Parenting is full-time work that calls parents to educate their children through every family activity in the home and outside the home; equipping the children to live a life in Christ as vessels for God’s redemptive task. Deut. 6:4-9 expresses the full-time, whole-life nature of the education task initiated in the home. The teaching of God is occurring at all times, in all activities—with the work of the hands. This kind of teaching is what impacts the culture.

This approach to education should be carried on in the formal school setting as well. But what exactly does such an approach to Christian education look like in the school? In this article, three aspects will be briefly considered: the teachers, the pedagogy (i.e. the method of teaching), and the curriculum.

The Christian School: Teachers

A brief highlight of some aspects of what teaching as an image-bearer of Christ should look like will construct a goal that we, as teachers can strive to attain. And remember, as maturing Christians, we should all be teachers (Heb. 5:12).

A first priority should be that the teacher’s life should be built on the ever-increasing skill of handling rightly the Word of God for their own growth and ministry to others. Built into this foundational component must be the accompanying dependence on prayer. This combination of intimate knowledge from daily intake of God’s word and ongoing prayer for its application, and transformation of one’s life and the lives of all with him in the sphere of influence is critical.

  1. The Teacher’s Academic Excellence

From this foundation, two components can be considered as critical goals for the focus of the teacher as the image-bearer of Christ. The first is academic excellence. As Christ did all things with excellence to the Father’s glory, so we teachers must demonstrate excellence in academics before our students. This includes our efforts in scholarship.

Christian teachers should always be striving for deeper understanding of truth. This requires reading and study. We are never complete in the task of learning. The more knowledge we have of truth in all subject matters that we are privileged to teach, the better we can explain truth at fundamental levels. This allows us to build truth cohesively from one truth to the next, displaying the encompassing and unifying knowledge of God as all truth displays aspects of Him. This should further involve our efforts at investigation.

As our knowledge grows, we should strive to investigate and create innovative approaches to understanding deeper truth and presenting truth through our own scholarly input. We should seek to add to the body of knowledge from our own unique understanding. As Christ’s image-bearers we are creative. These should lead us to encourage other teachers in their learning, scholarship, and investigations. Together with others who share the vocation of teaching, we should use the fellowship as a way to challenge and promote goals for ever-higher expressions of academic excellence.

  1. The Teacher’s Relationships

The second component critical to the teacher as Christ’s image-bearer is relationship. As is true for any believer, we teachers must realize that our union with Christ has transferred us from the kingdom of this earth to the kingdom of God. Our relationship with this world is as a minister of reconciliation, and an ambassador of Christ. Faith is core to the Christian teacher’s uniqueness. We must never see our faith as a distraction to our vocation: the pursuit of truth through education. This was the presumption of René Descartes who, above all others, has formed the world’s modern understanding of knowledge, rationality, and science that considers the Christian faith as incompatible.

From our core unity with God in Christ through faith, we should pursue each relationship with students, colleagues, or others as an opportunity to bring the light of truth in Christ to them through every aspect of our living and teaching. Students should see the teacher’s relationships with administrators and colleagues as expressions of brotherly affection in serving and encouraging one another. The teacher’s relationship with their students should be as fellow servants of Christ whom they are discipling to obey Christ in all things. The image-bearing teacher is strengthening his students in every aspect of their intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical development so that they might be best equipped as stewards of God’s manifold blessings to them in mind, spirit, emotions, and body.

These relationships should be an extension of parental and familial relationships in terms of their compassionate encouragement and accountability. They should be an extension of the church’s relationship in terms of the teacher’s desire to walk with the student toward growth in their faith and devotion to God. Such relationships clearly differentiate teachers who are image-bearers of Christ from those who bear the image of the world.

The Christian School: Pedagogy

Pedagogy in the Christian school should similarly reflect the imprint of Christ. As in the teacher’s personal life, God’s word and prayer should be the core difference to the educational pedagogy. The high calling of pointing minds toward renewal in the truth is not to be pursued light-heartedly. Seeking wisdom from above through God’s word and in humility before the throne of grace should be the precursor to all teaching endeavours.

A distinctly Christian pedagogy must enhance the teacher’s ability to demonstrate the love of Christ to the student in an environment where both student and teacher are under the authority of God and seeking to know and obey Him. A simple mnemonic device will be used to simplify the pedagogical approach proposed here. This approach involves three levels of knowledge: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. These terms will not be used in simply a linguistic manner, but their definitions will be expanded to allow application to both the teaching and the learning assessment of any academic discipline.

  1. The Grammar-level of Knowledge

In this pedagogical application, grammar represents the base knowledge of any academic discipline. It is the terminology of the given discipline—the words and language used to communicate knowledge unique to each academic discipline, for example, the sine, cosine, and tangent of geometry; the electron, proton, and neutron of chemistry; the force, friction, and acceleration of physics; or the preposition, noun, and verb of linguistics. Knowledge is based on the proper understanding and use of the language used to communicate the fundamental concepts of each discipline. The teacher of any area of knowledge must teach and assess the student’s understanding of the grammar-level of knowledge within the given academic discipline.

  1. The Logic-level of Knowledge

The logic-level of knowledge represents the ability to correctly organize and apply the grammar of a given academic discipline. This requires one to organize the knowledge in a cohesive manner such that thoughts can be correctly derived from the grammar and applied toward understanding new concepts. The grammar must first be understood, but then must be arranged properly (logically) so that original and innovative thoughts can be realized. These derived thoughts must then be properly (logically) applied so that further knowledge can be gained and systematized for improved application for responding to existing unknowns or problems.

