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Hothouse Education?

Category Articles
Date December 10, 2002

This means that all knowledge-including academic knowledge-finds its proper meaning only in reference to Him. Christ, the Logos as well as the Lord, lays claim to all of academia

[On November 23 and 24 the Pollard Park Evangelical Church in Bradford, Yorkshire, held their church anniversary services, and I was the speaker. The church hired the assembly hall of the Bradford Christian School for the occasion. There are now 170 students in a refurbished Victorian building which the school has recently bought. The whole bright atmosphere of the school and its classrooms was impressive and welcoming. The four school ‘houses’ are called Coverdale, Tyndale, Wesley and Wycliffe. There were Scriptures on some of the notice boards. Children at different age groups were invited to attend some of the pre-school prayer groups. The classrooms were colourful and full of creative activities. Some of the members of the Pollard Park church teach there and some of the children attend the school.

The author is a teenage product of Christian Education and in this article he defends that concept against one of the most familiar criticisms it meets, that it creates a ‘hot house’. Geoff Thomas]

Distinctly Christian education has long been the target of non-Christian gibes. For various motives, proponents of strictly ‘neutral’ or ‘secular’ education have raised, pointed, or wagged their fingers at those who dare to apply a biblical philosophy to academics. And perhaps one of the most memorable of these criticisms is the assertion that ‘hothouse education’ doesn’t prepare children for the real world. The pejorative implications are hard to miss: ‘Don’t those Christians get it? Don’t they know that if they lock their children up in a religious greenhouse, they’ll grow up unprepared for the real world, like frail, fruitless plants?’ Also unmistakable is the judgment on Christian parents: you don’t know what’s best for your children.

The problem, though, is that the hothouse argument is not only secular but circular. The terms used-frail, unprepared, fruitless, real world-are indications that the objector has assumed the point under debate. The argument basically runs thus: ‘Christian education is bad because we all know that Christianity is false.’

Really? The argument arbitrarily assumes at the advent the conclusion it purports to prove. The arguer is already convinced that Christianity is false, that it is a religion unfit for the ‘real world,’ and, thus, that Christian students should not be educated under its exclusive and stifling influence. Case closed.

But from a Christian standpoint, the ‘real world’ is the world created and ruled by Christ-in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid (Colossians 2:3). This means that all knowledge-including academic knowledge-finds its proper meaning only in reference to Him. Christ, the Logos as well as the Lord, lays claim to all of academia. And as Christians we dare not dishonor His claims by relegating them to certain modernist-approved areas of our lives and ignoring them elsewhere.

In this light, then, the idea that Christian education does not prepare students for the real world is false. Instead, when Christians teach academic knowledge from a Christ-centered perspective, they give Christian students genuine preparation for the future. Christian education isn’t a hothouse; it’s boot camp-preparation for the philosophical war of worldviews (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) to which all believers are called. And firmly grounded on the rock of truth, Christian students can learn to fight this war. They will learn to truly reason and to discern the latest intellectual fads of humanism (the ‘fresh air’ they are missing out on) as pretentious foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

In other words, Christian students will be able to see right through the hothouse argument.

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