Herbert E. Douglass, Th.D.

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International Conference on the Seventh-day Adventist Philosophy of Education

Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI, April 8, 2001

Spirit of Prophecy Perspectives: Education’s Grand Theme ©  Herbert E. Douglass, Th.D.

I. This educational philosophy before us today could not have been written if EGW had not existed.  The Adventist educational philosophy is one more example of how EGW fulfilled her job description: “to comfort His people and to correct those who err from Bible truth” (EW:78).  We can survey the scores of educational philosophies from Plato to the latest theory off the press and we will not find anything like this Statement, anywhere else.  All other theories are, at best, only partial glimpses of truth in a vast sea of contradictions.  EGW did something unique when she unfolded her philosophy of education—she began with a theological principle that determined everything she wrote on “education.”

II. That theological principle has been called, “the great controversy theme.”  This theme is reflected in our philosophical “assumptions.”  Many of these assumptions are shared by other Christian denominations.  But we go further.  We see the sin problem as more than human mistakes and shortcomings.  We see sin as rebellion, a product of thinking and doing in contradiction to the will of God; that sin is a cosmic problem, not simply a personal matter.  Even further, we see the sin problem as an outgrowth of wrong representations of God and that the solution to this cosmic rebellion involves telling the truth about God and His attitudes toward men and women.  And even further, we see God telling His side of the conflict primarily through Jesus; through Him we learn of His plan to rescue us from our massive sin problem. And still further, we know that He does not force His solution on anybody.  He simply invites us to listen to Him and trust Him as He shows us how He plans to reverse the damage that sin has caused, both in our own lives and on this planet.  That plan is unfolded in what we call Christian education.

III. Nowhere else on this planet, among all the theologians and philosophers that people love to quote, will we find this core Biblical plan of salvation unfolded, except in the writings of Ellen G. White, and probably never more clearly than in her book, Education (now adapted as True Education).  The “Philosophy” section of our Statement builds, I think, remarkably, on the distinctive understanding of this plan by highlighting the connection between the plan of redemption and the aim of education.

IV. Let’s examine in a quick flyby how this great controversy principle frames three areas: (a) the way we should train and select our teachers, (b) the kind of methodology we should aim at, and (c) how this principle should determine the intent of our total campus curriculum, involving all classes, departments ,and schools on all levels.  Let’s ask Ellen to answer for herself as we listen to her speak primarily from her classic Education:

Q. Ellen, what is the great controversy theme?

A. The great controversy theme is the “grand central theme, . . . the central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other clusters. [It is] the redemption plan [which is] the restoration in the human soul of the image of God.”  TrEd:75 (Ed:125-126)

Q. Ellen, what is the built-in promise of the great controversy theme?

A. “From the first intimation of hope in . . . Eden to that last glorious promise in the Revelation . . . the burden of every book and every promise of the Bible is the unfolding of this wondrous theme—uplifting   humanity—the power of God ‘who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 1 Cor. 15:57.”  75 (125,126)    

Q. Ellen, when we talk about restoration being the purpose of the great controversy theme, are we also talking about the purpose of the gospel as well?

A. “The very essence of the gospel is restoration.” The Desire of Ages:824

Q. Ellen, do you see this great controversy theme and the gospel embracing far more than the common emphasis on forgiveness being the purpose of the gospel?

 A. Much more!  “The religion of Christ means more than the forgiveness of sin; it means taking away our sins, and filling the vacuum with the graces of the Holy Spirit.  It . . . means a heart emptied of self. . . . The glory, the fulness, the completeness of the gospel plan is fulfilled in the life.” COL:419, 420.

Q. Ellen, what’s the connection between this theological theme and the Adventist philosophy of education?

A. They have the same purpose and goal: “To restore in men and women the image of their Maker, to bring them back to the perfection in which they were created,—this was to be the work of redemption.  This is the object of education, the great object of life.” 11 (15, 16) [Here, we must recognize that our understanding of redemption (the purpose of the gospel) is far different than others with their limited gospels.  Even understanding what Jesus is now doing for us as our High Priest places a distinctiveness on the larger picture of what is involved in “redemption.”]

Q. Ellen, where do we go to understand how the great controversy theme can help us in a practical way in our work as educators?

