Christian Overman, who directs the Seattle-based Worldview Matters and is a commissioned Colson Fellow, believes—and I largely agree—that we’ve lost the culture because we’ve lost our schools—including, in some cases, important distinctives that make Christian schools, well, Christian. “The shaping of nations begins in the minds of children,” Chris says. “Nation-shaping ideas acquired in elementary and secondary schools are not immediately felt on a national level because it takes time for little acorns to grow into giant oaks. But grow they will.”
In a new, thought-provoking e-book, “The Lost Purpose for Learning,” Chris articulates clearly what has gone awry and offers a systemic, intentional, and repeatable solution for Christian school teachers and headmasters, Sunday school workers, and other church personnel who interact with students between the ages of 4 and 18. It’s simply “must-reading” for Christians involved in education.
As Christian notes, in the years before the federal government took over teaching our children, education was largely a Christian endeavor—not just in the sense that it was run by Christians, but in that it was founded on Christian assumptions about God, life, the world, and humanity. And the primary assumption was that Christ is Lord of all—not just of so-called “religious” subjects, but of everything, including biology, math, even physics.
When the government took over, some Christians, such as A.A. Hodge, warned that the schools would become indoctrination centers for atheism. Well, that’s not exactly what happened, Chris says. Instead, education became “secular” and officially neutral. God went from being the center of knowledge to the periphery. Education professionals taught their subjects not as if God doesn’t exist—at least not overtly—but as if He doesn’t matter. It’s not atheism but, as one author has called it, “practical atheism,” which included something even more insidious—dualism.
“A dualist,” Chris says, “is one who… doesn’t make any significant connection between God’s Word and what goes on in the Monday through Friday workplace because … ‘faith’ is a personal, private matter, while the workplace is public, and therefore ‘secular.’”
Indeed. This sort of dualism is often quite evident in so-called “Christian” education, too. Christian education, in many schools, is little more than education with Christianity sprinkled on top. Academics, but in a safe, Christian environment. Classes, but also Bible class and chapel. Of course, environment matters, and Bible classes are necessary, but in and of themselves, they’re not enough to make an education truly Christian.
Richard John Neuhaus, in his article “The Christian University: Eleven Theses,” said that the word “Christian” is not a limiting label for an institution. “Rather, it’s the starting point, the end point, and the guiding inspiration along the way.”
A holistically Christian education is an education with Christian goals, with a Christian vision, with Christian pedagogy, and with a Christian understanding of who it is that we’re actually teaching.
Whenever we teach the next generation, we’re stewarding souls—not biological machines or mental computers made of meat, but God’s image-bearers, who as John Calvin would say, are inherently worshipers. And so in a sense, education teaches people how to worship, and Christian education should teach people how to worship well, in every area of life.
In his e-book, “The Lost Purpose for Learning,” Christian Overman correctly identifies the inherent problem of dualism. Even better, he offers solutions.
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2016 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.