Training in reason requires certain things to be accepted axiomatically – to be easily perceived or self-evident. People discovering that others don’t share these presuppositions is often a source of frustration, especially when the definition relates to that which is Christian. I explored one such presupposition in my last article, namely the assumption that education should be driven by university admissions. Today I will explore a couple of competing axioms in the world of education.
As a planner, this one is hard to write. The first might be described as the tension of tomorrow. On the one hand, we generally go to sleep expecting to wake up in another day. On the other, this may stem from a confidence in our relative accomplishments as a society rather than hope in the purposes of God. Numbering our days is a part of wisdom according to the Psalms. Those who presume upon tomorrow are called out explicitly in the fourth chapter of James. In educational terms, this means that some value needs to be evident in the present. Everything cannot be invested on the presupposition of future success. An education which is hostile to God’s holiness or banking on a deferral can’t be properly called training in righteousness.
When we speak of things like instilling conviction, promoting excellence, and cultivating joy, we expect those things to have both long and short-term returns. Conviction is a cornerstone of education because we begin with what is true. Training in truth today produces a habit of truthfulness over the course of so many days. Eventually it becomes a virtue which marks a person’s character. Similarly, finding joy in the midst of today gives us practice. Not knowing whether tomorrow’s demands will be greater than, less than, or equal to today’s, why would we presume to be able to muster a joy tomorrow that we can’t manifest today? To be marked by excellence becomes a question of the present.
Another axiomatic problem occurs within our calculation of value. We think, perhaps too often, in terms of value. Many have written and laid out the numerous blessings of living according to God’s standards. I am grateful to be able to draw upon those when I find my hope wavering. The current struggle between presuppositions in education, however, makes clear that we are likely falling short in the present. Consider the battle.
The secular model of education is drawing all that it can from the appeal of sexuality. From the perspective of both experience and pleasure, they’ve chosen one of the most powerful aspects of God’s creation. Much is certainly being left out of candid discussion (1), but the combination of the age of the audience and God’s design of the body make it incredibly effective. The argument boils down to making people as happy as they can be in every moment by experiencing a sexual environment. In many ways, we’d be better off letting our children play in the core of a nuclear reactor. There’s a reason we place that much raw power in containment, monitor it constantly, and provide multiple fail-safes and safeguards. We know that God protects sexuality with marriage in much the same way.
Given the steepness of the competition, however, we need to do better. We have to be reminded that there is value in living virtuously today; it isn’t all banked on the future. In fact, we need to draw clear distinctions between things that may have future value, acknowledging that we aren’t promised a future, and things that have eternal value, recognizing that we have been promised eternity. As the frame on my desk constantly reminds me: “faith, hope, and love abide.” Faith looks backwards, hope looks forward, but love sees the here and now. In light of things with eternal value, there must be an axiomatic reason that Paul concludes “the greatest of these is love.” If education simply means to train, what does today’s training look like?
(1) For a more in-depth treatment, I strongly encourage you to pick up Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey.