence we have an education system that gives huge opportunity / If part of it – plunder it, so to speak / ensure you make the most of it – that your kids get the best education and experiences it can offer 

5.   Polish / That is, polish the plunder / This is what I mean by supplementing what is learnt / In helping our kids think Christianly about what they learn – and filling it out with any learning that is lacking, we can help them to serve our society well for the Lord as Joseph and Daniel did – and by doing so by a witness to him, perhaps even at school / Well as we close, I’ve given you an appendix giving some sense of what I think needs to be done in this /

Appendix: How to supplement state education

The key things lacking in my view are:

(1) Understanding the history of ideas - why people think as they do: This is lacking because of what’s called chronological snobbery, which assumes civilization is always progressing and so there is little to learn from the past. Its why people talk so much of “progressive” views.

(2) Learning the art of discernment - separating truth from error: This lacks because of a relativism that assumes morality and beliefs in particular matter little, and that they are just a matter of preference in a world with no created purpose. It’s why we are so unfussed about forming opinions with little thought.

(3) Appreciating the richness of Christianity - the colour it brings to everything: This lacks because of the presupposition that religion is merely a private thing with little basis and so has nothing to say about academic subjects, careers or the goodness of things like sport or art.

Some ways to supplement are:

1.     Discuss a Christian view of education with your kids and pray with them about everything to do with school.

2.     Maintain bible reading of bible books so their mind is constantly renewed.

3.     Ensure your child grasps a bible overview and some doctrine, apologetics, church history and history of ideas.

4.     Encourage hobbies and trips where the curriculum lacks: art, music, extra sport, ancient history.

5.     Aid reading where the curriculum lacks: history of Great Britain and the World, art books, philosophy, Christian biographies, good literature.

6.     Talk about everything: what's good art, good music, how do ideas impact us today, why is study and work enjoyable, what good or bad messages are movies, songs and ads communicating, how does the Bible help us better appreciate each school subject, etc?

7.     Ensure you’re continuing to develop their faith and character at church and home. 


Genesis, Exodus, Joshua-2 Kings, Ezra-Esther, Job beginning and end, select Psalms, Proverbs-Songs, Isaiah 40-66, Lamentations, Daniel, Habakkuk, Haggai, Malachi, the NT


YEARS 7-9 - short chapters read together regularly

Church history : 70 great Christians - Geoffrey Hanks

Doctrine : Rooted - Jon Hobbs

Ethics : Against the flow: Seeking sense on sexuality – Jon Hobbs

Apologetics : Kids Case for Christ – Lee Strobel

YEARS 10-11 - short chapters read together regularly

Church history : God's story: a students guide - Brian Cosby

Doctrine : Essential truths of the Christian faith – RC Sproul

Bible overview : The Junction: A Wonderful World (5 studies), Nick Margesson

Apologetics : Could it be true? - Jon Hobbs

British history : A short history of Britain - Jeremy Black

SIXTH FORM – they read or a chapter to discuss each week

Church history : Church history in plain language – Bruce Shelley

Doctrine : Salvation belongs to the Lord - John Frame

Bible overview : God's big picture - Vaughan Roberts

Ideas : The universe next door - James Sire

Ethics : Love thy body - Nancy Guthrie

Apologetics : What kind of God? - Michael Ots

World history : A short history of the world – Christopher Lascelles

[1], Shatesbury was the president of the Ragged School Union, promoting education for poor children.

[4] Perks, Stephen C. The Christian philosophy of education explained (Whitby, England, Avant Books, 1992), p63

[5] Calvin, John, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 2, Section 15