The first two posts in this series, Educational Paradigms and Christian Thinking, set the stage for discussing a rising danger within Christianity and Christian education. After addressing the issues raised in those posts, I’d like to take a more concentrated look at a potential pitfall. A great temptation in our American culture is to view and use ideas as a means to our expedited ends. R.C. Sproul, one of my favorite theologians, has pointed out that ideas have consequences. The results of thinking poorly about Christ, culture, and the classroom can be devastating. Alfie Kohn, in Punished by Rewards, sends a stark warning against letting ideas reign over us.
There is a time to admire the grace and persuasive power of an influential idea, and there is a time to fear its hold over us. The time to worry is when the idea is so widely shared that we no longer even notice it, when it is so deeply rooted that it feels to us like plain common sense. At the point when objections are not answered anymore because they are no longer even raised, we are not in control: we do not have the idea; it has us.”
One such “idea” is actually an outlook that shapes all our ideas. Pragmatism might be defined as a philosophical outlook which emphasizes practicality over principles. A pragmatist is interested in what works and allows what works to shape belief, conviction, and action. Biblically examining this system of thought can help identify the dangers and curb our addiction to “results”.
The assumption that here and now is the pinnacle of our existence and that immediate results are the epitome of success is the antithesis to the Apostle Paul’s worldview.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)
Paul is arguing here that our supreme hope is in the resurrection of Christ and our future resurrection. Our obsession with comfort, profit, prosperity and instant positive outcomes seems to be in conflict with the risky and eternally focused Christianity that Paul advocated and Christ preached. Christ repeatedly called us to sacrifice in this life in order to impact eternity. (Luke 9:24, John 12:25, Luke 14:25-33, Matthew 6:19-33)
So, in what ways are we pragmatic junkies and how does this relate to Christian education?
- We are pragmatic junkies when we fail to develop a philosophy of education that is grounded in biblical truth.
- We are pragmatic junkies when we search for instant results with issues that arise without considering long-term and eternal consequences.
- We are pragmatic junkies when we adopt strategies of education that parallel secular education because its easier than thinking about, writing, and implementing distinctly Christian strategies.
- We are pragmatic junkies when we fail to guide students into thinking globally and biblically in all areas of study.
- We are pragmatic junkies when we live and teach comfortably at the expense of eternity.
- We are pragmatic junkies when we settle for modifying a students behavior instead of seeking to see them transformed.
The implications of being a pragmatic junkie span much further than just Christian education. Christian ministry and the Christian life in general are just as susceptible to the clever traps which may sound and even look good at first. However, as believers we can’t settle for such short-term thinking and goals. Our high calling is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We cannot omit “forever” from the scope of our thought, actions, ministries or educational practices. To do so may result in an immediate (though temporary) and visible success, but undermine the eternal and invisible will of God.
Pragmatic junkies have to be weaned from listless acceptance of ideas and find their minds captivated by the truths of an infinitely wise God. Once addiction to immediacy has waned, then love for eternity and how that intersects with today can begin.
In what other ways might we be considered pragmatic junkies? Share your thoughts.
- Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn
- Brothers, We are Not Professionals by John Piper
- Giving Up Gimmicks “Reclaiming Youth Ministry From an Entertainment Culture” by Brian H. Cosby
- The Consequences of Ideas by R.C. Sproul
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.
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.
- Be saturated with God’s word (Read, meditate and memorize)
- Pray for wisdom not just knowledge
- Actively seek to unite your mind in relation to Christ (de-compartmentalize all the “life-categories” and academic subjects)
- Don’t buy the lie that in-depth thinking undoes faith
- Engage in challenging your mind with other believers (Bible studies, theological discussions and rich fellowship)
- Read great Christian thinkers of the past (Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis and tons more)
- 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
God’s promises are a reflection of His character and you can be sure that they will come to pass. But how are we to believe this when the promises of God work over years instead of days or even go beyond our lifetime? I’d like to explore this topic with two lenses. First, I’d like to use a narrow lens to examine the life of Moses and how this was a reality to him. Second, I’d like to use a wide lens to see some overarching biblical truths that can impact the way we think about the promises of God. To put it another way, I would like to create an overarching biographical sketch of Moses in an attempt to catch a glimpse of God’s glorious ways and then connect that to our lives.
