Religious Education And The Chief End Of Man -- By: John E. Kuizenga

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 089:356 (Oct 1932)
Article: Religious Education And The Chief End Of Man
Author: John E. Kuizenga


Religious Education And The Chief End Of Man

John E. Kuizenga

Thou madest life in man and beast:
Thou madest man, he knows not why;
He thinks he was not made to die;
And Thou hast made him, Thou art just.

Tennyson, In Memoriam.

In his Gifford lectures on “The Nature of Religion”, Dr. W. P. Paterson makes the interesting statement that religion is an optimism in the face of pessimism. Always, he suggests, religion has been aware of the miseries and misfortunes in life, but religion believes in the possibility of escape from these miseries and in a life, full and complete, in spite of them. The good that we expect in salvation is all the brighter against the dark background of the sorrows that we escape. His discussion suggests the question. Why are men religious? That is, however, only a more recent form of the old question. What is the chief end of man? Very evidently the question is fundamental to religious education also: Why should we be anxious to train up our children in the right way?

If, then, we ask, Why are men religious? or in the parlance of the day, What is the function of religion? it seems to me that it will be possible to classify the motives to religion under some three or four heads; to wit, the sense of tragedy, the sense of self-realization, the sense of obligation, and the sense of service.

There is in men the sense of tragedy. Life seems too often a series of unending denials. Nature seems pitted against us, so that we lose what we love best. While it is not to be denied that there are joys and pleasures, yet we hold them precariously, so that want, disease, and death continually threaten. Not the least of our miseries is that we carry about within us not only a sense of demerit but also of some alien power which keeps us from being what we want to be. At least in part because of this sense of misery, men have turned to religion as a means of escape. Even Omar Khayyam says:

Ah Love! Could you and I conspire

To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,

Would we not shatter it to bits—and then Mold it nearer to the heart’s desire!

But because it was an escape from miseries, religion tended also to be more or less clearly a road to self-realization, that glamorous conception lighting a path through so much present day psychology, ethic, and educational theory. You find it not only in the Brahmanistic and Buddhistic idea of a disguised self-realization through extirpation of desire, but also in the Freudian wish-conception, which tells us in so many words that functions exist to be satisfied.

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