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Christians and Education

  

After all, isn’t “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” all we really need to know for a quality ministry? No – resoundingly not.Jesus Creed

A few facts, Christianity has always existed in a pluralistic society, a society that has a choice about religion. Christianity is not a personal religion, it has something to say (“Jesus is Lord”) to the world around it. That Gospel message is seen both in talk and action. The world is increasingly casting Christians into a position where they are not allowed to engage in the public sphere. What that means is that Christianity will fail to be able to preach the Gospel (not even that it won’t be “successful”, or convert people, but that our words won’t be allowed to have influence in the wider world). Why? One reason is education.

In both the ministry setting, and a Christian college setting education is lacking. In either the baptist or pentecostal denominations the percentage of college graduates is ten percent less than the national average. For a long time I’ve been noticing a serious decline in the quality of schools (something I would not pin on the “secularization” – they’ve been secular for the last 100 years).

Instead of an anti-intellectual stance, or a stance of “that is all secular, and we know secular is evil”, we really need to focus on education from a Christian perspective. More power to you if you can home school your kids and they can get into a great college. But one of the skills that I have found to be absolutely necessary is critical thinking. It is a hard thing to teach. In our ministries we have taken in the underprivileged and taken advantage of. They haven’t learned how to live in the world. And we offer classes to teach them about credit, budgeting, all the things they never had an opportunity to learn, and we do it from a Christian perspective. This is the attitude we need to embrace, taught by people who went to school for accounting or tax law. But we have to do it for more subjects.

In the future we need a product that can rise to the challenge and withstand the rising tide of secularism – or new age mysticism.

We need University Ministries that can train and engage students, scholars, and yes, professors, in an intellectually stimulating, rigorous, defensible faith.

We need to encourage Christian thinking and scholarship and we need rigorous grappling with the issues; with ideas defended before the larger intellectual community – our cultural ἀγοράν (agora).

This latter is a real problem. Much of what passes for scholarship used in University Ministries simply won’t stand the test. To quote Kent Sparks: if the academy must criticize our scholarship, let it be because it rejects our Lord, not because our historical and exegetical judgments are poor or even silly. As a biblical scholar he is commenting on his field in particular, but this can extend to fields of science and social science, humanities and beyond. And sometimes “silly” is too kind a word for the reality of what we put forward as evangelical scholarship.

2 Responses to “Christians and Education”

  1. on 30 Mar 2009 at 7:27 amVictor

    John, this is something I have been thinking about recently as well. I will make just one introductory comment – I think we often battle between “heart” and “education.” There seems to be a conflicting nature to the so-called practical matters of life and the matters which relate to knowing, learning, understanding something deeper. – at least from a Biblical perspective. I certainly understand that there should be a concern that we “learn” so much that we are of no good to the new person, who needs to know the basic fundamentals about God & life – but at the same time, we must continue, as your post argues, to learn, grow in our understanding and teach it. I know you highlighted many fields this is needed in (help with budgeting, etc) but I am primarily speaking about gospel related & then Scripture related teaching.

    I think the best teacher is the one who can take what most think might be complex, or difficult and teach it in a way that the simplest of minds can grasp. Especially when it comes to Biblical Matters – if the God who knows all & desires all to come to know the truth is behind the work, He will enable us to know, teach and grow.

  2. on 30 Mar 2009 at 8:39 amJohnO

    I definitely think you are right when you describe the best teacher. And I did bring up more than just biblical matters because we need some teaching in other areas as well. It is a general lack of education on more than just one front.

  

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