A week ago in Virginia, parents stood up. They stood up to school boards, politicians, and a political party telling them that they don’t deserve a say in what their kids are taught at school. That they don’t get a say in the policies governing the safety and security of bathrooms on those very same public school campuses. That they — again, the parents — need to get with the program, sit down, shut up, or be labeled domestic terrorists. To all of that, and much more, many parents said, “No! We do get a say, and we will have that say, thank you very much.”
According to NPR, “Republican Glenn Youngkin made schools, and particularly parental control, his closing issue in his upset win over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race. Between September and October polls, education rose 9 points to be the top issue for voters going into the race, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll. Parents who wanted more voice in schools broke for Youngkin by a large margin in exit polls.”
Make no mistake about it: It’s wonderfully encouraging to see public school parents fight for their kids. I assume many, possibly most, of those parents are not Christians. But I also assume many are believers. So, for those who approach life with a purposeful and distinct Christian worldview, this entire incident raises some fundamental questions, questions that get at an increasingly urgent moral issue, which is this:
God gives children — and the responsibility for their education — to parents, not the government. And it’s time for Christian parents to take their kids back from the government.
When we think of God-given institutions of authority in our fallen world, the Bible spells out three: The sword, the keys, and the rod.
God gives the “sword” to civil governments in Genesis 9, which is reaffirmed in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. The sword is used to defend and affirm the value of life, specifically by meting out justice on those who would take the life of an image-bearer: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed” (Genesis 9:6). Thus, the primary task given by God to government is to do justice, protect the weak, preserve life, and keep the peace.
To the Church, God gives the “keys.” This symbolizes the power and practice of church discipline, which we find in Matthew 16 and 18. This is the right to affirm sound doctrine and to ensure that those who claim the name of Christ actually live like Him. The keys provide the authority needed to both guard the Gospel (doctrine) and to hold Gospel professors accountable (discipleship).
But God gives the “rod” to parents. Proverbs 13:24 teaches us that “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” The rod represents both the rights and responsibility of parents to discipline and instruct their children. God never gives this authority to the government. Not once. Another way of putting this is that parental rights are both God-given and given only to parents.
Thus, we have the sword, the keys, and the rod. If the various and sundry revelations of the wickedness pervading our public schools have taught us anything of late, it is that it is high time for Christian parents to take back the rod.
And they do this by taking their God-given children back from the government. Here is why this is so important.
One of the greatest challenges facing God’s people throughout the entire history of the world has been this: How can they faithfully live among people who don’t worship God and yet not become like them? Or, put another way, how can they live in Canaan and not become Canaanites.
This was arguably the central purpose behind the law that God gave to the Israelites after He delivered them from Egypt. It was a blueprint for obedience. It revealed the character of God and the boundaries that His people must observe so that they would remain distinct from the surrounding pagan nations.
And what was it that made them distinct? What set them apart from the surrounding peoples? It was the fact that they belonged to and served the one true God, Yahweh, as seen in Exodus 20:1: “And God spoke all these words: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.’”
The implications of this are two-fold. First, if Yahweh is God, the gods of the pagan nations are not God. No, they were simply idols. Second, if God is God, and He is, then the Israelites must obey Him. He saved them. They belong to Him and Him alone. Obedience is not optional.
When Moses undertakes the second giving of the law in Deuteronomy (which literally means second-law), he re-emphasizes this eternal truth in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
But Moses doesn’t stop there. What would wholehearted love and devotion look like? It would look like obedience and instruction. Instruction of whom? Of their children — of the future generations.
Again, the greatest challenge set before the Israelites was this*: How could they live in the land of Canaan without themselves, or their children, becoming Canaanites?
How would they live among the pagan nations without their children becoming pagans?
God is deeply concerned with this pressing question. We know this because right after Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives a reminder of whom they serve — the one true God — he commands them to teach this to their children.
This is stated explicitly in Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
The commands are to “be on their hearts.” But they aren’t supposed to stay there. No, they are to be taught diligently to their children, to the children of the people of God.
God didn’t bring the people of Israel out from slavery in Egypt by the Exodus, the greatest act of deliverance in salvation history until the Cross, just to have a one-generation witness to His glory, power, and sovereign purposes. No, He makes this crystal clear: He wants an enduring, multi-generational witness, a people who live before Him in holiness and serve Him in perpetuity. He is, of course, worthy of our forever worship.
And the only way that this would be brought to pass is if the people of God diligently teach their children how to follow in their footsteps. Their children, who wouldn’t have seen the Exodus, must be taught about who God is and what He has done — and how they are to serve Him.
