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Foundation Truth, Number 28 (Summer 2011) | Timeless Truths Publications

The Age of Knowledge

Part 3

See also: Part 1 and Part 2

“Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.”* (Psalm 119:133)

“Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.”* (Psalm 27:11-12)

What are the guiding principles of Christian education? Of all the great wealth of knowledge before us, how should we evaluate what there is to learn about the things of this world, then what parts should we pursue, in the fear of God?

We are directed to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker.”* (2 Timothy 2:15-17) The basic educational characteristic in this verse is reading. You cannot study unless you can read. But there is much more than just basic, fundamental reading; there is the ability to “rightly divide,” i.e., properly understand.

I was once told by a brother to anoint my face with olive oil when I fasted. He and others in that congregation were careful to do that. If you saw them with shiny foreheads, then you could fairly safely conclude that they were fasting. Here is the scripture that he used as direction for that method: “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face.”* (Matthew 6:17) To him, this was simple direction. When you fast, anoint your head. But I said, “Back then, everyone (among the Jews) anointed their face every day, just as each washed his face. The scripture is teaching us to do as we normally do everyday, That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.’* (Matthew 6:18) Furthermore,” I said, “I can tell when you are fasting because you anoint your face, but Jesus wants you to not anoint your face now (in this age and time), so I cannot tell if you are fasting or not.” The brother stared at me. “But the Bible says,” he said slowly, with great emphasis, “when—thou—fastest—anoint—thine—head.” He stopped. No words or reasonings were of any avail, whatsoever. To him, it was a question of obedience; to me, it was a matter of rightly dividing (interpreting correctly, according to the mind and intent of God).

Now, reading is more than pronouncing the words and somewhat comprehending the words. Reading gets into what we call literary skills. It gets into human communication, which involves vocal communication (talking and listening), as well as written communication.

Human communication is extraordinarily difficult. We each live in our own little world, and we do not understand each other perfectly. Even when we think we do, we are each actually coming from a set of perceptions and values that differ a little. That is, we each have our “own take” on things. It is almost as though we each speak a little different dialect of a common language (when we even speak a common language). Sooner or later we come to, “Just what do you mean by that?” There is more to it than just shoveling words at each other. There is more than just the attempt to communicate knowledge. Behind facts and figures lies the profound concept of understanding. Look at the word. It is literally the under standing—that which stands under the thing expressed.

The dictionary defines this most important understanding as: “insight, discernment, perception, comprehension; the faculty by which one understands; intelligence.”

Now teaching people to read, even considering the ordinary challenge of phonics to the extraordinary challenge of the affliction of dyslexia, pales with teaching people to comprehend. Yet, of all basic academic educational skills, this one easily is the most important. Even the ability to teach the technical skills of good communication (such as spelling, grammar, pronunciation, penmanship or typing, vocabulary) are of far lesser importance than the ability to understand. Without understanding, history and science are meaningless. Only math stands apart as a parallel skill to reading, and even math “story” problems require comprehending reading. No wonder that the wise man said, “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”* (Proverbs 4:5-7) Solomon was greatly concerned with the skillful application of knowledge, based on understanding (wisdom). He wrote with the emphasis on wisdom, but behind and under (literally) was the importance of understanding. You can hardly manifest wisdom without having understanding.

It is in the understanding that we find the fundamental difference between the wisdom from above and the wisdom from below. Brother Paul speaks of it in this way: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”* (Ephesians 4:17-19) This is a picture of an unsaved person—a picture of the understanding of an unsaved person. It is “darkened.” Brother James speaks of it in these terms: “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.”* (James 3:14-15) In the seventeenth verse, he describes the wisdom from above; its first characteristic is “pure.” We might well say heart-enlightened from above. In other words, the moral (spiritual) condition of the individual has a lot to do with how they learn and what they can comprehend. Jesus tells us, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”* (John 3:3) Note those words: “he cannot see.”

The insight imparted by this truth is profound and far-reaching. With respect to the schooling of our children, we see at once that it is not possible to be really educated properly unless the student is regenerated—born again. The unsaved boy or girl (man or woman) has an unsaved slant on everything. No amount of skill on the part of the teacher can make up for this.

