Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

“Should Christians Teach in Public Schools?” (R.C. Sproul, Jr.)

“Your wife was a public school teacher. My wife and I are both public school teachers. My parents were also public school teachers. We are all believers in Christ.  It seems that in your articles and books (Bound for GloryEternity in our Hearts, and Every Thought Captive) you have a severe dislike for the ‘government schools’ and the ‘priests of the government schools’.  Why are you so strongly against Christian’s in the education field? Don’t you think we need Christian teachers in public schools?”


First, to the gracious gentleman who asked this question, my thanks for the kind and tactful way in which the question was asked. This is especially gracious given that my own rhetoric tends to grow rather warm on this issue. I will try to answer honestly and graciously, without giving away the store. Second, it is important to make an important distinction. While in the end I think it important for both Christian students and teachers to leave the government school system, the case for getting the children out is by far the stronger, clearer case. The two are related, but not at all the same.


It is my conviction that education is everywhere and always inherently religious. That is, education is that process by which we pass on to our children our most deeply held convictions. An education that does not begin, end and stay focused on the lordship of Christ over all things is, in the end, not a sound education.


I deny that there is a body of information out there that is separate and distinct from the Lordship of Christ. As I have stated before, 2 and 2 makes 4 because it is Jesus’ 2 and Jesus’ 2 and Jesus’ 4.


Christians who wish to teach in the government’s schools are left therefore with three choices. First, they can give the children a sound education. Here they are eager to affirm the Lordship of Christ at all times and in all places. There are, however, two problems with this approach. First, any teacher doing this would be violating the law. Every state in the union forbids teachers from teaching this way. Second, any teacher teaching this way will also be violating the law of God. That is, you would be failing to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is ungracious, unkind and unfair to tax unbelievers for the purpose of paying your salary to evangelize their children. This, of course, is what the entire system does, only it evangelizes children into the worship of the state. The solution isn’t to take the system and use it to evangelize for Christ. The Christian thing would be to tear the whole thing down.


The Christian teacher next has this option. He can remain silent about the Lordship of Christ. Here he will honor his superiors in the system. He will be able to keep his job. But he will not be speaking truthfully to the students. He will, long before we get to “health” class, biology class, or any overt attacks against the faith, communicate to the children under him that the Lordship of Christ is something worth negotiating over, something of indifference to an education. The teacher is teaching this, “You can be educated in a place where the name of Jesus is never mentioned.” Which is fundamentally false.


The third option is to attempt to carve out a niche between the first two options. This, I presume, is where my brothers and sisters in Christ most often see themselves. They are trying, in a desperately wicked system, to let a little light shine. They are trying to witness through their lives, in the hopes of being a help to the children. Those are noble motives, and should be seen as such. They are, however, in my estimation, doomed to failure.


I tell my well intentioned friends who remain in apostate mainline denominations, so that they can “Reform from within” that all they are managing to communicate is that however bad it might be to deny the authority of Scripture, no matter how bad it might be to deny the resurrection, no matter how bad it might be to ordain practicing sodomites (which, truth be told is far less serious than the first two), that none of it is worth separating over. In like manner, whatever you manage to get through, however free you are to dishonor your bosses and their wishes (it makes no difference if your principal is with you on this. Sooner or later up the ladder you have superiors who don’t want you witnessing for Christ) you are still communicating to parents and the students, “This little light of mine is enough.” You are saying to the children, “You can live a God honoring life by keeping your Bible, unopened, on your desk.” You are saying to the children, “You can understand the world without understanding the Lordship of Christ.” You are saying to the children, “A little, unspoken, subtle Christianity is enough.”


I know that isn’t your intention. I know you’re trying to do right by these children and their parents. But you can’t, not just because the schools must be secular, but because they are financed by taxes of people of other faiths. The more you succeed the more you cheat the parents. The more you fail, the more you cheat the students. Trying to walk in the middle you cheat both.


This is why I don’t believe Christians should teach in the government schools. I understand that my position is an unusual one. I understand that fine men and women, godly men and women disagree with my position. I pray we can disagree while still remaining friends.


One last point. Please also understand that my most angry rhetoric is directed at the system itself, not well meaning Christians who are in the system. That is, at the end of the day, because all education is inherently religious, the state schools will inculcate the religion of the state, Caesar worship. That is why the system is an abomination. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the schools are failing. They are doing exactly what they are designed to do.



Do you have a question for R.C.?


Send questions (printed anonymously) to: info@highlandsstudycenter.org and put “A Question for R.C.” in the email heading. Eventually these questions and their answers will be posted on the website.

(I received this by email, and tried to find the site to link to it, but I could not find this particular article.  However, the website for Sproul Jr.’s Highland Study Center is http://www.highlandsstudycenter.org)


April 8, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. So what’s your stance on this one, Hambone? I can read Sproul’s all over the place.

