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A Christian Theology of Education – Rupert Davies

June 23, 2016

ACTOEThis prolific author was a Methodist leader well known beyond his own church. I was lucky to have known him locally.

Some years ago, I organised a series of sermons by laypeople reflecting theologically upon their work – true lay ministry. However, very few could articulate much beyond ‘love thy neighbour’. As a teacher and theologian, I have been reflecting about my work for a very long time but this is one of the few books, admittedly now very old and out of date, that does so.

Since the Tories started to meddle in initial teacher training, there is hardly any time for students to ponder the philosophy of education so there is less reflective practice – which suits the government fine as they want teachers to be merely purveyors of information, ‘delivering subject content.’

We do well to remember that schools in England and Wales are still charged to promote the educational and spiritual wellbeing, not just of children but of society.

The author praises teachers for the difficult job they do – he’d be surprised at how much more difficult it has become since he wrote.

Music to my ears was his statement: One powerful cause of the ineffectiveness of R.E. is the extreme difficulty of doing it well. This difficulty is not nearly as widely recognised as it should be, even by teachers themselves. The Bible itself, for all the comfort which the English versions of it give to the uncomplicated, is an extremely hard book to read with full understanding; even the best of us are constantly tempted to read into it what we want to find, or to fall back into old-fashioned fundamentalism in the understanding and acceptance of a text which may have a quite different meaning and possess a quite different authority from that traditionally ascribed to it. Biblical scholarship is a highly sophisticated affair; Christian theology is a complex intellectual exercise. To pass on the inward­ness of such a subject, and the duty to reach individual judgements about it, in a very limited time, to children whose other classroom activities are much more direct and practical, is a task fit for heroes and heroines.

He is remarkable prescient in seeing the move towards a utilitarian view of schooling.


Of every period in Christian history it can be said, in Tennyson’s words, that ‘all day long the noise of battle raged’ between S those who identify, virtually or explicitly, God’s revelation of himself with the human quest for truth, so that the Bible becomes a record of human spiritual and intellectual effort; and those who insist that human enquiry is nothing to the point, because God has revealed himself without the aid of man as largely as he intends to do, and has done so plainly, with the result that all that man has to do is to accept the revelation proffered to him by God. The Schoolmen suggested a kind of middle way between these extremes, according to which man reaches a large measure of truth by means of his own capacity for knowledge (itself, of course, a gift of God), and is then granted supernatural knowledge.

it is of the essence of the Christian conception of God that he is held always to leave man the freedom to doubt and deny the truth, as well as to disobey the divine law. So if God could be proved to exist, the God thus demonstrated would not be the God of the Christian revelation.

But there is another strain in Biblical thought, often ecessive, never dominant, but, equally, never entirely bsent—the never-ceasing search of man for God. ‘Inquire of the Lord while he is present, call upon him when he is close at hand’ is from the same portion of the writings of the Second Isaiah as the earlier Isaianic quotation.’ This strain of ideas is especially prominent in the Book of Job, which is admittedly somewhat out of the mainstream of Old Testament thought

Pascal speaks of God as saying to us: ‘Comfort yourself, you would not seek me if you had not found me’, and we might well reply: ‘We should not have sought for you if you had not already found us’. But it is also to be said that the men of the Bible who seek for God in unawareness of God’s already-given revelation receive approval rather than disap­proval from the Biblical writers, and are certainly never instructed to give up searching on the ground that their searching will lead them nowhere.

We have now, it is to be hoped, established the fact that in the principal areas of human en­quiry—those covered by the natural and human sciences, the study of ethics, and the philosophical investigation of reality—there is, in the Christian view, a two-way traffic. God is believed to be the source and beginning of truth and knowledge, man conceives himself to be discovering the truth for himself. But at this point it is necessary to indicate that although the traffic is two-way, yet it is not for all stages of the journey on the same road; there is quite a complex of one-way streets, and sometimes the road from God to man goes through different country from that traversed by the road from man to God. In general, the road from man to God, the road of human enquiry, is much more tortuous and circuitous than the road from God to man (though it is not to be supposed that the road from God to man is itself undeviatingly straight for all its course).

God is both the starting point and the finishing point of all knowledge, and we can speak truly of the palindrome of revelation.

it is the fact that theologians, with certain honourable exceptions, such as the late Ian T. Ramsey”, have paid little attention to education, except in the narrow sphere of religious education; and educationalists have tended to regard theology as an object of study far removed from their sphere of interest. This is under­standable in the case of educationalists who have set their faces against any claim of religion to truth; and in the case of theologians who, for pietistic or ‘ Barthian’ reasons, restrict the area of theology to the direct commerce of the individual soul and of the Christian community with God. But it is not so easily excused in those who have a broader concept of education and theology, and many Christian ed ucationalists and educationally-minded Christians are as prone to erect and maintain a barrier between these respective subjects as secularists and pietists. I ‘here are, no doubt, historical reasons for this—for instance, the long-overdue resolve of scientists, artists and philosophers to throw off the yoke of a prescribed theological system, and, in the end, of any theological system whatever, and the resentment caused in ( ‘hurchmen by the loss of their valuable and long-held ‘colonies’.

