Article XII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Education

Following is another in a series of columns on The Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

It’s good for us to study the arts and sciences, because in them we see the beauty, magnitude, divine wisdom, and glory of the creator.

Article XII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people. 

“In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.”

God’s word instructs us to pursue knowledge and wisdom. And since all truth is God’s truth, education must be grounded in what God has revealed to us. We are to embrace truth, teach it to our children, model it in our lives, proclaim it in our churches, and share it with the world. 

God has revealed himself to us in at least four significant ways. First he has revealed himself in creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” writes the psalmist, “and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands,” (Ps. 19:1). 

The apostle Paul adds that the unbelieving world stands condemned for rejecting God’s self-revelation in the physical realm: “For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

It is good for us to study the arts and sciences because in them we see the beauty, magnitude, divine wisdom, and glory of the creator. Christians, above all, should promote and pursue the revealed truths of God accessible through telescopes and under microscopes.

Second, God has revealed himself in conscience. Paul writes that unbelieving Gentiles “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts either accuse or even excuse them on the day when God judges what people have kept secret” (Rom. 2:15-16).

In other words, moral absolutes are gifts of God, designed to point people to the divine lawgiver.

Third, God has revealed himself in Christ, who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who humbled himself by adding sinless humanity to his deity (see Phil. 2:5-11). He could truthfully tell Philip, “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Further, as God, Jesus not only knows the truth; he is the truth (John 14:6).

Finally, God has revealed himself in the canon of Scripture, which was breathed out by God and given to us for “teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). 

The Bible says parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children in the faith. This means taking advantage of every opportunity to teach God’s words “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates” (Deut. 6:7-9).

Local churches should follow Christ’s charge to “make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Followers of Jesus are to dwell on everything true, honorable, just, and pure (Phil. 4:8-9). Christian education undergirds evangelism and missions. Therefore, local churches organize comprehensive teaching and training ministries.

In addition, Southern Baptists cooperate at the associational, state, and national levels to advance Christian education. Together, more than 47,000 local churches support private Christian schools and homeschooling networks, Southern Baptist colleges and universities, and six theological seminaries. All of these are united in the belief that the goal of Christian education is to know God and make him known.

This is not to say that secular, public education is inherently evil. Quite the contrary. However, we must remember that education of any kind not tethered to biblical truth ultimately drifts into error.

In Christian education, we should strive for a balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility, understanding that academic freedom is not a license for Christian teachers to promote unbiblical doctrines. 

As Charles Kelley, Richard Land, and Albert Mohler point out, “Southern Baptists must expect professors at our institutions to teach in accordance with and not contrary to The Baptist Faith & Message, to defend the faith rather than to subvert it, and to inculcate in the next generation a reverent and mature understanding of Christian truth.” 

Christians should love the Lord with all our minds (Matt. 22:37). This requires us to steep our thoughts in God’s word and submit ourselves to its truth as the standard by which all philosophies, ideas, and truth claims are to be judged (John 17:17; 2 Tim. 2:15).

Next: Article XIII of the BF&M: Stewardship

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