by Brett Vaden

When you hear a school is a ‘Christian’ school, what does that mean? There are a few popular misconceptions about what makes a Christian school ‘Christian.’

The first is that Christian schools are schools that meet in a church building. Granted, it’s often the case that a Christian school starts because a church gets behind it and provides the space. But that’s not what makes it Christian, any more than sitting in a police car makes me a policeman–in fact, were I wearing handcuffs, I could be quite the opposite!

A second misconception is that a Christian school is one that includes in its list of subjects “Bible” or “Christian studies.” But does merely making students know the Bible’s stories or memorizing Scripture make the school Christian? Well, it certainly doesn’t disqualify it. Yet, if that’s all that’s required of a school to be Christian, then what about other subjects like Math, Reading, and History? Should being a Christian school impact how those subjects are taught? I submit that it should. But more about that in a moment.

Another misconception is that a Christian school is one that’s conservative on certain cultural issues like science and politics. Again, while these things are certainly not irrelevant to the Christian purpose, being conservative doesn’t make a school Christian. Surely you don’t have to be Christian to take a certain side on questions like evolution vs. creation, climate change, abortion, or who should become president. While Christian belief will influence how one approaches the issues, being Christian is not the same as voting Republican or Democrat.

What is a Christian school? It is one that is subject not to a political party, nor to a pastor or church, but to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”

A school that takes Christ as its starting point and constant center is a Christian school. Such a school will affirm what the apostle says in Colossians chapter 1, “He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things  were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

A Christian school not only sees Christ as the starting point, but as the aim of everything it does–so that in everything, from Math to Science to Literature and to every subject, God’s glory is manifest.

That is not done merely by referencing the Bible or praying before class starts. Such practices are valuable, but to bring Christ glory through a school means that it not only speaks well about Him but does well by Him. A Christian school exalts Christ above every other subject, but in doing so it raises every other subject to a greater height.

C. S. Lewis was getting at this truth when he said, “What we need is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects.” We might likewise say that what the world needs is not more little schools with Bible classes, but more little schools with Christians teaching Algebra and Literature with excellence to the glory of God.

If, in this way, a school is truly Christian, then it will be primed to take a secondary but very important step: to commit itself to the classical model of education. More about that next week.


Annie Frances · May 19, 2016 at 4:11 pm

My husband attended a Christian school growing up and now we are considering enrolling our son in one as well. I love the quote you mentioned by C.S. Lewis about how we need more “little books by Christians on other subjects.” I want to feel comfortable sending my son to a school with good Christians surrounding him. Great article!

    Brett Vaden · May 19, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Annie, thank you so much! I hope you all find a great school for your son.

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