Whatever the reasons for the estrangement may be, the results are helpful to neither side. Theology loses the advantages of a stern critique from those whose business it is to formulate exact concepts of human development and to eliminate obscurity from the formulation of ideas which have to be communicated to the growing mind; and this is why it tends to depart into greater and greater isolation.

Whether this be the motive or not, Education misses the investigation of its values from the stand­point of historical Christianity, tends to express these values as if they stood on their own feet (which they cannot do), and builds a precarious empire on insecure foundations. We shall see the precariousness of this empire when we come to look at the views of Ivan Mich.”

Ian Ramsey has tried to destroy the barrier and to bring theologians and educationalists on to a common ground. He assumes that the purpose of education is to ‘bring pupils to maturity’, and he notes this maturity is for the most part seen in terms of Christian fulfilment (he is at this point speaking of boarding schools, but we may take it that his remark applies equally to the majority of other schools, whether or not they have an explicitly Christian basis). For him theology is ‘the constant exploration of a disclosure-situation in terms of the models which those situations provide’. To those who are not versed in the ter­minology of Ramsey’s philosophy of religion, this definition is no doubt obscure. Ramsey means by a `disclosure-situation’, a ‘moment of vision’ in which a man or woman becomes aware of that which transcends and gives meaning to the ‘passing flux of immediate things’ (this phrase comes from A. N. Whitehead). In older language, derived from Rudolf Otto, it is ‘an experience of the numinous’. A ‘model’ is the image which we employ to make the experience which we have received articulate, and communicable (in a measure) to others.

Is a child in school being prepared for life on this earth only, or for eternal life? (This may be an embarrassing question, even for a Christian edu­cationalist, but it is a basic and necessary one.)

Has he within his own nature all the necessary abilities, even if they are inchoate or dormant, to grasp and retain the facts and their meaning which teachers wish him to have, or does he need ‘spiritual’ help, i.e. help from a divine source, to bring out and develop his powers to the full? Are such things as laziness and inattention, selfishness and cruelty, or, on the other hand, energy and concentration, help­fulness and sympathy, simply elements within him which result from his heredity, his environment and the structure of his own mind and emotions, and need to be discouraged or encouraged like pro­pensities to eat harmful berries or nutritious proteins: or are they also open to ethical considerations and fitting objects of praise and blame?

the most popular evasion of the issue stems from a naively optimistic view of human nature, and of child nature. Such a view goes back, of course, to Rousseau. Some would trace it to Plato with his theory of anamnesis, according to which education is the process of bringing out into consciousness truths and values implanted in the mind during a previous incarnation. But no one who has read the Republic with care will think that Plato believed in the universal goodness of human nature. Rousseau, however, held that man is born good….In spite of these inconsistencies, Rousseau’s views, in more and more sophisticated forms, have been maintained by many educational theorists ever since his time. Intense and exhaustive studies of the development of human cognition, intellection, volition and conation, and of the growing apprehension of ethical and aesthetic values, have proceeded on the assumption, and buttressed that assumption, that we have only to apply the right techniques of libera­tion from fear and anxiety and repression, and stimulate the nascent powers of learning and under­standing that the child naturally possesses, and there will emerge from our schools a race of intelligent, altruistic, courageous, co-operative and transparently honest boys and girls such as the world has never seen before.

But the facts do not yet bear out this theory. It may be that the inadequate results of modern education in the past; and for the rest to the human insufficiency of the teachers. But these considerations, even if they are taken together, do not really explain the unpleasant facts of an age in which educational theory is more ad­vanced and more widely known and practised than ever before. It could be suggested that the traumatic experience of many young teachers in their first posts is due to the acceptance of a too-well-taught College lesson that ‘we needs must love the highest when we see it’.

Pessimism is, however, another evasion of the issue. It does not normally now take the form of regarding human nature as irredeemable except by a miraculous act of redemption performed by Christ on behalf of the selected few. This was the old Calvinist evangelicalism which had the doubtful merit of assuring those who held it that they must be among the righteous few, or they would not have been able to see so plainly the plight of the wicked. Nowadays it takes a deterministic, behaviouristic form (there is, of course, a family resemblance between Calvinism and behaviourism). We have now discovered, more or less, how the minds and feelings of the young operate; we know what happens when they learn, or fail to learn, what is put before them: we have found out what stimulates, or fails to stimulate, their aggressive, altruistic and affective instincts and their intellectual curiosity; we are aware of the real causes and nature of the choices and decisions which they make.

Who is to decide what is the ‘best’ society for people to be fitted into? Not the Government, or the Church, or the people as a whole, but presumably the edu­cators, themselves also presumably the impersonal mechanisms which they hold the rest of mankind to be.

