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“The true purpose of Christian education is to prepare young people for a complete life under the lordship of Jesus Christ.” This definition of the purpose of Christian education from the back of Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education, by Albert E. Greene, is just as good as any and gives the reader of the book insight into what he or she is about to learn and discover about reclaiming the future of Christian education.
A quick summary of Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education is found in the introduction, which states, “This book is about developing a new, transformed conscious- ness—a biblical consciousness—through teaching children in Christian homes, churches, and schools.”
Within the pages of this important and valuable book, Albert E. Greene explores Christian education and its future through looking at education’s past through the lenses of the following sections in Part I, Understanding The Times: The Enlightenment and Postmodernism, An Alternative Consciousness, Teaching and Learning God, and Praise and Thanksgiving.
This first section, Understanding The Times, begins with defining and unpacking education as it relates to the enlightenment and postmodernism. These two schools of thought have influenced the student’s, as well as the educator’s, thinking and have shaped education more than we may realize. As Greene laments in the introduction, “Our thinking is thoroughly adulterated by Enlightenment concepts. It is as polluted as the most victimized parts of our physical environment (Greene, p. VII).”
The idea that science is the highest form of truth to the neglect of ethics and morals is examined in looking at The Enlightenment. And in inspecting postmodernism, relativism, the lack of absolute truth, individual happiness, and the creation of meaning is explored. These modes of thinking clearly affect the student and the educator and cloud a true Christian worldview that we should be seeking to live, to learn, and to teach from.
In the section An Alternative Consciousness, the need for an alternative to the thinking of the enlightenment and postmodernism is presented and described. The problem that is being addressed here is the reality that “‘we have privatized our religion as we have secularized our culture (Religion and American Education, p. 61).’ Thus the Christian church is heavily involved in dualism (p. 27).” This “third way,” or “alternative consciousness,” champions a Biblical worldview and seeks to facilitate “a renewed Christian culture.”
The emphasis in this section is on the truth that all of education and study concerns itself with the “stuff” of God’s own creation. If the student is to properly understand anything in this created order, he or she must understand God, The Creator. Greene declares that the nature of truth is unified in God and that truth is a person, Jesus Christ. Greene says, “The Christian mind denies the possibility of a distinction between secular and spiritual truth because it realizes that every created thing reveals God and thus cannot be isolated from ‘the facts.’”
Greene also declares, “Knowing God in and through the creation is what is important, and students must be helped to explore the creation along the lines of their own gifts.” Greene stresses, “If we seriously intend to reawaken as a church to the biblical view of life and reality, we dare not fail to train our children, whether in Christian schools or in Christian home schools, in a transformed, biblical consciousness.” In other words, we must return to a biblical worldview.
Greene writes in chapter 4, Teaching and Learning and God, “[Created things] are laden with meaning because they are all part of God’s way of giving Himself to us. We refuse our birthright and willfully go about as paupers if we insist on regarding ordinary things as unholy (p. 45).” As Greene goes on to assert in chapter 5, Praise and Thanksgiving, we should be full of worship, praise and thanksgiving for God’s revelation to us in His creation, which teaches us about God Himself.
Part 2, A Basic Christian Philosophy, assesses a basic Christian philosophy in these sections: A Christian Philosophy, The Word of God, Creation, Anthropology, Knowledge, Values and Beauty, and Idolatry, Dualism, and Gnosticism.
According to Greene, we cannot underestimate the value of a solid foundation in Christian education. We must begin with God’s word and a Biblical worldview if we are going to maintain the integrity and stability of Christian schooling. This worldview is best considered in terms of “A Christian Philosophy,” as worldview is more unconscious in our thinking.
In considering a Christian philosophy, Greene considers the Greek worldview, or philosophy, which states that the physical world is evil and should be transcended. We understand and see this view as Gnosticism and it is addressed in many of Paul’s New Testament letters. Greene also addresses this heresy, which stems from the Greek philosophical worldview, which plagued the early church and still threatens the Christian worldview today. Greene comparably looks at the Hebrew philosophy, which sates God is active in creation while still being transcendent and separate from His creation.
Greene emphasizes the threat that postmodernism poses the church and education. This relativism and lack of a Biblical view of truth has radically undermined a Christian and Biblical worldview. Green states, “As we enter the twenty-first century, the powerful current of postmodernism is sweeping Western thought. Postmodernism not only denies absolute truth and value but now undermines confidence in the independent existence of human personality itself (p. 70).”
