Christian Education: Its Mandate and Mission c1992, edited by Dr. Ronald A. Horton published by Bob Jones University Press is an excellent scriptural presentation in support of education focused upon God’s word. According to the preface this effort was accomplished over 10 years and began as a group of booklets developed in an effort to assist the burgeoning Christian schools of the late 80’s by giving them guidance and materials for basic subject development. This project gave birth to the idea of a complete philosophical and systematic presentation supporting the unique focus and individuality of Christian education. Part of this development was also driven by government pressure forcing pastors to prove the obligation of unique education for Christians. The mandates in Scripture were clear and correlating them to catalogue exacting requirements for teacher’s hearts, qualifications, and responsibilities began taking shape. The effort also includes identification of subjects that may be inappropriate to deliver to young Christians.
The pages of this book methodically lay out a specific guided training program to prepare young people to serve God fruitfully and be societally productive. Christian Education identifies learning and educational methods for teachers, and it conveys an understanding of their specific and incalculable responsibility to mold young people to serve God in an increasingly aggressive, secular society. The book has three main parts, Premises, Methodology, and Applications. In the Applications section, Horton argues biblically for each of the basic educational subjects found in most public schools today. Physical education is included, and how conduct and properly motivated healthy competition can edify young people to appreciate our savior Jesus Christ. As a work focused upon biblical principles, Christian Education does not miss an opportunity to correlate a Bible verse with an argument. Biblical applicability in education is the basis of the book and is addressed in the first section, Premises.
Here Dr. Horton clearly identifies the philosophy of Christian education based upon 2 Corinthians 13:5. This verse calls for each of us to focus upon performing an intimate introspective heart inspection and to act on one’s Christian devotion by serving God. In this service, the book focuses on His revelation as a guide to develop definitions, purpose, recipient hearts, and the responsibility of Christian educators in a comprehensive philosophy based in Scripture. The book documents a baseline developed from a belief in creation, the fall, and salvation through Jesus Christ. After identifying God’s place, then the church associated with home and Christian education are identified as vital participants and partners in education. The home is charged specifically in Genesis 18:19, Deuteronomy 6:7 and Ephesians 6:4 to educate their children, bring them up to fear God, and serve Him. Because a healthy fear of God calls for knowledge of Him, the church is rightfully dedicated to support the home and provide edifying instruction. The discussion not only points to the institutions and leadership, but the student’s responsibility to submit to the authorities charged with delivering their instruction.
The introduction to the next section contains the most concise and appropriate purpose for methodology of Christian education “to develop redeemed man in the image of God restored in Christ and revealed in the Scriptures.”
This section focuses upon the”how” of education with specific student expectations (chief focus is the opening discussion) as well as professional development for instructors. Christian teaching and learning sees individuals as souls to be saved by Christ to serve for God’s glory in a specific purpose. Christian Education clearly and completely argues that teachability depends upon a right relationship with our Lord. Young Christians are expected to trust, submit to, and follow their teachers as opposed to their secular peers who determine what is desired in the classroom. Likewise, the teacher is expected to exert true leadership in holding students to expectations, setting realistic goals, and supervising them. Because those taught are seen as individuals to be saved by Christ, the teacher is required to know Christ, have a living testimony in Him, and be the example of Christ for the child. Christian classroom objectives are also antithetical to secular classrooms, but both classrooms agree that information synthesis and application is required.
Christian Education identifies five levels of mental development on principles that lead from exposure of data to application in life. The methodology also differs from secular approaches in social development, which implements emotional solutions. Christian Education rightly states that the focus of education is education not socialization. But Christ changes the heart for His glory, His service, and the benefit of society, therefore His revelation must be the guide.
A heavily debated subject today includes the liquidity of statutes and rules and their applicability to learning. Christian education and biblical foundations see this, and rightly so, as shifting sand. Secular educators frequently bow to political pressures and progressive secularist theories concerning appropriate educational approaches, but Horton rightly states that the Christian educator must enforce rules “firmly and consistently so as to maintain an orderly learning environment” (p25).
Horton discusses specific methods of teaching, admittedly no different than other institutional teaching techniques save one interwoven message; the Bible being the word of truth provides the answers we need for life. A Christian educator must “implant convictions” (p33). Throughout the book, secular and Christian educational positions are juxtaposed to develop the polemic. Considering the offerings of secular education, the final chapter in this section, and rightly so, is educational censorship.
A list of seven specific areas of censorship is provided. Where collegiate institutions today are getting more lurid and lascivious in the classroom every day, Christian educators must strive to retain purity. Christian Education is not so concerned for the obvious, but calls to attention the oblique inroads Satan attempts to make through practical atheism, antiestablishmentarianism, mysticism, and naturalisticism; especially the slight inferences in stories of famous novelists. It provides warning Christian educators should well heed.
The section labeled “Applications” explicitly lists, broadly defines, and provides biblical basis for four classifications of study; Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, Practical Studies and Central Study. Each area of study provides developmental support for a productive believer in the kingdom of God. As would be expected, the centrality of Christian teaching is biblical instruction; therefore Central studies are discussed first. Based in 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21 and other Scriptures which clearly mandate the Bible’s applicability to every Christian life as the baseline of study material.
Liberal Arts such as English, History, Mathematics, and Science are then supported and discussed in light of scripture. For instance, moral development occurs when a student realizes that following the development of American literature from Emerson through Whitman to today’s Stephen King and other well-known authors only displays the great level of degenerate decay of intellectual and moral thought. Readings for book reports are chosen from more edifying and less rebellious or violent specimens (p96). The remaining subjects are equally encouraging focusing on awareness of environment, while maintaining an understanding that experiencing amoral representations in society are not required to have knowledge of their existence or detriment to mankind. Instead, students are instructed to live a life separated unto God.
Overall, I found the discussion very complete and enlightening. Horton documents expectations for everything from classroom operation to teacher qualifications and curriculum development. This is an outstanding book and a great value that should be on every Christian school administrator’s shelf. It would serve well as a solid biblical systematic guide for Christian education. Only one area appeared to call for improvement; there is little mention of the reason for redemption. Romans 5:8 clearly indicates God’s love for us unto salvation. Where both preventative and punitive discipline are implemented, the consistent call to train the soul, and guide young souls to salvation, an organization must equally provide and focus upon the love of God in the admonishment to bring the heart to Christ where it may not be; or to reconcile the sinner with Christ in a true repentance. Only the love of God can do this.