My Son is Starting School – Christian Education 101

So here it comes. For the first time in my life I have a child about to start school. My oldest son begins the first week of September. For me, it’s exciting and it’s terrifying. He’s grown up too fast and to watch him head off to get an education is a mixture of joy and heartache. But I rejoice still, because the school he’s going to is phenomenal. It’s a private classical Christian school where the students spend some time there with his classmates and teachers and some time at home doing home-schooling. Many people have asked me why my wife and I chose to take this route, so below I’ve put down some thoughts about why we’ve chosen a Christian education for our son.

Be warned, it is longer than I expected it to be, but I pray you’ll glean much from it.

Christian Education 101

Christian education is a vital part of Christian life, no matter what generation you find yourself in. I say this because Christian education by nature is instantly two necessary things the Church needs.

First, Christian Education is Education

Therefore, it is a teacher is instructing their students with a certain amount of information they wish to pass on. Education is a passing of knowledge from teacher to pupil. The hope of the teacher in investing their life into their pupils is that they become learned in the things their teaching. The hope of the pupil is that they learn well what the teacher is spending so much time to teach them. If either of these desires, the teachers or the pupils, is absent, education is seriously wounded. For if the teacher shows by their teaching a lack of preparedness or a disinterestedness in the subject(s) at hand, the pupil will be taught that this subject does not really matter. On the other hand, if a pupil is disinterested in learning from the teacher or about a subject, they will never really know the information being passed onto them in a meaningful way. But if both the teacher and the pupil are aware of the need and gripped by the subject, true teaching can take place.

Second, Christian education is Christian

Do not move past this too quickly, it ought to be examined. “The principles by which believers live are squarely opposed to the principles by which unbelievers live.”[1] No Christian would deny this because they, as a Christian, know that they have been brought into a new way of existence by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13). This changes everything for the Christian. No longer is one walking in the ways of the world, but in the ways of Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). No longer is one dealing with trifle or glib realities, but in the reality that God is, has always been, and always will be (Ex. 3:14). No longer is one’s life given meaning and defined by oneself, but rather by a Person outside of themselves who now holds authority, gives meaning to, and defines all things (1 Cor. 6:20, Rom. 1:1). Whereas the person was at home in this world, they are now aliens and strangers in this world because they are Christians and their home is not here (1 Pet. 1:1). There are no longer any neutral areas in life, God must be glorified in everything the Christian does (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:17). Again I say, no Christian would deny these basic truths of the faith. What does this imply for Christian education? Simple, it must be Christian. Too often Christians do “education” in the same manner the world does education. If we’re Christians, this shouldn’t be. Whereas believers and unbelievers are governed by two completely different principles, so too, education that is Christian should be just that, Christian.

This reveals 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.”[2] 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? While 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 anything about reality? 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.” [3]

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.[4] Thus, we have need to think through how Christian education should function.

Now, one may begin to think that I am talking about the necessity of having a Christian school in every neighborhood and possibly in every church. I am not. I am in favor of Christian schools, but I do think a child can stay close to God and be a Christian while attending a public, non-Christian school if the child’s parents are actively engaging the child’s curriculum while simultaneously and consistently teaching the Truth of the Scriptures in the home with the child as well. Whether or not you agree with my position on this is not the subject of this paper. Rather the subject I intend to unveil is my vision for Christian education, which would be applicable in a Christian school, a church school, and a Christian educational ministry within a church. My vision of Christian education encompasses two grand realities which I think are completely Biblical, God-honoring, and needed in our time. These two realities are God-Centeredness and Christian Hedonism. I’ll take the one at a time.