The vast majority of educational materials is prepared by unsaved people, both public education and homeschool materials. I wish I could recommend a curriculum written by fully saved people (people filled with the Holy Ghost, led and taught by that same Comforter) for grade school students, but I do not know of such a curriculum. But it would not matter if just such a curriculum did exist, from the standpoint of the pupil. The unsaved student would still see it from an unsaved standpoint.

“Well, it is hopeless,” you might say, at this point. Yes, in a sense, life itself is hopeless without the work of God wrought in the heart that makes a man a new creature in Christ Jesus. But the young are growing up; in most of them, it does not appear yet whether they will give their hearts to God. Are there some curriculums better than others? More healthy? Prompting and provoking (in a good sense) to the young, fresh mind of the adolescent? Yes. Very much so. These educational materials are written by those who have the fear of God upon them. In the hands of parents or other teachers with the fear of God upon them, much can be done in a formative way that assists the Holy Ghost in His striving with the heart. It is in this area—as workers together with God (2 Corinthians 6:1)—that much is needed, not only in teaching the basics of how to communicate (reading, writing, and the skills connected with these basics), how to understand true history and true science, and in how to measure and compare; but in carrying a burden—the burden of the child, their spiritual burden—as a yokefellow with the Holy Ghost. When a teacher carries such a burden for each pupil that he or she teaches, then the method of success is: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”* (John 5:17) This is the high standard that our Lord set by example before us for all spiritual work. While Jesus was in the body on earth, God the Father worked, so Jesus worked. When God the Father refrained from dealing, Jesus refrained from dealing. Such a standard of “workers together with God” gives the child the best chance possible in life. It lays the foundation for spiritual living, whether the child chooses to live spiritually or not. (And surely it is better for a child to be prepared for spiritual living than not to be.) Preparation for spiritual living and spiritual understanding will go far toward making a person a good citizen and a responsible, moral person of character, although all these good things fall short of spiritual living. In the end, however, the only thing that will avail is a new creature in Christ Jesus.

The question is one of stewardship. “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.”* (Galatians 4:1-2) Brother Paul is discussing the relationship of the Old Testament to the New, and the effect of that on the spiritual heirs. In mentioning this, he presents the general responsibility of the stewardship of the father and the delegated responsibility of the tutors and governors to the child, the heir. And from this, we can see that the position of Mother or Father, or others who have the responsibility of care and development of children, is the position of a steward. Brother Titus tells us, “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God.”* (Titus 1:7) He is discussing the stewardship of an overseer (bishop) toward the children of God. We have also the account of a steward from the standpoint of a steward from Eliezer, the chief servant of Abraham. In the twenty-fourth chapter of Genesis, we read how this God-fearing man was entrusted with the selection of a wife for Isaac, the son of Abraham. He called upon God to help him, to guide him and give him wisdom. In the third chapter of 1 Kings, we read of how Solomon begged God for wisdom to be a steward over Israel. God was pleased with his approach to the responsibility, and granted his request.

The stewardship question before us now is the question of how we should teach the young and prepare them for life in the age of knowledge.

I am thinking of a parent who undertook the education of her son with an intense desire to raise him right and launch him on the right pathway. She carefully indoctrinated in Bible doctrine (and she had considerable light on doctrine) and she rigorously disciplined him in all academic areas. He responded avidly to her attention and efforts, and by the time he reached his teens, he was arguing holiness doctrine with other homeschooled students in the neighborhood. His mother and father looked upon his efforts as the natural and desirable outcome of how he was raised. He professed salvation, but he did not know what it meant to actually walk with God. His heart had never been humbled by grace as it should have been. Eventually, this caught up with him. He got into serious questions with a neighbor girl. She had been raised to believe that one could not live free from sin, and she was living to her creed, whereas this young man was not living to his creed. He was expertly acquainted with the “proof texts” and expounded them articulately, but they began to sound hollow to his own ears. At this point, he had to deal with the effects of sin in his own family, for they, too, were not living up to the truth that they believed. It was too much for him, and he grew bitter, rebelled, and began to hunt for something that he could feel was truly solid.

It is more important to live up to the truth than to be able to express it. And this is the first and foundational principle with which we must face the age of knowledge. Truth is not a mental concept; truth is a heart concept. “What is truth?” (The question of Pontius Pilate). Truth is to know God.