*I’d like to give credit to Ligon Duncan who inspired this message with a parallel message at T4G 2012.
I. Narrow View (The Life of Moses)
- In Exodus 2, we see Gods preparing Moses for His covenant keeping plans for the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
- In Exodus 3, Moses fears God’s presence in the burning bush, learns God’s name and is commissioned as an agent of covenant keeping grace.
- In Exodus 7-14, God displays His might through the plagues and delivers the children of Israel from slavery in the crossing of the Red Sea.
- In Exodus 15, Moses and the people sing a song of praise to God for their deliverance.
- Exodus 16 begins the grumbling of the Israelites.
- Exodus 17 shows us the first instance of Moses being used of God to give the people water from the Rock.
- (Read Exodus 33:12-23)In Exodus 33 Moses intercedes for the people, requests to see the glory of God and catches a glimpse of His backside.
- What God says matters. God commanded that the rock be spoken to and Moses’ disobedience was a disregard for God’s holiness (Numbers 20)
- In Deuteronomy 3:23-29, Moses is forbidden to enter the Promised Land.
A. What do we learn about God from these glimpses into Moses’ life?
1. God’s plan is bigger than our minds can grasp. This is clear in Exodus 2 and 3 where God’s hand is seen in preserving and preparing Moses to be an instrument in keeping His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
2. God is powerful and displays His sovereignty in accomplishing His will. God’s might is put on display as the plagues devastate Egypt in Exodus 7-14. His hand is seen as powerful and His promise will be fulfilled for the sake of His own name.
3. God values His name and Holiness. (Read Psalm 106:6-33)
- In Psalm 106, we have an overview, of sorts, of Israel’s cycle of sin in the wilderness. Verses 6-13 shows us that God moves in power to keep His covenant for the sake of His name and glory. (Verse 8 specifically)
- In Numbers 20:10-13, we see the reason behind God’s discipline of Moses and Aaron for their disobedience. His Holiness being upheld was of utmost importance and He was shown as holy, which is evident in verse 13.
4. God works in ways we don’t understand. We probably have a hard time understanding why Moses was prohibited from entering the Promised Land after he had faithfully served God all those years through the tantrums and trials of the Israelites. However, the answer lies in what we have already discovered. God values His name and Holiness and therefore must not permit Moses’ disregard for His name to go unanswered.
I’d like for us to consider Romans 9, which fits into our examination of Moses’ life and the nature of God and illustrate each of these four points within that text at work. (Read Romans 9:14-23)
- Romans 9:14-15 follows Paul’s recalling of God’s faithfulness in keeping covenant with Abraham and his lineage and the seeming injustice of choosing Jacob over Esau. In Romans 9:14-15 the question of God’s injustice is put to rest and we are reminded of God’s words to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” God’s plan is bigger than our minds can grasp.
- Romans 9:16-18 shows us God’s dealing with Pharaoh, teaches us that God is powerful and displays His sovereignty in accomplishing His will. We further see His purpose in dealing with Pharaoh as He did. He dealt with Pharaoh in this way so that He could show His power and that His name might be proclaimed in all the Earth.
- Romans 9:19-23 shows us the objection that Paul knew we, as humans, would have to hearing about this kind of God and teaches us that God works in ways we don’t understand.
B. What do we learn about humanity from these glimpses into Moses’ life?
1. We are limited
2. We are prone to wonder (even though we know the truth)
II. Wide View (Biblical Implications)
A. God’s timing does not undermine His faithfulness
God’s covenant with Abraham was renewed through Isaac and then through Jacob yet approximately four hundred years passes by between God’s speaking to Jacob in Genesis 28:10-22 and Moses’ commission at the burning bush in Exodus 3.
