On Thursday, April 7, Nancy Mering (former Gordon College Director of Admissions and current Board Chair of Amirah) spoke at Bradford Christian Academy's Gala for Teaching and Learning about the value of Christian education. She has graciously allowed us to share her thoughts.
I’m honored and delighted to be with you tonight to consider a topic near and dear to my heart: The Value of Christian Education. Presumably, it’s also a topic of great interest to everyone here. It would be interesting and fun if the format allowed for group discussion, so we’ll have to plan that for another time. For now, here’s my list of some of the valuable qualities of Christian education:
** It provides a morally, spiritually and physically safe learning environment.
** It can shape hearts and minds, belief and behavior.
** Teachers are role models of integrated Christian faith.
** Higher academic and behavioral standards.
** The teaching of Christian ethics and morals extends and reinforces the home teaching and values.
** Christian friends and support which can diminish negative peer pressure.
** Typically a good student-teacher ratio, with time for helpful attention to the individual.
Let’s back up and think first about the purpose of any school or educational program: Here’s one purpose statement I like: “To equip children [learners] to understand the truth about life and the world and their place in it.”
I’m all for the teaching of truth . . . but this good statement strikes me immediately as insufficient, since there’s no mention of teaching about God. I think Christian believers would agree it is not possible to teach the full truth about life and its purpose and meaning without teaching about God as the loving and sovereign creator, sustainer and redeemer of all life.
So, Christian education is about guiding children/learners towards the understanding that God is the source and at the center of every pursuit of knowledge about life and the world and our place in it.
II Peter 1:3 tells us that “His [God’s} divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . .” In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says, “I consider everything a loss [basically trash] compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, . . .” In the opening paragraph of his book KNOWING GOD, J. I. Packer includes this quote by a British pastor in the mid 1800s: “The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he [or she] calls Father.” Packer adds that it is knowledge of God that “provides . . . a foundation, shape, and goal for our lives, plus a principle of priorities and a scale of values.”
Coming to a full understanding and knowledge of God requires that we also know ourselves—our sinful selves. Acknowledgement of and reckoning with sin in the world is essential to a clear understanding of God: his holiness and grace, in particular. Dr. Roger Green, a beloved, Bible professor at Gordon College where I worked for many years, reminds students that the “real world” is any place where the reality of the presence and power of sin is acknowledged. That makes any Christian school part of the real world, rather than a bubble of escape from it.
This is all kind of heavy duty. Some of you may be thinking about your elementary school-aged children who just need to learn to read and write and do some basic arithmetic and know that the world is round and revolves around the sun. Of course. But literature, math, science and all subjects at any level are filters through which even the youngest children can begin to learn about the beauty and order of God’s universe and God’s purpose for putting humans in this world and what that means about how we are to live our lives.
Let me clear: We are talking tonight about education. Bradford Christian Academy is a school, not a church or some other Christian program. BCA must, of course, be about the business of stretching and shaping students’ minds, laying a foundation for productive and meaningful lives. But BCA and all Christian schools understand that to fulfill the purpose of a school—“To equip children [learners] to understand the truth about life and the world and their place in it” can best be accomplished when teaching about life and the world is holistic and not compartmentalized; when the teaching of any and all subjects is seen as a means of developing a full-orbed knowledge of God. We are created to know God and be in relationship with him. Eternal life is knowledge of God. (John 17:3)
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