Selfish Christianity has long cut the heart out of Christian thinking, producing an ineffective testimony to the world. This weak testimony produces poor evangelical results. Education has perhaps suffered the most, as environmental psychology has displaced a strategic kingdom view of life and education. However, through a careful study of America's legacy of Christian life and education in the light of good doctrine, a theologically sound and highly focused view of education promises to reproduce and exceed the spiritual and practical accomplishments of early America. This historical Christian philosophy and method have produced very gratifying results in the crucible of experience, though in a relative infancy of development. The Get Wisdom! Program, has well served families of every conceivable gifting and background. Twenty years of success testify to its effectiveness with the broken and damaged learner as well as the gifted and accomplished.
Why educate and to what end? Evangelism requires two elements: the Seed — the Word — and good soil — the human heart. Mere verbal evangelism fails the New Testament's witness of the power of God in real peoples' real lives. Of course, the gospel includes content. Therefore, education ought to prepare the individual to master imaginative and intellectual content. Yet Christ requires more. The gospel is fundamentally relational and character sensitive. An ability to form and sustain loving, Biblically-principled relationships at all levels of human intercourse fundamentally supports the gospel. Sin tends to reduce us to essentially adversarial relations. Thus, the gospel requires men to get along with each other! Not mere manners, the gospel requires a solid ability for selfless friendship. The gospel work requires freedom to obey Christ. We need freedom from sin internally and externally in civil society. Lastly, redeeming every subject of human endeavor in the hands of the redeemed produces godly influence over virtually every area of life toward the salvation of men. True education necessarily produces character, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, skill, friendship, and leadership — the whole man — all needed to support the gospel.
Default humanism, even in the church, institutionalizes selfish sin and discourages the gospel work. Expressive individual godliness tends to produce institutional godliness. When Christians can articulate and practice, with Biblical wisdom, a Christian worldview applied to fine art, science, civil government, business, and every other human endeavor; when Christians can give of themselves while standing for righteousness, earning the right to be heard and emulated; we will truly be salt and light.
Today, even in Christian institutions, evolutionary psychology almost completely dominates the training of teachers. True Christian education must reflect a Biblical psychology. God created man in His own image, each with inherent value and potential. Yet, man is hopelessly lost in sin and needs redemption. Right training corrects faculties scrambled by sin. Education represents God's strategic means of preparing the soul for redemption and accomplishment, including the best historical expressions of self-government, institutional liberty and justice, invention, industry, and voluntary philanthropy. Carefully identifying these historically tested qualities of Biblical character and accomplishment, the school curriculum may be directed toward these ends in the many, as well as in the highly accomplished few.
The Tripod of Education
Christ's "tripod" of education, identified in His own discipleship, brings a proper balance to educational method: Analogical content or instruction supplied to the imagination and intellect provides the basis of all wisdom and understanding. Inspiration is necessary because nothing good comes of life apart from Christ and His power. Example is the human derivative of inspiration and always points to Christ. Inspiration springs from an appreciation for God's hand on and the wonders resident in the subject itself, not from some enticing frosting spread over the top of it. Discipline is well-governed practice that amounts to an effective effort toward some goal. (Corrections are a way of life for the student, so that practice produces good habit and skill.) Discipline requires government, either self or external, toward what constitutes a Biblically defined mastery. Dependence on content or inspiration (as with affective approaches, often merely amusement) damages learning because it neglects the need for character and an active accomplishment with some degree of skill.
Training Replaces Ineffective Environmentalism
The educational process is a part of redemption. Discipline or training prepares the character, mind, and conscience to receive the truth of salvation in due season. Specifically, naturally scrambled faculties are unraveled and potential fulfilled through discipline undertaken by faith in God. Development occurs not merely due to age and environment, but upon increasingly accomplished levels of practice, even at a very early age. For the moment, the parent and teacher are the child's character, wisdom, knowledge, and skill until by the child's continuous efforts in faith, he achieves these for himself. Even the aesthetic tastes can and ought to be inculcated. Child education produces far better results and is far less painful than corrections to the adult character. The liberty of creativity abounds upon a mind and heart taken captive by Christ's discipline. (Christians must decide whether bad moral conduct may properly be treated with psychotropic drugs.)
