It's easy to see how the word “Christian” connects with the spiritual formation that takes place in our churches through kids and youth ministry, Sunday School and discipleship programs, or even through ministerial formation at seminaries and Bible colleges. But how does “Christian” connect with regular education? The one that teaches us to read, write and do mathematical calculations? The one that helps us understand our geographical, historical and cultural context, and develop dexterity and creativity? Does this kind of education also matter to God?
Education is at the heart of what God wants for His people and for all humanity. Both the Old and New Testaments insist that the new generations of God's people need to assimilate and live according to “the words of the LORD” and the “teaching of the apostles.” We can even say that the Bible itself arose from this educational concern, both on the part of its human authors and its divine Author. After all, historical events and laws were recorded, sermons were written, poems and sayings were compiled, letters were sent and visions were registered. All this because Moses, Jeremiah, David, Paul and John (among others) wanted to teach us. For Christians, however, these texts are also a record of what God Himself wanted to tell us. In them, God reveals Himself to us, educating us about who He is and who we are, as well as what His purposes are for humanity.
The Bible reveals God as the creator, maintainer and redeemer of all things. Therefore, He cannot be interested only in conversions and spiritual growth, but He must also rejoice in all that is good, beautiful, useful and true. We see in Psalm 104 that God is happy to provide sustenance for His creatures, and in Psalm 65 we see that creation participates in this joy. In light of this, theologian and philosopher Richard Mouw, in his book He Shines in All That's Fair, points out that because God is glorified in His creation, He delights in it, and thus He enjoys both the human and non-human facets of His creation. Mouw expresses that God’s enjoyment of these aspects comes not because they generate conversions, but simply “for their own sakes.”1
As Christians, our view of education does not have to be proselytizing, considering that the biblical narrative suggests that everyone—regardless of gender, ethnicity or religious faith—can and should be taught to develop creation, contribute to the common good, serve others and follow universal ethical principles. As they do, they will bring joy to God and contribute positively to all of us.
The Bible is not just a book, but a collection of 66 books written by about 40 different authors over at least 1000 years, in 3 different languages, using a wide variety of genres, from prose to poetry. A religion or faith such as Christianity, with a library like this for its foundation, must necessarily value literacy, grammar, history, language learning, literature and so on. For example, Charlemagne (AD 742–814), the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, decreed the creation of a free public education system for the intellectual and spiritual formation of the children of his kingdom. Even John Calvin (AD 1509-1564), a Protestant reformer known for his pessimistic view of humanity, understood that God promoted the common good through human effort. He reorganized the educational system in Geneva, Switzerland, with a curriculum that encompassed the sciences and humanities, in addition to theology. This education was open to everyone, since each human being is created in the image of God.
God is Creator and Redeemer of all things, and as His image-bearers we should be involved in the teaching and learning of all fields of knowledge. This is more easily done through Christian schools, where we can teach everything a “secular” school teaches, but from a worldview based on the Scriptures. However, even Christian teachers who work in “regular” schools, whether public or private, can promote an education worthy of their faith. This is possible as they look at the teaching-learning process through the lens of biblical theology and realign their pedagogical practices accordingly. We don't need to proof-text each educational content or practice, but we do need to dive into the biblical narrative in order to have a solid foundation for the way we live our faith in the classroom. God cares about human flourishing, and He cares about education—and so should we.
Education Consultant, Teacher Education Services
1 Mouw, Richard. He Shines in All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace: The 2000 Stob Lectures. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2001, p. 35–36.
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On Practice is a bi-monthly e-mail designed to help TeachBeyond members share ideas, resources, and practical applications as a way to encourage professional and vocational excellence in the classroom. It is produced by the Teacher Education Services Department with Becky Hunsberger as the editor. Comments and contributions are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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