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Volume 7, Issue 2: Repairing the Ruins

Schools and Secondary Doctrine

Douglas Wilson

Christians differ on all kinds of things, but the fact that this is so does not justify the practice. Paul tells us plainly that part of our duty in Christian living is to be of the same mind with other Christians (Rom. 12:16; 1 Cor. 1:10; Phil. 3:16; 4:2). The force of this admonition has been blunted far too long with the idea that disobedience can be justified simply through disagreeing with one another pleasantly. This device does keep us from compounding our sin of disunity of mind with the sin of malice, but this is not the same as leaving our sin of disunity of mind.

In the meantime, such disagreements remain a fact of life, and they present a very real practical problem for any Christian school that seeks to serve the larger Christian community. The difficulty is this: a Christian school will often draw students from many denominational backgrounds. These churches differ on whether Jesus drank wine or grape juice, whether pouring constitutes a valid baptism, whether the Second Coming is late next week, and so on.
If the issues are addressed in Scripture, a church does not have the option of sidestepping them. A central part of the ministry of the church of Christ is the exposition of the Word of Godall of it. The whole counsel of God, Genesis to Revelation, is the agenda of the church's teaching ministry. This means a well-governed church cannot lawfully be "neutral" on a number of subjects which divide Christians. For example, it is impossible to teach through Matthew properly without addressing the subject of eschatologyand eschatology divides Christians.
But the Christian school is not the church. In the economy of God, the school answers to the government of the family, i.e. the parents. Further, it is possible for a good math class to stay out of eschatology. Consequently, certain subjects which divide Christian churches need not divide Christians working together in a school. This does not mean that a Christian school can be neutral; neutrality is impossible . Rather, it means a Christian school can be courteous and defer to the parents and pastors on certain subjects (even if they are in error). Because of the nature of schools, this can be done without compromising the mission of the school.
But the problem has not yet gone away. Ecclesiastical "secondary" issues are not the only matters upon which Christians differ. Complicating the whole subject further, any Christian school which seeks to teach in the light of worldview Christianity must take a stand on other "secondary" issues. And Christians disagree on academic fracas fodder just as much as they do on the earlier issues. These are issues which the church may not need to address in her exposition of Scripture, but which, for example, a history class must address. In the War for Independence, did the Tories have the right view of Romans 13 and submission to established authorities? Was the colonial cause a just one, scripturally speaking? Was Robert E. Lee in sin because he owned slaves? Was Roger Williams the father of religious liberty in our nation, or a loose cannon on deck? In a school which seeks to encourage the students to think in the light of a biblical worldview, such questions cannot be sidestepped. They must be met head-on. The subjects of history, English literature, logic, etc . will either be understood in a biblical light, or they will be understood in a humanistic lightright through the entire curriculum.
If a Christian school does not have a developed Christian worldview, all the school's "default drive" assumptions will come from its surrounding culture, and not from the Bible. When this happens, the Christian school will start celebrating Martin Luther King Day. Doesn't everyone? And we just gotta do some more work in the area of AIDS awareness.
This matter of worldview thinking connects directly to another question I am frequently asked with regard to establishing a classical and Christian school. "Can a school be classical and evangelical without being Reformed?" Our world is a complicated and interesting place, and the answer is yes, but . A Christian school does not need to be explicitly and formally Reformed ( e.g. all staff members signing the Westminster Confession) in order to be a classical and evangelical school. However, in order to remain faithful to an education that faithfully provides the biblical worldview, the school must be reformationalit must be in the stream of historic Protestant orthodoxy. This is not the same thing as being in the modern pop-evangelical mainstream.
When a school insists upon biblical worldview thinking and teaching, then a necessary result of this emphasis will be, over time, a large number of staff members, families, students, board members, etc . who happen to be Reformed. Dispute may legitimately exist over whether this is a logical necessity. Nevertheless, it remains a historical fact that the overwhelming majority of evangelical worldview analyses in cultural, social, economic, historical, and literary subjects has been done by believers who were Reformed. Consequently, a school which seeks to take advantage of this resource within the body must welcome and encourage it.
Such encouragement does not mean that the school will begin undermining the authority of, say, Wesleyan parents, as they seek to teach their children. One of the key tenets of the Reformed worldview is the understanding that the sovereign God has required His people to respect the boundaries of family government.

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