At last week’s conference, the single point I was hoping to grasp and communicate was this: Only the spiritual man is able to judge all things. Since the conference was on judgment, that struck me as a significant truth.
Most assessments in our world (of children’s behavior, of employee performance, of student work, of intellectual growth, and of any other human activity) are rooted in a naturalistic materialism that excludes the soul and spirit from its paradigm – even before the analysis takes place.
That is like assessing a frog for its ability to swim while denying it the opportunity even to consider leaving the water.
Furthermore, whatever is assessed will be attended to more than what is not assessed, and very frequently in ways unintended by the assessor. So what you assess and how will necessarily communicate your actual values, your real priorities, and (perhaps especially) your motivating fears.
If we don’t know what we believe and we are looking for any available form of validation, we become gullible. That is why schools have so easily been driven to Common Core from No Child Left Behind, and to NCLB from Outcome Based Education, and to OBE from the gimmick that preceded it.
A school with its own commitments and identity is a headache to our Imperial school system. That’s because such a school will be somewhere between amused and bemused by the endless and futile efforts of the “system” to do what no system can do.
But the spiritual man judges all things. Including assessment. Only he himself, Paul tells us, is judged by no man.
In other words, the person who perceives things spiritually (as Christ did, and as Paul models in his epistles to the Corinthians) is capable of seeing the truth of things in any context. On the other hand, the person who can only see based on the senses or the soul is both unable to understand why the spiritual man (the frog on land, to carry forward my awkward analogy) “hops” the way he does and how things are best understood.
For example, there are two truths expressed within Christian dogma that reside firmly and comfortably in my mind, and yet I find it virtually impossible to move them into my heart. It strains me to allow myself to see the implications and reach of the reality they express.
The first is the disaster of sin and death.
The second is the promises that God has made to be kind to us.
I have found that I want to take a shortcut to the enjoyment of the promises, but there is no other path than honesty over the first – an honesty that we call repentance or confession.
People sometimes think that the “spiritual man” about whom Paul writes must be some brilliant scholar, somebody learned in all the deepest texts, or at least somebody who followed a tortuous discipline to arrive at this level of spiritual insight.
In fact, in the Corinthian church there seem to have been people who regarded themselves as more spiritual than the other Corinthians because they practiced some sort of spiritual excercises that gave them “gnosis,” or an inner form of knowledge.
That isn’t how it works in Christ. The wisdom from above is first pure. The spiritual man is first the man who engages in one simple spiritual discipline continually: He repents.
The barrier between us and the wisdom of God (maybe “abyss” would be a better word than barrier) cannot be crossed by any amount of learning, information, data, or skill. The problem is not a lack of development. It is not that we don’t see enough. It is that the organ of perception is sick, absessed, puffed up with infection.
Not wanting to repent, we turn to the sciences, to data, to our feelings, or to some other very human and very broken faculty that we trust to deliver us from the darkness of our cave.
But surely we know that the kingdom of heaven was introduced with a very simple appeal: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
If we repent, we may be able to use the tools of the conventional educator (the spiritual man judges all things), but if we don’t repent they can only harm us.
Nor do I think we need to have some communal tearing of sackcloth and sprinkling of ashes. Nothing that we might consider dramatic would seem to fit. It’s the every day pattern of repentence that matters. We are always drawn to sin, so we need always to turn to Christ.
It helps me to think of my soul like a compass. A compass is made to point north, as we are drawn to love God. But if you surround it with magnets, it will be drawn away from the north pole. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.”
These magnets (distractions – literally “things that drag us away) surround us. When all are removed, we can stop repenting. Until then, let us say, like that dirty rotten publican, “Lord, have mercy on me the sinner.”
Perhaps the conference should have focused more on the specific tools of assessment being used by schools today and how to make the best use of them. But if we want to know how to make the best use of them, we need first to point to the north, to climb out of the water and hop on the land, to enter into His rest. We need to repent.
Then we’ll be able to judge rightly how to use all the marvelous things our Lord has given to us.
Until then, be aware that the Kingdom of Heaven really is at hand. We can enjoy its blessings if we repent.