How Should Christians Think About Education?
What is a great education? Some people may envision an Ivy League degree or an “A” student who belongs to the honor society. But as Christians, education is more than memorizing facts and being able to answer mathematical equations. These are all good, and they do makeup part of the educational process, but they are not education; education is more substantial.
Part of the problem is that there is a diminishing definition of education. Today, people have relegated education to a diploma and reading, writing, and arithmetic, but this minimalist view of education is destroying the soul of true education, replacing it with a cookie cutter approach, test focused studies, and ideals that fail to educate.
There are many distinct offerings for education that is often missed, but today we will explore three.
Education is Theological and Spiritual
Our modern era often believe the spiritual and the academic are at odds. This leads to some horribly false conclusions and approaches to education and seems to jettison any theological pursuit as purely outside the realm of education.
But Christians should see education as mainly theological, which means it is primarily a spiritual endeavor. This does not lessen the rigor of academics, on the contrary, it makes it more rigorous as we view the entire focus of education, including every subject, to be a way of understanding God and the world through the lens of God’s Word.
This brings us to the purpose of education: to help restore what was destroyed in the fall of man. When man fell in Genesis 3, it impacted how we think and how we interact with the world. Our entire nature fell in that first sin, including our minds. However, education attempts to restore the impact of the fall. For instance, in Math, God is showing us of the graciousness of order. In history, God is showing us His Providence. In science, God is showing us the glory of His creation.
Proper education has a theological backbone which gives meaning to our existence and meaning to each subject. Education is not simply a set of educational subjects; it is a worldview where these subjects fit and helps us to understand the world more fully.
For a Christian, an essential cornerstone to education is theology that cannot be separated from true education. Theology helps the student make sense of the world and to understand how these are all related together. Without theology, the world and subjects we study make no sense.
Education is imparting Wisdom
The book of Proverbs is an early education primer designed to teach kids wisdom and understanding. As an educational book, it teaches us that our primary goal is not to “get a job” or “master a craft,” though both are necessary, but to gain wisdom. Proverbs admonishes the reader not to be foolish by despising wisdom, but to seek out wisdom.
Of course, wisdom is ultimately found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the fountain of all wisdom as demonstrated in the Gospel. However, this does not mean the Bible is the only source of wisdom, just the ultimate source. We can gain wisdom from history, math, science, literature, and other subjects, but wisdom can be distorted and maligned without relying upon the infallible Word of God.
The goal, though, is not merely to impart knowledge, but to give our children wisdom and understanding to live a Godly and insightful life. Wisdom will help the children engage the world, but do so in a manner that is wise.
Education is Developing Character
If you look back just a generation, the military, private schools, and even public schools often advertised as being places that develop character. In one advertisement I read, the school promised to help develop boys into men with excellent character.
This is an admirable goal, and intrinsic to the development of children.
When education fails to develop the character of the students, we make useless the knowledge we give them. In fact, it would be better to have an ignorant man with excellent character than an intelligent man with poor character. While both are dangerous, it so more dangerous to have an intelligent person with tremendous character flaws.
Education exists to eliminate both ignorance and poor character. It eliminates ignorance through imparting a Christian Worldview on the various facets of learning. It eliminates poor character by giving students a foundation and basis for having character. By rooting education in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, education seeks to build up both and strives for excellence in both.
However, I am not using character as a form of moralism. Character infuses the logic of the Gospel into the life of the person. It is not merely a set of rules to live by. Character also makes known the reality of worship in the life of all people. As a Christian is educated in the glories of God, he/she sees the significance of Christianity in the lives of people throughout history, understanding the depravity of man along with the glories of the cross. Education is a great character builder.
Most education institutions only seek to impart knowledge.
When we believe education is values neutral, knowledge imparting, and theologically absent endeavors, we are falling for a purely secular and anti-Christian view of education. God sees education as taking us from dead men to alive in Christ; from foolish children to wise leaders; from lacking integrity to men and women of character.
This is why education can never take place when you remove God and the Gospel. We may produce knowledgeable people, but we will fail to develop men and women as more than minds. We, though, should develop every part of the child.
When others think of a great education, they may think about academic rigor, but we should not surrender to this minimalist view of education.
Derick Dickens has an MBA in Leadership, MDiv, and MA in Religion. He speaks regularly on topics ranging from Christian Worldview issues to business leadership, and he is an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Resources. Derick is also an award winning public speaker, speech evaluator, and leader. Married for 16 years to his wife Lacie, they have three children and live in Lynchburg Virginia. You can follow Derick on Twitter at twitter.com/derickdickens.