Christianity and Education by David Feddes

Examples of impact

• Christians began movement to educate all: girls as well as boys, poor as well as rich

• Kept higher learning alive in dark times; saved many classic books from disappearing forever, and renewed learning and civilization

• Took the lead in starting school systems

• Started the world’s greatest universities

• Widespread education might not exist at all without the influence of Christianity

Jesus the teacher

• Age 12: “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47).

• People “were amazed and asked, 'How did this man get such learning without having studied'" (John 7:15). "No one ever spoke the way this man does" (John 7:46).

• "The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (Matthew 7:28-29).

Connecting with
common people

• "The common people heard him gladly" (Mark 12:37 KJV).  Plain words, gripping stories, everyday example. Could stump scholars, yet connect with kids, slaves, women whom other rabbis avoided.

• Jesus was filled with “the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding… the Spirit of knowledge” (Is 11:2). Jesus promised to send “the Spirit of truth… he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13,15).

Teaching in apostolic mission

• “Go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt 28:20).  Conquest by “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph  6:17).

• Pastors and elders must “be able to teach” and "must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith" (1 Tim 3:2,9).

• Doctrine mattered. Truth had to be taught, and error had to be refuted.

Early Christian education

• Jews stressed knowledge, learning a trade, Scripture.

• Christians continued and expanded this to non-Jews, and to girls as well as boys. Taught both sexes in same setting, following Jesus’ lead.

• Wrote instruction manuals for church membership

• Formed schools to train leaders about Word and world: mainly doctrine; also math, medicine, etc/

• Amid cultural chaos, looting, and burning of books, Irish Christians preserved Bible, history, philosophy, legal theory, science, literature.

Missionaries brought literacy

• Many cultures had no written language at all.

• Missionaries created written words so that the Bible could be translated and read.

• Side-effect: preserved knowledge of heritage

• Missionaries established many schools.

• Christians sometimes fell short, lost love of truth, and became anti-intellectual.  But revival always brought fresh hunger for truth and Scripture, and brought renewed learning.

Protestant Reformers

• Luther: “shameful and despicable” for parents not to give children a good education. He pressed for public funding of schools, but also said, “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the hearts of the youth.”

• Calvin: elementary school for all; higher education for leaders. All truth is God’s truth, even if discovered by non-Christians: law, math, medicine, philosophy, astronomy.

Expanding  opportunity

• Gutenberg’s press first printed the Bible.

• Love of books rooted in esteem for the Book.

• Learning opportunities for disabled:

Paris priest invented sign language so that deaf could learn gospel and other things.

Christian pastor established first school for the deaf in the United States.

Christians started homes for the blind.

Louis Braille invited alphabet of raised dots.

Educational innovation

• Christians have been innovators in education.

• Goal of education for all children arose among Christians.

• Different grade levels. Kindergarten.

• Christians began Sunday schools to help poor, non-Christian children get educated.

• Pioneers in the home schooling movement.

• Some innovations were better than others, but all show that Christians keep looking for better ways to teach and learn.

Old Deluder Act

North America’s first schools were started to enable everyone to read the Bible and thus to defeat Satan’s lies. Puritan Christians, rooted in Calvinist Christianity, passed a law requiring every township to provide an educator who could teach children to read and write. The law became known as the Old Deluder Act, because it spoke of “the Old Deluder, Satan,” whose main goal is “to keep man from the knowledge of the Scriptures.”

Colleges and universities

• Bologna, Oxford, Paris, Cambridge, Heidelberg, Basel were founded by Christians.

• Almost all of the first 123 colleges and universities in the U.S.A. had Christian origins.

Harvard: "Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ … as the only sound foundation of all knowledge and learning.”

Yale:  “Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences, who through the blessings of Almighty God may be fitted for public employment both in Church and Civil State.”

Princeton was started by Christians. An early president of Princeton, Rev. John Witherspoon said, “Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”

Columbia (early ad): “The chief thing that is aimed at in this college is to teach and engage children to know God in Jesus Christ.”

Public schools

• Congress 1787: “Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

• Public schools were originally called “public” not because they were government-controlled but because they were open to the public, to people from every segment of society.

• These early “public” schools were mostly run by parents or churches and emphasized Christ and the Bible as the foundations of education. 

Godless government education

I am as sure as I am of Christ's reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen. (Princeton Prof. A. A. Hodge 1887)

Prizing truth

• Desire for education depends on confidence that there is such a thing as truth and that truth is worth knowing. If there is no truth or if truth doesn’t matter, education is pointless.

• People who know Jesus are certain that truth matters more than anything else in the world: “I am the truth” (John 14:6).

• Jesus said his kingdom is like yeast, but also warned against the yeast of false teaching.

• Education is a byproduct of Christian influence; it’s no substitute for knowing Christ.

Last modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2019, 4:03 PM