By Glen Schultz, Ed.D.
I am very concerned with the current state of education in our country. However, my greatest concern is not so much about what is happening in the general educational community but what is happening with the education of children in the Christian community. From all of the recent studies that have been done on the faith of teens and young adults, it is alarming to see the number of our young people that are leaving the church. Depending on which study one reads, the estimate for our young people leaving the church is between 60 to 80 percent. What is causing this vast exodus from the church?
There is no doubt that one of the greatest contributors to this growing problem is the education that our children are receiving. The reason I say this is based on a truth that many parents, church leaders, and educators don’t understand when it comes to the education of our children and youth. I am convinced that the principal business of education is the communication of ideas, and all ideas have consequences.
In Colossians 2:8 Paul warns Christians to, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”
This warning makes it clear that Christians can be taken captive by false philosophies. A simple definition for philosophy is a “set of ideas.” Since the principal business of education is the communication of ideas, then education is one of the major ways that one is taken captive by the ideas presented in the process. Christians must be intentional to make sure that the ideas that are taking their children captive are according to Christ and not the false ideas of this world.
In order to raise our children to be strong, confident Christ followers; parents, church leaders, and educators must give greater attention to how they are educating their children. The education our children receive is a major influence on what they believe to be true. This is important because what one believes to be true sets one’s beliefs; one’s beliefs shapes one’s values; one’s values drives one’s actions. The fact that so many people are walking away from their faith is because they have developed a set of beliefs (worldview/ideas) that are contrary to truth as found in Christ and His Word.
How did we get to this current dilemma?
I believe it is because we have been pursuing some false ‘gods’ when it comes to the education of children and youth. Author and educator Neil Postman made a bold statement in his book, The End of Education. He set forth the premise that “behind every educational effort is a pursuit of a ‘god’ or ‘gods.’”
Nancy Pearcey also addresses this concept in her book, Total Truth, where she states, “The fear of some ‘god’ is the beginning of every proposed system of knowledge.” I find it amazing that both a Christian and a non-Christian author understand that everyone is pursuing a ‘god’ of some type when it comes to the education given to one’s child.
Two Australian Christian educators take this concept one step further. They would agree with Pearcey and Postman, but they also understand the consequences that will result in the pursuit of a ‘god’ or ‘gods’ by education. They write, “Every kind of teaching and learning is based upon and oriented by a shared vision of life (worldview/ideas), and that all people …serve some ‘god’ or ‘gods’ in their lives and in turn are conformed into the image of their ‘god.’”
It is not a question of whether a person will be conformed into the image of a ‘god.’ The question is, what ‘god’ will they be conformed to? Every child will be conformed into the ‘god(s)’ we pursue through the education we give our children.
Kyle Idleman makes a sobering statement in his book, Gods at War. In the book, Idleman was reminding his readers of Joshua’s challenge to the nation of Israel in Joshua 24. Joshua told the people that they were to choose a god to pursue. They could choose the false gods that their fathers knew about in Egypt, or they could choose the false gods they knew were among the pagan nations that were around them or they could choose the true and living God of Israel.
This account is very familiar to most Christians, and many of us may have a plaque on the wall with Joshua’s bold statement on it. Joshua proclaimed to all of Israel, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Idleman explains Joshua’s challenge to Israel in a unique way when he writes, “It’s time to select a god and follow him, to select a worldview (ideas), and allow it to remake you.”
The power of ideas
Christian parents, church leaders, and educators must understand the power of ideas. Ideas are always tied to a god of some type. We will pursue ideas that are in line with the god we most fear, and when we choose that god to pursue we will be conformed to its image. Therefore, it is imperative that we choose to pursue the right ‘god’ when it comes to the education of our children and youth.
Over my more than four decades in education, I have seen some dangerous gods being pursued by parents, church leaders, and educators when it comes to the education that they give their children. Here are three of the most prevalent gods that Christians too often have pursued:
1. The god of economic utility
This god is the desire to obtain a good job in order to pursue the “American Dream.” One’s significance is determined by what one does for a living. We know that we are pursuing this god when we want our children to get a ‘good’ education so that they can get into a ‘good’ college, and so that they can get a ‘good’ job.
2. The god of consumerism
Pursuing this god is based on the desire to get more stuff. One’s significance is found in the things one has obtained. It is driven by the effort to build ‘bigger barns.’
3. The god of technology
This god can be seen in three ways: by a person being driven to have the greatest and latest gadget and to attain a superior skill of some type. It can also be manifested in the enormous amount of time people spend with technology.
Each of these gods has some things in common. First, they are all temporal in nature. When these gods are pursued, people are only focused on this life. Eternity is not only unimportant but seen as irrelevant to life. No wonder our children walk away from the church and their faith if they are pursuing such false gods.
The second thing that all these gods have in common is their inability to provide lasting meaning to life. Significance based on what someone does or has is extremely fragile. We are seeing the so-called “American Dream” vanish before our very eyes.
It is time for all Christians to consider what ‘god’ or ‘gods’ they are pursuing when it comes to the education of their children. If we continue to choose educational systems that pursue false gods and ideas, our children will be taken captive by them. Once captive by these false ideas, their actions in all of life will thus fall in line. The result will be continued heartbreak as we watch another generation of young people leave their faith to pursue the false gods that we have encouraged them to go after.
We must educate our children and youth in educational efforts that are dedicated to pursuing the true God of the Bible at home, church, and school. The apostle Paul was one who wanted his students to pursue the true God. He fully understood what the only real purpose of education must be in order to give the students a lasting sense of significance and prepare them not only for this life but also for all of eternity. We know this when we read his letters to the various churches and find him always encouraging his students to, “Be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom …increasing in the knowledge of God.”
It is time for parents to honestly answer some difficult questions. Their answers will determine the destiny of the next generation. Some of the questions facing today’s Christian parents are:
1. Why do I want my child to get a good education?
2. What ‘god(s)’ are being pursued by the school my child attends?
3. What ideas are taking my child captive through the education he/she is receiving?
It is essential that every one of our children receive a biblical worldview education. This is because only a biblical worldview education pursues the true God and will lead them to be taken captive by Christ. The pursuit of a biblical worldview education must take place in the home, the church, and the school in order to be effective. When this happens, I believe that we will see a generation of Christ followers who will change the world for Christ.
Dr. Glen Schultz has given his life, for the past 46 years, to educating future generations according to God’s plan. After five years in public education, he entered the field of Christian education, where he has been a teacher, coach, principal, and superintendent. Dr. Schultz just completed nine years as an associate pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church and Headmaster of Sherwood Christian Academy. Before this, he directed the Christian school work at LifeWay Christian Resources for nine years, served as the Association of Christian Schools International Southeast Regional Director for seven years, and was Superintendent of Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Virginia for 16 years. Glen is the author of Kingdom Education: God’s Plan for Educating Future Generations and several parenting booklets and is the founder and director of Kingdom Education Ministries. He has been married to his wife Sharon for 45 years and has three children and six grandchildren. He is a member of the Renewanation Board of Directors.