Is wisdom a good aim for education that wants to be Christian?

Figuring out the goal of your educating efforts is crucial to success.

Not having a good clear goal before you will mean that you are bound to succeed – by hitting something that is huge and amorphous!

But everybody, yourself included, will be frustrated.

On the other hand, if educators know what they are all about, they can avoid unnecessary work that does not help toward any clear goal.

After saying this much so definitely, everything from here becomes difficult.

The goal can be too narrow. It can be repetition of information. Such information has never been processed in any way that would allow it truly to “inform” a student’s practice of life. So, the information is irrelevant at the time, and remains irrelevant probably always, as the pressure cooker of the educational setup is left behind.

The goal can be way too wide, as we said above.

Can it be too deep?


There is a process of learning the faith. Don’t start with prelapsarianism.

To those well along in their doctrinal development, prelapsarianism may start to take over your mind as the most important source of clear thinking.

I can hardly imagine how one might be so convinced – no, wrong, I can. Some denominations are habitually taken up in such concerns.

Let me ask again: Can a goal be too deep, meaning, can its significance become clear only after time, time that is not available to the course (the educational setup)?

Yes: take a Biblical example. Understanding Ecclesiastes requires an understanding of the Old Testament, particularly the first five books, and also of Proverbs. Ecclesiastes is grad school.

OK: can a goal be too shallow? Definitely. It can just aim at skills, almost like the too-narrow fact orientation I criticized above.

In the case of too-shallow goals, one issue is whether the components will hang together within a larger program of person-development.

Will all the parts fit? Unless the educator has a big enough understanding of the educational/people-development task, the risk is that the parts will not cohere. The parts might even contradict each other.

For example: Shouldn’t money management be part of a life of faith? Yet much Christian money management is not very theological. It reads like money management from other faith traditions or from the secular world. It is prudent, sensible, methodical. The “Christian” colouring can be “high transparency,” in computer graphics-ese.

So, we need a good goal.

Is wisdom a big enough and explicit enough goal for Christian educational efforts? Three answers follow.

First Answer: Yes. The goal of wisdom is explicitly stated of Proverbial training. Training of pupils for leadership in court and in society, as is set out in the Book of Proverbs within the Old Testament portion of the Bible, looks to develop wisdom. These pupils will have had the rest of the Old Testament. Now the proverbs, which are sometimes paradoxes, will prompt personal reflection and internalization. Wise kings, in the OT, were king of the hill. Dumb kings or evil kings, meaning nearly the same thing to the Proverb writer(s), were a bane and a blight to their people.

Second Answer: No. Wisdom is explicitly denied in First Corinthians 1 and 2. There, it is Greeks, that is, Gentiles, not people of the household of faith, who seek wisdom. Believers look at Christ crucified and find wisdom there, which is un-wisdom in the eyes of rest of the world. It is total idiocy, says Paul the apostle, but the cross comes to appear as the wisdom of God himself to those who see the emptiness, foolishness, and plain old sin that surrounds them on all sides.

Third Answer: Yes. Christ is the Christian’s wisdom. So wisdom — rightly understood — is a good goal.

What is wisdom, anyway? Is it not what was had by those guys mentioned just one single time in the 66 books of the Bible, the “men of Issachar.” The New Living Translation says, “From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.”

So wisdom is the ability to interpret. In fancy language (Greek derived in this case) wisdom is a hermeneutical ability. Proverbs methodology already points in this direction: in a proverb, the answer is not given to you on a plate. You the student must tease out the meaning of the proverb by understanding the meaning of the two parts of the assertion. I won’t go into this now since I’m close to limit. Take a look at, say, Chapter Six of the Book of Proverbs. Or one of the later chapters. The paradoxes seem to deepen as you travel along in the book.

You will not get wisdom developing in students by dishing it out and having it spit back more or less intact on tests.

You must give opportunities for wisdom development by steps or stages.

Essays are way better.

(Ha ha ha!)

And so are more interactive “processes” — like conversation.

Threaded conversations.

Group projects.

Shared service projects with study component integrated.

Watching wiser practitioners.

Go do stuff with an older, wiser person.

Biographies: read em.

Talking to others, especially those outside the faith. They sharpen you and raise the toughest questions.

Of course, now we start move out of “education” into regular life. Congregational life. I think here of C. Ellis Nelson or J. Westerhoff – their books emphasized the looser, relational, sociologically-done education. At the fuzzy end, do we start to dissolve – or to start really learning?

What do you think? How do you put it together? Where should we start?



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