Luther was ready to say that anything that God did, including the damnation of the wicked before they were born, was good, simply because God did it. Erasmus contended that God could not do anything that outraged justice. Luther held that human nature was powerless to do anything good; Erasmus held that human nature had numerous real potentialities for good of the highest sort…., it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that after the confrontation between Luther and Erasmus the Renaissance began to go underground. The ideas which had come to birth during the ‘High Renaissance’ period no longer influenced the aca­demic and artistic world at large, and became the preserve of a few not very highly regarded people in Italy, Germany, France and England, while the Reformation in its various and divided forms seized the centre of the stage and was left to fight out alone the issue of Europe’s religious future with the cham­pions of the old religion, soon to be reinforced, united and made rigid by the Council of Trent. Insofar as the men of the Renaissance joined this continuing struggle, they were as likely to be found on the Catholic as on the Protestant side.

This cleavage between the Renaissance and the Reformation was disastrous in three respects at least. I irst, the humanistic, optimistic view of man and his capacities which we find in Leonardo and Erasmus and many of their contemporaries was soon declared to be in stark opposition to the Christian view of man as a fallen creature, whether in its Catholic or its Protestant form….. But when the two parties were driven into downright opposition to each other, each pushed its views to logical extremes. Man’s achievements were exag­gerated and his failures minimised in the humanism which flourished in certain quarters. Still more, in the other camp, man’s utter sinfulness and total depravity were stressed to the point of (as we should think) blasphemy against the God who was alleged to have created beings guilty of such foulness and outrage.

The second calamitous effect of all that was implied by the Luther-Erasmus breakdown was the divorce between education and religion. It did not show itself at once. The Reformers in each country knew well that education could be the primary agency for the dissemination of their ideas and for changing the pattern of Christian worship and theology. They were also greatly concerned, as pastors, for the spiritual welfare of the young, who could become again, as they had been in the past, easy victims of what they believed to be superstition and heresy; so that, above all, they must be made deeply acquainted with the true message of the Bible. Therefore with the Refor­mation went the tireless building-up of schools and other places of learning. For their part, the promoters of the Catholic Reformation (which is the better way of indicating what has usually been called the Counter Reformation) saw just as clearly the need for education in the principles of the Tridentine faith, and in the Society of Jesus they had to hand an instrument which for their purposes could scarcely be bettered; Jesuit educational institutions sprang up not only in Europe but in all the areas of Catholic missionary enterprise.

But Protestant and Catholic schools, from the modern point of view, both had a built-in flaw. However good they were in method and syllabus and in the quality of teaching, they were ‘closed’ schools, existing for the ultimate purpose of promulgating a particular theological system. This was entirely justifiable from their point of view; it was, after all, the aim of their founders, and of their supporting churches. And if there had not been schools of this sort, there would have been virtually no schools at all. The ecclesiastical authorities in each case were convinced in their hearts and marrows that the truths of Christianity as they saw them were ‘saving’ truths, without the knowledge of which men and women might well be condemned to perdition.

The precise point at the moment is that when humanism in the form of rationalism and empiricist philosophy, now reinforced and encouraged by the rapid advance in scientific knowledge which was just beginning, emerged into the open. In the end of the seventeenth century, it proceeded to declare war on the confessional schools, as the homes of obscurantism and the enemies of free enquiry.

because of the evil history which goes back to the time of Erasmus and Luther, it does not seem to occur to either side that education and religion are not necessarily in opposition or competition, and that enlightenment and evangelism may possibly belong together.

three different views of salvation — intellectual-moral, sacramental-priestly, and solifidian (i.e. that faith without works is sufficient for salvation) pro­pagated themselves in separation from each other and in conflict with each other. The intellectual-moral view could find support in Scripture — are not the prophets and the Gospels full of moral teaching? does not Jesus appeal to human reason with his statements about God’s love ? — but it did little justice to the strength of human passions and the intermittent weakness of the human will. It goes without saying that Catholics and Protestants each held that their view was the only one that Scripture and authentic Christian tradition supported.

Here is revealed, not simply a dispute between discrepant views of God’s providence and man’s nature, not simply a conflict between education and evangelism, but a carving into three of the Biblical doctrine of salvation itself. The Bible recommends the constant appeal to human reason and conscience, as in: ‘Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord’ ; and Paul’s ‘we recommend ourselves to the common conscience of our fellow-men’. The Bible is rich in sacramental practices and instructions to make use of them. The Bible lays immense stress on the free grace of God and the indispensability of faith. But what has happened all too frequently in Christian history, especially since the Reformation, is that men of reason have discounted faith and the sacra­ments, the sacramentalists have undervalued faith and reason, and evangelists have rejected reason and the sacraments.

