Reformed Thinkers on Education: Lockerbie (part 2), On Christian Paedeia

Dear Reader,

This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here. Currently we are in the midst of a series within a series in which I look at various reformed thinkers and what they have had to say about education (see the introductory post to this series with a series here).

Last time we began discussing D. Bruce Lockerbie’s A Christian Paideia: The Habitual Vision of Greatness (Colorado Springs: Purposeful Design, 2005). We saw that Lockerbie puts forward two passages — Deuteronomy 6:4-9, especially verse 7, and Ephesians 6:4 — as the basis of his philosophy of education. In the latter he focuses in particularly on the phrase “the paideia … of the LORD” which he connects to the classical idea of paideia but also distinguishes from it, arguing that there is a specifically Christian paideia. Because his remarks last time were introductory, he did not expand upon this concept so I have been very eager to find out what he means by this and how he envisions it. In today’s chunk, chapters 2 through 5 of A Christian Paideia, Lockerbie begins to answer my questions.

As we saw last time, integration is a key word for Lockerbie. Following Gaebelein, he frequently quotes: “All truth is God’s truth.” Because God is One, His truth is also unified. The Fall for Lockerbie is disintegration and the goal of Christian life, the rebuilding of the image of God in man, is re-integration.

“. . .  integration means drawing many fragmented parts into a whole; integration means finding that the whole thereby obtained is indeed greater than the sum of its many parts. Integration sees not merely the multiplicity of threads that make up the warp and woof but also the pattern in the tapestry. Integration understands that no filament of knowledge, no aspect of human endeavor, no gift or talent or skill or craft exists in a vacuum apart from anything else.” (p. 25)

I love the image of a tapestry in this and the idea that one area of knowledge is not separate from others but that there is a kind of interconnectedness between them.

Practically speaking, Lockerbie draws out the implications of this idea of integration in two ways. In chapter 2, “Integration and the Life Worth Living,” he speaks of our need to be integrated people. We have often seen in the reformed thinkers we have been looking at an emphasis on the whole person. We have parts — body, soul, mind, and heart — but these parts are not separate, and, Lockerbie and others argue, education must address all of them.  Lockerbie distinguishes three terms here: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

I will say at this point that I am always a little uncomfortable when Christians begin to define wisdom and knowledge and the like as distinct things (or as unique facets of a thing). I have a quite clear memory of one of my college professors – who had studied the book of Proverbs more than most of us ever will – saying that while we can draw some little distinctions among the many, many biblical words for wisdom, that there are no hard-and-fast ones. Like Eskimos and their words for snow, the ancient Hebrews had a lot of words for knowledge or wisdom and, apart from a thorough study of how these words are actually used by the Scriptures, I think we overstep ourselves when we begin to  define them too closely.

Nonetheless, though I may not like the meaning Lockerbie ascribes to these very scriptural terms, I am willing to go along with him for the moment and to try and discern what the ideas behind these words are for him.

Wisdom, for Lockerbie, is divine; it is what God has. Knowledge is what we have, or should acquire. As we saw last time, the cultural mandate given to us in Genesis 1 demands it. Knowledge is still for Lockerbie a head thing and as such it must be tempered by understanding. This he defines as discernment. It is informed by faith and it allows us to choose what to do and to actually do it.  We have seen in a number of the other thinkers we have looked at this tension between the intellectual and the practical. While Lockerbie seems to value the intellectual, he says that we must also teach students “to think and act as Christians” (p. 43).

In the fourth chapter, “Veritas: the Integrated Curriculum,” Lockerbie brings back that word paideia. For the Greeks, he says, it meant educating the whole person, mind, body, and spirit (p. 48). Christian paideia adds to this a new concept, the unity of truth:

” . . . the unity of all truth under God allows for the unity of all learning because of its common origin in the mind of God. But this concept of unified curriculum and the unity of truth must also stem from a unified world-and-life view: a Christian paideia born out of a Christian worldview . . .” (p. 51)

Practically speaking, “[w]e are looking to string together our otherwise isolated pearls of wisdom” (p. 50). Lockerbie gives some examples to explain what he means. He tells the story of how, working in a Christian school, he as English teacher and his colleague as Bible teacher were unknowingly assigning the texts on the same ideas and even the same books to their students. When the students protested, they realized they needed to talk to each other and coordinate their subjects.

What strikes me most about Lockerbie’s thought here is how much it echoes Charlotte Mason’s. He does not seem to know her work (which is a great shame) but they arrive at very similar places. I agree, as Miss Mason would, that the various areas of knowledge in our traditional school subjects, are more related than they often appear. Lockerbie’s implication is that teachers need to coordinate a curriculum which draws these subjects together. I am still enough influenced by Mason to wonder if this is the best way to go about connecting subjects. No doubt in a school setting with a variety of teachers there needs to be some coordination, but Mason would argue that the connections to be made are best made by the student.

In the last chapter we are looking at today, chapter 5, “The Christian Scholar,” Lockerbie introduces one of my favorite verses relating to education: Romans 12:2, in which he says the Apostle Paul tells us: “‘Prove the authenticity of your faith and your redemption through Jesus Christ by living a changed life derived from your changed mind'” (p. 59).  We return again here to the intellectual learning versus practical application debate. My own view in this is much like what Lockerbie says in this chapter — when we first change the mind, practical results will follow. While I too view the person 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 that our other parts do not also need to be transformed. I know that we live in an age in which one’s private beliefs and public actions are often divorced, but I would argue that for a Christian, when his mind is truly being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, that this cannot help but spill over into the rest of his life and to have practical applications.

All in all, there is not much I disgree with here, though there are at times things I would say differently or lay a different emphasis on. My question about Christian paideia, as Lockerbie defines it, has at least been partially answered, and I am a little surprised but also a little gratified to find that it is not something new and different to me but it largely what Charlotte Mason proposed (under different terms) and what I myself believe.



7 responses to this post.

  1. […] Vision of Greatness (Colorado Springs: Purposeful Design, 2005). Find the earlier parts here and here. Lockerbie is part of what might be termed the Stony Brook school of thought on Christian […]


  2. […] Vision of Greatness (Colorado Springs: Purposeful Design, 2005). Find the earlier parts here, here, and […]


  3. […] 1994). We have looked previously at some of Lockerbie’s own ideas on education (see here, here, here and here). In this book he presents not his own thought but an overview of historic Christian […]


  4. […] Gaebelein (in what I have read) does not make this explicit, his disciple, D. Bruce Lockerbie (see this post), draws the connection that the Greeks, for an example, could not have unified truth because they […]


  5. […] thought in earlier posts — two on Gaebelein here and here and four on Lockerbie, here, here, here, and here — so again I will not spend long on it now. There was one idea, however, I […]


  6. […] To be transformed is to become more and more “whole-hearted.” The effect of sin is to divide us, to make us double-minded beings. Our hearts and minds are transformed when the effect of sin in them grows less and they more and more are united to a single purpose which aligns with the will of God. (Henry Schultze on the Integrated Personality; Lockerbie on Christian Paideia) […]


  7. […] as the goal of education from a number of other Christian writers on education (for example, Lockerbie and Gaebelein). My favorite definition of what this integration is comes from Henry Schultze who […]


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