Spiritual Formation, Integral to Christian Schooling (Pt. 2)

Dr. Frank E. Gaebelein, in The Pattern of God's Truth (1954 p. 13) writes, "Christian education today has the one principle that can give learning a frame of reference spacious enough to comprehend all knowledge and dynamic enough to develop moral and spiritual maturity in the midst of a materialistic and violent age." There is no doubt, this takes "hard thinking" and "hard work." It also involves and requires "buy-in" of the administration, faculty, and school board for effective implementation and success. Success, inculcating students with a worldview, is demonstrated by a lifetime of exemplary Christian character!

The Cardus Educational Survey (CES) revealed, while graduates of Protestant Christian school registered "raw scores" which were high regarding: preparation for a vibrant spiritual life, obligation to accept church leadership authority, frequency of church attendance, biblical authority, and strong biblical values, the school's effect on these positions achieved much lower scores. In other words these schools were not teaching "spiritual formation," that is to say involved in "character building." This does not bode well for the effectiveness of Christians in the "marketplace," local church, or in individual families. The CES has raised several issues which provide both encouragement and concern for Christian education. 

If Gaebelein's words are correct and Christian education is "spacious enough to comprehend all knowledge and dynamic enough to develop moral and spiritual maturity" why haven't more Christian schools taken the idea more seriously? Once again it takes "hard thinking" and "hard work."

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Each year, for the last 16, this subject has been raised at the Colloquy on Christian Education and Culture held in New York City. Institutions have been identified which have been successful, colleges and K-12 schools, as well as the process by which they maintain the integrity of their effort. The success centers on individual faculty developing their own philosophy of integrating the Christian faith with learning in the form of a "white paper" for presentation. Where this is new to an institution it must be required of existing faculty and subsequently all incoming faculty, who will then enter a period of three years under the tutelage and encouragement of a mentor. At the end of this process a teacher will either be invited to join the faculty or leave. Where this is practiced, it is very effective. Dr. Harold Heie (formerly of Gordon College) and Mr. Kenneth Tanis (formerly of Delaware County Christian School) are two gifted educators expert in the field of the integration of faith and learning and in the administration of it in practice.

This entire idea is not new, it has been presented conceptually by educators, discuss by conference participants, developed for students in the classrooms of Christian colleges and schools, and books written about it by scholars for decades. A perusal of the books of Harry Blasmire, David S. Dockery, David V. Hicks, Arthur F. Holmes, or George M. Marsden will reveal more than enough information and direction to plan a significant student centered initiative for developing meaningful faculty preparation.

The real act of courage appears to be launching the initiative. But why, isn't this what Christian education really is? Isn't this what Christian schools say they do? Isn't this what parents want for their children, spiritual formation? Why should it take such courage? It should be an imperative. After all it seems so logical and is so consistent with real Christian living. Here's the "rub." While many of the Christian school teachers have been graduated from Christian colleges at least as many have not. We can't assume that Christian college graduates understand the principles of integration for many reasons. What we do know is that those from other institutions most assuredly haven't been exposed to this practice. For that matter it isn't only a faculty matter. Administrators and school boards don't understand it either. The fact that parents are "aware of this" and "expect it" presents an "enigma." The challenge, then, is finding the solution and acting on it!

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