A. The Lord showed me how to build my educational theory. “ Students should learn to view the [Scriptures] as a whole, and to see the relation of its parts.  They should gain a knowledge of its grand central theme, God’s original purpose for the world, of the rise of the great controversy, and of the work of redemption.  They should understand the nature of the two principles that are contending for supremacy, and should learn to trace their workings. . . . They should see how this controversy enters into every phase of human experience, how in every act of life a person reveals one or the other of the two antagonistic motives; and that they are even now deciding on which side of the controversy they will be found.”  115 (190) [Here again, Ellen is placing the philosophy of education within an urgent eschatological framework.  This urgency should breathe through an Adventist philosophy of education.]

Q. But, Ellen, is all this theology important or crucial to an educational philosophy?

A. Like a laser beam.  “In order to understand what is comprehended in the work of education, we need to consider both [1] the nature of human beings and [2] the purpose of God in creating them.  We need to consider also [3] the change in their condition through a knowledge of evil, and [4] God’s plan for fulfilling His glorious purpose in the education of the human race.”  10 (14, 15) [Here we see again how Ellen had the larger view of “redemption” in mind: the great controversy theme is focused primarily on God’s vindication—the same focus that should motivate our lives so that we keep our minds on God’s honor and not on our personal salvation.]

Q. Ellen, are you suggesting that all teachers should be students of the great controversy theme, even if they teach math, literature, physics, history, psychology, or whatever?

A. Without question. All our fields of study will be “infinitely” more meaningful when they are viewed in relation to the Bible’s “grand central thought.  Viewed in the light of this thought, every topic has a new significance.”  74 (125)

Q. Ellen, what are some of the underlying principles unfolded in the great controversy theme?

A. Satan started the controversy with his envy and selfishness. Thus, “unselfishness, the principle of God’s kingdom, is the principle that Satan hates.  He denies its very existence.  From the beginning of the great controversy he has endeavored to prove God’s principles of action to be selfish, and he deals in the same way with all who serve God.  It is the work of Christ and of all who bear His name to disprove Satan’s claim.” 92 (154)

Q. Ellen, are you saying that one of the prime reasons for Jesus coming to earth was to prove Satan wrong and God right about how to run the universe?

A. Right! “It was to give an illustration of unselfishness in His own life that Jesus came in the form of humanity.  And all who accept this principle are to be workers together with Him in demonstrating it in practical life.” 92 (154, 155)

Q. Ellen, can you give us a practical application of this incarnation principle?

A..“Very early in the history of the world is given the life record of one over whom this controversy of Satan’s was waged. [Then follows a review of Job’s experience.] According to his faith, so it came to pass.  By his [Job’s] patient endurance he vindicated his own character, and thus the character of Him whose representative he was.”  93, (156).

Q. Ellen, are you suggesting that human beings are to do for God’s character and government what Job and Jesus did?

A. Yes. That’s the point of the great controversy theme!  “In Him [Jesus] was found the perfect ideal.  To reveal this ideal as the only true standard for attainment; to show what every human being might become; what, through the indwelling of humanity by divinity, all who received Him would become—for this, Christ came to this world.  He came to show how the children of God are to be trained, how they are to practice the principles and to live the life of heaven.” 46 (73, 74)

Q. Ellen, are you suggesting that teachers today can implement, even reproduce, our Lord’s educational theory and practice?

A. Without question. “The presence of the same Spirit that instructed the disciples of old will produce the same results in educational work today.” 58 (96)

Q. Ellen, now we are getting down to specifics when we talk about practicing the same educational principles Jesus used. What were those educational principles that shaped the young life of Jesus so that He could become the Master Teacher and the Christian teacher’s Example?

A.“He came at a time when “in the prevailing systems of education, human philosophy had taken the place of divine revelation. . . . [a time when] the want of true excellence was supplied by appearance and profession. [Semblance took the place of reality, or symbolism over substance.]”  47 (74).

Q.  Ellen, what were the result of those prevailing educational theories?

A.  “As people ceased to recognize the Divine, they ceased to regard the human. Truth, honor, integrity, confidence, compassion, were departing from the earth. . . . The idea of duty, of the obligation of strength to weakness, of human dignity and human rights, was cast aside as a dream or a fable. Wealth and power, ease and self-indulgence, were sought as the highest good”  47 (75)

Q. Ellen, what was Christ’s solution to these misguided educational theories?

A.  “There was but one hope for the human race . . . that there might be brought to humankind the power of a new life; that the knowledge of God might be restored to the world. . . . Christ came to demonstrate the value of the divine principles by revealing their power for the regeneration of humanity.”  48 (76, 77)   Here again we have the working out of the goal of education and redemption, humanity’s restoration, not only their forgiveness.

Q. Ellen, can you give us briefly some of the principles that shaped Christ’s educational experience as our Master Teacher?

A. It will be a pleasure.

1. His mental library was immersed in the “Heaven-appointed sources” available, including the Scriptures, nature, and the experiences of life. 48  (77)   

2. In the process of becoming a Master Teacher, He took a minor in sociology.  He made a point of  “understand[ing] humanity.”  49 (78)   “Christ alone had experience in all the sorrows and temptations that befall human beings. . . . A sharer in all the experiences of humanity, He could feel not only for, but with every burdened and tempted and struggling one.”  49 (78) 

3. Even more dramatic was that He became the illustration of what He was teaching: “What He taught, He lived. . . . His words were the expression, not only of His own life-experience, but of His own character.  Not only did He teach the truth, but He was the truth.  It was this that gave His teaching power.”  49 (78, 79) 

4. When Jesus looked at His “students” He “discerned infinite possibilities. . . . people as they might be, transfigured by His grace.”  49 (80) Students  responded because they wanted to  live up to His expectations.

5. When Jesus looked at His classroom daily He looked upward for the wisdom and grace to make His teaching methods effective that day, just as any teacher today seeks for this wisdom and grace: “As a man Jesus supplicated the throne of God till His humanity was charged with a heavenly current that connected humanity with divinity.  Receiving life from God, He imparted life to others.”  50 (81).  

6.. Contrary to prevailing methods, Jesus “did not deal in abstract theories . . . .[and] instead of directing the people to study men’s theories about God, His word, or His works, He taught them to behold Him, as manifested in His works, in His word, and by His providences.”  50 (81). 

7. Contrary to prevailing methods, Jesus did not compartmentalize the educational experience: “To Him nothing was without purpose.  The sports of the child, the toils of the man, life’s pleasures and cares and pains, all were means to the one end,—the revelation of God for the uplifting of humanity.” 51 (82)  

Q. Ellen, how can the great controversy principle help teachers today to prepare themselves for their classrooms, whatever the academic level?

A. I can think of ten areas especially on which the committed teacher will focus:

1.  They recognize that “for almost every other qualification that contributes to success, teachers are in great degree dependent upon physical vigor.  The better the health, the better will be the work accomplished.” 172 (277)  

2. They also realize that  “physical health and uprightness of character should be combined with high literary qualifications. . . . The schoolroom is no place for surface-work.  No teacher who is satisfied with superficial knowledge will attain a high degree of efficiency. . . . True teachers are  not content with dull thoughts, an indolent mind or a loose memory.” 172 (278) 

3. They are “quick to discern and improve every opportunity for doing good, teachers who combine enthusiasm with true dignity. [They] . . .are able to control, ‘apt to teach,’ . . . {and} can inspire thought, arouse energy, and impart courage and life.”  173 (279) 

4. They “will allow nothing to stand in the way of earnest endeavor for self-improvement.  They will spare no pains to reach the highest standard of excellence for self-improvement.”. 174 (281) 

5. They have discovered that under the GCT paradigm, “ instruction in scientific and literary lines alone can not suffice.  Teachers should have a more comprehensive education than can be gained by the study of books.  They should possess not only strength but breadth of mind; . . . The principles of education that He [God] has given are the only safe guide.  A qualification essential for every teacher is a knowledge of these principles, and such acceptance of them that they will be a controlling power in the life. . . . Order, thoroughness, punctuality, self-control, a sunny temper, evenness of disposition, self-sacrifice, integrity, and courtesy are essential qualifications. . . .Teachers can gain the respect of their pupils in no other way than by revealing in their own character the principles that they seek to teach.”  171-172 (276-277)  

6. They have learned through experience that “through faith in Christ, every deficiency of character may be supplied, every defilement cleansed, every fault corrected, every excellence developed.”  160 (257)

