Christian versus Humanistic Education
A certain man had a son; and the son said unto his father, "Separate me, I pray, from my stewardship as a Christian intellectual, that my faith reproach me not in my discipline." So his father loosed him from his birthright.
And it came to pass, not many days hence, that the son fell under bondage to humanism,1which pertaineth to secularism,2and squandered his witness in man-centered inquiry. And he went and joined himself to a reputable university, which certified him in the academic disciplines to grope for truth more elegantly; for he said, "I seek truth," but he fled Christ. And he would fain have filled his thoughts with the absolutes which man doth give — but no man gave unto him.
And when he had compromised all, there arose a mighty famine in his soul, and he was afterward in perplexity. And when he regarded his bankruptcy, he said, "Yea, though my fellows and I seek value through the disciplines, we perish with hunger!", so that his thoughts turned again homeward.
And he said, "I will arise, and return to my father; peradventure he will restore me. For my soul famisheth for meaning on these secular husks, and my heart for hope." And though he stood a great way off, he assayed to reconstruct his thinking as a Christian, but the road back was anguished and lonely. But his father saw him, and had compassion on him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him, and said, "Rejoice, for this my son's thinking was man-centered, but now it is Christ-centered; he was dead, but is alive!" And the son gave thanks. In the irresistible quest for absolute truth, meaning, reality, and purpose, the Christian first personally confronts the absolute Biblical Trinity, after which he can apprehend Christ-centered truth reflected in creation through properly Christ-centered disciplines. The humanist begins with himself or with nature and invents absolutes. "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth," the humanist organizes his discipline upon the absolute that ultimate truth is not absolute, truth being relative to expedience or preference.
The method of research in an academic discipline refers to the standards upon which data in that field are evaluated. The methodology of research refers to the assumed value basis underlying the standards upon which those data are evaluated. From the standpoint of ultimate truth, meaning, reality, and purpose, research methodology absolutely determines the underlying value content of the organized body of data in a discipline. Methodology is the theology of method.
Only two types of knowledge exist — humanistic knowledge, whose view of being is not Christ-centered and whose center of value is nature or man, and Christian knowledge, whose views of origins and value are Biblical and Christ-centered. Whether origins and values are centered in nature or man, or whether both are centered in the written and Incarnate Word of God, profoundly determines the content of each type of knowledge. The values underlying both types of knowledge are commonly unstated and unconsciously assumed by the teacher, and uncritically accepted and unconsciously assimilated (along with the structure of the knowledge) by the student. The most vital and formative dimension of education lies below the threshold of perception. From the primary to the postdoctoral levels, the prevailing structure of knowledge is predetermined and distorted by humanism. But man-centered knowledge never determines ultimate truth, meaning, reality, or purpose, because it never satisfactorily settles the question, What is the absolute source and content of a value system?
"Neutral" knowledge does not exist. There are no value-free facts, nor fact-free values: there are, that is, no citations of "facts" without attached significance. Introduction to a body of knowledge and an assembly of facts necessarily means initiation into an underlying set of value assumptions upon which such knowledge is based. There can be no knowledge without values, no education without initiation into some value system. From the standpoint of value, all education is moral training. The momentous question is not, Shall education inculcate value? but, Shall education inculcate man-centered value or Christian value?
Christ created the world to honor Himself. Men structure the academic disciplines to magnify themselves; hence the difference between "knowledge" and truth. Christians deal in absolute truth revealed in Scripture and employ it to enlighten the disciplines; different humanists formulate various truths and arrive at collective moral skepticism in their disciplines. Human reason produces relativistic knowledge; Biblical revelation produces truth.
Much can be done to rescue Christian students from the morass of relativism 3 which humanism unleashes in the disciplines. All branches of true knowledge are subdivisions of theology, dealing with various spheres of life under an absolute Trinity. Christian teachers are stewards of absolute truth: they point out to their students what truth is, and what difference it makes in their discipline. If students are merely exposed to rival systems of knowledge — hence to mutually contradictory assumptions of value — without having Christ-centered, Biblical truth rigorously defined, organized, and persistently brought to bear on the subject in question, those students will commonly select from each system the elements which to them seem most plausible, and will amalgamate them into a world view labeled "Christian." Such a philosophy will be highly eclectic, full of internal contradictions, perplexing, mostly secular, and implicitly relativistic. Worst of all, most students will never realize that they have been intellectually compromised by the "neutral" posture of their instructors, and will go through life believing as Christians but thinking as humanists. To appear after such a life before Christ's judgment seat will be grievous indeed for the Christian students, and what will it be for their teachers?
Christian teachers should stress the implications, in their subject areas, of creation, the fall, original sin, the flood, the incarnation, the resurrection, individual redemption, the return of Christ, and the sovereignty and transcendence of God (rather than of man). Failure to spell out these basic absolutes in the various disciplines is absolute relativism, for it awards equal respectability to less as well as to more Christ-centered structures of knowledge, making truth a mere matter of taste. Christian education should not insulate students from humanist scholarship. It should keep humanism at bay, at arm's length, while repeatedly and faithfully inculcating intellectually consistent Christ-centered knowledge based on Scripture. It should not deprive students of a truly Biblical liberal arts education by merely giving the Christian side "equal time" with humanism. Christian education is not accomplished by baptizing humanistic classroom content with an opening prayer, or by rephrasing non-Christ-centered thought in Christian rhetoric.
Familiarity with as much humanist thought and knowledge as possible helps one hone his Biblical position in opposition to humanist error. On the other hand, precious souls are subverted through perversion of the intellect when students fail to see (or are not shown) how they must deliberately separate themselves from humanistic thought. Christian teachers should define Christ-centered thinking, refute humanist thinking, and refer the fundamental differences to the question, What is the absolute source and content of value?
Christian teachers midwife the intellectual rebirth of their students. "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed, by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Taught by the Holy Spirit, Christian teachers define truth, value, and reality in their disciplines in Christ-centered terms and demonstrate to their students how this definition will determine the organization of knowledge in their field, and how it fundamentally differs from systems of knowledge based on non-Christ-centered views of truth, value, and reality. Nor will Christian truth triumph in competition with humanist error in the disciplines if truth is merely not suppressed, but not actively espoused. Why is not all human knowledge already Christ-centered? Why is self-consciously Christian education so necessary? The delusion that Christian truth could so triumph unaided is based on an unscriptural, over-optimistic reading of human nature. It ignores original sin, which predisposes man against the truth. Man has a vested self-interest in error and in the self-centered organization of knowledge. Even Christian students, deeply conditioned by our secular culture, will commonly miss the alternative Christ-centered frame of knowledge if left to sort out Christian and humanist thought for themselves. Truly "free thought" is the liberty to think in Christ-centered terms. Thought which has slipped out of militant subservience to Christian truth — which has become man-centered — is no longer free. But in the current intellectual climate, humanist scholarship passes for enlightened free inquiry, while consistently Christian intellectual enterprise is stigmatized as "biased" and "narrow."
"Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?" The Christian scholar in the process of self-definition as a Christian intellectual wrestles, usually almost alone, with a great mass of Satanically clever error. It is a warfare essentially spiritual, of renewed minds against man-centered darkness. Frequently the Christian scholar knows not where the enemy lies and therefore cannot coherently cry out for help. At times he feels almost overwhelmed. Often he hardly knows what questions to ask, let alone how to answer them. But he clings to his Biblical absolutes as the basis for his Christ-centered reconstruction of liberal arts data in his field. Withdrawing from one's humanist conditioning is mentally exhausting, but it is one of the most intellectually exhilarating and spiritually rewarding things the Christian scholar will ever do.
Run thou the race through God's good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.