restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Aphorisms on Education

 David Alan Black  

My seminary apologetics professor (you would not know his name – he flourished then withered like a leaf) had a wonderful approach to the classroom. He believed that the main goal of education was to encourage students to question and even doubt what they had always taken for granted. He deplored what I have since referred to as “evangelical group think,” an unwillingness to challenge views that are accepted by all. He encouraged us to fundamentally disagree with the stupidities of our day, to tamper with every sacred cow, and to eschew conventional mediocrity. We did our best to accommodate him. I learned from him not so much what as how to think – even though his “rules of logic” still escape me.

I expect no less from my own students. I feel that it is not as important to learn large numbers of things in school (apart from the fundamentals) as it is to feel passionately that one has a right to disagree, if there is a biblical basis for one’s disagreement. The professor – assisting where he can, admitting ignorance where he cannot – is to be an example for his students in this regard. If I were 22 again I should set to work to master above all else the biblical languages, because it is the languages that are of utmost importance in breaking down the linguistic and conceptual barriers between us and the ancient text. Though I am now a Methuselah, I am still cautious about those whose main purpose in teaching is to bring their students closer to the personal opinions of famous and outstanding Christians than to the biblical text itself. Of course, someone who is writing a book called What I Have Learned from the Anabaptists might justly be accused of hypocrisy!

Through the years I have come up with a few adages on education. Perhaps students may find them helpful.

1. Be willing to question everything. There is nothing wrong with a healthy inquisitiveness.

2. Do not be afraid to say, “The Bible says….” It is our ultimate authority in everything.

3. Emulate humble teachers. Prideful professors are not worth your time.

4. Read, read, then read some more, but never put books before people.

5. Assimilate thoroughly the different positions on a matter before making up your own mind.

6. Beware of the subtle influence of Gnosticism – the pride of knowledge. It is rampant in our day.

7. The failure to take oneself with a grain of salt is a major weakness.

8. Manual labor is a healthy antidote to intellectual laxness.

9. Do not contemplate beginning a doctoral program unless you have first written a master’s thesis.

10. Do not write anything without first praying for guidance.

11. The best way to learn to write is to write considerably.

12. Intellectual independence and creative intelligence go hand in hand.

13. Remember that God knows exactly the field of service that will benefit most from your unique abilities. Don’t try to be a 5-talent person in a 2-talent body or vice versa.

14. There are no fail-safe formulas in life, including these aphorisms.

There you have it. I have no doubt I will think of others later.

February 9, 2008

David Alan Black is the editor of

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