7. Further, they have learned that “prayer and faith are closely allied, and they need to be studied together.  In the prayer of faith there is a divine science, a science that everyone who would make his or her life-work a success must understand. . . . These are lessons that only people who have learned them can teach.” . 160-161 (257-259) 

8. They have also learned that “the garden of the heart must be cultivated.  The soil of the heart must be broken up by repentance. Evil growth that chokes good grain must be uprooted.  As land once overgrown by thorns can be reclaimed only by diligent labor, so the evil tendencies of the heart can be overcome only by earnest effort in the name and strength of Christ.”  66 (111) 

9. They have grown to appreciate the Bible, not only for its inspirational value, but also for its principles of truth such as:

a. “Only in the light that shines from Calvary can nature’s teaching be read aright.”. 60 (101)

b. “The deepest students of science are compelled to recognize in nature the working of infinite power.  But to unaided human reason, nature’s teaching is contradictory and disappointing.  Only in the light of revelation can it be read aright.”  80,81 (134)

c. “No part of the Bible is of greater value as an educator than its biographies.”  87 (146) 

10. They are grasping the larger picture of why Adventists have been given their distinctive, special calling in hastening the preparation of a people to meet their Lord:  “Those who think of the result of hastening or hindering the gospel think of it in relation to themselves and to the world.  Few think of its relation to God. . . . Yet God feels it all.  In order to destroy sin and its results He gave His best Beloved, and He has put it in our power, through cooperation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end  (Matt 24:14.)”   164 (263, 264) 

                                    “With such an army of workers, as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world!  How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” 169 ( 271)

Q. Ellen, how should the great controversy theme and the teaching example of Jesus help us in developing our teaching methods today?

A. I can think of eleven important teaching methods that Jesus would use:

1. “True teachers are not satisfied with second-rate work.”. 21 (29)  

2. True teachers are “not satisfied with directing their students to a standard lower than it is possible for them to attain.”  21 (29) 

3. True teachers are not “content with imparting only technical knowledge. . . .[but] to inspire students with principles of truth, obedience, honor, integrity, and purity—principles that will make them a positive force for the stability and uplifting of society.”. 21 (29)

4.. The true teacher’s “first effort and his constant aim” is “to aid the student in comprehending these principles, and in entering into that relation with Christ which will make them [“these principles”] a controlling power in the life.”. 22 (30) 

5. True teachers understand that they must teach these principles, “not as a dry theory,” knowing that “those who would impart truth must practice its principles themselves.”  28 (41) 

6. True teachers grasp that it would be “a sin to allow children to grow up in ignorance of useful labor.”. 32 (47) 

7. True teachers pass on to students “how to pray, how to approach their Creator, how to exercise faith in Him, and how to understand and obey the teachings of His Spirit.”  32, 33 (47) 

8. True teachers recognize that  “true education is not forcing  instruction on an unready and unreceptive mind. The mental powers must be awakened, the interest aroused.”. 28 (41) 

9. True teachers have worked through in their own lives the relationship between reason, doubt and faith: “God has given in the Scriptures sufficient evidence of their divine authority.  His own existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are established by testimony that appeals to our reason— and this testimony is abundant.  True, He has not removed the possibility of doubt; faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt have opportunity; but those who desire to know the truth find ample ground for faith.”  101 (169) 

10. True teachers endeavor to make clear that their students should not expect to enjoy “the benefits of the gospel, while they deny its spirit.  But this can not be.  Those who reject the privilege of fellowship with Christ in service, reject the only training that imparts a fitness for participation with Him in His glory. They reject the training that in this life gives strength and nobility of character.”  164 (264) 

11. True teachers have learned that the good is often the enemy of the best:  “‘Something better’ is the watchword of education, the law of all true living.  Whatever Christ asks us to renounce, He offers something better in its stead.  Often the young people cherish objects, pursuits, and pleasures that may not appear to be evil, but that fall short of the highest good. Let them be directed to something better than display, ambition, or self-indulgence. . . . [where] duty becomes a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure.” 185, 186 ( 297) 

Q. Ellen, perhaps the next question gets to the heart of the matter.  How does the great controversy theme directly inform the development of the Adventist curriculum from K1-16?

