What Is True Education?
Richard F. Ames
The Ten Commandments and prayer have been barred from many American classrooms, replaced by anti-God teachings that ignore the foundation of truth—God’s Word and Jesus Christ’s example. But Christians can still find true education even in this anti-God age!
Much of modern education is based on atheistic or even anti-God concepts. In the millennium, God’s way will bring about an absolute revolution in education. But you can experience the true values of education now!
With the Ten Commandments and prayer barred from many American classrooms, what is taking their place? Even though most of the nation’s first and most prominent universities were founded in the name of Christianity, most of today’s educators are ignoring the foundation of truth—God’s Word. They are teaching that there are no absolutes, and that there is no ultimate authority except the self. Students are rarely learning God’s eternal law; they are learning humanism and materialism instead.
How did our educational system shift its emphasis? Many universities that were founded to teach the Bible and uphold God’s moral law had, by the 1960s, become havens of nihilism and anti-God sentiment. Beginning in the 19th century, they had adopted the structure, and later the ideals, of the German universities and philosophers.
Key among these philosophers was Friedrich Nietzsche, whose philosophy was not merely atheistic but was strongly anti-God. He wrote: “God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we—we still have to vanquish his shadow, too” (The Gay Science, Nietzsche, 1882, section 108). Nietzsche is now dead, but his philosophy lives on to this day in anti-God minds. During the tumult of the 1960s, it even leapt out of philosophy books and into the news headlines, when the respected Time magazine asked on its April 8, 1966 cover: “Is God Dead?”
Many intellectuals of the 18th and 19th centuries saw that Christianity had strayed from its apostolic origins, and had taken on the pagan customs of the surrounding society. But instead of rebuilding modern education on Christianity’s true Apostolic foundation, many intellectuals sought to destroy that foundation altogether! They rejected one kind of false education and false religion—but sought to replace it with godless education rather than godly education.
The True Foundation of Education
The Christianity practiced by Jesus Christ and the Apostles set an example for all times. That example included the practice of the spiritual laws of God—the Ten Commandments—and the way of love taught by Jesus Christ, who said to His followers: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Does this mean that earth’s 2 billion professing Christians all have the truth? Has it made them free? We know that much of the world remains in darkness and ignorance; whole cultures, peoples and nations, are blinded by false education. But how rare is true education—and true knowledge?
We read a shocking statement in the book of Revelation: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9).
This great fallen angel, called the Devil and Satan, deceives not the minority of human beings, but the vast majority. Simply being part of the one-third of humanity that calls itself “Christian” is no guarantee that one is not deceived!
But just what is this truth about which Satan deceives the whole world? Of course there is scientific truth that can be tested. Science can to some extent describe the “what” and “how” of natural laws, yet it cannot explain the why of our existence! Those truths are beyond natural law, and can only be explained by the One who created those laws. What does the Creator say about truth? When Jesus was praying to His Father on the night before His crucifixion, He prayed for his disciples: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
Yes, the Word of God is truth! You need to prove to yourself that the Bible is the revelation of the Creator God. The Apostle Paul wrote: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek word translated as “inspiration” is theopneustos, which means “divinely breathed in.” The New International Version translates this as: “All Scripture is God-breathed.” When Paul wrote this, the books that we call the “Old Testament” were the only codified “Scripture,” yet today many Christians wish to ignore the plain teachings of the Old Testament in favor of the New Testament writings. But the New Testament itself tells us otherwise. All Scripture is God-breathed!
How Does a Human Being Learn?
True education must be based on the truth God has revealed in His Word. Yet how many university administrators, professors or students know the true purpose and meaning of life? Most accept the evolutionary concept that man is only an animal.
Yet a spiritual component in a human brain differentiates the animal brain from the human mind. Scientists know that the human brain delivers far more “performance” for its weight than any other species’ brain. A few scientists have concluded that this capacity can only be explained by the presence of a spiritual component. This scientific conclusion, though not commonly accepted, agrees with revealed Scripture. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (1 Corinthians 2:11).
This is not an immortal soul. It is a spirit essence combined with the brain that empowers humans far beyond the animals. It harmonizes science and Scripture, and explains an aspect of the human mind that remains a mystery to most educators and “experts.” Sir John Maddox, editor emeritus of Nature, wrote in a recent Time magazine essay on “Thinking”:
How the brain manages to think is a conundrum with a millennial time scale. All animals have brains so as to be able to move about. Signals from the senses—eyes, ears, nostrils or skin, as the case may be—send messages to the spinal cord, which moves the limbs appropriately. But thinking involves the consideration of alternative responses, many of which have not been experienced but have been merely imagined. The faculty of being conscious of what is going on in the head is an extra puzzle. A century from now, electronics shops (or web sites) will be advertising all kinds of gadgets that simulate some of the workings of the human brain, but neuroscientists will still be struggling to understand the thinking machine in all our heads (“The Century’s Greatest Minds,” Time, March 29, 1999, p. 206).
Maddox, a world-renowned physicist, predicts that even a century from now the puzzle of human thinking will not be solved. With an understanding of Scripture, one can see that education based solely on material and physical knowledge is woefully limited. When an educational system rejects the existence of God and of spirit, it rejects ultimate reality and ultimate truth!
