For me, one of the hardest parts about preaching is forcing myself to cut sections out of the sermon that I like, but for the sake of time and flow would be better left out.
This past week I cut a section on education. Yet as many of you are starting back to school, I thought I would send out a few thoughts on teaching via email.
We saw in our text this week that “God created the world by his Word” (Heb 11:3). You may wonder what that has to do with education. But start thinking about the fact that God’s Word is an expression of his rational thought. Throughout all eternity, God has thoughts about creation, thoughts that are good, and true, and beautiful…thoughts that perfectly cohere with his glory.
Out of these thoughts God spoke, and the whole space-time continuum came into existence. Therefore, as one theologian puts it, “This world is a translation of God’s thoughts.” The word “translation” literally means “to carry across.” Thus, creation isGod’s eternal thoughts carried across into our created realm. This is why Paul can say, “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes, namely is divine nature and eternal power, have been clearly seen” (Rom 1:20). And the Psalmist can say, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaimed his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). We would expect the biblical writers to describe creation in this way, given that it came about through our rational God speaking.
What does this mean for our goal in understanding this world? As another theologian put it: our goal is to “think God’s thoughts after him.” We don’t invent meaning, we discover it. The meaning of anything, if it be true and accurate, always reflects the character of God.
And here’s where we get into the implications for education. When you educate, what is it that you are trying to do? As one philosopher put it, “Education is an introduction to reality.” Now let’s combine that with what we’ve already seen: reality is a translation of God’s thoughts, and we know reality by thinking God’s thoughts after him. So…what better goal for education than to help students think God’s thoughts after him?
Some of you can do this explicitly, if you are teaching in a Christian school or educating your own children. You can overtly explain how this world expresses God’s glory. You can lead your students to use special revelation (Scripture) as the key—in the sense of a key on a map—to understand general revelation (creation).
The implications of this are vast. Unfortunately, I’ve known Christians for whom the only tangible expression of this truth is that they don’t teach evolution. By all means teach your students that we haven’t come from monkeys (and if you want some resources for how to think about science and faith, talk to Keith Kauffman). But if creation reveals God for the purpose of us worshiping him, then there is much more. We can’t separate education from morality. We can’t isolate knowing from loving. Education involves a certain orientation toward creation that acknowledges it for what it is, us for who we are, and God for who he is. As our thoughts correspond to God’s thoughts (albeit in a creaturely way), we have a radical coherence in our thoughts that allows us to live with integrity and bring glory to our maker.
But even if you can’t teach creation as such explicitly. You can teach creation implicitly. You can teach in such a way that the passion, imagination, and sense of wonder you bring to your subject wouldn’t make sense if all we see—and all we are—was simply a product of time and chance.
One of the people who introduced me to the gospel told me that part of his journey in coming to faith involved a meteorology course at a staunchly secular university. As the class began one day, the professor noticed snowflakes out the window. She skipped her prepared lecture and took the students to the roof to study the snow. Long after the class was supposed to end, students could be found staring in wonder at the intricacy of individual snow flakes. I’m not sure whether the professor trusted in Christ or not, but the amazement she brought to the subject prompted my friend to begin searching for the Author of such beauty.
Talk to your students about this temporal world with a sense of wonder and amazement, and God only knows what impact this could have for all of eternity.