This is not knowing about God, which is a mental knowledge of God. This is knowing God at the heart level—what the brethren used to call experimental knowledge (hands on). It is experience which “passeth knowledge.”* (Ephesians 3:19) “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.”* (Job 42:5) “Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”* (Jeremiah 9:24)

But the education of a child typically starts long before he or she comes to the point of seeking God for salvation. How should the child be taught in their unregenerated state of heart?

The Old Testament was given to teach the entire human race about God, and it was given before they could know Him at the heart level in the way that He wanted them to do so (Hebrews 8:10-11). So what is the manner of instruction of the Old Testament? How does it approach the unregenerated heart?

First, the Old Testament is unrelentingly honest in describing truth and man’s relation to that truth. It does not pretend to be more than it is; it does not profess to confer more than it actually can deliver. Secondly, it is progressive. It was adapted to the darkened state of the hearts of men, and shone brighter and brighter, pointing the way to the Better Testament to come. It started with the physical deliverance of an oppressed nation from the superpower of that time and portrayed in shadow and type the spiritual deliverance of men from sin. It was begun with a system of rules to demonstrate that rules were inadequate, that something more was needed, that men’s best efforts to serve God acceptably fell short of what God actually required, and that God could and would provide something better when a foundation for faith was fully complete. When in the fulness of time the Messiah came, it was revealed that the Old Testament was full of types and shadows—“hooks” of understanding. Those who followed the precepts of the Old Testament are described in Hebrews 11:39-40: “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”* (Hebrews 11:13) From this, we understand that although those Old Testament brethren did not receive the promises and saw them from afar off, yet the preparation of the Old Testament was invaluable when, in the Better Testament, it was possible to receive the promises and actually experience them. At that point, the Old was instructive and reassuring. “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.”* (Matthew 13:52) A saved person who has been prepared well for being saved will find their education of similar value. That education is not a substitute for New Testament salvation, but it is definitely an asset. As Brother Paul put it, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”* (Romans 3:1-2)

A good preparatory-for-salvation education will include such things as true history and true science, with emphasis on God’s dealings with mankind and what is revealed to us about how He created the universe. A good education will also introduce and prepare the pupil to both receive communication and to utilize it to communicate with others. It will prepare the student for natural life. The role of math as a tool in measuring and comparing, with emphasis on human attempts to be fair and just with each other in the transactions of life. Such an approach will firmly and emphatically reveal the importance of character. For instance, the history of the great depression in the 1930’s would be approached from 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” It would be stressed that greed brought man to this, and that a breakdown of trust, the essential ingredient for entire societies to function, was badly damaged. In other words, history and economics from a character standpoint. The effects of not fearing God. The effects of rebellion against moral standard, etc. The prelude of the “roaring twenties.” The good that came from the suffering of the 1930’s. The mercy of God that was thus proffered to us. Parallels could be found in God’s dealings with nations in the Old Testament records. And finally and most important, God’s dealings in the life of the student—pointing the way to a life reconciled to God.

The effect of such an education is to persuade the soul of the validity of profound respect for Him with whom we have to do. It restrains sin and rebukes it. It recommends a serious and purposeful approach to our existence here and its eternal meaning.

The effect of such an education, combined with living examples of teachers who are living a holy life from the fully saved heart, is powerful indeed. It is truly “a light that shineth in a dark place.”* (2 Peter 1:19) Such an education is a schoolmaster, to lead men to the conclusion that they need a Christ, and then points the way to Christ, Himself.

A pair of boys, products of fiery machismo, were predictably enthused about the history of war. They did not like to hear what their teacher, a saved man, said about human conflict. “No one wins,” the teacher stated. Their faces reflected their outrage. The conclusion seemed unpatriotic and cowardly to them. It diminished their heroes. It meddled with their ideal. But the truth was put before them anyway, even as they chafed and resented it. (Rejected it, too, most vocally and emphatically, before the rest of the class.) But then, weeks later, the oldest of the two came and questioned the teacher in a thoughtful, serious way. “If you had lived back in the Civil War (1860-1865), which side would you have been on?” he asked the teacher privately. “God’s side,” the teacher replied. “You would not have been for the North or the South?” “No,” was the reply. “I would have borne the suffering and sacrifice that came from being a soldier of Him who taught that His kingdom was not of this world—else would His servants fight (physically).” This time, the student did not reject the truth, but went away thoughtful and considering.

