Thursday, March 4, 2010


Christ is the exact substance of every inkling of myth and ethic—of every shadow—that ever hinted at Him and guessed at His existence. The Apostle Paul proclaimed “the Lord of heaven” as the “unknown god” whom the Athenians ignorantly worshiped (Acts 17). He noted that they were religious (superstitious) people. Among them were Epicureans and Stoics, two groups who were boldly opposed to one another.

Epicureans were those who held to the creed of Epicurus, who scoffed at what he called superstition though he was deeply irrational himself. He thought the world was not created by God, but that it “came into its being and form, through a fortuitous concourse of atoms, of various sizes and magnitude, which met, and jumbled, and cemented together, and so formed the world.” Sound familiar? The highest pleasure to Epicurus was tranquility and freedom from fear. One could achieve this pleasure through knowledge, virtue, temperance and friendship.

There are two major sects in the school of Epicureanism. The rigid sort found happiness in the mind as they practiced moral virtues. The so-called “remiss” or “loose” Epicureans found pleasure in the body as sensual beings.

At the Stoa Poikile (the painted porch) a man named Zeno taught his ideals. From this porch in Athens came the Stoic philosophy. Zeno rightly taught that there was one God and that He made the world. However, he made a quick departure from what was right when he taught that the law of morality was the same as the law of nature. To him good, for man, was instinctual; and love for all other beings was one of his prime ethics. Indeed, Adam and Eve were “good” as a part of God’s good creation, but they sold themselves into the dominion of darkness, and sin became as natural as breathing to their race.

How love can simultaneously be seen as instinctual, yet also as a tenet that must be obeyed, is beyond sound reason. Bird dogs hunt birds not according to creeds, but to instinct. If they had to be told or taught to hunt birds, it would not be instinctual. Nevertheless, to the Stoic, an unkind person is only someone who is unaware of the inherent kindness within him. The logos (the inherent, universal reason in all things) is something one can forget. Any divergence from the virtues is the failure to remember the logos within. It would be like one’s heart forgetting to pump.

Of course, if the tenet is to choose between two opposing natures (as the New Testament teaches), the Stoic belief makes perfect sense. The man who walks in the flesh (the old nature) naturally commits acts of sin. The man who walks in the Spirit (the new nature) naturally commits acts of righteousness. If one cannot “forget” to abide in the Vine, one can certainly be neglectful of accessing His grace. Therefore, like the Stoic who forgets his instinctual “good,” the Christian can forget that his goodness is nothing apart from God (Psalm 16:2).

The point here is that each of these philosophies contains scraps of truth, but not Truth Himself, who, in reality, is Wisdom. Twila Paris has written a song called Wisdom, which accurately portrays people such as the Epicureans and Stoics. She sings, “I see a multitude of people, some far away, and some close by. They weave together new religion. From tiny remnants they have found a bit of truth, a greater lie.”

As leaves will die when picked from a tree, so the fig leaves that covered Adam and Eve were dead. They were disconnected from their source of life like the man and woman they covered. They were fragments—like shards from a broken vessel. God necessarily clothed the man and woman with His righteousness, because their self-righteous covering was inadequate.

A bit of truth taken from Truth Himself is like taking a branch off a tree. It has not ceased to be true, per se. It has, however, ceased to be living. Of course, most of philosophy is built around disjointed truth—having lies built into it like tares sown into a field of wheat.

One can collect an armload of “branches”...a bunch of truths...and organize them into what one might call his creed, code of ethics, or even his doctrines. The detachment from life does not make the branch cease to be a real branch. One’s creed may have come from Christ, but if he is not abiding in Christ—alive and nourished by the Vine—his religion is no more useful in eternal terms than any other philosophy.

If one severs an arm from the body, it does not cease to be an arm; it merely ceases to be alive. When truth is independent of God, it does not cease to be true. It ceases to live. Worldly religion is like Dr. Frankenstein’s invention; when one takes parts from their proper place and patches them into his own hierarchy of values, prioritizing them according to his subjective understanding, he ends up with a sort of monster. Secular education is like this.

