Uneducated in the Proper Way

» Posted by on Aug 17, 2012 in Blog, Education History, Literature, Mission-Type Stuff | Comments Off on Uneducated in the Proper Way

The “Red Church” of St. Gregory Nazianzum (Cappadocia, Turkey)

St. Gregory of Nazianzus (also known as St. Gregory the Theologian) has been one of the most influential Christian thinkers since the apostles. This is one of these guys who has given us more than we know, even 1600 years later, in our grasp of the Trinitarian foundation of the Christian faith (which Jesus set forth). What we sometimes take now as common Bible sense are in reality mysteries of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that have not come to us without the battles fought by faithful scholars such as Gregory. And these things matter a great deal in our daily walk and in how we teach our kids.

Gregory is well worth listening to, and conveniently for us, but not surprisingly, he found the matter of education an important one. He makes some notable comments in a funeral oration for his friend, Basil:

I take it as admitted by men of sense that the first of our advantages is education; and not only this, our more noble form of it, which disregards rhetorical ornaments and glory, and holds to salvation, and beauty in the objects of our contemplation: but even that external culture which many Christians ill-judgingly abhor, as treacherous and dangerous, and keeping us afar from God. For as we ought not to neglect the heavens, and earth, and air, and all such things, because some have wrongly seized upon them, and honour God’s works instead of God: but to reap what advantage we can from them for our life and enjoyment, while we avoid their dangers; not raising creation, as foolish men do, in revolt against the Creator, but from the works of nature apprehending the Worker, and, as the divine Apostle says, bringing into captivity every thought to Christ: and again, as we know that neither fire, nor food, nor iron, nor any other of the elements, is of itself most useful, or most harmful, except according to the will of those who use it; and as we have compounded healthful drugs even from certain reptiles; so from secular literature we have received principles of enquiry and speculation, while we have rejected their idolatry, terror, and pit of destruction. Nay, even these have aided us in our religion, by our perception of the contrast between what is worse and what is better, and by gaining strength for our doctrine from the weakness of theirs. We must not then dishonour education, because some men are pleased to do so, but rather suppose such men to be boorish and uneducated, desiring all men to be as they themselves are, in order to hide themselves in the general, and escape the detection of their want of culture.

Consider a few points that we might take from Gregory’s words:

  • An obvious advantage of education concerns “salvation” and “beauty in the objects of our contemplation.”
  • A not-so-obvious advantage of education concerns our mastering of pagan knowledge and classical secular literature that we Christians tend to “ill-judgingly abhor.”
  • Let us, of course, avoid the idolatry and “pit of destruction” in non-Christian sources we learn from.
  • Let us be uneducated visionaries who want more for our children than what we got, rather than uneducated boors who desire “all men to be as they themselves are.”