Christianity and the Academy (3)

Education must be Thoroughly Christian

The kingdom of God must replace the kingdom of Satan in history, which is the kingdom of self-proclaimed autonomous man. Part of this replacement process is the reconstruction of all modern academic disciplines in terms of the Bible. Any attempt to do this is resisted strongly by two groups: non-Christian scholars and Christian scholars. The first group does not want to surrender power. The second group does not want to abandon the fruits of the intellectual, emotional, and economic investment it made by accepting the methodology and most of the conclusions of humanistic higher education…Christian scholars, in their professional work, have preferred to bow to the god of the academy rather than bow to the law of God. This has been going on from the day that philosophical defenders of the Christian faith first invoked Greek philosophy as the basis of their defence. In short, it is an ancient tradition. It is time to call a halt to it. [1]

  1. The Bible does not give the State a role in the task of education; education is an entirely private concern, predominately for families to engage in, in the case of children (see Deut.6; Prov.22:6; Eph.6:4) or individuals for tertiary study, or businesses to consider in the case of their staff. Luther’s advice to parents, “I advise no one to place his child where the scriptures do not reign paramount …every institution in which men are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt,” was valid instruction.

Paul’s language to the Corinthians is significant, in relation to education. He claimed that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor.10:4-5). We can thus conclude that godly education in part, will be aggressive and destructive towards all ideas or world-views that are not in harmony with the sovereignty of God, and the dominion of Jesus Christ in the world.

This approach is nothing new. God had told Jeremiah that “I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer.1:10). John the Baptist later warned the proud Pharisees and Sadducees, that they were not to place any confidence in the fact that genealogically, Abraham was their father: he warned them that “the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mat.3:10).

All godly educational institutions must take this position, out of faithfulness to God. Jesus said that “he who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Mat.12:30). Godly education is an aspect of God’s war against humanism’s foolish ideas and wrong thinking, which lead to sinful behaviour, beginning in the Garden. Paul also spoke of his concern for the Corinthians, that “as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (II Cor.11:3).

  1. Some of the manifestations of humanism (such as Gnosticism and Pelagianism) have been with us for thousands of years. Others (such as Darwinism, feminism, Pietism[2] and environmentalism) are a more recent phenomena. Whatever the age, Christian educators must be familiar with what they are contending with, “…so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (II Cor.2:11). Historically, the church has had a propensity to absorb ideas from its surrounding culture, which have been destructive and evil. The “wild gourds” of the world, thrown into the church’s pot of stew, have later resulted in someone crying out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot” (II Kings 4:38-40).
  2. For education to be Christian, it must think in terms of absolutes, because God is absolute, and deals in absolute (but not arbitrary) terms with man. “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex.20:3), is an assertion of God’s ultimate and absolute sovereignty, for God alone is the absolute commander of man’s being. [3] Only a fully self-conscious, self-existent, sovereign and creating God can save man, because only He can fully control, govern and determine all things. [4]
  3. All Christian education should not begin with the teacher, or even the student, but with God. Jesus commanded us to “come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…” (Mat.11:28-29). Man has never been consigned to a lonely, onerous pursuit of self-knowledge. On the contrary, we live in the presence of the Creator of all things, who has provided His Word to us, so that human knowledge can be utterly dependent upon the original self-knowledge and consequent revelation of God to man. [5] God’s revelation is the ground of true knowledge.
  4. Because Christian education commences with God, we accept that scriptural belief is a foundational matter. Jesus comforted Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (Jn.11:40) We agree with Anselm of Canterbury that we believe, in order that we may understand. Kepler, Boyle, the Wright brothers and many others made their discoveries and initiated significant human progress out of an attitude of submission to an all-wise Creator and Redeemer, Who after creating all things, described all that He had made, as “very good” (Gen.1:31).
  5. Christian education gives man meaning. The Bible teaches that man is not some undefined, evolutionary accident, drifting at random in a meaningless universe. On the contrary, man under God derives his meaning from his Creator (Gen.1:26-28), and is placed in a meaningful world of people and things, to serve God and enjoy Him forever. Man was endowed with the ability and duty to find both the meaning of life and his own purpose on earth within the will of God.[6]

The command to “rule and have dominion” has not been negated by the Fall. Rather, it has been re-emphasised through the coming of the second man, Jesus Christ, and confirmed in His Great Commission.

The Christian person finds his role as a created vice-regent of God in the earth, described further in passages such as Psalm 8. The Psalmist’s rhetorical questions to God, such as “What is man, that you take thought of him, and the son of man, that you care for him?” open up the whole subject of our function, so that the theocentric person has meaning, relevance and dignity. A scriptural understanding of God’s purpose for us, enables us to “rule and have dominion” (Gen.1:26-28), to “reign in life” (Ro.5:17), be “ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20), and to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13 KJV). People are recognised in scripture as full-orbed cultural creatures, called by the Creator to go forth and develop the earth.[7]

 

[1]Gary North, “Inheritance and Dominion,” 1999, Introduction.

[2]“Pietism emphasises the heart, the attitudes of man, and underrates the importance of man’s actions. Its roots are in the pagan, Greek and Stoic deprecation of matter as against spirit.” Rousas Rushdoony, “The Institutes of Biblical Law,” 1973, p.635. “Pietism led to a surrender of knowledge to the unbeliever and a withdrawal of the Christian to a purely inner world of experience… the result was a surrender of the world and of education to humanism.” Rousas Rushdoony, “The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum,” 1985, p.12.

[3] Rousas Rushdoony, “Salvation and Godly Rule,” 1986, p.161.

[4] ibid., p.2.

[5] Cornelius Van Til, quoted in Rushdoony, ibid., p.177.

[6] Gary North, (Ed.) “Foundations of Christian Scholarship,” 1976, p.64.

[7] B. Walsh, and J. Middleton, “The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview.”

 

 

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