There are a few other objections to Christian education that I wanted to address directly. The first is that Christian schools shelter children from the real world. The second is that the Bible calls us to be salt and light to the world, and by sending children to a Christian school, we are, in effect, hiding our light under a bushel. And third, Christian education is too expensive.
Christian schools shelter students from the “real” world.
This is an objection that comes from the assumption that all Christian schools are as Niebuhr’s Christ against Culture stance. Hopefully, the awareness of the other two has taken care of this objection, but I will offer one more word.
First of all, it is not even possible to shelter students from sin. Sin lives in the Christian school when the first person unlocks the door in the morning. So we have to deal with idolatry and selfishness and gossip and bullying and theft just like every school does. The difference in the Christian school is that it brings the Word of God to every situation in the lives of the children. We don’t just “explore, evaluate, and experience” sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, but “all of life under God.”
The selection of teaching materials and library books, etc. is not based on the protection of our students from the evil in the world, although age appropriateness is one of the criteria. These resources are selected for their usefulness to explore as well as discern the world. We don’t shy away from issues around sexuality, violence, justice, nor do we avoid non-Christian thinkers and authors, filmmakers, or artists.
In Christian schools, we hold up culture to the light of faith. To do this, we have to engage culture. Our work is not characterized by isolation, but inoculation.
Christians are called to be salt and light
A second objection to Christian education is that Christians are called to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16), and by sending our children to a public school we are fulfilling this mandate.
I agree that Christians ought to “let [their] light shine before men,” but this injunction is meant for Christians, not the children of Christians. I would also suggest that even if a child is a Christian, to be salt and light requires some wisdom and spiritual maturity.
Further, the command to be salt and light in the world is not just an injunction for the individual Christian. Christ gives us a metaphor; we are to be a light, “like a city on a hill.” A city is a community–we are to set up communities of faith that will be salt and light in the world.
North Americans, including North American Christians, are tremendously individualistic. This is one of the very idols that a good Christian education attempts to reveal and combat. We tacitly interpret our world through an individualistic lens. The Christian school is salt and light in the world, but it is a corporate response.
This has been born out continuously at Abbotsford Christian School. Just as an individual Christian teacher is salt and light to their colleagues in their public school, so too is the Christian school salt and light its broader communities. Individuals cannot be salt and light in the same way that communities can, and vice versa.
We have something to share regarding teaching practices, employee relations, special education and learning assistance, recycling, bullying, assessment, supervision of teachers and students, etc. We have something to share because what we believe about Jesus Christ is true, not just for Christians, but for everyone and everything. So, we collectively witness to all those involved in education.
Our staff is involved in many professional groups relating to their specific field within education. We are also visited frequently by teachers and principals, special education and learning assistance teachers and coordinators, coaches, counselors, government inspectors, and elected officials. Further, our students are involved, as Abbotsford Christian students, in the community. We regularly hear that Abbotsford Christian School is being salt and light in the broader community, as a community.
I am not saying that Christian teachers ought to be teaching only in Christian schools, as a matter of fact, this is a vital place where the light of the gospel needs to be reflected. I also want to be clear that I am not saying that sending one’s children to the public school is the wrong thing to do. I have heard many stories of Christian children being a blessing in their local schools. What I do want to claim is that the salt and light argument ought not to be understood as a Biblical injunction to send Christian children to a public school.
CHRISTAN SCHOOLS ARE TOO EXPENSIVE
A third objection is that Christian Education is too expensive. I agree that it is expensive—especially where the schools receive no government grants and the full cost falls to parents. In general, though, I would say that there are many things we can do without, or delay, that are less important than an education that reinforces a transformational and integrative view of life.
I see this in our school community. For many, the family summer vacation is camping at the local provincial/state park. The cars that drop off the kids at school in the morning are often older than 10 years. It helps that Christian education is a community project in that the older generations continue to support the school which helps keep costs down. Also, local church congregations and the school itself may have programs available to help cover the costs of tuition for those who can’t afford it.
I wouldn’t be honest if I said that any school executes this model of Christian Education perfectly because it’s very difficult and we suffer from all those human limitations. Also, it’s hard to discern the degree to which our collective view of the world is acculturated; it’s easier to swim with the cultural current than against it, and to constantly evaluate every part of life through the interpretive lens of the Gospel is hard work.
There are many things to talk about – How we celebrate the graduation of our students in a way that reflects Christ’s Lordship? How do we create meaningful interaction between students of different ages and between students and older generations? We also need to continually talk about technology, which is always changing. There are many more.
It is most effective, and most fun, when we engage in the process of discerning and shaping our culture in a community, that includes students. I also find it a tremendous blessing to work with others that have a clear focus—“to be faithful, discerning, obedient and creative servants of God and of neighbour, and stewards of His creation.”
If you are looking for this type of education for your children, you can search for a school in your area at Christian Schools International.