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BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE: Article 12: Education

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Throughout the Scriptures, education has been a major priority. This can be traced from the teachings in both the Old and New Testaments.

Deuteronomy — especially in chapters 4, 6 and 31 — repeats the words of “teach,” “taught” and “learn” as preparation for the people to go into the Promised Land. The prophets were more “forth tellers” than “fore tellers” as they instructed the people of God. In Nehemiah, we see Ezra the scribe reading the Book of the Law of God, making it clear so people could understand (8:7).

Psalm 119 teaches us to hide the Word in our hearts and asks the Lord to teach us to follow his ways (119:11, 33). Proverbs refers to a father’s instruction and the importance of wisdom.

Jesus taught the people the truth of God. The believers “continued in the apostle’s teaching” in the book of Acts (2:42). The letters of the New Testament are actually teaching documents intended to build up the churches.

The biblical injunction to teach, along with the responsibility of the believer to learn, has been carried on throughout the centuries since the early church. At times, it was primarily for the clergy. And eventually, with the Reformation, it was expanded to the laity. The church was the center of education for many centuries.

The Baptist Faith and Message statement indicates that an adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people. How then, is Christian education defined?

Perhaps the best way to answer this is to ask additional questions. Is Christian education only for Christians? How is Christian education different from “secular” education? What makes Christian education Christian? What is the purpose of Christian education? How are goals and values determined? What is the setting for Christian education?

Christian education means education for Christians, but it is much more. It includes pre-conversion, conversion and post conversion learning experiences. People come to faith in Christ through the faithful teaching of God’s Word and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. It is not a one-time learning experience, but a lifetime dedicated to learning more about God and his Word.

The difference between secular and Christian education is seen in the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian education, as well as in the content to be taught along with the different presuppositions regarding truth. Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, believers are shown the truth of God’s Word. Both secular and Christian educators may use similar methodologies, but the basic issues related to truth make them quite different.

Christian education is Christian when teachers and learners are dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit in the learning environment. It is Christian when the purpose and goals are honoring to the Lord and his kingdom. It is Christian when the curriculum is developed from the teachings of the Word of God and from an understanding of biblical theology. It is Christian when there is an overall understanding and perspective that God is in control and that teachers and learners are sincerely seeking to fulfill God’s will and purpose in all things.

The purpose of Christian education is to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, to train them in a life of discipleship and to equip them for Christian service in the world today. It is to develop in believers a biblical worldview that will assist in making significant decisions from a Christian perspective.

The purpose, goals and values of Christian education are derived from a theological foundation that is biblically based. Worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship and service are all drawn from the Scriptures and are included in any purpose and value statement for Christian education. Goals are developed from these key functions of the church, and effective Christian education can be measured based upon the accomplishment of these functions.

The primary setting for Christian education is the church. Actually the educational ministry of the church is probably the largest educational endeavor in the world.

Christian education also takes place outside the walls of the church through Christian schools, Bible studies and other kinds of ministries. It is important to note that Christian education is not limited to just one organization or ministry and is found in many different venues.

Bible-based, theologically sound, Holy Spirit empowered, teaching-learning, growth, equipping, change, the church, evangelism and service are all elements to be included under the umbrella of Christian education.

Yes, the church is charged with the responsibility of providing adequate Christian education, and this is clearly stated as part of the BF&M.
Williams is the dean of institutional assessment and a professor of Christian education and leadership at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Visit The Baptist Faith and Message website.

Full text of Article 12: Education

Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people.

In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.

Deuteronomy 4:1,5,9,14; 6:1-10; 31:12-13; Nehemiah 8:1-8; Job 28:28; Psalms 19:7ff.; 119:11; Proverbs 3:13ff.; 4:1-10; 8:1-7,11; 15:14; Ecclesiastes 7:19; Matthew 5:2; 7:24ff.; 28:19-20; Luke 2:40; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 4:11-16; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 2:3,8-9; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17; Hebrews 5:12-6:3; James 1:5; 3:17.

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    About the Author

  • Dennis Williams