What Does the Bible Say about Educating Children? (Part 1)

Dear Reader,

I am not one of those who thinks every aspect of our lives should be lived based on biblical texts. We do not eat a  Bible-based diet, for example. The biblical text is God-given and infallible. But it is not a guidebook for every aspect of life.

But I wrote a post a few weeks back on how I think Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy is biblical. So I thought I should look more closely at what the Bible has to say about how we educate our children. There are a number of ways in which we can approach this issue. We can ask why we educate, what we teach, or how we educate. Of these, I think the last is the most controversial and probably the one on which the Bible has the least to say.

But to begin with, let’s look at the why and what. Here are the principles I see in the Bible relating to education of children:

1. We must not neglect our children’s education. There are numerous verses commanding us to train and discipline our children. Proverbs 22:6 comes to mind: “Train up a child in the way he should go;  even when he is old he will not depart from it” [ESV].

2. There is a moral component to education. As the Proverbs verse above says, there is a right path to be on in one’s life, and a wrong one, and we are not to let our children stumble about blindly, but are to lead them in the godly way.

3. We are to teach them about God and His works. Deuteronomy commands us to love the Lord will all our heart, soul, and strength, and then adds,

” And  these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.   You shall teach them diligently to your children . . . ” [Deut. 6:6-7a]

And previously, the Israelites were instructed to pass along what they have seen and heard to their kids:

“Only take care, and  keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.  Make them known to your children and your children’s children— how on  the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me,  ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words,  so that they may learn to fear  me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ ” [Deut. 4:9-10]

4. Our God is very historical. Ours in not a philosophy worked out in our own minds but a faith founded on what God has done. I am thinking here of the Passover which God instituted as a way to remember His deeds and specifically said the Israelites should use to teach their children about His works (Exod. 12:26-27). I am also thinking of the introduction to the Ten Commandments which tells us that we obey because of what God has done. And of course there is the life, death, and resurrection of Christ without which our faith means nothing. But I think we also do well to remember and teach our children about the acts of God which have occurred since biblical times. All of which is a justification for studying history and also points us in a certain direction in our thinking about it.

5. We are told to look at God’s creation in order to learn about Him:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,  have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” [Rom. 1:20]

“Go to  the ant, O sluggard;  consider her ways, and  be wise.” [Prov. 6:6]

So this gives us precedent at least for the beginnings of a study of science.

6. Many other specific subjects are not addressed in Scripture, even basic ones like reading and math. However, knowledge as a whole is highly esteemed in the Bible. Also, I believe we are to be good stewards of all God has given us, and this necessitates some knowledge. I am thinking mainly of passages like the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 in which the servant who invests his master’s money is praised and we are told, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Mt. 25:29). Managing our resources well is not possible without at least some basic knowledge of our own language and of math.

Before we move on to the how of education, I think we should also look at what the Bible says about children in general. Our ideas about the methods of education will depend a lot on our view of children and what they are capable of.

I believe the Bible teaches that children are whole people capable of having their own relationship with their Creator. They are complete moral agents made in His image who stand before Him, for better or worse, in their own right.  No doubt there is growth in knowledge and as well as in stature (Lk. 2:40), but even an unborn babe is able to recognize his Lord (Lk. 1:41). Furthermore, children are included among the people of God (Acts 2:39) and should not be hindered from coming to Him (Mt. 19:14). In fact, the young are often better able to approach and know God than their elders are (Mt. 11:25; 18:3).

And then there are some general observations about human nature which apply to all of us, not just children. We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). There are many different ideas of what this means. Personally, I think it refers to not just one but a collection of characteristics that we share with our Creator: we rule (as He gives us authority; Gen. 1:28), we are creative and can appreciate beauty, we can reason and know. All these things may be corrupted since the fall, but they are still with us. Which brings us to the flip side, we are all sinful (Rom. 3:23). Left on our own, we will not choose good. We are incapable of it. We need direction. Which brings us back to the why and how of education.

The how is a big issue and I think we have just begun to touch on it. Since this post is already getting long, I am going to save more specifics on the how till a “part 2.”

Nebby

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3 responses to this post.

  1. […] own contention would be that the Bible tells us very little about the how’s of education (see this post and this one). Of course, they are not saying that the Bible supports their view, but rather that it […]

    Reply

  2. […] it is biblical. Not that I think there is just one biblical approach to education ( see posts here and here), but I think Charlotte’s thinking is in line with general biblical principles, […]

    Reply

  3. […] What does the Bible say on educating children part 1 and part 2 […]

    Reply

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