What does it mean for an education to be Christian? What makes a school a Christian school?
Answering these questions requires more space than I have here (in fact, very good books have been written to answer this question!). But here is an attempt at a brief and digestible answer that I hope is helpful to you.
First, a Christian education is Christian because of its distinct content. This is to say that there is not a neutral database of facts and lessons out there that all schools share but to which a Christian school adds a Bible class. Rather, to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, the difference between a Christian education and a non-Christian education is “the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” The power of a Christian education lies in its most important feature: God and His Word, the Bible, are at the center of everything. To quote the Regents educational philosophy,
As Creator and Sustainer of the universe, God has not only established all facts, but also the meaning of all facts. All truth is God’s truth. The goal of true education is to find the true relationship between both God and man and God and all of the particular details of the universe. To be known truly, all subjects must be studied in the light of God’s Word. All truth is ultimately religious, and all education must be conducted in light of God’s perspective on the subject. To assume that any area of knowledge can be known truly apart from God’s revelation of Himself is to undermine the foundations of all knowledge . . . to attempt to understand the universe apart from Scripture will naturally lead many to fail to comprehend reality.
Therefore, for an education to be Christian, it begins and ends with the existence, character, and Word of God, with Christ at the center. This does not mean that Bible verses are tacked on wherever we can make them stick, but instead we see that history is God’s story of the world, that math is (as Galileo famously said) “the language with which God has written the universe,” that language is the words God has given us with which to communicate, that science is the systematic study of God’s world, and so on. Every subject is united into one grand unity of truth in the One in whom Paul says is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3).
And second, a Christian education is Christian because of its distinct method. A Christian school is more than a neutral, blank canvas with school rooms, books, students – and Christian teachers added in. A Christian school has a distinct method of discipling students that is based on a biblical and Christian worldview.
An important part of any education in a public setting is order. A teacher cannot teach if students are lighting fires in the wastebasket, shouting over the teacher, and stealing answers from each other on tests. That’s why education students learn classroom management in college. But a Christian school is concerned with much more than classroom management. If our concern is educating the whole person, we desire not just to teach minds, but we want to shepherd hearts. Discipleship must be the driving force of a teacher’s interactions with her students. It is important that a student remains quiet while others are speaking so that he can hear him, but it is more important that he learns to love his neighbor as himself. If he does love his neighbor, he will want to hear what his neighbor has to say.
God commanded Israel, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart” (Deut. 6:5-6). God’s instruction for his people was not merely that they offer him external obedience. He wanted their love. Behind His laws for their behavior was His desire for their heart. He wanted them to love Him with every part of their being, and He wanted His words to inhabit their hearts. If Christian parents and educators are to follow God and disciple as He does, they must aim for the heart. Jesus taught that true obedience to God is obedience from the heart.
Christian schools have as their goal to be like Jesus, so they aim to disciple like He did. Christian schools don’t simply make laws for the students and the classroom and enforce them with an iron fist. Rather, like Jesus, they teach their students to obey from the heart and train them to love the Law of the Lord. Discipling students with grace and love: this is the educational method of a Christian school.
“What is the difference about a Christian school and the neighborhood public school?” Simply put, everything.