Massive Reality #1: God-Centeredness

“God-centeredness”, or a Biblical view of God’s sovereignty, is an often spoken term thrown around without abandon that’s often misunderstood. It would be wise to avoid this misuse of the word by having a proper understanding of what the word actually means. To define what God-centeredness is, let me define what it is not. God-centeredness is not man-centeredness, which places man at the center of all things. Man-centeredness believes mankind is at the center of God’s affections. Everything God does is for His love of man, first and foremost. God-centeredness does not believe this or endorse this view. Rather, God-centeredness believes God is uppermost in the affections of God, and that God loves His glory more than He loves us or anything else. To be God-centered is to love that God is the most God-centered Person in existence. We see this in salvation. We were saved for “His name’s sake”. Psalm 106:6, 8 says, “Both we and our fathers have sinned… Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” God’s desire to save us from sin was “His name’s sake.” What does “for his name’s sake” mean? It means God saved us so that “He might make known his mighty power” in us. God saved us to use us for His glory, in other words. 1 John 2:12 similarly says that God forgave our sins for “His name’s sake.” Again look at what this is not. God did not save us and forgive our sins because He placed His foremost affections on us. I often hear people say, “God saw so much in us that He sent His Son to die for us.” This is not true if the one saying it believes that God loves him more than God loves God. It is true in the sense that God knew how our salvation would glorify him. This opportunity for glory moved God to pursue us, “for His name’s sake.” After all, because we’re sinful to the core, the only thing God “saw” in us was our hatred toward Him. This is man-centered theology. God does not believe in these things. God is God-centered, if I can say such a thing, because He saves for the sake of his name, He saves to make known His own power. I am God-centered and I desire to be God-centered because I prefer it when God gets the all the glory. I think that God is first in God’s mind/heart, not us. I also think that I’m not the only one who thinks this way, I think God does to. J.I. Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is the best written defense of God-centeredness to date. In this introduction Packer states that man-centered theology is natural to fallen man. It’s natural because, even in doctrine, man cannot bear to renounce his own self centeredness, but places the same desire in God’s heart claiming that God loves man more than His own glorious majesty.[5]

Usually, a knee jerk reaction to this kind of thinking comes quickly. Some often get confused at how God can be loving and be God-centered Himself. Is God really a God of love if He cares more about Himself than He does about us? To this I answer yes! God’s love for His own glory is the ground of God’s love for us. Let me explain.[6] God is love because He relentlessly pursues the praises of His own name in us. When we behold God in His glory, our souls find the very thing they’ve been searching and longing for and are immediately and infinitely satisfied upon that gaze toward Him. This is why David asked to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord in His temple in Psalm 27:4, because he knew that his soul would find rest when it found sight of the God of glory. Thus, by God pursuing the praise of His name in our hearts, we become satisfied in the God whom we behold. We get the joy, God gets the glory. Therefore God’s passion for His glory is the measure of His commitment to our joy. This kind of thinking and believing leads to the glorious truth that God being God-centered is the only way that God can be loving and our souls be satisfied. I say this because if God is indeed the most pleasurable Being in existence (Ps. 16:11, 36:8) and gazing upon Him in His glory really does fill our souls with matchless delight and happiness, God would be unloving to withhold revealing Himself to us through His Son, who is the full image of His glory. If I have not explained this clear enough, listen to Jonathan Edwards:

“This is…the difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and the joy of the true saint. The hypocrite rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy. The true saint rejoices in God. True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and pleasant nature of the things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures. But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice…that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground, He seems in a sort, lovely to them.” [7]

The stark contrast between the order of loves in the saint and in the hypocrite would not be welcomed in most churches today, because I fear that most line up with the Edwards words about the hypocrite. Although this may be true, notice the truth contained in the above quote. God is glorious not because God makes much of us, but because of who God is. If God is only lovely to you because you believe that you’re the center of God’s affections, you’re using God in a selfish, self-congratulatory manner. That is wrong. God-centeredness is the antidote to man’s selfish sinful desire to place themselves at the center of everything.

Implications of Massive Reality #1

Now, I hope you can see why the idea of God-centeredness matters for Christian education. If we’re to teach and learn (education defined) well, we must teach in a God-centered manner. Teachers must be God-centered in any type of Christian education because any Christian education which removes God from the center and replaces it with something else is not Christian education, its godless education. Three things are ultimate here that I want to point out. First, theology really matters. When we take a step back from the book of Romans something stands out. The first 11 chapters give us some of the richest, deepest, and thickest theology in the entire Bible. After writing this glorious treasure of theology in Romans 1-11, Paul explodes into praise in 11:33-36. After this praise, Paul begins the last section of Romans that deals primarily with application. Is there order to Paul’s thinking? Yes. This praise from Paul (11:33-36) is a bridge in Romans because of where it comes from and where it leads to. It comes from rich theology, and leads to the last section of Romans that deals primarily with application. Is it any surprise that theology leads to praise, and praise then leads to application of theology? No! I imagine Paul writing this as a boiling pot of water getting hotter and hotter to the boiling point as he is finishing chapter 11. He then explodes in praise, because that is what the theology has led him to! The praise then leads Paul to describe how the theology affects our everyday relationships.

