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Theology and Christian Education

Posted by frieda lara on August 9, 2020 at 8:25 AM

Theology and Christian Education

The uneasiness between evangelical Christians and theological schools has taken different forms that range from of simple caution and hesitation in sponsoring seminary education to outright hostility (Bamalyi, 2005). Theological colleges today are seen as failing in what they are teaching and how they are teaching it. Their mission continues to be questioned. Those who would venture into graduate theological training must study the background of Christian education (Bamalyi).

After the fall of Rome in the 5th century, the central power was in the hands of the Catholic Church. Church and state were united and this union tended to overturn moral standard as it eliminated any difference between believers and unbelievers (Bamalyi, 2005). Ecclesiastical power in Rome attempted to Christianize even barbaric tribes. In the meantime, Christian education largely deteriorated. In response to the condition, European rulers like Charles the Great and Alfred of England tried introducing educational reforms. A popular theology surfaced from a combined Christian doctrines and superstitions. As states gained secular power, the struggle between them and the Church arose for ultimate authority. In the 11th century, scholasticism flourished. It advocated for the use of reason in determining the truth in Scriptures and, more essentially, on the content of faith. The trend is attributed to St. Anselm, who attempted to prove the existence of God through purely rational means. Abelard also utilized this approach in resolving universal questions in the 12th century. Augustine and other early Church fathers incorporated Plato’s doctrines and neo-Platonic thinking into Christian theology. The works of Aristotle were most influential during the 13th century but Thomas Aquinas retains the distinction as the greatest achiever of the scholastic age and for the triumphant Christianizing of Aristotle. An overemphasis on reason dealt a heavy blow on Christian education (Bamalyi).

The Renaissance period at the latter part of the 13th century introduced and enforced the concept of natural science (Bamalyi, 2005). This induced the down fall of scholastic metaphysics. Scholasticism, however, persisted in the area of politics and laws and the proclamation and adoption of Aquinas’ system by Pope Leo XIII as the official Catholic philosophy. The Renaissance laid the grounds for the humanistic trend in education. It focused and extolled the person and revived ancient languages and classical literature from Greece and Rome. It was a secular culture, which emphasized joys in living, the ideal of liberty and freedom from moral restraints among those who wanted to be relieved of the rigors of Christian morality (Barmalyi).

The authoritativeness of Scripture or revelation from God was discredited by human insight (Barmalyi, 2005). This 19th century religious thought was advocated by Louise Berkhof. The new concept stopped accepting the knowledge of God as something that comes from Scripture. It insisted that reason should be used along with Scriptures. This drift evolved into postmodernism with John Dewey as major proponent It holds that the decision to believe in an absolute truth is the choice of the person. This position is a clear deviation from the teaching of the Bible. Secular educational theory and practice were thus launched. The theory reduced philosophy to an education theory and did away with theology, which it perceived as an obstruction to education. And in the first quarter of the 20th century, liberal and neo-orthodox theologies asserted the strongest influence on Christian education. Their negating influence can be felt in seminaries, public colleges and even in the church (Bamalyi).

Teaching Christian faith in a mechanistic or humanistic psychology defeats the precise purpose of Christian education (Bamalyi, 2005). Christian education is an absolute calling and electing and is not reducible to a technique. It is not the church or the school that calls but God Himself and He calls whom He chooses. The Christian educator should not apply secular methods and techniques in his work in tracing their origin from mere behavioral sciences like anthropology, sociology or psychology. Secular theories operate only from naturalistic and humanistic assumptions, which ignore and denigrate the word of God and human responsibility. The greater emphasis should be placed on the word of God. The direction should be Christian education as maser and not as servant of Revelation or the Bible. Revelation or the Bible sets the direction instead. It determines the task, sets the goals and guides the process of achieving the goal or goals. The Bible is the primary source and the long errant criterion for truth. It is the filtering standard for all presumptions and opinions. The Christian curriculum must derive its foundation and contents from the Bible. Christian educators should be extremely careful about borrowing secular teachings in training pastors in Bible institutes in order to gain precise results. The results depend on God Who alone can save the world. Methods from the secular world can be borrowed and applied into Christian education to help churches gather clients who have no knowledge of salvation. Preaching and teaching should be emphasized. It is doubtful that psychology will be helpful in pastoral training or Christian counseling. Only the word of God can ever prepare a person for Him. For a real exegetical understanding of the Scripture, exposure to the teaching ministry, personal study, application to daily life, mentoring and the Holy Spirit for pastoral training or Christian education. Emphasis should be on the word of God rather than the methods used. When the early Church preached and taught the Gospel of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord rewarded them with souls (Acts 2:47) (Bamalyi).

Theology and Christian Daily Living

 

It is not strange that theology is commonly and quickly regarded as an abstract discipline and nothing about it as practical (Stevens, 1995). Those in secular fields like business, law and other professions view theology as something even largely irrelevant to them. Even Christian men and women among those in secular fields assume that it is confined or reserved to the clergy. The rift created by secularism and withdrew theology from the world of secular involvements is responsible for this perception. It is bolstered by the position of biblical scholars themselves who impress upon the lay Christian that those not trained in their methods can understand the Bible. And everyday realities and concerns supplant this perception in every aspect of life. It does appear that the study of the Bible, theological discourse, prayer and mounting secular concerns and interest simply do not align (Stevens).

