The Christian Pursuit of Higher Education -- By: Carl F. H. Henry

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 01:3 (Fall 1997)
Article: The Christian Pursuit of Higher Education
Author: Carl F. H. Henry


The Christian Pursuit of Higher Education

Carl F. H. Henry

Carl F. H. Henry is the dean of Baptist and evangelical theologians. His publications span fifty years, and he has lectured and taught at scores of colleges, universities, and seminaries. Henry’s magisterial six-volume God, Revelation and Authority testifies to his commitment to rational, revelational, and devotional Christianity. The founding editor of Christianity Today, he is now Senior Research Professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Since secular culture was nonexistent in ancient times, the modern conflict between religious and secular society was nowhere foreshadowed. Near Eastern civilizations mirrored not a conflict with atheism but rather a conflict between rival gods.

In noteworthy contrast to contemporary treatises on education, one will not find either in the Old Testament or in the New an exhortation to pursue education for its own sake, or primarily to earn a living, or simply to prepare one for a contribution to culture and the achieving of an ideal society. Nor is education commended by the Bible on the supposition that if they only know what is good, people will assuredly do the good.

The biblical world-life view, for all that, nonetheless assigned to education a distinctive and indispensable role. Its main object was to transmit to oncoming generations a specific spiritual tradition and inheritance, more explicitly the revealed truth and will of the self-revealing creator, redeemer and judge of the universe. Hebrew education, in short, was intensely theistic. Its aim was to prepare successive generations to live by God’s commandments and to make known his redemptive grace. Even the modern Hebrew term for education derives from a semantic root meaning “to train,” as the classic text Proverbs 22:6 exhorts: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Yahweh says that He chose Abraham “that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Ge 18:19).

The goal of Hebrew education was a proper human relationship to Yahweh as set forth by the Torah. The Hebrews honored God’s verbal revelation and were people of the Book. Education was connected with the tabernacle and the temple. Knowledge of God was a spiritual imperative. Priests were responsible for transmitting God’s laws. Long before Israel conquered Canaan in the thirteenth-century B.C. ancient non-Israelite civilizations like Sumer and Egypt had developed schools that provided formal learning, mostly for sons of wealthy families or other upper-...

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