A Christian Philosophy of Education
Education is Uniquely and Necessarily the Responsibility of Parents

D. E. Bills, MA, MEd


All Christian families should have a well-formulated philosophy of education, because all Christian families must educate their children.  By some means, they must provide their children with information and abilities that will prepare them for life in the world. Christians should ask themselves, “Does God have anything to say that bears upon the subject of education? Does God say anything that should influence my decisions as I educate my children?”  The answers to these questions will help us begin the task of developing a Christian philosophy of education.

 The philosophy of education presented here will be explicitly biblical and unabashedly Christian. I hope that it will be of value to all Christian families who read this, regardless of the method of education selected, whether home, private or public.  Hopefully it will challenge us all to evaluate the education we have chosen according to the absolute standard of God’s Word.

 The Scriptures we will examine will lead us to the conclusion that education is uniquely and necessarily the responsibility of parents.  We will look at several passages of Scripture, but the key to interpreting those passages is found in Genesis 17:7. 

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”

 This verse will be central in our philosophy of education.  But before we accept and apply the proposition that “education is uniquely and necessarily the responsibility of Christian parents,” we should lay a foundation.

What is a Philosophy of Education?

A philosophy of education is a set of first principles that forms the ground for all that we do in education.  These first principles seek to answer a variety of questions such as “why and within what parameters will we educate?”  They provide the impetus that drives teachers, administrators, parents, and students, giving meaning to their roles and responsibilities.  These first principles state what educators believe is foundational, what they can infer from those foundations, and what they cannot compromise.  They provide direction and keep the school aiming toward certain goals that when achieved will allow all involved to say, “we have been successful.”

Biblical Authority

Christian philosophy of education necessarily starts with the Bible.  The Bible is the Christian’s, indeed, the world’s, only source of absolutely certain truth. The necessity of starting with the authoritative Bible should not require any justification for the Christian.  After all, we are Christians asking the question, “what is a Christian philosophy of education?”   We accept the Bible as authoritative because we are Christians (1 Corinthians 2:10-16)Christ has done a work in our hearts that has changed our lives and made us Children of God.  If we want to know what God says definitively about this world, we go to the Bible by default, and we accept what it says.  And we might add that if someone is not willing to accept the authority of the Scriptures, then their faith in Christ is in question, and this entire discussion of what is a Christian philosophy of education is irrelevant.

 So the first principle in our Christian philosophy of education is this:  If we are Christians, the Bible is absolutely authoritative.  This leads to a question that is answered by the second principle of our philosophy of education.  That question is, “Does the authoritative bible have anything to say about education?” 

Biblical Worldview

The answer to the question is “yes, the Bible has much to say about education.”   At the least, it teaches us that Christian education requires a biblical worldview.

 A worldview, in simple terms, is a way of viewing reality. For instance, some people view reality as if God did not exist, and this belief influences how they interpret the world and everything in it.   On the other hand, a biblical worldview presupposes the existence of God and the truth of Scripture.  It accepts what the Bible says about reality and integrates the Bible’s teaching into every area of life, including work, entertainment, social experiences, family relationships, and education – especially education.  In education, young and impressionable learners are intentionally indoctrinated and ingrained with information and skills that will affect everything they do for the rest of their lives.   Cornelius Van Til defines education as “implication into God’s interpretation,” which is just a fancy, philosophical way of saying that education is teaching students to see the world as God sees it.  It is, above all else, providing young minds with a biblical worldview--namely, that this is God’s world. 

There is no other way to see the world than the way God sees it.  Every other way is self-deceiving and the product of the cult of humanism.  History is the record of God’s involvement in time.  Can it in any way be righteous to study history as if God was not involved?  Science is the study of the composition and patterns of the universe, created and held together by God himself.  Is it righteous to study science as if God did not exist, or to even exclude Him to any degree from a most prominent and obvious position of importance in the study of science?   Is it righteous to ignore God in studies of language and literature, when the gifts of communication and creative expression are among the most precious bestowed by our Creator?  Is it righteous to study mathematics and the orderliness of numbers from a non-christian perspective when the orderliness and logic of our minds is dependent in every way upon the absoluteness and orderliness of God Almighty?  This is God’s world!  The facts of History are the work of His providence.  The facts of science are his creation.   The facts of language are his gift.  Van Til says, “There are not because there cannot be other than God-interpreted facts.”  In order for any education to possess truth and integrity, it must interpret academic facts according to God’s point of view. Education must presuppose a biblical worldview. 

