Friday, March 6, 2009

Can Christians Witness in the Public School?

by James M. Bramblet

This is a message brought before the fall conference of The Northwest Fellowship of Christian Schools in 1958. It is as relevant today as it was then.

In trying to promote Christian schools, I've encountered many times an argument against them given by Christian people. They say we shouldn't take our Christian children and our Christian teachers out of the public schools because they should be there as a witness. I was concerned about this argument because it came from people who are good fundamental Christian people, whom I admire and respect.


After turning to God's Word, I found that it had something to say on the matter. I've found in God's Word that there are at least two ways in which this thinking is erroneous. First of all, from God's Word we find that children are not miniature adults. They do not react like adults. In I Corinthians 13:11, the Apostle Paul says, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things." This verse tells us that there is a difference in thinking and in understanding between a child and an adult. There is another verse that tells us exactly what this difference is. In Ephesians 4:14 it says, "That we be henceforth no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive."

What is the difference between a child and an older person then? A child is tossed about by every wind of doctrine; he is easily influenced. This is as God intended. He intended that we as parents should be the controlling influence over our children. That is why God's Word tells us that the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations.

Children in God's Word have been made subject to their parents. You can take a little child and you can teach him anything you want. You can teach him correctly or incorrectly but whatever you teach him he is going to believe. As the Scriptures tell us, they are tossed about by every wind of doctrine.

To say that these children should be a witness concerning Christ is foolish. They can't be, because God has created them in such a way that they desire to please the adults over them. Their desire is to please their parents and their desire is to please their teacher. The Lord said we should become as little children. He didn't mean we should throw a tantrum as little children sometimes do. No, He meant we should have the faith of a little child. We should receive truth as a little child does and not doubt as adults do. Children naturally will receive instruction, and when they go to school they go there to receive and not to give forth.

What happens when the principles that are given in school are contrary to those given at home? You and I as adults, if we were in the same situation, would see the conflict. Perhaps there would be a conflict within us until we decided which we were going to follow. But this is not so with the child. When at home they simply act the way their parents and brothers and sisters expect them to act. When they go to school they act the way their teachers and classmates expect them to act. If there's a conflict it doesn't bother them at all. Many parents do not find out until too late that the child who is acting the part of a Christian at home and at church is acting differently when away from these influences. The responsibility lies at the parents door, for the Scripture plainly teaches, "Fathers . . . bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" Ephesians 6:4.


There is still another error even worse than the first. According to Scripture a witness must be one who stands in separation from those to whom he is witnessing. The Scriptures make this very plain. In II Timothy 2:3-4 it says, "Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life."

Some year's back I was in the Navy during the war. They took us to Farragut, Idaho, a place separated from the rest of the world. They kept us there and would hardly let us associate with anyone from the outside. Maybe once every two or three weeks we would get a week-end to go into Spokane, but mostly we were kept out there by ourselves where they taught us the things they wanted us to know. Why did they do this? There was a war on and we had to be trained to fight the enemy.

Suppose someone had come along and said, "This is costing too much to maintain these army and navy training stations. Why don't we take our young men and send them to Japan to be trained and then we will bring them home and let them fight?" You would say, "How foolish! They wouldn't fight the enemy if they were trained by the enemy." Yet that is exactly what people are doing with their children. They send them in large numbers to unbelievers to be trained and then wonder why more of them don't turn out to be Christian soldiers. If we are to be good warriors we must separate ourselves, or as it says in Scripture, "Be not entangled with the affairs of this life."

In II Corinthians 6:14-17 it says, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing."

"Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers." How often we have used this in regard to marriage or in regard to business. Should the same principle not hold true regarding our schools? Anyone who has been in school recognizes the close relationship between classmates, between students and teachers, and between teachers and administrators. This is one of the reasons why it is difficult for a teacher or student to testify concerning the things of Christ. The basic thinking of administrators, teachers and students is in one direction. When you insert the Gospel it is going exactly the opposite way. It is contrary to that which is being taught and seems entirely out of place. For this reason the Scriptures demand that we stand in separation if our witness is to be effective.

