The Christian foundations of Christian education reveal itself to be a grand issue at hand when one takes into account the motive and philosophy driving the non-Christian educational system. What is the one massive reality that they base everything they do from? Simple, themselves. The goal of the worldly education is to “bring the growing personality that is to be educated into the best possible relation to its environment.” But notice that how one defines the word “environment” makes all the difference in this sentence. What is out there? What is true in the world? Are there any truths we can know? Or is everything finding its foundation in what we, individually, think truth is? Whereas God is absent from the environment of the non-Christian school , making it a godless education defined by humanism, God is the one determinative factor for the Christian school that must govern all actions, programs, and curriculum. Non-Christian education denies that man is responsible to any god, thus the concept of sin is absent in the non-Christian school, and if sin is not taught, how can one rightly understand the cross? Non-Christian education denies the knowability of truth in our day, teaching that truth can only be defined as to what different people think it is.
If Christian education follows suit, we’re in for a head on collision with many sinful consequences that will show in the following generations. Do you see the need for a Christian education to be what it is, Christian? Christians need to be taught of their God, of His character and His attributes, of His ways in the world, and His ways in their hearts, by men and women who love this God above all other things. Education that is Christian must be that, Christian. Cornelius Van Til pulls one implication from this that is helpful for our purposes here. If the One, massive reality that has created all things, sustains all things, and interacts with all things, namely God, is absent from the non-Christian educational system, is true “teaching” really happening? He answers, no.
The only reason why we’re justified in having Christian schools is that we’re convinced that outside of a Christian-theistic-atmosphere there can be no more than an empty process of one abstraction teaching abstractness to other abstractions. No teaching of any sort is possible except in Christian schools…The ground for the necessity of Christian schools lies in this very thing, that no fact can be known unless it be known in its relationship to God. And once this point is clearly seen, the doubt as to the value of teaching arithmetic in Christian schools falls out of the picture….arithmetic must be taught in a Christian school. It cannot be taught elsewhere. (Van Til, Foundations of Christian Education, 15)
Whether you think Van Til has overstated his case here or not, there is a truth in his words that is massively helpful. When one tries to do education in a manner which excludes God, everything is affected. True, arithmetic can be taught in a godless educational system, but can it be taught to the degree which it was meant to be taught, known, and understood by God? No. To have a true knowledge of all things, no matter how small or large, both the teacher and the pupil must be in contact with God. Thus, we have need to think through how Christian education should function.