Because if they don’t do this, if they don’t take responsibility for the children God has given them, and obey God’s command to teach them, their children will inevitably become just like the rest of the pagan, idol-worshipping nations that surround Israel. They were born Israelites. But they could very quickly become Canaanites (which, sadly, is exactly what happens).
Now, let’s pause for a moment and make one point clear: Theologically speaking, no one is “taught” into the Kingdom of God. Obedience doesn’t make anyone a Christian. The true people of God on this side of the Cross are those that have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, after repenting of their sins and trusting in Christ for salvation (John 3:3, Romans 1:16).
But that’s not the point I am making. I am simply saying this: God clearly commands Christian parents to teach their children about the goodness of God, what His commands are, what faithful obedience looks like, and the truth of God’s mighty works in the salvation of His people.
To fail to do this is to flat-out fail at one of the most fundamental acts of obedience as a Christian parent. If you have ever read the book of Proverbs, it’s almost impossible to make it through a chapter without God reminding parents how critical it is that they take responsibility for teaching their children to know and fear Him.
This was the same challenge facing first-century Christian parents under Roman rule. How do we raise our children in Rome without them becoming Romans?
Paul echoes this command in Ephesians 6:4, encouraging fathers to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
So, did the first century Christians do this? In The Letter to Diognetus, one of the earliest works of Christian apologetics, the author writes, “They live in their own countries, but as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their native land, and yet for them, every native land is a foreign land. They marry like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring.”
I fear that far too many Christian parents in America today, with the best of intentions but not perhaps the best of critical thinking, have cast their offspring out. Out to the government schools. Out to receive their education — not from a God-centered worldview but from the minds and the mouths of the God-hating pagans who dominate our radical secular public school systems.
I fear this, and raise this, and will shortly offer a remedy because that same question with which I began this post still stands over us today: How can Christians in America raise their children in the way in which Christians should be raised?
Now, here is what I am not saying. I am not arguing in this piece that it is never appropriate for Christian parents to send their children to public school, or that to do so is always a de facto abdication of the rod. Such a determination must be made on a case-by-case basis.
What I am saying, loud and clear, is this: Christians must take responsibility — total responsibility — for their children’s education. And part of that task, which is not optional but rather a matter of obedience before the Lord, is to teach their children to know, love, and fear God. To teach them, according to Deuteronomy 6: 24-25, that “the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.”
Now, you might argue that this is what Sunday School is for. Or that this is what you do after dinner with a family devotional. But if you think one hour on a Sunday morning is going to counter the constant, progressive, godless, pro-LGBT, pro-transgender, pro-Critical Race Theory, anti-American programming that elementary school children are getting hot-lined into their hearts and heads for 40 hours a week in the classroom, well then, I have some oceanfront property in Kansas and I think you would be a perfect buyer.
This is the reality on the ground in our nation, whether we like it or not. The Loudoun County School System is not an isolated example. It is not the exception. It is the norm.
If you want to read an out-and-out case for never sending your kids to public schools, you can do that here in “Burn All the Schools.” In it, author Douglas Wilson raises a good question: “In order for all Christians to get their kids out of the maw of this government school system, what would it take precisely? How many outrages would have to be slathered over the tops of all of our heads before we said something like, “Friend, enough?” How outrageous would such outrages have to get before somebody noticed? How much before everybody noticed?”
How bad does it have to get? That’s a good question to ask.
But leaving that debate aside, which is worth another article in full, let me close with these three encouragements:
First, Christian parents, embrace the glorious God-given responsibility of overseeing your children’s education. Embrace the rod. Take the rod. And wield it. If you have children in the public school system, get active. Get involved — starting yesterday.
Second, make sure that you intentionally teach your children about God. Teach them Christian doctrine, teach them theology, teach them ethics. No one drifts into godliness or holiness. We must be trained for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Again, this doesn’t guarantee your kids will become Christians, but it honors the Lord, and it certainly helps.
Third, and finally, you must face the facts on the ground and the challenge at hand with wide eyes and cold clarity. The Canaanites, the pagans, the Romans — they are teaching our kids. And they are unashamedly teaching them to be Canaanites, pagans, and Romans.
So, take back the rod. God gave it to you, not to the government. Take back your kids. God gave them to you, not to the government. This will be for God’s glory. And, I would suggest, this would be the first, and most significant step, to taking back our country.
* I want to make sure and give Dr. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, credit for this particular phrasing and the large contours of this argument — I first heard it made by him.
A 10-year veteran of the conservative political movement, William Wolfe served as a senior official in the Trump Administration, both at the Pentagon and the Department of State. Prior to his service in the administration, he worked for Heritage Action for America and as a congressional staffer for three members of Congress, including the former Rep. Dave Brat. He has a B.A. in History from Covenant College and is currently finishing his Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.