The word “relevant,” in regards to Christianity in general, is not a very popular word among many Christians. Our first thoughts include something along the lines of making The Faith “cool” to our culture, or in some means compromising to try and lure unbelievers to join our “cult.” This stigma also seeps into our thinking about Christian education as we press the importance of the old books, old methods, classics, etc.
However, we shouldn’t be so quick to despise, “relevance,” but instead see it from a biblical perspective. In fact, when it comes to relevance there are two factors: 1. A changing world and 2. An unchanging God. The Bible gives us a foundational truth about our triune God:
“I am the LORD, I change not..” (Malachi 3:6)
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8)
Because our God and His Word is unchanging, it should be the standard by which man and his problems change and develop. Therefore, as we think about Christian Education, it should be relevant to a changing world, precisely because there is an absolute standard by which to critique it.
The dominion mandate is for man to fill the earth and subdue it, and surely it is important for our children’s education to be relevant to the world around them. And that relevance has an unchanging God by which to critique it and differentiate.
On the other hand, the unbelieving culture and educational system has no standard. Humanism is at its core a relativistic faith and change is ultimate. No real progress can be made because there is no static standard by which to critique itself. “Without an absolute law, all things are relative and equal, equally important and at the same time equally meaningless” (R.J. Rushdoony).
So what does this mean practically in regards to Christian education? Rushdoony put it this way (note this was written in 1981):
The static nature of the curriculum is apparent in language studies, which are still geared to an absolute world. Latin was once the language of scholarship and an international language; its only value now is to historians and classical scholarship. Greek and Hebrew are important to a Christian society, but basically only to the Biblical scholarship of that society. German and to a degree French are of value to potential historians, and to the limited few who travel extensively, but to few others. The influence of politics has led to some stress on Russian and Chinese, but a wiser, economic perspective would stress Japanese, for Japan is today the world’s second greatest industrial power. The potential development of Brazil might be important to curriculum makers and merits consideration. Briefly, foreign studies need to be geared to reality, not the past.
Similarly, in mathematics, much of the curriculum is important to future mathematicians, not to the overwhelming majority of peoples. Mathematics should be geared more to management, accounting, and a variety of practical needs of the modern world. Such a revision of the curriculum would actually require upgrading the content of the mathematics curriculum rather than a cheapening of it.
In literature, not the craft of the writer but the expressions of ideas, faiths, and cultures merits serious attention and is most needed by the student.
The Bible and Biblical law are basic to any sound curriculum and cannot be excluded without inviting educational anarchy.
Economics is a basic requirement of every sound curriculum and should be a thorough analysis of theory and practice.
In a time of national debt (personally and nationally) how important is it to teach money management? Accounting? With our massive welfare state, how important is it to teach sound, relevant economics? With talk of thousands of refugees coming into the country, why not teach our children one of these languages instead languages most of us have learned? Our Christian curriculums, especially homeschooling, do not have to be geared as if everyone needs to know everything about every field, including those things which are irrelevant. Much of the curriculum can be specified to help students take dominion and teach the nations (Matthew 28:18-20) in our present days. God has not changed, but man and his problems continually change.
“The sound curriculum will be the relevant curriculum, and relevancy requires two factors, a world of absolutes, and a world of change. It is not enough to hold to God’s absolutes: they must be continually and freshly related to the changing times” (Rushdoony).