The Purpose of Education
Man is not primarily a rational being; he is a creature of faith. His reasoning is based on what he believes or assumes to be true. This is because man is a creature. His being and thought structure are derivative, not creative. Man created nothing. Man finds himself a transient resident in God’s world, governed by God’s law. Man’s rebellion does not change who he is, who God is, or the ordering of His universe.
Man’s rebellion does skew his entire understanding of his world. When men begin by believing Satan’s lie that they can “be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5), they assume all matters are their prerogative: ethics, science, religion, and all else. Once man bases his reasoning on faith in his own version of truth, he then tries to apply his new truth universally. All faiths move toward a universal application. If something is true, it follows that other things are not true. In public education we see the predominant humanism excluding all Christian expressions; one view of truth must logically exclude all others.
To man in rebellion against God, the world is a mass of data in need of interpretation. Man has long sought some idea by which he can interpret the world, some master principle he can apply to reality. But as a sinner, man tends to prefer some way of interpreting facts that serves his purpose.
The great master principle since Darwin has been evolution. It is the framework that holds modern thought together. It is of value to man not because it makes sense, but because it allows his faith in himself: it allows man to intellectually justify what he wants to believe. This is why Marx and Engels were elated when Darwin first published his Origin of Species; his naturalism meant that history had to be interpreted in terms of material concerns.
Now let us look at the scope of what the Word of God covers. The Bible gives us the beginning of the universe, its ultimate end, its moral law, and man’s access to its Sovereign. In doing so it gives the direction of history, the basis of science in God’s ordering and creative act, and a thorough understanding of how man is to view the world and act in it, both in his calling and personal life. The Bible gives the very big, wide-angle view of all of human history and yet forces man to come face to face with his own personal life and actions down to the thoughts of his heart. It tells man where he falls into the big picture. The Bible gives an amazing amount of information, given its size.
Christian education is driven by the Bible’s big picture and its relevance to the individual. It addresses what the creation, salvation, and redemption of God means to human history, but also to man’s culture, his family, and his own personal accountability. Education in terms of the Word of God points man to God’s mercy and man’s calling in terms of his duty faithfully to serve his Lord.
Christian education does not seek a master principle, because it serves the Master. It follows not the Master’s principles, but His eternal law-word. It serves not some big idea of God but the sovereign yet very personal God who reveals Himself in His Word.
For the Christian who serves God as a person, not an idea, and who submits to His Word as law, not as a principle, reality is understood as centered on the throne of God. Sinners love to follow ideas and principles. Ideas are necessarily products of, and developed by, the minds of men. They are applied in various ways, molded to different situations, and debated and altered as man’s collective wisdom decrees. Eventually ideas may be discarded if men deem them no longer helpful. Likewise principles, though conceptually more enduring, are also subject to man’s multiple applications and qualifications. Ideas are not absolute as is the revelation of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Principles are not eternal commandments of God.
The purpose of Christian education is to remove all conceptual pretenses to man’s sovereignty and direct the student (of any age) to God as the source of all understanding. Man then is instructed to submit to God as Lord, not to regulate Him via ideas as controlled by man’s reason or principles selectively applied at man’s discretion.
Moreover, when we look to God as the source of all reality, we must see all His attributes and gifts together. If we take one or a few attributes of God that we prefer, and isolate them, we create an abstract God, one isolated from the God of Scripture.
When Scripture says “God is love,” it does not mean man can take his artificial, emotional, romanticized idea of love and hold God accountable to it. That would be to make an idol of this artificial god. Rather, “God is love” means that man understands what love is: he conforms his idea of love to the revelation of God in Scripture. “God is love” directs us in our understanding of “love,” not our definition of God. This means that God’s love does not in any way preclude His judgment, just as God’s grace never precludes His justice. We cannot abstract ideas about or even individual attributes of God and call them God, nor can we extract principles and call them commandments.
We are called to submit ourselves, our thinking, our families, our callings, and our lives to all that God is. We submit to the God of Scripture, not the limited god we conceptualize. This is our calling as the people of God and the purpose of all education.