Instead of stepping away, what might it look for the Church to step intentionally into the chaos and restore order through a renewed commitment to education as ministry?
Literacy, primary, secondary and higher education were undeniable catalysts in the birth and development of Western Civilization and it was the Christian Church that influenced — and provided — those educational opportunities.
Education and the Church
The Greeks and Romans only educated the elites. The Christian Church, valuing every human being equally, sought to educate everyone.
The first Church champion of education was Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (AD 354-430). The philosophy of education in the West is founded on Augustine’s teachings that:
1. God is a rational being
2. Not only the human soul but also the human mind are made in the image of God
3. God created humanity to be able to understand and govern creation
Upon these foundations of faith in God, the West built a cohesive culture based on logic, language and rational knowledge.
And as part of the Reformation, Martin Luther — who we must remember was a priest — called for the overhaul of education that had, of necessity during the Dark Ages, become sheltered in monasteries.
In 1520 Luther made an impassioned plea to the German aristocracy.
His “open letter to the Christian nobility,” said, “I believe that there is no work more worthy of pope or emperor than a thorough reform of the universities.”
Others, including John Knox and John Amos Comenius, joined Luther in universalizing education with the goal of an educated civil society. It was the Church, through educational ministry, that united Europe under one worldview and produced history’s first educated continent.
It was this culture of people, educated by the Church, that established the foundations of the nation-state, parliaments, democracy, commerce, banking, and higher education. It was Friars who founded Oxford and Cambridge. And in nascent America, the first 123 colleges and universities — including Harvard, Princeton and Yale — were founded, funded and flourished as educational ministries of the Christian church.
Stepping into Today’s Chaos
Leap forward 380 years to today. The Church has basically forfeited its influence in education and been relegated to the margins. Last week’s letter from the Obama Administration threatened funding if localities and states do not comply with their “guidance.” The Administration is promoting chaos where we need order.
Want more on this? Listen to The Reconnect on this topic from May 17: