Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can Christians Witness In Public Schools?

Retired Christian school educator, administrator, and author, James Bramblet brought this message before the fall conference of The Northwest Fellowship of Christian Schools in 1958. He has given me permission to edit his speech for publication here. I know this is a long post but it is an important topic and well worth the space.


Many times in my career I have encountered opposition to Christian education by Christians who argue that our teachers and students should remain in public schools to be witnesses. The Word of God has several things to say on the matter.

CHILDREN ARE NOT LITTLE ADULTS

God’s Word makes a distinction. Children do not think or act like adults. The Apostle Paul says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (I Cor. 13:11). There is a difference in thinking and in understanding between a child and an adult.

What is that difference? “That we be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). A child is tossed about by every wind of doctrine; he is easily influenced. This is as God designed. He intended that children be subject to their parents who are to be the controlling influences over them.

Children are malleable; you can teach them correctly or incorrectly but whatever you teach them, they are going to believe because they are “tossed about by every wind of doctrine.”

To expect that children should be witnesses concerning Christ is foolishness. God has created them with a desire to please the adults over them. The Lord used that quality of childlikeness to illustrate trusting faith when He said we should become as little children. We should receive truth as a little child does and not doubt as adults do. Children naturally will receive instruction, and when they go to school they go there to receive and not to give.

What happens when the principles that are taught in school are contrary to those learned at home? Adults, in the same situation, would see the conflict and determine which principle to follow. But that is not so with children. At home they simply act the way they are expected to act. At school they act the way their teachers and classmates expect them to act. Conflicts don’t bother them at all. This is confusing to many parents when they find out that their child who acts the part of a well-behaved Christian at home and at church, acts contrary under different influences. The responsibility for teaching children is with the parents, for the Scripture plainly teaches, “Fathers…bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)
BIBLICAL SEPARATION

According to Scripture a witness must be one who stands in separation from those to whom he is witnessing. “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.” (II Tim. 2:3-4)

During the war (WWII), we were separated and isolated in some remote part of Idaho for training. We could not associate with anyone outside while they were teaching us what they wanted us to know. Why? We were at war and we had to be trained to fight the enemy.

Suppose someone had suggested that we send our young men to Japan to be trained. That would be foolish! They would not fight the enemy if they were trained by the enemy. Yet that is exactly what people do with their children. They send them into the training camps of unbelievers and then wonder why they don’t turn out to be Christian soldiers. If we are to be good warriors we must separate ourselves, or as it says in Scripture, “Be not entangled with the affairs of this life.”

II Cor. 6:14-17 says,“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” We usually apply this passage to marriage or business. But the same principle applies in the education of our children. A schoolroom is not a neutral place of isolation. Close relationships naturally develop between classmates, between students and teachers, and between teachers and administrators. That is one of the reasons that it is difficult for a teacher or student to testify concerning the things of Christ. The basic thinking or worldview of administrators, teachers and students is in diametric opposition to a Christ-centered worldview. For that reason the Scriptures requires that we stand in separation for our witness to be effective.

Hag. 2:11-13 gives us more insight on this principle of separation, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said,’No.’ Then said Haggai, if one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, ‘It shall be unclean.’” The subject here is separation from spiritual uncleanness. If that which is holy touches something, does it make it holy? No! If that which is unclean touches something clean does it make it unclean? Yes! According to the principle of separation, if those who are unbelievers are present, do they make all unclean with their influence? Yes! If there are those present who are believers do they make all holy? No!

The application to Christian education is obvious. Will your child influence others in school for Christ or will he be influenced away from Christ? We know, both from Scripture and experience, that the Christian is nearly always influenced away from the things of the Lord when he compromises a separated position.

WORLDLINESS AND WITNESSISM

Many Christians argue that we should be involved with unbelievers in order to be witnesses among them. We might call this way of thinking “witnessism.” It misuses the command for Christians to be witnesses as an excuse to remain mixed up in the world. They tell us we must stay in modernistic churches as witnesses; we must stay in the public schools as witnesses. But God’s Word says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate.”

God’s Word provides real life illustrations of the necessity for witnesses to stand separated from the world.

MOSES – A SEPARATED WITNESS

Had Moses chosen to remain in Egypt, he might have become the King. He might have thought, “I should stay here in Egypt and be a witness in the palace and perhaps all of Egypt will be won for God.” But Moses knew better. In Hebrew 11:24-27, we read, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Moses understood the principle of separation. It would have been much more comfortable for him and he could have thought of himself more highly as one of the princes of Egypt than in the wilderness with a little group of God’s people. But Moses, hearing God’s Word and knowing His will, chose to separate from Egypt.

