curriculum and the administration of Christian education must
be controlled by the Christian view of man. Like the plant, man
is a living being, he needs food, he reproduces; but the nature
of peculiarity of man is not found in so wide a genus. Like the
animals, he has sensations and visual images; but if this were
all, he would be merely another animal. Education supposedly deals
with man as man; so-called physical education deals with man as
a brute. What man is and what education is are questions to be
answered by appraising the different levels of human activity.
Keen sensation does not mark an educated man, for savages often
have keener sensation than the well educated. Carpentry and plumbing
are distinctly human activities beyond all animal possibility,
and factually beyond the savage; and yet these two useful and
honorable trades are not an education. Music and art rank higher
than carpentry and plumbing; colloquially we speak of a musical
education, but strictly music and art require training. All these
are different levels of activity—all honorable but not all
equal. Some men are born capable of one but not of the other.
The Lord did not berate the man to whom he gave one talent for
not being able to earn five; he condemned him for not using the
one he had. However there is no denying the fact that it is better
to have five. God does not require the unskilled laborer to write
the critique of all future metaphysics nor to finish Schubert’s
symphony; but I. Q. 150 contains greater possibilities than I.
of life should glorify God, and if a man is a carpenter or a plumber,
he should and can glorify God by his trade as well as a student
or professor. To serve God acceptably, one does not need to be
a monk; neither does he need to be a scholar. God has given some
men five talents, some two, and some one. He has given scholastic
aptitude to some and to others mechanical ability. What is required
is that each should use faithfully what he has received.
In view of this it
cannot be said that education is in all respects democratic. In
politics, representative democratic government amenable to the
will of the people is decidedly preferable to irresponsible totalitarianism
and arrogant bureaucracy. All men are created equal—in the
sense that political justice should be impartially administered.
But economic and mental equality never have existed and never
will. The economic handicaps can be equalized to a degree by private
aid through scholarships. But there is no cure for mental inequalities.
Education, like art, can never be democratic; both are inherently
aristocratic. Some students simply cannot learn. Try as they may,
they cannot grasp the significance of the material. And instead
of benefiting by a college education, their spirit and self-respect
may be ruined. As plumbers they could serve a useful purpose,
and if they recognize that God is glorified in honest plumbing,
they can walk among men with Christian dignity.
A word about
art too. Surely a great artist is superior to a great coal miner.
Rembrandt's Night Watch is indescribably impressive.
Rembrandt knew how to paint. But I am not aware that
he knew art. Beethoven knew how to write music,
but I doubt that he understood music. Artistic ability is one
thing—a precious gift from God. The intellectual understanding
of art, of its function in society, of its relation to religion
and morality, is another thing—a still more precious gift
from God. The latter is a subject of education. The former is
is intellectualistic. God is truth, and truth is immutable. The
humanists, of course, oppose any theistic conception of truth.
Immersed in the flux of pragmatism, guided by Nietzsche, James,
and Dewey, they hold that truth changes, moral values change,
and the only fixed truth is that there is no fixed truth. What
works is "true." Skill and success make "truth."
Because there is no final truth in humanism, the humanist cannot
consistently give adequate recognition to the intellect. If he
praises intellectual endowments, he means only the vocational
skill to get what you want.
Yet secular humanism
is not the only, nor even the most vociferous opponent of intellectualism.
If Nietzsche, James, and Dewey have their disciples, including
the existentialists, Kierkegaard, with Schleiermacher’s
emphasis on emotion, is an even worse enemy of truth. So it happens
that large numbers of religious people despise the intellect and
exalt the emotions. Brunner says that God speaks falsehoods, that
man should believe contradictions, and that God and the intellect
are mutually exclusive.
is excerpted from an essay which originally appeared in the May/June
1988 issue of The Trinity Review. It is reprinted with permission
of , P. O. Box 68, Unicoi, TN 37692. Available
online under "Review Archives" at .