February 13, 2015

Regents Daily News:
February 13, 2015

The Fruit of a Christian Education

We believe that providing children with a classical Christian education is one of the most important businesses on earth.

Classical Christian education is not just a means to get into college or a path to making money. Instead, it is a cultivated illumination and wisdom, a habit of heart and mind. Like physical health, it is good in itself. But it is also useful as a means of preparing students to fulfill the various callings in life God gives. When a man or woman is well educated, he or she is a better person and therefore a better husband or wife, mother or father, son or daughter, employer or employee, friend, citizen and saint.

What loftier vision could there be for a school to embrace than that of shaping its young men and women (in the language of Psalm 144:12) to be “as plants grown up in their youth,” and “as pillars, sculptured in palace style”?

The process of education aims at a final end, a singular goal. While many these days think the final goals of a program of education are grades, college admission, credentials, prestige, money, or personal advancement, Christian education is motivated differently. It is motivated by love.

This goal is made clear in an episode in the gospels when a lawyer asked Jesus which commandment in the Old Testament was the greatest of all. Jesus responded with these well-known words: “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22: 37-39). Jesus stated that supreme love for God as the greatest commandment is complemented by love for neighbor as the second greatest commandment, and that together these two requirements from Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19 summarize the entire Old Testament. God’s whole purpose for humanity is revealed here, and it means that everything people do ought to be aimed at fulfilling these two greatest commandments. The purpose of life is learning to love.

Christian education is certainly no exception. All studying, teaching, and learning; all administrating, leading and guiding; all the curricular and extra-curricular activities; and, indeed, the total culture of a Christian school, ought to contribute to the fulfillment of this one overarching goal of fostering in students, and in the whole school family, a richer, deeper, fuller love for God and love for others, the two greatest loves of all that are bound up together.

This high calling of Christian education was not lost on earlier generations. Over seven hundred years ago, Bernard of Clairvaux taught that love trumps a variety of inferior motivations for education. He wrote,

There are many who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity. There are others who desire to know in order that they may themselves be known: that is vanity. Others seek knowledge in order to sell it: that is dishonorable. But there are some who seek knowledge in order to edify others: that is love.

The primary goal, then, of Christian education ought to be unadulterated Christian love, and its greatest concern isn’t really to produce successes, but rather to produce saints.

And these saints, all decked out in their educational gifts — gifts of the mind and character of Christ, of faith, hope and love, of truth, goodness and beauty — these saints, well-equipped in love, are the true fruit of a Christian education.

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