Defining Education

Dear Reader,

This post is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed Christian philosophy theology of education. Read all the posts here.

I hope soon to give you a post which pulls together all the threads we have been following and begins to truly answer the question “What is reformed Christian education?”  It seems a little late in the game to define education but I am going to do so nonetheless in preparation for that post.

“Education”  is a word which seems to absorb new meanings and ideas. This is in fact due to the nature of education itself. It is very hard to address just one part of a person. Those who seek to educate tend to find themselves dealing with issues which may not strictly fall under that heading, from diet to discipline.

When I speak of what education should be in a  reformed Christian context, I am thinking of education in a very narrow sense — I am talking about what we might term schooling, education as the imparting of intellectual knowledge. So when I begin to lay out for you principles for reformed Christian education, know that these are about our kids’ minds — what we put into them, how it gets there, why we bother doing it at all, and what the end game is.

Having said which, our children are more than mind. They are bodies and souls and hearts as well (Mark 12:30). The Bible never speaks of people as being easily divisible into their parts. We cannot believe one thing and do another or love contrary to our convictions. The person is a whole. This is precisely why education tends to be so expansive. You can’t teach a hungry child. Or one that is emotionally traumatized. Or tired. (Nor, I will argue elsewhere, can you do much for one whose soul is dead in sin.) So our schools start offering free lunches and breakfasts. And then they offer counseling for children and their families and lessons on birth control and other controversial topics because they know that they can’t teach children when the rest of their lives is out of control.

Nor can you teach a child who is misbehaving. Education cannot be separated from discipline. We need some level of obedience before we can teach. Education, ideally, also produces correct behavior. Knowledge in the Bible is practical and leads to changed behavior.

All of which is to say that when I speak of reformed Christian education, I am speaking primarily in a very narrow sense of how we build up our children’s minds while acknowledging that we cannot divide the person into parts and that intellectual progress is linked to their physical and emotional states and that discipline must both come before and follow out of education.

Until next time,


7 responses to this post.

  1. […] should be part of the curriculum of Christian schools. I do not disagree with him here, but I did have a slightly different take. In developing my own philosophy of education, I defined education as focusing on the mind. This is a definition and was not meant to deny that […]


  2. […] as a whole — body, mind, soul, and heart (many neglect heart but I would add it in) — I have defined education as the transformation of the mind specifically. Note that this is a definition and is not meant to imply either that our parts can be divided or […]


  3. […] I personally have defined education as the transforming of the mind, this is not meant to operate in isolation from the other aspects of the person because we are not […]


  4. […] I have defined education as the sanctification of the mind, but I am beginning to see that it is not quite so simple. The heart cannot be excluded for, as Jaarsma says, we do not truly know unless the heart is involved. […]


  5. […] mind/heart does not operate in isolation from the other parts of the person.  (Hearts and Minds; Defining Education; Education and the Covenant […]


  6. […] that our approach to education should somehow recognize and accommodate this fact. For my own part, I have tended to define education as the intellectual and to leave aside the physical, hands-on aspects. I am convicted by Whitehead that this is perhaps […]


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