There is one more passage I would like to bring to your attention. In Haggai 2:11-13 it says, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No" (You see what he is asking, if you carry something holy and touch something else will it make that which we touch holy? The priest said, "No.") "Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean." This is the principle of spiritual uncleanness. If that which is holy touches something, does it make it holy? No! If that which is unclean touches something clean does it make it unclean? Yes! According to the principle of separation that we have here; if those who are unbelievers are present, do they make all unclean with their influence? Yes! If there are those present are believers do they make all holy? No!

The application to Christian education is obvious. Will your child influence others in school for Christ or will he be influence away from Christ? We know, both from Scripture and from practical experience, that the Christian is nearly always influenced away from the things of the Lord when he forsakes his separated position.


Many Christian people today seem to think that we should become involved with unbelievers in order to be a witness among them. We might call this way of thinking "witnessism" because it is taking the truth concerning Christians being witnesses and misusing it as an excuse for staying mixed up in the world. They tell us we must stay in the modernistic churches as a witness, we must stay in the public schools as a witness; but God's Word says, "Come out from among them and be ye separate."


We find in God's Word numerous illustrations showing that a witness must stand in a place of separation. One good example is Moses. If there was anyone in the Old Testament who had an opportunity to be a witness it was Moses. He was a young man with a good education and good training. He was a man with real ability. Since he was raised as the King of Egypt's daughter's son, had he chose to remain in Egypt he might some day have been the King of Egypt. Moses could have said, "Since I have all this training I should use it. I should stay here in Egypt and be a witness in the palace and perhaps all of Egypt will be won for God." But Moses knew better than that. He understood this basic principle of God's Word and so we read in Hebrews 11:24-27, "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." Moses understood and practiced the principle of separation.

Yet Moses was concerned about his witness to Egypt. When he was in the wilderness and God suggested to Moses that the children of Israel be destroyed because of their disobedience, Moses immediately pled for his people, reminding God that to destroy them would be a poor testimony to the people of Egypt. Moses was concerned about Egypt, but he knew that in order to be an effective witness he had to stand in a separate place from the Egyptians. It would have been more comfortable for him and he could have thought of himself more highly as one of the princes of Egypt than in the wilderness with a little group of God's people. But Moses chose, knowing wherein God's will la according to God's revealed World.

It is just this very matter we face in convincing people of the necessity of Christian schools. I grant that Christian schools do not have the prestige that public schools have. They don't have as fine equipment, and the teachers aren't as well paid. But we stand for God's truth and we stand in separation from the world.

One of the compromises Pharaoh offered Moses was that the adults go and worship God but leave their children in Egypt. (Exodus 10:8-11). Moses refused this compromise. The same offer is being made to us today. Satan knew then and he knows now that if he can control the children for one generation he has won a great victory. He doesn't care what we older people do because if he can control the young ones, it will just be one generation till God's witness had perished from the earth.


There are also instances in God's Word of people who believed in witnessism; that is in mingling with the world in order to be a witness to them. One of these persons was Lot. Lot was the nephew of Abraham and came with Abraham to the land of Canaan. When Abraham and Lot separated, Lot chose the nice green plain where there were two large cities. He may have thought that if he moved down to Sodom and Gomorrah he could be a witness to the people there. He evidently had some training in God's Word for he knew he shouldn't move right in and live in Sodom. We read in Genesis 13:12 that he went down and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

In Genesis 14:12 we find that he has moved into Sodom. Possibly he found that living in a tent of ugly skins and a dirt floor it was difficult to be a witness because the people of Sodom with their fine homes looked down on him. Perhaps his wife visited the Sodomite women and came home and said, "We can't be a witness with our dirt floors and our old tent. We've got to have a house." In Genesis 14:12 we find that lot and his family moved right into Sodom.

