November 17, 2011

if it be not God that you seek

From Richard Baxter's The Reformed Pastor :
Your study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not God that you seek after in them. To see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works -- this is the true and only philosophy; the contrary is mere foolery, and is so called again and again by God himself. This is the sanctification of your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when he is the end, the object and the life of them all.
Though not as eloquently, I have thought this many times myself.  It has been my philosophical struggle while teaching in a public school.  Even in a "Christian" school, this can be a danger.  Consider the rest of what Richard Baxter has to say on this topic.
And, therefore, I shall presume to tell you, by the way, that it is a grand error, and of dangerous consequence in Christian academies, (pardon the censure from one so unfit to pass it, seeing the necessity of the case commandeth it,) that they study the creature before the Redeemer, and set themselves to physics, and metaphysics, and mathematics, before they set themselves to theology; whereas, no man that hath not the vitals of theology, is capable of going beyond a fool in philosophy.  
Theology must lay the foundation, and lead the way of all our studies. If God must be searched after, in our search of the creature, (and we must affect no separated knowledge of them) then tutors must read God to their pupils in all; and divinity must be the beginning, the middle, the end, the life, the all, of their studies.  
Our physics and metaphysics must be reduced to theology; and nature must be read as one of God's books, which is purposely written for the revelation of himself. The Holy Scripture is the easier book: when you have first learned from it God, and his will, as to the most necessary things, address yourselves to the study of his works, and read every creature as a Christian and a divine.  
If you see not yourselves, and all things, as living, and moving, and having being in God, you see nothing, whatever you think you see. If you perceive it not, in your study of the creatures, that God is all , and in all, and that 'of him, and through him, and to him, are all things,' you may think perhaps, that you 'know something; but you know nothing as you ought to know.' 
Think not so basely of your physics, and of the works of God, as that they are only preparatory studies for boys.
Do you think this way about theology?  Do you believe that it must lay the foundation of all that you believe?  Are all of our other studies worthless without this basic understanding of all that is?

Buried in these thoughts are the challenges that I face teaching at a public school.  What if I succeed in educating a child, but they have no concept of the origins of knowledge?  Should there ever be a secular education?

The deeper question is this... IS there such thing as a secular education?  Do we not teach something of theology when do not mention God?  Do we not teach His attributes when we present a world devoid of Him?  Do we not expound on His nature when we study a nature that is apart from Him?  Do we not tell His story when we teach history without His providential hand?

I know I've talked about this before, but as I read this portion of Richard Baxter's book yesterday, I was reminded once again of my ongoing philosophical dilemma.