Valuing Tradition – Envisioning the Future

Rodney J. Marshall

I believe “the education of children for God is the most important business that is done on earth.”[1] To succeed in the formation of young lives this education must be epistemologically well rooted. It must value the traditions that produced western civilization and a vibrant teaching and learning culture must drive it. Students thus educated have received foundational preparation for lives of service to God and humankind.

The education of children for God must be epistemologically well rooted in a historic Christian world and life view to give it meaningful context and perspective. Every thought has a history and for the Christian student every good thought must eventually find its roots in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. “Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”[2] Such a statement seems lofty when one considers a young child learning to read but as that child reads to learn thoughts should be consciously informed by a scriptural meta-narrative. This contextualization sets apart a Christian liberal arts education from the rest. The Christian educator prays and teaches to this end.

This education must value the broad liberal arts tradition descending to us as the legacy of western civilization. The engagement of great ideas in every arena from the classical tradition of rhetoric to exploration of the created order in the sciences will form thoughts and lives over time. This kind of active idea engagement is elevating, broadening and stimulating to students. And in these ideas we seek to find the truth with students for “all truth comes from God.” [3] This broad education in the liberal arts will produce a thoughtful student that thinks and lives flexibly and creatively based on a long tradition of great thoughts.

A vibrant teaching and learning culture wherein faculty, students, and all constituents participate correlates with the best student learning. This culture should be at once vigorous and joyful. There is a reason schools were once called gymnasiums. And there is an equally good reason “the wise teacher makes learning a joy.” [4] The students will learn best in this context and we pray they will become adults that enjoy learning for a lifetime. Thus the Christian educator and especially the institutional leader should make the development of this vibrant teaching and learning culture his or her primary aim.

This brief philosophy of education advocates for the importance of educating children by means of a broad liberal arts curriculum in the context of a Christian world and life view and a vibrant learning culture. This work is advantageous for the child’s preparation for a life of service to God and humankind. And, it is beneficial for the world in which generations of children will continue to live and grow.

[1] Dabney, R. L. On Secular Education

[2] Kuyper, Abraham (1998). “Sphere Sovereignty”. In Bratt, James D. Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. pp. 488

[3] Augustine, On Christian Doctrine.

[4] Solomon, Proverbs 15:2