Training Produces Character
Training forges a foundation for accomplishment as the student works to overcome the measured difficulty of learning. Each effort produces an additional strength of character for overcoming difficulty the next time. Nothing is failure except a lack of effort, which is a lack of faith. Slow learning is no excuse for giving up. The capacity for easy accomplishment provides no excuse to avoid effort. "To whom much is given, much is also required." Every element of learning and life contribute or steal from godly character, depending on one's response to trial. A heart for repentance becomes a way of education and life. True societal liberty depends on a carefully trained, selfless character.
The principles and character which governed the excellent statesmanship of early Americans derived from those forged in the ordinary educational processes of home, school, and local society. If we ever are to reproduce the former greatness of accomplishment, we must reproduce the Biblical Christian thinking and practice, the nobility and heroism, which originally created it, and with God's grace and power to perfect it beyond its former levels.
A Method for All
Free institutions require a generally accomplished people. This approach neither locksteps the more able, nor lets the weaker learner fall through the cracks. It is neither egalitarian nor elitist. Adapting the Van Tilian learning spiral, we teach the subject from its rudiments to its depth and breadth according to the most able student's readiness, each time we visit the subject. The student thus works both the foundations and the frontiers of ability to produce philosophical and practical mastery. The teacher identifies each student's level of accomplishment, and then urges the student toward new strategic knowledge and skills. Review is a way of life to fill inevitable gaps. This aspect reveals some of the genius of the one room schoolhouse, and its superiority over a graded curriculum. Furthermore, the teacher never assumes a lesson is trivial but always supplies the needed forms instruction, example, and directed practice to ensure success. Then the teacher requires effort from the learner until he masters the subject.
Effort by Faith
A one-to-one relationship between effort and accomplishment is a myth. As the farmer invests by faith, just so, the learner does what he is now able, and then trusts God to do His part to bring learning to reality. In the meantime, the student learns to be patient and steadfast, thus eliminating the pervading and hindering attitude that learning must come quickly and easily, if at all. History demonstrates children have far more ability than we do now expect. Correspondingly, faith-based learning precludes tyrannical and often superficial exaction of performance. Instead, a persistent, gentle discipline urges the student to do his best at all times, while encouraging him not to worry, nor to give up, but to apply diligence and faith that success will come in due season. It does. We therefore systematically discourage and correct an excuse making, defeatist attitude and compensating behavior such as clowning, overt rebellion, tantrums, and cheating. No student is incapable of some advancement and ordinarily is capable of much more than is usually expected. This is true because Christ is our power of accomplishment!
The Analysis Principle
One of the most important principles of this system is the understanding of a true nature of the subject. A paradigm for reducing a greater whole to its constituent parts for analysis and then justly rebuilding an understanding of the whole represents the essential learning principle. A paragraph is the statement of a coherent thought. To understand the paragraph, I must understand the constituent sentence. A word may hinder understanding the sentence. I must learn its meaning. I must be able to parse the sounds to identify the word. Due to the vagaries of language, the hard parts are generally the most important! Rebuilding the parts to a just whole completes the analysis process. When accomplished analysis produces the ability for creative synthesis, the student has achieved a degree of mastery.
This brief outline illustrates how we may maintain the essential unity and harmony between the grand and ultimate, revealed purposes of God as well as the practical details. The Get Wisdom! Program deals with the reality of human nature and God's purposes and provision among men. It is directed and meaningful. Moreover, it produces quick and remarkable results among teachers, parents and students alike, including those of modest attainment. This view, in the hands of God-enabled scholars, ought once more to produce world quality statesmen in every area of human endeavor at a rate similar to that found in early America — hundreds in several millions, rather than tens in hundred millions. A well-educated general constituency will in turn, support these leaders. Such accomplished scientists, artists, lawyers, businessmen, pastors, and farmers will exert the same influence which Christians exerted in early America. Surely, by His grace, we can reproduce it. Indeed, we already have begun to see the results!
- Ron Kirk