There are areas of study that are profitable somewhat for the disciplines and concentrations that are necessary to master them. Their value is not so much the subject material as the discipline and concentration it takes to master the subject. The world has so taken such things as athletic ability and musical ability, and turned them into situations of emulation (rivalry) and pride. When taught to students with carnality in their hearts, they naturally aspire to be the best, to exceed others; and they are easily filled with the spirit of competition and strife. (It is not confined to these two examples, of course.) It seems foreign to them to be taught to be thankful for what God-given abilities they realize, and to dedicate those to be utilized as God would have them to be. Instead of thinking of their talents as a trust from God and instead of thinking of themselves as accountable stewards for all that their Creator has put in their hands, they are proud and feel superior to others, and they want their talents to be acknowledged and applauded.

Any skill is capable of development and is only the promise of competence without careful discipline and hard work, but the unregenerated heart labors for a different motive than the transformed heart. It is quite a task to teach a level of craftsmanship that is the result of hard practice and diligent effort while trying to avoid stimulating the pride of life in the unsaved. Why should they respond to exacting teaching while also adopting an humble attitude? “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”* (Proverbs 22:15) This foolishness will manifest itself in sloth and a refusal to apply one’s self, but it will also manifest itself in a deadly spirit of emulation and pride—both fruits of the flesh. To be patient in such circumstances, to hold a standard of holiness in word, thought, and deed from the hidden, inward motives of the heart, before the carnal student: this is the calling of the godly teacher. If the teacher is completely delivered from pride and ambition, their life will be a constant rod of correction to the carnality in the heart of the student.

Enough has been said at this point to fully state the important point: it is more important what we are than what we say. In other words, we teach subconsciously much more than we teach intentionally. Your attitude toward the superabundance of knowledge all about us in our age declares loudly and unmistakably what your inward motives are, what values you have treasured in your heart. This is a case of “what you are doing is speaking so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.” If you are covetous, and your covetousness is revealed in your home, your car, your job, your clothes, etc.; then you will talk in vain about plain, sacrificial living, humility in dress, lack of ambition in a career (a job being only a means to an end), being like Jesus, etc. If you love to debate or argue, that love of strife carries a message. If everything has to be “just so,” if you love a polished, impressive appearance, then that speaks loudly and clearly, too. You are one of those who “desire to make a fair show in the flesh.”* (Galatians 6:12) God help us to provide things honest in the sight of all men. “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”* (1 Timothy 4:12)

To be a tutor, a mentor, to those who are just beginning to learn about life in the age of increased knowledge, this is a fearsome responsibility. When Job was praying for his daughters and sons, he was praying for the children of a rich man. They had the peculiar temptations and assaults of the devil that accompany being the children of a rich man. The point is driven home by the failure of Job’s wife. She didn’t get what he got from God (Job 2:9-10). She could have gotten the spiritual victory that he had gotten; she could have sought God to help her to not set her heart on the riches in their hands, but she didn’t. You will notice that she didn’t suffer from the boils. Satan had no need to smite her; he already had her. This should make us tremble.

The Simplistic Approach

There are those who try to escape the superabundance of knowledge in our world by staying as ignorant as they can. They abhor worldly sophistication, believe that all knowledge “puffeth up,” and genuinely believe that we are safer to be ignorant than knowledgeable. Just enough ability to read the Bible and understand elementary arithmetic, maybe a little exposure to the wonders of nature and a simplistic view of human history, with a great deal of prejudice and suspicion of human authority and government.

We agree that people at this level of understanding can live saved and please God. We do not have to know a whole lot about the Bible to please God and to make heaven our home. “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”* (Isaiah 35:8)

Living saved is all about loving the Lord with all our heart, not in mentally mastering the doctrines that pertain to salvation. However, I am going to present another side Biblically to this approach to human education, which will demonstrate the weakness and vulnerability of this approach. It is not as safe as many imagine who follow it.

