This is part 1.2 in a series of posts that include some of the key ideas in my upcoming book on a Christian approach to education. The book has a working title “Truth & Love.”
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In sharp contrast to the critical theorist, the book of Exodus describes the liberation of a whole nation of people from slavery through a series of remarkable events performed by their God, Jehovah. As soon as this rescue was secured, the slaves were given a very thorough induction into a way of life that was different than all the other nations, with a series of instructions they agreed to follow.
While conformity to all of these was impossible, the emphasis on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), and the following laws demonstrated the importance of learning how to conform to a certain way of life. Many of these rules bring justice to disempowered members of society like unmarried women, slaves, and those without financial means. Though it would not be easy, practicing a way of life according to these laws should have been a means to achieve the goal of justice, mercy, and humility described in Micah 6:8.
The call to be different from the surrounding nations required a different approach, and the God who had called the people of Israel a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) was constantly frustrated with their attempts to be like the other unjust nations. They worshipped a golden calf (Exodus 32), worshipped with the temple prostitutes of Baal (Numbers 25), and eventually demanded a king for the specific purpose of being like the other nations (1 Samuel 8:20). All of these things led to disastrous consequences, but a more immediate consequence can be seen in the story of transporting the Ark of the Covenant.
After capturing this sacred object from the battlefield, the Philistine people suffered under its presence until they decided to send it back to Israel. They placed it on an ox cart for the journey home and in this way it came safely across the border (1 Samuel 6). When David tried to use the same method of transport (ignoring the requirements outlined in Numbers 4:15), it brought about the death of Uzzah, who touched the ark in order to keep it from falling to the ground (2 Samuel 6:7). Even when it worked for the Philistines, it was not the proper method for the people of God.
JRR Tolkien expounds upon this idea throughout the Lord of the Rings, in which the ring of power seems to offer an easy victory against the enemy. Those who are wise, however, know that the battle could be won, but it would be at the cost of losing the war. For to wield the weapon of the enemy was to risk becoming that very thing which was the enemy. In the same way, beware of using the same methods as the enemy to train the people of God for a life of wisdom.
Dr. Don Shepson, a reverend for the Anglican Church and a former teacher/researcher at Montreat College in North Carolina has explored the impact of various teaching methods upon the ability of students to thrive in their relationship with God. He research uncovered a surprising and statistically significant difference in student ability to form a strong relationship with God depending upon the methods of teaching employed by their faculty. This was true across all disciplines in his study.
One might therefore conclude that a just society may only be achieved by a method of education that produces citizens of virtue. This method of education cannot be the same as whatever method has been used to produce an unjust society. More specifically,
Christian education cannot offer a different outcome from secular education unless it is based upon a different philosophical and pedagogical framework.
This book is perhaps a first step to develop a method of learning and education that more fully reflects the truth of the world we live in. Perhaps it can also uncover the secrets of cultivating the life of virtue which the early philosophers were seeking.
For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace…. Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
Perhaps the days of Jeremiah were not so very different from our own.