The Task of Christian Education

Warning: big words ahead. Bear with me, though. I will land in a relevant, practical place.

J. Scott Horrell, professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, describes the five divisions of sin in Genesis chapter 3 based on his meditations at L’Abri and the writings of Francis Schaffer. In a nutshell, once Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, it causes a division or separation of five relationships: humanity/God, humanity/humanity, humanity/self, humanity/nature, and nature/nature. Jesus’ work on the cross reconciles these relationships, and will ultimately reconcile these relationships in the eschaton (eternity future, when Jesus returns and sets all things right).

However, we don’t live in the eschaton; we live in the here and now. Here  and now, the Bible describes the church as the body of Christ. In a sense we (the church) serve as the incarnation (Christ in the flesh) until the incarnation comes back to complete the job.* If you can accept that the church must carry out the work of Christ, and if you can accept that Christ came (in part) to reconcile the divisions of sin (in fulfillment of the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15) then it follows that the church’s task is to carry out the reconciliation of the five divisions of sin.

This means that the task of Christian education is to teach the church how to carry out the task of reconciliation.

Implication: Christian educators need to reconsider the cognitive categories of education. We organize our educational system around content domains, based upon Greek philosophical categories. It seems to me that, while helpful, those categories may not offer the best method or categories.  I think that the Arts/Humanities/Sciences split doesn’t offer the best lens to think through the reconciliatory task. I will offer an alternative at a later date.

Implication: Christian educators also need to reconsider education in light of the academy/church/home split. I have suggested that the academy teaches to the cognitive (knowledge), the church teaches to the affective (values) and the home teaches to the conative (method/drive), but I think theses agencies can coordinate and cooperate more in their efforts to teach the students. In fact, I think these agencies need to do a better job in doing so. Perhaps this offers a path to doing so.

Implication: Christian educators must teach not only to the cognitive (content) aspects of education, but also the affective and conative aspects. I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Christian education involves the whole person, and our efforts need to do so with deliberation and with careful and prayerful consideration.

May we renew and pursue the task and the high calling of Christian education.

* – Yes, yes, I know this brings up post/pre/a-millenial arguments and interpretations of Revelation and the particular eschatological views. If you will grant me the basic premise that life now is different than life will be (in other words, that the future when all things are right will be different than life is now when all things are not right) without arguing over how we get there, I believe you might be able to accept where I’m going with this.

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