Our great God is worthy of all praise (see Ps. 19:1; Isa. 6:3). We long for everyone on earth to know and worship Him, for that is His due. God created human beings in His image to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. If we are to fulfill that wonderful end, we need to learn of God, His works, and His ways. One generation is to pass on that eternal treasure to the next as David declared:
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts. Ps. 145:3–4
If each generation is to learn of God, each needs to be able to read His Word. Each needs to learn of God’s mighty deeds in history. Each generation needs to explore His astonishing wisdom in creation. If each generation is to be equipped to love their neighbor, they need to be trained in all the competencies that enable societies to function well. The creation mandate calls us to develop the earth’s resources responsibly, for the glory of the great King of all the earth, and for the blessing of the people made in His image. If we are to fulfill the creation mandate well, we are to pass knowledge from generation to generation. There is always more to learn, discover, explore, and develop.
A Glorious Vision
Education is how we can learn of God and His world. It is a way to glorify Him and better serve others. It brings glory to God as we explore the frontiers of science and knowledge. God’s glorious creation is infinitely complex and beautiful, and there is more to discover and enjoy.
Through the last two thousand years, Christians have been at the forefront of promoting education for all. We have a clear vision of our purpose as human beings: to glorify God and serve others. We have a clear vision of our identity as human beings: created in God’s image. He has endowed us with reason. Yes, we are fallen. But even sinful human beings can study and learn, and, in God’s common grace, achieve great things.1 We have a solid basis for epistemology (the basis for knowing anything): there is knowledge because the Creator has laid down laws and patterns, the cosmos is designed, and it is orderly. We have a solid foundation for morality: God has written His moral law on tablets of stone, and also on every human heart. The moral law of God, summarized in the Ten Commandments, is for all peoples, at all times, in every place.
It is important for us to observe that the humanistic worldview is not neutral. The lie that there is no God leads straight to the lie that there is no absolute morality, and there is no ultimate truth. That undermines the foundation of the educational enterprise.
A Practical Commitment
From the inception of Christianity, education was seen as a priority. In the centuries after the collapse of the Roman Empire and in subsequent centuries, the church provided rigorous schooling for many. Christians want people to be able to read the Bible for themselves and in their own language. They pioneered female education in many nations, which has played a major role in elevating the dignity of women. The earliest universities were all built on Christian foundations. Vishal Mangalwadi, an Indian scholar who converted to Christianity, writes: “Western missions . . . birthed, financed, and nurtured hundreds of universities, thousands of colleges and tens of thousands of schools. They educated millions and transformed nations.”2
A Scientific Enterprise
We reason, observe, experiment, deduce, speak, infer, argue, communicate, love, and relate because God has endowed every human being with the capacity to reason. The cosmos can be investigated, discovered, and explored because it is created by God who is characterized by order, truth, reason, and beauty. He has provided an astonishing array of natural resources to be developed.
Modern science arose because men such as Kepler, Newton, and Faraday believed that the whole universe is like a book written by God, waiting to be read and understood by people made in His image. It can only be understood because the faithful God ensures that it functions according to reliable principles. “[The Son] upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). Still, today, there are many committed Christians deeply involved in scientific endeavor.
In conclusion, we are all called on to learn of God and His works and His ways. Learning is a life-long endeavor, as there is always more to learn. We are called to pass on that knowledge to the next generation, so that they too may glorify and serve God and be well-equipped to serve others. The hymn writer and educationalist, Isaac Watts, wrote this reminder:
Your God, O Zion, ever reigns!
Let every voice, let every age,
In this exalted work engage:
Praise Him in everlasting strains!3
- Calvin, Institutes, Vol. 1 explains that we give God the glory when we benefit from the knowledge attained even by unbelievers.↩
- This is a bold claim, but ample evidence to support it can be found in Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World, as well as in the chapter on education in my book How Christianity Transformed the World.↩
- Isaac Watts, “Psalm 146.”↩