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Christians and Education

Fred Butler over at “Hip and Thigh” has a good rebuttal to Josh Sowin’s “coming out” blog post against Young Earth Creationism.  In reading Josh’s various statements, what most struck me was his thought processes — simplistic ideas and a lack of critical thinking skills.  Both his statements regarding his background, and his overall sentence structure and reasoning, reminded me of what I have observed in some Christian homeschool students:  inferior general education combined with a simple zeal that parrots the words of adult Christians — followed in his case by a rebellion and rejection, yet still following along the same simplistic thought patterns of someone who lacks ability to reason on his own.  I later googled and learned that Josh Sowin is indeed associated with homeschool websites, so my initial impression appears correct, that Josh Sowin is a product of Christian homeschooling.

I’ve often heard Christian parents say that they would prefer their children be saved and loving the Lord, than for them to have a good education… in other words, the most important thing to impress upon a child is good Bible teaching and the gospel message.  If you fail to give them a good education, at least they will be saved and that is far more important.  Certainly as an overall precept that is fine, in the sense of recognizing eternal salvation as greater than anything this world has to offer.  But the above case illustrates a weakness in this lazy-education attitude.  We are commanded (Mark 12:30) “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Aside from the fact that over-protected and under-educated Christian children will never attain the status of functioning adults with good employment skills and adult responsibilities (and will always be more or less dependent on their parents), such individuals are more easily swayed from their beliefs (whenever the desire towards independence from adult authority arises), since those beliefs are not grounded in the depth of understanding produced by an educated mind.  Their beliefs are shallow at best, and often incorrect in the specifics.  A case in point: Josh’s ideas about what six-day creation actually means, his lack of understanding regarding the difference between different types of evolution, and his simplistic, faulty understanding about presuppositions.

Not to pick only on Josh … some time ago I reviewed essays written by an 11th grade Christian home-school student with college aspirations.  The essays were written at about the level of a 6th grader.  Basic spelling and grammar mistakes aside, the underlying problem was a lack of experience with real world problem solving.  The essays included statements “of fact” that really were not so but only things commonly heard though untrue (such as the oft-repeated saying that 50% of all marriages end in divorce), and stated briefly without any supporting, underlying reasons — and then going on to another statement:  acceptable for a 5th grader, perhaps, but not by the 11th grade.

Granted, God will work in each person’s heart as is appropriate, and if He gave to one person a more feeble mind, that person cannot be held to the same standard of understanding as others.  But from my own observations and experience, I would suggest that an individual is better off with a solid, grounded education — even one in a public school, that bastion of secular ungodliness — than an inferior, over-protected education situation that produces limited reasoning abilities.

A contrasting case:  the public school I attended was very godless, one that promoted evolution and secular humanism.  It actually was rather weak academically, with movies for teaching; and the 11th grade English class included a unit in which we watched the anti-creation film “Inherit the Wind” and discussed higher thinking and how “backward” and “uneducated” those people of 1920s Dayton, TN were.  At the time I bought into all the evolutionist propaganda and remained in that condition for several years.  However, the basic general education was there — ability to write well, read and reason, and some experience with real world problem solving (at least in comparison to the Christian homeschool students mentioned above).  Several years later, when God did work in my life to bring me to saving faith, those circumstances included some good Christian apologetics, such as a good presentation of creation including the complexity and design, and the truth about evolutionary claims.  When I first believed and was saved, I still had atheistic ideas such as an old earth; but when I picked up a good book about the evidences for a young earth, that information enlightened and strengthened me in my faith, and over the years since, such additional reading has only strengthened my faith, to truly take God at His word, literally, at every point from beginning to end.

The person who lacks the basic education on the front end is obviously not going to understand the more complex thoughts regarding any belief, whether that be evolution or creation, or in-depth Bible study.  And as John MacArthur has well said, one’s capacity to understand God affects the ability to worship God.  We can only worship God so far as our understanding takes us.

God is the one who does the heart-change, to put His spirit in one of His enemies, so that the saved sinner can understand and discern the things of God — things which are spiritually discerned and are foolishness to unbelievers.  But God also uses ordinary means, His providence, to bring about that purpose — and a good general education is one of those means that God uses in teaching us and bringing us to greater understanding, to give even greater glory to God by our worship of Him.

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