What have you prayed and longed for (perhaps even so in righteous longing) for years and it just seems as if God has turned His face away? God’s timing does not undermine His faithfulness.
B. God’s promises being fulfilled does not always mean our wants are fulfilled
Moses’ great desire was to see God’s glory. We know this from his request in Exodus 33:17-19. Moses desired to see God’s glory take the children into the Promised Land but as we see in Deuteronomy 3:23-27, he was not allowed.
What are your deepest desires? What are your dreams? Have they been left unfulfilled? What are your discouragements? Have they been left uncomforted? There are so many things we need for God to work into our lives right here. As Ligon Duncan shared in his message, The Underestimated God, “we must remember that whenever a voice comes to tell us that we should have all we desire and that we should have it now…that voice comes with a hiss.” Furthermore, we must trust that God’s working in our lives is always about what will benefit us for eternity not necessarily what will benefit us now. (This connects to the first point)
C. The way God fulfills His promises is often foreign to us
Either through timing or tragedy we all have those areas of our lives in which we just don’t understand what is going on or why. Let your guard down and be willing to confess that there is something in your life that you and God just haven’t come to terms with. Is it a ministry that isn’t successful by your definition? Is it a child who has gone wayward? Is it a marriage that is falling apart? Is it a tragedy you have yet to process? What Promised Land have you been denied?
So where does all of this leave Moses and us?
- It leaves Moses in Heaven speaking to the Transfigured Jesus about His upcoming departure. (Read Luke 9:28-35) Just think about that for a moment and ask yourself are God’s ways not best.
- It leaves us in the hands of a good God, with a timeless perspective, plans for our eternal good and all of His omnipotence at work to carry us along with Him.
Kendal Payne ~ Aslan
Don’t stop your crying on my account
A frightening lion, no doubt
He’s not safe, no he’s not safe
Are you tempted now to run away?
The King above all Kings is coming down
But He won’t say the words you wish that he would
Oh, he don’t do the deeds you know that He could
He won’t think the thoughts you think He should
But He is good, He is good
I know you’re thirsty, the water is free
But I should warn you, it costs everything
Well, He’s not fair, no He’s not fair
When He fixes what’s beyond repair
And graces everyone that don’t deserve
Lay down your layers, shed off your skin
But without His incision, you can’t enter in
He cuts deep, yeah He cuts deep
When the risk is great and the talk is cheap
But never leaves a wounded one behind
But He won’t say the words you wish that he would
Oh, he don’t do the deeds you know that He could
He won’t think the thoughts you think He should
But He is good, He is good”
How can you bring a message like this to a close? It may seem that I have raised more questions than I have given answers. But one thing I’d like to highlight is that we weren’t meant to have all the answers. So, I’d like to go back to the title of this message. When promises are fulfilled in God’s time and in God’s way there are several things that can bring us hope and strengthen our faith.
When promises are fulfilled in God’s time and in God’s way:
- A Man named Moses looks at the transfigured Christ about to fulfill the prophecies that made him a foreshadowing of the Savior and has to have an entirely new view on what “the promised land” is.
- A man named Jesus comes into the world and is hoped to free the nation of Israel from the tyranny of Roman oppressors as a conquering king. Instead, He arrives in meekness as a baby, dies in obedience on a cross and rescues sinners from the tyranny of sin as a humble servant sacrifice.
Cheer Up Church ~ Charlie Peacock
It’s just like God to make a hero from a sinner
It’s just like God to choose the loser, not the winner
It’s just like God to tell a story through the weak
To let the Gospel speak through the life of a man
Who’ll be the first to say
Cheer up, Church
You’re worse off than you think
Cheer up, Church
You’re standing at the brink
Do not fear
Grace is near”
There are just a few thoughts I’d like to leave us with as we conclude:
If you feel God has let you down, then examine your heart and see if you are disappointed because He has broken His promises or because your view of His promises is broken. Know that His promises are true, His timing is right and His plan is good.
