Christian Education - An Education of Ideas
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
By David Quine
The true model of Christian education consists of these three stages. Stage 1: Sowing Seeds of Truth (Birth to 12 - 14) Stage 2: Evaluating Ideas Against the Truth (12 - 14 to adult)
Stage 3: Responding with the Truth (14 - 16 to adult)
PETER, A FISHERMAN BY TRADE, had originally been called by Jesus to become a fisher of men. More than three years later the imagery was expanded to include that of a shepherd when Jesus said to Peter “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). “There is one great point of difference between the fisherman and the shepherd,” writes Andrew Murray. “The fisherman catches what he has neither reared no fed. He seeks only what is full grown, casting away all the little fish out of his net back into the sea. The shepherd, on the other hand directs his special attention to the young and the weak. All the shepherd’s profit depends on how he cares for the lambs.”
“Feed my lambs” presents the deep importance and the blessed reward of giving first place to the little ones of the flock. What Jesus said to Peter is applicable to us as parents – we each have our own flock of lambs to keep, to guard, and to guide for the Master. This reminds me of the frailty of our children and their spiritual lives. The sheep is a weak and helpless animal - how much more helpless is the little lamb. What a beautiful picture! Our children are so dependent upon us. Young children cannot choose the company under whose influence they come. They are unable to determine right from wrong. They know nothing of the importance of forming good habits. We have the special opportunity to guide and to nourish each of our children. Our children are the lambs of our heavenly Father! They are the future sheep of His pasture. Each child is to be so special in our eyes. Each child has different needs ... different abilities ... and different dreams. Lead them to the Good Shepherd early and often. The greatest need is to feed the lambs. Food is necessary for growth. Children flourish when given a feast of ideas to feed upon. In their early years these ideas should be consistent with the Biblical world view. Such ideas are like a wonderful fragrance filling the minds and hearts with truth and beauty.
STAGE I: SOWING SEEDS OF TRUTH
BIRTH TO 12 - 14 YEARS OLD
BEGIN BY SOWING SEEDS OF TRUTH. Paul writes, “Long for the pure milk of the word....” This is what our young lambs need. It is the source of their view of the world. During the time from birth through 12 to 14 years old, we should be sowing seeds of truth into their hearts and minds. That means that the books we read to them or the books they choose to read on their own, the music that fills their heart, or the art that covers the walls of their mind would be a reflection of the Biblical world view. There are so many great works to choose from! Music and Moments with the Masters and Adventures in Art were both designed as resources for parents to bring such great music and art into your homes. Books like Honey for a Child’s Heart, and Books Children Love can guide and direct you in the selection of literature to uplift your children’s hearts and minds. Charlotte Mason encourages parents to read ‘living books.’ You may ask, “How do I recognize these living books?” Ruth Saywer helps lead and direct our selections when she writes: Stories that make for wonder. Stories that make for laughter. Stories that stir one with in with an understanding of the true nature of courage, of love, of beauty, Stories that make one tingle with high adventure, with daring, with grim determination, with the
capacity of seeing danger through to the end. Stories that bring our minds to kneel in
reverence; Stories that show the tenderness of true mercy, the strength of loyalty, the unmawkish respect for
what is good.
The harvest of such a sowing will be rich! A true love for that which is beautiful. A commitment to that which is true, and the innocence ofthat which is pure. Don’t settle for anything less! We are deeply troubled by the recent departure from this model of teaching truth to young children. We hear parents being told to turn to the Greek and Roman classics with their pre-school and elementary age children. We are told to “fill [our first grader’s, 6 and 7 year olds!] mind with stories of every kind — myths, legends, classic tales, biographies, great stories from history.” The example is given of spending “six weeks reading through a lavishly illustrated child’s version of the Iliad withtheir six and four year old.” (emphasis added). We received a home school catalog just today advocating that our 8 year old son study the great Greek gods and heroes! One book that is recommended explains:
Gaea, the Earth, came out of darkness so long ago that nobody knows when or how. Earth was young and lonesome, for nothing lived on her yet. Above her rose Uranus, the Sky, dark and blue, set all over with sparkling stars. He was magnificent to behold, and young Earth looked up at him and fell in love with him. Sky smiled down at Earth, twinkling with his countless stars, and they were joined in love. Soon young Earth became Mother Earth, the mother of all things living. All her children loved their warm and bountiful mother and feared their mighty father, Uranus, lord of the universe. The Titans were the first children of Mother Earth. They were the first gods, taller than the mountains she created to serve them as thrones, and both Earth and Sky were proud of them. There were six Titans, six glorious gods, and they had six sisters, the Titanesses, whom they took for their wives ... (taken from D’Aulaires’, Book of Greek Myths, emphasis added).
