Towards a Christian Philosophy of Education

Part 1: Worldviews and Teachers
Part 2: Appropriated Worldviews, Appropriated Philosophies of Education
Part 3: Clear Philosophies Create Clear Discourses

I’ve been talking about how your philosophy of education is not some disembodied idea, it is firmly rooted in your worldview. So, before you can have a philosophy of education that is well thought out and in line with your values, you need to have a well thought out worldview.

I think my setup for this is more or less done and done well, so it is time I came out with my worldview and how that impacts my approach to education.

I am a Christian. But what does that mean? Am I like your crazy aunt on Facebook? Am I that uncle that thumps you with the Bible each and every holiday? Am I a MAGA Christian nationalist? No, I am not that.

In short, I believe that only the Christian God is true, and therefore, all other religions and beliefs about God are false. This is controversial but it really shouldn’t be. Think about it. It is a fundamental impossibility for a Christian and an Atheist to both be right about God. A Muslim and a Buddhist can’t both be right about what to believe. Almost every worldview is incompatible with others at a foundational level. We just don’t see it too often because we generally have a high day to day compatibility with others, even those whose worldview is fundamentally incompatible with ours.  This is why we can work with and have deep friendships with those who have a very different worldview. Back to education.

What Does My Faith Have To Do With My Teaching?

I will offer justifications by starting with broader statements that are representative of traditional Christian doctrine and then I will choose a verse or two as evidence for said doctrine. This will help me avoid the dangers of proof-texting, which is when you use an isolated, out-of-context text to confirm your presuppositions or biases. Each section will be a brief intro with a longer, more in depth post on each topic to follow, eventually.

Doctrine: Humans are made in the image of God

Bible Verse

  1. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

What It Means For The Classroom
I believe that every single human is made in the image of God. Therefore they are worthy of dignity and respect. This applies without any other qualification, regardless of a student’s political beliefs, sexuality, academic prowess, or behavior.

Applying this is complex and depends in large part on context. How old is the student? What is this student’s behavioral history? What is the school culture? 

Doctrine of Love

Bible Verses

  1. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  2. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-21)
  3. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-6)
  4. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24)

What It Means For The Classroom

I am required to love my students. God so loved the world, so must I. Now, to be clear, love can mean different things. I love my wife. I love my son. I love America. I love Taiwan. I love hamburgers.

All true, and my love for each is expressed differently. Same goes for my students. But this love isn’t a lovey dovey fluffy fairy-godfather love. It is a love that rejoices with the truth and is powerful enough to bear all things. And because this love rejoices in the truth, occasionally there must be discipline.
While the Christian doctrine of love is simple enough for a child to grasp it, there is also enough depth in it to challenge even the most knowledgeable and loving person. Applying the Christian doctrine of love to education is a complex endeavor.

Doctrine of Original Sin

Bible Verses

  1. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)
  2. “In which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:2-3)

What It Means For The Classroom

Everyone is a sinner and in need of grace. This means that I will sin against my students and my students will sin against me. There will be times where I need to forgive my students and other times where they need to forgive me.

When we remember the doctrine of original sin, we should also remember the central role grace and love play within Christianity. This will help us to be patient with our students. But, again, remembering and applying this daily in the classroom is difficult.

Doctrine of Work

Bible Verses

  1. Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
  2. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor…So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:23, 31)
  3. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)

What It Means For The Classroom

In the parable of the talents, it becomes clear that Jesus expects us to use our gifts wisely and to grow them. Applied to teaching, this means we shouldn’t be content with our current abilities, we should seek to improve or face God’s anger.

The other verses quoted make clear that there isn’t really a sacred/secular divide. God cares about every aspect of our lives. We should work to become better teachers not only for our neighbors who are our students (1 Corinthians 10) but also for God (Colossians 3, Ephesians 6). In practice, this means becoming more knowledgeable about our subjects, learning and using more effective teaching methods, and becoming better at classroom management. And that is the simple part.

We also need to apply the doctrines previously mentioned to our work. This is no small challenge.

In the future, I hope to expand my thoughts and to better develop my own philosophy of education in a way that doesn’t just state my ideals, but works to explain how to achieve them. A philosophy bounded by an ivory tower deserves to be thrown away.

Part 1: Worldviews and Teachers
Part 2: Appropriated Worldviews, Appropriated Philosophies of Education
Part 3: Clear Philosophies Create Clear Discourses