I want to encourage you to study. Most specifically, I want to encourage you to study the Bible. It’s important to study the language, background, culture, and context of the Bible, because without it people can make wrong assumptions and conclusions about what the Bible says.
I know that there are people who think they can’t study, or that study is boring, but studying the Bible is actually very fascinating, and it is essential for those who want to walk with God in truth. I also suspect that there are people who believe that they can only learn the Bible if they go to a seminary, so I am going to attempt to clear up what I believe are some misconceptions about education.
Original Purpose of Education
Education in Old Testament Times: The primary purpose of education among the Jews was the learning of and obedience to the law of God, the Torah. Whereas the word torah can be used to refer to all Jewish beliefs, it generally refers to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
The secondary purpose in education was to teach about the practical aspects of everyday life: a trade for the boy and the care of the house, application of dietary laws and how to be a good wife for the girl.
The home was considered the first and most effective agency in the education process, and parents were considered the first and most effective teachers of their children. This responsibility is expressed in Genesis 18:19 where God states his expectation that Abraham will train his children and his household to walk in the ways of the Lord. Proverbs 22:6 is another familiar exhortation for parents to teach their children according to the way of the Lord…
In a similar way, children in the Western world were originally “educated” so they could read the Bible and learn of the world that God had created.
Colleges & Universities
The history of universities is a huge topic, and I don’t want to get bogged down in too much detail. I’ll summarize as briefly as I can:
Monasteries kept learning alive during the dark ages. In Medieval times, a group of skilled craftsmen in the same trade might form themselves into a guild. A guild would make sure that anything made by a guild member was up to standard and was sold for a fair price. Membership of a guild was an honour as it was a sign that you were a skilled worker who had some respect in society. Some members of a guild were chosen to check that other members of the guild were working up to standard. Those guild members who were found to be cheating the public would be fined or made to do work again but at their own cost. The worst punishment was to be expelled from your guild as it meant that you could no longer trade in your town. A guild would look after you – as a member of it – if you were sick. It would help the families of dead guild members.
Many of America’s and England’s oldest universities were established as religious institutions. Most of the colleges in the United States that started over 300 years ago were Bible-proclaiming schools originally. Harvard and Yale (originally Puritan) and Princeton (originally Presbyterian) once had rich Christian histories. (They are now far away from God.)
Harvard was named after a Christian minister. Yale was started by clergymen, and Princeton’s first year of class was taught by Reverend Jonathan Dickinson. Princeton’s crest still says “Dei sub numine viget,” which is Latin for “Under God she flourishes.”
In the United Kingdom, the earliest university-type establishment was probably the College, established by the Celtic preacher St. Illtyd in about AD 500. Oxford University was established by various religious orders. Likewise, Cambridge University was established in 1209 by Christian leaders. Saint Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university, was founded principally for the teaching and study of theology. The commitment of these religious founders might be suspect, but many of the later colleges were founded by Bible-believing Christians. The University of Edinburgh had a thoroughly evangelical beginning, being founded under Presbyterian auspices.
There have been many times when universities did not encourage learning, but restricted it. The book, The History of Medicine, describes many people and medical practices throughout the ages. It is a very interesting book. It describes many people who were persecuted or ridiculed when they discovered a new truth or procedure about the human body or medicine. For example, a Greek doctor during the Roman Empire became so revered that his views came to be regarded as the final authority in medicine. During the Middle Ages in Europe, scholars avoided experimentation and direct experience. Instead, they simply looked for answers in Galen’s books. If Galen’s books and what physicians saw in a dead body did not agree, they considered the error to be in the corpse, not the book. They refused to hear anyone who disagreed with Galen. In the 1840s, professors from a medical school would go from dissecting corpses, to the operating room for surgery, and then go straight to the wards to care for patients. During this time, they would not wash their hands or change their bloodstained coats. Young doctors actually prided themselves upon their blood-encrusted exam coats. Infection spread from patient to patient and the death toll was horrendous. A young doctor named Philipp Semmelwiess figured out that simply washing his hands in soap and water and then in chlorine water cut down on the deaths in his ward. He insisted his students wash their hands. However, despite the evidence that handwashing saved lives, the other doctors refused to listen to him. When they finally got him out of their hospital, they insisted the students not wash their hands and the death rate soared again.
The point is that historically universities are not always eager to pursue truth. Many times, professors are threatened by new ideas or they are pushing an agenda. Sometimes researchers fear losing grant money from the government so they “fudge” results. Even today, atheistic scientists refuse to consider anything that suggests that there is a God. They cannot see God because anything that would prove there is a God is ridiculed as “religious.” And so on.
