But the thing is, knowledge to Solomon is not something in and of itself. He defines "knowledge" as an understanding at which the very foundation is the fear of the Lord (Prv. 1:7). In other words, whereas the fool - the very fool who in his heart says "there is no God" (Ps. 14:1) - whereas he is one who literally "hates knowledge" (Prv. 1:22, true knowledge), the godly man (in God's sovereign mercy) understands that true knowledge can only be attained by beginning with the fear of the Lord (Prv. 1:7, 9:10).
True knowledge (and I say true knowledge because there is in Scripture something described as a knowledge falsely so-called - 1 Tim. 6:20): True knowledge does not merely conclude with the fear of the Lord, nor does it merely accept the fear of the Lord along the way. True knowledge begins - at its most basic point - begins with the fear of the Lord.
And that certainly has implications for the Christian life and how we go about the business of "back to school."
We certainly don't have time or space to discuss all those implications, but I think it's worthy to discuss at least three that I consider main issues: the character of knowledge, the stewards of education, and the cost of discipleship.
The Character of Knowledge
It is clear in Scripture that Jesus Christ is sovereign over all things - including all space-time facts.(3)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Speaking to the Lord's sovereignty, He is not only the Creator and Sustainer of all things, He is also the divine interpreter of things past and divine foreteller (because He decrees them) of things to come. Consider what he says concerning idols and the imagination of man:
Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen.
Listen to the Words of God. Who else can interpret correctly the "former things," declaring to us "what they are"? Further down we read that anyone else who takes this role upon himself is "nothing." Further, "an abomination is he who chooses" such a one to replace God (Isa. 41:24). It is abominable to choose anything other than the Lord for our authority when it comes to interpreting His world and educating others about it.
If this is true, and I hope you'll agree with me that it is, then to teach or to learn something without regard to its origin of the Lord's sovereignty, is to teach it or learn it incorrectly.(4)
That's not to say you can't make use of it. We can make use of the fact that 2+2=4 even if we don't recognize that the only reason this is so is because the Lord Jesus Christ has created His universe in such a way. Nevertheless, unless we learn, even this fact, with the understanding that it is precisely because Christ has created the universe in an orderly (and barring miraculous intervention, predictable) manner (Gen. 8:22), then we are not learning it correctly.(4) We are learning it apart from Christ, the very fact's sovereign point of origin.
The character of all knowledge is that it is rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is in Him that we find "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3) - in Him and no other. And being rooted in Him, knowledge is inherently not neutral. For whoever is not with Him is against Him (Mt. 12:30). That is to say, knowledge in any subject can be taught in a way that either recognizes the Lordship of Christ, or, by abstaining, rejects the Lordship of Jesus Christ.(5)
Think about this though, because it has serious implications. When you go back to school and you're not learning the "facts" that are taught there in a way that relates them to the Lordship of Christ, then you're not learning them correctly.(6) In a similar way, if you go back to school and teach these "facts" in a way that does not relate them to the Lordship of Christ, then you're not teaching them correctly.
This then brings us to the next main point in our discussion...
The Stewards of Education
It is generally assumed in America that the teachers are the stewards of our children when it comes to education. This is terribly false; and it is my great hope that most Christian parents understand that they themselves are the stewards accountable for their children's education (Eph. 6:4). This is not to say that they can't entrust some of those responsibilities to others. Delegation is a valid and Biblical task (Ex. 18:13-27) so long as it is done responsibly.
Nevertheless, even among many Christians though it is a general assumption that the public schooling system is alright as far as it goes. The children learn "facts" of math, science, history and all the rest. And they get their spiritual instruction at home and in the church.
But if the above described character of knowledge is accurate, then are they really learning what Scripture declares as true knowledge in a public school setting? Are they learning that God is sovereign over all the affairs of men (history)? That the world is predictable and we can rely on the principle of induction because our Lord created the world with order in mind (science/math/philosophy)? That man is created in the image of God and not an evolved creature (science/sociology)? That he is a responsible being and is held accountable to His creator from whom he will face judgment (sociology/psychology)? That he is by nature in rebellion toward God, subject to decay because of the curse of sin (sociology/psychology/health)? And that his only hope is the Lord Jesus Christ? And on and on...
If they're not learning this but instead they're learning "facts" that are by nature against the Lordship of Christ, then the stewardship of parents entrusted to the public school teachers is a spiritual failure.
But some will say, "Yes, but we do teach them at home too." Great! Except that the Biblical call for the education (discipleship) of our children is that we teach them not just at home, but throughout every part of the day:
You shall teach [the words of the Lord] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
And again, it's fine to delegate your stewardship of educating (discipling) your children to others - provided they are educating (discipling) in a Biblical way. But it's very important that you know to whom you are delegating that stewardship. If you are delegating it to men and women who will teach your children throughout the day how each part of the curriculum leads to and is under the Lordship of Christ, then terrific.
But if your substitute stewards are teaching in a way that is apathetic at best (which is still against Him, just more subtly) and antagonistic at worst to the Lordship of Christ - then this is not Christian education; it is not Biblical education.(7)
So what does this mean? This brings me to the last main point in the discussion...
