Years ago in the 5th Century, a young new believer named Laurentius was struggling with how his Roman civilization was becoming unraveled. He wrote a letter to the respected leader of the church Augustine asking, “What do you believe?” Augustine responded with a lengthy letter that basically said, if you want to find out what a person believes, don’t ask what he knows but instead ask what he loves. In this, Augustine was calling the young believer to the crucial issue that true discipleship is not only an issue of getting the right information in our heads, but in having truth shape our hearts and lives to love the Lord and love what the Lord loves.
Augustine got it right…. If you want to know what a person believes, don’t ask them what they know, instead ask them what they love. So the thing to think about when it comes to schools is that wherever you send your children for school will have a deeply shaping influence over what they love and therefore how they live. What they are trained to love will be shaped by the school’s curriculum, by their teachers, by their peers, by the culture of the school …. Your child will be learning what to love from the cues of their teachers, of their peers, of the culture and curriculum of their school. If we are believers, do we really want the world training our children in what to love?
As Nancy Pearcey points out in her book Total Truth, Christian education is more than “injecting a few narrowly defined ‘religious’ elements into the classroom, like prayer and Bible memorization–and then teach exactly the same things as the secular schools, where the curriculum merely spreads a layer of spiritual devotion over the subject matter like icing on a cake, while the content itself stays the same.”
Instead Christian education is teaching all subjects from history to science to literature from a view of the world and life informed by the story of God: He made all things good (Creation), the world and everything and everyone in it has been polluted as He judged sin (the Fall), His reclaiming all things in Christ (Redemption), and where He is bringing everything (Consummation). It is education that has at its center that all of life belongs to God, and all of life (from law to business to neighboring) is to be lived for His glory.
Christian education is about shaping how children view the world, that they might see the world in the way God does, but Christian education goes further to help make the discipling connections of how a worldview becomes a way of life; how belief shapes behavior. Christian education is ultimately about training students to deeply love the Lord and what pleases Him, to love others who have been made in His image, and to love learning about His amazing world and His story of how He is reclaiming it in a way that will bring great glory to Him.
Christian education is not primarily an issue of pursuit of what is safe, but a pursuit of joy and worthy loves that lead us to live for the glory of God in all of life, that we may truly love Him and what pleases Him.
Headmaster, Providence Classical Academy
N.b. Thanks to Steven Garber for getting me to thinking about this over 10 years ago (the Augustine story is from him) in a way that has set me to nurturing lovers of God, even as He is awakening me to cherish Him!