Notice that this means, contrary to popular opinion, that theology, or right thinking about God, leads to the praise of God. So many have given up on deep thinking about the things of God, the Son, and the Spirit; and in doing so they have given up the very thing that will lead them to deep affectionate worship. I don’t know who began saying that seminaries should be called cemeteries, but they obviously didn’t see this pattern in Romans. If you’re a deep thinker of God and love deep theology, this is for you. If you feel you can only scratch the surface of Paul’s thought, this is for you.   No matter if you dive in over your head, or jump in the shallow end of the ocean of theology, it will lead you to praise, and that praise will lead to a practical outworking of the great truths you have learned. This means that theology is not just for book loving theologians, or young seminarians, it’s for every Christian, especially Christians who are students or leaders in education. Eastern religions tell us to empty our minds to find peace. Christianity calls us to fill our minds with massive Biblical truths about God. Indeed, our minds were made to be filled with these things. This is one of the goals of Christian education, to make God-soaked, Bible saturated students.

Second, I want to address a simple, but perhaps overlooked truth in our day. Man-centered theology is as helpful to the Christian as non-Christian education. Bad theology, or man-centered theology, will not lead to the praise of God, but to the praise of man. It will not lead to a practical Christian life, but a practical sinful life centered on the self instead of God. Bad theology first and foremost dishonors God because any theology that is not built around, stemming from, and leading back to God, is not right theology. Bad theology also hurts man, because man is not getting what he needs in it. The same applies for education. Any type of Christian education must be God-centered if it is to have any lasting fruit at all. A Christian that creates a man-centered education system or curriculum is dishonoring God and hurting their teachers and students by doing so.

Third, do you now see why I took so long to unfold what God-centeredness is? It really matters. Not only is the spiritual wellbeing of the students at risk if this is absent from any Christian education, but God’s glory is profaned when we proclaim and teach that we, or anything else but Him is the center of our faith.

Massive Reality #2: Christian Hedonism

We’ve come to the second massive reality I think should be present in any type of Christian education system, Christian Hedonism. What is Christian Hedonism? This label of “Christian Hedonism” was first coined by John Piper in his book Desiring God, the Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. In this book Piper builds a case for Christian Hedonism by arguing against the German philosopher Immanuel Kant and his categorical imperative. Kant’s categorical imperative was his moral compass which says the morality of an act decreases to the degree that we gain or benefit from it. Actions are only good or virtuous if the actor remains disinterested in the act he’s performing. Therefore to the degree that we are disinterested in our actions, we are virtuous people doing our duty. If we seek any type of reward, joy, or benefit from the act itself, our act isn’t virtuous. Or to put it simply, benefit ruins the moral value of an act. It should be stated that this mindset is now thought of as “Christian” to a large extent, so much so that Christians today see this ‘disinterested’ mindset as Biblical to the core. The question of the helpfulness of Kant’s imperative comes down to this: is it Biblical? If it is, we ought to use it. If it’s not, we shouldn’t. Which is it? Along with Piper, I think Kant’s imperative is unbiblical and useless in acting as our moral compass, because of two reasons.

