So why does Edify fund just Christian schools? A quick recap goes something like this:
- Teaching Christian morals and ethics helps students to become productive and honest members of society
- Christ-centered schools are a good environment to alleviate relational poverty and for students to explore what it means to be in right-relationship with their peers, teachers, families and communities
- Finally, Christ-centered schools can – albeit imperfectly – serve as a powerful symbol of the Gospel itself.
This third reason is what I want to explore a bit more in this post. If you’re a skeptic about the Christian faith or just agnostic you could object saying, “Well you all at Edify are sincere! I would prefer though to just leave off the Christian or Christ-centered bit. Surely points 1 & 2 are still true aren’t they?” This is a great question and I can argue the answer either way.
Consider this example from my visit to Omega School’s Bortianor branch back in February 2011:
Ms. Lydia was teaching her class about the story of the Prodigal Son from the Bible. Ms. Lydia noticed that the story of the rebellious son was troubling one of her students in particular. Mabel is a young girl whose parents are separated. Just prior to the lesson on the Prodigal Son, Mabel had run away from her Father because of his strict discipline. She was living with her mother who would not give her money to pay for school.
Mabel approached Ms. Lydia after-school and asked, “Teacher, can I go back to my Father’s house even though I ran away?” Ms. Lydia warmly encouraged Mabel to return to her father and to seek his forgiveness. Mabel came back to school the following day and excitedly told her teacher, “Teacher, I went to my Daddy and he received me with a good heart and has given me money to pay for school.”
Would Mabel have been able to weigh the moral choice between her strict but supportive father and her permissive but unsupportive mother? Would the young Mabel have sought reconciliation with her father without the lesson about ultimate reconciliation found in Christ and illustrated in this parable? Would Mabel have been expelled from other private schools because she wasn’t paying her tuition?
God only knows.
And that is my point! Schools seek to equip students to seek truth (after all that is Harvard University’s motto, “Veritas”). If all truth is God’s truth, then it would make sense to see school as an opportunity to explore God’s truth as explained in the Gospel. Teachers might do this through moral instruction or by modeling healthy and loving relationships (“fellowship”). Teachers will also explore the Gospel by imparting knowledge and wisdom from an intellectual perspective. When knowledge and wisdom are imparted thanks to inspiration from the Gospel, education serves a more powerful purpose.
“Gospel” is a loaded-term so let me unpack it very briefly. It is the good news story told in the Bible in four distinct acts: creation, fall, salvation and redemption. There is a tendency to either emphasize or de-emphasize the fall/salvation parts of this story depending on where you sit on the Christian theological spectrum. But would we propose to present Hamlet by removing even one of its five acts? I don’t think so. In the same way, the Gospel is captured completely in all four acts. From an education perspective, we learn about creation (in physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics) and in so doing learn about the Creator. We learn about the fall of man (in the study of history, literature, social sciences and current events) and come to understand our fallibility and the importance of humility. We learn about salvation (in the study of history, literature and the Bible) and learn that we are saved by grace and not by good deeds. We learn about redemption (in the study of history, literature and the Bible) and learn what it means to place our hope in an eventual, eternal restoration of Eden. This is how I see education as a symbol for the Gospel.
A Christian school community is moral and relational and its teachers impart knowledge in the exploration of truth. So does this mean that we think Christian schools should indoctrinate its students in Christian religious beliefs? No, there is 2,000 years’ worth of Church history documenting the pitfalls of this approach!