by Dr. V.A. Holding, Head of School
by Dr. V.A. Holding, Head of School
In the military, a way of life signifies family separations, numerous moves, alien citizenship in a foreign country, and a series of constant adjusting and adapting. Stressful as that may sound, a military family’s way of life is an understood expectation, and anything less would be unpatriotic at best. Similarly, to many Christians, genuine Christian education is an understood expectation expressed as a way of life that transcends the four walls of the classroom and that signifies an absolute premise in Christ, an overarching philosophy of Christlikeness, and an exceptional pedagogy from the Master Teacher Himself.
For Christians, Jesus Christ the Savior is the Way of Life, and Christianity itself becomes a way of life. The Christian is made fully aware of his need for a constant fellowship with the Lord – praying and reading His Word, and belonging to a church family in order to mature in the faith. One’s progress in this way of life is advanced through Christian education for both the young and the old.
Christian education must operate on the premise that there are absolutes by which men must live. It must be a biblical education because the source of knowledge and wisdom is Jesus, who Himself is the Word (John 1:1). It must not be an education designed to produce heads full of facts and figures yet void of discernment. On the contrary, it must be intentional in producing intellectuals with moral compass; better yet, brilliant minds with hearts for God! It must be an education that brings about the knowledge and understanding concerning the transformed life because Christian education’s main goal is teaching for transformation or “teaching for change,” not just informing. We find this truth throughout the Scriptures- from structured teaching to modeling – pointing the learner to become more like Christ who is the living entity in that way of life. Consequently, men’s accountability to the Creator of the universe and to the Redeemer of our soul becomes the anchor of a Christian education, a way of life that must begin at home.
The Bible clearly emphasizes the major role that parents have in their children’s Christian education. From the very beginning, God has appointed the home to be the child’s first schoolroom. Abraham received a special honor, not for being obedient, but for teaching the Israelites God’s precepts (Gen.18:19). Truly, God wants our children to learn! Isaiah 54:13 implores us: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” To parents, this is not a matter of choice. It is a command that we teach our children and that we teach them well. Christian education as a way of life is a daily walk with God through all our activities. The reality of God’s grace, mercy, justice, holiness, and all His attributes come to life for our children as they watch and observe our ways. As a way of life, Christian education is truly “more caught than taught”! Allan Bloom, in his famous The Closing of the American Mind, relates the following:
My grandparents were ignorant people by our standards, and my grandfather held only low jobs. But their home was spiritually rich because all the things done in it, not only what was specifically ritual, found their origin in the Bible’s commandments, and their explanation in the Bible’s stories and commentaries on them, and had their imaginative counterparts in the deeds of the myriad of exemplary heroes. My grandparents found reasons for the existence of their family and the fulfillment of their duties in serious writing, and they interpreted their special sufferings with respect to a great and ennobling past…There was a respect for real learning, because it had felt connection with their lives. This is what a community and a history mean, a common experience inviting high and low into a single body of belief.
As a way of life, Christian education must continue outside the home, mainly through Sunday School and through the Christian school. These entities exist to support and assist parents in their God-given responsibilities. In both settings, the lesson material and the teacher are key factors. Lessons must be true to God’s Absolute Truth; otherwise the “way of life” taught at home becomes distorted and can cause confusion. The teacher, imperfect he may be, becomes the key factor in life transformation in Christian education. In fact, students tend to follow a “favorite” teacher’s behavior, manners, and even conviction. Hacker in “The Schools Flunk Out” (1984), makes this observation: “Teachers who are first admired for their personal qualities end up getting better performances, because their students make extra effort.” Lynn Gannett, a Christian Education Consultant, is equally perceptive of this fact and says: “Most adults have forgotten the details taught to them by their favorite teacher, but they have never forgotten the teacher. It has been said, ‘First the student loves the teacher, then the student loves the teacher’s Lord’.” What a holy calling, indeed, to stand in loco parentis through Christian education!
Christian education is a lifelong process and a continuous ministry with people. Its overarching philosophy must be Christlikeness by “casting down imaginations, and everything that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5). Christlikeness is not instant, and neither is Christian education. It follows then that we Christian educators must see teaching as a lifestyle. A lifestyle of teaching has to be the most rewarding investment! It is through teaching that one learns more about the world – people and places. There is something to learn and to gain from even the mundane “happenings” at home, the shopping store, or just out in the backyard. A lifestyle of teaching is constant yet unconscious; it is organic. The true teacher does not have to have a classroom: any place can be a teaching ground; any situation is a teaching opportunity; anyone can be touched by it. The touch of true Christian education must result in Christlikeness.
If the overarching philosophy of Christian education is that of Christlikeness, then it is imperative that our pedagogy be patterned after Jesus Christ who “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52); therefore, the curriculum and its execution must prove to develop every pupil and student mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The first (1828) edition of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language defines education as: “the bringing up, as of a child; formation of manners. It comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.” To give children a good education in manners, arts, and science is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable. This is the backdrop of my educational philosophy – an education that aims at a person’s highest potentials physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually through a teaching-learning environment as modeled by Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher. Teaching students, not lessons, should prove more effective and would uphold the biblical instruction: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). Here the prophet Isaiah was referring to the instruction of the people, not to the lessons themselves.
Christian education’s absolute premise in Christ, overarching philosophy of Christlikeness, and exceptional pedagogy set it apart from its secular counterpart. Its unique objectives, values, and challenges are worthy of every Christian family and Christian educator’s sacrifice. Just as military life represents a culture worth dying for, so must Christian education with all its strict standards, high expectations, disciplined structure, accountable operation, and uphill battles. It is that which realizes the prosperous way and the good success (Joshua 1:8). It is that which equips a generation who will one day say, “It was our way of life!”
Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.
Hacker, A. (1984,April), “The Schools Flunk Out.” The New York review of books.
Gannett, Lynn. “Teaching for Learning.” Christian Education Foundations For The Future.
Edited by Clark, Johnson, & Sloat. Chicago: Moody Press,1991.