When we misunderstand the promises of God we misunderstand the character of God. When we make God’s promises all about our wants, we make God a genie in a bottle. When we make God’s promises dependent on our time frame, we ascribe to God limited perspective and power. Let the word of God instruct you on His character and let that shape your life. Let your faith in His faithfulness be strengthened.
The ultimate promise of the Gospel is also the ultimate resolution to all our true needs. Whatever our pain, disappointment or desire, the greatest promise made and fulfilled on our behalf is that which was prophesied in antiquity and fulfilled at Calvary. The gospel is ultimately all the promises of God fulfilled in Christ.
Something deep within me has been awakening. My philosophical and theological persona has started to thirst for the incarnation of Christ’s love. I must confess, in my sinfulness, that I am prone to prefer thinking deeply to loving deeply. However, I am called to do both for the glory of God.
God has been putting His finger on this part of my soul at equal intervals but lately it seems to have intensified. The biggest area that I feel His guidance is my concern for the hurt and need in others around me. How self-absorbed am I to always demand my plan, my schedule and my way at the cost of neglecting those hurting all around me? People are crying, empty and dying. They need grace, joy and a Savior. I suppose there are two conversations that God used to rouse me from my bookish complacency.
The first conversation was while I was at The Cove (The Billy Graham Training Center) and had the chance to befriend a bus driver from Maryland. He spoke passionately about his Lord, his work and his ministry. Each of those pieces in his life were connected and he drove home for me the beauty of God’s work through all of us. I remember his profound explanation of what he did: “I’m the first person those kids see in the morning and the last person they see before going home. I get to show them the love of Christ, that’s my gift.” He was a short man yet his stature in Christ was evident. He walked with a limp but his walk with the Lord was edifying to me. I wonder if I had encountered him under different circumstances how I would have perceived him. Would I have seen him as a partner in the ministry of the gospel? Would I have respected him for standing tall and walking steadfastly? Would I have connected to this stranger if it weren’t for meal time on the retreat?
Conversation number two began to crystallize what God was trying to impress on my heart. I am a stubborn person and need God to sovereignly thump me in the back of the head from time to time. I was somewhat hesitant to attend a barbecue where I would know nobody except my girlfriend. However, after arriving I met a remarkable man. As we sat out in the sun, I sipped an ice-cold coke and he sipped an ice-cold light beer. He spoke of his career, his health and his wrestling with God about ministry. He was sixty-five years old and had been “under the knife” (his words) four times in the past three years. I was able to share how God called me into the ministry and how the gospel needs ministers not just behind a pulpit but in every facet of our society. He was older than me by forty years yet he had a youthful exuberance tempered with wisdom. I’m glad I went to the cookout.
These conversations were only isolated events at first; important but not yet connected in my soul. On the way to church one Wednesday evening, in the week that followed the last conversation, I plugged in Sara Groves newest album, “Invisible Empires”. When I got to track number two, I felt God connecting the dots of these two conversations and several other aspects of my life. A few of the lines in the song get at the heart of our connection with strangers.
Are you and I an apparition
Flickering up on the screen
Sending out our best transmissions
Waiting in our velveteen
Tell me you can really see me
It’s hard to feel disqualified
For living in a different time
As if the train will only stop
For the current paradigm
And you don’t know where we are
Are we passing through these wires
Are we walking through the streets
Of invisible empires”
So what picture do the connected dots create? An image of Christ will eventually surface; however, I think God is going to pencil in a few more dots and help me connect them as the years go by. But there are a few “dots” I’d like to share.
- We have a tendency to be very connected online and to have a condescending outlook towards people who haven’t caught up to the technology. However, conversations in person are usually more edifying and helpful. Who can you talk to face to face instead of through texting, Facebook, email etc…?
