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I am including here a paper I recently wrote on my Christian Philosophy of Education for moving forward in my certification at the school where I teach. I was reluctant, since the paper was not my choice, but I did end up enjoying the time I spent thinking about human nature and education. I wrote it fairly quickly, there are plenty of unsubstantiated claims, and I have not included the footnotes (so there are some quotes without citations).
Feel free to comment, critique, offer guidance, suggestions, etc.
Education is a matter of discovering what is ultimately real and learning to live in relation to it in a way that produces a life marked by meaning, freedom, and even happiness. Education presupposes truth, even in the most relativistic contexts, because teachers are concerned with correspondence between thought and reality. But from a Christian perspective, truth is not just a label applied to the successful representation of reality in thought, but comes to personify that eternal reality itself. And that personification is neither metaphorical nor abstract, but is found in the person of Jesus Christ, as he says in John 14.6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
...In a similar way, a Christian teacher’s concern with the correspondence between thought and reality is not merely a concern for accurate representation, but faithful obedience. Jesus said in John 8.31-32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” As Dallas Willard points out, this means that freedom comes through submitting yourself to reality. And since in the Christian confession Jesus is the truth and, as such, the ground of all reality, Christian education becomes a matter of discovering Jesus Christ and learning to live as his disciple.
Therefore, the goal of Christian education is discipleship—my life contingent upon and finding meaning only in reference to Christ. There is no deeper foundation for valuing lifelong learning than 2 Corinthians 3.18: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.” We are not yet like him, but are progressively being shaped into his image, which is to say that we are engaged in a lifelong pursuit of truth. But Paul says that a veil must be removed from the face (v. 13), from the mind (v. 14), and from the heart (v. 15) for this shaping to take place, which happens “in Christ… whenever anyone turns to the Lord” (3.14, 16). In other words, faith is the prerequisite for Christian education, for without faith our minds, hearts, and lives are veiled from the truth. Or, as J. P. Moreland puts it, “Faith is a power or skill to act in accordance with the nature of the kingdom of God.” In other words, faith is not just a way to discern reality, but it also provides the ability to live effectively in relation to reality.
Correlating education and discipleship can sound problematic, especially since faith is often lampooned (not always unfairly) as blind faith that subverts, suspends, or even contradicts reason. Secondly, faith is sometimes taken to be a form of escapism, so its unique ability to connect us to reality may be unclear. Finally, the tendency to compartmentalize religious belief to the private realm of values rather than facts would seem to undercut the foundation of education. These problems disappear when we rehabilitate the notion of Christian discipleship, expanding the common understanding of it beyond mere devotional piety.
Simply put, subsuming education under the umbrella of discipleship does not mean that talking about feelings, subjective speculations, and personal testimonies trumps academic inquiry in the classroom. It means that discipleship provides the direction and goal of the development of our human faculties, intellectual faculties included. It also means that our vision for education must expand so that it can accomplish the mandate to “develop the whole student.” The whole purpose of method is to find ever more effective means for bringing students in touch with truth in every aspect of their being. And if, as we mentioned above, it is faith that removes the veil from every part of us so that contact with truth can be established, then education is a matter of continual conversion. And this conversion is more readily accomplished as students are welcomed into Christian community, which means a place where grace and the gospel are lived out within a caring, moral community concerned with the growth of the student’s whole character.
Education, therefore, must be about more than the development of reason—and certainly more than the accumulation of data. Truth must be apprehended by every part of the person, or every faculty of our being, which means that truth must be perceived, comprehended, and applied in each area. As the truth is apprehended by the mind, the spirit, the heart, and the body, the whole person is conformed to the image of Christ—seeing him as he is and, invariably, becoming more like him, becoming more true. But this also has the further effect of creating agents of the Kingdom of God, who by faith live in accordance with eternal reality, and who naturally shape the world around them to become communities that conform to the truth. In other words, Christian education aims to produce knowledge, attentiveness, beauty, virtue, and justice. These are produced when truth comes in contact with the mind, spirit, heart, body, and world, respectively.
When truth is apprehended by the mind, the fruit is knowledge. This is the typical objective of modern education, although the acquisition of knowledge in itself is an insufficient goal. A bit of data can be memorized and regurgitated without necessitating contact with truth, for the mind is able to process information about reality without actually coming into direct contact with truth. In fact, it is far easier for the mind to deal in abstractions, images, and metaphors because they are discrete and lifeless, whereas truth demands submission and conformity as a proper response. The mind that becomes glutinous in seeking merely the accumulation of knowledge is in danger of idolatry because it prefers an image of reality over its substance and enjoys the illusion of control over reality through the notion of mastery. This idolatry that comes from knowledge is pride, as Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8.1).
