In The Case for CCE chapter 7 Douglas Wilson asks “What Is Education?” A deceptively simple question. But a question of vast importance.
To answer it Wilson quotes Southern Presbyterian theologian R.L. Dabney: “Education is the nurture and development of the whole man for his proper end. That end must be conceived rightly in order to understand the process, and even man’s earthly end is predominately moral.” Wilson is quick to point out that Dabney’s use of the world “moral” does not mean “moralistic,” somehow implying that education means “being given a list of do’s and don’ts.” Instead, man’s true end is related to God’s glory, and whether or not he will be blessed is determined by that moral relationship. This is to suggest, writes Wilson, that “Obedience in education is the process of learning the implications of that moral relation as it relates to every aspect of our lives.”
“Every aspect of our lives.” This is the real point that Wilson is making in this chapter. Education inherently involves religious claims, and religious claims are always all-encompassing, always total. Education that is faithful to God must be seen as “something that involves the whole person in the context of the whole universe, a universe created by the triune God.” As children are given a distinctively Christian education, they grow in their understanding of who they are, who God is, and what the world God created really means. Thus, they are prepared to live for the glory of God.
So a boy or girl sitting in a classroom has not reached the highest goal for a human being. Everything finds its integration point in Christ. Every subject does so in the classroom – biology, Latin, history, math, science, literature – but Christ is also the integration point between what the student learns in the classroom and how the student lives for the rest of life. All things cohere in Christ, and Christian education, as it is founded on Scripture (the Word of Christ), prepares the student to live all of life to the glory of the God who made her and who is her Judge and Redeemer.
One last quote from Wilson that captures his point:
The fact that the Scriptures are at the center of all Christian education does not mean that the students and teacher walk around the classroom two inches above the floor with a strange luminosity surrounding their heads. It means that the students are learning how to present their bodies, brains and all, math puzzles in them and everything, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. Such as approach to education is surprisingly earthy, and yet the earthiness is not pointless, as it is in a secularist context. Van Til says, “Christian teachers know that not a single ‘fact’ can really be known and therefore really be taught unless placed under the light of the revelation of God.”