Is there a Biblical Mandate?
"Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." - Ephesians 6:4
It can be difficult to make the mental shift from assuming the state will educate your children for free, to taking responsibility for your child's education and making the sacrifices this will require. That's why it is important to pray about this decision and to know what the Word of God says.
For many Christians, it seems a natural decision to send children into state education- it's just what is done! Often people are unaware of the implications of this, or that God has given parents the particular responsibility for the education of their children.
In today's post-Christian society, the value of the family and children has come under increasing attack. Yet in Scripture we see a different picture. God commands Adam and Eve to form a family before the corruption of the fall, and after the fall God works specifically through a family to bring about His redemptive plan to all of creation.
Children are similarly given great value in the eyes of God and are therefore not to be overlooked. God knew us since before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5), Jesus tells the disciples not to stop children from coming to Him (Matthew 19:4) and children are described as a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3-5). As such, we need to be good stewards of the lives He has entrusted to our care.
A Great Command
"These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." -Deuteronomy 6:1-7
One objection parents have regarding the removal of their children from mainstream schools is that they need to be 'salt and light' in the school system. In contrast, Deuteronomy 6 focuses on the teaching of children before they go into the pagan land. The Biblical model is that we are to train and educate our children in order to send them into the world fully equipped.
Just as it would be unthinkable to send an army into battle without training, so too the Israelites were to train up their children in the knowledge of the One True and Living God before they faced the pagan nations. The future failure of Israel was this failure to teach their children, and they were sent into exile because of a lack of knowledge (Isaiah 5:13).
Moreover, Deuteronomy 6 shows that the responsibility of the parents to bring their children up in the way of God is not just something they should do, but is in fact a covenant responsibility. The instruction of children is not an after-hours affair, but to permeate every aspect of the days of their lives.
"For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armour was never so necessary." -Dorothy L. Sayers
A Great Commission
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." -Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus left us with clear instructions as to what we are to be doing before He returns. The commission is to make disciples by teaching them.
How doe we feel about the prospect of seeing others saved, while forgetting those children in our own homes? The reality is that we are losing our own households, and yet this commission is a reiteration of the very first command: to fill the earth... with believers! Jesus' instruction to make disciples, at the very foundational level, is a commission to pass on the knowledge of God to our children, that the generational faith decline we are seeing may be flipped to see generational increase.
Between 2001 and 2011, the number of children born into Christian families in Britain fell by 5.3 million- about 10,000 a week. With a continued rate of decline at this livel, the number of UK- born Christians would reduce to zero by 2067.