A. This is the core issue in education because  teachers may be enthusiastic, organized, highly regarded among their peers, and win all the popularity contests and still come far short of being  Christian educators.  Let me quickly go over at least twenty-six areas that need to be incorporated in each teacher’s classroom curriculum, some areas more explicit to some teachers than to others:  

1. The central place is given to Biblical studies because  “the more we search the Bible, the deeper is our conviction that it is the Word of the living God, and human reason bows before the majesty of divine revelation. . . . . The fact needs to be emphasized, and often repeated, that the mysteries of the Bible are not such because God has endeavored to conceal truth, but because our own weakness or ignorance makes us incapable of understanding or appropriating truth.  The limitation is not in His purpose, but in our capacity.”  102 (170-171) “It is not enough to know what others have thought or learned about the Bible.  Everyone must in the judgment give account of himself or herself to God, and each should learn personally what is truth.”. 113 (188)

2.. We emphasize correct economic principles because principles such as we find in the Book of Proverbs, for example, bind up “the well-being of society, of both secular and religious associations.  It is these principles that give security to property and life.”  83 (136-7)  

3. We emphasize appropriate music because “it is one of the most effective means of impressing the heart with spiritual truth. The value of song as a means of education should never be lost sight of.”  100 (168).  

4.. We emphasize the body/mind/soul interaction and unity because “both mental and spiritual vigor are in great degree dependent upon physical strength and activity.  Whatever promotes physical health promotes the development of a strong mind and a well-balanced character.”  117 (195)  

5. We emphasize health and hygiene because “without health no one can as distinctly understand or as completely fulfil his or her obligations to oneself, to other persons, or to the Creator.  Therefore the health should be as faithfully guarded as the character.  A knowledge of physiology and hygiene should be the basis of all educational effort.”  117 (195)  

6. We emphasize the electric power of the brain because this power, “promoted by mental activity, vitalizes the whole system, and is thus an invaluable aid in resisting disease.  This should be made plain.  The power of the will and the importance of self-control, both in the preservation and in the recovery of health, should be emphasized.  Likewise, the depressing and even ruinous effect of anger, discontent, selfishness, or impurity should be shown. On the other hand, the marvelous life-giving power to be found in cheerfulness, unselfishness, gratitude, should be emphasized.”  118 (197)  

7. We emphasize correct posture, “both in sitting and in standing,” and by “example and precept . . . insist that it shall be maintained.” 119 (198)  

8. We emphasize the “relation between plain living and high thinking” which places responsibility on students “to decide whether our lives shall be controlled by the mind or by the body [by a sound mind or our glands].” 121 (202) [By our glands or by the cerebral cortex]. “The relation of diet to intellectual development should be given far more attention than it has received.  Mental confusion and dullness are often the result of errors in diet.”  122 (204) [Brain power depends on oxygen and quality blood, and oxygen and quality blood depend on exercise and proper nutrition.  No short cuts with cups of coffee, late-night snacks, and whatever else.] 

9. We emphasize exercise because “physical inaction lessens not only mental but moral power.  The brain nerves that connect the whole system are the medium through which Heaven communicates with humans, and affects the inmost life.  Whatever hinders the circulation of the electric current in the nervous system, thus weakening the vital powers and lessening mental susceptibility, makes it more difficult to arouse the moral nature.” 126 (209)  

10. We emphasize companionship with students on all academic levels because “ true teachers can impart to their pupils few gifts so valuable as the gift of their own companionship.”. 128  (212)  

1I. We emphasize the benefit of manual labor because “work was appointed as a blessing . . . [and] becomes a part of God’s great plan for our recovery from the fall.”  130 (214)  “The work should be thorough and have a definite aim.”. 133 (218) 2. “The benefit of manual training is needed also by professional people. . . . Practical work encourages close observation and independent thought.  Rightly performed, it tends to develop that practical wisdom which we call common sense.”  134 (220)  

12. We emphasize the cultivation of “ self-forgetfulness, a characteristic that imparts unconscious grace to the life.” p. 145 (237) “Children need appreciation, sympathy, and encouragement, but care should be taken not to foster in them a love of praise. . . . They [wise teachers] will not encourage in youth the desire or effort to display their ability or proficiency.”  145 (237)  