Now when this is done by any one of the three schools of thought, it can make its position intellec­tually respectable only by accepting the partition of human personality which comes down to us in various versions from Plato, but in all its forms implies the absolute distinctness of body and soul, and usually involves the absolute distinctness of body, mind and soul. Once this partition is made — and it is not too much to say that it is as venerable a part of Catholic and much Protestant orthodoxy as the doctrine of the Trinity itself — it seems obvious to all concerned that education is a matter of the mind and body (chiefly the mind, except in some public schools), and religion is a matter of the soul. The high-theological statement of this is that there are two kingdoms under God : the kingdom of this world, where the Devil may be supposed to exercise his regency, and the kingdom of God. The one kingdom comprises man’s physical, mental, social, economic and political activities. The other relates solely to his spiritual life in the community of the faithful, in prayer and worship and Christian fellowship. It is obvious that this doctrine of the two kingdoms can take either a Catholic or a Protestant form. In simple terms it means that Jesus came to save men’s souls, that souls are immortal, that the cultivation of the soul is the highest human exercise, and that heaven is inhabited by the souls of the righteous. The bodily and mental needs of man, in comparison with the needs of his soul, are unimportant. They are not, indeed, to be neglected (for the parable of the Good Samaritan has never been entirely forgotten); but their satisfac­tion is a work of charity, enjoined on Christians as the consequence of their faith and an exercise of their love; but the faith and love themselves are the turning of the soul towards God, and only afterwards, and not even necessarily (though, of course, accept­ably to God) the turning of man towards his neighbour

When Jesus comes on the scene as Saviour, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that his saving work, though it is necessarily limited during his earthly career to the welfare of individuals and families and small groups of people, is all-inclusive in its scope. He performs direct acts of deliverance for people in physical need; he forgives sins; he sets free those who have been taken captive; and, before he sets out to do all this, he announces his programme in the synagogue at Nazareth

Salvation, then, on the Biblical understanding of it, includes the forgiveness of sins; it includes the liberation of mankind; it includes education. Liberation and education are not ancillaries to religion and the Gospel; they are not outworkings or applications of the Gospel. They are integral parts of the Gospel. We do not need to look for the ethical, social, political or educational implications of the Gospel; we need to search within the Gospel itself for what God is doing and wishes us to do in the fields of political and economic action and in education.

The relation, then, of education to salvation is that of the part to the whole; and if it be, as it is, God’s purpose for mankind that each member of it, both as himself and in community, should become wholly mature visa vis God, himself and other people, then education has a vital role in the fulfilment of God’s purpose, a role which both theologians and educationalists neglect at their peril, and all Christian teachers to their infinite shame.

The achievements of the Christian Church in the field of education are undeniably impressive. As the Roman Empire was gradually Christianized, and Christian teachers of the young took over from their predecessors — rudely called ‘pagan’, more properly styled ‘Hellenistic’ — they did not in most cases repudiate the educational traditions of the past. Sometimes they thought that they were doing so — ‘what has Athens to do with Jerusalem, the Academy with the Church?’ asked Tertullian — and intended to do so; but without a self-conscious return to barbarism, which was the last thing they had in mind, it was impossible to cast off the categories and the methods which were in fact the only ones available. So when Jerome, reproved in a dream of judgement on what he thought was his deathbed for being Ciceronian rather than Christian, proceeded to try to become more Christian in his approach to intellectual matters, nothing fundamental happened to his modes of thinking, although thereafter he paid more attention to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures than to his much-loved classical authors.

But to the Greek notion of ‘paideia’, suffused already with Roman ideas of order and discipline, Christian teachers added the content of the Christian Christian Motives Gospel and its concern with the illiterate ‘barbarian’ as well as with the Graeco-Roman intellectual elite. Through the long centuries of political confusion and intellectual marking-time which we call the Dark Ages, the monasteries still practised the education of their members and of others outside their walls; and when Charlemagne decided to educate the `barbarians’ whom he had subdued, he called in Alcuin of York to set up a model school at Tours, and to furnish it with a comprehensive library. Alcuin himself wrote educational manuals, and promoted the dialogue method of instruction. The activities which he encouraged mark the real starting-point of the movement which produced the lecture-rooms of the Schoolmen and the Universities of the Middle Ages.

The Reformation gave a powerful fillip and a new direction to educational enterprise, and until the nineteenth century was well on its way it was mostly at the instigation of Churchmen in both Protestant and Roman Catholic countries that kings and other national rulers, or in other cases rich merchants and municipalities, set up schools and maintained them. Nor is it easy to see how universal education would have been initiated in this country, and others, if the Christian impulse had not been present. The dis­graceful rivalries of the denominations in England during the nineteenth century obscure but do not entirely discredit the contribution of the Churches to the education of the industrialized masses.

In due course the quarrels of the Churches and their lack of financial resources made it urgently necessary for the State to take over most of the work of education, and it is at least arguable that it would have been better if the takeover had been yet entirely spent. Those who have received education and educational institutions from the Churches have usually shown themselves no more grateful than the one-time British colonies, now independent, have shown themselves grateful for British rule. But gratitude is rare in human affairs, and in any case the secular authorities can in this instance justifiably complain that the legacy which they received con­tained evil as well as good.

