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What Does The Gospel Have To Do With Education?

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What Does The Gospel Have To Do With Education?

Read below for the full transcript of our Fall 2018 Convocation, delivered by Dr. Bradley G. Green on August 27, 2018.

We are gathered here this evening for a few minutes to “call us together” and formally—as a community—launch the 2018-2019 Augustine School year. There are a number of educational options in Jackson. You and I have chosen Augustine School. We have chosen to be a part of a school which strives to be distinctly Christian and Classical. I want to say just a few things about our Christian commitment. Our Latin motto is “nullus intellectus sine cruce”. In English this would be: “There is No Understanding Without the Cross”. There is a lot of content piled into those four words!

Let me briefy suggest what they mean and how they shape thinking about education at Augustine School. Central to a Christian approach to, well, anything, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel means “good news,” comes from an older English word, which was an older English attempt to translate the Greek word “evangelion”. The Greek word “eu” means “good,” and “angelion” means message (or our word “news”). Hence “good news.”

But what is this good news? The New Testament can speak of the “good news” in a variety of ways. But let me summarize it briefly.

The Good News

God has created a Good world, but man has become a rebel against the King of the world. This King early in the book of Genesis began to make promises and make covenants, culminating in the “New Covenant”, that covenant which has the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus at the center. This King—King Jesus—is returning, and the King will return both to bring his Kingdom to its full realization and to judge all things.

But judgment might not always be good news, right? For if one is found wanting at the judgment, then the gospel is hardly “good news,” it would seem. But central to the “gospel”—the good news—is that the King has made provision. He has been judged in our place—on the cross. If persons repent of their sins and trust in this good—and returning King—such persons are forgiven, are seen by the King as fully right or just, and have had their sins already in judged in the judgment which was poured out on the King himself.

But central to the “gospel”—the good news—is that the King has made provision. He has been judged in our place—on the cross. If persons repent of their sins and trust in this good—and returning King—such persons are forgiven, are seen by the King as fully right or just, and have had their sins already judged in the judgment which was poured out on the King himself.

So we see that this King really did come—originally—not to be served, but to serve and to give himself a ransom for many. There really is a judgment, for the King reigns, and a just King must rule in accord with justice. But Christians, who are commanded to approach God’s throne boldly because of the cleansing they have received, will come through the judgment with the verdict of “righteous,” for we are forever bound, by faith alone apart from works, to the righteous one, our Lord Jesus.

So, there is a short summary of the gospel. Much more to say, but hopefully it suffices for our purposes this evening. But does this really have anything to do with education? I think it does, and want to suggest a few reasons why.

The Gospel and Education

Central to the gospel message itself is the notion that before conversion we are enemies of God. This is Paul’s language, not mine (Romans 5:10). We are by nature “objects of wrath”—again Paul’s language (Eph. 2:4). We have “suppressed” the knowledge of God (Romans 1), where even though we truly know God before conversion (though not savingly), we suppress this knowledge. We “force” it down, we attempt to pretend we do not know God. But we do. But instead of honoring God as we ought, we suppress this knowledge, and become idolaters. We worship the created realities instead of the creator.

What is Paul describing in Romans 1? The fact that even though we really have a kind of knowledge of God, we act like we do not. We morally rebel against what we know to be true. Even though, as Paul says, we “know God”—we suppress this knowledge. So we see here that our sin effects not just a part of our being, but all of it—including our knowing abilities or capacities. God clearly speaks to us through the created order, but in our sin we suppress that knowledge—knowledge of God—which should lead us to worship God.

So we see here that our sin affects not just a part of our being, but all of it—including our knowing abilities or capacities. God clearly speaks to us through the created order, but in our sin we suppress that knowledge—knowledge of God—which should lead us to worship God.

But here is where the gospel message—especially as centered in the cross of Christ—is so profoundly important to our thinking about education. For in a different letter—Colossians—Paul gets at the heart of the issue. He writes:

15 [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

A Few Observations

I point out just a few observations here:

  • Jesus Christ died for us, and in the death of Christ God was “reconciling” all things to himself (v. 20 and 22).
  • This reconciling death is the way by which God “makes peace” with us (v. 20).
  • Such a death was necessary because we were—before conversion—“alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (v. 21).
    • We were “alienated and hostile in mind”—our intellectual life.
    • We were “doing evil deeds”—our actions more generally.
  • Again we see: we are reconciled in and through the death of Christ (verse 22).
  • This reconciliation includes all of who we are, including our intellectual lives—the life of the mind.
  • But note a key reason why Christ died for us: Christ has reconciled us through his death in order that he might “present [us] holy and blameless and above reproach before him [likely God, or the Father here]. Christ’s death outside of us leads to a change inside of us.

So, in short: When Jesus dies for us, he is dying to bring about our reconciliation—and that includes the reconciliation of all of who we are, including our mental lives.

So, in short: When Jesus dies for us, he is dying to bring about our reconciliation—and that includes the reconciliation of all of who we are, including our mental lives.

Before conversion, we suppress the knowledge of God, but this almost assuredly means we do not see anything quite the way we ought to see things. That is, we do not see God, ourselves, or the world as we ought, because we are not seeing and making sense of the world, we are not learning with Christ as lord of our lives, so we simply do not see things as we ought.

We suppress the knowledge of God, but in suppressing the knowledge of God, we are failing to recognize God’s lordship, and control, and sustaining, of every sphere of reality. We might be the greatest scientist, language scholar, historian, or mathematician. But until we view God’s world through God’s word, we are failing to see things as clearly and rightly as we ought.

“We might be the greatest scientist, language scholar, historian, or mathematician. But until we view God’s world through God’s word, we are failing to see things as clearly and rightly as we ought.”

There Is No Understanding Without The Cross

Thus, at Augustine School we say, “nullus intellectus sine cruce”, there is no understanding without the cross, because we are only reconciled to God through the atoning work of Christ. And only when we recognize this are we truly free–free to see God, free to see the world, and free to see ourselves as they and we really are. While our various cultured despisers might cringe for us to say it, Jesus still had it right as recorded in the Gospel of John: “The truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

When by God’s grace through the atoning work of His Son we are reconciled to God, we begin to “see” differently. We are like blind men and women who now see. We are like crippled persons who now walk. We are like dead persons who have come out of graves. We begin to see the world as it is, because, like the Apostle Paul, the scales really have fallen from our eyes.

May God bless the 2018-2019 Augustine School year.

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