law vs mercy

Getting Our Hands Dirty

When things go wrong in life, a natural reaction is to blame the system.  The cookies turn out lousy: "Last time I'm using this recipe." But the recipe only might be the problem.  Sometimes, you've just got a distracted cook.

The classical Christian educational system is wonderful, currently going great guns.  But it is not a Salvation Machine, and there are plenty of reasons why it might actually be turning out occasional rebellious graduates who really know their logic (bad combination), and who embrace postmodern secularism full-stride the first week of college.  What happened?  So much for classical Christian education.

But often the problem is not the system, or the set of standards, but rather the way that system is being carried out.  Chesterton once said that "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."  The same could sometimes be said of classical education -- a top-notch system, but occasionally pursued in the wrong way.  Then when things go wrong, the classical model is blamed, not its sub-par execution.

So how do we nurture students to have a deep love of learning and a deep love of God?  How do we get classical Christian education right?

By showing them how.  It's the classic "Go Fish" card-game rubric: you can't ask someone for a Queen unless you've already got one.  And we can't expect our kids to love the classics (or the Bible) when we don't.  We can't tell them to hammer their homework while we watch the game, surf Facebook, or never appear from behind our careers.  Our children will love what we love, they will hate what we hate, and ultimately, they will act how we act.  What we dictate to them from our impervious parental thrones will have little effect unless we come down to earth, put on some flesh, and get in the trenches with them.

True classical Christian education isn't for kids.  It's for families.  Want your kids to be good readers?  Read to them aloud (regardless of age) -- then become a systematic reader yourself.  Want them to memorize lots of Scripture?  Join them in it.  Want them to be joyful Christians, resisting peer pressure to be sullen, self-absorbed beauty-haters?  Sing with them, do yard-work with them, play in the sandbox with them, and (above all) laugh a lot with them (hint: difficult).

The Pharisees didn't get this part, and that was their problem.  Law and no love.  Rules and no joy.  Christ came into the world and showed his disciples the joy of the law -- but he got his hands really dirty doing it.  This is classical Christian education (and parenting) in a nutshell: do what Christ did.  Be the gospel for them, and show them day-to-day how Christ died.  In other words, show them life.

Grace and Peace, Nate Ahern