The next time we meet Lot (Genesis 19:1) he not only is living in Sodom but he is holding office. He is sitting in the gates of Sodom, signifying a place of leadership. Now he is ready to be a witness. He is the chairman of the school board and his wife is the president of the P.T.A. But we don't read of him doing much witnessing. The truth of the matter is that he has so compromised with the people of Sodom that he can't witness to them. To be a witness to the world we must not be entangled with the affairs of the world. Lot got involved in Sodom, became one of the officers, and never was able to bear witness there.

It's nice to think we can go into some ungodly organization, become active in it and then be a great influence for God. The trouble is we just aren't strong enough to do this. What really happens is that they have an influence on us. If we are going to be a real witness we must stand in a place of separation.


Some people like to think that even though they can't say much about the things of the Lord in the public school they can still be a silent witness. Not long ago a returned missionary who had worked diligently on the foreign field to establish schools for his converts, told me how he had taken a job here at home in the public school. He said he realized that he wouldn't be able to say much there concerning the things of the Lord, but he intended to be a silent witness.

Just what is a "silent witness"? Those two words don't go together very well. If you are silent you aren't a witness, and if you are a witness you aren't silent. Let's suppose you have been accused of a terrible crime. The circumstances look as though you are guilty, but there are a group of people who know you aren't and can bear witness to this fact. During the trial the witnesses are brought up and they all turn out to be "silent witnesses." Obviously they would be of little value to you as long as they are silent. A silent witness is not a witness at all. God's Word says, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so" (Psalms 107:2).

Compare this silent witnessing with the people spoken of in Hebrews 11:33-38. "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy. . ."


What kind of Christians have we become? Not long ago a Christian teacher who teaches in the public schools said to me, "Mr. Bramblet, I agree with your principles of teaching, but if I taught that way where I am I'd lose my job." Look again at the people in Hebrews 11; they not only gave up their jobs, they gave up their lives for the testimony of Christ. Yes, it's only in the Christian schools where we can teach according to God's Word! If we bear a real witness for Christ we don't have to worry about separation, for the world will separate us. If the Christian parents and teachers in the public schools really want to be a witness they can, but it will cost them something.

Suppose the teachers who are Christians would explain to their boards that they cannot teach evolution and the supremacy of man; that they cannot teach the truth and leave God and the Bible out. That would be a real witness. Yes, you might lose your jobs, but you still wouldn't have lost as much for Christ as the people in Hebrews 11.

Suppose the Christian parents, who have children in the public schools, would explain to their school boards that they will no longer tolerate teaching that leaves God out of the universe He created. I won't say that you would change the schools, but at least you would make known what God's people believe. Can't you see that you and your children aren't changing the public schools by staying quietly in them, but that rather the schools are changing you?


Believers in "witnessism" seem to think the Gospel can be slipped in when people aren't looking. This business of trying to slip in a little Christianity is not only unscriptural; it is unsuccessful. In Bible times the Gospel was declared publicly. Sometimes they whipped them and sometimes they put them in jail, but God's Word was declared. If modern Christians don't get back to a bold, separated testimony, the only Scriptural kind of testimony, we will never be able to free ourselves from the educational and spiritual bondage the world is thrusting upon us.


If we are to maintain God's testimony upon the earth, our children must be taught the basic principles of God's Word from their youth up. That doesn't mean just a devotional time in the family, and a half-hour in Sunday school class, and the rest of the time under the world's teaching. We can't bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in that short a time.

It isn't a matter of trying to have Christian schools or hoping we can have Christian schools. Christian friends, we must have Christian training for our children or God's witness shall perish from the earth! Thank God, He knows this, and is raising up Christian schools all over our land. He is speaking to the hearts of Christian parents everywhere. He is calling young men and women into the Christian school ministry. Christians who oppose the Christian schools need be careful lest they find themselves fighting against God.

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