What Makes Christian Education Distinct

Secular education seeks to make more successful and intelligent people. The Christian educator aspires to nothing less than the transformation of a believer into the image of Christ.
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To put it another way, the difference between secular and Christian education is as stark as the difference between the animal and human world. Animals and humans both have hearts, blood, and brains. They both live and die. They both reproduce sexually. They eat and breathe in remarkably similar ways. In the end, however, the differences infinitely exceed the likenesses. Only humans are created in the image of God. Only humans can make moral decisions. Only humans can perform surgery, rocket to the moon, write Romeo and Juliet, paint the Mona Lisa, build the Notre Dame Cathedral. And only humans will be resurrected in the image of Jesus Christ.
• Superintended by the Holy Spirit. In Christian education the Holy Spirit is ultimately orchestrating the learning experience, in which I am but a participant. He, not me, oversees the classroom. He is the master teacher, not me. He is the medium of communication, the giver and transmitter of truth, and I am the personality he is animating.
The presence of the Holy Spirit requires the Christian educator to have an attitude of dependence and humility. I can draw back, beginning to depend on myself, my books, my experience, my past learning, my lesson plans, my messages. Or I can be sensitive to him, seek him, acknowledge daily in prayer that I can do nothing on my own, only what he does through me by his grace.
So, no matter what my scholastic degrees or expertise, I know that without total dependence on the Spirit, I cannot bear fruit; I cannot achieve my goal of full discipleship. I can transmit information without the Holy Spirit. I can explain and illustrate and entertain, but I cannot bear fruit without abiding in the vine.
Not Just to Teach But to Transform

Not only the perspective but the objective of Christian teaching transcends secular education. The secularist seeks to make better, more effective, successful, and intelligent people. The Christian educator aspires to nothing less than to transform people into the image of Christ. Secular education and Christian education thus have different postures toward the world. One helps a person fit into the world system; the other helps lift a person above the world. I am teaching not merely to inform the mind but to renew the mind: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

I once took a graduate course at New York University. I knew the professor was brilliant, in complete command of his field. So on the first day of class, I sat in the front row; I didn't want to miss anything.

I soon noticed, however, that the other students crowded the back rows. These being graduate students, motivated learners, I couldn't understand it. But in a matter of minutes, I figured it out. The professor was remote. He had little enthusiasm and simply droned on during the lecture. Later in the course he said to the class, "Look, I get paid whether you learn or not." Then I understood his cold approach to his subject.

As a Christian educator, that attitude will never do. My goal is not to lecture, or even to lecture with excellence. My goal is to teach in such a way that students both learn and employ their knowledge. Christian educators should view themselves as nothing less than disciplers. The knowledge we communicate affects more than the minds of our hearers; it should change lives. In particular, I want to see my students develop five qualities as a result of my teaching.

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