Thursday, September 24, 2009

Linus Chua: Reformation and Education

Today, we would be having Pastor Linus Chua on the topic of Reformation and Education. Does the Reformed faith has anything to say about the issue of education? In this short article of his, Pastor Linus briefly discuss what the Reformation gave to the education enterprise, and the lessons we can learn and applications we can make from them to the issue of education today.

An excerpt:

History shows that there was an intimate relationship between the Reformation and education. Wherever the Reformation went, it carried the school with it and gave a strong impulse to the education of the masses. Lorraine Boettner wrote, “Wherever Calvinism has gone, there knowledge and learning have been encouraged and there a sturdy race of thinkers has been trained. Calvinists have not been the builders of great cathedrals, but they have been the builders of schools, colleges, and universities.”

The Reformers and those who followed after them recognized that true saving faith involved sound knowledge (Hebrews 11), that sanctification was through the truth of God’s word (John 17:17) and that Christians are called to love God with all their minds (Matt 22:37, Deut 6:1-9, Rom 12:1-2).

In the same document, David Chen reviews Linus' article. An excerpt:

It is indeed true that the Reformation places an emphasis on education. They did so with two convictions: 1) to bring the Word of God to all – they are convinced the Bible is not only Authoritative and Sufficient, but the Bible is also clear and the wisdom of salvation is accessible by all who are willing to read it by faith. However, a second conviction drives the education movement: to understand the world and all of its wisdom is another channel to understand God and His nature, commonly known as natural revelation.

The paper can be found here, and both Linus' paper and David Chen's review are open for discussion.


PuritanReformed said...

Linus' paper is indeed interesting and there is much we can learn especially in application. However, with regards to education, it is not true that only Reformed Christians emphasize education. The ancient Greeks and Romans and Chinese did it too, as well as the modern secular humanists. Of course, it can be argued that the ancients were more pragmatic in their education than truly seeking after truth (and those who do seek are killed a la Socrates), and the later Greek and modern secular humanists seek knowledge to satisfy their needs and in worship of their great god "Science". But all this has to be proved.

David Chen's review is indeed refreshing also. We must indeed evaluate everything according to the lens of the priniciples of Scripture. As both Linus and David has shown, there is no such thing as "neutrality". All of human knowledge has to be evaluated according to the precepts of Scripture. As an anti-empiricist and Clarkian rationalist (and Operationalist with regards to the philosophy of science), I would even say that apart from Scripture, the sciences can never gain any real knowledge.

Augustinian Successor said...

"I would even say that apart from Scripture, the sciences can never gain any real knowledge."

It all depends on your *definition* of 'knowledge.'

PuritanReformed said...


yes indeed.

CREDO500 said...

Thanks for the comments, these do help. I think Linus and David did well, masses/public education is precisely one of the major issues of Chinese churches. We need to find an all-comprehensive worlview to guide her into maturity, since liberal theology lost the distinctiveness of Christ and fundamentalism withdrew from engaging the culture both prove to be inadequate.

John Bolt, the ST Professor of Calvin College, once predicted“In the next 50 years, Christian theology should focus on China.”This leaves us to humbled and challenged, though I was surprised when first read the citation from Rev. Wang(王志勇)’s article. Would anyone be so kind to elaborate why this is the case? Rev.Wang has his ideas as to why is the case, but I’d rather hear from others.

My immediate response is, what can reformed theology offer to Chinese churches?What does Confessional Christianity have to say to our culture? Will reformational masses education offer a viable voice to shape China’s future? Instead of embracing the ideologies that go under the umbrella of postmodernism. If so, How would this be happened in these fifty years?Let’s discuss.


PuritanReformed said...


the problem lies in application. John Machen, Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark all believe that education is not neutral and Christian education must thus be based upon the Scriptures. However, working it out is difficult. I could conceivably do it for science since I am a scientist so to speak. Others could do it in their respective fields. The problem lies in the fact that there are so few Reformed Christians around, and even fewer who are interested in cultivating a wholistic Reformed worldview, most I think retreating to a form of "spiritual" pietism in their praxis.

Of course, even when interacting with such topics, divergences will most defintiely arise between the (Neo-) Kuyperians, the Classical Reformed, the Dispensatinal-minded (ie John MacArthur and co) and the Reformed Pietists seen in many traditional conservative reformed congregations. It will be one big mess to untangle.

Mejlina Tjoa said...

