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The Connection between the “Classical” and “Christian” in Education



One of the most frequently asked questions from parents, teachers, and even educators regarding Classical Christian education is: What is the relationship between “Classical” and “Christian”? This is a very important question. And the way you understand the relationship between Classical and Christian is going to determine much of the direction of how you will experience the education of your children.

 

I’ll begin by stating what it is not biblically, even though many people think these ways.

  1. It is NOT Christians trying to get the “best of both worlds,” Christian and secular. 

  2. It is NOT two separate compartments (“spiritual” vs. “academic”) of our children’s education, co-existing, but separate. Thus, it is futile to attempt to separate the two compartments between home and school.

  3. It is NOT the two stages of a child’s development.  An emphasis in classical education in the early childhood does not naturally lead a child closer to God.

  4. It is NOT two levels of education, with lower classical level accessible by reason, and the upper classical level accessible by faith.

Historically, many Christians understood education in one of the four ways above, with disastrous results. A proper biblical view, in response to the above errors, is as follows:

 

1. According to the Christian worldview, there is no secular/sacred distinction, meaning every area of life/culture belongs to God, and Christ is the Lord over all of them. So, all the best of “classical” education (grammar, logic, rhetoric, quadrivium, etc) comes from God. As Augustine pointed out, by responding to God’s call to “plunder the Egyptians,” we are merely recovering God’s goodness in every area of culture.

 

2. Every academic endeavor is a spiritual endeavor (Ps 8:3-4; Ps 19:1, Rom 1:20). When a child is learning math, he/she is learning about God, about his wisdom, truth, goodness, and beauty. At Veritas, we are refining our Curriculum Standard so that there is intentional discipleship through every subject. 

 

3. Some parents somehow believe that spiritual education can be postponed and delayed until a later stage in life. I’ve heard parents saying things like, “it’s not my responsibility to lead a child to faith,” or “a child needs to figure out who God is on their own,” or “they will grow up and grow in faith.” These attitudes are contrary to God’s vision of education. Providing a Christ-centered education from the earliest childhood is a mandate from God (Prov 22:6, Mt 19:14), because it is through the eyes of faith that a child grows in true knowledge, discernment, and wisdom. 

 

4. The influence of Enlightenment rationalism and scholasticism has influenced Christians of today, so that they separate academics and spiritual realm, and think academics is only accessible by reason, and spiritual realm is accessible only by faith. This is contrary to the biblical vision of education, according to which a proper education involves the growth of faith, supported by reason. C. S. Lewis, in his essay on “Transposition” describes the difference between a person who enjoys only natural goodness, from a person who experiences spiritual goodness through the medium of natural goodness as the difference between a hypothetical person who thinks that the 2-dimensional picture is the whole of reality versus a person who appreciates the 3-dimensional reality through the medium of a 2-dimensional picture.  If parents do not invest in spiritually integrated academic education, they will likely produce children whose appreciation of God’s world is flat and poor.

 

I hope that these distinctions have helped you in understanding how “classical” ought to be related to “Christian” in the Classical Christian education.  In an age full of confusion and temptation, it is paramount that we have a clear understanding of God’s vision of education that leads to a multi-generational blessing (Dt 6:4-7, Ps 78:4, 103:17-18; Eph 6:4).  May the Lord richly bless you and your children! 

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