Pursuing Our Ideals in Christian Education

Devotional study, Bible and History Teachers' Coun­cil, August, 1944, Takoma Park, D.C.

By MILTON E. KERN, General Field Secretary of the General Conference

"And they shall be all taught of God." John 6 :45. 

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God." James 1 :5.

Our colleges, and in a special sense our Bible and history teachers, are responsible for the training of the future workers for our cause. To a very large extent, therefore, you are putting a mold upon the work of the advent mes­sage. This being true, then of all workers this group surely needs to be taught of God. In this darkest hour before the dawn, in this time when the truth of God is to shine forth in all its beauty and glory, we need a double portion of the Holy Spirit. I have no disposition to give instruction this morning, but I do feel a great urge that we draw nigh to God, that we ask Him for wisdom and power to understand and achieve the high ideals of Christian education which He has given us.

God's messenger says : "Higher than the high­est human thought can reach is God's ideal for Hischildren' " and I believe that higher than we have yet fully sensed is God's ideal for Christian education. Years ago the Lord sent us this mes­sage: "Because men could not comprehend the purpose of God in the plans laid before us for the education of workers, methods have been followed in some of our schools which have retarded rather than advanced the work of God."—Counsels to Teachels, p. 533. How sad that this ,should ever have been ! Let us pray that it may not be true now.

It has been stated here that had it not been for God's messages through the Spirit of prophecy, Seventh-day Adventists would not have had a sys­tem of schools. That is true. From the same source that urged the establishment of schools there have come hundreds of pages of instruction setting forth the ideals, purposes, and methods to be followed, and also warnings and reproofs. I feel sure we all believe that the success or failure of our schools in doing their appointed work de­pends on following the blueprint which the Lord has given through the Spirit of prophecy.

Without casting reproach upon any, and with the utmost confidence in the good intentions of all, it seems to me that the time has come for a prayer­ful and thorough restudy of the blueprint, with less attention to the requirements, or supposed require­ments, of accrediting associations. Making all due allowances for instructions in the Spirit of proph­ecy which may have been of local application, and focusing our eyes upon the over-all picture of the position and work of our schools, shall we not all agree that there are serious discrepancies between the blueprint and the present structure ?

Time to Restudy the Blueprint

Years ago this admonition came to us : "Let us determine that we will not be tied by so much as a thread to the educational policies of those who do not discern the voice of God, and who will not hearken to His commandments."—/bid., p. 255. We would surely all agree that today we are tied by several threads to the educational policies of the world. However much good there may be in the schools of the world (and there is much good in them), we know that the educational system of the world reflects the ideals, beliefs, and purposes of the world. It is inconceivable that the church, which has altogether different ideals, beliefs, and purposes, should draw closer and closer to the ed­ucational system of the world. We have been told that "those who seek the education that the world esteems so highly, are gradually led farther and farther from the principles of truth, until they become educated" worldlings."—/bid., pp. 15, 16. Is not this one of our present dangers?

Prophetically and historically Seventh-day Ad­ventists are nonconformists. Our message is, "Come out of her, My people." Tragedy of trage­dies, if we should go the way of other denomina­tional schools which have been weakened and have lost their identity by accreditation and conformity to secular education ! There have been those even among the best educators of the world who won­der at our inclination to line up with the educa­tional policies of secular education, knowing that in so doing we forfeit our unique opportunity for giving the very highest type of education.

But however far we may have drifted, we must believe, as the Spirit of prophecy has said, that our schools are "prisoners of hope" (Testimonies, Vol. VI, p. 145), that liberation will come, that our schools will stand forth in glorious independ­ence and strength, and will more and more, by the excellency of the work done, call attention to God's last effort to save the lost.

Need for Biblicocentric Education

I am deeply impressed that we have not yet fully succeeded in making all our education Biblicocen­tric. I suppose that this great ideal has been more nearly achieved in the Bible and history depart­ments than in any other. And I believe you teach­ers here can do much by example and teaching to make the Bible "the basis of all education" in your schools. (Ibid., p. 131.)

