“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:
not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else..” – C.S. Lewis
We have spent the past few weeks discussing the nature of classical Christian education (cCe) and why it is good. We emphasized four core components of cCe: its telos, its structure of Grammar-Logic-Rhetoric, some of its unique emphasis on discipleship and habits, and lastly the content it emphasizes.
The next few weeks we will be moving from the more general investigation of classical Christian education to something specific to our school: our six “Desired Outcomes of GFA Graduates.” Our Board of Trustees has identified these six qualities as the primary goals of a GFA education; the six most important characteristics we strive as an institution to cultivate in our students. Our six Desired Outcomes are: sound reason and sound faith, virtue and mature Christian character, a masterful command of language, a well-rounded competence, literacy with a broad exposure to books and ideas, and a carefully cultivated aesthetic. This week we will consider the first desired outcome: sound reason and sound faith.
Notice that there are two components to this first desired outcome, sound reason and sound faith. While these could easily be pulled apart and treated separately, it would be a mistake to do so. Sound reason – a person’s ability to think through complex issues, track ideas through to their logical consequences, to think critically about arguments and ideas they encounter, etc. – and a sound faith – understanding the fullness of the gospel message and the centrality of God’s Truth revealed as in Scripture and creation, etc. – both work together to form in students a unified and consistent Christian worldview. Treating faith and reason separately would be a little like covering up one eye while trying to drive down the road: the view of your periphery, your ability to track moving objects and to perceive depths, the accuracy of judging distances would all be severely limited. Whereas, when both eyes are healthy, we see with world with clarity and perceive it accurately. The same can be said for a sound reason and a sound faith.
The most important thing we do as a school is to strive to help our students construct their lives on the sure foundation that is the Lord Jesus Christ and not on the shifting sands of the world. Day by day, class by class, our teachers work to share God’s love and His Truth with our students through Scripture reading and memorization, worship, and living in community with one another. The most important part of this is the effort to cultivate in students a love for God and those True, Good, and Beautiful things that point us to Him. In so doing, students can develop that sound faith that will help them weather every storm that life and this world might throw at them.
I have heard it said that students will be in school roughly 15,000 hours over the course of their K-12 education. While that might sound like a lot, it is a limited and finite number; there are only so many hours and so many days. As such, we at GFA strive to teach students how to think instead of teaching them merely what to think. The significance of the difference between the two cannot be overstated. The first is a little like dictating to a student what to grow on the family farm because you know what grows best where – “plant corn here, sugar beets there, and grain up there” – versus training students on the key components of farming – things like properly cultivating the soil, rotating crops, irrigating in the right amount at the right time, etc. – so that students can reason through issues – gather information, analyze it, synthesize it in order to make wise decisions, etc. – all on their own no matter what fields God might place in their life in the future: agriculture fields, ministry fields, trade fields, professional fields, etc. This is sound reason.
Finally, let’s look at a tangible example of what this whole process looks like. Just last week I finished reading Augustine’s City of God with my sophomore students. As we read it, Augustine addresses what philosophers typically call The Problem of Evil. The basic argument goes as follows:
- If God exists, He is all-good-, all-knowing, and all-powerful;
- A god who is all-knowing would know about every instance of evil in the world;
- A god who is all-powerful would be able to stop every instance of evil in the world;
- A god who is all-good would be want to stop every instance of evil in the world;
- Yet evil exists;
Therefore, God does not exist.
This is the argument many non-Christians cite when asked why they don’t believe in God, and usually takes the form of something like, “A can’t believe in a good and loving god who would allow so much suffering, pain, and evil in the world.” As we read Augustine’s approach to evil, our students and I had a week’s worth of great classroom conversations around questions such as “What is evil?”, “Why would God allow pain and suffering?”, and “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Our students did a masterful job of discussing the key concerns such as moral evil and human free will, arguments for a greater good, and God’s ability to use suffering and trial to produce virtue in those who love and trust Him and call those who do not to repentance.
In closing, here is the key idea behind the Desired Outcome of a sound reason and a sound faith: we want our students to grow in their faith while under the caring discipleship of teachers who love them and want them to see them flourish in Christ. Part of that is learning not just what to think but how to think rightly and well, so that when they show up in the workplace, in a college classroom, on the mission field, or any other place God may call them, GFA graduates will have thought through life’s greatest questions and, as Peter wrote 1 Peter 3, will “always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in [them.]”