- What Difference Do Words Make?
- Whoever Controls the Language Controls the Culture
- God’s Word Creates Virtuous Nations
A call to build education around God’s Word, Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash
“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘It means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’” (Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll)
One of the distinctives of an effective communicator or a great teacher is his or her ability to inspire listeners or students with the use of a noble vocabulary in communicating ideas. This is achieved through clothing ideas with precise word usage. Britain’s famous conservative prime minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) said, “If you would converse with me define your terms.” A communicator never assumes that his audience fully understands the meanings of key words in his speech or lecture. A good communicator will always define his terms in order to establish his presuppositions or world view in the subject he is addressing. To avoid miscommunication and confusion, a good communicator will always define his terms because words contain a philosophy of government:
Noah Webster’s original American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), for which he spent twenty years researching the root meanings of English words as well as their biblical meanings, defines ‘educate’:
“educate, verb, to bring up, as a child; to instruct; to inform and enlighten the understanding; to instill into the mind principles of arts, science, morals, religion and behavior. To educate children well is one of the most important duties of parents and guardians.”
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (1987), written 159 years later, defines ‘educate’:
“educate, verb, to provide schooling for. To train by formal instruction and supervised practice, especially in a skill, trade, or profession. To develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction. To persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a desired way or to accept something as desirable. To educate a person or a thing.” (Yes, this is in the dictionary!)
You can easily discern the philosophy of government in these two definitions: the first definition contains a biblical view of education and the second definition a progressive view of education. We are called to equip the next generation with a biblical, Christian worldview! This is the starting block—clothing ideas with a biblical vocabulary!
Noah Webster’s original 1828 Dictionary of the English Language is published by the Foundation for American Christian Education. A free online version is available here. Take time to check into this site and use it for your teaching and writing.
God’s Word consecrates the mind
It is the divine Word that consecrates and inspires the mind and builds intellectual virtue. The Bible contains the highest literary form of language. It requires its readers to be literate! Everywhere the Gospel is preached, Christian education follows closely behind. It is imperative that the believer be able to read the Word of God in his language. Everywhere the Bible is taught, scholarship rises, literacy increases, and language is enhanced. The standard of language spoken and written, has always been set by the church. In the history of Christian education, monasteries were the repositories of learning, churchmen the schoolmasters, and the Bible the fount of ennobled language and literacy.
The great Geneva Bible of Calvin and Knox became for the European reformers their primary reader, their first book of instruction, and their political textbook. It was the one book that sailed west to the New World with every family. Just as the Old Testament Jews came to be known as “people of the Word,” so were the thousands and thousands of reformers known as “people of the Word.” Modern day Christians need to reclaim this heritage using the Bible as their first book of instruction. Is it possible that we could be known in this century as the “people of the Word?”
I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say . . . You are My people (Isaiah 51:16).
The historic record of America’s founding and constitutional eras reveals that parents took seriously their role to educate their children in the admonition and nurture of the Lord, teaching them to read from the Bible when they were very young. Early trained to reflect upon and reason with God’s Word, these young colonial children “read and recited, quoted and consulted, early committed to memory and constantly searched it for meaning. It remained throughout the century the single most important cultural influence in the lives of AngloAmericans.” (Cremin, American Education, the Colonial Experience, 1970, p. 40)
The emphasis on the Bible as the “first book of instruction” produced individuals of ennobled Christian character and scholarship, who cherished individual liberty with Law and birthed the first Christian constitutional republic in the world. A people whose “textbook of liberty” is the Bible, who know how to reason with the revelation of God’s Word in every area of life, are not easily deceived or subverted.
Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), distinguished pioneering physician, one of the youngest signers of the Declaration of Independence, and founder of a Bible Society, wrote A Defence of the Use of the Bible in Schools to support his idea that the Bible should be the primary textbook in the schools of the new United States of America. You will be very inspired by his defense which can be found on line.
Put God’s Word at the heart of your education
God meant for His Word to be at the heart of teaching and learning! The Bible should be at the center of all Christian curricula, its light illuminating all subjects, all programs, and all methods. A study of the tools of restoration from the book of Nehemiah bears this out. Once the walls of Jerusalem had been reconstructed in Israel’s post-exilic era, the first thing governor Nehemiah did was to place Ezra, the high priest and educator, in the center of Jerusalem’s marketplace so that he could read the Law day and night to the spiritually famished Jews. There had been an absence of God’s Word in their education for nearly one hundred years. As Ezra and the Levites instructed the remnant from God’s Word, they often stopped to make clear the meaning of the words so the people could understand what was being read (Nehemiah 8:1-8). Hearing and understanding God’s Word sparked a spirit of corporate repentance and reformation. Ezra then taught them their providential history by recounting God’s wondrous miracles and His mighty Hand of providence in their history. (Nehemiah 9) When their minds and hearts were illumined with truth, the Jews renewed their covenant with God and pledged allegiance to follow the Laws of God. (Nehemiah 10:28-30)
If we are to raise a generation of youth who are spiritually and academically equipped in the 21st century, we have need to arm ourselves with the spiritual weapons of warfare to bring down the centuries-old strongholds in the education of youth. We have need to acquire a biblical vocabulary with which to communicate spiritual concepts, principles, and ideals to our children in our parental training, courses of study, and in our relationships. We have need for an educational system that restores God’s Word to the heart of education and return to being “people of the Word.”
- Elizabeth Youmans