Education as Discipleship

Education as Discipleship

At Imago Dei Classical School we gladly affirm that we are a discipleship ministry of Missio Dei Fellowship. This may be read by some as simply stating that we are an academic institution with a particular church affiliation, to others it may sound like we are not really an academic institution but a bible program with a few math and science lessons thrown into the mix. However, we mean much more than both of these examples. We believe that discipleship is synonymous with what we are doing as a classical Christian school.

Classical Christian education may be understood as intentional and robust discipleship. A classical Christian school should understand the role of education as complete human formation; the enculturation of a certain kind of people, passing down the knowledge, habits, and sentiments from one generation to the next. Education is the disciplined practice of enculturating students into a way of life. This is what discipleship is. Christian discipleship is an enculturation into The Way of Life, a biblical worldview inseparably tethered to particular life practices and affections.

Though the word “discipleship” is now most commonly used in religious contexts many parents fail to see that schools are actually discipleship institutions. Parents who choose to send their children to secular government schools are sending them as disciplees to sit at the feet of disciplers who operate under the authority of a God denying and God defying discipleship ministry. In most cases, these parents operate under a tragic assumption that children – in these extremely impressionable K-12 years – can learn skills without learning values, habits, and affections (areas which well-meaning parents and churches hope to shape).  The truth is that the atmosphere, culture, worldview and life practices of the school permeate everything – not just curricula but everything (teacher interactions, friendships, pledges of allegiance, homecoming rituals, etc.).

If you’re not ready to say that discipleship is happening during math class, you might change your mind if critical theorists were able to take hold of the mathematics departments of our schools, declaring that objectivity/truth in math equations is an oppressive Western imperialist concept. At that point you may begin asking if there is an objective mathematical reality into which you want your child to conform, a particular way you want him to understand the reality of numbers. Perhaps this quote from G.K. Chesterton has been overused in the past few years but it’s for good reason:

"For the secular society of to-day is skeptical not merely about spiritual assumptions, but about its own secular assumptions. It has not merely broken the church window or besieged the tower of tradition; it has also kicked away the ladder of progress by which it had climbed. …We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which furious party cries will be raised against anybody who says that cows have horns, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green."

Need I apply this issue to biology today? In a post-modern subjectivist world, the veil of apparent neutrality has been lifted. All models of education are models of discipleship – using catechisms, teaching dogmas, and participating in liturgies – now it’s just easier to see.

Preparing Them for Life in The Way

At Imago Dei, we acknowledge that our students have been created as spiritual and physical beings with eternity in their future and temporal obligations in the present. This temporal life is a good gift from God with eternal consequences. We will disciple students in light of this reality, showing them what it means to inhabit the world as a Christian. We believe the goal of classical Christian education is to prepare our students to live this life excellently, fulfilling their obligations to God, family, and neighbor. To live excellently is to consciously operate under a biblical worldview with biblical life practices and affections while accomplishing the work that God has set before us (whether it be mothering, plumbing, military service, fine art, etc.).

The age and context we receive our disciples is during the years of K-12 schooling. In these very impressionable years, we are teaching them how to conform to reality. We teach our students how to live with biblical wisdom, virtue, and affections while providing them the tools of learning through a curriculum of Piety, Music, Gymnastics and a robust study of the Language and Mathematical Arts, otherwise called, “the Seven Liberal Arts.” In this context, they will learn how to understand and engage with the world as they live in conformity to Christ. It is our hope that in such a rich environment filled with the beauty, truth, and goodness of the gospel, the Spirit may work in the lives of these children and more richly bear His good fruit.
Until Christians acknowledge that there is no such thing as a value-neutral education, the godless will have the greatest impact on our children, grandchildren, and the world in which they grow up. Until Christian churches and schools stop operating under secular worldviews – using secular curricula, catechisms, dogmas, and liturgies – the godless will have the greatest impact on our children, grandchildren, and the churches in which they grow up. There is no going back to simple “Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic” in K-12 education because it never existed. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic have always been taught within the context of values, religion, and worldview. 

Public Service Announcement:
Parents! It’s 10:00AM, Do You Know Who’s Discipling Your Children?

Author: Nicholas Dellis

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