I often use a G. K. Chesterton quote about education that I am fond of; in fact, I’ve used it in this space multiple times. It’s the one about education really being “a transfer of a way life.” What we’re all working together to do at Trinitas is to create a Paideia of God, a culture in which the things of God are the things we think, say, and do. We want to, and want our children to, think God’s thoughts after Him, to speak and sing His word, and to do what His word commands. This is the transfer we’re hoping for.
We hope to achieve such a lofty goal by saturating students with God’s truth and helping them see it in all things. First, students must believe that Scripture is the foundation for all we do and is our ultimate revelation of truth in this age. The truth about God comes through in all sorts of other places too, though, if we start with the premise that God’s word, Holy Scripture, is the source of ultimate truth for us. Once we’re firmly rooted in that, we can begin to see truth in other places. History, literature, math, science, all these subjects are merely different ways of understanding that the world and all its fullness belong to God. Even the wicked that He has made for the day of destruction are a revelation of God’s truth whether they like it or not.
One of the biggest obstacles to getting students to see God’s truth in all places is a lack of academic humility.
Now, I am not condemning some special form of pride in our students here, but am merely saying that they are human and therefore suffer from the everyday variety of pride that causes us all to stumble. It is a special hindrance in an academic setting because in order to get anything out of the material we are studying, we must submit ourselves to it.
For students—for any of us really—the trick is to approach the subject, book, reading, or whatever it is humbly, believing it really has something to teach us. We should come to the study of any new thing fully expecting to be altered by what we encounter. That doesn’t mean we swallow hook, line, and sinker the position of the author or adopt his or her perspective wholesale, but it does mean we listen carefully and sift the ideas for what holds up in the Light of the Word. It means that we appreciate the author’s unique perspective and give him or her the benefit of an audience. When we do that, we can learn and be made better even by some subjects, material, or authors that take a very different viewpoint from our own. (There are limits, of course—some things are just filth that the Christian ought not put before his or her mind. Dad, mom, pastors, and teachers must help young people sort through that.)
Again, all this must start with God’s Word as our foundation for truth. And what better way to begin the practice of academic (and spiritual!) humility than by approaching God’s word expecting to be changed by what we read. This is the one source we can trust completely and even give ourselves over to. We should always approach God’s word prayerfully, asking Him to use it to change us into the likeness of Christ. When this is a matter of daily devotion and even discipline, we can approach our other studies with a level of humility that allows us to find truth everywhere and to be changed for the better by what we study because we will be securely anchored in the Word.
Once our students are anchored in God’s word and can begin to sort out truth from lies in everything they study, then they will be cultivating true wisdom in their lives and will be carrying forward that Paideia of God. A way of life, a way of being Christian in the world will have been transferred.