Monthly Archives: May 2014

Faith and Learning

Christian educators find themselves in the unsettling position of having to liberate the real world from the obfuscation of learning theories born during an ethos of modernism and postmodernism.  A proper inquiry as to whether these learning theories were perhaps determined by streams of consciousness should evoke a fundamental rethinking of the question as to whether faith and learning are actually separate categories in need of integration or the categories themselves are contrived, or as theologian Cornelius Van Til (2008) elucidated, “… every human mind … contributes in an original sense to what it receives” (p. 163). It is from this perspective that arguments against the Kantian dualism of faith and learning are proffered.

Faith and learning cannot be integrated because integration requires separate and independent entities, whereas learning is predicated and thus dependent upon a priori faith assumptions. Regarding this, St. Anselm (2006) affirmed the maxim, “Credo ut intelligam [I believe in order to understand]” (Chapter 1).  Christian theology affirms that individuals are contingent and finite. As such, their knowledge can be nothing other than contingent and finite as well (Hodge, 2014, Ch. XI, Sec. 3-B, para. 1). Were they to possess properties of aseity (i.e., self-existence), they would of necessity be divine, but because ex nihilo nihil fit[out of nothing comes nothing] a self-existent man strains credulity (Kung, 2006, p. 533).  As such, they infer, conjecture, theorize, and imagine by underlying assumptions that are essential to assert anything to be true (Acts. 17:27, ESV).

For lack of adequate terms in the common vernacular, two German words are used to extrapolate two essential and interconnected notions necessary to understand the relationship between faith and learning – ursprung [origin] and verankern [groundedness].  Verankern is predicated upon ursprung, and the nature of ursprung is revealed by verankern.

Ursprung deals with the source of being.  The ursprung for the Christian is a self-existing Triune God to whom all essence and existence is contingent. As affirmed by Pazmino (2008), this is most evident as “Scripture comprises the ultimate and unifying perspective for learning and life.  Anything less can make persons the measure of all things” (p. 149).  Although we “see in a mirror dimly” (I Cor. 13:12), and often feel our “way toward him” (Acts 17:27), our discovery of Him and his creation comes by way of ursprung and verankern.   It is as Van Til (1976) contends, “… if one goes only to the laboratory and not also to the Bible one will not have a full or even true interpretation of the snake” (pp. 2,3).

The Christian educator pursues verankern, a groundedness with the real world that also necessitates an ordinem claritatis [order of clarity] mediated by common grace and the unfolding revelation of the Spirit (Romans 1:20; I Cor. 2:9,10). This groundedness is not oriented toward the experiential, but that of design as evidenced through systematic consistency from the clearest kingdom demonstration to the least (Ladd, 1997).  Evidence of the rule of God invading the material world requires eschatological purpose, otherwise there is no design.  The kingdom carries not just an effect over nature, but necessarily a quality of Being.  As such, the quality of the kingdom is the embodiment of Christ (Jones, 1995).   Famed theologian John Henry Newman (1873) elucidated, “… all branches of knowledge are connected together… as being the acts and the work of the Creator” (Part 1, Discourse 5, para. 2). Respected Separatist John Flavel (1678/1982) further remarked that there is a certain order to this information;

Truth is the mold into which our souls are cast… according to the impressions it makes upon our understanding, and the order in which the truths lie there will be the depth and lastingness of their influences upon the heart.  (Vol. IV, p. 342).

In summary, learning is an outgrowth of faith, not an independent entity that can stand alone and should be merged with faith. If one wants to know what exists, and understand meaning, it is contingent on verankern – harmonizing phenomena, perception, and experience in an ordinem claritatis, from the record of the invasion of the kingdom to natural phenomena that provides material illuminations to what exists and the meaning it holds. When all of these are accounted, from scientific inquiry to metaphysical speculation are harmonized in the ordinem claritatis as a grand mosaic, verankern is achieved.

References

Anselm of Canterbury. (2006). Proslogion. [pdf version] Retrieved from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/anselm-proslogium.asp#CHAPTER III

Flavel, J. (1982). The mysteries of God’s providence. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust.

Hodges, C. (2014). Systematic theology. Titus Books. [Kindle Fire Edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Jones, E. (1995). The unshakable kingdom and the unchanging person. Bellingham, WA: McNett Press.

Kung, H. (2006). Does God exist? An answer for today. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Ladd, G. (1997). A Theology of the New Testament (Rev.). Grand Rapids, MICH: Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Newman, J. (1873). Idea of a university. Retrieved May 11, 2014 from http://www.newmanreader.org/works/idea/discourse3.html

Pazmino, R. (2008). Foundational issues in Christian education: An introduction in evangelical perspective (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids, MICH: [Kindle Fire version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.

Van Til, C. (1976). Apologetics. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.

Van Til, C. (2008). The defense of the faith. (S. K. Oliphant, Ed.) (4th ed.). Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishers.

 

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