The same pattern of Christian pioneering and secular development is to be found overseas within the area of the British Commonwealth. Few schools and colleges were founded there in the early days by anyone except missionaries, and ‘missionary’ schools and colleges are still essential in _many areas, if education, lower or higher, is to be continued at all. But the changeover is already in full swing, and it is a difficult issue of missionary policy whether the schools and colleges in question should be held on to and fought for, or gladly surrendered to the national authorities.

The achievement, then, is immense. But when we inquire into the motives behind this long-standing and continued educational activity by the Christian Churches, we enter an area of great uncertainty. It should be said first of all that all human enterprises, however splendid in intention or result, or both, spring from mixed motives, and the Christian educational enterprise is no exception. Second, it should be said that the ascription of motives by historians to men and women long dead is a very precarious matter, even when, and sometimes espe­cially when, the people concerned have published their motives in open documents (or their septu­agenarian memoirs). The imputation of low motives to persons thought widely to be honourable is a Common and serious failing of certain economic and psychological historians; and it is the more difficult to counteract because the authors in question can reply to any contrary evidence by arguing that the alleged motives are unconscious.

This said, some tentative suggestions can be made about Christian motives in the history of education. In the early centuries, when Christianity was still lighting for its life, or making small and arduous steps forward, the main motives of Christian teaching were the instruction of converts and the children of believers in the faith, and the persuasion of ‘pagans’ that Christian belief was intellectually sound. These motives were certainly prominent in the Catechetical School of Alexandria (which was not such a formal institution as its usual name implies), where Clement and Origen emerged as masterly apologists; general education was, no doubt, ancillary.

During the Dark Ages the Church was responsible for all the education there was. This was, outside the monasteries, not very much, but the teachers had to be wide in their scope. The motive was certainly not least evangelistic, and in some areas it was directly designed to promote the orthodox, catholic faith against the Arian heresy which had spread far and wide over the Germanic countries. Later it came to be more and more assumed that everyone was a Christian in religion, and the educational principles of the Middle Ages were formulated on that assump­tion; the purpose of medieval Universities was not to argue about the truth of Christianity, but to argue within the truth of Christianity as to its understanding and articulation, and its relation to all human intellectual pursuits. This is why theology was the Queen of the Sciences; her priority was not a sacer­dotal imposition, but the necessary consequence of the medieval world-view. The `quadrivium’ of music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy, and the `trivium’ of grammar, rhetoric and dialectic, were in the last resort means to the end of theology.

Yet it would be absurd to conclude that in the Dark Ages or (even more absurd) in the Middle Ages there were no teachers who valued knowledge for its own sake or students who pursued the sciences without an ulterior theological motive.

In the Reformation period and afterwards, as we have already seen, the prime purpose in the setting up of schools, directly or indirectly, by the Churches, was the promulgation of the catholic or the reformed, or, in England, the Anglican, faith. Yet other con­siderations were also prominent. When John. Colet founded St. Paul’s School in 1509 and provided for `a hundred and fifty and three (scholars) to be taught free in the same, in good literature, both Latin and Greek’, he laid it down in his Statutes that the masters should instruct the children by reading to them ‘such authors that hath to wisdom joined the pure chaste eloquence’. The authors listed in the first curriculum of the school, drawn up with the help of Erasmus, include many Latin authors, but none from the classical period; but there is good reason for thinking that Terence and Cicero and Virgil soon found their way into the classroom. Colet himself had some moral objections to many classical authors, and other faults, he thought, had corrupted the pure Latin of Cicero and Sallust ; he therefore laid great stress on the teaching of grammar and of a pure style of writing. He also instituted the study of Greek with the same emphases. He thus added linguistic and literary training, the sixteenth century equivalent of several subjects on the modern time­table, to instruction in the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ and the ethical principles to be derived from it.

In another country and at a later period, Johannes Amos Comenius and his disciples travelled far beyond the confines of confessional indoctrination in the kind of schools which they advocated. Comenius was a bishop among the Bohemian Brethren (or the Moravians, as we now call them), and he held that education was the most effective means of establishing that spiritual unity of all Christians for which he prayed and struggled. The immediate purpose of schools was to train the pupils in the `pansophia’, the harmony of all aspects of the divine wisdom. This was to be done by persuasion, not coercion, and by the full use of the senses; the mere accumulation of knowledge was to be discouraged, and nothing was to be learned which had not previously been understood. Above all, the schools were to be informed and inspired by the ‘Unum Necessarium’, which is love. The influence of Comenius, outside and inside his own communion, is agreed to have been considerable.

We have spoken already of the Dissenting Aca­demies in seventeenth and eighteenth century England with their comprehensive syllabuses, and of the encouragement of science in John Wesley’s Kings­wood. The educational history of England in the nineteenth century is dominated by the attempt of partisan groups to gain the children for their own confessional purposes, and by the emergence in Thomas Arnold’s Rugby and its many imitators of the ideal of the English gentleman in the Anglican mould. Very often in nineteenth century schools (though not at Rugby) the impulse of denominational chauvinism is naked and unashamed. But we dare not discount the quite different motivation of many who served — and governed — under an uncongenial system and succeeded somehow in preserving their educational integrity. The tensions thus created ran right through the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, and the church-sponsored Teachers’ Training Col­leges; they constituted an important factor in the complicated process which led to the foundation of the University of London.

