By Robert W. Pasmiño in the appendix of God Our Teacher:Theological Basics in Christian Education

Transformation is central to the journey of faith with our triune God. God is in the business of bringing new life and sustaining life beyond what humans conceive is feasible or desirable. The cultural shifts identified as postmodernity provide an occasion for transformation that God will bring to persons, families, communities, churches, societies, structures and creation itself. The occasion of a cultural shift does not assume faithfulness to God’s purposes or intentions. Spiritual discernment is required to affirm those changes God intends and oppose those that distort God’s will for humanity and all of creation.

… in Foundational Issues in Christian Education, I stressed the place of truth that is appropriately questioned within postmodernity. The necessary complement to that discussion is one that considers the place of love or care in Christian education. This follows from the scriptural principle in education of “speaking the "truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) that can include actions as well as words. To speak "the truth in love in a postmodern context requires giving attention to the deep hunger for genuine or truthful relationships and community voiced by members of Gen X. Christians claim that the ultimate fulfillment of that hunger can be found in the experience of the love of God and the care of the Christian community. For that to be the case, Christians engaged in education will need to consider…seven invitations in their educational thought and practise [including a] return to relational bonds revealed in the Trinity.

The return to relational bonds revealed in the Trinity requires Christians to clarify their theological grounding. I affirm that the Trinity can serve as an organizing theological theme for Christian education. This idea is not new, but its application to postmodern realities calls for a return to this Christian distinctive. James Smart in his classic work The Teaching Ministry of the Church, suggested that the doctrine of the Trinity is the essential starting point for understanding the theological bases of Christian education. Nels Ferré, a systematic theologian, who worked with D. Campbell Wyckoff, a renowned Christian educator, proposed in his work A Theology for Christian Education a trinitarian model with the God the Father as the educator, Jesus Christ the Son as the exemplar, and the Holy Spirit as the tutor.7 Christian theological education strives to enables students to explore the mystery and wonder of the Trinity and to taste of the community life modeled for humanity in the life of the Trinity. This monumental task calls for the reflection, commitment, and hard work of Christian educators.

Trinitarian grammar also applies to the general tasks of education suggested by the work of Peter Hodgson in God's Wisdom. Hodgson, for example, proposes three basic elements for higher education that include critical thinking, heightened imagination, and liberating practice. These three relate to my educational trinity in that critical thinking relates to content, heightened imagination to persons’ creativity, and liberating practice to the context of the community and society. I define education as the process of sharing content with persons in the context of their community and society. God the Father as Creator is the educator from whom all the content of education issues. God’s wisdom is what can distinguish education that results in transformation. Jesus the Son as the exemplar or mentor is the model or master teacher who in his person exemplifies all that a teacher should be in his relationships with students, with other persons. The hunger for love and care finds fulfillment in the person of Jesus and all who follow him in their teaching ministries. The Holy Spirit as the tutor is the counselor or community consultant who sustains the life of the Christian community and the wider society in ways that fulfill God’s purposes for the context. The Holy Spirit encounters human spirits to bring life and new life on the personal, communal, societal and global levels. Spiritual renewal applies to the public levels of discourse and life as well as the personal and private domains. In relation to theological education, Hodgson’s basic elements can be renamed to include theological reflection, spiritual imagination, and transformative practice that fulfill the triune God’s purposes and politics in the world.

 

 

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