Thursday, March 10, 2011

Forming a Classical, Christ-centered Community

In his video series for parents, ‘The Case for Kids’ Paul David Tripp describes the family as a theological community, a sociological community, and a redemptive community. And while I agree with him that “there’s no better place to teach God’s way of love than the family”, it is also true that a Christ-centered school, in support of these families, ought to attend to these things, as well.

As a ‘theological community , the school helps students to interpret their world rightly. It presents them with a view of reality that corresponds with the way things really are: God is the creator and sustainer of all things, and we were created to worship him. This is one of chief goals of any true education, and any schooling that gives another view—or says that such views are unimportant—is slowly indoctrinating its students into a lie. A Christ-centered school will present students with the reality that they are created as worshipping beings, that they cannot help but worship something, and that their duty is to learn to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. An educational philosophy that integrates theological truth in all subjects, from mathematics to literature, will strengthen this conviction in students that their view of God applies to all of life, not just to ‘religion’.

While the fundamental theological truth of God’s existence and character undergirds the classical, Christian school, it is also true that a school is a community where all of us need to learn to love our neighbor. Love must be worked out in the day-to-day, including the inevitable struggles we have with one another. In this, a school is no different from other communities, whether the family or the world at large. In any place where nearly three hundred human beings interact all day long in a relatively small area there will be conflict. Even if we all share the same goal of helping our students grow in wisdom, virtue and godliness, disagreements will arise. We must remember that we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sometimes this means being willing to speak the truth in love, even when difficult. Sometimes it may mean choosing to cover a transgression—even a multitude of them!—with the love and mercy we as forgiven sinners have been shown. But in all cases we must keep in mind that as we love and serve Christ we must also love those around us, as well. An example of this in practice is our protocol program. Secondary students learn not just which fork to use at formal dinners, but, more importantly, to consider others first. The whole purpose of manners, they are taught, is to put others at ease, not to show off.

All of this sounds wonderful, and it has been a great blessing to have witnessed our theological and sociological community act in Christ-honoring ways over the years. Veritas is a place characterized by a desire to understand and worship God rightly, and to treat others with love. But, of course, none of us do these things perfectly, and some of us (speaking for myself) struggle to do them at all. We all fall far short of loving God with all our hearts and minds, and our neighbors as ourselves. Our community, as well intentioned as it is, often seems to be a collection of selfish and fallen creatures.

God be praised, he has not left us in this condition. Tripp reminds us that a family, and by extension a school, should also be a redemptive community. There is hope for us. But this hope is not found in the political or philosophical systems of the world, but in the redemption found in the person of Christ alone. One of the things we hope classical education teaches our students is the futility of the world’s wisdom. We read great books and discuss great ideas, but we do it in a way that “takes every thought captive”. Whatever they promise, the false gods of the ancients, just like the false gods of our contemporaries, ultimately fail. They cannot do otherwise. Only in the grace of God is found a redemption that is true and lasting.

Classical, Christian schools are uniquely formed to support parents in encouraging their children to love God, look at the world in ways that agree with God’s ways, to learn to love others, and to depend on the grace of God to do all of this. Veritas is committed in its mission to the cultivation of wisdom, virtue, and godliness. The goals of classical education—emphasizing grammar, logic, and rhetoric in all subjects, encouraging every student to develop a love for learning and to live up to his or her academic potential, and providing an orderly atmosphere conducive to these goals—are meant to assist parents in this most important of tasks, the raising of their children to the praise and honor of God.

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