Christianity and the Academy (1)

(Editor’s Note): I completed a series entitled “The Great Christian Revolution” in about 2012, of which “Christianity and the Academy” was a part. I’m dividing this up into a number of weekly installments. A Mc)

By Andrew McColl, 12th November, 2019


The sovereignty of the self-contained God is the key to every field, in that only the God of Scripture makes all things possible and explicable and is thus the basic premise not only of theology, but of philosophy, science and indeed all knowledge. In that God is the Creator of all things, He is their only valid principle of interpretation, in that they derive both their existence and meaning from His creative act.[1]

All intellectual studies must begin with God; they must have a theological base. If they do not, they will inevitably be based on the shifting sands of human reason. That will never be honouring to God, will not result in us pleasing Him, and will be to our loss. As education is a vital aspect of the Great Commission (Mat.28:18-20), Christian people must apply themselves to this task seriously, as a duty before God.

Education is plainly linked to what one believes about God. If God “made the heavens and the earth” (Gen.1:1), “upholds all things by the Word of His power” (Heb.1:3), and has made man in His image, then God is inescapably the prime fact of life in the universe, with man as the pinnacle of His creation (Ps.8:3-8). Because he has been created by God, man has meaning, purpose and responsibility.

Theology must be applied to education, because “it is impossible to understand the educational process apart from God Himself. The Christian begins with God as the Creator and Source of all true education. He believes that the God Who made us has not left man alone in his pursuit of knowledge, but in His lovingkindness has given to man a revelation of Himself and His plans in the person of Jesus Christ and in the Bible.” [2] The Bible says of God, “who teaches like Him?” (Job 36:22).

Applying theology to education will challenge us, that man was endowed with the ability and duty to find both the meaning of life and his own purpose on earth, within the will of God.[3] Thus man through Christ must begin by submitting to God and seeking first His kingdom (Mat.6:33), be trained and educated (Prov.22:6; Heb.5:14), grow in Christian maturity, be “neither corrupt or negligent…” (Dan.6:4), learn to work diligently “as for the Lord” (Col.3:23), and view all of life as a task of Christian service.

Man will recognise his total depravity outside the redemptive work of Christ, but realise that in Christ, he is “a new creation” (II Cor.5:17), obeying the law of God (Ps.119), accepting the command to be an “ambassador of Christ” (II Cor.5:20), as an “heir of the world” (Ro.4:13), with the task to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen.1:28).

Man in subjection to Jesus Christ must understand that our historical problem from the beginning, has been in relation to the source and acquisition of knowledge. This revolt against knowledge should warn us, that if one does not begin with the truth about God, he cannot conclude his argumentation with either God or truth.[4] Apostate man’s claim to total intellectual autonomy, away from the knowledge of God, has driven him to a series of irreconcilable intellectual dilemmas.[5]

Human knowledge must be utterly dependent upon the original self-knowledge and consequent revelation of God to man.[6] God alone is an utterly self-explanatory person: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord (Jer.23:24). If He alone is self-explanatory, then He must be the first and final point in human predication. The Bible as the voice of God must be the central orientating principle around which all knowledge is knowable and understood. When this is done, the teacher makes God the final reference point in all things.[7]

Believers must therefore examine themselves, in our beliefs and acceptance of knowledge, to ensure that we are “in the faith” (II Cor.13:5), and not being carried along in education by forms of secular knowledge with faulty assumptions, constructed upon foundations of epistemological sand.[8]

The Bible says that Christ is the One, “…in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3). This logically means that God cannot be God, if He is not the absolute sovereign, the governing presupposition and ground of all knowledge.[9] The command that we are to be “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (II Cor.10:5), requires the total intellectual submission of the believer to Jesus Christ, not just the giving up of occasional parts, on the basis of convenience or preference.

 Christian education… must renounce once and for all the false separation between secular and sacred truth. It must see that truth in science, and history, in mathematics, art, literature and music belong just as much to God as truth in religion. While it recognises the primacy of the spiritual truth revealed in the Bible and incarnate in Christ, it acknowledges that all truth, wherever it is found, is of God. For Christian education there can be no discontinuity in truth, but every aspect of truth must find its unity in the God of truth. [10]


[1] Rousas Rushdoony, “By What Standard?” 1995, Foreward.

[2] A. Kienel (Ed), “The Philosophy of Christian School Education,” 1986, p.7

[3] Gary North (Ed), “The Foundations of Christian Scholarship,” 1979, p.64.

[4] Greg Bahnsen, quoted in North, above, p.217.

[5] North, “Foundations,” p.vii.

[6] Cornelius Van Til, quoted in Rousas Rushdoony, “Salvation and Godly Rule,” 1983, p.177.

[7] Blake, in North, “Foundations,” p.108.

[8] North, “Foundations,” p.vii. Epistemology is the study of how knowledge is acquired.

[9] Rousas Rushdoony, “Revolt against Maturity,” 1987, p.330.

[10] Frank Gaebelein, quoted in Kienel, p.32.

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