Mankind’s Failed Educational System
If our modern educational system is not producing all the answers we seek, should we at least be impressed with the system itself? Certainly, universities can successfully teach some areas of material knowledge. But what happens when these institutions are cut off from the values that should guide them?
What goes on in the modern university? Here is what one unhappy academic has written: “The average American persists in thinking that the classroom is the center of activity of a university. Because it makes for good relations with the public (as well as with the legislature), university administrators encourage such fanciful notions.
But among themselves, they know how anachronistic and downright inaccurate they are. Asked to describe the mission of his school, a vice chancellor of a Big Ten university listed five separate areas of responsibility: economic development, service to the state, the creation of new knowledge, and training graduate students. And, finally, dead last, teaching” (Profscam, Sykes, 1988, p. 29).
The modern university has strayed from its roots. Not only does it minimize the teaching of values, it minimizes the value of teaching. Certainly there is value in research, and in economic development and public service. But true education, as Scripture presents it, goes far beyond knowledge production; it must teach the spiritual values without which all the other pursuits will lead to ruin!
Can one be truly educated without knowing the difference between right and wrong? The Apostle Paul powerfully condemns those intellectuals who reject the truth and the reality of God: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22).
Throughout the Bible, indictments of anti-God education are very strong: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call on the Lord?” (Psalm 14:1-4).
God wants to develop holy and righteous character in His people, as John H. Ogwyn explains in his article “Does Character Really Matter?” on page 16 of this issue. God wants His people to grow in the kind of godly knowledge that will lead them to “call on the Lord,” to yield to His Holy Spirit and to do good (see also Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4).
To counter the effects of modern universities’ anti-God education, and to help students develop godly character, Herbert W. Armstrong established three colleges based on the principles of true godly education. Their motto was: “Recapture True Values.” Students were taught to apply biblical values to every facet of life—including art, literature, science, music, humor and human relations. The editor in chief of this magazine, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, served as deputy chancellor at each of these three colleges, assisting Mr. Armstrong in carrying out this vital endeavor. But we can “recapture true values” even without a college environment, by studying God’s Word and applying biblical knowledge in everything we think, say and do. By doing so, we can begin to understand the impact of Jesus’ statement that “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
But how does one recognize abundant life? The Greeks searched for wisdom and the Jews for miraculous signs of God’s power. The Apostle Paul explained that the Son of God embodied both of those elements far beyond the limits of mortal mankind: “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).
Indeed, very few of those whom the world calls “wise” or “noble”—the rich and powerful and intellectual—are called by God. “Not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise… that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27, 29).
That is how much God hates vanity! Those who think themselves so wise that they would “glory in His presence” are not the ones God will call! Rather, God will reveal His truth to “foolish” Christians if they have a repentant, humble and teachable spirit! As the Apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness'” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19).
God: The Greatest Teacher
True education must be based on the truth of God. All other foundations are but vanity. Only a Christian with a willingness to learn from the Great Teacher, and follow His example, will build a proper foundation to receive true knowledge. Jesus Christ taught His students: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). He then listed several of the Ten Commandments.
Why are the Ten Commandments the foundation of true education? Because they plainly tell us what is right and what is wrong! They reveal the way of peace and prosperity that God intends for all humanity. What happens to those who ignore God’s plain laws? As the Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Is it any wonder that immorality and perversity have ravaged Western society in the last few decades? Retired U.S. appellate Judge Robert H. Bork warned, “we are well along the road to the moral chaos that is the end of radical individualism… Gomorrah is our probable destination” (Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Bork, 1996, pp. 331, 343).
By contrast, King David wrote of the education that comes from a sound foundation: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me” (Psalm 119:97-102).
God taught King David, and He wants to teach all His people. Once you begin to apply the spiritual laws of God as taught in the Bible, as magnified by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, you can have greater understanding and true knowledge. As we read in Psalm 111:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.”
As you seek to obey Him, God will reveal spiritual knowledge to you through the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to explain the difference in knowledge of the converted Christian to that of an unconverted person: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:11-12).
Just as an animal brain cannot understand the “things of man,” neither can the carnal, natural mind of man understand the “things of God.” Paul goes on to explain: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned; it cannot be acquired by natural human intellect apart from the gift of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Because it has rejected true education, our modern world does not know the way to true peace. But Christians can know the truth, and can look forward to Tomorrow’s World, where all nations will finally become students of the Great Educator. What will tomorrow’s education be like? Scripture gives the following encouraging description: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4).
Such peace will only come to the world through true education, in the coming Kingdom of God. But you can have that peace now, in your own life. True education is training in truth—and the Bible is the starting point for truth. It reveals how to love God and how to love our neighbors. It teaches the true way of life. As Jesus Christ said in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This magazine exists to help you in your study of that truth, and we have established the Tomorrow’s World Bible Study Course to help you deepen your understanding of the precious truths of your Bible. Write for it today, or return the subscription card in this magazine. God wants all of His people to be educated in His ways.