Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Educational Life: Thoughts on Education, Pt. 2

One of the unique challenges a Christian institution has is balancing how it rewards right answers and good thinking. By this I mean that a Christian college or university must carefully weigh how much it rewards students simply for knowing the right answer and how much it rewards them for thinking hard and deeply about various subjects.

You realize, of course, that this is the area where the secular world sneers at we who are enrolled in Christian schools, be they seminaries, undergraduate institutions, high schools, or even home-schooling environments. The world thinks that we just walk around reciting the same old answers to the same old questions and that everyone gets an A simply for reciting the rote, uncogitated answer. This thinking on the world's part is inherently flawed, because unlike much of what one receives in secular circles, Christians believe that the very foundation of our lives is the body of truth contained in one book, the Bible, which discloses the will, purpose, and plan of God for His people. Right from the start, then, Christians realize that it is a central part of our lives to understand and assimilate the Bible's teachings. This is no rote exercise for us. It is a matter of life and death.

We see that we must learn the Bible's truth and that we need not give any apology for doing so, even as the world emphasizes that truth is relative and that life is meaningful only when asking good questions, not when memorizing some outdated dogma from a bunch of wildly religious dead guys. The world is going to say that (or think it), and we will need to pay them no mind on that matter. However, the reality of revelation--and the need to learn that revelation--does not remove us from the need to think hard and deeply about life. We Christians should be known as the most thoughtful people on this earth, for we are the people who recognize, by God's grace, that this earth is stored with mysteries just waiting to be discovered--scientific anomalies, the lessons of history, the stimulating exchanges of the philosophers, the daunting secrets of the mathematicians, the stirring prose of the poets. All these and many more mental pursuits await us, for God has fashioned the earth to stir not simply the heart and soul but also the mind. This is an intellectual playground we live on. God has made it so, not so that our reason would outrun our faith but so that our reason would excite our faith, move us to discover intellectual treasures and take intellectual dominion of our world, and lead us to praise of God for his multi-faceted creation. We must realize this truth, and avoid a fideistic, simplistic, unchallenging faith that fails to comprehend the glory of the life of the mind. After all, if God had not wanted us to see and appreciate beauty, He wouldn't have made it. Likewise, if God had not wanted us to take joy in intellectual discovery, He would not have made this incredibly complex world and designed it to stimulate minds of all types, whether literary or architectural, theological or scientific.

What does all this mean? It means that our Christian institutions must push pupils to take intellectual dominion of their world, to develop a hunger for learning, to mold students into tenacious devotees of biblical faith who use their powers of reason in pursuit of God's glory. We ought not to be known for being schools where tests are easy and A's come readily. We should turn out students of the highest caliber, students who love learning not the sake of success, or even for the sake of learning itself, but for the sake of God's glory. We are to take dominion of the earth, right? This mandate was not given only to gardeners. It was given to us all, and it applies to every corner, every intricacy, of life. Let us fulfill it, and learn the truth, and ask good questions, and pursue knowledge until the day our own understanding is perfected.


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