First, all throughout the Bible God is portrayed as having one motive behind every action; His own glory. If we follow Kant’s imperative than God would not be doing His proper duty by pursuing His glory in His works. God commands that we be happy in Him in Deuteronomy 28:47-48. This was the very reason Jesus became human in Romans 15:8-9, so that God would be glorified for His mercy. If Kant is right, God is wrong to seek His own gain in all His works. If God is right, Kant is wrong while we get delight and God gets the glory He seeks. The application of this truth is that God is not glorified where He is not treasured and enjoyed. Thus, when we seek God for our satisfaction in Him, He is more glorified than if we we’re merely disinterested in coming to Him. Second, many passages command us to seek our own gain. Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” If we come to God not seeking a reward from Him, we do not come to God rightly (as He wants us to come to Him). 1 John 1:4, “These things we write, so that our joy may be complete.” John wrote his letters so that his own joy would be made complete. God loves cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9:7), not disinterested givers. Even in Mark 8:34-35 where Jesus tells us to deny ourselves we see this. In this charge to deny ourselves there is an appeal to do it for our own good, even for our own happiness. If I want to save my life, I must lose it. If Kant’s categorical imperative is correct, I lose my happiness in God, therefore it is not correct. If we are to obey Scripture, and feast on the God who is a river of delight (Psalm 36:8), which is the most moral act one can ever do, we must drop Kant’s categorical compass and take up God at His Word, coming to Him for own gain and benefit.

Now that Kant is out of the way we can set out to define and prove Christian Hedonism. A Hedonist is one who lives life for the pursuit of pleasure and happiness. They often will do anything as long as it will increase their pleasure. “Christian” is before “Hedonism” because this implies that a Christian Hedonist is someone who lives by a similar idea as a normal hedonist, but seeks their pleasure in a different source, namely, the God of the Bible. Piper defines it in one short sentence: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”[8] This sentence has some implications. God is glorified when people are satisfied in Him. “Satisfied?” Yes, satisfied. Christian Hedonists recognize that God gave all men a desire to be happy and to be satisfied fully. Most Christians reject their own desire to be happy because, without knowing it, they’re thinking of obedience to God in a Kantian manner. They say, they think, they believe, and act upon this thought: “If I am to obey God, I must put pleasure and delight aside. If I am to have pleasure and delight, I cannot obey God.” Does the Bible really make such a distinction? No, it does not. For example, John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” This statement gives the purpose for the previous 10 verses. That means John 15:1-10 was spoken by Jesus for our joy. Think about how the purpose statement in 15:11 applies to 15:9-10, where Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Jesus teaches here that keeping His commandments is the way to remain in His love; this is describing the obedience of a Christian. John 15:11 teaches us that this idea about putting pleasure aside to obey God is a lie. Rather, Jesus told us that obedience to His commandments (15:9-10) was for the purpose of making our joy full (15:11). What does that mean? Jesus told us to obey Him so that we could have the fullness of joy. This means that obedience to Jesus is the fullness of joy, not the absence of it. Kant’s imperative is again, wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that happiness is the highest good to be gained in this life. I mean that when we pursue the proper good, that is, Jesus, our happiness will be multiplied infinitely. This means that our desire to be happy is a “virtuous” motive for everything. Rather than living a Christian life based on doing our duty disinterestedly in a Kantian manner, we’re called to pursue our happiness in God with vehemence.

As Christian Hedonists we know that everyone longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. It is never a problem to want to be satisfied. The problem is being satisfied too easily. We believe that everyone who longs for satisfaction should no longer seek it from money or power or lust, but should come glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God.[9]

Perhaps where Kant got it wrong was to say that we should fight delight by cultivating a desire for mere duty, when God thinks it is our duty to fight for our delight in Himself. Hear Jonathan Edwards again:

“God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.” [10]

You see, this idea is not new. Edwards was a Christian Hedonist, he just didn’t use the label. When we rejoice in the glory of God, and receive it into our mind and heart, God is made much of, and we are satisfied. Piper makes the illustration of water. Think of water when you’re thirsty. Water quenches thirst. We don’t honor the refreshing water of a mountain stream by adding water to it from the streams below. We honor the stream by being thirsty and drinking with joy so that our thirst is satisfied and quenched. Then we feel refreshed anew and exclaim, “AHHH” (That’s worship!). After being renewed we continue on the path in the strength of the stream (That’s service!). The mountain stream is glorified most when we are most satisfied with its water.[11] Again, Edwards in his 22nd resolution said, “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.”[12]