Dr. Dave Miller wrote an interesting article about The Purpose of Education. He started out his article with the following:
The present period of American history surely will be shown to be a tragic time for education. Sinister forces essentially have hijacked American schools in order to make converts to their immoral, anti-Christian ideologies. They wish to convince young minds to accept their agenda and embrace their values. For example, homosexual activists wish to persuade young people that homosexuality ought to be accepted as legitimate sexual behavior—and even something that the student ought to try (e.g., Kertscher, 2006). The atheistic evolutionists seek to promote the theory of evolution as the correct view of origins, thereby dispelling belief in God and the Creation account of the Bible (Lyons and Butt, 2007). A host of additional advocates are working actively to articulate their own reasons for education.
In contrast to this subversion, most parents see education simply as part of the process that will prepare their children for adulthood. Typically, that preparation consists primarily of a “good education.” But why do parents want their children to go to school and get a “good” education? Most would answer: “so my child will be able to make a good living.” In other words, parents want their children to be able to secure a suitable job that will, in turn, secure their financial future. They want their children to be able to support themselves and their families. No doubt you have seen the commercials that correlate number of years of education with annual income.
But what about the intentions of those who founded the schools of America? Did the founders of this country’s premiere institutions of higher learning share this same basic purpose for public education? Did they sacrifice their time, money, and effort to establish schools in America for the primary purpose of making it possible for students to “make a good living”? Did they understand the central objective of secular education to be to enable a person to secure a good-paying job? Allowing our educational forebears to speak for themselves in their own words reveals some startling realizations….
The universities aren’t the only places where error has crept in. JJ and I studied church history a couple years ago. I realized that I knew very little about church history, and I was appalled by the pagan or power-hungry origins of many of our “sacred” church traditions and practices. I’m not alone in my ignorance of church history. Most Christians today have no idea of the history of the church. They have no idea of the historical, cultural background of the Bible. Many are ignorant of Scripture: A poll revealed that many Christians can’t answer simple questions like “Who was Noah?” Bible study often consists of people saying “I think the verse means this…” with no foundation for what they believe. They have no idea what they believe or why. Many Christians assume they are being taught the truth because their teachers are “educated” but just because a person has been to a seminary does not mean the seminary taught the truth, and having a degree does not mean that the person is godly. Many people believe false teaching because they never seek to do as the Bereans did, who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11).
My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge….(Hosea 4:6a)
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it. (Amos 8:10-12)
The Educated Person
There have been many famous people throughout history who have been homeschooled, privately tutored, or self-taught. They were educated but did not go through a university or seminary. The website Famous Homeschoolers has a list if you are interested.
My point in this post is that not everyone who has a college degree is educated, and not every educated person has a degree. Universities don’t always encourage learning, sometimes they stifle it or push agendas. Sometimes people from the most humble backgrounds have a thirst to learn, and they end up more educated then the “educated.”
Universities/seminaries are horribly expensive these days. My niece told me that she will have to work DECADES to pay off her college loan. Not all of us can afford to pursue a degree. And many of us are busy in our lives, raising kids, working, caring for homes. We don’t have the money, time or energy to attend a university/seminary. Besides which, I’m not convinced that students are truly educated in universities–at least, not these days. I see it as indoctrinated more than educated. Many young Christians have lost their faith in universities.
The university/college/seminary is not the only way to learn. Yes, there are jobs that require a degree. However, if you just want to LEARN, then please realize that learning is learning no matter how you learn it. Often in schools, professors give you books to read and then they spend class time lecturing about what the book said. Guess what? You can gain the same (or more) knowledge by reading books or using the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful tool: You can find wonderful books, wonderful videos, wonderful articles to learn from. And you can find the websites and blogs of scholars and teachers.
I am a stay-at-home homeschooling Mom, living in a small village in a rural area. I teach my son, clean my house, and walk my dog. My husband works hard and we have enough to meet our needs, but we are not rich. I am average, not beautiful. No one in the grocery store would see anything special about me. However, I have a secret identity: I am learning Hebrew and the Hebraic context of the Scriptures. I have friended tremendous Hebrew scholars, authors, linguists, and rabbis. And I am not just learning knowledge, I am learning how to live the Scriptures.
Don’t feel you can’t learn and can’t be educated because you can’t find the time or money to go to school. There is no excuse not to take advantage of the opportunities to learn on the Internet. There are all different levels of teaching out there–simple to deep. I share many links of wonderful websites, articles, and videos that I am learning from. The teaching is awesome!
You have an opportunity, now, to learn the Word of God. Go out and learn! Don’t die from lack of knowledge.