Jean Amos Comenius
Jan Amos Comenius!
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of him. Many respected church history textbooks don’t even mention his name. It’s one of the quirks of history to propel some to undeserved fame while ignoring the achievements of some far more significant figures (but, as we know, in the evaluation that counts most there is something about the first being last and vice versa.)
The church has not been as quick as the educational world to recognize the legacy of Comenius. UNESCO openly acknowledges and celebrates the incomparable contribution of the refugee bishop. Jean Piaget heralds Comenius as “the first to conceive a full scale science of education” and then goes on to make the remarkable assertion that “Comenius is thus among the authors who do not need to be corrected or, in reality, contradicted in order to bring them up to date, but merely to be translated and elaborated.”
Let me suggest that Comenius is one figure who indisputably belongs to the whole Christian church. He would accept that. (Note his “Bequest of the Dying Mother” referred to in the article by Eve Bock). And he is a gift worth savoring regardless of our particular denominational loyalties.
If Comenius were alive today, how enthralled he would be with computers, audio-visuals, the frontiers of knowledge, the untested possibilities of inter-disciplinary studies. How appalled he would be at what we do with and to our resources, and our children. Perhaps he would be most bewildered by our pride. But imagine his disbelief at our weaponry. Comenius (citing Luther) urged governments to spend 100 times as much on education as they did on preparation for war.
He was the kind of Christian thinker convenient to forget, but not for too long.
Copyright © 1987 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
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