October 24, 2013

Adventist Life

A child has been lost! Not kidnapped by terrorists and concealed in a cave, to weep and starve, and rouse an entire nation to frantic searching. Were that the case, a thousand men and women would instantly rise to the rescue. Unfortunately, the loss of the child, though tragic and very real, has been without any dramatic alarm.

The fact is, his father lost him. Too busy to spend time with him, to work and play with him and answer his trivial questions, the child’s hand slips out of his own, and now the child is lost.

In fact, his mother also lost him. Caught up in her social events, she lets the sitter entertain the child with the latest TV show. Suddenly she is startled to find that the child is lost. It seems that she has but briefly glanced away.

Indeed, the church lost him. Preoccupied with sermons and programs for the wise and wealthy, the church has overlooked the child in the pew. It gave him no real part in the church service. It organized no meaningful activities for the youth. It established no school where all could learn in the presence of God.

Now the church and many heavyhearted parents are searching earnestly for the lost child.

A Divine Directive

Abruptly we find ourselves before the judgment throne. A divine question rings forth: “Where is the flock that was given to you, your beautiful sheep?” (Jer. 13:20).1 As individuals, as families, as a church, we have a divine commission regarding our young people. Scripture prompts us, “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). It reminds us, “Teach [the words of God] diligently to your children” (Deut. 6:7). 

It’s not enough to be informed; we must be transformed. It’s not enough to explore the sciences; we must delve into the science of salvation. It’s not enough to be equipped merely for this life; we must be prepared for a life that begins now, but extends throughout eternity.

The current of the world is raging away from God. We cannot afford to allow our children to be swept away and lost in the turbulence of its assumptions and agendas. The hearts of the young are easily impressed, by good or by evil. As Paul pointed out, it is by beholding that we become changed (2 Cor. 3:18).

Secular Education

The great danger of secular schools is their shrewdly mixing good and evil. Notice the difference between the two basic educational systems—God’s plan and its counterfeit.

Secular education is human-centered; Christian education is God-centered. Secular education is world-focused; Christian education is Word-focused. Secular education is informative; it emphasizes knowing. Christian education is formative; it holds that while knowledge is important, there is something more vital, and that is character. Secular education maintains that Jesus is a historical figure, perhaps even a great man. Christian education affirms that Jesus is Lord.

Secular education is rampant with subtle but deadly assumptions. It holds that humans are supreme. If this were true, then there would be no Higher Power. It maintains that people evolved from lower forms of life. If this were true, then there was no act of divine creation. Secular education asserts that a bad environment is to blame for evil behavior. If this were true, human beings would not be responsible for their actions. It contends that common practice sets the standard. This, of course, assumes that whatever the majority is doing must be right; and if this is true, then there are no moral absolutes. Secular education claims that the term maladjustment explains adverse human behavior. Therefore, there is no such thing as guilt. Finally, secular education holds that men and women are inherently good. And if this were true, then we have no need of a Savior.2 When you think of it, how foolish to attempt to be wise apart from Wisdom, to be true while rejecting Truth, to be enlightened apart from Light, to be nourished without Food, to exist without Life, to be educated without God.

Adventist Education

What makes Adventist education unique? Seventh-day Adventist education is a life-transforming experience, a spiritual revolution. It’s not something simply to be pursued, framed, and hung. Its height is service; its depth is commitment; its scope is eternity.

The Word of God must be the foundation of all we do in the school—not just of the Bible class, but of every subject, every topic.3 The essential pillars of learning are to know God, to understand His plan for our life, and to exemplify Him in all we do. The resulting structure is an education with a view of eternity. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). This education provides a safe shelter for our children. It furnishes them with a sense of purpose, of identity, of belonging. When your children are taught by God, Isaiah affirms, “great shall be the peace of your children” (Isa. 54:13).

Luke 2:52 describes the education that God provided for His Son: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Notice that Jesus developed in four key areas: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. This balanced, whole-person development is the education that our children and youth must experience.

Wisdom. Many schools impart knowledge, but wisdom is our greater need (Prov. 4:7). Wisdom is the ability to leverage knowledge, to apply it in tangible and constructive ways. Such enhanced knowledge, cast into the crucible of life, seeks to reveal God’s attributes and make a difference in the lives of others. This calls for students to be connected to the Source of wisdom. “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2:6). It calls for high-level thinking—analysis, decision-making, and creativity.4 Wisdom, furthermore, requires excellence. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl. 9:10). Those satisfied with second-rate performance simply cannot do God’s work. 

