Once More, With Feeling: 1 + 1 = 2

If the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is the Little Church With a Big Mouth, its Ordained Servant might soon be the Little Magazine with a Big Mouth. In its latest issue, Ordained Servant continues the conversation on Two Kingdom vs. Worldview education with a response by Benjamin Miller to David Noe’s previous article Is There Such a Thing as Christian Education?

Plunging into the heart of the conversation, Miller explains:

Data neither exists in the raw, nor is it ever learned in the raw; it is always discovered and mastered within an interpretive framework.. . . . The same may be said of the development of various skills: all are learned within an interpretive and teleological context, within the context of a worldview.

Take, for example, the data “1 + 1 = 2.”  Granting some validity to Miller’s point, Noe diverges:

When, for example, we subject the equation 1+1=2 to a metaphysical investigation, it has different implications for the believer than for the unbeliever. For the believer this is true because the triune God of the holy Word as unmade maker is the absolute ground for all reality and for our understanding of it.. . . .But no one has yet articulated to my satisfaction how these metaphysical considerations alter the way we educate, or change the way that 1+1=2 is explained and communicated, beyond adding crucial caveats like “and this would not be so were it not for God’s sustaining hand, and to him be the glory for every aspect of any knowledge we have.”

Of course, each side of a debate puts forward its strongest examples, and Noe’s example is a good one.  Notwithstanding past attempts to establish that Christianity provides a profound context for simple addition, one is hard-pressed to make a case for the necessity of theological or philosophical reflection in lower level math classes. The same holds true for what I call technique, which is to say, applied skills in engineering, athletics, plumbing, and the like.

Miller, putting forth his stronger arguments, would rather talk about theology (for example, the incarnation) and then sexuality:

Or let us suppose the educational subject matter at hand is sexuality. The facts are the facts, for Christians and non-Christians alike; yet I can hardly imagine a Christian parent who wouldn’t insist on presenting those “facts” within a decidedly “Christian” context. Here as elsewhere, the “facts” are never in the raw; it makes a universe of difference whether they’re learned within the context of the fear of the Lord, or not. If that is true in sex education, it’s true in all education.

But let’s break down this quote a little a bit. Of course, he is talking about human sexuality, necessarily implicating a little bit of philosophy but, much more so, ethical considerations.  And isn’t the ethics of sexuality best taught in the home and church? I think so, and don’t see the ethics of sexuality as being inherent to “education” per se as much as it is to child-rearing, character formation, and the moral teaching of the church. 

Then there’s a leap in the final sentence of the quote: “If that is true in sex education, it’s true in all education.”  But, to the contrary, sexuality is an area especially bound by ethical considerations and atypical of education in general.

I’m suggesting a few things to consider about the worldview theory of education. First, it is a lot about “big picture” considerations and what might be called a “devotional” attitude.  But to emphasize the big picture in this context is not dissimilar to requiring a philosophy class about every subject, and begs the question of how we got to a place where philosophy became mandatory for Christians and whether we should remain in that place.  Then, it may be profitable to distinguish between fields of study that are a lot like simple mathematics and others that are a lot more like theology rather than making sweeping generalizations. Third, it may be profitable to consider who or what institution best teaches the ethical and devotional aspects that are emphasized in  worldview education, and whether both the institutions and the final product of education might be better off if we acknowledge that division of labor.

PS. The current issue of Ordained Servant also has the bonus of D.G. Hart defending evangelicals in a book review.

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1 Comment

Filed under Two Kingdom, Worldview

One response to “Once More, With Feeling: 1 + 1 = 2

  1. dgh

    I was hoping no one would notice the positive words.

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