This explanation of the beginning of the world is quite different from that given in the Bible. Can you image the resulting confusion and bewilderment brought into the tender mind of a four to eight year old child after hearing this account of the beginning of the world? This is the most formative time in a child’s life. Teaching such ideas during this time in a child’s life is just not wise counsel. Can you imagine non- Christian educators in the public schools encouraging children to read a children’s version of the Bible? Of course not! Why? Because they know that many children would accept the teachings of the Bible as true. So why should we as Christians feed His young lambs such false ideas! You may be familiar with how a new bank teller is trained to recognize counterfeit money. They are allowed only to touch the ‘real’ money. The idea is that touching what is true will enable tellers to recognize that which is false. Applying this analogy to Christian education means that children should primarily ‘handle’ - think about - truth when they are young. Such an involvement with truth establishes a child’s thinking upon what is right. It is during this stage that a child will develop the standard upon which to judge all other ideas. We propose leading and feeding His lambs with ideas consistent with Philippians chapter 4. When our children are young we must focus their thinking on those things that are
true ... worthy of reverence and honor,
things that are just, pure, lovely and lovable, kind and winsome and gracious,
virtuous and excellent, and anything worthy of praise.
This is the time for ‘touching’ - thinking about - ideas consistent with the Scripture. Good literature that reflects Christian virtue is so invaluable during this time. Building your children’s thinking upon truth and absolutes — the Biblical world view — is the foundation for life. To introduce literature based upon the Greco-Roman world view or the Enlightenment is sowing seeds of doubts into the young hearts and minds of His lambs. When our children are in the formative stages of their thinking, their thinking should be touching truth. At these ages they are not able to easily discern the differences between true and false ideas. We must not be sowing seeds of other world views into the tender hearts of our children. If we disregard this warning, what harvest should be expected? Seeds eventually do sprout. At first there may be no noticeable affects. But during the teenage years we may see the fruit of deep questionings about the Biblical world view or even an acceptance of secular thinking. Our children’s thinking must be firmly established upon the Biblical world view.
This is why we are creating The Grand Story: History for the Christian Child. The Grand Story is a comprehensive study of the many little stories of history. Because the Bible provides the only accurate interpretive framework for understanding human history, it directs the explanations in The Grand Story. Throughout these courses, the student is seeking answers to four major questions in search for patterns and relationships which lead to a “grand pattern” of history: (1) Who are we? (2) Where are we? (3) What is wrong? and (4) What is the solution? Through the use of the Word of God, “living books”, and a narrative story-telling format, the student is drawn into the time period being studied. In each volume the students will encounter the trustworthy God who is sovereign over the Past, the Present, and the Future. After completing Stage I of your child’s education, he is now ready to understand other world views ... how these other views differ from the Biblical world view ... and most importantly, how to evaluate these ideas based upon the Biblical world view.
