This post is the third in a series aimed to unpack the kind of education Cedar Classical Academy will offer, through the exposition of our mission statement piece by piece. In our previous posts, we have covered parental responsibility and school partnership in bringing up children (Pt. 1), and the key concepts of moral and intellectual virtue in a classical education (Pt. 2). In this installment, we will examine another goal of education: a full and true understanding of reality and one’s own place in it.
Our 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.”
Why is the goal of education “a well-ordered understanding of God, human nature, and the world?”
First, knowing God is the source of true life. Jesus says to the Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3). The Bible is clear that life-giving knowledge of God is not a vague sentiment. We are to love God with all our minds (Mk. 12:30). We are to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). We are told that an ignorant, “darkened understanding” alienates man from “the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). Knowing God involves intellectual understanding (for which we are to strive) as well as the absolutely essential regeneration and enlightenment by God’s Spirit (which we receive as a free gift of grace). The Triune God has revealed himself to us through Scripture as our holy Creator, loving Father, and incarnate Savior who is the source of (and by his very nature defines) all goodness, truth, and beauty. Though we cannot understand God exhaustively, in order to live rightly in this world and to gain eternal life we must know him truly.
Second, a fundamental understanding of human nature imparts both humility and dignity. That we are made in God’s image, body and soul, “a little lower than God” (Ps. 8:5), gives human beings incredible worth. That sin entered the world through our first parents’ fall in the Garden of Eden, and “so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12) shows us our mortality, corruption, and guilt before God. We must surrender our pride, our expectations for perfection in ourselves and others, and our struggle to control our circumstances. When someone understands his own place in relation to God, he is freed to enjoy the pleasures of being an image bearer, worshiper, and child of God.
Third, a fundamental understanding of the world we inhabit makes us both realistic and hopeful as we approach life and work. All things were created very good (Gen. 1:31), but because of mankind’s fall, the whole creation is now in bondage to corruption (Rom. 8:21). This means we will face death, decay, illness, injury, entropy, danger, difficulty and failure as we work in the world. And yet, Almighty God is making all things new (Rev. 21:5), which means that we can strive and suffer with hope. Every good thing in this present world is a shadow and hint of the heavenly glories that await us. When we study and reflect upon the created universe, we are led to enjoy, worship, and understand God more fully: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work.” (Ps. 111:2-3).
A well-ordered understanding of God, human nature, and the world enables us to live wisely and exert godly influence on the world. A sound grasp of reality allows us to discern truth from error and, by the Spirit, choose good over evil. Archimedes, equipped with a lever in the 3rd century BC, is said to have boasted, “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the world.” If the knowledge and ability imparted by a classical education are the lever, then a well-ordered understanding of God, humanity, and the world is the place to stand. A true, biblical concept of reality gives students a firm foundation from which they can resist being carried away by the world’s lies and temptations, and actually exert a godly force on the culture around them. We know there is only one real World-Mover, and we must remain humbly reliant on Him to hold us fast and empower our efforts to influence others.
For all these reasons, a proper understanding of God, human nature, and the world is essential for human flourishing, and a primary goal in the education of our children. But, practically, how will Cedar Classical Academy impart to students this well-ordered understanding?
The way we know God is primarily through His Word (God’s special revelation of Himself to mankind) and secondarily through His world (general revelation). Similarly, the way we know truth about human nature and the world is through the explicit teaching of Scripture and by observing humanity and the world. Our school will look to both the Word and the world for understanding in various ways:
- We will study the Bible and teach theology every day and at every level, focusing on the grand narrative of God’s relationship to mankind in the world.
- We will read and discuss excellent literature, philosophy, and historical documents that explore the human condition and allow students to gain human experience vicariously through the characters in their books.
- We will introduce students to the natural world through mathematics and natural philosophy with a view to God as the grand Designer.
- We will practice subduing the natural world for man’s gain and God’s glory through music, art, composition, and design.
- We will train students in intellectual and moral virtue which allows them to glean truth from all their observations, readings, and experiences.
We believe that imparting to children the correct view of God, themselves, and their world is best accomplished by educating in the classical tradition, and we will unpack that idea further in the next installments of this series.