There are several schools in Zambia going by the name “Christian school”. The name often implies that they offer a Christian education. But do they?

Christian education means different things to different people. There are those who think it means to pre-fix or suffix prayer and a Bible passage to an otherwise secular curriculum. There are others who think that it is teaching the Bible and nothing but the Bible. I imagine that there could even be some who reckon that in Christian schooling, teachers use spiritual numbers and words. Obviously, these are in the main misguided outlooks, even though they contain some elements of truth.  So what then is Christian education, and do we really need it in Zambia? The best place to begin a discussion of Christian education and through which it can be evaluated is Gen. 1-3, which provides three lenses, namely, creation, fall and redemption.

Viewed through the lens of creation, it is fair to assume that Adam was created a complete man (Gen. 1:26, 27). In other words, he was sufficiently ‘educated’, competent, well-equipped, and ideally suited to his appointed tasks—tasks involving subduing the earth, governing over all that God had created—including naming the animals and his wife, and tending and keeping the garden (Gen. 1:28; 2:15). This competency encompassed his whole man—his physical culture; memory; good judgment; planning; aesthetic sensitivity; ingenuity; economy; the ability to categorise and differentiate, etc. Adam, in other words, had a broad base of knowledge and skills.

Viewed through the lens of the fall, it is also fair to assume that Adam’s competency (education) was marred (Gen. 3). The fall drastically limited (but did not remove) his ability to fulfil the cultural mandate. Sin so polluted the totality of his humanity that he could no longer make culture that was free of imperfections. In addition to this, the world in which he was placed became open to the effects of degeneration (Rom. 8:14), making his work that much more difficult to undertake.

Viewed through the lens of redemption, we find that a redeemer, a new Adam was promised (Gen. 3:16)—the most excellent of men. He would be the ideal man. He would be greater than the first Adam was before the fall. He would destroy the serpent, reverse the effects of the fall and turn those who hoped in him into new men with renewed knowledge, perspective and ability. The second Adam will bring about a new way of living in God’s world.

One of the implications of the meta-narrative (Gen. 1-3), and particularly of its redemptive aspect, is the guidance it gives to thinking about, selecting, and explaining Christian education. Speaking generally, the process and content of Christian education exists to produce this ideal man. Christian education, under God, and following his lead and advancing in his strength, is meant to contribute to the process of making students into restored “Adams”, into the image of the ideal man (Christ), particularly with regard to his appointed task of governance. In order to achieve this, an education that calls itself Christian must possess the following elements:

  1. It must emanate from four presuppositions; namely, that learners are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), that they are fallen in Adam (Rom. 3:23; Prov. 22:15), that they live in God’s world (Psalm 24:1), and that they are created to live to the glory of God (Acts 17:24).
  2. It must have as its purpose the nurture of these learners in such a way that they are able to live up to their God-given potential as creatures made in the image of God, who are able to see the glory of God (Rom. 1:19, Psalm 46:8, 104:24) as well as reflect this image in the spiritual, moral, creative and dominion spheres (Psalm 8:5, 6).
  3. It must be driven by three shaping influences; namely;
  1. The home. The home is where the educational process must all begin. Prov. 22:6 highlights three elements that must be present in the home for a Christian education to happen.
  • There must be Christian and godly trainers. The trainers should ideally be the parents to the learner. In Eph. 6:4, Paul singles out “fathers” (see also Col. 3:21; 1 Thess. 2:11), not to the exclusion of the mothers (Prov. 1:8).
  • The trainees are the children who are presumed to be uneducated and therefore stand in need of an education.
  • The training should be in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Solomon calls it “the way that they should go”, at a natural, moral, and spiritual level.
  1. The school. The Christian school should be an extension of the training at home. This being the case, training in the school must be consistent with the biblical goals godly parents set for their children. The training in the school must not undermine training at home. And neither must it undermine the important values of marriage and family. Furthermore, training in the school, at whatever level it is offered—primary, secondary, college, or university—must be of a high standard, high enough to bring out the best in the learner and to build character, virtues, and skills that are necessary for succeeding as a family, a business, or a nation. In other words, he must be equipped for the task of subduing the earth to the glory of God. For the school to achieve this:
  • Training must be offered by Christian teachers, who are committed to the Lord and to the church, and who have an appreciation for the place of the cultural mandate. Such teachers must also be apt to teach. More than that, they must be able to teach all their subjects from a Christian and biblical perspective. Only constant attention to such pedagogical concerns will ensure education to be truly Christian.Training must be driven by a curriculum that is:
  • Theological. Prov. 1:7 and 9:10 teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning and the chief part of knowledge and wisdom. No man can ever become truly wise who does not begin with God, the fountain of knowledge and wisdom. And no man will truly know who does not possess God as the chief part of all he knows, and the principal that pervades all he knows. The study of God must, therefore, constitute a big part of the education in the school.
  • Biblio-logical. Learners, through the study of the scriptures, will be enabled to see the totality of the educational scheme from a biblical perspective (2 Tim. 3:16). In addition, through this, they will be enabled to see what nature cannot adequately reveal even through a rigorous scientific application. The Bible does not only reveal how we may be saved from the sin that so often stands in the way of true education, it also reveals how the learners can live right and to the glory of God. God’s word should be the moral campus for our culture—our education, business, and politics. Therefore, the school, like the church, must not only teach the bible, but also teach every subject from a biblical perspective.
  • Christological. Because sin has polluted the totality of any learner’s being, he can no longer acquire knowledge without difficulty and struggle. The school must therefore, offer redemptive knowledge. This means that Christ—in whom are all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom (Col. 2:3) and who alone can take away sin (John 1:29) and, therefore, enable the making of culture that was sanctified—must be at the centre of the educational scheme.
  • Cosmological. Learners live in God’s world, and God’s world was pitched to display the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).Through the curriculum, the school must help the learners to see the full range of God’s glory through scientific engagement as well as equip them with the skills to subdue the earth to the glory of God and the benefit of mankind.
  1. The church. The Christian church was the mother of western education as it was known before the so called enlightenment. The church started all the universities in Europe and most of the early universities and colleges in America. The church can and should be the mother of African education. That is to say, education can and should be under the moral and theological influence of the church. Furthermore, the church can and should be involved in world-view formation, character formation, and life skill formation of learners. The effective and fruitful Christian life was designed to be lived out in community, and the community that God chose to fan and nurture this fruitfulness was the church. Educators, both in the home and school must, therefore, be linked to the church. And part of the purpose of education must be to build learners to become effective and functional members of the church through which they will be better prepared to serve God both in the church and in the world.

The time for Christian education in Africa is ripe. Cultural advancement requires education at all levels. The sophistication we see in the developed world came about largely through education and its application. Christian education contributed to advancement in a big way because it imparted, in a greater way, a capacity to man for subduing the earth. It was in Christian universities, under the influence of God and the bible, that the rudiments of the politics, the economics, and the science that changed the western world were designed.

Time is ripe for Africa at large, Zambia in particular, to turn her back on an education that is rooted in evolutionism, humanism, and secularism. Such an education does not produce graduates of character. Zambia must turn to an education that can promote hard work and make it a model state. This is the kind of education reformed churches are trying to promote in our church-sponsored primary and secondary schools. This is also the education we are hoping to see promoted under the banner of the African Christian University.

Reformation Zambia

This issue of Reformation Zambia is devoted to the promotion of the idea of Christian education. To this end, we have assembled a good and competent team of writers who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to bear on the subject.

Dr Voddie Baucham, a preacher and pastor-teacher who is passionate about family life, has written on “The home as the foundation of Christian education.” The point of this article is to underline the important place of parents in the process of Christian education.

Dr Ken Turnbull, a former university lecturer in the US and now the vice chancellor of the African Christian University, has written on “The Christian School (including universities) as an extension of Christian education.” This article is highlighting the place of Christian education in the schooling process. It touches on issues pertaining to administration, teachers, pedagogy, and curriculum.

Pastor George Shakwelele, a church pastor and Christian education expert, writes on “The purposes of Christian education”. The focus of this article is to spell out something of the Jewish roots and goals of education.

May God use this issue of Reformation Zambia to not only arouse interest in Christian education, but also encourage a movement for change that will see Christian individuals and churches alike invest in Christian education and take back from the world those aspects of education that may already have begun to destroy our nation(s).