    What does the BigHam think? 😉

    Comment by Kates | April 8, 2008 | Reply

  2. probably have to go with undecided for now…
    my sister has been pro-homeschooling for a while.. and I’m pretty sure that my brother and sis-in-law are planning to homeschool…

    but all along I’ve pretty much been thinking that I liked a lot of things about my public school edu-ma-cation, and that I would want to send my kids to public school.

    I think that I agree with Sproul though… He makes great points- all education is and therefore should be centered around the lordship of Jesus Christ. And a lot of things that public school teachers and students assume are general truths worry me. I think that it is unspoken but assumed in the world in general and public schools specifically that premarital sex is ok as long as it is a boyfriend and girlfriend in love.

    I think that this has seeped over into our churches somewhat. I see premarital sex as more or less equal with homosexual sex, whereas I think that the general reaction to a “Christian” parent finding out that his or her child is having sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend would be, “Thank God he/she’s not gay.”

    For the sake of their sexual purity alone I think that I would be hard-pressed to justify sending my children to public schools, in addition to the enormity of the fact that they would be getting an education in a place that assumes as truth that there is no God and that Jesus Christ has no place in our lives or educations.

    As for Christians teaching in public schools, I think that I would lean towards Sproul’s side of the aisle. I would say along with him that I don’t expect others to agree with me and I would not at all insist that anybody would agree with me.

    But I see some similarities between his argument and my argument against working for Abercrombie and Fitch. We are to be in the world but not of the world… but that doesn’t mean that we should hold jobs where we support the world’s viewpoints.

    My last two jobs I have quit because I felt like my desires in the jobs that I was in contradicted my duties in those jobs. With the financial services company I wanted to be advising people not to get the loans that they were applying for with us, while I was getting paid to get them to sign for those loans. And at Abercrombie I did not want the company to succeed in its mission, but my job was to run the store in a manner that supported the company and its mission, and put money in their pockets.

    All that said, you could pretty much transfer this argument to just about any job other than something in the ministry of the Gospel. There have been a couple of times where I have wanted to share the Gospel with coworkers and customers at the restaurant where I am waiting tables, but that is not what I am getting paid to do. So should I quit my job? Probably, but right now I am not able to.

    I hope that you can make some sense of all that, cause I’m not sure that I wrote it in a manner that would make sense….. but yeah….

    Comment by bigham | April 9, 2008 | Reply

  3. But really, when does it stop? Should we as Christians really be running from “the world”? Yes, we are told not to be of the world. But if you as a parent would send your children to public school would you not want to see a couple of Christian teachers in the mix?

    I guess I am reminded of “Let your light shine before men”. Sometimes, the most effective way to witness to someone is through your actions, not words. The guy says we might fail. Alright, but where are we putting our faith? In ourselves? If we do that then yes, we ARE doomed to fail, but we have someone much bigger working for us.

    I used to be the only Christian at the restaurant/lounge where I used to work. Their lives consisted of drinking binges and sleeping with eachother. I never ever participated with them in that lifestyle, nor did I let myself be apart of those conversations. Yet, somehow girls felt the need to “confess” to me because of their actions of the past weekend which opened doors to share the faith. If you stick to your values and morals people WILL notice. Yes, it will be hard for Christian teachers, but I think if Christians start removing themselves from situations like this, Christ’s whole point of taking him to the deepest and darkest corners of the world will have been ignored. Is this not our duty as Christians? No one said it would be easy. We might lose our jobs, it’s true, we might have to go before the school board and face discrimination. But we are not looking for success on earth. And that is the end all and be all of this life, we are building treasure somewhere else.

    I wholeheartedly disagree.

    Comment by kpauly | April 10, 2008 | Reply

  4. I disagree as well. Christians are the “salt of the earth.” Sometimes I think we in modern times forget the purpose of salt before refrigeration. Salt was used to preserve meat, to hold off the rotting process. We as Christians are in a world rotten with sin, trying to provide the means to save it. If Christians withdrew from every activity that is not Christ-centered, the world would be left to become totally depraved, with no hope whatsoever. I believe there are different kinds of evangelism, ranging from very active like Paul to living as a Christian in the particular position God has placed you in for a particular reason. We don’t know what happened with Cornelius after his conversion, or to the Phillipian jailer, but can you imagine the impact of having a Christian as a centurion in charge of soldiers or as a jailer in charge of prisoners? It can only be for the glory of God.

    A Christian teacher whose life is in submission to God will be noticed, whether anyone says anything about it or not. And who can say what outcome may result from that quiet influence? As someone once told me, “The seeds planted today may not sprout for many years, but perhaps one day they will.”

    I think the attitude in the excerpt is rather selfish, to be perfectly blunt. To isolate oneself denies others the influence of Christ in their lives — maybe the only influence they will ever have.

