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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Baptist Faith & Message Ch. 12 "Education"

"Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ's people.

"In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists."

This is a very strong section of the BF&M. It connects, more closely than I would have expected after reading Ch. 11 on evangelism and missions, the work of the Church and education. If the new birth fundamentally re-orients man once again, in all his faculties, to God's ideal for him (at least begins the process of re-orientation), it is certainly true that it creates a thirst for knowledge and wisdom, because God in his Word, especially in the wisdom literature like Proverbs, commands man to get for himself (true) knowledge and wisdom.

The comments about the necessary balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility are insightful, as well. We have seen countless churches and seminaries cave to the pressures of modernism/postmodernism and higher critical scholarship in the last century. But there is also a small handful of denominations and seminaries that may be regarded as being a bit too "narrow" in certain ways.

Defining the proper balance here can be difficult. I believe the early ecumenical creeds are a good starting place for a broad freedom of catholicity, but for institutions of Protestantism (and evangelical Baptists whose historiography preclude the taking on of that label), we may actually need to go a bit further; obviously an evangelical seminary professor shouldn't be allowed to teach contrary to sola scriptura. At the same time, interdenominational Protestant seminaries should probably be slow to categorically anathematize new work being done in tertiary doctrinal areas, even if some perceive the potential for harmful effects on more central doctrines, by way of implication.

The final phrase of this section is wise: besides the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Scriptures, the limits on the freedom of a particular institution will necessarily also be affected by the nature and purpose of the institution. Schools which exist for and are supported predominantly by a particular denomination or coalition of churches may rightfully wish to narrow their confessional standards further.

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