The first and most important requisite is that the Bible be incarnate in the heart of the teacher. Then, without any forced or mechanical proces­ses, he will lead his students to the fountain from which he quenches his thirst. Without this prime necessity, all plans for Biblicocentric education will fail. There is still vividly in my mind, after nearly a half century, the deep impression made on my heart in the geometry class as our godly teacher discussed the laws of mathematics as the laws of the infinite God. And this will be the experience of students in every class, whether it be mathe­matics, science, language, history, literature, or Bible, when our teachers really get the idea of making the Bible "the groundwork and subject matter of education."—Counsels to Teachers, p. 16.

It ought not to be difficult to make the Bible the basis of all our history teaching. However, to do this we must pursue our independent way, for the blight of the evolution theory has affected history no less than science. Mrs. White wrote : "God's agency in the affairs of men is lost sight of."—Ibid., p. 380. If we look upon history as the unfolding of the great conflict between Christ and Satan, if we believe in the overruling providence of God in the life of mankind, if we believe that prophecy has foretold the outstanding events of this great conflict, and if we believe that the phil­osophy of history is the problem of sin and its so­lution, we simply cannot teach history as it is taught by the evolutionist teachers in the schools of the world.

It seems to me that we must be constantly on our guard lest we be subconsciously influenced by worldly-minded teachers, and lest our students ab­sorb the secular philosophy of history from the books that they study. Most of our college his­tory teachers have taken work under instructors who do not recognize God's agency in the affairs of men, and much of the historical literature we read is based on an evolutionary and purely sec­ular philosophy of history. Because of this con­stant secularizing pull upon us, it is my conviction that, as teachers our advanced study should be largely in the realm of religious history.

And parenthetically let me say that I think it a thousand pities that we do not have an academic world history based on the fundamental concep­tion of the great conflict between sin and right­eousness, that would trace the footsteps of God in the affairs of the nations and recognize that He set "the bounds of their habitation ; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him." Acts 17 :26, 27. Surely we owe it to our youth, who must help us to quickly finish the work, to give them a right start in the study of history.

I had the privilege a few years ago of standing on the mound in old Nineveh where the beginning was made of uncovering the sources of the ancient history of the East. In a recent issue of the Re­view and Herald Elder Spicer called our attention to the fact that Henry Rawlinson chiseled his name on the Behistun Rock with the date "1844." "Lux Ex Oriente" (Light Out of the Orient) is the motto inscribed on the Haskell Museum at the University of Chicago. How marvelous that con­temporaneous with the advent message God should cause to be unearthed the history that parallels Bible history ! Not only has the archaeologist brought to light confirmation of Old Testament history, but we have today the divine and human history, side by side. And that helps us to find the key to the interpretation of all history.

It surely was an unfortunate hour when the his­tory of the Near East largely lost its place in our colleges. But how fortunate and providential that it is coming back. A graduate of one of our schools got hold of a history book which gave con­siderable Bible connection, and he expressed to me his resentment that such connection had not been given in his history work in our own denom­inational college. No wonder that Bible connec­tion has sometimes been lacking, when one of our college presidents can say, "What would a school inspector think if he came into a history class and found the teacher discussing the seventh of Dan­iel?"

Dear fellow teachers, God has given us a mar­velous view of His plans and purposes through the ages. With the Conflict of the Ages series of books in our hands, there is spread out before us God's eternal purposes, and we are able to under­stand His dealings with men and nations in this world. His providential workings during the reign of sin are set forth in this classic paragraph in the book Education:

"In the annals of human history the growth of na­tions, the rise and fall of empires, appear as dependent on the will and prowess of man. The shaping of events seems, to a great degree, to be determined by his power, ambition, or caprice. But in the Word of God the cur­tain is drawn aside, and we behold, behind, above, and through all the play and counterplay of human interests and power and passions, the agencies of the all-merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will."—Page 173.

Happy is the teacher who can impart this great conception of God in history to his students ! You will agree with me that to read and appreciate this wonderful statement is one thing; but to see the hand of God in history and to cause our students to see it, is another. This will require a type of teaching different from that which some of us have had in the past.

Surely the devout student of history has the privilege, as it were, of sitting in the audience chamber of the Most High and hearing the voice of God as He peruses the records of the past. And in a time like this, how wonderful to know that "above all the distractions of earth He sits en­throned ; all things are open to His divine sur­vey; and from His great and calm eternity He orders that which His providence sees best."—Ministry of Healing, p. 417. Let it be our earnest prayer that we may day by day find and follow God's way in education.

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By MILTON E. KERN, General Field Secretary of the General Conference

June 1945

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