By Dr. David Vanderpoel, Head of School and CEO of Trinity Christian School in Fairfax, VA
For large swaths of our culture, Christian schools are every bit as strange as the Amish-style community in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie, The Village. The Village people still live in the 19th century, cut off from the outside world and surrounded by woods filled with dangerous creatures--or so they believe. They are completely unaware of the modern world that lies just on the other side of the road that circles their woods.
In similar fashion, Christian schools are often caricatured as replicas of the Village--places where students are sheltered from reality and receive little preparation for dealing with the real world. They are packed in bubble-wrap while their minds are colonized with all kinds of pious fiction that renders them incapable of understanding the tempo of their times. Their biblical convictions serve only to hinder academic excellence, stifle thoughtful inquiry, and distort reality. The caricature may be widespread, but it is a falsehood. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The true counterpart of The Village is a classroom where the Maker of reality is explicitly ignored and implicitly denied--a place where God is banished from discourse and exiled from the mind. It is an isolated environment, historically disengaged, and surrounded by forests of deconstructionism. Its ethos is militantly opposed to allowing a divine foot in the door. It is a classroom that is confined to the finite and fallen viewpoints emanating from the creature, while obstinately refusing any revelation from the Creator. It is a place where all meta-narrative claims are derided and objective truth is dismissed as an antiquated and outmoded concept. In this space, truth is treated as something that is subjectively created, not received or discovered.
It is a classroom setting that divorces human identity and dignity from the image and likeness of God. Instead, the student’s identity is self-constructed within the parameters of specific social and linguistic groups. In such classrooms, students are not clothed with the dignity of being high stewards over the works of God’s hands, but are merely advanced primates with cell phones, random accidents of time and chance. They are considered the narrow functionaries of class, gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity. These are places that starve the soul and stifle the intellect. Divorcing life from Holy Scripture, they confine students to the finitude of their own minds. They become near-sighted people who scorn eyeglasses. Such an environment is fundamentally flawed. It is artificial. It is creaturely fiction. It is unreal.
The Bible does not condone teaching erroneous views about reality to our children. On the contrary, Proverbs 19:27 forbids such an approach: Cease, my son, to hear instruction that causes to err from the words of knowledge. The biblical injunction is to avoid whatever leads away from truth. This is why the Lord addressed the people of Israel through Jeremiah the prophet, saying: Learn not the way of the nations (Jer. 10:2). The Apostle Paul urges parents to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). The Psalmist tells us that the person whom God approves, the “blessed man,” is one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Ps. 1:1,2).
The Apostle Paul warns us not to be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8). The seventeenth century Puritan, Richard Baxter, insisted that, “Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature till we know it as it stands related to the Creator.” The same thought is echoed four centuries later by John Piper: “Nothing can be understood apart from God, and all understandings of all things that leave him out are superficial understandings, since they leave out the most important reality in the universe.”
Christian schools seek to ground students in the real world, owned and made by God, before sending them out to engage the denizens of artificial worlds. Christian schools are the greenhouses that nurture young seedlings until they are strong enough to be transplanted and securely rooted amidst the winds and storms of a contentious world. If Christian schools are in any sense a cocoon, it is for the purpose of nurturing caterpillars into butterflies - giving them time to develop splendored wings that will fly high and behold the face of God whose glory is manifested in each of them.