“How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?”* (Proverbs 1:22)

“And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.”* (Isaiah 33:6)

All of us, simply-minded or profoundly-minded, are faced with perplexities and hard questions as we live our lives in this world (2 Corinthians 4:8; 1 Kings 10:1). God has not created everything so that it is simple to understand, nor does the arch enemy of mankind confine himself to simple attacks. Here is an example. Among a certain group of people, for many generations, there has been a desire to live plainly, simply, practically, and humbly. This is good and pleasing to God. These people dress their children modestly and appropriately and avoid many worldly amusements and entanglements which spare them many vanities. If salvation came out of simple, unadorned living, they would have it. But, on the whole, they do know not what a regenerated heart means. Most of them are simply conditioned to live to things that have accompanied salvation, and they do so more or less “automatically,” without the inward motivations that move holy people. And just as people who live to an outward standard of holy merit because of an inward holiness of heart, they face questions. What is worldly? Should one receive the same electricity as the worldly people about us? Should they drive an automobile? Should menfolks wear beards? Must they wear hats? Should the womenfolks wear an additional headcovering over the hair? Nor do the questions stop at this point. Should the beard be trimmed? How wide should the brim of the hat be? Should the cloth headcovering be white or black? Should it have lace? How big should it be? Should I use a tractor, although I keep a horse and carriage for going to town? These questions get into profound roots. They get into such matters as scriptural liberty of conscience, as compared to fleshly license. They touch on important principles, such as, “What is legalism?” “What is worldliness?” “What does it really mean to God to be separate from the world?” “What is plainness?” “What is God really like? What is He really pleased/displeased with?”

Now this is just one example of one kind of perplexities. There are many others. Should a Christian take a job in a firm that builds military weapons? Military gear (not weapons) used by soldiers? Should I be a travel agent and book a trip with a questionable couple? (Such as: two single people, man and woman; a man with a woman who is not his wife or vice-versa, a double-marriage couple, a Mormon group of one husband and a multiplicity of wives, a homosexual couple, etc.) Much more is needed in these matters than dry doctrine and dry policy. Just how are forbearing and longsuffering rightly involved? Where do I withdraw, regardless of the consequences, and completely abhor what is before me?

“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”* (1 Timothy 4:6-7) The phrase, “whereunto thou hast attained,” comes from a word in the original that literally means which thou hast thoroughly understood. This is a clear fulfillment of the scripture that “wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.” (The same word occurs in Luke 1:3—Adam Clarke translates that word with paraphrasing as, “Having accurately traced up—entered into the very spirit of the work, and examined every thing to the bottom; in consequence of which investigation, I am completely convinced of the truth of the whole.”) This is the only way to really deal with the religious myths (old wives’ fables) that arise from fleshly reasoning and reaction. Or to deal with the outward customs and traditions with which we are conditioned to think and follow, without really examining the roots of our own motivations in keeping these outward things. All of this must be brought out into the light of the gospel and faced. They must be accurately identified and called by their correct names. For example: does my inclination to dress a certain way arise from holy consideration of others and real humility of heart, or do I have a secret pride in a certain uniformity?

“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.”* (Proverbs 16:1) “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.”* (John 16:13) We are going to be guided by something, and if we are not guided by the Spirit of God and instead adopt a simplistic view of things that are not really simple, we will be guided by folklore, legends, and old wives’ tales that have a show of wisdom to the fleshly mind.

Over the centuries, almost every variation of human education has been tried. At one point, religious authorities despaired of avoiding divisions by debates and strife, so they reasoned that control of who was educated was a good thing. Under these auspices, the general population became illiterate and were forbidden to read the Bible. The result was cathedrals with their awesome heights and enormous works of art (to instruct the unlearned), a small group of educated people (church leaders, priests, etc.), and enormous superstitions/old wives’ fables. Hellish deceptions find lots of room to work with little or no education, and they are able to deceive and fool the worldly wise, as well. If high-mindedness offers no defense against the corruptions of hell, ignorance and simplicity cause the devil no significant resistance, either.

Since education cannot save us, how should we regard it? As any other earthly skill or ability. We are handicapped in earthly life without proper preparation, and we are handicapped by excessive preparation. Someone needs to have the understanding and skill to prepare balanced, nutritious meals, yet the purpose is lost when meal preparation becomes a gourmet experience. And this is true of every aspect of earthly existence. When the balance (as defined by the Holy Ghost) between spiritual living and fleshly existence is lost, then that which was a means to an end becomes an end in itself.

