This may be the most important question facing Christian parents, church leaders and educators today. In order to answer this question biblically, we must go back to the basic tenets of secularism that I presented in last week’s blog. According secular professor, Dr. Phil Zuckerman, a secularist is: 1) a person does not believe in supernatural beings, entities, or realms, 2) a person does not engage in religious behaviors, and 3) a person does not identify as religious and is not a member of a religious community. Zuckerman also pointed out that secularism requires that one must operate from a naturalistic worldview.
Based on these tenets of secularism, secular education must be a system that:
- does not believe in the supernatural
- does teach religious behaviors as being moral absolutes
- does not identify with any specific religion
- teaches from a naturalistic worldview perspective
In his article, The Case for Secular Education, Michael Nugent argues that State education needs to be secular in nature because a secular school teaches children in a neutral, objective way about the different beliefs that different people have about gods, and leaves it up to parents and churches to teach specific religious beliefs outside of school hours. He makes this claim based on the false notion that secular education is neutral on the question of religion. Of course, we saw last week that when it comes to belief in God, there is no such thing as neutrality. What Nugent is advocating is the dangerous idea that life can be and should be divided up into two compartments – the “sacred” and the “secular”.
Nugent draws the conclusion that secular schools are good for society, because they help children to understand differences and respect other people; and secular schools are the only way in practice to respect the human rights of all of our parents and children. Once again, this is only possible when all religious beliefs are recognized as being equal in truth and value.
It is important to remember the warnings penned by Dr. Robert Dabney in his work, On Secular Education. In this 1897 work, Dabney reasoned that,
If secular education is to be made consistently and honestly non-Christian [religiously neutral], then all its more important branches must be omitted, or they must be mutilated and falsified, which is far worse than absolute omission…Because all truths converge towards God, the teacher who cannot name God must have fragmented teaching…Non-Christian teaching [secular] is an anti-Christian training.
It is clear that secular education cannot be supported by Christians. This is why I am so opposed to our children and youth receiving a secular education. I remember the firestorm that took place when I took a stand on this issue several years ago. I was asked to serve on a committee at the church we had just joined. This committee was to conduct a study and recommend to the church leadership whether or not the church should start a Christian school. The committee was made up of a public school principal, two public school teachers, a retired public school teacher and coach, the administrative pastor of the church and me.
During the first meeting we were each asked to introduce ourselves and share why we wanted to serve on this committee. I was asked to start. After stating my name I made this statement.
I want to serve on this committee because I am 100% against any child in a Christian family receiving a secular education and 100% for every child in a Christian family receiving a biblical education.
One of the ladies on the committee shared next. Then, before the next person was able to share, the public school principal interrupted and said that he wanted to challenge the statement that I had made about the education children received. He said,
If I were to make that statement publicly in our church, I would offend close to 150 godly men and women who were teachers in our local public schools.
He asked me to defend such a brash statement. The tension in the room was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. I explained that it was clear I needed to clarify my stance. I emphasized that I am against a “secular” philosophy of education because it denies the existence of God and , therefore, the reality of absolute truth. Then I said this. I am against secular education if it takes place in a public school. However, I am equally opposed to secular education if I see it in a Christian school, a private school, a home school or a Sunday school class. I turned to our pastor who there for this initial meeting and I said that I even oppose secular education if it comes from the pulpit.
After giving this clarification on my position, I said that since my statement would offend everyone in our church who teaches in the local public schools, I can only assume that you [the public school principal] are saying that the local public schools are secular. I explained that I didn’t get into arguments about public vs. Christian vs. home vs. private schools. I was and still am against a secular education and for a biblical education because one denies the true God and the other is built on the reality of God.
My prayer and hope is that more and more Christian parents, church leaders and educators will understand the dangers of secular education. From that understanding, I want to see a growing support from Christians for future generations to receive a biblical education. When that happens, Christian schools and home school parents must make sure that the education they are offering is grounded on and operated from a strong biblical philosophy of education. If this doesn’t happen, we are going to continue losing the culture war and watching our children leave the faith and live out a secular worldview in their lives. Where do you stand on this issue?