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Archives - December 2015

Thoughts Concerning the Education of our Children-Part 4

December 30, 2015
By John Morrison

We have considered a few examples of the Church's tradition of Christian education in the pre-Reformation and Reformation years.  Let us consider in this blog some post-Reformation examples as included in C. B. Eavey's History of Christian Education (Moody Press, Chicago, ILL, 1971):

John Comenius (1592 – 1670) is considered the “father of modern education” by many Christian scholars because of his theories on pedagogy and how children best learn.  What modern, secular textbooks often leave out is that Comenius was also dedicated to the cause of Christian education.  He was invited by the governments of several countries to reconstruct their educational systems.  Through this restructuring work, Comenius was able to exert significant influence toward a Christian education for all children.

In particular, Comenius believed that educational systems should be grounded in the Biblical worldview and that Christian truth should be integrated into each academic discipline.  He placed special emphasis on the primary role of parents in instructing their children in the fundamentals of faith, believing that schools could then be used effectively to reinforce parental influence in a more formal, academic setting (Eavey, pp. 169-172).

John Wesley, the great English revivalist and the founder of Methodism, placed special emphasis on the education of children.  Concerning the strategic place of youth, he believed “God begins his work in children,” and he emphasized that unless children were well educated in the fundamentals of faith, the revival taking place in his day would last for only one generation.  Some scholars attribute to Wesley the seeds that later blossomed into the Evangelical Sunday School movement (Eavey, p. 221).

The history of general education in America is unique because it was overtly Christian from its very beginning.  Those original colonists were, for the most part, religious dissenters who left Europe in order to pursue their faith in the freedom available in the unspoiled American continent.  The Puritans were dissenters with Calvinistic roots who fled the oppression of the larger, institutional church. The Huguenots—French protestants with Calvinistic roots—settled in the Carolinas.  Many Dutch Calvinists settled in New York; the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians concentrated in New Jersey; the German Lutherans and those of Anabaptist traditions settled much of Pennsylvania.  Maryland was originally predominantly Catholic.  Eavey points out that many of these early settlers throughout the young nation came as whole congregational units.  What they all had in common was their commitment to educate their children in their Christian faith, and  they established schools to that end (Eavey, p. 189).  

Furthermore, the original American colleges, including Harvard, William and Mary, Princeton, and Yale were founded to prepare young men as ministers of the gospel.

With our Christian education heritage as outlined in these three blogs, one wonders how the American church could come to abdicate its role as the primary, formal educator of our children!  I would challenge us all to honestly ponder this question in view of the great devastation we are witnessing as our larger culture is capturing the minds and hearts of a large segment of our youth!

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.


 

 







 

Thoughts Concerning the Education of our Children-Part 3

December 17, 2015
By John Morrison

In last week's blog, we considered some pre-Reformation traditions of Christian education.  Let us consider now some examples from the Reformation as documented in C. B. Eavey's History of Christian Education (Moody Press, Chicago, ILL, 1971):

The name most commonly associated with the Reformation is that of Martin Luther.  Luther viewed education as the primary means for furthering the gospel and placed special emphasis on the Christian education of youth.  The following remarks have been attributed to him:  “I am very much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth.  I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount" (What Luther Says; Concordia, 1959),  p. 449.  

John Calvin, one of the theological giants of the Reformation, viewed education as being at the heart of the propagation of the Gospel.  His efforts included the founding of schools and the promotion of education for all ages.  In particular, he believed it was the special duty of the church to educate its children and proposed doing so through a universal system of schools designed to teach fundamental academic disciplines rooted in Biblical truths (Eavey, p. 150).

John Knox drove the establishment of Calvin’s system of education in Scotland where he made the church responsible for providing a Christian education for all classes and both genders of children.  The inclusion of females in the educational process was significant because of the long-standing tradition of educating males only.

In France, the Huguenots founded many elementary and secondary schools in the pattern modeled by Calvin.  This model was repeated in England, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and as far away as colonial America.

Eavey points out that Calvin’s establishment of the Academy of Geneva became the “nursery of Protestant preachers and teachers for other lands,” as well as the model for the University of Leyden, the University of Edinburgh, Cambridge, and Harvard, among others.   Indeed, it is hard to overstate the influence of Calvin’s philosophy of Christian education. It was applied throughout much of northern Europe, England and America at all levels of education—from the elementary school to the university (Eavey, p. 164).  Coupled with his systematic theology and his philosophy of civil government, Calvin’s philosophy of Christian education was a primary force behind the formation of the modern constitutional governments of these nations.

As was the case with the pre-Reformation movements, education was perhaps the most vital element in the spread of the gospel throughout the Reformation movement. Eavey observes:

Every Reformation leader, including Luther in Germany, Calvin in France and Switzerland, Zwingli and Beza in Switzerland, Knox in Scotland, Cranmer and Ridley in England, and Ussher in Ireland, recognized the need for stressing the church school idea as the basis for the growth of the church (Eavey, p. 219).

And, as noted in the last blog, the Catholic tradition of Christian education remained a primary part of its overall emphasis throughout most of its history.