13. We emphasize the cultivation of cheerfulness and courtesy because “all may possess a cheerful countenance, a gentle voice, a courteous manner, and these are elements of power. . . . True courtesy is not learned by the mere practice of rules of etiquette. . . . The essence of true politeness is consideration for others. . . . Real refinement of thought and manner is better learned in the school of the divine Teacher than by any observance of set rules.”  147, 148 (240-241)  

14. We emphasize “right principles in regard to dress because “without such teaching, the work of education is too often retarded and perverted.  Love of dress, and devotion to fashion, are among the teacher’s most formidable rivals and most effective hindrances. . . . Lead the youth to see that in dress, as in diet, plain living is indispensable to high thinking. . . . The character of a man or woman is judged by their style of dress.  A refined taste, a cultivated mind, will be revealed in the choice of simple and appropriate attire.”  152, 153 (246-248)  

15. We emphasize character above intellectual acquirements without ignoring “the value of scientific knowledge or literary acquirements; but above information it [true education] values power; above power, goodness; above intellectual acquirements, character. The world does not so much need men and women of great intellect as of noble character. . . . True education imparts this wisdom. It teaches us the best use of all our powers and acquirements.  Thus it covers the whole circle of obligation—to ourselves, to the world, and to God.”. 136 (225) 

16. We emphasize the Sabbath because  “the value of the Sabbath as a means of education is beyond estimate.”  155 (250)  

17. We emphasize personal responsibility because “wise educators . . . will seek to encourage confidence and strengthen the sense of honor. . . . Suspicion demoralizes, producing the very evils it seeks to prevent. . . .  On the same principle it is better to request than to command. Those  thus addressed have opportunity to prove themselves loyal to right principles.  Their obedience is the result of choice rather than compulsion.” 181 (289, 290)  

18. We emphasize cheerful obedience because “the government of God knows no compromise with evil.  Neither in the home nor in the school should disobedience be tolerated.  No parent or teacher who has at heart the well-being of those under his or her care will compromise with the stubborn, self-will that defies authority or resorts to subterfuge or evasion in order to escape obedience.  It is not love but sentimentalism that treats wrongdoing lightly, endeavors to secure conformity by coaxing or bribes, and finally accepts some substitute in place of the thing required. . . . . The greatest wrong done to a child or youth is to allow them to become fastened in the bondage of evil habit.” 181, 182 ( 290, 291)  

19. We emphasize the development of self-government because “the object of discipline is to train children for self-government.   They should be taught self-reliance and self-control.  As soon as they are able to understand, their reasoning powers should be enlisted on the side of obedience.”  179 (287)

20. We emphasize building self-respect by asking “the older [to] assist the younger, the strong the weak, and, so far as possible, let all be called upon to do something in which they excel.  This will encourage self-respect and a desire to be useful.” 178 (286)

 21. We emphasize positive goals in discipline because “the true object of reproof is gained only when wrongdoers are led to see their fault, and the will is enlisted for its correction.  When this is accomplished, point them to the source of pardon and power.  Seek to preserve their self-respect, and to inspire them with courage and hope. This work is the nicest, the most difficult, ever committed to human beings.”  182 (291, 292)

22. We emphasize doing joyfully the tough assignments because “ the true test of character is   found in the willingness to bear burdens, to take the hard place, to do the work that needs to be done, though it bring no earthly recognition or reward.  The true way of dealing with trial is not by seeking to escape it but by transforming it.”  185 (295)

 23. We emphasize cultivating the strength of the will because “the will should be guided and molded but not ignored or crushed.  Save the strength of the will; in the battle of life it will be needed.”  180 (289)

25. We emphasize the study of history “from the divine point of view.”  145 (238)

Q. Ellen, how does this emphasis on the will relate to the GCT?

A. As you will see in my other writings and especially in my book. Education, God is restoring men and women so that they will be safe to save in heaven and on the earth made new.  They are not only forgiven rebels but reborn sons and daughters who have developed a habit pattern, a spontaneous disposition—a will— to say Yes to whatever God wills and wherever He should lead.  They do not expect God to do the driving for them, for God has already told His followers that He is trying to restore them to be safe drivers now. and drivers that can be trusted forever throughout the universe.