Christians should intuitively perceive this concept of a biblical worldview in education, but three simple verses remind us of it in no uncertain terms: 

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ü      Genesis 1:1 states “In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.“  God created it, he owns it, and he has perfect knowledge of it.  Any interpretation of reality that leaves God out is the product of a depraved and misguided mind that will inevitably stand against God and be anti-Christian at its core.

ü      Proverbs 1:7 states that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”   This implies that any pursuit of knowledge that does not start with the fear of the Lord cannot provide right knowledge about God’s reality.

ü      Colossions 2:3 tells us that “in Christ are hid all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom. “  It is vain to search for certain knowledge outside of knowing Christ  first. 


Cornelius Van Til, in his collection of essays on education reminds us that the “Non-christian may be an artist, a scientist, or anything else that is open to him at his time of life.  However, he does not believe that the creation lies under the curse of God.  He does not believe that Christ, the anointed of God, has lifted the curse from off the ground on which he stands.  He does not think of himself as made in the image of God.  Every fact of the universe with which he deals. does as a matter of fact, belong to God, but he assumes that it belongs to no one.  The last thing he will think of is to do all things to the glory of God. “ (p 4 edited.)

The book of Romans reminds us of the effects of misinterpreting the testimony of God’s creation.  Chapter 1:20 tells us that God’s eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen and understood in the creation, so that men are without excuse.   Unfortunately, mankind did not glorify God or give thanks to him. Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  They claimed to be wise, but they became fools.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the creator. The result was moral reprobation and condemnation.  This truth is evident today: the world and especially the world’s education exemplify an educational philosophy that does not begin with a biblical worldview.  

Covenant Theology

In this series on Christian philosophy of education, we have laid the foundation of biblical authority.  We have shown that this is God’s world, and that education concerning God’s world should be Christian.   Added to these principles, covenant theology begins to show us that education is uniquely and necessarily the responsibility of parents.  Covenant theology recognizes that God’s covenant with mankind is a centralizing theme of the Scriptures. It is the theology of New Covenant Church and School, stated beautifully in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

 Earlier, I quoted Genesis 17:7, explaining that it was the key to our philosophy.  “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting Covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”   In Genesis 18:19, God gives further explanation:   “I have chosen [Abraham] so that he will direct his children, and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he promised to do.“ God’s covenant with Abraham was that he would be Abraham’s God, and his children’s God, and the God of his children’s children. This covenant was made with every descendent of Abraham.  

Today, through Christ, covenant families are descendants of Abraham, having been grafted into the covenant (Romans 9:Galatians 3:8,16,29).   God has made the same covenant with our children and us.  He has promised to be our God, and he will be the God of our children and our children’s children unto a thousand generations. 

 However, there are conditions to this covenant, spelled out most explicitly as the ten commandments of God.  In Exodus 20:5,6, God ties the commandments and the covenant together.  He has told the Israelites that they should have no other Gods or idols. “You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”   God’s covenant and his blessings upon our succeeding generations require obedience to the commandments.  

 But continue to read carefully:  Both Matthew and Mark record that a teacher of the Law came to Christ and asked him which of the commandments is the greatest commandment.  Christ responded with a quote from the Old Testament, one that we all probably know very well, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  And love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no greater commandment than these.”   When Christ explained the greatest commandment, he summarized the Law by quoting what is called the Shama of Israel, which comes from the word “Hear” in Deuteronomy 6:4:   “Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.“ Christ taught a precious truth that was at the heart of the covenant — that love for God and love for man is the essence of the Law.

 The passage Christ quoted from explains how this truth about the covenant was to be perpetuated: 

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them upon your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and gates.” 

 In poetic language, God says that there is no sphere of life that should escape the teaching that the Lord is our God. This teaching should be constant and pervasive.  It should be so ingrained in our hearts and minds that we should be obsessed with love for God.   Moreover, the covenant responsibility for passing on this godly obsession rests uniquely and necessarily with parents.