The issue is not ultimately whether a person’s ethics are right or wrong, good or evil. Ethics merely result from the realm one abides in: Darkness or Light. The issue is between Life and Death. “I have set before you life and death,” says God, “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19). There is nothing wrong with ethics or ethnicities, per se. However, the central issue remains Life. We can only rightly discern between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the profane, according to His Light.

Cain and Abel exemplify the difference between one who worships in sheer ritual and one who worships in spirit and truth. Outwardly, the appearance of the two can be nearly identical; inwardly, the difference is as stark as night and day. Cain might be said to represent secular education, while Abel symbolizes the one who walks by faith.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Law of the Spirit

On November twenty-fourth, 380 A.D., Theodosius the Great (Emperor of Rome) made his adventus into Constantinople, which had fallen under Gothic occupation. He thus reunited eastern and western portions of Rome, connecting Europe and Asia differently than the architectural bravery of the modern Bosporus Bridge. It was he who made Christianity the state religion. Theodosius was the true successor of Constantine (who had convoked the First Council of Nicaea, out from which came the Nicene Creed). Two days following his advent in Constantinople, Theodosius expelled the anti-Nicene bishop and installed one who held, as he did, to the Nicene Creed. A few months later, Theodosius and Gratian (his co-augustus) commanded all of their people (encompassing eastern and western Rome) to profess the same Nicene faith held by the bishops of Rome and Alexandria.

Much in the way the Law of Moses served to unite Israel as one nation, under God, the Nicene Creed has helped unify the hearts of believers throughout Christian history. It's value is inestimable. But at the same time, we must not forget that Christianity is not about a is about a Person. When members of Christ's Body elevate one set of doctrines over the whole Person of Christ, it is like this, as Paul said: "if the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be" (1 Corinthians 12:17)? "By one Spirit," says Paul, "we are all baptized into one body" (vs. 13).

There are more than six hundred laws in the Pentateuch, and many sects have probably grown up around each and every one of them. But by the time we get to Micah 6:8, these laws are apparently simplified into three: “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” In the New Covenant we come to the simplest of all—Christ! God’s will is to “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him” (Ephesians 1:10). Certainly this is why Paul preached Christ alone to the carnal, separatist Corinthians! Some said they were of Paul, others of Apollos. But Christ alone is All in all. He cannot be limited to a preacher or even a denomination, and certainly not to a narrow creed or a sectarian doctrine. Christ is vast and unsearchable.

The just man, according to the most influential philosophers, ordered his life by an external code, but the Bible tells us the just shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11). Jesus and the Apostles delivered this gospel of grace to a world steeped in Hellenism. The Greeks had almost as many opposing schools of thought and varying philosophers as we have denominations. What's more, Aristotle’s ideal man was one who would never receive, but always give...utterly independent. Christ humbles us by serving us. As Bonhoeffer says, His act of charity toward us is the ultimate shame; that we should be in the position of poor beggars wounds our pride. Many people refuse the Apostle’s answer as to what sort of law the just live by: the Law of Faith (Romans 3:27). Faith strips mankind of all boasting. It takes away the Adamic “fig leaves” one likes to don.

And faith is the only way we can be whole. The only way to keep the Law as perfectly as it requires, to keep the entire Law, is to walk by faith—abide in Christ. He is the embodiment of the whole Law. He is the final Word (Hebrews 1:1). To be perfect as He is perfect is to abide in Him…to take Him for your perfection. It has come down to one thing: “Believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). All else follows as a natural progression. When you believe and abide in Him, the result is that you love God and your neighbor…from within. Faith is the ethic of the believer.

To walk in the Light as He is in the Light is to walk in separation from darkness. He is Light and there is no shadow in Him. To walk in the Light is to live by the Law of the Spirit. The Law of Moses is, of course, a shadow of Christ. It serves as a compass, a guide...a lamp to our feet. But Christ Himself is the Destination. And only as we walk in Absolute Light (1 John 1:7) does the blood of Jesus cleanse us from all sin. Light automatically separates us from darkness, if we will but step into Him…believe. The continued walk of faith—abiding in the Light—is the purpose of Christian education. The flaming sword sunders soul from spirit, truth from error, sin from sinners; Light eradicates darkness.