Thanks for the article. In principle we all agree that Christianity has made great contribution in promoting education of the masses in history, and Christians today should be involved in reforming education. As with other important aspects of life, applications leave much to be desired. And perhaps one application question we can discuss is, if we (reformed believers) are sto start a school on our own, how would it be different from other schools?

I'm actually reading a book titled "Teaching Redemptively: Bringing Grace and Truth into Your Classroom" by Donovan L. Graham. I think his frameworks are pretty reformed. He criticised the spirit of secular education system today which also sink deep in many schools that try to live out Christian values, like the obsessions with grades & rankings which often breed unhealthy competitive spirit, and according to the author, promotes the spirit of the law all over again (your identity and reward is based on your performance) and denies the spirit of grace in the gospel. He thinks that a Christian school should be radically different from a secular school.

While I agree with his frameworks (I think they are biblical as it is based on creative-redemptive purpose of God), when he comes to proposing the actual system that is in line with that framework... it starts to feel very unrealistic.

If the curriculum design, learning activities, evaluation / grading, and discipline are to be carried out as he proposed, I'm not sure who is going to fund that kind of school (it's going to cost a lot) and where to find teachers who can teach so fluidly like that, how many parents will register their kids there, knowing that this school does not value as much what the society in general values. E.g. it focuses more on holistic development than on developing specialised skills which the job market require.

It appears that we can propose any system we think are biblical, but we are very limited in implementation once we interact with the larger systems already in place in the society. So the question boils down to -- what is Christian education and its implications on the society / generation we live in today.

My quick rambles and sorry for not having the time to edit in better English. =P

PuritanReformed said...


I think the abolishing of grades is a bit extreme. Grades do not IMO "promote the spirit of the law". There is most definitely unhealthy competition, but denouncing competition fiat seems more like a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

John said...

Therefore, there is a strong case for Christian school or home schooling for Christian parents. If got a choice why sent our children to secular school?

Mejlina Tjoa said...


Well not all parents are skilled enough to teach their kids technical stuffs. This is under the assumption that parents can do better job in teaching their kids all those basic subjects than teachers who have gone through training and are specialised in teaching those stuffs. Trust me, even basic Math isn't that easy for everybody. Also, I don't really think that homeschooling is necessarily better than secular school. We live in real world. If the kids are overly protected, once they get exposed to the real world they might not be that well-prepared to face all the exposures.

The author didn't suggest complete grade demolition, but only suggesting to downplay the importance, quite severely though.

Augustinian Successor said...

I agree with Mejlina. I believe *context* is important.

In places like the US which is paradoxically *humanist* secular and Christian, home-schooling may work better. But in places like Malaysia and Singapore, I personally do not see the need.

Yes, I do know Reformed Christians who believe in home-schooling and Christian schools. They also tend to be *dogmatic* about politics and economics which I don't share. I disagree that the Bible can be treated like a blueprint for a State (however much I'm a fan of Gordon Clark and John Robbins). This is different from the historical and scientific accuracy of the Bible. The break with OT theocracy is complete.

Not Henry said...
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PuritanReformed said...


I stand corrected then. Having not read the book, I cannot say any more than that the issue of unhealthy competition is more a heart issue than a law issue. Thus, even if the system is reformed, sinful men if they desire to will still find ways to engage in unhealthy competition.

CREDO500 said...

Daniel and all,

I see the complexity of the reformed revolution in education. The topic is extremely challenge and important for us to develop it more fully, and then addresses a wider range of practices, boldly insist upon the education of the "whole" man, including the character and conscience before HIM.

Remember the spirit of Geneva: from course to course. I suggest that Christian parents shall have their own religious program(where Christ was exalted) for their children at least after the school(as Jewish did), rather than delegate the responsibilities to the sunday school or to anyone else.

The meaning of Baptism should be redisovered in church and Christian education. What’s the point of the children baptism if parents do not bring them in the nurture of the Lord? And the meaning of the adult baptism if ministers does not teach them the doctrine of the gospel/the total truth of Jesus (Matt.28:20)?

Without the emphasis on religion in the home and the understanding of the covenant, the professedly Christian family could easily functions as a pagan family at best. At the end, many children in the church-going families have grown up in unbelief. Are we leaving the next generation totally exposed to an Antichrst-dominated world?!

Daniel Chan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CREDO500 said...

Dear Chan,

Thanks for the interaction, Chew is a smart guy that deserves respect.

Again, no one is devil here (despite our theological disagreement), all are brothers and sisters in Christ!

All best!