The First Century Church in Jerusalem was not complicated by video recorders, telephones, televisions, computers, micro-wave cookers, cars, supermarkets, and Internet. The education of children was in a simpler setting. It was a responsibility for the family. It began at home. Practical trades were valued. Torah was at the heart of all the values to be passed on. Indeed, education was a lifelong pursuit and a practical trade was the means by which a family could be sustained and income generated for the furtherance of study.
As the years have proceeded, the Church has moved out from its base in Jerusalem into the Gentile world – a world of many cultures, where there is a conflict of the empires. The (superficial) grandeur of Greece and Rome offers pleasures and pursuits in this life which seem quite harmless. Yet when their fruit is born in the modern generation we discover clutter in our lives. The organisational strategies for our nations based on humanistic philosophies, including democracy, have not resulted in overall peace and prosperity. Our resulting education systems overflow with the knowledge that is needed to maintain the priorities of our generation and survive, but is this just a self-perpetuating merry-go-round of meaninglessness?
The “Church Fathers” of the early centuries after Yeshua grappled with the challenge as to whether children from the believing community should be sent to secular/pagan schools. They were concerned about the Greek influence but were also concerned about equipping their children for the real world. Considerable ground was given in order to ensure that the Church did not disturb the equilibrium of the surrounding society or produce a ghetto mentality for its own community. The view was adopted that there was a means by which the knowledge of the pagan society could be Christianised.
We face the same dilemma today, but with centuries of history behind us we can review the fruits of the education systems which have gone before. It is my view that we discover a Greek orientation within the Church rather than a Hebraic/Judaic perspective, and this is an important clue to the erosion of our faith. The meaning of wisdom, knowledge and understanding has become associated with activities of the mind and not the heart. These concepts have lost their heavenly perspective and have even become a means by which the existence of God can be challenged. And the Church has not, on the whole, challenged the system, which among other things declares that there was a “Big Bang” and a gradual (chance) evolution of everything there is. Some educationalists go on to declare that if there is a god then it is a kind of universal force, some see no need for God at all, and still others find it acceptable to live with any one of a range of options which you can choose from, while the issues of multi-faith compromise, economic uncertainty, pornography, space age fantasy, abortion, euthanasia, sexually transmitted disease and so on are rising to challenge the coming generation of adults.
I would suggest that it is an appropriate time for believers to re-assess educational goals, taking a radical and fundamental look at the roots and foundations of our faith to see if we are negligent in the way we train our children. Are we teaching them to look with wonder at the created universe and worship God rather than make a systematic scientific analysis of the fabric of creation in order to (mis)use it for mankind’s selfish goals? Are we teaching our children to flirt with the goals and gods of an ungodly (Greek) empire which will eventually bear the fruits of its own roots in Babylon? Are we walking on the treadmill of generations which recycles the fruitless goals of past generations? Indeed is there a “god” behind the universities and centers of learning (“civilised”) countries which sets up educational idols which satisfy our pride, setting academic achievement above practical service?
I believe that it is time to look back into the Scriptures, to rediscover educational objectives which acknowledge God’s Sovereignty and Fatherhood, teaching our children to seek lives of service and true wisdom, which is more precious than rubies.
There can be many types of school to support various ideologies and we must discover what a truly Christian school is. A number of “Christian” schools have closed down recently so it is not an easy task to discover something which prepares children in the appropriate way, not segregating them into a ghetto, but preparing them for service, while not denying them personal choice (particularly in the later years). A fundamental Christian curriculum is not easy to define because of the way we are accustomed to the priorities of the secular curricula (and its state funding). Yet surely we can begin to picture a community which denies children no good thing, emphasises education from its godly origins and godly objectives, setting children off in a way that God Himself will honour, where education is a priority of family as well as community and linked to the community work-force in areas of service. Such a curriculum will be Torah based and wisdom orientated.
In the coming days we will find that National Curricula will turn into World Curricula and I am convinced that they will be based on ecological, political and social agendas to “save the planet”. Behind the scenes will be a one world religion which will be New Age based, assuming the principles of evolution and multi-faith compromise. Perhaps this is a particular reason why we should be looking at our educational roots at this time.
(Reprinted from Tishrei Vol 3, No 1, Spring 1995, Education)