As we embark on this conversation about what a Classical education can be, or rather what principles are common to all that calls itself a classical education (see last week’s newsletter), we start with a very fundamental idea: man’s purpose. Man was created to be the image of God here on earth and was given specific roles to carry out in that Creation (which any close examination of Genesis chapters 2 and 3 will reveal). To accomplish these roles properly, mankind needs wisdom and virtue. He had both of these in perfection prior to the Fall. Since the Fall, he has been born in that fallen nature and has needed to be “raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, (Eph. 6:4)” or in another passage, to grow “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)”
When faced with this question of purpose a young student can recite the catechism he has been taught (if he is catechized). One catechism asks him, “What is the chief end of man?” to which he is to reply, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” In short, man has fallen short of this end for his life after the Fall, and only Christ can restore this purpose to him. To be fully human, he is to glorify God as He is, by knowing Him and enjoying Him as Creator and Redeemer. Schools, if they are Christian, must pursue the student’s growth toward this end.
This very purpose of growth, or recovering what we lost, is at the heart of biblical education, which is placed squarely on the shoulders of parents (Deut. 6 and Eph. 6 are perhaps the clearest passages to see this). Schools have long been in place to help parents fulfill this responsibility. They do this best when every course of instruction aims at this basic purpose of existence: that mankind is to glorify and enjoy God. As our communities have become more impersonal and less able to build trust among its members, we have redefined the purpose of schools away from this fundamental pursuit of the purpose of man.
Many parents today are unwilling or at least very nervous about asking others to help them cultivate wisdom and virtue in their children because they do not trust the teacher to do so in the same way that they would pursue such. Of course, there are certainly many who do not even consciously consider this issue of their child’s eternal purpose. They long for their child to be Happy, and to get a Good Education, and live happily ever after in general, but without thinking to any clarity of specifics. Man is most happy when he is seeking to think God’s thoughts after Him (wisdom) and to follow the leading of their Lord Jesus (virtue). Thus the best schooling, whether its call classical or not, is that which cultivates wisdom and virtue in the souls of its faculty and students. That is the vision of Caldwell Academy and it is wrapped up in the purpose for which God created man.