by Peter Ditzel
Who Was to Instruct?
I’ll answer the first question in two parts. First, since God gives children as a heritage to their parents, it should be evident that, whoever does the actual instructing, the parents are responsible for the instruction. That is, the parents are responsible to make sure the instruction takes place, they are responsible for the content of the instruction (obviously God would not want children to be taught wrong things), and they are responsible to make sure the instruction is successful (the children learn).
Oddly enough, many parents seem not to recognize this connection between their children being given to them and their parental responsibility for their education. It seems that the existence of the public school system over several generations has had the effect of making parents feel that the schools have the responsibility to educate their children. Yet most parents still realize that they are responsible to feed their children (though, with school breakfast and lunch programs, this too may disappear), and that responsibility rests on the same foundation as the responsibility to educate. God has made parents to be their children’s caregivers.
Even the state, hypocritically enough, recognizes the first part of this parental responsibility—to make sure instruction takes place. If anyone is arrested when children are chronically truant, it is the parents, not the teachers. On the other hand, the state believes it is responsible for the actual instructing and for the content. But the dividing of these responsibilities between parents and schools makes it nearly impossible for parents to fulfill all of their God-given responsibilities. In other words, you may make sure that the child gets to school, and you may with considerable effort determine that the child is learning something, but you cannot monitor the appropriateness of all the instruction without sitting in on all of the classes.
The second part of my answer to the question, “Who was to do the instructing?” is answered in a Scripture, Deuteronomy 6:7–9. These verses state, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” This is not a description of public school (or even of a church school). Giving instruction while sitting in one’s house is home instruction being given by parents to their own children; i.e. it is home schooling.
Now another question might arise at this point concerning whether we can take the Old Testament as our guide on this matter. But first, let’s answer the second question posed above, “Was only religious instruction, and not secular education, in view here?
Only Religious Instruction?
This is in reality a trick question because religious instruction and secular education cannot be separated. Take another look at Deuteronomy 6:7–9. The meaning should be unmistakable. God (through Moses) is telling the Israelites to teach their children about Him in everything they do, as expressed in walking, lying down, rising up, writing His commands on their doorposts and even between their eyes. In other words, teaching their children about God should permeate everything they do.
If we are going to follow the principle given as an example for us in these verses, there can be no such thing as a secular education. The Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety is God’s Word that either states or implies all that is necessary for us to know concerning God’s glory and man’s salvation, faith, and life. For Christians, this should be their axiom or foundation of knowledge. Given this, the Bible must be the key textbook for every subject taught to the child of Christian parents.
Since a right understanding of God is to infiltrate everything a child is taught, no amount of after-school countermeasures will make up for the godless education a child receives in public school. There is no such thing as a neutral, secular education. Any education that does not put God at the forefront is anti-God.
Now, considering that you, the parent, are held responsible for whatever your child is taught, regardless of who does the teaching, and considering that God holds you responsible to rightly teach your child about Him as best you can according to your conscience, can you just glibly send your child off to school and believe this fulfills your responsibility? But, you may counter, don’t I also have a responsibility to make sure my child is properly socialized?
The issue of socialization is often thrown in the face of home schoolers by the education establishment. It truly is an important matter, and God makes some very definite statements about it. But before I continue, I’ll quickly answer the question about the validity of using the Old Testament.
The New Testament emphatically states, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Further, the New Testament tells us that the Old Testament gives us accounts of people’s lives as an example for our learning (Romans 15:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:11), and that the Old Testament contains shadows or figures that are to point us to Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:16–17; Hebrews 8:5–6; 10:1). We, who now worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), should see how to apply this typology to our lives.
That said, let’s notice a Scripture that might at first seem to have nothing to do with us, but in fact has much to do with this topic: “When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch” (Deuteronomy 18:9–10).
As Christians, we should seek to understand the typology involved in these verses and to learn from it. Hebrews 3 and 4 tell us that the Israelites coming into the Promised Land is a figure of our entering into God’s rest; that is, Christians coming into Christ (Matthew 11:28). What about the nations that God tells the Israelites not to follow? In the Old Testament, Israel was God’s nation. Now, He is calling people from all nations into His holy nation, the church. The non-Israelite (or Gentile) nations in the Old Testament were a type both of sin (our own sins and those of others) and the sinful, non-Christian world.
The lesson for Christians, therefore, is that we should learn neither the way of sin nor the ways of this sinful, non-Christian world. I don’t mean that, as we grow older, that we cannot educate ourselves to the world’s godless argumentation so that we might better defend biblical truth against it. But we must not be taking in the world’s practices and thoughts as if they are right.
If you send your children to public school, they will commonly receive instruction from teachers who belong to either apostate or heretical churches, practice some Eastern or pagan religion, or are atheists. Even if the teacher is a Christian, what the teacher is required to teach—and what children are required to know in tests—reflects the anti-Christian worldview that permeates public education. Now, do you think that your children can spend several hours a day hearing such instruction, using textbooks that deny God, and be surrounded by throngs of non-Christian children and not imbibe of the sinful ways of this world? Don’t deceive yourself. Under such circumstances, anyone would find himself or herself imbibing to some extent, and children cannot help but take in large drafts of the world’s thoughts. And you, who send your children to public school, are responsible for the intellectual and spiritual food and drink your children are swallowing.
Copyright © 2000-2009 Peter Ditzel