Two recent events have me thinking about the importance of academics, reason, the Christian intellect, and educational choices. Both events involve my daughter, who attends a Classical Christian School in our area. The first happened at the mall, ironically, on a day when the girls skipped school to spend time with their grandparents visiting from out-of-town. My daughter was in line to buy a book from the bookstore when she saw a copy of Homer’s The Iliad on a shelf. We had a brief, but interesting, conversation about Homer, the Trojan War, and Phineas & Ferb (yep, you read that last one right). Without going into details, the lady waiting in front of us was more than impressed that my 3rd grader was conversant with Homer (and Phineas & Ferb). Not long after that, I was involved in a conversation about that same daughter’s Latin class. Again, those I was speaking took notice of the academic acumen of my 3rd grader.
To be frank, these two incidents were gratifying on a carnal level. Every dad wants to brag on his kid and it is even better when you don’t have to brag. “That’s right, a 3rd grader who knows Homer and translates Latin! Isn’t she impressive, and more importantly, aren’t I a great parent?” This is just sin, and there are pockets of my heart where this kind of sinful pride vies for sovereignty. Whatever your educational choice are for your children, you’ve got to watch out for these pockets of “I’m validated because of my kids education.” Ultimately, we–and our kids– can only be validated before God if we are justified by faith in Christ. The only identity that means anything–for eternity and now–is to be identified with Christ.
This, however, does not mean we shouldn’t care about our kids education. I don’t want to fan the flames of pride in my heart (or my daughter’s heart). Nor, do I want to craft a family identity based on our educational choices. However, I do want teach my kids to be learners because the Christian life requires learning. In fact, the word disciples simple means student learner.
In our situation, we have chosen to send our daughters to this particular school not because we are committed to a method of education (per se), but because we are committed to developing a Christian mind in our children. The method is not what drives our educational choices; biblical principles and goals are what motivate us. We want them to be “thinkers” so that they can submit their thoughts to Christ. In order for that to happen, they must accept the Gospel, which is why the Gospel is regular part of our daily conversations. In addition to conversion, we want our girls to have the mind of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 2:16).
In this same vein, J.I. Packer explains the 3-fold task of Christian reason (Fundamentalism and the Word of God, 135):
- The first task is to receive the teaching of God.
- The second task… is to apply the teaching got God to life: to bring it into constructive relationship with out other knowledge and interests, and to work out its being on the practical problems of daily life and action–moral, social, personal, political, aesthetic, or whatever they may be.
- The third task of Christian reason is to communicate God’s truth to others.
I think that these three points are superb, and should inform the way you think about your intellect and your kid’s education. These should be the goals that are working for as you seek to raise of Christian thinker. Don’t serve a method of education, find a methodology that serves biblical principles and works toward biblical goals. I don’t want to boast in my kids’ education, I want my kids’ education to teach them to boast in Christ.