The ability to communicate by reading, writing, or speaking is one of the necessities of earthly existence. Its importance can overstated or understated. It can be pursued too much or too little.

Well, how much is too much? And how much is too little? That depends on your calling, your place, in life. That depends on whether or not you find the will of God for you, for each human being is unique and special to God, Who created the soul of each of us. Each of us finds the real meaning of our existence and the greatest fulfillment and contentment in following the path that God knows is best for us.

Each of us needs a basic diet that is sound and healthy, but some of us need certain elements in that diet that others do not need. Our bodies require it. We suffer if that need is not recognized. Some of us cannot eat the same things that everybody else eats. Perhaps we are allergic to certain foods, or perhaps certain things simply do not digest well with us. This is beyond our tastes and preferences; these are our needs. Perhaps we need certain things we do not really like.

The same thing is true of the education of the mind and heart. Dear parent or teacher, you may be educating a boy or girl who will be led to live as Daniel, as Job, as Peter, or as Amos. Can you not see that there should be more to what you and your pupils study than just personal preference or the mental rut of habit and familiarization? Do you see the importance of being a worker together with God? There are basics that all should know. There are things that will be crucial at some point up the line. There is a certain exposure of teaching that should be passed from generation to generation. And there is the burden of our time, as well as an awareness and appreciation for the burdens of other times. Above all, there is a crying need for an accurate awareness of the forces of spiritual warfare all about us.

“My soul, be on thy guard—
Ten thousand foes arise,
And hosts of sin are pressing hard
To draw thee from the skies.”*

Since God reveals the path of His choosing for us step by step, we need to pray that we will grasp the unfolding of what is studied, hour by hour. In the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel (as young men), only God knew the positions of responsibility in government and the fiery furnace and the den of lions that lay ahead. How were they educated? “Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.”* (Daniel 1:4) A secular direction was imposed on their lives, including their education, but “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”* (Daniel 1:8) Because of this holy purpose to follow God and do His will, even under very unpromising circumstances, God made a way for these young men to avoid corruption. And with this avoidance of defilement, the Spirit of God opened the eyes of their understanding, utilizing what the king of Babylon intended for the advancement of his agenda, rather for the advancement of God’s agenda. “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”* (Daniel 1:17)

We see that God is not limited by the shortcomings of the teachers, nor the lack of exposure to other children of God. Truly He shows Himself strong in the behalf of all who earnestly and sincerely want Him (2 Chronicles 16:9). The king of Babylon was surprised (I daresay shocked) when he found them better-educated—ten times better—than everyone else who had been through his carefully-prepared education experience (Daniel 1:20). The same material in the hands of worldly instructors can be turned in a different direction by the Spirit of God. It is possible to be educated by believers in evolution and come out more convinced than ever that “a million monkeys banging on the keys of a million typewriters for a million years cannot produce the Gettysburg Address.”

“Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.”* (Psalm 119:98-100)

One of the features of a well-founded education (in the fear of God) is the ability to “see through” the wishful thinking, the commonly-accepted fallacies of mankind in general. The effect of the Spirit of God inspiring and blessing our attempts to learn and be prepared for life is the exposure of the basic traits of fleshly wisdom and their effects. Here is one: “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”* (1 Samuel 16:7) Now Samuel was hardly a shallow thinker. He was a man of like passions as we are. But he had drawn a conclusion based on outward appearance, was reproved for the same, and we are just as vulnerable. A well-reasoned argument. An effective presentation, touching all the right motivation “buttons” in us. An appeal to family pride, church pride, school pride, race pride, national pride, etc., that strikes home with us and resonates. Yet TRUTH, real truth, is beyond all this. “The LORD looketh on the heart.” The humility that comes with the conviction that we cannot see into the human heart without divine assistance and that, most of the time, He does not unfold to us all that is in the hearts of others. The understanding of life that is revealed by what is not revealed. This is deep. We began to experience a slight taste of “Him with whom we have to do.”* (Hebrews 4:13) Behold, all things are truly open and naked in His sight! But wait, you may say. What does this have to do with education? Well, we have “a slice” of Samuel’s education before us. We are privileged to read a record of his schooling. I ask you to consider how Samuel thought about what impressed him outwardly, after that experience with God. In the glory world now, he and a host of others commonly speak of things that happened on their pilgrimage in terms of how God saw and sees things. O Lord, open our eyes! Help us to see!

