by Tina Olesen
“As they look at the church, the world ought to see that a head-on clash is coming between its philosophy and the philosophy of Jesus Christ, and that the one who is going to win is Jesus.”
– Ray Stedman
Philosophy seems to be enjoying some attention in educational circles as of late. The Guardian recently reported that “Philosphical discussion boost pupils’ maths and literacy progress” while The Independent stated that “Children from deprived backgrounds benefited the most from philosophical debates about topics such as truth, fairness and knowledge, researchers from Durham University found.”
It seems that these researchers did not understand exactly how the study of philosophy improved students’ performance in school.
Perhaps a benefit of the study of philosophy might be the development of critical thinking skills? Critical thinking is crucial in subjects like math, particularly problem solving. Critical thinking skills are also indispensable in reading, listening, and viewing, in order to be able to evaluate and discern the material.
There’s much I don’t know about this study and how it was conducted, but it leaves me wondering. What kind of philosophy are they studying?
There is good philosophy, but there is also bad philosophy. The type of philosophy we expose our children to matters.
If during a philosophical discussion a child gets a glimpse of the truth, and attempts to follow that truth to the best of his ability, it may result in moral character growth. If a student develops moral character, then that would result in improved academic performance.
The more a student is able to will himself to do that which is difficult for him, but that which he must do, the better he’ll do in school. In “setting himself to do the truth, he is on the way to know all things. Real knowledge has begun to grow possible for him.”[i]
However, the age old question which Pontius Pilate put to Jesus immediately comes into play: “What is truth?” Many philosophers have earnestly sought truth, which presupposes that there is such a thing as truth. The moral relativists in our day would have us believe that absolute truth does not exist (for an excellent exposé of moral relativism’s failures, watch Christian apologist Greg Koukl brilliantly demolish it in this video – it is well worth the time it takes to watch the whole thing).
Philosophy comes from the root words philo sophia meaning love of wisdom. A hunger for the truth, a desire for wisdom – these earnest longings in the human heart are meant to be satisfied in a Person: Jesus Christ, who is the Truth and who is Wisdom.
Jesus perfectly exemplified God’s moral standard. He embodied the highest and most beautiful ideals of truth, love, goodness, holiness, mercy, justice and compassion. While none of us can independently live up to that moral standard, most of us can readily recognise the surpassing excellence of it when we see it.
All that Jesus exemplifies in His perfect character is what we were created for, although none of us can attain it apart from Him, and not perfectly in this life. Yet He honors even our attempts to practice what we know of the Truth. The more we practice what we know, the further He leads us on.
The philosophies of this world have come up against the philosophy of Jesus time and again throughout history, and they eventually all crumble at His feet. Perhaps they enjoy a season of popularity and apparent success, but their shortcomings and weaknesses soon become apparent. The beauty and glory of Jesus and all that He stands for never fades and never fails.
It is the philosophy of Jesus that we want to train our children in. The only way to do this is to live it out before their watching eyes.
When we Christians train our children up in the philosophy of Jesus, to love His Wisdom and to trust Him as the Truth, we are giving them something of eternal value. Children who are planted in Jesus and His way of looking at the world have an anchor that will hold them in the storm of all competing philosophies that will one day blow away with the wind.
[i] From The Hope of the Gospel, by George MacDonald