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Christian Education in Pluralistic Society

One of the challenges that Christians face in our times is how to live as Christians in a pluralistic society, where we are surrounded by people of other religious beliefs, in work places, neighbors, and friends? For our children, even if they are not in such situation, how can we train them to live in such society?

First, life is not neutral, and education is not neutral. Everybody has a worldview, and every child learns one worldview or another, even if they are an atheist. The education of a child will mold and shape their worldview, which in turn dictates how that student does everything else. So, it is naive to think that we can just respect the beliefs of others. Rather, education should be intentional about understanding what people believe, and even understanding the anatomy of unbelief, so that our students can be more compassionate and persuasive in their day-to-day interaction with others. With this in mind, Christian education should be an intentional integration of Christian worldview with all subjects, and intentionally thinking about how the truth of Christian worldview shapes our culture.

Second, Christians should seek the peace of the city. We should pray for the welfare of the city. Even though Christians are engaged in spiritual war and should not accept ideologies and worldviews of their non-Christian co-workers and neighbors, it does not mean that Christians should antagonize them. They should patiently and compassionately engage in conversations with them, to understand them better, and to seek to peacefully shine the light of the gospel. Seeking the peace does not mean compromise with God’s standards, which is designed to be for the good of the city—principles like sanctity of life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, marriage as one man and one woman, genders, and the other principles behind the Ten Commandments. Christians seek the peace and the good of the city because they have a vision of the good that comes from personally knowing the God of the Scriptures, and following God's moral commandments which are good for the whole society. When the Visigoths sacked Rome in A.D. 410 and Romans blamed the Christians, Augustine responded by saying that the real cause of the downfall of the Roman empire was the immoral lifestyle of the Romans themselves, and that it was the Christians who remained in the city of Rome to help the sick and the poor. This is the sense in which Christians ought to educate their children to seek the peace of the city. Our students are trained to do good.

Third, Christians support religious freedom. Absolute allegiance to the God of Scriptures does not mean that we oppose the peaceful right to uphold other religious beliefs. One reason behind this is that Christians believe that religious convictions come from God through one’s own volition, not through coercion. In fact, religious freedom and freedom of speech throughout the world history flourished in Christian-dominated societies. Another reason for Christian commitment to religious freedom is their belief that it is Christ, and not the state, that provides true liberty. The connection between Christ and true liberty goes back to the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) where Christ’s two nature is confirmed, and where “the natural does not ascend to the divine. . . the bridge is gulfed only by revelation and by the incarnation of Jesus Christ.” In other words, if Christ is the Lord over this earth, then our first allegiance is to Christ and his truth, not the state. It is upon this biblical notion of liberty that America was founded. In contrast, throughout history, the ideologies that equated the state with divine power also limited freedom of religion and speech: French Revolution, Hegelian politics of power, and Marxism, Communism. Our students are trained to respectfully engage in religious conversations.

Fourth, Christians should not separate their faith from their work, or civic and cultural engagement. While Christians should be excellent in their secular employment or cultural engagement, and while Christians should refrain from overtly using those opportunities to evangelize and gain converts, they should 1) seek to be excellent in what they are doing, and 2) to seek to shine the light of the gospel to bear on their work and cultural engagement (Mt 5:16). Our students are trained to work as unto the Lord, and enjoy the Lordship of Christ in every area of culture.

Living as the salt and light of the earth, especially in a pluralistic society, requires education—a long, sustained instruction and training. This is the reason why God calls fathers to bring up their children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord. It is in the context of a call to engage in spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-20).

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