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Teaching Is Higher Than Education

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  • Teaching Is Higher Than Education

    The church is often credited with establishing the first universities, institutions of higher learning, like the University of Bologna, founded in 1088, and smaller cathedral and monastic schools dating back as far as the 6th century. While early first millennium European Christians may be rightly credited with creating higher education, the medieval church didn't invent teaching.

    God did that.

    One might say that God conducted a cosmic clinic during the seven days of creation, demonstrating complete proficiency in all that he did, setting standards of sublime excellence, and otherwise showing the angels, animals, and ultimately man just how doing is done. The word "teach," however, doesn't show up until Exodus 4:12 when God says to Moses:

    Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.

    God here establishes himself as The First Teacher and makes bold promises of what he will accomplish through the mouth of even a stammering student. In Leviticus 10:11, God delegates the practice of teaching to others, saying, "You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses." In Deuteronomy 4:10, the LORD told Moses to gather the people so he could teach them to teach their children. Even then, there were things being taught that ought not be taught. In Deuteronomy 20:16, God ordered the complete extermination of life in several cities such that pagans living there, "...may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices..."

    Military science appears to be first taught in Judges 3:2. Mandates for music education appear in Deuteronomy 31:19 and in 1 Chronicles 25. Job is an early pedagogue of what we might now call environmental science, though he suggests that it's beasts, birds, and bushes doing the teaching (Job 12:7-8), before he reminds us that there is really no teacher like God (Job 36:22).

    We human beings stand much in need of teaching. The Psalms, rich in so much truth, imagery, and emotion, are replete with pleas that we may be taught. Indeed, Psalm 119 may be regarded as the "teach me" Psalm, repeating that earnest appeal at least ten times. Solomon in his Proverbs seems most intent that we not forget what we have been taught. The Prophets scold apostates who would teach for a bribe and practice divination for money (Micah 3:11), and they mock the notion that any earthly idol can teach us anything thing at all (Habakkuk 2:18-19).

    When The First Teacher himself at last became flesh, a teaching revolution commences in human history. The words "teach," "teacher," "teaching" appear 159 times in the New Testament and 96 times in the four Gospels, alone. In Revelation, Jesus' warnings include final admonitions against the false and dangerous teaching of Balaam, the Nicolaitians, and Jezebel.

    The words "education," "university," and "college," appear nowhere in the Bible, and the only "degree" to which the scriptures refer is that one into which we are being transformed from one to another into the same image of The First Teacher (2 Corinthians 3:18). Teaching, to be taught, and to teach are referred to throughout God's Word, and seem as essential to life as eating, drinking, and breathing.

    At Bethlehem College & Seminary we are seeking to recover something of the best of a golden age of medieval scholasticism, a type of classical liberal education in which students are in eager pursuit of the knowledge and arts essential to human flourishing. But we are first and foremost driven by the teaching embedded in Bethlehem College & Seminary’s foundational Bible passage:

    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:15-18)

    We who teach at Bethlehem College & Seminary have entered into a labor as ancient as creation's first moments. Others have labored as teachers and we have joyfully entered into their labor for God's glory. We thank God for the cover of your personal prayers, the fellowship of your service, and the financial provision that flows from your generosity. Soli Deo Gloria!

    Rick Segal
    Vice President of Advancement
    Distinguished Lecturer of Commerce & Vocation
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