Our Lord, Jesus Christ is not a specialist. He did not come to earth to do one project or to solve one problem and then go back to heaven.
Christ is, as the Apostles John, Paul, and Peter all repeatedly assert and assume, the One in whom all things are held together. He is the Logos.
It is not possible to express in a blog, a book, or an article all that St. John expresses in that word Logos, with which he opens his gospel and by which he identifies his beloved teacher. Perhaps words from St. Paul’s epistles might help:
Ephesians 1:9, 10: “Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth”
Colossians 1:16ff: “All things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
Hebrews 1: God “hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
One cannot spend too much time conteplating Christ the Logos. Indeed, we were created for no other reason than to contemplate Christ the Logos. The creation itself was made so that we could know Christ the Logos.
The whole creation speaks of Him, if only in this (and it does so not only in this), that everything is an incarnate logos (small “l”). When I see a tree, I see something the Logos made. When He made it, He gave it its own logos: the unity that is a particular tree. If that is confusing, this might be a little clearer way to put it: every tree that exists expresses the idea that the Word thinks in it. Or this, each particular tree is an incarnate logos of a tree.
Do not worry if that seems a little confusing. One reason the modern rejected the Logos is because it is not measurable, and things that aren’t measurable are hard to understand. In all that we know that is valuable, we carry in our minds only have a caricature of the truth. We have to be content with that, while seeking ever more clarity. It is as St. Paul told the haughty, classically educated Corinthians: “If any one thinks he knows, then he does not yet know as he ought to know.”
So embrace the vagueness and even confusion. Because if you do, you can see that the whole creation sings the same song, everywhere, and at all times: incarnate logoi (plural for logos) sings Incarnate Logos.
I don’t mean this an apologetic. One either believes and sees this or one doesn’t. But I do mean it as an unfathomable blessing to the Christian who wants to think in a harmonious, nurturing, practically effective, and restful way.
Christian education can only be directed to one end: to know Christ. And there is only one means to this end: to contemplate the Word. Again, this is not a specialized study. It includes everything because everything is an incarnated word made by the Word. But it is not an anxious, stressful study because it is always ordered by and to one thing: to know Christ.
Let me ask this question, which will come across perhaps as a little harsh but which is the question a Christian educator must be constantly asking:
If a Christian school or household or Church orders its teaching (ie discipleship) to anything other than Christ the Word, in what sense is it Christian? If the goal is one or more of the big three (college admissions, testing, or career), have we not turned ourselves from the Kingdom of God and His righteousness to seek the things the Gentiles seek? Are not the defensive answers rooted in unbelief of the promises of Christ that our Father loves us and therefore “all these things will be added to you”?
Christian schools are being started all over in order to do things like “make a difference,” “prepare disciples for the kingdom,” “raise young people of excellence,” or even “cultivate wisdom and virtue.” But you can’t do any of those if you let anxiety about college, testing, or career drive your decisions.
I mean to defend a simple point:
The school or household or church that realizes the sufficiency of Christ the Word and orders its life and being to bearing witness to that sufficiency will be blessed by God. It will make a difference without trying to, prepare disciples for the kingdom who enter it, and cultivate wisdom and virtue in meaningful ways.
Christ is the Logos, the Truth, The Wisdom of God. He is the Incarnate Word, the Knowable Truth, and the Livable Wisdom of God. All things are made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
I love the way the great Saint Athanasius expressed it when he found enough time between exile and persecution to write his response to the idolatry of his day:
His holy disciples teach that everything was made through him and for him, and that being a good offspring of a good father, and true son, He is the power of the Father and his Wisdom and Word; not so by participation… but He is Wisdom-in-himself, Word-in-himself, himself the Father’s own Power, Light-in-himself, Truth-in-himself, Righteousness-in-himself, Virtue-in-himself, yes, and the Stamp and Effulgence and Image. In short, he is the supremely perfect fruit of the Father, and is alone Son, the exact image of the Father. (Against the Gentiles, 46, quoted in the Introduction to On the Incarnation, SVS press)
But when he came to his own, his own received him not.
Surely an education fails if, when Christ the Word comes to those educated in His name, they don’t receive Him.
The goal of a Christian education, then, must be to prepare students to receive Christ the Word, not by manipulation and bad arguments, but by bearing witness to Him who is the Incarnate Word.
How does a school do that? I hope to develop an answer to that question in some detail over the next few weeks. I have been devoting and will continue to devote my life, and the CiRCE Institute is devoted, to that question. Here are some things we need to explore:
- What is the end of Christian education?
- What does the curriculum look like that bears witness to Christ the Incarnate Word?
- What does teaching look like that bears witness to Christ the Incarnate Word?
- What does assessment look like that bears witness to Christ the Incarnate Word?
- What does governance look like that bears witness to Christ the Incarnate Word?
- How is a community formed that bears witness to Christ the Incarnate Word?
- How does a school or household bear witness to Christ the Incarnate Word in the environment where God has placed us?
I am convinced that if we seek first the Kingdom of God (the Kingdom revealed in Christ the Incarnate Word), the food and clothing that we are so anxious about will be provided by a loving Father who loves His Son so infinitely that He will not fail to rush to the support of anybody who seeks to bear witness to Him.
I am also convinced that we make ourselves anxious beyond measure when we order our education to any other end than the Wisdom, Truth, and Word of God: the Incarnate Logos.
“Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left to us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Hebrews 4:1