Much like the built-in laws of nature, the Law of the Spirit empowers believers to live a fruitful Christian life in the same way a branch produces fruit when it is connected to the vine (John 15:5). The law of Life in Christ is organic, rather than mechanical. “A Jew,” says the Apostle Paul, “is not one outwardly, but inwardly” (Romans 2:28-29).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Schools of Law

There are various kinds of laws, which can aid in education if they are understood and properly utilized. In fact, it is important to understand these different laws, because they have molded education for good and bad. As the Apostle Paul said, “the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully” (I Timothy 1:8).

Firstly, there are laws of nature. Secondly, there are laws of man. Thirdly, there is the Law of Moses. Fourthly, there is the law of the Spirit.[1] We will explore these laws and some of their aspects.

The laws of nature can be represented by mathematical equations: symbols and formulas. Natural laws are mainly observed through sciences such as astronomy, physics, genetics, biology, geology, zoology and botany.

The laws of man are seen in many various forms, from ethics and philosophy to religion; from family traditions to governmental rule. They either harmonize with the cosmos, or they contend with it.

The Law of Moses is known as the Pentateuch. Technically, it is the first five books of the Bible, from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Law of Moses was given as a teacher. Like a mathematical equation, it symbolizes and points to something: namely, Christ.

The Law of the Spirit (Romans 8:2) is essentially the fulfillment of the Law of Moses. In one way, these two laws are similar to the laws of nature and the laws of man: the laws of nature work from within, as the laws of man are imposed from the outside. The basic difference between these two laws is the main difference between the Old and New Covenants. The first was external, written on stone tablets. The second was internal, written on hearts. Christian education embraces all of these laws, granted they are used properly.

The Law of Moses

Biblically speaking, education is instruction and direction; the Law of Moses is a tutor, which leads us to Christ.[2] It instructed Israel how to live morally, ceremonially, and civically. It was a lamp to the feet and a light to the path.[3] The Old Covenant Law is filled with types, figures and shadows of Christ. It was the map, and not the destination:

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. …if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”(John 5:39-40, 46-47).

The Law of Moses was given by God at Mount Sinai, which is the chief summit of a mountain range known as Horeb (modern Jebel Musa). The word Sinai apparently comes from a Syriac root, meaning, “to shine.” The same root is found in the Babylonian word, which means “the moon.”[4] Metaphorically, Sinai reflects the Light of God just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Horeb means “desolate,” it is a barren wilderness, void of life. The moon cannot produce light any more than the Law can produce life.

Sinai and Horeb, according to many scholars, are often used synonymously in scripture. Together, they typify the purpose of the law: to expose sin and “bring forth death” [5] to the old nature (i.e. desolate us), as well as to point us, as a great educator, to Christ. The Law is also a custodian, according to Galatians 3:23. 1 Timothy 1:9 says, “law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners.” Yet, there is another kind of law, “the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2).

The New Testament writers most often used the Greek word nomos to denote “law.” It is a word that came out of Athens after Alexander the Great conquered parts of the Near East and unified Hellas (Greece). The Hellenization of the ancient world resulted from his conquests, as well as from Greek colonization in parts of Asia and Africa. Before Alexander, the Greeks were segmented into various tribes and city-states, each with their own culture and code of ethics. There was not a single set of laws governing the whole.

Heraclitus understood there to be a divine nomos, which transcended the customs of a society, and which was their source. However, he took a liking to the Persian nomos “which prevents a father from seeing his child before the age of five, lest the child’s untimely death bring him grief.” He also praised the Babylonian nomos of auctioning off marriageable women. He did not, however, appreciate the Babylonian nomos of temple prostitution.

Eventually, nomos came to denote most generally written law, and this was its primary meaning at the time of Christ. It is translated as “custom,” “law” and about a dozen other things. The Greek concepts of law were many. Good or bad, they have played an enormous part in the formation of our Western ideals of education. Upon reading the gospels, one can see how intricately Jesus affirmed certain ideals, unabashedly opposed others, and summarily brought correction to the whole of Hellenized thinking. The problem with the religious Jews in the time of Christ was not that they were Jewish, it was that their Judaism had become Hellenized! Nomos was turned into a system of self-righteousness; the Law of Moses was placed through the grid of Greek thought. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life! Faith and reason abide together peacefully in Christ alone.

