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Should Christians Send Their Children To Be Salt and Light in the Public Schools?

by Dr. Paul A. Kienel

As Christians, we must be concerned about every area of public life, including public schools. Christians should attempt to improve public education whenever possible. That gargantuan task, however, is a major job for mature adults -- not children. The concept of using Christian children to Christianize the public schools seems to me to be an idea that is out of touch with reality. The medical doctor who became a disciple of Jesus wrote, "...a student when he is fully trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). Students are in school to learn. In more ways than you can imagine, Christian students, like all students, will be like their teachers. A number of years ago, the National Sunday School Association reported that seventy percent of Christian children and young people who attend public school drop out of the church between the ages of twelve and seventeen. Another study showed an even higher loss at the college level. Of Christian students living in campus dorms at secular colleges and universities, ninety percent dropped out of the church their first semester!

Secular schools at every level need Christian salt and light. They desperately need Christian influence. There are numerous teachers and principals who are Christians in public education who demonstrate daily that the Light of the Gospel of Christ can shine in very dark corners of our society. But, I find no command in Scripture, clearly stated or implied, which implores us to use Christian children and young people, who are not as yet mature in their faith, to do spiritual battle with non-Christian agnostic teachers who very well may have several graduate degrees.

Those who advocate using Christian children to save the public schools during the school week appear to have an entirely different perspective on Sunday. For example, one of the arguments used is that Christian students will grow spiritually stronger if they are taught in public schools by non-believing teachers. They ask, "How will Christian students learn to identify atheism if they never sit under its teaching? How will they learn to counter it if they never encounter it?" I have heard a wide range of Christian leaders, including pastors, espouse this view. I have yet to hear even one of them, however, advocate such an arrangement on Sunday in church facilities. If their argument holds true, why would it not be appropriate for a pastor or Sunday school superintendent to invite a non-Christian junior high teacher from the local public school to teach a month-long series of evolution versus creation to the junior high boys, or invite a non-Christian high school health teacher to the church for a lecture on value-free sex education, the virtues of safe sex, and a nonjudgmental review of alternative life styles, including homosexuality, lesbianism, and open marriages?

The same misguided logic might lead a pastor or Sunday school superintendent to invite a guest pastor or a guest Sunday school leader from a liberal church, or even a cult church, to fill the pulpit or teach a large combined Sunday school class just to expose Sunday church-goers to teachings they would not otherwise encounter. After all, how are they going to counter it if they never encounter it?

Thankfully, this does not occur because church congregations would not tolerate it and because there is not Scriptural basis for bringing in false prophets to minister to the flock. Matthew 7:15 reads, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."

The question I have been leading up to is this: If it is Scripturally wrong (and I believe it is) to subject children and young people to false prophets on Sunday in the church, why then is it acceptable to send the same children and young people to false-prophet, non-believer teachers in the public school Monday through Friday? If it is wrong on Sunday, it seems to me that it is wrong on Monday! We are specifically directed in Scripture to bring children "...up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). I challenge anyone to justify with Biblical authority the idea of placing Christian children under the instruction of non-Christian teachers who instruct them in concepts which are not pleasing to the Lord. The fact that the church is losing seventy to ninety percent of its children and young people, and the fact that there is no Biblical basis for non-Biblical instruction of children, should challenge many Christians across our land to rethink their long-standing commitment to secular education. The losses are simply too great. The lives of our children are too important to cling to views that are threatening the very future of the Christian community. I urge every Christian family to send their children to Christ-honoring Christian schools and to reflect on the words in Thomas Wistar's hymn of the Christian scholar below:

Our Father in Heaven, Creator of all,
O, Source of all wisdom of Thee would we call:
That only can teach us and show us our need
And give to Thy children true knowledge indeed.

But vain our instruction and blind must we be
Unless with our learning be knowledge of Thee.
Then pour forth Thy spirit and open our eyes
And lift with the knowledge that only makes wise.

From pride and presumption, O Lord, keep us free
And make our hearts humble and loyal to Thee,
That living or dying in Thee may we rest
And prove to the scornful Thy statutes are best.1

1 Thomas Wistar, "Our Father In Heaven, Creator Of All," in Hymn of The Living Faith (Winner Lake, Indiana: Light and Life Press, 1951), 571.

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