Stature. True education must be useful. We can’t afford to be top-heavy, filled with grand ideas that are never carried out. Consequently, Adventist education emphasizes practical skills and the development of a solid work ethic. The importance of this dimension is highlighted by the fact that Jesus spent the first three decades of His life in the carpenter’s shop, learning and perfecting a practical skill. In this physical domain, Adventist education also emphasizes fitness and a healthful lifestyle.

Favor with God. In the spiritual arena, students in Adventist schools study God’s Word. They learn how to pray, how to have faith. They fellowship with other young people who share their spiritual goals and commitments. They participate in worship activities, Bible classes, and times of spiritual emphasis. They encounter Seventh-day Adventist teachers as mentors and role models. They experience the Holy Spirit in their lives. In so doing, they develop a biblical worldview. In Adventist education, faith and learning meet and merge. Fragments of knowledge are drawn into a robust spiritual unity, centered on God, the source of all truth (John 1:3, 17; James 1:17). Faith penetrates and infuses learning like water permeates a sponge. After all, Christianity is a lifestyle, not just an add-on. We do not need Christianity flowing alongside of life. We need Christian lives. We do not need individuals who can serve on occasion as Christians. We need genuine Christians, 24/7.

Favor with men. Let’s suppose that we are preparing surgeons. On graduation day our candidate marches down the aisle and is handed the parchment declaring them a surgeon. The following day they find themselves in the surgery suite, and there on the operating table is the victim—sorry, the patient. Our freshly minted graduate breaks out into a cold sweat; their knees start to buckle. In all their training, they’ve never before stepped into an operating room. “Preposterous!” you exclaim. “A travesty! Malpractice!” You are absolutely right, but don’t we do the same thing? We cannot expect our young people to graduate from school, to move out into society, and to be effective witnesses for God when they have never had any training or significant experience in witness or service! In Adventist schools students learn how to touch the lives of others. They learn of Christ, who did not come to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28). They discover that to live is to give. They find that they have a calling—a mission and a message. 

Ellen White summarized it this way: “True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”5 

The Difference

As you can see, Seventh-day Adventist schools are intentionally different; they are distinctive by design. They are Christ-centered and Bible-based. They are student-connected and socially applied. They are places in which faith and learning unite, where students study the sciences and at the same time link their learning to the Creator. They are places where young people are taught, not only about God, but by God (Isa. 54:13). They are places where our young people learn to recognize the voice of the Teacher sent from God (John 3:2).

It’s not sufficient to prepare merely for a job, a profession, or a career. We must be prepared for heaven. We must give our young people an education that is consistent with our faith, that will form character to endure the test of time (Ps. 144:12).

Worldly influences, like waves of the sea, beat against young people and threaten to sweep them away. Where are your children? Have you placed their feet firmly on the Rock?

We must make no compromise. God calls us out of Babylon. We are to live for Christ, not for the world. We are called to convert the world; not to be converted by the world, subverted and diverted from our mission.

We cannot allow our children to become bewitched by a false education. Our children are too precious to be abducted and lost for eternity.

As parents we must invest where it matters most, in our children, even if it requires personal sacrifice. As a church family we must rally together and find creative means to ensure that each of the children and youth in our congregations has the opportunity of a Seventh-day Adventist education.

Authentic Christian education is distinctive. There is nothing that can take its place. Don’t permit a pretense to displace the reality, a bogus education to replace the true. Value the original above the counterfeit.

Will your children be taught of God, educated for eternity? The choice today shapes tomorrow. 

  1. All quotations of Scripture are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
  2. Adapted from Paul G. Fleischer, “An Ongoing, Crying Need: Educating Our Children for the Real World” (1982), http://clclutheran.org/shared/thoughtdocs/ongoing.htm.
  3. Ellen White writes, “Give your children the Word of God as the foundation of all their education” (Counsels on Education [Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1968], p. 181). She also adds, “In localities where there is a church, a school should be established, [even] if there are no more than six children to attend” (“Christian Schools,” Gospel Medical Messenger, Dec. 3, 1913).
  4. Ellen White notes that it is the work of true education “to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought” (Education [Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903], p. 17).
  5. Ibid., p. 13.