One of the most fundamental and oft-forgotten truths about education in the modern era is this: God gives children to parents, not the government.
In his recent entry on the biblical worldview of school choice, Freedom Center scholar Dr. Tim Yonts explained why this is so important. He writes:
“The basic biblical position is that children, ultimately, belong to the Lord who has given parents the right and responsibility to raise them and teach them.
The biblical view, however, is at odds with modern secularism, which typically adopts a collectivist approach — ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ or ‘Children belong to all of society.’ This view contains a seriously flawed understanding of human nature and the nuclear family, and it has made the battle over education a spiritual one for the minds and hearts of the next generation.”
Yonts is correct to point out how this core Christian commitment places us at odds with “modern secularism.” For decades now, many leading “educational experts” in America (operating out of a secular worldview) pursued an educational philosophy that aims to pull children away from their parents’ authority. Progressive education reformers like John Dewey unapologetically argued that the goal of public education was to “separate children from the prejudices of their parents.”
What did he mean by this? Dr. Albert Mohler explains,
“John Dewey meant first and foremost the religious prejudices of parents. [He] wanted to free children from that context of the local home, as where they would learn citizenship in the common culture, and instead put them under the control and under the influence of a regime of experts. And these experts would help to separate children from the backward worldviews of their parents.”
This goes directly against God’s good commands to parents to raise their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). God makes it very clear that he holds parents, and not public schools, primarily responsible for the content and quality of their children’s education.
So when we approach the subject of education from a biblical worldview, we must first reject the modern secular view that raising and educating children is somehow a “group” project that the government should be leading and financing.
Therefore, it’s necessary for Christian parents to understand what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to educating their children. As I mentioned, their “rights” are nothing less than the sole and total ownership of their children contra the state. That is, of course, provided that parents are loving their children well and caring for them rightly. When parents abuse their children, the state, which is given the sword by God to punish evil (Romans 13:4), does have the authority and responsibility to step in and defend the children. But that’s not the point I’m addressing here. I’m assuming that the Christian parents (and future parents!) who read this are fulfilling all of their parental duties to their children. But, because of the world we live in, it’s possible that they haven’t thought through what it means that parents have the primary right to direct their children’s education — not the state.
The bottom line is this: From a biblical worldview, we know that children belong to their parents. They don’t belong to the government.
So from a Christian perspective, what “responsibilities” come along with that “right”? In Well Versed: Biblical Answers To Today’s Tough Issues, Pastor James Garlow lays it out. He explains:
“Biblically, the education and nurturing of children is the responsibility of parents. They are the ones to train their children in the way they should live their lives and what values to embrace (Proverbs 22:6); they are the ones to provide discipline and instruction in the Lord (Deuteronomy 4:9; Ephesians 6:4); they are the ones to encourage their children to seek out and understand the mysteries of the universe that point toward a Creator that is all-knowing, all-loving, and merciful (Proverbs 25:2). Public education can complement the parents’ role by providing skill development (‘adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things’ (Ecclesiastes 7:27)), information, and factual understanding of the created order around us.”
In other words, Christian parents have the responsibility to comprehensively “train up a child in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6), and that means teaching them to know, worship, love, and obey the Lord and His commandments.
Another way to put it is that a Christian parent’s responsibility is to raise up little image-bearers to reflect God rightly in His creation. It is to teach them, in the words of the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man?” And what is that? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
Of course, there is much more to education than proper theology — but there is not less than that. Without a biblical foundation, everything else will crumble.
Garlow encourages parents to “take ownership of your children’s education.” He’s right. So let me provide three encouragements to Christian parents that I also shared in a previous article, “Dear Christian Parents: It’s Time to Take Your God-Given Kids Back from the Government”:
First, Christian parents, embrace the glorious God-given responsibility of overseeing your children’s education. God gives parents “the rod,” whichrepresents the authority of parents to discipline and instruct their children (Proverbs 13:24). Embrace the rod. Take the rod. 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 today. And they are unashamedly teaching them to be Canaanites, pagans, and Romans.
My concluding argument to parents remains the same now as it was then: “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.”
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Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.