It is surely clear that in the history of Christian schools and colleges we have a welter of motives at work from almost the highest to almost the lowest.

It is an article of faith, not of knowledge, that God has revealed himself. Knowledge in this sphere is impossible, since the frontiers of reason have been crossed. Faith alone can cross these frontiers; and we speak of faith as that commitment of our whole selves to the person of Christ, not at any point contrary to reason, but transcending reason, of which the New Testament is full. Such faith in Christ carries with it the faith-conviction that God has revealed himself in Christ — and has done so definitively.

God teaches and reveals, and loves and saves, in a personal and non-coercive fashion. He is gentle: he exercises his immense power to build up and not to destroy; to persuade and not to compel. He teaches in reverence for personality and never in contempt of it or disregard for it. His gift of freedom is never revoked, even when it is scandalously and obdurately misused. For a teacher to imitate God is to be gentle and patient (though not meek and yielding) in the same way, respecting and protecting each man’s freedom to his last gasp, working not for his own prestige, credit or promotion, but always for those he teaches, who are not means to an end, however noble, in the mind of the teacher, but ends in them­selves.

And when these lofty ideals wither and fade in the presence of the ill-mannered, contra-suggestive, exhi­bitionist, delinquent offspring of the privileged or non-privileged classes, he continues relentlessly (though probably not imperturbably), because he knows that though he is himself well-brought-up, well-mannered, and orderly in disposition, character and activity, he also needs and has received the infinite patience and mercy of God, and probably of his parents, friends and family also. He is grateful for this, and carries on.

conviction lead actually to a lower type of motivation than that found among non-Christian humanists. There are several interpretations of the Christian Gospel which impel those who favour them to regard everyone they meet as a fit object for immediate evangelization

Humanists, then, put forward as the aims of education such things as development in knowledge and understanding; personal autonomy; respect for others and for human dignity; fairness and justice for all, and the abolition of discrimination ; the encouragement of freedom of thought and action for individuals and communities; the growth of individual personality in community. They hope that children in schools will come to appreciate and appropriate these values as worthwhile in themselves.

What is the humanist ground for believing in these values ? It is a notable fact that P. H. Hirst and R. S. Peters, after an exceedingly careful conceptual analysis of these and other values, are forced to conclude that conceptual analysis does not and cannot answer any questions about their justification.

I care if society does crumble and disappear? In other words, the answer only leads us back to the original question. And if we try to answer the original question this time by saying that the moral sense of humanity requires us to think of others, we shall hear the answer, ‘Does it? and if it does, why should I obey it ?’ We have not advanced an inch from Square One.

The Christian comment, then, on humanist motives in education is not that these are not high and highly admirable, but that they are based on inadequate logic. If you grant that the welfare of the human race imposes obligations on every member of it, the rest follows, and we have a series of valid motives for educational actions. But if this is questioned, as it always is by some members of every community, and as it is legitimately open to question by all who reflect deeply on these matters, we look in vain for a con­vincing answer.

It may, of course, be said, in spite of the argument of the preceding chapter, that Christian motives have no adequate justification either. But they have. Admittedly they depend on, and are part of, the total Christian view of the universe, and stand or fall with this. But this is a view which can stand up to logical criticism; whereas, if the Christian view falls, and Christian motives with it, we are left with a set of motives which have to stand on their own feet with no support from any coherent view of the universe — a very vulnerable position indeed.

What is vulnerable in logic becomes in due course precarious in practice. It sounds like, and is, a Christian cliché that humanists are living on the declining capital of Christian theology. But it is a cliché which cannot be lightly dismissed.

Some would say that the term of this survival has already been set, and that education, like other civilized activities, is already launched on a steep decline. It is said to be slipping into a barren emphasis on technical expertise, to be concentrating on the short term aim of examination ingenuity, and to have no interest in the development of the imagination, or in real people. The evidence for this is not lacking, but it is still possible to point to counter-balancing factors. The real danger is more serious, far-reaching and insidious: that society as constituted at this particular time in history will take over the educa­tional system, continue to use the old names and profess to further the old values, and in fact insinuate the aims which it wishes to further it the interests of its own survival, calling them ‘freedom’ and `individual development’ and ‘community sense’, and really meaning something quite different.

This process is already at work, and it is at this point that the devastating attack by Ivan Illich strikes home.

