Reflections on the Life & Writings of Jonathan Edwards
Education is an ongoing part of our lives whether we want it to be or not. Each day we learn new things and implement them into our lives. Learning does not stop after we graduate from High School or College and so the things I learned from examining Edward’s early years in academia apply just as much to me as they do to my children, though I must admit that I found myself challenged as I consider the schooling process of my young children. Edwards is regarded as one of the most intelligent people in the history of Christendom. His heady writings and ability for deep analyses give evidence of that. It is no accident that he was this way as we consider the foundation that was laid in his formative years. As this is not a biographical sketch of Edwards but merely my thoughts, I will avoid veering off into a history lesson.
The observations here are really just a focused extension of the thoughts in the earlier post. A home that is rooted in the realities of life and objective truth is one that considers the purposes for the things that we pursue and effects the reasons and approaches that we take in our life choices. We could zoom out and see how living a life rooted in reality and objective truth impacts so many areas of our life, but for now I would like to observe how it shapes our approach to education.
There is a valuable paradigm which begins with the question “Why do I seek to educate myself or my children?” There are many legitimate reasons why, but as believers our chief end should be to glorify God and reflect the radiance of Christ. With that as our focus we should be moved to approach education with a certain intentionality. If we are seeing life in light of reality and the concrete truth of the scriptures, then we know that all that we do here is in preparation for eternity, which we have already established should be a solid reality in our lives. I do not see in this as an argument to bury ourselves in the Greek lexicon and systematic theology only, for the truth is that we must work, live, and provide for our own. However, the way we approach that preparation is moved if we realize that our eternal destiny is just as much a reality as working a nine-to-five job. If we prepare for life here in a separate category as preparing for life there then we will be tend to take a carnal, temporal, and short-sighted approach to education.
The content of our education will be dictated by the goals and objectives we set and will be absorbed based on the paradigm through which that content is delivered. Our goals should be rooted in Biblical reality and content/method chosen that best agrees with those goals.
The problem that arises from considering this in such a simplified manner is that we must not assume that anyone was ever saved because they had a superior education, even one anchored in Biblical truth. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, made possible by the calling of God alone. Giving our children an education focused on eternity does not give them an advantage in that they are more “save-able” than others. If they are saved it will be totally on the basis of sovereign mercy by the provision of Christ’s atoning work on the cross.
So why bother? Why not just let them go to fill their minds with all sorts of worldly knowledge and ambition, trusting that if they are numbered among the elect they will be saved and they will fulfill the good works they were created to do in Christ?
This would seem to be a reasonable question, but such thinking is immensely flawed. Here are a couple of reasons why: (1) “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ”. Every person that was ever saved, as a result of the sovereign calling of God, was saved when they heard the preaching of the Gospel and believed. It should be our desire that our children would be drenched in the Gospel. Many are saved because they grew up in a Gospel-centered home that God sovereignly placed them in. Do not make the arrogant mistake of turning the doctrine of election on its head, removing the Biblical role of man and the will from the equation. Instead, praise God that he has placed children and students in your life, thus allowing you to be an agent in his great work of salvation. Educate them with eternity in mind. Fill their minds with spiritual knowledge having confidence from scripture that if they will only believe they will be saved. (2) Edwards began learning Latin at age seven and Greek/Hebrew at twelve. He knew the Bible inside and out as a result of his education, yet it would appear that he was not actually converted until late in his teen years. All of his knowledge to this point that had been God-ward focuses was not in vain. At the point of being saved it became useful, a glorious tool-kit of knowledge to be used for the glory of God. All education should be focused on biblical truth and reality for the purpose of when that truth meets a heart transformed by the Gospel it becomes a powerful weapon against Satan and a glorious bulwark against worldliness. This is why I do catechism with my daughter though she is only three and has little realization of what she is even saying. One day by the grace of God those truths in her head will spring to life and provide her with a rock-solid foundation to face life and eternity. Giving our children an intentional education rooted in biblical reality is a huge advantage to them and to the kingdom of God.
It should be my goal to create an atmosphere of learning that is intentional and serious. Intentional with Biblical goals and truths and serious because life here is short and eternity is the epitome of reality that we want ourselves and our children to be anchored in.