A seeing man, if presented with the movies… the coliseum… the theater… a worldly book… a fleshly philosophy—he sees; he sees more than is presented. He sees beneath the surface. He perceives the presence of the tempter behind the facade. That which engages the unseeing man, thrills and enthralls him, is foolishness with the man whose spiritual eyes have been opened by power divine. He listens to the excuses—the ingenious excuses—the professional voice of highly intelligent sophistication, even the witch doctors of the modern human race, inspired by Diabolus himself, and the truth is revealed. He is able to walk circumspectly (looking all around) because his eyes have been opened. He is able to watch and pray. Oh, the blessing of being able to perceive deception as deception! Error as error! “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know….”* (Ephesians 1:18)

“Thrice blest is he to whom is giv’n
The instinct that can tell
That God is on the field when He
Is most invisible.

“Blest, too, is he who can divine
Where real true right doth lie,
And dares to take the side that seems
Wrong to man’s blinded eye.

“For right is right since God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.”1


Frederick W. Faber; Jesus and Mary, 1849.

Now no mental education can bring about this eyesight, but God can open our eyes to distinguish truth from error in our studies. Therefore, academic education is an important field for learning to separate the pure from the vile. We want to learn the lessons of history. We want to perceive the nature of the errors of “science falsely so called.”* (1 Timothy 6:20) We want to detect the unwashed, unregenerated imagination of the human mind in the finest, noblest literature of human thought, as distinguished from the literature that is inspired by the wisdom from above, “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”* (James 3:17) The appeal of secular education, uninspired of God, is a fleshly appeal, and even as men learn the nature of counterfeit money by comparing it with genuine currency in minute detail, so we become sharpened in our awareness of right and wrong, of the fundamental difference between truth and error, by the practical exercise of our faculties “to discern both good and evil.”* (Hebrewws 5:14) This was the nature of the education that Daniel and his friends received that advanced them far beyond their fellow students.

The vastness of the great ocean of human knowledge that has been allowed to increase in our age is a source of great pride and relentless hubris to humans today. Nearly all (with some exceptions) believe in the created idol of Progress and worship at his altar. Most think (even desperately insist) that the world is basically getting better and human life is improving. This idea is based on inventions and new insights of learning, which continue to flood the world. The hope of salvation from our problems and enemies is based on apparently-successful human effort, and even the professed Christian religious bodies of today mostly buy into at least part of the concept.

But the child of God, whose eyes have been opened to an awareness of God, sees much more than all this. He sees that God’s knowledge so far exceeds the utmost boundary of both what man has learned and will be allowed to learn, that there is really no comparison. It is greater than the entire universe to a grain of sand—an atom. He sees that our “long home”—eternity—supersedes present reality just as completely. This great flood of human knowledge, great as it is, is really less than a molecule of water to all the moisture in the universe, when compared to God’s understanding. “There is no searching of His understanding.”* (Isaiah 40:28) “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”* (1 Corinthians 1:19-20) “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing…. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?”* (Isaiah 40:13-18)

Now it is one thing to say these things as an article of faith, and still another to say them with infinite, detailed conviction as a matter of divine-assisted education. But this education will endure. It will work as a practical usefulness in the needs of earthly life, and it will still prove true when this world and all the wisdom of this world is completely destroyed.

And, so I beg of you: build for eternity. Do not pursue an agenda down here for a comfortable lifestyle—“the American dream,” so to speak, the deadly vision presented so alluringly in the media of our day—the imagination of your fleshly mind, “If I only had these things, I would be happy.” Will you study at the bidding of the voices of houses, of lands, of human applause? Or do you want to obtain and to point to an education that is not of this world? Do you want to follow in the footsteps of Him who lived and was educated (by the Holy Ghost) to a perfectly-balanced life, who dedicated Himself to the will of God for His earthly existence?

“Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.”*

See also: Part 4