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Wisdom Justified By Her Children

Reflections on what it means to be a Christian educator

Christian education must be oriented to the Truth, as I argued in my previous post. Christ is the self-proclaimed Way, Truth, and Life. He is the Logos of John 1, the Wisdom of God, the Radiance of the Father’s Glory, and the Only-Begotten Son of God.

And, Wonder of wonders, He is the Incarnate Word.

The main point I was making in that post is that He is the Logos, which is to say, the Key of the Cosmic Symphony, The One in whom all is made one, the principle of Unity of everything, the Alpha and the Omega. He is not a specialist, who came to earth to do one specific task and then, having succeeded, went home to get on with other things (He rests, yes, and “it is finished,” but His rest is on a throne where He sits. It is not a passive rest, but a governing rest. More on this in other posts, one hopes).

Permit me to state my position not hyperbolically, but simpistically: If, in any way, a Christian school or household is not ordered to Christ the Logos, it is, in that way, not a Christian school.

My purpose, however, is not to scold, for then I would be buried under an avalanche of rebukes, but to encourage and to explore. If we begin and end our thinking about education with Christ the Logos, what do we discover? What follows is the present fruit of a very long reflection on this queston, an attempt to step toward an understanding of what it means to seek a Christ-centered curriculum, Christ-driven approaches to teaching, Christ-honoring assessments, and ways of planning that are ordred by and to Christ.

I begin with two phrases from the scriptures that seem particularly important. First, from I Corinthians 1:24: “Christ the… wisdom of God.” Second, from the story of the woman healed of her flow of blood: “The woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.”

Here, one might say, are two extremes. On the one hand, a single person who is the very “wisdom of God.” On the other, a woman telling “the whole truth.” Surely, she did not say all that is true of all things at all times. She did not tell him the whole Truth, with a capital T, but only the whole truth as it related to the specific incident. And yet contained in that truth was the whole Truth, for He stood before her and had just embodied Truth in His act of healing.

For me, that is a great wonder. Every specific truth is a particular expression of Truth, though by no means all of it. You might say that each truth is a type of the Truth, the way the Old Testament gives hundreds or even thousands of embodiments and expressions of the Truth, long before He had come.

It follows that, as my colleague and teacher, Matt Bianco, expressed it at an event last week, “Every act of learning to perceive truth trains us to perceive Truth.”

Now this is a very profound truth that we must take very seriously if we are to have a Christ oriented experience of education. He who made us in His Image so that we could know Him and husband His creation is He who made us able to perceive truth. It is He who made the creation both good and knowable. There is no further reason needed to study it.

Here is another way to think about it. Elsewhere, our Lord said, “Wisdom is justified of all her children” (Luke 7:35) The obvious fact to be drawn from this is that wisdom begets children.

Now Truth, Logos (the Word), and Wisdom are probably not altogether interchangeable words, but they do all refer to the same Person, that is Christ, and they all do so in a way that is deeply reverent and related to, though not limited to, the working of the human mind.

Wisdom begets children. When we are thinking about education, we are not unjust to think about the children of wisdom as those things that she begets through wise words and deeds. Wisdom begets, for example, great works of art, music, and literature. She begets scientific formulas, political theories, and ethical practices that express her beauty and goodness.

A Logos oriented education, therefore, will focus its attention on these children begotten of wisdom.

Something fascinating happens at this point. If you accept that the “matter” of a Christian education is the children begotten of wisdom, you notice that the learner and teacher are invoked. They have to give their attention to these children in order to become like them.

In Genesis we read that Adam begot Cain and Abel and Seth. He had to attend to them and to care for them. But he couldn’t beget them alone. Something else had to happen. We learn that he was put to sleep and while he slept the Lord removed from his side a rib, from which he fashioned a woman.

This woman was not begotten of Adam, and that is a crucial point. Eve was “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” It would not be a stretch to say that she proceeded, by God’s hand, from his side. Now he was able to beget children.

So it is with us. We cannot beget children of wisdom (that is, truthful thoughts, beautiful works of art, good deeds) unless we are given the power to do so by the hand of God. The Spirit of Wisdom proceeds from God, not from us. But He is given to us in Christ, whose Spirit He is.

Why is the Spirit given to us? So that we can know Christ. In short, he enables us to know the Wisdom and Word of God.

This is the highest thought I can reach, and thinking this thought I know that I can think it only as a caricature and only becuase I read it in the Bible.

And now I dare to draw a series of analogies.

We are the image of God. Adam as Image represented God the Father, which is why he was able to beget sons (Christ is the only-begotten son of God) and why the woman could proceed from him (the Spirit proceeds from the Father). In other words, they were physically manifesting in themselves an image of the relations among the Persons of the Holy Trinity.

We experience a soulish manifestation as well. Wisdom begets children – the words, deeds, and works of wisdom through wise men and women. Wisdom processes (sends) His Spirit, and with Him the ability to perceive the Truth in those words, deeds, and works. The Spirit of Wisdom received enables those who receive Him to become like the children of wisdom, sons and images with the Son and Image.

Intellectually (not academically) this speaks of the artifacts that embody wisdom that fill our world. There are the created artifacts made by the hand of God Himself. There are also the sub-created artifacts made by the hand of the Image of God. These are not as good and wise, as the poet said:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree

Indeed.

But they still possess goodness and wisdom. The great works of art possess great goodness and wisdom and even interpret the higher wisdom to us. Every great work of art was subcreated by a man of great wisdom, though not necessarily filled with the Spirit of Wisdom.

Therefore, wisdom sends her spirit to people so that they can see wisdom in the created and subcreated works that she begets. Artifacts are begotten of wisdom. Powers of perception proceed (are given by) from wisdom.

Christian education, then, directs its attention to the artifacts (children) begotten of Wisdom and cultivates the powers that proceed from wisdom.

Another way to say it would be: Christian education uses the great works and books as its matter and it teaches its students how to look at those great works and books with eyes that can see. It shows embodied logoi to students and cultivates in them the powers of truth perception. It shows them great things and teaches them how to look at them.

All else follows, if we are not distracted by the cares of this world, for every act of learning to perceive truth trains us to perceive Truth.

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