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To Eternity and Beyond

Written by Marlin Detweiler

So what can these kids do with this classical Christian education stuff? Such are the questions that we must now address. For me it was once enough to simply think that my kids would get a remarkable education and that by its very inculcation would contribute greatly in making them be godly and mature beyond their years. By the grace of God, I see that result in many of the classically educated kids I’ve watched. But having seen that realized, the question arises, “What next?”

And a good question it is. College for most. Careers will follow, even wealth. Whoopee. As Christians we must certainly stand back and ask, “Is that what we did this for?” “Is that all there is?”

Thankfully, by the grace of Almighty God, the answer is an emphatic NO. For years Christians have understood life to be a training ground—a preparation for eternity. And such it is. Dying in Christ is to live with him forever in blessedness, enjoying the place he went to prepare for us. Of course that remains the zenith, the most important concern of all.

But, pardon the brazenness, “is that all there is?” Is all of life to simply be preparing to die? I hope not. Such thinking might lead us to believe the words that Shakespeare put on the lips of Hamlet, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” We’re saved from sin and hell, so what more is there?

Life is too good, too precious to regard that way. Life can be, life should be, much more. And that is where classical Christian education can and should prove a great blessing—maybe the greatest.

To be sure, there are many life-long benefits of the education we promote. Classically educated students will know history better than their counterparts, making them able to contextualize current events better and enjoy vacations to foreign lands better. Classically educated students will think better than their peers, making them more likely to be promoted in the workforce or successful as clever entrepreneurs. I’ve seen evidence of all of this.

However, the real exciting benefit is to the Church and Christendom in general. One of the great benefits I hope to see of widespread classical Christian education is an ability to fight righteously and build oneness. Let me explain.

The road traveled by the Church over the years is littered with dead bodies—figuratively and literally. They are not just the result of fighting with the enemy. The bodies I’m referring to are the ones killed by their brothers. It was internal strife that killed them. Some notables from the past would include John Huss and John Wycliffe. Moving forward in time we see extraordinary difficulties brought on by others in the faith directed at the Puritans and later Jonathan Edwards. It would be no trouble to continue listing many such folks all the way to today. So many that I would speculate that over the course of time more damage has been done to the gospel by those within the camp than outside.

So, how will classical Christian education fix this? It should probably be said that we should have no messianic hopes derived from well-educated folks. For those who know the history of the government schools and Horace Mann, you will no doubt know such claims are neither wisely nor appropriately expected from education. It stands to reason that, if we are dependent on the Living God for our very next breath, then we are certainly dependent on Him for peace on earth, even if it is just peace among the brethren.

Back to the question. First, our students tend to be better exposed and learned about history—the true and unvarnished kind. And it is true that he who fails to learn from history is doomed to repeat it. Classically educated folks should be in the category of learning from history. This includes learning from the strife and fracturing of the Church over the ages.

Secondly, students of logic and rhetoric learn to argue clearly, persuasively, winsomely and with dignity and respect toward their opponent. This is particularly important when Christians argue. If the world sees Christians who disagree seeking to iron out their differences and demonstrating love toward those with whom they differ, the world really will know we are Christians by our love.

This past year has been particularly disturbing with regard to failures among Christians in these areas. The heightened circumstance seems particularly attributable to the Internet. Differences in the past tended to be fairly well contained by the inability to disseminate information quickly. Today, in a matter of minutes a slanderous or hateful statement can be broadcast for the world to see in a minute on a web site or via email. The tongue has found exponentially more powerful means than any microphone ever hoped to provide.

Yet there are an increasing number of folks today speaking of healthy catholicity—working together, living together and fighting the enemy together. Sign me up. We constantly find ourselves interacting with Christians who don’t believe everything we believe. Why not celebrate what we share and argue peaceably about what we don’t? Arguing is important, even necessary. We are commanded to be one. Oneness won’t come by either burying differences or using them to beat up our brother. Oneness will come through wise, winsome interaction. And, as was said earlier, the classically educated have the tools to make it happen best.