  1. The Rhetoric-level of Knowledge

The rhetoric-level of knowledge is the most advanced. This is where the knowledge of a given discipline is expressed, refined, and integrated with all other knowledge to form an ever-maturing expression and application of knowledge to universal realities. It is at this level that innovative thoughts within an academic discipline can be expanded towards discovery and theorising to develop novel insights and proposals to push the frontiers of knowledge. This level allows the art of expression as a tool to communicate and stimulate others to higher thinking.

  1. The Mnemonic in Instruction Design and Preparation

The reason for proposing this mnemonic of grammar, logic, and rhetoric as a useful tool in the Christian pedagogy is that it affords a simple handle to enhance both the instruction design and preparation, and the student assessment. When the Christian teacher is structuring a lesson (or curriculum), these three levels of knowledge can assure that all the necessary components for comprehensiveness and clarity are being adequately represented. The confidence that this three-pronged focus can bring to the teacher’s content preparations frees him to explore deeper expressions of the pre-eminence of Christ through cohesively unified truth that is enlightening and hopeful.

The expression can freely utilise all knowledge in a given discipline, tolerant of truth and shedding light on error in a biblically discerning approach. The teaching can encompass both creative and realistic expressions with truth as the goal. Communication can be compassionate with an eye towards transformation as Christ brings truth to light and thereby challenges the students to loving and benevolent applications of the truths learned.

  1. The Mnemonic in Student Assessment

On the assessment end, the proposed mnemonic gives the teacher a handle to guide interaction with each student during the teaching process. Through question and discussion opportunities, students can be evaluated in their grammar, logic, and rhetoric abilities. The teacher can thereby customise the learning for each student as the three-pronged mnemonic helps to assess the student’s areas of strengths and weaknesses. Additional efforts in classroom teaching, assignments or time in personal tutoring may then enhance the student’s learning based on the observed assessment in class. 

  1. The Importance of Mentoring

This pedagogical approach allows the teacher to become more of a mentor. Streamlining content preparation through this three-pronged focus to hone the key elements enhances the teacher’s ability to grasp the themes and emphasize the important aspects, which increases enthusiasm for both the teacher and student. Student learning is impacted by both the content and the teacher’s passion. The teacher’s increased ability to focus on the student fosters the relationship, which further strengthens the student’s desire to satisfy the teacher by learning. This cycles back into the teacher’s encouragement to reinforce the work ethic of the learning community, and ultimately develops character as relationships are nurtured in the image of Christ.

The Christian School: Curriculum

This leads directly to the role of the curriculum in the Christian school. The Christian educator should first be encouraged that curriculum can be customised to suit the Christian world-view. It is important to realise this since all curriculum will have a world-view perception and purpose.

Any given curriculum may have political, socialisation, maturation, culture-transmission, or religious goals, etc. There will always be an ideology behind any textbook; nothing will be neutral. The Christian scholar must be discerning as Heb. 5:14 says, “… solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” This discernment is based on skill in the word of righteousness (v.13). The Christian teacher and student must both train their discernment through constant practice. With renewing minds, the Christian must test and discern God’s will in all things. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

  1. Curriculum that influences Christian character and calling

The Christian curriculum should lead to affected behaviour or practice in the student’s life, not simply an expanded intellect, but a practical development of Christ-like thinking, attitudes, and actions. The fruit of the Christian school operating in conjunction with a Christian home-life and church-life should bear testimony of a regenerate life.

The Christian teacher should also realise that curriculum will need to be customised to each student to some degree With the advantage of the three-pronged mnemonic, each student’s individual uniqueness based on God’s equipping and calling can be realised and their learning coordinated as possible. This allows the teacher to assure that some callings are not exalted over others, but students gifted intellectually, spiritually, physically, mechanically, or artistically are all equally encouraged in their calling.

  1. Curriculum that encompasses God’s redemptive mission

Christian curriculum should also be global. God’s redemptive mission includes every aspect of His creation. All cultures and nuances of His creation are part of His redemptive plan in Christ. Therefore, the Christian curriculum should expand the student’s mind to consider all aspects of God’s universe to best equip them to bear God’s image as He uses them to reconcile this world to Himself. Likewise, the world is pluralistic and students must be well practiced in discerning all types of ideologies from a wise and biblical perspective. In this way, the Christian school equips students to be compassionate and responsibly informative to false perceptions of reality rather than responding in fear and judgment.

  1. Curriculum grounded in God’s revelation

Lastly, intended to be what is remembered foremost, Christian curriculum should be soundly and unapologetically grounded in scripture. As “every word of God proves true” (Prov. 30:5), all knowledge finds its origin in God who created everything that exists. The Christian teacher should not simply use the bible as an instrument to reinforce curriculum, but to guide the design and the impact of the curriculum for the students’ lives. The more adept the teacher is in handling the word, the more vibrant will be the expression of Christ in every truth that is taught.

God has revealed Himself through his word and His creation. The Christian school should celebrate knowing Him through every revelation of truth, exult in the endless access available to the regenerate teacher of the knowledge of God, and grow in that knowledge so that every truth becomes a new source of deepening understanding, bringing new meaning to the gracious and holy revelation of God’s word and His creation.

Conclusion

Christian education, operating in conjunction with the Christian home and church, should exude the aroma of Christ through the entire education community, the teacher, the pedagogy, and the curriculum. Every Christian student educated with such a whole-life focus should be well equipped to fulfil God’s redemptive task as Christ is expressed through their calling wherever He should place them in His world. May this be accomplished across the African continent and around the globe as God raises up Christian education institutes in conjunction with Christian homes and churches to His glory! Amen!