Daily Devotional 2-3-17

“In lumine tuo, videmus lumen” The Light of Christ in Education: A Personal Testimony and Philosophy of Christian Education

"Wreckers" by JMW Turner.
“Wreckers — Coast of Northumberland, with a steam-boat assisting a ship off shore,” Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1775–1851, British; between 1833 and 1834; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. Public domain.

“For with thee is the well of life, and in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9 Geneva Bible, 1599).[1]

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130 ESV).[2]

Within these verses there resides a proleptic power that can transform yet unborn generations of human beings, birth new cultures, bring about monumental works of art and music, build transcendent edifices of worship and populate urban and rural areas alike with fair-trading centers of bustling commerce, quaint chapels, institutions of healing, schools of the trades, colleges and universities, and fields of agricultural marvel. But the unfolding of the Word of God, supremely given in the Person of the crucified, resurrected and living Lord Jesus Christ begins not in the completed transformation of a civilization. The Gospel always begins with one. Then another. Transformed people begin to live transformed lives. In a matter of a few decades the world was turned upside down by the Apostles who followed Jesus in His earthly ministry. So, William Carey remarked in his famous charge to students and ministers in England,

“Justin Martyr, who lived about the middle of the second century, in his dialogue with Trypho, observed that there was no part of mankind, whether greeks or barbarians, or any others, by what namesoever they were called, whether the Sarmatians, or the Nomades, who had no houses, or the Scenites of Arabia Petrea, who lived in tents among their cattle, where supplications and thanksgivings are not offered up to the Father, and maker of all things, through the name of Jesus Christ.”[3]

My own journey of following the risen One is no different. His Word once unfolded began to mercifully saturate and bring life to every area of my being. Death and sin had to be—must be (for the sanctifying process continues)—mortified even as His word vivified.

That Word came to me, first, as an orphan child in the rural backwoods of South Louisiana.[4] My Aunt Eva was sixty-five years old, widowed, having never had children of her own, when I was placed in her arms at nine months old. She gave me not only a love of the Word of God, but a love of learning. She instilled within me a truth that God’s Word brings forth light that has not only eternal benefits, but temporal blessings and, thus, responsibilities to share with others who don’t have that Word. There were prodigal pathways that led to not only distance from the Light, but, providentially, a groping for the Light that I will never forget. I have lived life with the light of the Word that brings life and without it. It was the preaching of Dr. D. James Kennedy (1930-2007) that led me and my wife, Mae, to come to understand the grace of God in Christ. God’s grace led me “home.” I was twenty-five years of age. The light of the Word began to shine brighter than ever. I began a program of study that led from completing my undergraduate degree at a Christian college (MidAmerica Nazarene University) to three years of seminary (Knox Theological Seminary, completing my internship under Dr. Kennedy) and five years of doctoral study at the University of Wales, Trinity St. David’s (Ph.D., historical theology under the faculty of theology and religious studies), and two years of post-graduate study in public service at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Master of Public Administration). During that time, I began as a manager for a Fortune 50 company. I left that career to follow a call to ministry to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to as many as possible so that there might be a multitude of souls safe in the arms of Jesus when He comes again.[5] The gift of faith in Christ Jesus has brought light and life. The Gospel transformed my life specifically through a commitment to education and to establishing and serving institutions of Christian education.[6] From founding a Christian preparatory academy in Overland Park, Kansas to leading seminaries and serving on boards that principally oversee the work of educating from a distinctively Christian worldview to serving the Church as pastor and evangelist, I have been enriched by Christian education at many levels. I see the ministry of Christian education, particularly higher education, as providing a confessional framework of Gospel truth from which the learner may possess a “license to learn.” The truth of Scripture is, after all, the very beginning—not the end! —to a new world of insight, presumably, applicable in the theater as much as in astrophysics, and as inspiring to the poet W.H. Auden (1907 – 1973) as to the architect, Sir Christopher Wren (1632 – 1723). Truly, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10 ESV).

The unfolding of God’s Word brings light to all of life. For me, letting that light shine on every area of human endeavor is the glorious goal of Christian education and a personal quest in my own discipleship and in leading my own home. In speaking of this glorious undertaking, I I am still a follower of the light, a mere child, still discovering new places where the Light may lead. Thus, Christian education in its best expression must be released from the wrong-headed notion of robotic indoctrination of only future church workers to Biblically faithful frameworks for engaging the deepest existential questions of humanity that unleashes Christologically enlightened daughters and sons to “…speak what God has revealed…see visions…dream dreams…” (Acts 2:17 GWT). This is a faith that not only informs education. This is a faith in the Christ who transforms generations of human beings through the light of His life.[7] [8]

Notes

[1] From which comes the motto that I have taken for this philosophy of education, In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen, “in Thy light we shall see light.” This is, also, the motto of Columbia University, as well as the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

[2] Bible, Holy. “English Standard Version.” Illinois: Good News/Crossway (2001).

[3] William Carey, “An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens,” WmCarey.edu, accessed January 30, 2017, http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/enquiry/anenquiry.pdf.

[4] See Michael A. Milton. What God Starts, God Completes: Gospel Hope for Hurting People. Fearn: Christian Focus, 2012. Print.

[5] See Michael A. Milton, Lord, I Want to Follow Your Call: A Pastoral Guide to the Ordained Ministry (Charlotte, NC; ISBN: 978-0692793732: Bethesda Publishing Group, 2016); see, also: Michael A. Milton. Leaving a Career to Follow a Call: A Vocational Guide to the Ordained Ministry. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2000. Print.

[6] For some notable reflections on the subject see Nicholas Wolterstorff. Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian higher education. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004. Print.

[7] I am particularly concerned that Christian education be shaped by the Spirit demonstrated by moving from mere professionalization to personalization, and from futile competition with the university model to becoming a community-of-inquiry model (as in L’Abri) serving, at once, university and all the citizenry. More notable theologians espousing this philosophy of ministry and education include one of my favorites, Dr. James M. Houston. Joyful exiles: Life in Christ on the Dangerous Edge of Things. InterVarsity Press, 2006. Print.

[8] See, also, a commitment to Christian scholarship as contra mundum in George M Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney. The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship. Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.