A classical education is possible only if God is immutable and man is not. We, as educators, are dependent upon God to remain the same and to be faithful to His promises for the good of our students. We are dependent on man’s ability to change and grow if we are to see our efforts bear any fruit in the lives of our students.
A right understanding of God acknowledges that God always has been and always will be the same. James 1:17 says that with God “there is no variation or shadow due to change.” In the Psalms, God is described numerous times as a rock. In 1890, Albert B. Simpson penned a chorus to a hymn based on Hebrews 13:8: “Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same. All may change but Jesus, never. Glory to his name.” Sing this as a banner over your students and let the truth sink deep into their hearts because God’s faithfulness is our hope for our salvation.
Because God cannot change, the things He loves and wants us to love do not change either. That which was truly worthy of the affection of the ancients is worthy of our affection today. What is beautiful now was beautiful then. As classical educators, we do not have to follow fads and trends to know what we desire our students to love and become.
What is education if not change? Without change, all we have is knowledge.
If a right understanding of God must acknowledge his immutability, then a right understanding of man acknowledges man’s mutability. The promise of our sanctification is dependent not just on God’s immutability but also our ability to change. Paul wrote to the Philippians that they could rest in that promise because God “who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”
Our affections can be ordered and tastes can be cultivated because we are mutable. We can learn to love the beautiful, the good, and the true. And we can see our students, and ourselves, change over time. The obstinate toddler can become obedient. The lazy 10-year-old can come to appreciate hard work. The cross middle schooler can become agreeable. The arrogant teenager can become teachable. The teacher can pray for wisdom and gain it.
In frustration, or as an excuse, we sometimes communicate that someone cannot change. They have a fault—a bad habit or an area of their life characterized by a sin—which we believe is out of the reach of growth.
There have been times when the weight of my children’s struggles weighs me down physically, as if I am carrying their burden on my back. I begin to wonder if they if will ever learn, change, and mature. Maybe this sin, this bad habit that frustrates me so, is just a part of who they are and who they will always be.
I’ve thought similarly about myself. I can’t change XYZ because it is how God made me. I am prone to this particular fault. I have always struggled with it.
We cannot whisper these lies. We cannot make excuses and tell our students God is no longer working in them, for if we do, we are telling them that they should not seek to grow in wisdom and understanding for they will not gain it. Although they exist in literature, a static character does not exist in real life outside of God. If we are unable to change, we have no hope because we must change from dead to alive, from enemy of God to child of God, from sinner to redeemed. And if we are unable to change, then there is no truth that God is sanctifying us.
What is education if not change? Without change, all we have is knowledge. We have the acquisition of skills. Education reduced to programming, as if our students are robots rather than eternal souls.
Education is slow growth and gradual maturity. Education is about gently leading my students from one degree of virtue to the next as God works in their hearts.
A. W. Tozer pointed out in his book The Attributes of God that John Newton, John Bunyan, and the Apostle Paul were, by their own confessions, each the vilest of all men that ever lived. If God can change vile-mouthed, lust-chasing, God-hating men to do good works for his glory, can’t He work in the life of our disruptive or uninterested student?
James 1:5 promises that “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously without reproach, and it will be given to him.” We must tell our students that humbly asking God to change us will work. We are able to grow and change, and through the grace of God, He grants us wisdom when we ask for it.
There is only one who cannot, does not, and will not change. And He is faithful to transform us into his likeness. This is our steadfast hope: God will always be the same and will always fulfill his promises.