The Cost of Discipleship
If the public school system cannot or will not teach (i.e. disciple) your children in a way that is Biblical, which is to say in a way that recognizes the Lordship of Christ pertaining to all the treasures - not just the "spiritual" treasures - but all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), then your children will not receive a Biblical education.(7)
This means you have three alternatives:
The last one is surely the least desirable, but given our current economic situation probably the most common that will have to be done.(8)
I hope you see the goal here though. The goal is not simply to undo the foundations of thought your children learn in public school. The goal is eventually to phase out public school altogether. And what I mean by that is not publicly-available school, but rather government funded, government mandated, government run "public" school. As I've stated elsewhere(9) I believe part of the great commission involves Christian schools being open to the public.
But until the public schools are out of the way, there will remain a government mandated, government run, government funded system of "education" that teaches children that the Lordship of Jesus Christ is irrelevant at best, and a lie at worst (Isa. 5:20) - and all this at your own expense.
The cost of discliping your children is indeed great. For right now we are forced to pay taxes to a system that teaches contrary to the Lordship of Christ. Meanwhile we either have to undo those underlying foundations of thought every day at home (while still funding the system), pay others to teach our children correctly throughout the day (while still funding the anti-Christian school system), or teach our children at home ourselves throughout the day (while still funding the anti-Christian school system).
This is a burden to be sure. But think of how great our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will have it when they won't have to pay double duty as we do. If we use our voting privileges, finances, and social responsibility correctly and for the glory of God, they won't have to pay both taxes and out of pocket to fund their children's education. They'll be able to keep their money for some other good or charitable work and teach their kids at home or have more money available to them to send their children to a truly Biblical school that teaches every subject under the authority of the Lordship of Christ and to His glory.
May He grant us repentance in letting the government intrude into our families, and may He bless the efforts He allows us to make, by His grace, to give our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren the Biblical education they are called to receive, just as we are called to provide.
(1) While I realize that there are people who dread school (I was certainly one of them at times), for the most part people do enjoy learning; and many enjoy the school environment. Whether it's to escape a bad home life, to enjoy the social friendships and engagements, or simply to soak up the knowledge attained from teachers and learn how to think, I'm guessing a lot of people really do enjoy school.
I actually think that was one (of the many) genius aspects to the Harry Potter series - is that it took place in the setting of a school (a private school I might add ;). There's something very special about an environment dedicating to learning - and people love that atmosphere.
(2) Check out all the times "knowledge," "wisdom," "insight", or "understanding" are mentioned in the book of Proverbs. Education is clearly very important (and wise) in the eyes of God - so long as it leads back to Him (Isa. 5:13; Hos. 4:6; cf. Jn. 17:3; Col. 1:16-17, 2:3)!
(3) For a much grander and fuller treatment of this subject, I highly recommend chapter one of Foundations of Christian Education. I recommend the entire book, but for this specific topic of the sovereignty of God and His relation to all space-time facts, chapter one is the most pertinent.
(4) I'd like to say a word here about pedagogy and maturity. I realize that third graders might not be able to grasp the fact that it is only because Christ has created the world and all that is in it and sustains the very principles of His creation that we are then able to rely on 2+2 always coming out to 4. At that point it would be incomplete education (rather than incorrect education). But when a student is at a maturity level where he or she can understand that basic philosophy behind the fact (to quote Van Til again from the footnote above), then it would be incorrect not to teach or to learn it that way. Scripture itself recognizes a progressive outlaying of knowledge and understanding (1 Cor. 3:2).
(5) To put it this way, let's look at even just one subject: history.
How do we interpret history? Do we interpret it as the result of men and women who have no control over their actions because they are simply matter in motion doing whatever the biological/chemical makeup of their bodies and minds compel them to do? Or do we interpret it as the result of the free will acts of men and women who have control over their actions but are responsible to themselves alone because there is no God? Or do we interpret history as the result of a sovereign God who has decreed from the very beginning all things that come to pass in a way that though men and women act in accordance with their own free will, they nevertheless do the very things that were decreed by Him, whether for good or for evil? Furthermore, how do we decide whether something in history was indeed for good or for evil apart from bringing that value system back to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?
This is just one example. Every subject - Math, Science, Literature, Psychology, Philosophy, Logic, Economics, Government - all must have their root grounded in the Lordship of Christ. And it is only then that they will be taught and learned to His glory.
(6) I am not saying here that you can't go to a secular college and then not learn things in a Biblical way. Once we get to a certain maturity level we're able, by God's grace, with the apostle Paul to "take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). But of course when we're at that maturity level, we are then required to do so.
(7) Certainly we must see that the same is true for the teacher (Christian or otherwise) on the other side of this equation. If they are not permitted to stand in loco parentis and teach children that every subject (or at least the one they're responsible for teaching) is related to and under the authority of the Lordship of Christ, then they are not allowed to teach a Christian or Biblical education to their students. And when that's the case, the question must be asked, and answered, "Should I be teaching here?" And I would contend that unless your family financial obligations require you to (1 Tim. 5:8), the answer is no.
(8) Believe me, I understand the burden of not being able to afford either a one-household-income with homeschooling, or, regardless of how many incomes, not being able to afford private schooling. So yes, this will for the time have to be a necessity. But I hope you realize it is a necessity. For your children to learn things that are neutral with regard to Jesus Christ is for them to learn things that are against Jesus Christ (Mt. 12:30).
(9) I've written more on Christian education here:
Though I highly recommend anything on the topic by Douglas Wilson, Gary DeMar, Joel McDurmon, and the previous mentioned book compiled from essays by Cornelius Van Til and Louis Berkhof, Foundations of Christian Education.