4 ways to help our kids grow in Christ through education

June 27, 2019

As a teacher, students frequently ask me, “Why are we learning this?” Sometimes they legitimately want to know how to apply the knowledge they are acquiring to everyday situations. They humbly admit a lack of understanding. More often than not, though, the question reveals grumbling spirits. They don’t want to put in the hard work needed for understanding because they have deemed it unimportant and unnecessary in their lives. 

When a student first asked me this question, I was baffled. I walked into the classroom with all of the ideals of any first-year teacher. All I needed, I believed, was a well-written lesson plan and a passion for my subject, and I’d have students who loved literature and grammar and writing. So when my students weren’t inspired by me to begin quoting Shakespeare and learn the etymology of words, I began asking my own questions. 

The goal of education

Why should they learn? Why do we send our children to school?

Some curriculum will help them survive. They need to know how to read so they can self-administer medicine correctly and read signs that warn them about danger. They need to be able to use math so they will know if they overpaid for a gallon of milk or how much they’ll pay in interest on a loan. They also learn so they can make wise and informed choices. History, health, and psychology can help them vote well and take care of themselves and relate to others. Some areas of study make them more interesting people. Literature and philosophy and the study of nature can expand their worlds and wonder. And of course, graduation can lead to more job opportunities and a better quality of life. 

But is that it? Is there no better purpose to school and education than the utilitarian goal of success in this material world? 

The Westminster Catechism says the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. If this is the primary reason for our existence, shouldn’t our aim for education—the way we inform our minds and hearts—be just as high? Good grades, admissions to prestigious colleges, and even successful careers are meaningless in comparison to the high purpose of an education that brings the one true God glory. The former are important for today; the latter is important for eternity. 

Education is so much greater, so much higher than acing the final exam every year and finishing with a diploma. Grades and degrees aren’t the goal of education; knowing God is. Accolades and awards aren’t the purpose of time in the classroom; ordering our affections and loving truth is. Our achievements are not the point; bringing glory to God is.

Regardless of the form of schooling—public, private, or home—we should educate our children that they might live out the greatest commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We hope all Christian parents would agree in theory, but when there is content that has to be learned, classes to pass, and diplomas to earn, how do we help our children succeed in school while growing in love and affection toward the living God? 

1. Emphasize virtue over achievement

Unfortunately, there is an emphasis on test scores and grades in our society. Sometimes good grades are a sign of hard work, but not always. Some children have a natural propensity toward school, and they earn good grades with ease. Others struggle to get average grades and will never win academic awards despite their high level of effort. But if our children are working diligently and faithfully, we can praise their efforts. If they are displaying kindness, goodness, and gentleness, we can acknowledge the work of the Lord in their hearts. If they respond with love, joy, peace, and patience to others, we can thank them for considering others. 

2. Teach our children that all work is unto the Lord

Whether they are learning to read or graphing rational functions in Algebra, our children need to know that their work is for the Lord. Even at a young age, they can learn to work in a manner that is pleasing the Lord. They are called to rejoice and told not to grumble or complain.

3. Find ways to connect their learning to service and growth in the faith 

As my children grow, there are new ways each of them can serve our neighbors. They can read to our blind friend across the street. They can make a meal to take to others after surgery or the birth of a new baby. As they get older and consider career paths, they should connect that they can use their field to serve others. 

Their learning can help them grow in their faith. History reminds us of the sin of man and of God’s faithfulness to his people. Science teaches us about God’s majesty, order, and creativity. The arts point us to the beauty of God. As they learn to think and read critically, they can become more capable students of God’s Word. Their ability to communicate can help them better share the gospel with others. 

4. Model humility and repentance 

The more we learn, the more we should realize we don’t yet know. Education should produce humility rather than a puffed-up spirit. Our weaknesses and inability should be a reminder that we have an omniscient, omnipotent God. As we are reminded of this truth in our own lives, we can model humility and repentance to our children that they might grow in it too. 

The summer is a great time to evaluate how the past year of our children’s education has pointed them to Christ. The blueprint in Deuteronomy 6 for teaching our children the Word of God in every moment of life shows us that education is discipleship. Our children won’t connect how school is helping them love God better if we aren’t constantly pointing them to the Lord. The Creator, who made our beautiful world, designed our intricate bodies, and sustains all things, is the inventor of language, math, science. He is the ultimate artist, the living Word, and the author of history. There is no realm of education that does not belong to him. 

Jessica Burke

Jessica Burke is married to her high school sweetheart, and they have four children. The Burkes lived in Skopje, Macedonia, as missionaries for three years before moving to North Carolina where Jessica’s husband is a chaplain at a local jail and a pastor. A former public school teacher, Jessica home educates her … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24