It is just this very matter we debate in trying to convince people of the necessity of Christian schools. Yes public schools have much greater prestige, resources, and programs than do Christian schools. But we stand for God’s truth and we must stand in separation from the world.

Pharaoh offered Moses a compromise that the adults go and worship God but leave their children in Egypt. Moses refused. That same offer is made to us today. Satan knew then and he knows now that, in one generation, if he can control the children, God’s witness can perish from the earth.

LOT – A COMPROMISED NON-WITNESS

Lot, on the other hand, practiced witnessism; that is mingling with the world in order to be a witness to them. When Abraham and lot separated, Lot chose the nice green plain where there were two large cities. He may have thought that if he moved down to Sodom and Gomorrah he could be a witness to the people there. He evidently had some training in God’s Word for he knew he shouldn’t move right in and live in Sodom. We read in Genesis 13:12 that he went down and “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”

But in Genesis 14:12 we find that he has moved into Sodom. Perhaps his wife visited the Sodomite women and came home and said, “We can’t be a witness with our dirt floors and our old tent. We’ve got to have a house.”

By the time we get to Genesis 19:1, he is not only living in Sodom but he is holding office. He is sitting in the gates of Sodom, a place of leadership. Now he can be a respected witness. He is the chairman of the school board and his wife is the president of the P.T.A. But there is no record of him doing much witnessing. The truth is that he has so compromised with the people of Sodom that he can’t witness to them. To be a witness to the world we must not be entangled with the affairs of the world. Lot got involved in Sodom, became one of the officers, and was never able to bear witness there.

It’s nice to think we can join some ungodly organization, become active in it and then be a great influence for God. The trouble is we just aren’t strong enough to do it. In reality, those organizations have a corrupt influence on us. If we are going to be a real witness we must stand in a place of separation.

SILENT WITNESSES

Some people think that even though they can’t say much about the things of the Lord in the public school they can still be a silent witness.

Just what is a “silent witness?” That phrase is an oxymoron. If you are silent you aren’t a witness, and if you are a witness you aren’t silent. Suppose you have been accused of a terrible crime and the circumstances look very incriminating. But there are some people who know you aren’t guilty and can bear witness to the fact. During the trial your witnesses are brought up and they all turn out to be “silent witnesses.” That would be of no value to you. A silent witness is not a witness at all. God’s Word says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” (Psalm 107:2)

WHAT PRICE SEPARATION?

Not long ago a Christian who teaches in a public school said to me, “Mr. Bramblet, I agree with you but if I taught that way, I’d lose my job.” What kind of Christians have we become that our jobs and associations prevent us from being faithful witnesses? By contrast, Hebrews 11:33-38 recognizes some real witnesses, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again; and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy…” They not only gave up their jobs, they gave up their lives for the testimony of Christ.

It is only in Christian schools where we can teach according to God’s Word! A Christian teacher who refuses to teach evolution and the supremacy of man will be a real witness but he will lose his job. Christian parents of children in the public schools who would attempt to convince their school boards that they will not tolerate teaching that excludes God from the universe will probably not change the schools but the schools will change them. In order to bear a true witness for Christ we must be separated and if we try to stay in the world with a true witness, the world will separate from us. Christian parents and teachers who want to witness in the public schools will pay a price.

SNEAKING THE GOSPEL?

Believers in "witnessism" think the Gospel can be slipped in when people aren't looking. That thinking is not only unscriptural; it is unsuccessful. The Gospel must be declared boldly and openly. If modern Christians do not return to a bold, separated testimony we will never be able to free ourselves from the educational and spiritual bondage of the world system.

CONFORMITY TO GOD OR TO MAN

If we are to maintain God's testimony upon the earth, our children must be taught the basic principles of God's Word from their youth up. We cannot raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord with just a short daily devotional time and a half-hour each week in Sunday school when the world has them five days each week in the classrooms of godless humanism.

It isn’t a matter of us trying to have Christian schools or hoping we can have Christian schools, we MUST have Christian training for our children or God’s witness shall perish from the earth! Thank God, He knows this, and is raising up Christian schools all over our land. He is speaking to the hearts of Christian parents everywhere. He is calling young men and women into Christian school ministry. Christians who oppose the Christian schools need be careful lest they find themselves fighting against God.


James Bramblet

2 comments:

Stan McCullars said...

Good post.

I do believe (not that truth is dependent on what I believe; it isn't) we are to be witnesses to the world. That includes our children. However, to turn our children over to the temple of demons seems utterly foolish. Public schools (at least in the USA) are indoctrination centers to advance atheism.

Daisy said...

Excellent post! I forwarded this to several of my friends and family.