Christian Thinking in Education

Our thoughts are gateways into our souls and so what we think is a clear reflection of who we truly are. If those thoughts are only worth pennies, then surely we have paid the price for being apathetic in our thinking. The necessity of deep thought within Christendom and more specifically within Christian education is immense. Because of this tremendous topic it will be helpful to examine multiple aspects.

The Significance of Salvation (1 Corinthians 2:6-16)

Discerning spiritual truth is impossible for unbelievers. The force which liberates the mind to consider eternal realities is none other than the gospel itself. The blood bought redemption which we have in Christ also renews our minds and enables us to discern the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). The scope of salvation, in relationship to thought, is vast because the work of Christ imputed to the sinful mind completely transforms it. This doesn’t mean that upon salvation people are immediately scholars for Christ; however, it does mean that entirely different realms of thought are born and a process of maturing begins.

What implications does salvation’s significance have upon Christian Education? First, the term “Christian education” seems to indicate that the those being educated are in fact “Christian”. This is not always the case since unbelievers do attend institutions of Christian education for various reasons. However, the emphasis on educating believers also defines the focus of this ministry not as primarily evangelizing students. This is not meant to say that the gospel is pushed aside, believers need the gospel, but that instruction is given on the basis that the gospel has been embraced.

Second, teaching primarily converted students also impacts the philosophy of educators in all areas of their practice. Every subject must be taught in relation to Christ and from a Christian worldview. Furthermore, this means that each policy, procedure, teaching strategy, classroom management style and instructional method must be biblically considered.

Great consideration must be given to understanding the primary focus of Christian education and developing a systematic method for carrying out a biblically faithful, God-centered, grace-saturated learning environment. Despite the presumption (this term is not meant in a negative sense) of  believers in the classroom, the importance of God alone granting understanding and wisdom must be embraced.

Compartmentalization  Chaos

Our hearts and minds are divided even though they were created to know and worship the one true God. The contributing factors to this fragmented state include: hectic schedules, a jumble of philosophies and a raging battle between the laws of mind and sin (Romans 7:7-25). An all-encompassing Christian worldview is in desperate need of recovery in American Christianity and is a pillar for Christian education.

Christian schools can easily fall prey to compartmentalizing Christ. By viewing the school as essentially the same as all other learning institutions with the exception of prayer, chapel and Bible class, distinction dies and divine effectiveness with it. If math, science, history, art, soccer, tennis, football, lunch, testing, studying and clubs are all isolated from Christ then we have compromised the foundation of our calling. Putting Christ inside a box (chapel, prayer, Bible class) makes us guilty of failing to think outside the box ourselves. Douglas Wilson offers timely words to help us avoid the chaos of compartmentalization.

God graciously called me out of my academic futility. I now teach in a Christian school where Christ is acknowledged as Lord in every area of study. In that capacity I have seen a tremendous need for both teachers and students to beware of slipping into unbiblical patterns of thought—even in Christian schools. Scripture clearly states how this is to be done—by “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This includes every mathematical thought, every historical thought, every artistic thought—every thought.” (Douglas Wilson – The Lost Tools of Learning)

Christian Excellence in Thinking

What does it mean to love God with all your mind? We think thoughts that glorify God in every area of our lives. This is God’s command. This is war.

In order for us to demonstrate Christian excellence in thinking we must be willing to fight. We must fight the sin that lurks within us and we must fight the apathy towards thought that our culture has displayed. In, The Lost Tools of Learning, Douglas Wilson shares a critique of our intentionally tepid minds.

In modern America, the fast-food mentality has penetrated the realm of the mind. The modern student has a mind full of McThoughts. Information comes to him processed and prepackaged, and he does his duty as a consumer. This does not mean that intellectual activity has disappeared, but having your mind full of mental “stuff” is not the same thing as thinking. This problem did not just arrive a few years ago; insightful people have seen it coming for sometime now. In 1947, Dorothy Sayers, a clear-thinking classicist, lamented lack of true thought: “… do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?” She goes on: “… although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think….They learn everything except the art of learning.”

Excellent thinking for Christ is essentially growing in love for Christ. There are several ways we can wage war and mature in our thoughts.

  1. Be saturated with God’s word (Read, meditate and memorize)
  2. Pray for wisdom not just knowledge
  3. Actively seek to unite your mind in relation to Christ (de-compartmentalize all the “life-categories” and academic subjects)
  4. Don’t buy the lie that in-depth thinking undoes faith
  5. Engage in challenging your mind with other believers (Bible studies, theological discussions and rich fellowship)
  6. Read great Christian thinkers of the past (Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis and tons more)
  7. Repent of apathy in Christian thought and fight the sins that prevent excellence in thinking

Christ is worthy of more than “McThoughts”. He deserves thoughts of worship and demands loving minds. Thinking is the initial act in glorifying God as we can only rejoice in what we truly know.

Thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God. Thinking is not an end in itself. Nothing but God himself is finally an end in itself. Thinking is not the goal of life. Thinking, like non-thinking, can be the ground for boasting. Thinking, without prayer, without the Holy Spirit, without obedience, without love, will puff up and destroy (1 Cor. 8:1). But thinking under the mighty hand of God, thinking soaked in prayer, thinking carried by the Holy Spirit, thinking tethered to the Bible, thinking in pursuit of more reasons to praise and proclaim the glories of God, thinking in the service of love – such thinking is indispensable in a life of fullest praise to God.” (Think by John Piper)

Education for Christ has to be thoroughly thought through. Such thoughts can only come after salvation, in unity with Christ and through dedication to excellence.

So what do you think?

The next post in this series will be titled “Pragmatic Junkies”.

A few suggested resources:

  • Think by John Piper
  • Think Biblically! by John MacArthur with The Master’s College Faculty
  • Created to Learn by William R. Yount
  • Anything by Jonathan Edwards

4 Comments on “Christian Thinking in Education

  1. Should we assume that students in Christian education? It seems to me that since one goal of Christian education is to teach student to think and act Christianity, we should assume that they do not know what that means. Therefore, Christian educators must help students discover that, even as the educator discovers it (the “follow me as I follow Christ” method). Christian education should teach the gospel since the fact of Christ dying for my sins and rising from the dead has implications far beyond an escape from eternal damnation. The good news is hope for the world and the promise of a redeemed creation. Christian educators should teach their student how to embrace their part in that redemption (we are the body of Christ-the redeemer-after all).

    • A few things:
      1. Thanks for reading.
      2. I agree with your comment and it has helped me think through my wording.
      3. My intention was not to say that in “assuming” that Christian education is primarily for Christians that we should diminish the gospel in the lives of believers. The gospel is vital to us in every facet and at every point in our lives.
      4. My intention was to point out that while unbelievers do attend institutions of Christian education those institutions have to understand that they can’t completely base their program on evangelizing the lost. Such an emphasis would cause an imbalance between the role of churches, Christian schools and parents. Of course we do take part in evangelism, but the Christian school has to understand its part in coordination with God’s means of evangelism, the church.
      5. I rejoice with you brother in the glorious gospel through which we find redemption and through which we educate students to live in light of that gospel!

  2. Pingback: Christian Education | www.mcdunn85.com

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