A good bit has been said and written over the last twenty years espousing the concept of distinctively Christian education.  The idea is essentially that if the God of Christianity exists (and He does), and if He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (and He is), then all things are best known and understood in relation to Him (and they are).  It all sounds perfectly good and logical.  But what does it look like?  How does a Christian education look any different than what they’re doing down the road at the local government school?

Obviously, there’s the freedom to overtly and clearly “make the connection.”  In a Christian school, one can look into the sovereign works of God in history or the revelational basis of numbers and logic or the intricate and complex design of the universe as it points to a Creator.  And, of course, we can tack on verses to the ends of all our lessons that remind us that the Bible has something to say about life.

But, surely, there must be more.  Is it possible that the unique doctrines of the Christian faith, the unique truth-claims of Scripture have implications for what we teach and how we teach it?  I suppose you’ve already guessed that my answer to this question is, “yes”!

And it is.

In the following series of posts, I will look into some of the ways that the Christian worldview gives us insight into the work of teaching and learning.  Specifically, I’ll be looking into three doctrines that, together, form the distinct core of the Christian description of reality.

  1. Trinity: God is one God existing in three persons as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  2. Incarnation: God has revealed Himself uniquely in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.
  3. Resurrection: God has raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.

Trinitarian Education

It would not take a long perusal to find a myriad of theories, programs, philosophies, and initiatives strewn about the educational landscape.  From Montessori to Mason, from Dewey to Mann, from classroom schools to home schools to un-schools; one can find a buffet of options and ideas.  One theory of education that doesn’t get a lot of play, however is the notion grounded in the idea that the universe is the creation of a certain kind of God and His creation reflects that unique nature.  Consequently, to understand the world aright, one must understand it in light of the unique nature of the One who created it.  For Christianity, the unique nature of God is described in the doctrine of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity tells us at least two things about the nature of God and, consequently, the nature of reality.  First, there has always been unity and diversity.  Scripture tells us that God is love.  This means that there has always been a “Lover” (a Subject, One who is loving) as well as a “Lovee” (an Object, One who is being loved).  There is diversity (the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are distinct persons) and unity (the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are eternally united in love).  This tells us something about the nature of reality.  All things exist in a relationship of unity and diversity.

Second, we learn from this doctrine that there has always been communication.  In the beginning was the Word and all things were made by and through the Word.  Notice how the basic creative act in Genesis 1 is linguistic and conversational (“Let there be…,” “Let Us…”).  This also tells us something about the nature of things.  Whatever we encounter and learn and understand in this world, we do so via “words” of some sort (i.e. a transfer or a communication).  Even the word “communicate” itself is rooted in diversity (“co-”) and unity (“union”).

A Christian education, therefore, should “cut with this grain” because education is, at its root, learning how things are.  But what does that look like?  Ultimately, I think it means far more than one short blog entry can hold, but I’d like to highlight a couple of ways one can practically see what a Trinitarian education will look like.

  1. A Trinitarian education will take seriously and develop skillfully one’s ability to use words well.  These aren’t just the words of literature, history, and other “right-brained” endeavors.  This includes mathematics and the sciences as well, for they are languages themselves.
  1. A Trinitarian education will develop the ability to think the same way, differently.   Allow me to explain.  There are different ways of thinking.  In logic, one can reason deductively by applying a general law to particular instances (from unity to diversity) or inductively by deriving a general law from particular instances (from diversity to unity).  A well-educated person must be able to do both and know when one or the other is appropriate.  Similarly, a well-educated person knows that the mode of thinking one employs in history is different from the way one reasons in science, but they are united by common principles of rationality.  Acquiring the tools of learning means acquiring the ability to know when and how to use those tools.
  1. A Trinitarian education will develop in a student the capacity to solve problems.  Most, if not all, problems that one encounters in this life can ultimately be traced back to an ignorance (either unintentional or willful) of the way things really are.  Someone who understands the world and how it works is going to have answers.  It could be that a Christian who sees and understands the triune fingerprints of God on every nook and cranny of reality may have a leg up in making contributions to any field of endeavor; be it business, medicine, politics, the arts, science, the environment, philanthropy, law, etc.

If the biblical revelation gives us an accurate description of reality, then it will also provide an accurate description of the purpose, practice, and pursuit of education.  The end result of giving our children an intentionally Christian (that is to say, Trinitarian) education is that they will be fit to understand the world rightly and live well within it, all to the glory of the one Triune God.