His contention is that in modern society the school has taken over the place once occupied by the Church. The Church used to impose its ideals and ideas on the educational system, with results good and bad which it is easy to see. It has now been displaced by the school. But the school is not the agent of pure learning and the disinterested quest for truth and self-develop­ment which it often makes itself out to be. On the contrary, it is the creature of those who have indus­trialized society and intend to direct its future in accordance with their own self-centred aims, and need a large mass of ‘educated’ and ‘semi-educated’ technicians and workpeople if they are to achieve this effect. To this end they have propagated certain `myths’ : the myth of ‘unending consumption’ — that industrial activity always produces something valu­able, that the objects produced create demand, and that the demand creates production, and that this process is without qualification good; the myth of `quantified values’ — that everything is measurable, including personality and human achievement, and goodness itself: and the myth of `self-perpetuating progress through the endless accumulation of money and all other kinds of material wealth’.

Using another metaphor, he says that the school is the ‘sacred cow’ of modern society; and, more elab­orately, ‘schools indoctrinate the child into the accep­tance of the political system his teachers represent, des­pite the claim that teaching is non-political’.

He also develops the theme in several places that schools induct children into a society which demands specialization and is committed to the dubious ideo­logy of economic growth.

Illich’s own remedy for these universal ills is the `de-schooling of society’ in the interests of education. He would obliterate the educational institutions of our culture, with their proud, inbuilt traditions and their guaranteed wealth; and put education back where it belongs, in the family and the local com­munity, free from state manipulation.

What is in danger of happening in our society, and is begin­ning to happen, is that under cover of the high ideals in which many heads and their assistants believe, and of the still-maintained inclusion of worship and religious instruction in the syllabus, pure materialism is taking over, fuelled by the monotonous stress laid on the making of money and on material comfort by the mass media, the advertising industry and the structure of commerce and industry. This, then, is the result of the decline of Christian motivation, if the Christian view is correct.

Humanists may be disposed to fear that the alleged dogmatism of Christianity makes such co-operation impossible, or, at best precarious, and it may be that the arrogance of some Christians, and the way in which confessional schools have been run, lend colour to this fear. It is by no means certain, for instance, that the liberalization of Roman Catholicism has gone far enough in all areas for full co-operation to be possible, though this is on the way. Yet, in the hope that dogmatism is a thing of the past in Christian educational circles, and the further hope that human­ists do not accept the dogmatism of the National Secular Society, we have to ask, from the Christian point of view, if any sacrifice of principle is involved by humanist-Christian co-operation on the basis of the principles which they hold in common. Such co-operation already takes place on many Local Education Committees, on many Governing Bodies, and on many school staffs; but sometimes there is slight discomfort in the minds of those who are committed to one point of view or the other, and it is desirable, if it is possible, to remove this discomfort.

This can be done on grounds of Christian theology. It has already been shown that the educational enterprise, when it is aimed at the development of persons in community and is devoted to the free pursuit and communication of knowledge, is part of God’s purpose of salvation. In the abstract, good teachers who are aware that they are taking part in God’s purpose of salvation by being teachers are better teachers by reason of this fact. In practice, so many other factors are included in the concept of a `good’ teacher that this tends to remain a merely abstract truth.

More to the point is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, God active in human affairs to further his purpose of salvation by love and persuasion. Some `sectarian’ forms of Christianity have alleged that the Holy Spirit co-operates with and guides and empowers only those who have a specifically Christian faith, so that he is wholly absent from campaigns for liberation, or universal education, or the relief of suffering, except that he ‘indwells’ those individual Christians who take part in these activities. But this is tantamount to saying that he does not enter human life unless he has a formal invitation — a human attitude, surely, rather than a divine one. It is a feature of the modern charismatic movement in some of its forms that it tends to limit the activity of the Holy Spirit, virtually if not officially, to his ‘extraor­dinary’ manifestations in speaking with tongues or spiritual healing. Who, then, it may be asked, is responsible for growth in character and the develop­ment of Christian qualities and the exploration of Christian truth? Surely the Holy Spirit, if the New Testament is to be trusted.

The cry of ‘indoctrination’ rises loud and clear when any group of people known to have definite religious or political views is (as it is put) ‘let loose’ in the classroom, though it is curiously muted when made up of rationalists or materialists (perhaps because they are mostly not organized in groups, but simply permeate society)…. Christians have, at last, as much under the pressure of public opinion as by the application of Christian theology (which should have been the reason), virtually dropped the attempt to indoctrinate in the classroom. The same restriction needs to be accepted by other committed people, whether they be materialists, humanists, or adherents of non-Christian religions. With these reservations in mind we may look forward to a time when, in our increas­ingly multi-racial, multi-religious society, the teachers of various faiths will agree together that education needs a foundation in religion, disagree as to which religion is best suited to the purpose, but work together to a growing extent on the principles which they have in common.

Christian theology is about the relation of God to man at all points of human life, individual and corporate; and since, in the Christian view, man is at all times coram Deo, in God’s presence, there is no human experience which lies outside the scope of theology, though there may be many which lie outside its present competence.