Puritan William Perkins offered another definition of theology as the “science of living blessedly forever (Stevens, 1995).” J. I. Packer contributes another definition as that of “achieving God’s glory, honor and praise and mankind’s good through every life activity.” If these definitions carry the Biblical approach to theological education, then that is the only genuine Christian theology. It is the only applied theology. The direction of Bible thought is always from “the indicative to the imperative, from doctrine to duty, from theology to ethics and from revealed truth to exemplary living.” St. Francis of Assisi remarked that mankind “has as much knowledge as it has executed.” What one really knows is what he lives (Stevens).”

There are three lenses through which the connection of life and theology can be viewed and established (Stevens, 1995). These are orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy. Orthodoxy means conformity to an approved doctrine. A person who lives by an orthodox doctrine aligns his life with Scripture. In so doing, he becomes a blessing to every life. At the same time, he blesses and thanks God in life itself. Every Christian has the wonderful prospect of living the great doctrines. Observing the doctrine of the Trinity leads the creature to form relationships. Those who proclaim that God is love is also assumed to be included in the life-love link of God and become lovers themselves. Faith in God the Creator is an implied acceptance of God’s stewardship of the earth. The incarnation of Jesus Christ greatly modifies or reverses long-standing attitude towards things and promotes a radical Christian materials. Christ’s atonement for the sins of mankind leads the Christian to bond with others in people-hood. Eschatology teaches the Christian to value time as a definite gift of God instead of as a resource that must be managed. Rather than darken thought, the Bible invites all “to love God with all their minds … by thinking comprehensively, critically and devotedly whereby every thought submits to Christ. The person who does this is without doubt a blessing to everyone every day. The fruit of this kind of thinking will necessary transform him or her into an everyday blessing to those around him or her. And “thinking Christianity” is part of that science of living in blessings forever. The goal of Biblical theological education is to make people love God more while making us more human. This is why schools must partner with the Church and the market place. Real-life ministry and life situations work as a built-in reality check tool needed by all. People can learn to love the Church as Christ does by first being in Christ and in the church siultaneously. Loving cannot be done in absentia. The congregation or community is needed in training and forming people who are the next generation worshippers who will also preach, examine a balance sheet, prepare family meals and perform other activities with the community or congregation. Paul writes to the Ephesians that the purpose of congregation and life-based education is for saints to live in praise of God’s glory, i.e., doxologically. The great doctrines of faith, therefore, urge for application. In praise of God, these bless everyday life. It directs everyone to a simultaneous worship of God and a genuine human existence (Stevens).

Orthopraxy literally translates as right or straight practice (Stevens, 1995). It is frank, plain and true Christian action, free of mental reservations, appearances and second thoughts. The only thought is that he does it for God and He does this for him. He is veritably spontaneous and free enough to love someone in need because Jesus lives in his heart. He does so not in search of approval or benefit for God or people. It is action that aligns with God’s purposes and the result is the discovery of God and His truth. It is not confined to the clerics. The doer can be a pastor or a dishwasher, a cobbler or an apostle. The deed is done to please God. Neither is there a measure of it, whether by excellence, efficiency or character. It is measured only by the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. It requires the cultivation of the heart, not only the outside of it (Stevens).

The third lens is orthopathy, which literally means “right passion,” as coined by Dr. Richard Mouw (Stevens, 1995). Jewish author Abraham Heschel also wrote and hinted at it by saying that the prophets were an embodiment of what God cares for, or divine pathos. It is the cultivation of the heart, which is the total or holistic way of knowing. The Biblical response to the postmodernism concept is not an abandonment of reason but opening up to God’s evangelizing action in the heart and the head simultaneously. This is what God cares for (Stevens).

The pursuit of orthopathy is not solely the school’s (Stevens, 1995). The academy, the home, the congregation and the marketplace are all linkages of learning. The home is the first school and nothing takes its place. The academy does not seem to need support from the other three, but all three can only be poor substitutes to the home in the task of educating the heart. The ultimate objective of the education of the heart is to cultivate a passion for God. Orthopathy is best illustrated in the case of Job. He derived learning from life itself. He was a man after God’s own heart. He went through a series of tests in the pursuit of the friendship of God, not anything else. This was why his speeches were directed to Him as he inquired of God, challenged God, demanded of God and confronting God with holy persistence [Jas.5:11] (Stevens).

Orthopathy also works in the interest of other people as neighbors (Stevens, 1995). In this link, the neighbor is accepted and taken seriously as a neighbor rather than as a means of grace. A Christian deals with the poor, the stranger or the enemy not out of a cold theory or principle but as a neighbor. It is in this context that a Christian is invited to live the faith life. It is in the spontaneous and uncontrollable circumstances that God is found and God finds the Christian (Stevens).

These three lenses together point to the connection between theology and the everyday life of a Christian (Stevens, 1995). That connection becomes evident in the habit of praise or orthodoxy, spontaneous practice or orthopraxy, and passion or orthopathy. .What perhaps accounts for the most virulent heresy in the church today is the incongruity of being theologically approved but living like “practical atheists (Stevens).”

 

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