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.
“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.” I couldn’t help but think of a moving scene in the Decatur home of Justo and Catherine Gonzalez. A few years ago, Norman Mintle, Amy Hollingsworth and I were there with a film crew, interviewing them for our (TBN’s) TV series on the spread of Christianity (“Inexplicable. . . “). Justo’s two-volume set, The Story of Christianity, was a favorite resource for us and Amy (herself a bestseller) was especially touched by his section on St. Peter Claver. Justo agreed to read on film the passage about the saint’s passing, and his final few weeks in a Spartan room near the slave docks, mainly alone with a disinterested attendant–after a lifetime of service to so many. Justo cried reading that passage about such a Godly servant passing in Cartagena in 1654, the “apostle of the slaves.” Thanks for the reminder. And, I had to smile reading the penultimate sentence and reference (Proverbs 20:5)–actually the final paragraph–as I’m on my annual reading/writing time on Hutchison Island. Yesterday, I stood for a long time during lunchtime on the edge of waves amazed anew at Creation, and the design of it all with the billions of shells being repurposed and repositioned…
Re: “faith is neither a forethought nor an afterthought in lecture; it must be the essence of all knowledge—beginning, middle, and end.”
I think of the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen . . . By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
Wow, thank you for tying this into fluid dynamics; we cannot see the wind and yet we know it exists even if we don’t understand the dynamics of it, and we can see its devastating effects when a typhoon, hurricane, or tornado strikes, but also enjoy a soft, cooling summer breeze; likewise, we can see the devastating effects of tidal waves resulting from earthquakes even if we do not understand all the dynamics of why an earthquake occurring under the ocean floor does or does not produce tsunami. And so with our walk with God; we do not fully understand how He works, but His impact on our lives and those of others is real, and our faith in that anchors our hope.