Q. I notice you have three more aspects of the Adventist curriculum that will help us all to understand the great controversy theme better, and they seem to focus on the spiritual objectives we should hold up before the students of all ages.

A. Yes, without these final three, everything said already is virtually beside the point and that would be an eternal tragedy.

1. We emphasize an understanding of the nature of faith and its conditions because  “faith is trusting God. . . . Faith receives from God the life that alone can produce true growth and efficiency. . . . Make very plain how to exercise faith. To every promise of God there are conditions.”  157 (253)

2.  We emphasize the obligation of church membership because “another obligation, too often lightly regarded—one that should be made plain to every young person who has been awakened to the claims of Christ—is the obligation of church relationship. . . . Connection with Christ, then, involves connection with His church.” 167 (268, 269)

3. We emphasize that character counts and determines our future:  “Young people and even little children [should be taught] to choose for themselves that royal robe woven in heaven’s loom—the ‘fine linen, clean and white,’ which all the holy ones of earth will wear.  This robe, Christ’s own spotless character, is freely offered to every human being.  But all who receive it will receive and wear it here. . . . clothing themselves with Christ’s beautiful garment of character.  This will make them beautiful and beloved here, and will hereafter be their title of admission to the palace of the King.  His promise is: ‘They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy (Rev. 3:4).’”  154 (249)

V. If you were Satan, how would you try to mess up these core educational principles?  If you were Satan wouldn’t you work all these principles around to something like the following:

1. We will make the principle —“Truth shall make you free”— become “Information/Knowledge shall make you free.”

2. We, of course, will not erase the concept of “restoration,”—that would be too bold.  But we should postpone such hopes until after their foolish talk about a resurrection; do anything but keep their minds off restoration in this life.

3. We will convince teachers that educational theory and philosophy is a specialty for Schools of Education to think about. But, convince historians, physicists, and theologians that they have their own distinctive theories for the purposes and philosophies in their own particular areas.

4. We will cloud the search for truth with the high-sounding phrase, “academic freedom,” so that scholars will feel they are above accountability to their constituents.

5. We will discredit the notion that the teacher’s ethos has anything to do with the quality of their teaching and we will brand it pure provincialism and a form of anti-intellectualism.

6. We will ridicule the notion that a theological principle should permeate and inform curricula as well as methodology and scare the timid into thinking that such thinking will not stand the scrutiny of accrediting associations.

7. We will sell the notion that a church-appointed Board of Trustees can not be responsible for curriculum, student life, and teacher qualifications for two reasons: it will not stand the scrutiny of accrediting associations and it contradicts the school’s commitment to academic freedom.

8. We will redefine grace in terms of what Jesus did on the Cross and His gift of forgiveness and mercy only.  We will mute the concept of “grace” being unlimited, unmerited power to transform lives that seek God’s help and thus mute the idea of restoration as being the purpose of the gospel.  This will directly affect what is taught in religion classes from K-16.  But it will also change the content of such courses as the social sciences, as well as literature and science classes.

9. We will fog the truth about the nature of man and we will salute Alexander Pope when he said, “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man.” Essay on Man, Epistle II.

10. We will be even more effective in redirecting the theologians.  We will urge them to become experts on a particular biblical book, a particular archeological dig, or linguistic theory. We will heap on them the accolades of others who pursue the Bible as information to be mastered.  But we will cloud their minds from seeing the inner coherence of the Bible; especially, from seeing any grand central theme throughout its pages.

11. We will motivate students by appealing to their egos.  We will contrive subtle appeals to being first, to being Number One, from the first grade on. We will use competition as the strongest motivator.  We will exalt such characteristics as stamina, perseverance, and discipline as they strain to be Number One.  At the same time, we will use sly methods of ridicule to intimidate those who play around with weak, sniffling words such as unselfishness and humility.

12. We will create the allusion that everyone understands all their silly theological words such as grace, faith, and redemption.  Just as long as they don’t see Jesus as their High Priest with all the power available to shut us down in the lives of His so-called believers. 

Copyright © 2001 Herbert E. Douglass.  All rights reserved.

This Site Last Updated: Friday, October 10, 2014 03:20 PM
Copyright © 2000-2014 Herbert E. Douglass. All rights reserved.

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