- Our current “youth culture” seems to have lost respect for the senior citizens of our society. How often have we lost the opportunity to learn, grow and encourage because we look past someone outside our age bracket?
- Recognizing what gifts God has given others helps us take our eyes off ourselves and marvel at God’s wisdom in using His children. We all have a part to play.
- A prevailing cynicism hangs over our society and it has even permeated the church. We can easily write everyone off as a lazy freeloader and fail to see them as a person in need of Christ and perhaps in need of help (encouragement, food, prayer, resources or time).
I encourage you to listen to Sara Groves explanation of her song “obsolete” and then listen to the song itself.
Seek ways to actively step out of your comfort zone. Strike up a random conversation. Make a personal visit instead of sending a text. Have a cookout and invite people you don’t normally see or perhaps even know. Learn from those who are older and wiser. Don’t miss the blessing because it didn’t come in the package you were expecting. When we connect to strangers God is often connecting the dots in our lives. So, what “dots” can you share? Leave a few in the comment section.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”
The simple truth of the gospel of Christ is essential not only for the unsaved but also for believers. When people embrace the fact that Christ has died for their sins and that He rose from the dead, they embrace a truth that can save their souls and draw them closer to God on a daily basis. But, has this simple truth been abandoned by the culture of the church today?
For every innovation of ministry we must be constantly reminded of the sufficiency of the Cross. A question comes to my mind each time I contemplate new strategies and methods of reaching out to the lost and those who need discipleship. It is a question asked from the perspective of God and it should haunt us to think that we may be denying the power of the gospel. I imagine the father in heaven looking down on all our strategies and plans, being pleased with the motivation of reaching those who need Him so desperately, but being amazed at how often we allow our methods to intefere with the simplicity of the message. As we make every effort to make things exciting I suppose God’s question might be, “Am I not exciting enough?” As we add to the proclamation of His word I think God might ask, “Is my word not enough?” As we attempt to make everything practical even if not biblical, I envision the father looking down with tear stained eyes and a jealous heart and asking, “Am I not enough?”.
Perhaps we need to be bold and engaging in how we present the simple truths of God, but it might also be true that the simple truths of God are bold and engaging and our hearts have been tainted by the pragmatism of our culture. Others may trust in the methodology of man, but I am continuously convicted that God IS enough.
In order to successfully evaluate the paradigms of education, secular and Christian in particular, you have to admit your initial bias. We are all subject to patterns of thinking from centuries and decades ago even though those patterns are not at the forefront of our minds. With that being said, I have to admit at the beginning of this post that I am engulfed in a developing worldview that holds the Bible as the ultimate authority to all philosophical, psychological and sociological aspects of any educational system. It is important to emphasize that I hold a developing worldview because this brings to light that: 1) I have not always had this worldview (before coming to faith in Christ) and 2) I understand that my worldview is growing along with my relationship with God. Since I have admitted my bias and intend to argue from that point of view, I only ask that you identify yours and be open-minded.
An initial question which must be answered once bias has been conceded is, should Christianity impact every facet of society at large and our personal lives? If the answer to that question is yes, then the stage is set for our conversation to begin. The worldview of a Christian educator is distinctly different from the worldview of a non-Christian educator and therefore the paradigms of education itself are also different. Let’s examine a few of the prevailing aspects of education and the subsequent implications of worldview upon them.
Perhaps one of the most prevailing notions in discussing education in America is pursuing the American dream. In this line of thought, education is a tool which is given to students so they can pursue what American values deem successful. A few of the goals a student might be able to better pursue through obtaining an education include: their future ambitions, better paying jobs and a life of comfort and ease. However, the pursuit of these goals must be scrutinized with the teachings of scripture and evaluated as potential goals of Christian education. Does Christian teaching align with the pursuit of the American dream and its educational implications? It is important to find balance as that question is answered. As Christians we are called to follow God’s will and abandon our own ambitions, to live lives of love toward God and our fellow-man (with great caution given to our love of money) and to take up our crosses in pursuit of God and His ways. The stark contrast between the values of our public educational system and the values of Christian teaching help us to ask difficult questions about our view of education. Certainly we are not called to be cynical, unpatriotic or condescending towards America in general or the educational system it espouses; however, believers must be willing to judge the prevailing philosophies of our time against the timeless truths of eternity.