That is not to say that knowledge is no longer our goal, just that it might be better conceived of as the fruit that comes from an experience of truth by the mind. When a farmer seeks to cultivate fruit, he does not do so by setting out to create an apple directly. Rather, he labors indirectly to tend the tree that, when well cultivated, will produce the fruit for him. In the same way, the teacher must aid the learner in cultivating reason, which produces knowledge when fed with evidence, experience, observation, study, revelation, etc.
When truth is apprehended by the spirit, the fruit is attentiveness. This is the classic objective of Christian discipleship: to become more attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit and to live a life as one addressed by God’s Spirit in our inmost being. Just as reason produces knowledge in the mind addressed by truth, so spiritual formation—especially through prayer—is what produces attentiveness in the human spirit. Spiritual formation has its own methods, most often referred to as the spiritual disciplines. These are indirect ways of making our spirits more attentive through preparing for and engaging in various kinds of prayer. Misdirected spiritual attention is simple idolatry, and there is no other word to describe it more specifically (as when pride refers to idolatry of the mind).
When truth is apprehended by the heart, the fruit is beauty, which has normally been the objective of the arts. This means, in part, that developing an appreciation for the arts can lead to an experience of the truth through beauty. While that is the typically stated function or place of art in our lives, it is actually backwards. More importantly, and more powerfully, beauty will be produced by the heart enlivened by truth, so that each person becomes an artist through discipleship and education. As reason produces knowledge and prayer produces attentiveness, it is our capacity for creativity that produces beauty. Imagination is certainly involved here, but the term connotes mental activity, while creativity assumes that something is created. Idolatry touches the heart through vanity when beauty is sought for its own sake, as when art becomes self-referential and therefore denies the truth it was meant to point to and embody.
When truth is apprehended by the body, the fruit is virtue. Using the word body here is not quite fitting, but it does help to capture the idea of loving God with all our strength and the notion that our character is seen through our actions. In the quote from 2 Corinthians 3 above, I take the veiled face to be something like a veil over the countenance, or that which shows who we are to others. More often, this is spoken of as character or virtue, and there are many different kinds of virtue that can manifest themselves in our lives. Just as reason produces knowledge, prayer produces attentiveness, and creativity produces beauty, so wisdom produces virtue. Wisdom in the Old Testament sense is not so much something we collect as it is a capacity within us to shape our lives. When the virtues become idols, legalism results. Then our lives are not in contact with the truth, but are only trained to produce the right results through force.
Once we have apprehended the truth in every aspect of our being, our whole selves become more conformed to the reality of God’s kingdom, and it becomes impossible not to shape the world around us according to truth. Therefore, and finally, when truth is apprehended by the world, the fruit is justice. This word is not uncontroversial, and that is because there are differing views of what produces justice. In simple interpersonal ethics, justice may very well look like common notions of fairness enforced through various means of retribution—people getting what they deserve. But this cannot be our only way of understanding justice. For one, discipline as retributive punishment may be expedient, but it is also “sub-Christian.” Secondly, there is a whole book of the Bible that explores the limitations of this conception of justice. In Job, God’s ability to govern the world is called into question as Job pursues his complaint regarding the miscarriage of justice in the world. God’s answer to Job at the end of the book is forceful and seems to challenge Job to show how his understanding of justice as retribution can adequately govern the cosmos. Justice, then, is the way in which God administers the world, which must include natural law. But as natural law supercedes retribution, so love supercedes natural law. At the end of Job, God restores him to prosperity and blessing out of his great love. The actions of God in history have always displayed self-giving love: creation was a free and loving act of God, redemption was purchased through the self-giving love of Christ, and our salvation will finally be accomplished at God’s expense and by his power for our benefit.
Just as reason produces knowledge, prayer produces attentiveness, creativity produces beauty, and wisdom produces virtue, so love produces justice. Many of Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of God are meant to show us how a community of love naturally becomes a just community as well. And if love is the means through which we enact the Kingdom of God around us, then that must mean that the teacher’s responsibility is to act through love to direct the Christian school to become a place of justice. Leading through love impacts education because “love has formative power in learning.” When truth is apprehended by the world, the fruit is justice produced by love, which also means that tyranny is idolatry in the world when justice no longer flows from truth through love.
Education is a matter of discovering what is ultimately real and learning to live in relation to it in a way that produces a life marked by meaning, freedom, and even happiness. As truth is apprehended by our mind, spirit, heart, body, and community, the fruit will be knowledge through reason, attentiveness through prayer, beauty through creativity, virtue through wisdom, and justice through love. My goal as a teacher is to put students in contact with the truth in every aspect of their being, or, more simply, to help them discover Jesus Christ and learn to live as his disciple with everything they have and everything they are.
In every philosophy of education truth differ considerably from all other educational philosophies, and whose truth affect reason -I think the following may be useful and interesting to many: http://www.orhanseyfiari.com/ariphilosophyeducation.html
A unique and interestingly bold way to state what I know to be true in my heart.
Thank you for sharing!
thanks for food for thought- I am creating my own philosphy for childcare for my diploma assignment. I am a committed christian. Janine