God, Logic, and Education – part 2

I proposed in my last post that a secular worldview, because it cannot account for universal laws of logic and standards of rationality, cannot provide an intellectual foundation for education.  How does a biblical worldview provide such a foundation?

Scripture reveals the existence of a universal, logical order grounded in the mind of God.  In the prelude to John’s Gospel the word “Word” is used with reference to Jesus Christ:

“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.  3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).

The Greek word translated “Word” is logos – a word that brims with meaning.  Logos in John’s gospel connotes ultimate meaning or reason for being – the underlying rational structure of the universe.  In Jesus, this ultimate meaning took on a physical body and was embodied as a real human being.  That such a rational order exists in the universe is a pillar of a Christian philosophy of education.

Elsewhere in the New Testament Jesus is equated with the very wisdom of God:  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  The pursuit of  God’s wisdom is the chief aim of education:

1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
(Proverbs 2:1-5)

5 Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
(Proverbs 4:5-7)

Wisdom is regarded as a priceless treasure whose worth surpasses all other possessions.  It both originates (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” – Proverbs 1:6) and ends with knowledge of God.  Wisdom’s corollary – understanding – is a more common word in our cultural discourse about education.  Inverting the word to “stand under” is revealing.  Knowing is essentially an act of submission.  To know one must bow one’s mind to a higher reality outside the mind and conform one’s thoughts to it.  Thus, the very pursuit of understanding assumes a larger, transcendent intellectual order that one must obey and follow.

Such an order is either passively ignored or denied hostilely in much education today.  Yet education nonetheless requires submission.  However, in place of submission to a respect for a universal rational order grounded in the mind of God, students have submit to a socially-constructed order in which learning is equated with mimicking what teachers and other authorities present as knowledge.  Every teacher knows the tendency of students, even in the higher grades, to memorize and regurgitate information on tests.  Often what distinguishes the more successful students is merely an greater memory bank and an ability to follow more complex procedures.  And many teachers, myself included, lament how so many of their students seem limited to such low-level cognitive activity and the weakness of their problem-solving, critical thinking, and innovative capacities.

If, as a secular worldview maintains, there is no universal, eternal, immaterial rational order, then knowledge is not objective, but constructed by particular societies in a particular time.  Learning then is fundamentally about fitting into the social order and copying what one’s society accepts as knowledge.  I believe this epistemological presupposition is at the heart of our culture’s educational malaise.  The ability to do wonderful things with the mind – solve complex problems, express oneself creatively and persuasively, discern truth from error – these are all the fruits of wisdom and wisdom is founded on Logos -the universal structure of rationality and meaning.  This “Word” has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ “in whom Him are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3)


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