In seeking out a Christian philosophy, Greene asserts that Christians are to have a holistic and comprehensive view of reality, truth, knowledge, and wisdom. Greene is emphatic in the idea that to be Christian, is to be a philosopher. He says, “The New Testament is no less emphatic that Christians are to seek and love wisdom. In this sense to be a Christian is, by definition, to be a philosopher (p. 73).” Philosophy and the pursuit of truth and knowledge is not just a secular pursuit, it is a Christian one as well. The false dualism and dichotomies that separate knowledge, wisdom, and philosophy from the gospel truths of Christianity are simply false, un-Biblical, and un-Christian. Christ is, indeed, Lord of all knowledge and of everything.
The Word of God must also be looked at as we discuss education, science and philosophy. The word of God is the Bible, but it is more than the Bible. Scriptures speak to us the words of God, and so does creation. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “The word of God constitutes the total reality in which we find ourselves.” However, many Christians have fallen back into the gnostic heresy that creation is somehow evil and does not speak of God or communicate the wisdom of God. We must get beyond this without falling into creation worship, or idolatry. Again Petersen asserts, “The total reality that we inhabit is the Word of the living God (p. 89).” As it says in Acts 17:28, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
In a Christian worldview, the study of humanity, or anthropology, is looked at through the lens of creation, fall, and redemption. Some scholars also add restoration here as a fourth category through which to understand the human condition and hope. It is from this view of a Christian philosophy, the Word of God, creation, and anthropology that Greene launches into the study of knowledge, values and beauty, and idolatry, and dualism and Gnosticism in the remaining sections of part 2.
The next section of Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education, Content in Christian Schooling, Part 3, addresses the essence of the Christian schooling content in the following sections: Creation and Covenant, Meaning Restored to School Studies, Human Experience and School Subjects, More Aspects and School Subjects, and The Normed Subjects.
Part 4, Methods in Christian Schooling, gives the reader more practical tools and tips for Christian Education through these subsequent topics: Walking by the Spirit, The Place of Love in Learning, Hospitality in Teaching, Freedom to Teach Through Self-Knowledge, Meaningful Teaching, and Community in the Christian School.
Methods in Christian Schooling may be one of the more helpful, or at least practical, sections of Greene’s book. Stressing the importance of walking by God’s Spirit and functioning out of a place of love, hospitality, self-knowledge, and community cannot be underestimated in the makeup of what constitutes God-honoring and meaningful teaching in Christian education.
Greene states, “Christian teaching should, above all, be meaningful. This means the learning should come to be associated in the student’s mind with the knowledge of God . . . (p. 259)” Greene says, “Love and learning must go together (p. 234).” In loving God, we also love knowledge. It is in God that we learn and it is in Him that education has meaning and purpose and learning takes place holistically.
Hospitality also plays an essential role for the educator and for the learner alike. As Henri Nouwen is quoted by Greene, “When we look at teaching in terms of hospitality, we can say that the teacher is called upon to create for his students a free and fearless space where mental and emotional development can take place (Reaching Out, p. 60) (p. 237).” And as Greene himself put it, “Mutual love is the key ingredient in true community (p. 267).”
It is in this milieu of understanding the times, having a basic Christian philosophy, understanding the content of Christian schooling, and operating out of these methods, of walking by God’s Spirit and functioning out of a place of love, hospitality, and self-knowledge in education, that we will have meaningful reclamation of Christian education.
Albert Greene ends Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education with an insightful conclusion that pulls together his thoughts, ideas, concepts, and tips for reclaiming the future of Christian education. Greene states at the end of the book, that there are three goals for Christian education: “The first is reconciling, or reuniting, creation and redemption. The second is encouraging reconciled lives that give visibility to the Christian worldview of creation, fall, and redemption. The third is nurturing students in such a way that through the school studies their awe, love, praise, and service to God are deepened (p. 273).”
Stating this even more simply in his conclusion, Greene goes on to state, “The distinctive goal of Christian school is to use the curriculum as a means to help students grow in the reconciliation of creation and redemption, in their expression in life of a Christian worldview, and in their knowledge of God (p. 279).”
Also included at the end of Reclaiming The Future of Christian Education are a bibliography for further research and reference and a topical index for further study and exploration of the ideas, concepts and tips presented in the book.
Reclaiming The Future of Christian Education is a very helpful book on Christian education with philosophical and historic background of the record and philosophy of education. This book also contains very practical insights and tips on how to be better educators who help to reclaim the future of Christian education. This book has valuable contributions to the conversation about Christian education and philosophy and is well worth the investment of time and resources to read.
Examiner.com, this article was first published in Examiner here.
Greene, Albert E., Reclaiming The Future of Christian Education: A Transforming Vision. Purposeful Design Publications, Colorado Springs, CO. © 1998
PDF Book excerpt of Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education: http://www.acsi.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=0ntGyciRgO0%3D&tabid=897
Reclaiming the Future of Christian Education on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Reclaiming-Future-Christian-Education-Albert/dp/1583310002