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Volume 9, Issue 1: Repairing the Ruins

A Jumbled Repentance

Douglas Wilson

And He said to them, `Whose image and inscription is this?' They said to Him, `Caesar's.' And He said to them, `Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way
Matthew 22:20-22

With these words, Christ addressed a central problem in our modern system of education. He was asked whether it was lawful for a believer to pay taxes to a pagan ruler. In reply, Jesus asked for the coin which was used to pay the tax. Having done so, he showed them it was lawful to render to a pagan ruler something upon which that pagan ruler had managed to get his image. If it has Washington's picture on it, we may lawfully send it off to Washington. That which has Caesar's image may be rendered to Caesar.

How does this relate to education? When we consider our children, a very obvious question should press upon us immediately. To whom may we lawfully render our children? And the way Jesus taught us to answer this question is through another question. Whose image is on them?
Our children are created, as we are, in the image of God. They are to be received, loved, taught, and accepted by us, because they bear His image. If they did not bear His image, they would not be our children. And because they bear His image, and not Caesar's, the implication is clear. We must render them to God, and not to Caesar.
Now the world of education is a world filled with many different approaches and debate over them, and the Christian part of this world is no exception. In the realm of Christian education, the picture is thoroughly confused because Christians do not yet have a concerted and like-minded vision for what constitues a biblical education. Before a watching world, we present a spectacle of traditional Christian schools, self-pace Christian schools, principle-approach schools, classical Christian schools, homeschool co-ops, independant homeschools, homeschool/Christian school co-ops, and other mixes and matches not mentioned. And throughout the categories, we have people doing outstanding work, good work, okay work, poor work, and abysmal work. So what do all these people have in common?
Despite this chaos of disagreement and disparity of achievement which exists within the Christian world of education, I believe the course of the last twenty-five years presents us with a pattern of behavior by Christians which should be of tremendous encouragement to everyone who loves the kingdom of God. The message they all have in common, and what they present in common to the unbelieving world, is nothing short of profound. By the tens of thousands, Christian parents en masse have begun refusing to render their children to Caesar. This marks, I believe, one of the greatest indications of cultural repentance that we have seen in centuries. The fact it is a jumbled repentance does not keep it from being genuine repentance. We are not yet clear on what we are supposed to be doing. But, by God's grace, countless Christians have gotten clear on what they are not supposed to be doing. As together we walk away from the temples of Baal, leading our children away, we are having some spirited debates on the road. But, glory to God, we have hit the road.
Having gotten this clear in our minds, we may ask confidently for God's blessing on our future work in the education of our children and grandchildren, and, indeed, on our future debates with one another on the subject of education. That has not yet been granted; we should continue to ask.
Christians who have educated their children a particular way tend to have strong feelings about those who have done it another way. If we didn't believe what we were doing to be superior, given all our options, then we wouldn't have done it. But remarkably, others do not educate their children exactly the way we have done. This is not said to stifle any productive debate, or to pretend that there is no resolution to such debates. Rather, the point is to put the debate in perspective. Isn't it a delight to debate with a brother who wouldn't give his children to Caesar?
While this cultural repentance is far-reaching, and in my opinion genuine, much remains to be done on this fundamental level. The government school system is still in existence because of the continued participation of those professing Christians who remain. The entire system is one which could not stand without the support of Christians. If all believers removed their children, the government school system would no longer stand in need of reform--because it would no longer exist.
This would not mean the vaporization of the current schools, but it would necessitate the entire privitization of those schools. In our current political debate there has been much talk about ending welfare "as we know it." We as Christians need to bring about an end to the largest welfare program of all, that of "free" education. And to make this happen, we do not need to vote for anyone. All we need to do is walk away.

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