Saturday, May 9, 2009

5/9- Calvin and Education

(University of Geneva that Calvin started as Genevan Academy)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. “ (Deut. 4:9,10)

Calvin: bThere are innumerable evidences both in heaven and on earth that declare his wonderful wisdom; not only those more recondite matters for the closer observation of which astronomy, medicine, and all natural science are intended, but also those which thrust themselves upon the sight of even the most untutored and ignorant persons, so that they cannot open their eyes without being compelled to witness them. f213 Indeed, men who have either quaffed or even tasted the liberal arts penetrate with their aid far more deeply into the secrets of the divine wisdom. f214 Yet ignorance of them prevents no one from seeing more than enough of God’s workmanship in his creation to lead him to break forth in admiration of the Artificer. To be sure, there is need of art and of more exacting toil in order to investigate the motion of the stars, to determine their assigned stations, to measure their intervals, to note their properties. As God’s providence shows itself more explicitly when one observes these, so the mind must rise to a somewhat higher level to look upon his glory. (I.5.2)
The office proper to doctors is the instruction of the faithful in true doctrine, in order that the purity of the Gospel be not corrupted either by ignorance or evil opinions…so we will call this the order of schools. But because it is only possible to profit from such lectures if first one is instructed in the languages and humanities, and also because it is necessary to raise offspring for time to come, in order not to leave the Church deserted to our children, a college should be instituted for instructing children to prepare them for the ministry as well as for civil government.(Reid: Calvins-Draft Ecclesiastical Ordinances p. 62,63).

This weekend many colleges celebrated graduation for their seniors. It is important to think today, I believe, on what Calvin said about education. First we must keep in mind that the two seminal founders of the Reformed faith Zwingli and Calvin were both Renaissance scholars. Calvin’s first book was on Seneca, the pagan Roman writer. Calvin spent eight years in higher education, and saw his crowning achievement as the academy in Geneva. Wherever the reformed faith went it established schools for three purposes: 1) to teach the Bible in their own language, 2) to teach reading and other skills to understand the Bible and its doctrine, and 3) to liberate the human spirit (Leith, IRT p. 77). The Reformed sermon was to always be intellectually stimulating, yet never speculative- treading too far beyond the limits of the scriptures. He rejected medieval curiosities as irrelevant (eg. “How many angels on the head of a pin”), yet he saw education as a means to also limit superstition and fear. Knowledge as well as commitment were requirements for communion for Calvin.
Thus, we are to glorify and love God with our minds. Our brains are gifts to us from God. They are to explore God’s providential care (see above quote) and to reflect back God’s wisdom to Him. Faith and education are not at odds. Reformed believers have always felt that the more true knowledge we have, the more it leads us to God- the Maker of all things. So the Reformed Christian can appreciate right knowledge from believer and unbeliever alike as long as it is true knowledge, and not just propaganda or wishful thinking. The more we know about our world, the more we learn about God’s wisdom and creating it- his fingerprint left behind- if you will.

Prayer: Lord, you have given us not only hearts, souls, and tongues, but also minds. Help us to use our minds to honor and glorify you. Amen.

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