STAGE II: EVALUATING IDEAS AGAINST THE TRUTH
12 - 14 YEARS OLD TO ADULT
YOU MAY ASK, “Is there ever an appropriate time to read non- Christian literature?” This is a question of prime significance. Let me expand the analogy of the bank teller. Your children are now ready to begin exchanging money with the patrons - not knowing if they are handed real or counterfeit ideas. They are to be ‘on alert’ under your direct supervision- some of the thoughts may be counterfeit. The standard is the “real” ideas that have been “handled” - the Scripture. “It is important to assert that although early Christians like Cyprian (d.258) and Tertullian (d.c.230) had a strictly negative attitude toward classical Greek and Roman learning,” explains Dr. Francis Schaeffer, “Paul had not been so inhibited. When it was to his purpose, he cited Greek authors just as he at other times employed the subtle rabbinic lines of reasoning which he had mastered as a pupil of the great Rabbi Gamaliel.... Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine, following Paul rather than Tertullian, learned to appreciate and utilize classical learning...But if a robust Christian faith could handle non-Christian learning without compromising, it was all too easy for Greek and Roman thought forms to creep into the cracks and chinks of a faith which was less and less founded on the Bible and more and more resting on the authority of church pronouncements. By the thirteenth century the great Aquinas (1225-1274) had already begun, in deference to Aristotle, to open the door to placing revelation and human reason on an equal footing...” (How Should We Then Live?, p 41, 43).
The possibility of compromising the truth of Christianity must always be taken seriously! Let me say it again: Before we start introducing non- Christian thought into our curriculum, our children’s thinking must be firmly based upon the Bible. Wait until your children are 12 to 14 years old. By this time your children’s thinking is firmly established upon the Biblical world view, their faith is ‘robust’, and their reasoning is beginning to follow ... “IF this is true ... THEN this would mean ...THEREFORE, these conclusions can be drawn....” This type of reasoning is absolutely necessary for children to be able to analyze thought forms from various world views. At this time begin introducing some non-Christian literature. But even then be careful. Always remind your children that the Bible is the standard — the gauge by which all thoughts and ideas are to be judged.
STARTING POINTS establishes the Biblical worldview in the hearts and minds of your children, lays the solid foundation for their personal life, and equips them to stand firm for Christ in the 21st century. Like a compass, this primer course directs the student how to evaluate all of the ideas that will confront them in life. This is accomplished by having personal conversations around God's answers to the 7 Vital Questions:
Is there a God, and if so what is He like?
What is the origin and nature of the universe?
What is the nature of humanity?
What is the basis of right and wrong?
What is the cause of evil and suffering?
What happens to a person at death?
Does life and history have any real meaning?
STARTING POINTS examines different written works using the Biblical worldview as the gauge against which the author's ideas are evaluated.
STAGE III: RESPONDING WITH THE TRUTH
14 - 16 YEARS OLD TO ADULT
THE GOAL WE HAVE FOR OUR CHILDREN follows that of both Peter and Paul as expressed in the following passages: “...but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence ...” I Peter 3:15
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ...” II Corinthians 10:4, 5
In this final stage your children are preparing to give clear, concise, and convincing evidence — a ready response for the hope that is within them There is no better preparation for college — or for life!
Builders of Worldviews: showing ideas from the Reformation and Enlightenment touching society.
WORLD VIEWS of the WESTERN WORLD equips children to understand how the flow of thought that has occurred over the past 3000 years affects us today! Your children will learn not only what the Christian position is but why it is true. They will see how Christianity applies to all of life. They will learn of other world views, their impact upon culture, and the resulting affects these world views are having on current society. As we read non-Christian literature it should not be simply for the purpose of appreciation. We must never become so enamored with the beauty of the language that we become deceived by the philosophy or theology being taught! We must be teaching our children how to evaluate the thoughts and intents of the author. What is this author saying about God? ... the origin and structure of the universe?... the nature of man?... the basis of ethics and morality?... the cause of evil and suffering? ... life after death?... and finally, meaning to life and history? How are these views different from the Biblical world view? WORLD VIEWS of the WESTERN WORLD equips and enables your children to make such evaluations.
And finally, WORLD VIEWSof the WESTERN WORLD prepares students to defend their beliefs. Charles Colson writes: “ Christians must understand the clash of worldviews that is changing the face of American society. And we must stand ready to respond as people grow disillusioned with false beliefs and values and as they begin to seek real answers. We must know not only what our world view is and why we believe it but also how to defend it. We must also have some understanding of the opposing worldviews and why people believe them. Only then can we present the gospel in language that can be understood. Only then can we defend truth in a way that is winsome and persuasive” (How Now Shall We Live?, page 26).
As you can see moving through these three stages of education will give your children a solid preparation for life -- a true Christian education!