The ancients were taken up with the idea of justice. What is justice, and how does the just person live? The answer, for most philosophers, was that the just live by laws, creeds and ethics. The Apostle Paul partially affirms this notion, but asks by what kind of law is a man just (Romans 3:27)?

[1] The sequence of laws in this paragraph does not necessarily indicate their order of importance.

[2] Galatians 3:24.

[3] Psalm 119:105.

[4] See “Sinai” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

[5] Romans 7:5.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Preparing the Way

John the Baptist was sent by God to “prepare the way.” His cry was for repentance—to turn hearts back to Him. Repentance is not only an initial change of direction at the time of salvation, but a life-long (even daily) discipline of turning one’s heart to God. True repentance (Greek, metanoia) embodies a change of mind, a change of purpose, and a changed life.

Solomon’s wisdom was obviously not in his own ability to make good judgments; this is apparent from the major mistakes he made when his heart veered away from God. It was in the beginning of his reign when he prayed for an “understanding heart” (literally, a hearing heart). Having a heart attuned to God made him wiser than anyone on earth. Unlike the Socratic enticement to “know thyself,” biblical education encourages us to know God and His counsel in all things. “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me” (Jeremiah 9:23, 24).

Very simply, humanism says, “I can do it.” Christianity, on the other hand, says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The key to success in all of life is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” A life of faith in (dependence on) Christ is paramount for instructors to be godly mentors, for He alone is the source of true character.

The goal of Christian educators is to help cultivate the minds of students, to aid them in making sound decisions, and to be effective and authentic role models; teaching them by example the value of life-long “repentance.” Our task is to guide the plow, disperse the seed, water the new crop…and most importantly, try not to eclipse the sun. “Preparing the way” is the job of educators.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beholding and Becoming

“‘Now I know what life is!’ beamed the artist. ‘It is love! It is being lifted above yourself, the rapture of losing yourself in beauty. What my friends call life and pleasure is unreal and as fleeting as a bubble; they know nothing of the pure, heavenly altar wine that initiates us into life!’” — Hans Christian Andersen

Jesus said “he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me” (John 6:57). In the Hebrew temple, the "bread of the presence" was literally the “bread of the face.” This “showbread,” as it was called, was commanded to be unleavened.

Classical education attempts to impart character by showing students the artful beauty in paintings, statues, and the prose and poetry of Greek and Latin. The idea is that once the student acquires an appreciation of art, his or her ethics will reflect a similar beauty in the way daily life is gone about. The Greek pursuit of beauty was, at best, misguided. Being ignorant of the “leaven” (original sin) that resides in every individual heart, their appreciation of “forms” turned into lust and licentiousness. With defiled understandings, they constructed their own meaning around things, misunderstanding and misusing the beautiful stuff of creation.

While we are full of leaven, Christ is not. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, He showed Him His unsullied attributes. And it is because all have sinned, and fall short of the glory, that we must be saved—restored to the image of God’s beautiful and "unleavened" likeness. God’s absolutes are not merely commands—they are the very essence of His being. And we are called to be like Him. Sinning is in large part wrong doing, but falling short of the glory is wrong being…wrong doing is a result of wrong being. Our “doing” should come out of our “being,” and our “being” should be in Him.

Christ-centered education is the opposite of secular education; it is not about self-realization. “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Socrates said, “One thing I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Secular academia has latched on to this notion, which seems like a humble statement at first glance. But upon closer inspection we find that Socrates was planting the seeds of finite relativism[1]—all is a matter of the way the individual sees things. “Know thyself” was Socrates’ greatest revelation. Contrast this with Jesus’ teaching to deny thyself, and the wisdom of Solomon to “lean not upon your own understanding.”

Indeed, everything is relative. But what or who is everything relative to?