One wonders, in the face of such established tradition, how the contemporary church could have drifted away from this vital priority?

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.  

Thoughts Concerning the Education of our Children-Part 2

December 09, 2015
By John Morrison

As we develop this series of blogs concerning the nature of Christian education, some historical perspective will give us a larger context for where we find ourselves today.  Indeed, we may learn that our own embrace of government sponsored education is very much the exception for Christians down through church history.  Let us consider a very condensed set of examples from the pre-Reformation church as cited by C. B. Eavey in his excellent book, History of Christian Education (Moody Press, Chicago, ILL, 1971):

The Waldenses were a group located in the central Alpine regions of Europe who stood against the corrupt practices of the institutional church.  According to Eavey, they “Always and everywhere…observed the practice of regular reading of the Bible, regular daily family worship, and regular instruction of individuals, with special emphasis directed toward establishing children in Bible truth” (Eavey,p. 117).

The Albigenses – neighbors of the Waldenses – were located in the Italian and French alpine valleys.  They were severely persecuted by the institutional church, but in spite of opposition, maintained their corporate faith as a result of a strong emphasis on Bible instruction by parents to their children and a system of itinerant teachers who directed their efforts toward the larger community of believers (Eavey, p. 119).

John Huss and his followers believed education to be vital to the spread of the Gospel and on-going nurture of its converts.  They established a system of schools and a university with the express purpose of preparing young men as gospel workers.  In addition, they published one of the first Bible translations in the vernacular of the people.  Schools were considered essential in teaching the populace – especially the youth – to read God’s word (Eavey, p. 118).

The Brethren of the Common Life represented a strategic pre-Reformation movement.  Identified primarily with its Dutch founder Gerhard Groote, this group emphasized the pure teachings of the Bible and their simple application to the common man and woman.  They also emphasized teaching the general population to read in order to be able to study the Scriptures in their own language.  As a result, they were devoted to education—especially focused on youth—whom they believed represented the future of the church (p. 118).

Of course, we must also emphasize that Christian education, until more recent years, has been very much at the heart of the Catholic tradition.  Even today, conservative Christian scholarship is strongly represented in many Catholic institutions of higher learning.

These are but a few of the notable movements between the time of the early apostles and the Reformation, but the above serve as remarkable examples of what some call “the authentic” church. These believers stayed true to the fundamental doctrines and truths of Christianity, despite the persecution and opposition they experienced at the hands of the secular society and, sadly, the larger institutional church.  While these groups may have had some contact with each other, for the most part they were independent movements and serve as testimony to God’s faithfulness in maintaining the early church traditions and purity of faith, despite much opposition.  

It is noteworthy that each movement was characterized by a common reliance on education—with a special emphasis on the education of youth—as a primary means of spreading, maintaining and increasing the vitality of their faith.  

How is it that the contemporary church has lost sight of this essential vision to provide our children and youth with a comprehensive system of Christ-centered education?

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

Thoughts Concerning the Education of our Children-Part 1

December 02, 2015
By John Morrison

While my blogs are intended for all who are interested in Grace Christian School, I would like to undertake a series on the topic of Christian education and direct it especially toward our parents.  I will keep each one short and to the point!

It is interesting to note, according to reliable research cited by the Independent School Management group, that parents enroll their children in private schools for five primary reasons:

  • Safety of my child
  • Faculty care and concern
  • Character education
  • Faculty expertise, and
  • Academic rigor

These are all important reasons.  But I would like to suggest an even higher priority that should underlie our rationale as Christian parents.   One way this priority could be stated is in the words of the Apostle Paul: "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Col 2:8).  We may be put off by Paul's use of terminology unfamiliar to many in our generation: "philosophy, empty deception, tradition of men, and elementary principles of this world."  But if we take God’s word seriously, we need to come to grips with Paul’s strategic admonition as it applies to the education of our children.

In this context, I have been told a number of times that most parents cannot or do not want to take the time to think deeply about the nature of their children's education, especially in this more "philosophic" context of Paul’s words.  But I cannot agree with this argument.  Indeed, as parents we are deeply committed to our children, and I believe we all desire a deeper appreciation for some of the more profound issues underlying the nature of their education.  So, as I develop this series, I hope you will give it your prayerful consideration (even if it "makes your head hurt," as some of my students used to tell me!).

While I realize that to some degree I am "preaching to the choir," we need very much to be on the same page in working together at Grace Christian School for the spiritual health and well-being of this next generation.  Consider, too, forwarding these blogs to church leaders, friends, and others you believe might be interested in this topic.

In closing, and as a contrast to the negatively stated concern by Paul as quoted above, let me reference Samuel Adams, who affirmed this same priority in more positive terms: "Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, of inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity...in short of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system" (Letter to John Adams, October 4, 1790).  While today we might state this principle more in the context of leading our children to a personal relationship with Christ, Adams certainly makes his point in a very articulate manner.  Would that we had this same emphasis in our present national leadership!

Stay tuned for next week's blog.

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email John Morrison at grace@gcswarriors.org.

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