Beyond the American dream and its effects on education are the philosophical ideas that impact our practical approaches to education. We need to think deeply about what we do in the classroom and what those actions are actually teaching our students about God, His word and the Christian life. For example, if we are eager advocates of incentives in our classrooms, have we considered that excessive rewards might actually encourage students to become apathetic towards the act of learning? By organizing our classrooms for short-term results through rewarding performance, it is possible to teach students that learning itself is not a valuable pursuit. Does scripture support this? Is God honored through students who perform habitual acts of academics for a sticker or a lollipop? I can’t presume to answer these questions for you. However, they are worth thinking through because God is worthy of a well thought out philosophy of Christian education.
Another crucial part of education is the worldview of the educator. Posing a few questions in the form of opposing views can help us understand the differences and begin thinking about the practical effects.
- Are students seen as sinners in need of a savior or as essentially good people in need of academic enlightenment?
- Are teachers viewed as eternally responsible for that which they teach or as those accountable only to administrative teams?
- Is truth relative to teacher and student discretion or is it timeless and tied to scripture?
- Can all subjects be seen in light of Christ and His teachings or is teaching specifically designed to be devoid of Christ?
The answers to these questions raise countless more issues. As Christian educators these are issues we must be willing to think through. What other questions could you raise in order to assess the differences in worldview and educational practices?
So, what distinguishes Christian education from education in general? Everything. While the limitations of this short post can by no means tackle this topic, I hope that it has raised questions that stir ones mind to think biblically about every facet of education. Thinking is the topic of the next post in this series and it has tremendous implications as well. Let me leave you with a profound quote and some recommended resources.
Sorta Christian Academy does not recognize the profound difference between a Christian school and a Christian church. The Christian school does not exist in order to conduct worship services, act as a mission agency, provide a mentoring and discipleship program for zealous young students, etc. The Christian school is not a church, or parachurch organization.
Sorta Christian Academy does not understand the fundamental antithesis between Christian culture and unbelieving culture. Consequently, most classes are taught in just the way they are taught in the government schools. The Christian element is “added” by means of a Bible class or chapel, as though God’s truth were some kind of condiment to spice up the autonomous food served up at the government schools. Thus, in most classes, the antithesis between light and dark is muddled. Does two and two make four whether God exists or not? When the average Christian cannot tell the answer, it is tragic; when the average teacher at a Christian school cannot tell you, it is inexcusable.
Sorta Christian Academy sees itself as a little sister of the government schools not really grown up yet. So, hat in hand, Sorta has asked some government-approved agency to come in and accredit its program. But if the government’s seal of approval were all that valuable, there would not be a market for private Christian schools in the first place. Nevertheless, because there is no biblical vision at Sorta, success is consequently measured by money, enrollment, buildings, basketball programs, and other things not essential for true education. Sorta is well on the way to finding out that accredited schools are, in principle, controlled schools – sitting in the governments lap, and fed from a can.” (Repairing the Ruins – Douglas Wilson)
- Foundational Issues in Christian Education – Robert W. Pazmino
- Kingdom Education – Glen Schultz
- Repairing the Ruins – Douglas Wilson
- Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education
- Making the Connections : How to Put Biblical Worldview Integration into Practice – Don Johnson & Christian Overman
- Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plan’s, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes – Alfie Kohn (This is not from a Christian perspective but poses intriguing questions and calls for questioning our thinking)
- Philosophy & Education: an introduction in Christian Perspective – George R. Knight
- Orations on Philosophy and Education – Philip Melanchton (Melanchton was a contemporary of Martin Luther)
- A Theology for Christian Education – James R. Estep Jr., Michael J. Anthony and Greg R. Allison
Upon arriving at the cove I already had a sense that God was moving in my life. With a greeting from the Pilgrim’s Inn attendant and dinner shortly after, my stay here began with hospitality and fellowship. Several things have been pressed upon my heart so far. I’ll begin with a quote from George Mueller in the book I was given at check-in.
