Australian Commentary (43) – What is Christian Education?

Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will be a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim (Ex.34:12-13).

The scripture makes this clear: no man on the face of the earth is religiously neutral. He is either with Jesus Christ, or against Him. And government Departments are no different.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity as a part of my employment, to travel with a leading Australian Christian scientist, who has become over many years now, a well-known spokesman and leader in the Six Day Creation movement in Australia, the US, and other parts of the world.

He is asked to speak on occasions at schools, and in various other Christian forums, and has done this now for over 30 years. Over a meal, he discussed with my wife and I what he’d observed over the years.

He confirmed to me some things that I already knew: Christian education in Australia is  changing. Why? It’s the lure of the dollars from the Department of Education. It’s been a pressure from the beginning.

A modest Christian school has a budget now of 2 million dollars, and perhaps a quarter of this will come directly from parents. The other three quarters comes from the Department, but it order to secure that funding, every school needs to be approved.

The Christian school that wants approval and subsequent funding, had best be careful what it says and how it says it, because it dares not alienate or offend the Department, which has the power to turn off the money tap.

This means one thing. Christian schools want to maintain the illusion that they are Christian. That may mean a cross outside the school, or on the buildings, or having weekly devotions with the Bible, or other symbols that denote the Christian faith.

But, let’s go explore the curriculum. Let’s see evidences of Christian understanding. Let’s examine the texts chosen, that are used by hundreds of impressionable young minds.

What do we see? Pressure to compromise, to lower the profile, to become “acceptable” to the Department. Does the school teach that the God of the Bible made the world in six days, and that evolution is a myth perpetrated by a nineteenth century fool, named Charles Darwin? Rarely.

I have a friend aged about 30, who attended a “Christian school” in Brisbane for 12 years, which now has an enrolment of 1,300 children. He never heard from his teachers, that God created the world in 6 days, as taught in Genesis. Why would that be?

What about staffing? You see, it’s easy to maintain the pretence of a “Christian” school, but along with the curriculum, the type of staff employed says a lot about the real values of a school. It’s where the rubber meets the road.

My learned scientist friend said to me, “Where is the evidence of the Christian teachers?” Some “Christian” schools don’t insist any more on this as a prerequisite. Something is failing, terribly.

The Bible says,

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work (I Cor.3:12-13).

The fact is, fire inevitably comes. Why is that?

God sends it. It is one of the predictabilities of the Christian faith. Every Christian school is going to be tested on its faithfulness to God. And this is the test they’ll face, and probably are now:

               Compromise, or lose your funding.

The school with 1,300 students enrolled, has an annual budget (I guess), in excess of $10 million. Would you like to be the Principal that said to families, “We’ll have to close the school folks, because the Department wants us to compromise our Christian convictions, and we won’t.” He’s out of a job. That wasn’t quite his career plan!

Being a Christian school Principal could rapidly become a poisoned chalice. Who’d want that job? It’s like the German soldier in 1943, being sent to the Eastern Front. And now, the Federal government offers schools extra money to endorse the homosexual lifestyle. Oops!

So, you really want your child to have a truly Christian education? Good.

But here’s the question. Will you be able to get one, outside your home?

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it (Prov.15:16).

Conclusion:                                                                                                    When Christian education began to be pursued in Australia, around 1980, it seemed to most to be a laudable step in the right direction. But almost from the first, it had an Achilles heel. The Christian school movement wanted State funding, which had to be preceded by a certification process from State education departments.

And these Departments had no love for Christian education. So, it was a case of,

         You take the king’s shilling- you’ll do the king’s bidding.

And the thumb screws of the Department have progressively been applied. That should lead Christian schools to re-evaluate their overall position, with this thought in mind: do we stay dependent on the State, like Israel was in Egypt, or do we get out, once and for all?

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