Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Bible and the task of teaching, Chapter 1

I would like it so much if all of my acquaintances who share my interest in both education and Christianity would immediately order this book and arrange a forum where we could all discuss it together. I absolutely promise it would be money and time well spent. Not possible? Oh well, I'll continue to tantalize you with excerpts from each chapter until you simply cannot live another day without reading the book for yourself.

A legend is told about the Christian gospel coming to Iceland around 1,000 years ago. The local inhabitants were resistant to the new religion, and decided to petition their heathen gods that Christendom would not spread, by sacrificing two men. Their custom was to choose the "worst" men and cast them from a cliff.

The Christians met and decided to meet their sacrifice with sacrifice. They, too, would choose two men, but they would not "choose" the worst men--the two men would offer themselves freely as a sacrifice. Also, they would not be cast from a cliff--they would be a living sacrifice, bound to exemplify the love of Christ more and more each day.

And what does that have to do with education?

It is illustrative of the fact that Christianity and the Bible do not just approach a task with the attitude that "we'll do what you're doing and we'll do it better." They change the terms and redefine the accepted practices. The sacrifice of consecrated lives was more valuable than the violent deaths of society's lowest. If they had chosen to kill two good men, they would have "excelled" the heathen at something they shouldn't have been doing at all.

In education, that means asking questions about what our goals should be in the first place. We should not borrow wholesale from established practices and "baptize" them with the Bible as if that makes them peculiarly Christian. Assuming that the Bible is an authority in all areas of life, including education, is a starting point, but further inquiry is required into exactly how that authority is to be applied. The Bible doesn't tell us how to teach reading or math, or even whether we ought to teach reading and math.

Unfortunately, once a practice is labeled "Biblical," it may be assumed that further discussion about the practice is closed. If something is comprehensively approved by God, it should not be questioned. But that is no way to apply the Bible to education, because it shuts down further inquiry. "Biblical authority should not be used to manipulate and control but should rather bring new life, liberating us from the fetters of our foolishness and idolatries."

I like the idea of the Bible bringing new life to educational practice. That's what the Bible is all about in every area of human experience--new life. The educator I know best, Charlotte Mason, held the Bible in the highest esteem, and allowed it to shape her educational ideas and practices. Among other things, she recognized the essential "sacredness" of all knowledge, and did not hesitate to assert that all knowledge on all subjects is derived from God. She was fond of quoting a verse from Isaiah, "For his God doth instruct him," referring specifically to the knowledge of a farmer.

There are five areas in which the Bible and education are discussed in this book, with two or three chapters devoted to each. Pull up a chair and join me over the next few weeks as we look at each one. Or order the book and read ahead on your own.


At 5:08 PM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

Our homeschool support group has ordered (or is going to be ordering, not sure) a copy from the U.S.--don't know when it will get here, though.

At 5:18 AM , Blogger Mother Auma said...

This looks like a very interesting book. I can't purchase it right now but will continue to visit your blog and read your comments on it. Thanks for sharing it!

At 3:18 PM , Blogger Robin said...

Looks very interesting. You should mention this on our Loop. I am interested.

At 5:34 PM , Blogger Mystie said...

I read this book earlier this year and will enjoy hearing your thoughts on it. I had a hard time with it, honestly. It had several places with really, really good stuff, but it seemed awash in a sea of dry, academic sentences. It made Poetic Knowledge seem almost conversational. :)


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