What role should faith play in Christian education? This philosophical question regularly results in divisive dialogue in certain scholarly circles and—for newly minted faculty—instills a degree of confusion around the gravity of the issue. Under the weight of the school year, it grows easier to jettison this all-important question as pursuing the right funding, pedagogy, and service become necessities.
What makes a Christian school different? Is it that they are stalwart followers of ethical codes of conduct? Highly concerned with morals? Pursuant of excellence in teaching and research? Acknowledging God in the beginning or end of a lecture? These are all good things, yet I have thought that there exists a degree of emptiness in my own lectures in recent months.
At the most fundamental level, education promotes truth and truth has a starting point in the Gospel for the Christian. While this may seem rigid for the non-Christian, to state that the Christian faith is the only truth is not much different from stating that all faiths are true, since both camps would be claiming to be an outside observer to the proverbial Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant. Who am I to claim that I can see and that these blind men cannot? Christian educators can take comfort in the giant unknowns of our observable world, whereas to the world this truth is paralyzing, it is actually a soft pillow for those steeping in the providence of God.
What is central for Christian educators ought to be a longing for those around us to taste and see the sweet goodness of living free from the burden of being the center of this universe and the arbiter of truth. Today, Christian education needs more weathered, humble, and mature men and women who have a deep trust in God’s sovereignty over today’s culture and academic fields. Such women and men, rather than climbing up the grand staircase of success, go down to the servants quarters and befriend and engage with those who are different from us by ordinary means.
So how do we engage with our disciplines as Christian educators? I will draw upon my own academic discipline. The field of fluid dynamics has been incredibly helpful for me in seeing the exceedingly difficult ways of modeling turbulence. For example, turbulent flows are difficult to study due to the three-dimensional, time-dependent, and multiscale nature of the flows and thus pose a great challenge to capture the intricacies of the dynamics in both experiments and in computer simulations. This challenge is in line with the aching reality of God’s unsearchable ways and the depths of His created order. It is an amazing reality that God graciously allows us to continue doing sound research at all. Indeed, the unaided mind does not know where the wind came from or where it is going (John 3:8). Therefore, faith is neither a forethought nor an afterthought in lecture; it must be the essence of all knowledge—beginning, middle, and end.
The metamodern ideals of the Western vernacular regarding the fluidity of social constructs grants a temporary respite in an ocean of uncertainties by putting a definition on the unknowable realities of life. This definition, in part, gets at the heart of the human condition—that man’s heart runs deep as the oceans (Proverbs 20:5). Our institutions ought to teach Christians to recognize that when we search to obey God’s commands for the daily tasks unknowingly laid out for us as much as we plan ahead – our sense of right standing with God is like the invisible forces which make the ocean tides.