Education on the Front Lines by Gregory Soderberg

Now in my 21st year of teaching, I sometimes wonder if it has been worth it. These moments are fleeting, but the fact is that hardly anyone gets rich through teaching. Thankfully, I’m not in this for the money. There are more important things, as all the sages have told us. As a Christian educator, I believe education is similar to “boot camp,” especially in this time of cultural upheaval. I see my mission as equipping students of all ages to engage in the spiritual battle that rages all around us (Ephesians 6:10-18). God has given everyone unique gifts and abilities that he expects us to use for His glory, and for the good of others. For me, teaching is not just a job, or an occupation–it is a calling. I can’t desert my post.

While going through J. Gresham Machen’s classic Christianity & Liberalism with my students at Logos Online School, I was encouraged by Machen’s words. Not only was Machen profoundly prophetic in discerning the fundamental differences between Biblical Christianity and theological liberalism, but he also is surprisingly practical in his treatment of cultural and political matters. In his final chapter, Machen presents an agenda for countering the aims of liberalism. He writes:

“In the fourth place–the most important thing of all–there must be a renewal of Christian education. The rejection of Christianity is due to various causes. But a very potent cause is simple ignorance. In countless cases, Christianity is rejected simply because men have not the slightest notion of what Christianity is. An outstanding fact of recent Church history is the appalling growth of ignorance in the Church” (176).

This intellectual and theological atrophy is due to one of the main tenets of theological liberalism:

“The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity” (177).

What should we then do?

“It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is; and the fair and logical thing is to learn what Christianity is, not from its opponents, but from those who themselves are Christians” (177).

It is this sense of urgency that keeps me going through the long hours and all the grading. At both Logos Online School and at the BibleMesh Institute, I have the immense joy and privilege to help students learn, grow, and develop their unique talents, interests, and abilities.

The work of Christian education is immensely important. Writing this on an Easter weekend, I am reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15. The Biblical Gospel is founded on a historical fact. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is vain. So, teaching my students about history, and about how to read texts, is essential. We are engaged in a spiritual battle, where ideas have consequences and worldviews bring either life or death (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). So, my students read the Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as the Qur’an, the Communist Manifesto, and Brave New World. My students at the BibleMesh Institute learn to deal with challenges to their faith, and how to present the Gospel in various cultural contexts.

In all of this, we seek to pursue wisdom, truth, goodness, and beauty. God is Himself the source of all of these qualities. As we pursue them, we reflect his image more and more (Colossians 3:10). And we don’t do this simply as cranky conservatives. We try, through the Holy Spirit sanctifying us, to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Belief in absolute truth should not make us jerks. As Machen wrote: “If the Word of God is heeded, the Christian battle will be fought both with love and with faithfulness” (178).

Every society and culture has transmitted its values through education. The Church needs to reclaim this task and takes this job seriously. Teachers are on the front lines, and we look forward to a bountiful harvest that we can’t even begin to imagine. We plant seeds now, and we trust God for the results (1 Corinthians 3:6-11).


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