What are we dealing with?
The Two Concepts of Education
There are two and only two concepts of education. All the various methodologies and philosophies espoused in books and teachers’ colleges will boil down to these two concepts: humanistic and theocentric, man-centered or god-centered. Let’s look first at the humanistic concept of education.
During the late 1600’s, Englishman John Locke (1632-1704) gave to the Enlightenment (and to humanism) its ideal weapon against God and the past, the concept of the mind as a blank sheet of paper, a clean slate.
Locke was an empiricist; he believed that all knowledge is derived from experience and thus none is derived from reason. Although rejecting the Bible as a source of truth, he claimed his teachings could be found in Scripture. He has been called both the father of scientific psychology and the originator of modern political science. In his writings on government, he promoted the “social
contact” theory of government — the idea that government derives its authority from the consent of the governed. (Christians recognize that government derives its authority from the Lord God who both exalts and humbles rulers.) Locke also promoted the idea that individuals inherently possessed rights to “life, liberty, and property.” He was widely quoted in colonial America, although within colonial America his ideas were generally tempered within a biblical framework.
Locke’s clean tablet concept has become the educational ideal. True education in the modern, secular mindset involves a ruthless wiping of the slate, cleaning it of all roots in the past and of all ideas and opinions not derived from the educational process. Every child is viewed as possessing a basic moral neutrality. Without the corrupting influence of their parents, they are pure and innocent. When speaking before the Childhood International Seminar in Denver in 1973, Harvard psychiatry professor Chester Pierce supported this concept with the statement, “Every child in America entering school at the age of 5 is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well—by creating the international child of the future.”
The humanist educator (even the Christian educator trained in humanist institutions) believes the child is passive and must be shaped in the image of the collective. Thus John Dewey, the father of American education, said, “Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.”
While viewing the child as a clean slate, the modern secular educator has a significantly different approach to the world of facts around him. The approach of humanist education is to emphasize the particulars and resist the “One.”
Denying the relevance of God and without an understanding of God, the educator becomes involved in a fundamental contradiction: he must act on the assumption of a unity of law and meaning while denying the very existence of it or its implications. He becomes involved in self-contradiction, by continually denying meaning in the education which he says provides meaning. For example, in the study of the theory of numbers in so many universities, when dealing with the question of what a number is, it is denied that a number has any correspondence with reality. If the numbers “one” and “two” have no correspondence with reality, how do we know that one or two people actually were in the car during an accident?
Without the “One,” without a unifying purpose, learning becomes the exhaustive collection of particulars without ever coming to a knowledge of how the particular relate to each other. Knowledge is solely for its own sake. A land full of Who Wants to be a Millionaire contestants, successful in Trivial Pursuit, but failing in productivity and relationships.
The guiding principle of theocentric (or god-centered) education is the concept of the child as (1) a creature fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, and with awesome responsibilities, and yet (2) conceived in sin, that is, born with a predisposition to sin (original sin), which radically tainted every aspect of his being. This is true Christian education.
Psalm 139:14 — I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
The child is wonderfully made, but Adam’s fall has tainted him.
Psalm 51:5 — Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Jeremiah 17:9 — The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Psalm 14:1-3 — The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.
The child in theocentric education is not a clean slate, but a complex creation. He is genetically imprinted with physical traits from both his mother’s and father’s families. He has been divinely given a personality which is unique—anyone who is acquainted with identical twins will attest to the fact that they are still unique individuals. Apart from the particulars which have been providentially placed in the child, from birth, and many say from conception, he has received sensory input which defines abilities and attitudes.
The Christian educator recognizes the particular uniqueness of each student. The educator exalts Christ in every aspect of the student and brings the student to an understanding of their need to exalt Christ for their uniquenesses.
The approach of theocentric (god-centered) education is to emphasize the harmonious unity of the “One” and the many. The humanist, when true to his principles, will say that the particular facts of a subject as well as the subjects themselves have no relation to each other – they exist as separate items hanging on a clothesline. The god-centered, Christian educator on the other hand recognizes that both facts and subjects are more like the spokes of a wagon wheel, all radiating out from the hub of the source of the knowledge of God, the Bible.
Psalm 94:8-11 — Understand, you senseless among the people; And you fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see? He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, He who teaches man knowledge? The LORD knows the thoughts of man, That they are futile.
Proverbs 1:7-9 — The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck.
Proverbs 2:1-6 — My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
It is interesting to note that even in their rebellion, the humanist still pays homage to the Lord with the use of the word “university” which carries the meaning of “a study of all things as one.”
Contrast also the purpose of knowledge: for the humanist, it is knowledge for its own sake; for the Christian, it is knowledge for the glory of God. R.J. Rushdoony wrote, “Scholarship is a prophetic, priestly, and kingly function, a central part of man’s creation mandate. The godly scholar is the true man, and the school an essential part of the Kingdom of God.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 — "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Proverbs 25:2 — It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.
Within theocentric education, the child is not remade, but developed. The purpose of the educator is “to bring out” the abilities and talents in the student and thus to develop him in terms of the person God meant him to be. Thus, between the two concepts of education, the theocentric concept of historic Biblical Christainity and the humanist concept of the Enlightenment and contemporary thought, there can be no compromise, for their goal in education will only be reached when man ceases to be man, and, this being an impossibility, the only outcome of a secular, humanist education will be the increasing resistance of the child and their ultimate rebellion against everything.