 All this begs the application:  Does the method of education that we have selected constantly and pervasively teach love for God and man?   Is it helping our children keep God’s covenant, or is it increasing the possibility that our children will break God’s covenant?  These are important and biblical questions to answer as we apply a Christian philosophy of education. 

Parental Responsibility

Parents are the means God has chosen to perpetuate his gracious covenant  unto a thousand generations of those who love him.  Parents are to impress love for God upon their children.  They are to teach them day and night, when sitting at home, when taking a walk or going for a drive, when putting children to bed and getting them up in the morning.  Parents are to keep love for God constantly before their eyes.   

 Biblical authority informs parents of this responsibility.  A biblical worldview implies the scope of this responsibility.   God’s covenant with Christian parents measures the weight of this responsibility – by  God’s design, parents are the guardians of a biblical worldview for their children. They are to pass God’s view of the world on to their children.   Since this is God’s world, and education is an inherently religious task, parents are responsible to see that education is accomplished in conformity with God’s word.

 This combination of covenant theology and parental responsibility gives meaning to passages such as Ephesians 6:2 where fathers are told to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.  It gives meaning to Asaph’s words in Ps. 78 1,2: 

 “O my people hear my teaching;  listen to the words of my mouth.   I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old  – what we have heard and known,   what our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from our children, we will tell to the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.   He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commandments.” 

 When we consider biblical authority, a biblical worldview, covenant theology and parental responsibility,  our Christian philosophy of education takes shape as the following proposition:  education is uniquely and necessarily the responsibility of parents.    

Covenant Community

The children of Christian parents belong in God’s covenant by default. They already have access to many of the blessings of God’s covenant, because God is their God.   We read in 1 Corinthians 7 that children are sanctified by the presence of a believing parent.   This place in God’s covenant enters children into a covenant community, which we call the Church.   It is, so to speak, the support group for all those who are partakers, through Christ, in the Covenant promises.  God is our God.  He is our children’s God.  He is our God as a church community.  We are all in this together. 

 Parents who have their children baptized take a vow in the presence of this community.  During the ceremony, the pastor asks the parents,  “Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before him a godly example, that you will pray with and for him, that you will teach him the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?”  

But the pastor does not stop there.  He turns to the congregation – the covenant community – and asks,  “Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting the parents in the Christian nurture of this child?”  When the congregation answers “yes,” it affirms that parents are not alone in their vows before God.  Our children are part of a covenant constituency within the community of the church.  Though responsibilities of the covenant may seem overwhelming at times, the principle of covenant community reminds us that we are not in this alone.  We have the body of Christ to strengthen us, provide support and guidance, build us up in our faith, remind us of a biblical worldview, and help us keep covenant with God. 

 The church does this by continually reminding parents of their responsibilities, by bringing those who home school, privately school, and publicly school their children together into one body, by providing fellowship and encouragement, by providing youth programs in which children meet other covenant children and learn of God and participate in godly activities.  The value of belonging to this community is profound.  

 This principle of covenant constituency gives vision and mission to New Covenant School.  New Covenant Church has started a school as an avenue to fulfill its vows.   Why should a church make it business to jump into education?  If any church is to be involved in education, it must have biblical grounds.   Historically, many Christian schools have been started as a reaction to the decline of spirituality and morality in our public schools.   But this is not a sufficient reason.   We do not start Christian schools because we do not like public schools.   We do not start Christian schools because, if all else is equal, we believe that our children should be in a Christian environment.   We start Christian schools because education is uniquely and necessarily the responsibility of Christian parents, not the State.   In our covenant vows as a congregation in which we promise to assist Christian parents in the nurture of their children, we find solid biblical grounds to be involved in education.  

Louis Berkhof wrote near the turn of the century,  "Advocates of Christian education have always maintained that the Christian school is an outgrowth of the covenant idea and is absolutely necessary in order to enable the child to appreciate his covenant privileges and to understand the solemn significance of his baptism in the name of the triune God. They are convinced that the Christian school, as well as infant baptism, finds its main support in the doctrine of the covenant; and they are therefore unalterably opposed to the tendency of some to slight this doctrine and to relegate it to the background."


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