The Church has a vital and inescapable interest in all parts of the educational process and in all aspects of educational organisation. This is not to say that it has expertise in all the matters in which it is interested, but the interest must be asserted. Methods of teaching, the training of teachers, the drawing up of curricula, the size of classes and of schools, the selection of pupils, and the financing of the whole complex of matters on a local and a national scale, raise questions on which Christians should exercise a considered judgement when they have mastered the facts: this judgement will, it may be hoped, be frequently the same as that of the majority of educa­tional experts and practitioners — when they agree together — but sometimes it may be different.

This is not staking a claim to take over education again. Such a claim is in any case ludicrous, but even if it were not, it should not now be made. When the Church in fact controlled education, it did so often with conspicuous success, and often also with conspicuous faults. But because of the secularization of society there is no case for the resumption of ecclesiastical control.

If it is permissible to draw up a ‘hierarchy of values’ in education, then Christians will put the interests of the child and the student at the top, and those of the teacher second: those of administrators and the Government of the day come low down in the scale. In this sense, as in others, education should be ‘child-centred’ ; the child in whom it is centred is the child as an individual, the child in his family, the child in his social, national, and (as we must unfortunately still say) racial context; the child as he is known about by his parents and teachers, by psychologists and sociologists; and above all, the child as a growing person who has to live in the rapidly changing communities which are charac­teristic of the modern period.

Nothing matters so much as the child’s welfare. But teachers are essential to him. Teachers are, or should be, the most influential members of any community.

if there are Christian principles of education and if there is a Christian theology of education, then these principles and this theology should be expressed in two ways: one, in the presence on the staff of as many schools and colleges as possible of those who will bring Christian judgements to bear on the whole life of their community; two, in the existence of schools and colleges, teaching-and-learning com­munities which are organised and maintained with the deliberate purpose, among others, of embodying Christian ideals and judgements — to be examples of what education is when it is conducted in this way.

One minor advantage which accrues from the situation which exists at present, and ought to continue, is that at last in our time Christian institu­tions are in a position to make it clear that they do not wish to impose adherence to the Christian faith on their members, and believe wholeheartedly in the freedom of each individual to choose his own phi­losophy of life; and to do this without falling over backwards to show how liberal they are.

There is no longer any need (if there ever was one) for either the com­pulsion or the banishment; what is needed is the recognition that no child is educated in any valuable sense unless he has been made aware, imaginatively as well as intellectually, of Christianity and other religions as an essential part of the history and present existence of humanity, and as making a claim upon him for allegiance which he must in the end either accept or reject. If anyone is denied the opportunity of gaining that awareness and facing that decision, a gross injustice is done to him, since he is deprived of the knowledge that, as a human being, he is required to pass his own judgement on the basic issues of existence.

The failure of many teachers of religion and ethics (and of many head teachers in all types of school, as they would be the first to admit) to avoid causing this deprivation is evident. It seems that recent improvement in methods of teaching Christianity in schools has done little to arrest the decline, or assist the development, of responsible thought and conduct in the Western countries where it has taken place, though its exact results are not yet known. This is no reason for desisting from what is being done, but a good reason for trying to do it much better.

The claim that `R.E.’ in enlightened form should be regarded as an essential part of any education may look like a disguised version of the old attempt to exercise undue influence on the young by imposing Christianity on them from a privileged position. But it is not. For by ‘an enlightened form of R.E.’ is meant a much fuller practical recognition than often occurred in the past of the God-given freedom of the pupil. To teach Christianity means nowadays above everything else to show by word and attitude and relationship that in the light of Christ we believe ourselves called to make responsible choices in a world intended and enabled by God to be a com­munity of persons. It is the opposite of indoctrina­tion.

Looked at in this way, the claim on behalf of R.E. is not an infringement of freedom but a demand for freedom. In earlier decades it could be argued by non-Christians with some truth that it was unfair to give children an extra, compulsory dose of religion when they had so much of it already; and sensible Christians anyway were afraid of the counter­productive quality of indoctrination. But now the boot is decidedly on the other foot. Every child is surrounded, from a time not long after his birth, by non-Christian influences of a subtle, pervasive and ultimately almost overwhelming force. The mass-media, the temper of social relationships and cultural life, the popular notion of science, the breakdown of Christian institutions, the decline of Church and Sunday School attendance, the disrepute of Christian morals, all point in his mind with depressing una­nimity to the doubtfulness, even the falsity, of Chris­tianity; and no child alive can be impervious to what is being said, whispered, hinted and lived out all around him, even if his own home is comparatively insulated from it.

`The study of man’s search for meaning and his sense of the transcendent will be combined with a sym­pathetic understanding of the ways in which men have expressed their insight, their hopes and fears, and their wrestling with the problems of freedom and responsibility. So the future teacher will be able to provide his pupils with a sense of perspective on society and history and to encourage a responsible participation in it.’

The organisation of education on a national and local scale is plainly a political matter, since the business of politics is, precisely, the ordering of economic and social life for the public welfare and the benefit of the individual members of the com­munity. But politics, in this proper sense, must be sharply distinguished from party politics, with which it is often confused.

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