“One of the most useful tools in the quest for power is the educational system.”[1] The implication of this statement is obvious: Whoever controls the educational system will set the goals for the nation, establish its religious values, and ultimately control the future. From Sparta and Athens to Geneva and Harvard, education has been the primary means of cultural transformation.

Christian educators learned how important education was for advancing Christian civilization. The Reformation of the sixteenth century stressed the reclamation of all of life, with education as an essential transforming force. Martin Luther in Germany (1483–1546) and John Calvin (1509–1564) in Geneva, Switzerland, did much to advance education as they worked to apply the Bible to every area of life. For these principal reformers, the outgrowth of the gospel included the redemption of all of life, not just the salvation of the soul.

The Academy of Geneva, Switzerland, founded by John Calvin in 1559, attracted students from all over Europe eager for an education that applied the Bible to all of life. The effects of the training at Geneva were far reaching: “It was not only the future of Geneva but that of other regions as well that was affected by the rise of the Geneva schools. The men who were to lead the advance of the Reformed Church in many lands were trained in Geneva classrooms, preached Geneva doctrines, and sang the Psalms to Geneva tunes.”[2] Samuel Blumenfeld writes of the impact that Christian education had on the advancing reformation:

Since the Protestant rebellion against Rome had arisen in part as a result of Biblical study and interpretation, it became obvious to Protestant leaders that if the Reform movement were to survive and flourish, widespread Biblical literacy, at all levels of society, would be absolutely necessary. The Bible was to be the moral and spiritual authority in every man’s life, and therefore an intimate knowledge of it was imperative if a new Protestant social order were to take root.[3]

In our own nation one of the first acts performed in the New World was the establishment of schools and colleges. The Virginia colony was the first to charter a college at Henrico, Virginia, in 1619, nineteen years before Harvard and seventy-four years before the College of William and Mary. Like all the colonial colleges, Henricus College was designed around the precepts of the Christian faith, “for the training and bringing up of infidels’ children to the true knowledge of God and understanding of righteousness.”[4] The New England colonial colleges were designed to further the gospel of Christ in all disciplines. The founders of these early educational institutions understood the relationship between a sound education based upon biblical absolutes and the future of the nation. Putting the Bible in the hands of the people was an essential step toward religious and political freedom. “From the very beginnings, the expressed purpose of colonial education had been to preserve society against barbarism, and, so far as possible, against sin. The inculcation of a saving truth was primarily the responsibility of the churches, but schools were necessary to protect the written means of revelation.”[5]


[1] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, [1983] 1993), 209. [2] John T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 196. [3] Samuel L. Blumenfeld, Is Public Education Necessary? (Old Greenwich, CT: Devin-Adair, 1981), 10. [4] “Funds for a College at Henrico, Virginia (1619),” in Sol Cohen, ed., Education in the United States: A Documentary History, 5 vols. (New York: Random House, 1974), 1:336. [5] Henry F. May, The Enlightenment in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 32–33.