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Classical & Christian Education: The Difference Through History

Classical & Christian Education: The Difference through History

“I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” I Corinthians 9: 22 – 23

What precisely should the role of education in our children’s lives look like? What perception do we, parents and teachers, hold concerning the goals for educating the next generation? How do we view the human child, as educators, as we strive to help parents educate their children? What are the standards we should embrace and for what are we preparing children as they grow into adulthood? Has the public educational system improved or devolved over the last 50 years? Has our nations ranking in education among developed nations improved or declined over this same period? Is there any place within education to instruct children concerning virtuous living and how that is defined?

These are difficult questions that face parents. We certainly desire the best for our children and we must reason through what ‘best’ looks like; particularly for the development of the whole child. That requires parents to come to terms with their own personal paradigm concerning who and what their child is in their whole person. Does our view of humanity consist of our children simply being a fortuitous assembling of cell structures that are in a slow dance with entropy and waiting for decomposition, or do we view our children as an imprint of the living God; made in His image? Answers to these perplexing questions will help us frame a logical response.

The classical educational model has its roots in the classical world of Greece and Rome. This model was also embraced by the developing countries in Europe and has been instrumental in the shaping of western civilization. The classical Greek held that man was infused with a divine spark that differentiated mankind from the animals. When Rome embraced Christianity, in the 4th century, the classical model was further enhanced by the belief that all men and women were created in God’s image and each individual possessed a soul that made humanity unique among created life forms and set mankind at the pinnacle of God’s creation. Whether from its pagan roots or when fused with Christian beliefs, the classical model of education inculcated a ‘high view of humanity’ as one of its key elements. Classical education is also logocentric. Simply stated, this means that the classical educational paradigm believes that God decreed all things and maintains all things within creation to His ultimate glory. The world is purposeful and ordered; it makes sense to us because it makes sense to God’s design and plan. In addition, all forms of study viewed through the lens of Biblical precepts are knowable and useful. The classical model of education strives to discover the sense of it all from this paradigm. We, at the Academy, strive to teach, govern and assess all educational disciplines by this standard. The goals set are loftier for the child and are geared toward the whole person that is your child. We attempt to educate students by higher standards than the ‘world system’ because God’s standards are different than the standards of a fallen world that is ruled by the Prince of the air.

The Classical and Christian model of education is designed to equip students for life’s journey through utilitarian skills and scholarly skills; to educate as well as train up. But the chief goal of this educational format is to equip a new generation to be ambassadors for Christ. Let’s consider one Biblical personality that shows this unique melding principal; the Apostle Paul.
Scripture teaches us that Paul was educated theologically by the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel. Paul describes himself as becoming ‘a Pharisee of Pharisees’. He likely had memorized large portions of the Old Testament, which we see in his New Testament writings, as he quotes the OT to explain the NT; in 13 books that we know he wrote before his execution. But a careful look at the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 17, reveals another interesting aspect to Paul’s earlier education. In this chapter, he finds himself addressing the ‘Men of Athens’ in the Areopagus. He points out to these Greeks that he recognizes how religious they are and that they have an altar ‘to the unknown god’. Now the interesting part, as he debates with the assembled Greeks within the format of the Areopagus, is that he quotes two very different quotes. These being found in verses 28 as follows: “In him we live and move and have our being” and “for we are indeed his offspring”. A casual read of verse 28 would lead us to believe that Paul is just quoting another Old Testament series of verses, but contraire. These passages actually originate from a poem on astronomy from the Greek poet Aratus (315 – 245 BC). The poem is entitled ‘Phaenomena’ and Paul’s quote is from the opening verses of an invocation by the poet to the Greek god Zeus. It is compelling to consider that before Paul was educated by Gamaliel in theology, he was educated in the Classical model of education. God had prepared Paul for this precise moment to share the gospel message with pagan Greeks by first using a quote they would recognize; building from that shared understanding between Paul and the assembled Greeks he could then share the gospel of Christ. “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

Within the Classical & Christian model of education that we implement here at Riverbend Academy, our purpose is to educate your child as a whole person. We desire to prepare your child for life’s journey…certainly, but we also desire to equip your child for God’s purposes; and that means becoming ambassadors for Christ. These are lofty goals and the path is not the easy way, but we firmly believe it is the best way.

God’s blessings to all who read and consider these words.

Key verses to consider; the very words of Christ:

‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away’. Matthew 24: 35

‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul’? Matthew 16: 26


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