The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. The first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except if we take food, and this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. Now what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and here again not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts”
So what has God been pressing in on my heart?
- The importance of Christian fellowship. The times around the table at breakfast, lunch and supper have been extremely edifying. (Also, extremely edible…every meal has been gourmet and delectable) It is incredibly encouraging to hear what God is doing in various people, ministries and places around the world. God reminded me to listen to Him through His people because He has not created me to be a lone ranger. One of the areas of my life which needs strengthening is the cultivation of strong gospel friendships.
- I was overwhelmed at the legacy of simple gospel proclamation. As I walked around and observed the history of Billy Graham’s life and ministry, I was gripped with a sense of significance that transcended me, the ministry or any man.
- The sweetness of meditation must never be lost to us. Having a focused time of reading, pondering, applying and praying over the Bible is one of the most fundamental disciplines of the Christian life. We NEVER outgrow this need and I pray we never lose our love of it. (Psalm 119)
- God is still working on me. He has exposed so many areas of my life in which He is calling me to deeper faithfulness to His commands. Sanctification is a lifelong process whereby God almighty brings us into further conformity with His character and commands. Thankfully, He has given us His word and the Holy Spirit to guide us in this journey.
What distinguishes Christian education from education in general? This is a question which is easily posed and less easily answered. The gulf between the two realms of educational practice, Christian and secular, is vast and multi-faceted. Because of this great divide and diversity, I am going to undertake a series of posts which explore the differences in various ways.
The breakdown of these posts will be as follows:
- Educational Paradigms
- Christian Thinking
- Pragmatic Junkies
The posts will include thoughts as well as recommendations for resources that correspond. They will serve as brief glimpses from a larger project called “The Tension of Thought”. I’d like to officially open this series with one of my favorite quotes relating to this topic.
Like it or not, true biblical education over time will always result in a division between those Christians who build their cultural endeavors on a biblical foundation and who will prosper under God’s cultural blessing, and those Christians who do not, and who remain in the cultural ghetto typified by a modern Christian merchandise shop. We once built great cathedrals; now we throw gospel Frisbees ~ Douglas Wilson – Repairing the Ruins
While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.”
Expectations are funny things. They change as our experiences and surroundings change. In fact, our lives might be viewed as a series of unmet, met or changed expectations. When our expectations are satisfied we tend to be content and walk away feeling that we have firmer footing whenever that situation comes around again. When our expectations are disappointed our hearts sink and we react in fear. Our perception of how things will unfold is unfortunately often based upon a combination of our personalities and past experiences. Are we skeptical control freaks or passive participants?
In the passage above, those around Jesus did not expect Him to be able to raise the girl to life again. Nevertheless, the girl’s spirit returned and she got up at once. This forces me to look within my own heart and mind to determine where my expectations of Christ are mistaken. How have I underestimated the power of my Savior? How have you?
In Luke chapter 7, John the Baptist asks the question (speaking of Christ), “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” He asked this question in prison and having his own expectations of a messiah who was a conquering king challenged by a humble savior. Could the man who was ordained before birth to prepare the way for the lamb of God and who stood in the Jordan river when the father pronounced His pleasure in His son truly ask this question? He did. What events in my own life have left me wondering if there really is a God? If you’re honest, you have found yourself wondering the same thing.
Either way, the point is that our expectations are never an accurate indication of God’s power, God’s moving or God’s plan. If He fails to meet our expectations then our expectations were wrong. If He exceeds our expectations, then our faith was too small. Expectations are funny things.
1. What are your expectations of God?
2. How are they formed or changed?
3. In what areas do your expectations reveal that you have too little faith?