This post is the second in a series aimed to continue educating you about the kind of education Cedar Classical Academy will offer to students and their families. We have begun expositing our mission statement, one line at a time. In the previous post in this series, Caroline Hummel explained the God-given role of parents to educate young humans, the robust concept of “education” (paideia) that Ephesians 6:4 has in view, and the way Cedar Classical Academy aims to partner with parents to achieve this. In this installment and the next, we’ll further explore what is entailed in a paideia education.
The CCA mission statement begins: “Cedar Classical Academy assists parents in the education of their children by cultivating in them the intellectual and moral virtue necessary for a well-ordered understanding of God, human nature, and the world.” What exactly is intellectual and moral virtue, and why is it essential to education? How can we cultivate it in a child?
Intellectual virtue and moral virtue can be thought of in shorthand as simply right thinking and right acting. First, intellectual virtue is right thinking. Intellectual virtue refers to thinking or believing what is true, and also to reasoning and forming judgments in a sound, logical way according to the abilities God has given us as rational beings. Intellectual virtue is the means by which we understand, evaluate, and respond to any claim or assertion. Though our human rationality is fallible, marred by sin, it still bears the image of our rational Creator. We are thinking, speaking beings because we are made in the image of a thinking, speaking God. The more our thoughts and judgments correspond to reality (which God reveals through His world and His Word), the more rightly we reflect God’s attributes and bring Him honor. While we cannot depend on reason alone to lead us into saving truth, all truth is reasonable; thus, many errors can be refuted by sound reasoning and discernment.
Jesus commands, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). The Apostle Paul calls Christians to “…no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….” (Ephesians 4:14-15). He says elsewhere, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Growing in intellectual virtue (to the extent an individual is capable, not according to some arbitrary IQ or developmental standard) is part of Christian maturation and obedience. Together with the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s heart, growth in intellectual virtue produces a rational faith of the stability and power that the New Testament prescribes.
Next, moral virtue is godly character. This includes right acting, but external behavior is not all that is involved in being morally virtuous. One’s character is comprised of who he is on every level—thinking, feeling, and acting. Actions spring from affections, and both are influenced by reason. This is why moral virtue cannot grow to fruition without intellectual virtue growing alongside it. God, who is good and defines Good by His very being, calls us “to His own glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). When we grow in moral virtue by God’s grace, we grow more into his likeness. Being assured that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,” we are exhorted to
…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
In this biblical exhortation we see that a robust, fruitful faith is one that engages the mind (“knowledge”), the heart (“brotherly affection and love”), and the will (“self-control, steadfastness, and godliness”). In a display of God’s common grace bestowing wisdom even on those who do not acknowledge Him as its source, the Greek philosopher Aristotle—400 years before the Apostle Peter penned his letter—saw that moral action flows from the desires (heart) and the reason (mind): “Since moral virtue is a state of character concerned with choice, and choice is deliberate desire, therefore both the reasoning must be true and the desire right, if the choice is to be good” (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics VI.2).
Finally, how do we “cultivate” moral and intellectual virtue in children?
First, we must pray earnestly for God’s Spirit to enliven our children’s hearts to a true and living knowledge of Himself as revealed in Scripture, accompanied by faith and repentance. Without this miraculous gift of new spiritual birth, the best educated human cannot have virtue flowing from right affections.
Second, we can intentionally surround our children with virtuous examples. We will do this at Cedar Classical Academy by choosing teachers who model godly character and creating classroom habits that promote a culture of order, effort, joy, honesty, and wonder.
Third, we can train students in intellectual virtue (through the tools of learning—to be explored in a future post) and explicitly exhort them to moral virtue. Cedar Classical Academy will hold students to a high standard of conduct. But we understand that action springs from the heart; when external constraints are removed, children will act according to what they love. Education in behavior is insufficient if it does not reach the heart, and so…
Fourth, we aspire to shape students’ loves by directing them continually to what is Good and True and Beautiful (Philippians 4:8). We become what we behold (2 Corinthians 3:18), therefore we are designing our curriculum to engage students day after day in subject matter which showcases God’s glory. In summary, Cedar Classical Academy seeks to cultivate virtue—right thinking and right loving, which lead to right acting—by educating students in mind, body, and heart.