[1] What I mean by finite relativism is that all is relative to you, rather than you being relative to all. Technically, Socrates opposed relativism as the Sophists (who came up with the idea) taught it. They believed people were relative to their culture and experiences. Socrates, on the other hand, believed culture and experiences were relative to oneself—“know thyself” is finite relativism.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Inspiring Minds

Solomon writes:

“So that your trust may be in the Lord, I have taught you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, to make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who inquires of you?” (Proverbs 22:19-21).

Christian educators need to have answers for students who honestly inquire…answers that cultivate trust in the Lord, rather than undermine it. It is directly opposite of secular education. Will Durant says, “Philosophy begins when one learns to doubt.” Secular education is built around the philosophy of irrational unbelief. Secular education fosters doubt. Christian education fosters

Educators are called to teach “faithful men.” “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (Proverbs 23:9). Fools say there is no God—they are the atheists of today. Apologetics is not to be used on fools, but to help the seeker —him who inquires of you—to trust in the Lord.

Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He told Peter to feed His lambs, as well as His sheep. Lambs, according to various commentators, indicate less mature believers, while sheep denote the more mature members of the Body of Christ. It is needful for Christian educators to assist, lead and guide “lambs” in the continuance of education.

The call of Christian educators in administering the continuation of education is to bring understanding to the pupil. When Christ is truly brought into view, the students, if they will see Him, are humbled. Humility is the road to understanding; fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. The acknowledgment of a higher knowledge—a higher authority—than your own is fundamental. That authority is not always right, or godly, is not the issue. Daniel was able to serve the king of Babylon because he knew God was ultimately in charge.

Because we live in a world of relativism, our anchor of truth must be set before we can weather the waves of secularism that pervade the workplace. Christian education helps to root and ground students in faith. With Christ-in-you, the foundation has been laid for the building up of every area in life. Formal education only rests rightly on Him, and by His light can we discern if the “knowledge” we are given is actually truth. The anchor of Biblical education can hold through all the storms of life; the absolute compass of His Life and Light can guide through any endeavor.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Spiritual Authority

The spiritual realm is not a sort of Neverland, as we have previously discussed. The Christian does not (at least should not) believe in fantasy. Nevertheless, C.S. Lewis conveyed the idea of another, unseen realm in his Chronicles of Narnia. Narnia is a secret land, which must be entered into through a doorway—a wardrobe, to be exact. When a person believes in Christ, he is awakened to the hidden, invisible Kingdom of God. His spirit rises from the dead, and he becomes one spirit with the Spirit. He has gone through a doorway into Christ…into another realm (John 10:7).

Adam and Eve rejected the authority of God because they did not want to submit to someone outside of themselves. The Tree of Knowledge was the tree of becoming one’s own authority. It is important for Christian educators to convey the concept of true authority. People need to know there is something beyond and above them that knows more and better than they do. Whether or not their particular authority at the moment knows more or better than they do, somebody does…even if it is only God. It is hard to imagine the Apostle Paul needing to submit to authority, yet he was not a “lone ranger.”

Censorship is not for the sane man, as the law is not for the righteous. Elders and counselors are more for the sake of unity and safety for all than they are to enlighten the enlightened. However, elders in the Body of Christ do help immature and carnal believers discern the difference between soul and spirit. They confirm and/or deny because many believers do not know the difference between radio and TV, so to speak.

A sure sign someone is not walking in the Spirit is the fact that he is not in fellowship with other believers. The Christian has fellowship with God and other Christians. We can be sectarian by fracturing off from the rest of the Body, or even by only relating to the one fragment with which we agree. But this is far too much like secularism to be taken for Christianity. Paul urged the Philippian church to strive “together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Like a team, believers are called to be united in one Mind, with one Spirit, not in the sense of all being the same, as if every organ in the body were the pancreas, but in the sense of unity through diversity. Every organ in the body works corporately to sustain life. In submission to the Head, and to one another, the Body functions properly.

Daniel, too, understood the concept of authority. While he served ignoble despots, he did not bow to their gods. Daniel understood that the Sovereign hand of God used even the king of Babylon to do His bidding. God restored Israel from captivity by using Darius and Cyrus, pagan kings. In the midst of Babylon, Daniel yielded his heart to the absolute authority of God. Daniel could serve the king of Babylon because he understood authority; he knew God was the final authority, and no despot could thwart His ultimate purpose.