    Comment by g marlow | April 11, 2008 | Reply

  5. Of course, my argument assumes Christians will “remain unspotted from the world.” In the same passage where Jesus tells us we are the salt of the earth, He warns us that “if salt has lost its flavor … it is good for nothing but to be cast out….”

    Comment by g marlow | April 11, 2008 | Reply

  6. That article made me want to throw up. 🙂

    Comment by Mindy | April 20, 2008 | Reply

  7. Thanks for all the comments. I posted this in part with the hopes that there would be some discussion, because I wasn’t completely decided for or against Jr’s posish on Christian public school teachers.

    I guess I am both for and against the argument, if that’s possible. I hate it when people try to play the middle ground on issues in the name of political correctness, but I don’t think I’m doing that here. I hope I’m not doing that.

    I think that being a Christian public school teacher absolutely comes with the difficulties that Mr. Sproul Jr. articulates here. I think that it would be very easy to get into the habit of the “lead by example” style in the classroom, and for that to carry over into the rest of the teacher’s life. We are definitely to live in a way that bears witness to our Redeemer, but “leading by example” is not the power of God unto salvation; the Gospel is.

    If a person can manage to fulfill their tax-dollar-paid duties of teaching what the government mandates, while consistently sharing the Gospel outside of the classroom, great. I don’t think that I could manage that, and I think that a situation like that would lead to what Sproul Jr. seems to fear.

    And with sending your kids to public schools versus homeschooling, I think that there is a huge opportunity available to faithful Christian students in public schools. On the other hand, I think that the situation is very dangerous, and necessitates huge parental involvement. For a Christian student to be faithful, he or she has to be willing to stand for the truths of God, Jesus, the Bible, and the Gospel- and for the most part that is going to mean butting heads with friends, classmates, teachers, and administration.

    “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12

    This persecution will be a blessing if the child is faithful and perseveres, but it is a big risk.

    Comment by bigham | April 20, 2008 | Reply

  8. I am definitely going to disagree with this article, too. I am okay with families that want to homeschool and I am okay with families that want to send their children to the public school. You can look at both segments and see children flourish and you can look at both segments and see children flop.

    My problem really stems from someone coming out and saying that we need to exodus from the public school system. I’m so thankful for my wife (who currently teaches in the public school) and for other Christians I know who teach in the public school. I’m thankful that many students are taught by men and women who know and fear God. I agree with everyone who stated “where do we stop” if we proceed with the mass exodus. I think people try to catagorize their lives and once we are saved and the Gospel is alive in us, then it should be a constant overflow no matter where we go or what we do.

    I think we add to the Gospel when we give Christians mandates that are not biblical. It isn’t helpful to tell all Christians to leave the public school system. It isn’t helpful to tell all Christians to stop drinking. We need walk daily by the Spirit and be obedient to where God has called you.

    Okay, Travis just called me . . . so that’s it for now.

    Thank’s big ham!

    Comment by Billy Newhouse | April 25, 2008 | Reply

  9. So, What DOES Big Ham think? ….since public school moneys has paid for his rearing, and education to a point…????

    Comment by Mom | May 8, 2008 | Reply

  10. First of all Believers who are in the govt schools can still promote the Lordship of Christ & not feel guilty of using unbelievers’ tax dollars to “evangelize” their kids. Here’s why: Education ought to be the pursuit of truth. Even though it is often times not, teaching Kids Jesus Christ is Lord is more objectively true than teaching 2+2=4. Not saying it will be easy because as the Apostle Paul once told young Timothy: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Tim. 3:12)

    Comment by Steve | February 16, 2013 | Reply

  11. Wow… Just stumbled upon this. We belong to a small EPC church (< 40 members). This topic keeps coming up. We joined our church 8 years ago and we were the last public school family to join our church. We had many homeschool families come and go and our church seems to be facilitating a culture that endorses homeschooling or private Christian schooling (as both our pastors do this). (and the church isn't growing either). Many of the homeschooling families that come and go, don't even join the church. Could it be a lack of submission to authority? Hmmmm…Interesting question. There are plenty of support groups for our homeschooling pastors and families who frequent and support these programs, but what about those strong Christian families who utilize public schools? Where is our pastoral and church support and encouragement? Our church even rents out its facilities 5 days a week to the homeschool groups that we, the members support. Where are the prayers, encouragement and support for our families who utilize public school? Many of our kids are thriving in this environment some of our members teach in public schools. We keep education and doctrine alive in our home. We are preparing our children to handle the onslaught of secular debate that comes our way. It would be a HUGE encouragement to us to see even the slightest glimmer of support and encouragement form our church leadership (even when we are part of it-I serve as worship leader and my husband a deacon). Where is our leadership? We feel abandoned.

    Comment by Kathy | August 11, 2015 | Reply

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