Implications of Massive Reality #2

Now, it may not seem clear (yet) as to why I think Christian Hedonism should be the second foundation for Christian education, but there is one grand truth why this idea ought to undergird our Christian educational efforts. In the previous section I discussed the importance of having a right theology that exalts God as the center of all things (God-centeredness). But this God-centered theology alone is not enough to have successful Christian education. We need more. We need to enjoy that truth. John Piper says it best, “God is not glorified fully by being known rightly. God is glorified fully by being known rightly and so enjoyed that our lives are transformed into the kind of lives that display His infinite worth.”[13] The first massive reality provided the proper information needed and this second massive reality provides the important enjoyment of that proper information. This thought assumes that God is not glorified where He is only known in the mind. God is not glorified when the teacher merely passes on information to students about Him. God is glorified when the teacher passes on information to students about God and a passion equal to the material. If God is only known in the mind the teacher will produce a lifeless orthodoxy in their students. If God is only known in the heart and passions the teacher will produce an enthusiastic heresy in their students. Both are sinful, dishonoring to God, and hurtful to people. In order for God to be fully glorified in our Christian education God must be enjoyed in the heart and known in the mind of the both the teacher and the student.

The Unity of Massive Realities 1 & 2: Head and Heart

God-centeredness and Christian hedonism go together like “peas and carrots” as Mr. Gump would say. How you might ask? By the life of the mind in the act of thinking.[14] What do I mean? Thinking is one of the most hazardous things anyone can do. Paul warns us that knowledge puffs up, whereas love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1). But Paul also says that we ought to be mature in our thinking (1 Cor. 14:20). Thinking is therefore necessary because without thinking we cannot love God with all our minds (Mark 12:30). Mark 12:30 implies that worship will always involve right thinking about God. When our mind actively pursues right thinking about God, we’ll reap many spiritual benefits. The opposite is just as true, when we put aside deep thinking about God, spiritual benefits will lack. We must think if we’re to rightly worship God. So rather than avoiding thinking, we should think, but we should do it well. Thus, because thinking is an essential part of worship, we have need for the mind and the heart to be one if we’re to worship God as He intends us to do. What does all this mean? Joy is the essence of loving God, and thinking serves love, therefore right thinking about God serves our joy in God.


Christian Education is a vital part of Christian life, no matter what generation you find yourself in. Remember we said it was vital because it is both teaching and learning (education) and centered on the God of the Bible (Christian). If education is about anything else, or centered upon any other hub than the God of glory, it may remain to be education, but it ceases to be specifically Christian education. To make sure we properly remain within the sphere of Christian education, they’re two massive realities needed; God-centeredness and Christian Hedonism. True you don’t need my labels, but I’m convinced that these truths must be present in every Christian educational system. These two massive realities rightly aim at both the head and the heart. Why is that so important? Because both the teacher and the pupil must be aware of their need and gripped by the subject for true Christian educating can take place. The worship of God is at stake within Christian education. Is our goal in educating Christians simply to pass on mere information about God? No, it is more. Our goal is to make God-soaked, Bible-saturated people who love God with all their hearts and all their minds, with all their strength in their souls. God is glorified most fully, only, when the head and heart are properly engaged and directed toward Him in knowledge and enjoyment.





[1] Van Til, Cornelius. Foundations of Christian Education, Antithesis in Education, chpt. 1. Phillipsburg, NJ. P&R. 1990. 3.

[2] Van Til, 5.

[3] Van Til, 17.

[4] Van Til. 23.

[5] Packer, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Introduction, Carlisle, PA. Banner of Truth. 1985. 9.

[6] What follows in this paragraph comes from John Piper’s, God is the Gospel.

[7] Edwards, Jonathan. As quoted in Piper, John. God’s Passion for His Glory. Wheaton, IL. Crossway. 1998. 110.

[8] Piper, John. Desiring God. Sisters, OR, Multnomah. 2003. 10.

[9] Piper,

[10] Edwards, Jonathan. The Miscellanies, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 13. Edited by Thomas A. Schafer. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994, no. 3, 458, 495.

[11] Piper, A Godward Life,

[12] Edwards, Jonathan. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker. 2007. 19.

[13] Piper, Preaching the Cross, Together for the Gospel 2006, chpt.5. Wheaton, IL. Crossway. 2006. 103-115.

[14] What follows in this paragraph is a summary of the theme of the 2010 Desiring God National Conference called Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (see –

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