Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Unequally yoked with the state

2 Corinthians 6: 14-15 is one of the most frequently but narrowly quoted passages in the Scriptures. We reference it (correctly) as a prohibition against Christians marrying unbelievers but I think it has far greater application for Christians than just marriage….

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Cor 6: 14-15)

It strikes me as odd that many Christians will use this passage to say that Christians shouldn’t marry unbelievers and yet many of those same Christians will partner with unbelievers to educate and raise the children that God has blessed them with and commended to their care. Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers to bring up our children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord”. How do we read that and 2 Corinthians 6: 14-15 and then turn around and partner with schools where God is denied? No right minded Christian would vote to call an atheist as an elder in their local church but plenty of Christians will elect to send their kids to public schools to be taught by one. Obviously not all teachers are atheists but every public school is atheistic by definition and many teachers are unbelievers. You don’t get to pick and choose who teaches your kids in a public school so you are left with the understanding that your children, that most precious charge you have received as a blessing from God, are certainly going to sit under the teaching of at least a few people who deny God and even in classes where the teacher is a Christian they are going to be instructed in a curriculum that denies Him. The image of unequally yoked oxen in 2 Corinthians 6: 14-15 is essentially that if you have two oxen that are going in different directions, your plowing will never get done. Being yoked with the public school system as a Christian parent is the equivalent of being yoked to an ox that is facing the opposite direction.

More on this later….

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James said...

Well, forgive me for my logical approach here, but let me give it a whirl.

I see the same thing when we send our children to 'Sunday School' while we attend services in churches...

Parents need to have time for themselves

Educators and Sunday School teachers are perfectly equipped to handle the little time they have with them

Therefore, it is acceptable to take a break from your children when provision is made for it, even when its their education at stake

Debbie said...

PS My last comment left off the grin at the end....

Debbie said...

Just so you know, I agree with you that these verses apply to this.

(There, I've commented in agreement with a post. )

Brian Rollins said...

Love this post, Arthur! I'm with you completely. As a matter of fact, if I just agreed with you on baptism, we'd be 100% eye to eye!

Thanks for the great blog. Love reading it.

Anonymous said...

Yes! One of the MANY reasons we're homeschooling our 3 blessings!


Debbie said...


Are you saying that based on Arthur's post, parents shouldn't have their children attend Sunday school?

I'm not a proponent of constantly segregating families by age, but I don't think the unequally yoked argument applies to that. It would only apply if the Sunday School (or Children's Church, or whatever) teachers were not Christians and/or not teaching scripture accurately. Of course, parents are responsible to make sure the teaching their children receive is biblical.

It would be the same for home schooling parents who choose to have their child(ren) attend home school co-op classes or use a video course. It's fine to get assistance in teaching one's children. The issue is whether the other teacher is teaching accurately from a Christian worldview.

Goblin said...

Hi Arthur
This is not going to be a popular comment, but here goes anyway!
This homeschooling stance is all well and good, but I'm sure I could make up an equally compelling arguement for not accepting any salaried job or signing any form of contract with an unbeliever. Or relying on unbelieving doctors, medics, nurses, etc. when unwell. Or accepting non-Christia programmme content on our radios or TVs. Or joining any union, professional association, society, ....
If you follow this line to its ultimate conclusion, you end up withdrawing from society altogether and living in an exclusive christian community away from all influences of the unbelievers 'out there'. But isn't this tantamount to 'hiding our light'? This, for me, is where the Amish communities wandered from Scriptural practice.
Surely we are called to be witnesses to those around us, to live as God's alternative society in front of the unbelievers around us? For me this includes the challenge of sending our children to state schools. It means you have to spend large amounts of time with your children discussing what they have been taught, what stance the school is taking on vaious issues, what their unbelieving friends say and think, etc., but that is surely of greater benefit than wrapping them in christian 'cotton wool' so they never encounter what unbelievers think, do or say? It also gives opportunity for Christian parents to become school governors (at least in the UK), assistant teachers, serve on teacher-parent associations, meet other parents at fundraising events etc. A whole host of opportunities are opened up for gospel conversations and for simply living life in front of unbelievers as a testimony to the difference that Christ makes in our lives.
I'll now run and take cover before the inevitable bombardment against what I've just said begins....

Arthur Sido said...


Those are valid questions.

A couple of points. First, I think you are partially correct. I would be very hesitant to enter into a business relationship with an unbeliever. More to the point, the idea of educating our children is an express Biblical command, given to parents. I don't see room to subcontract that out to someone else and certainly not to the secular state. Going to a physician or working for an employer or joining a professional organization are not expressly dealt with in the Bible. Raising our children is dealt with very clearly and specifically.

Second, I feel that the bigger issue in the Body is not that we are too insular, it is that we are too worldly. For most of us, myself included, our lives are pretty indistinguishable from those of unbelievers. We fit in so well that we lose our witness. There is an enormous difference between shipping our young children off to the state run school and our witness as a community of believers to the lost world.

I am all for interacting with unbelivers for the purpose of spreading the Gospel. I have no interest in turning our children over to the state to educate them for the majority of their formative years. It seems counterproductive to "undo" what they have learned all day. My kids are exposed to what the world thinks all the time, but they are exposed to it under the watchful eye and guidance of my wife, not an employee of the state that likely is not a believer.

Goblin said...

Thank you for your response - some very interesting comments.
I guess my major thought is still that, regardless of whether I agree with homeschooling or not, I would NEVER EVER 2 Cor 6:14-15 as justification. That seems to be to be 'Taking a text out of context to create a pretext' and doesn't strike me as good exegesis brother. As I tried to point out, if you take it out of context and say it applies to homeschooling, you might as well apply it to almost any other form of official interaction with unbelievers. I believe that 2 Cor 6:14-15 is talking about marriage and I would agree Arthur that I would extend it to major business relationships too.
Your more recent blog has tried to identify a difference between 'schooling' and 'education'. I can see where you are trying to go with that, although i think we all need to work through what you are saying a bit more before agreeing. what is clear is that there is a difference between child raising and shaping a childs thinking , personality, behaviour, experience, wisdom etc - which is the responsibility of Christian parents - and the impartation of specific knowledge - math, science, foreign languages, history, geography, literature, etc, etc - which, in my opinion, I as a parent cannot possibly be well trained enough to do properly.
I do not see any instructions in the Bible to suggest that I alone (or with my wife) can teach my children ALL they need to know for adult life. Yes, I am to prepare and nurture them in the knowledge of God and to 'gospel them in their thinking, their understanding, their behaviour towards others, etc., but I surely cannot possibly teach them the academic side of education/schooling to the required standard.
hugely interested in your stance on this though.

Arthur Sido said...

Goblin, what in the text or surrounding context of 2 Cor 6: 14-15 would make you apply it to marriage but not educating our kids? I would certainly agree that we may not be called to educate our kids in every single aspect of life but I certainly don't see warrant to let someone teach our kids the opposite of what we believe and what the Bible teaches.