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Insights into "What Makes Education Christian?"

This article serves as a reflective response to Chapter two of the book “What Makes Education Christian?” by James Riley Estep Jr.[1] Before reading the Chapter, my general definition of Christian education would have been based on two primary principles: 1) Sharing the biblical story of the triune God’s love for humanity and the redemptive sacrificial actions of Jesus Christ. 2) Understanding how to apply Biblical based methods and ideologies that would lead to Christian discipleship and spiritual transformation. Through the reading of Estep (2008), I have gained an appreciation into the idea that there are other components that are contributing factors in the Christian education paradigm. These, therefore, in addition to Christian theology, include educational theory, and social sciences.

I have also gained a better understanding of the value of the social science theories and the positive impacts that they can add to Christian education if used in an appropriate and balanced manner. Looking at the social sciences more specifically, I endorse the concept of the integration of socially influenced learning methods, developmental stages, and behavioral studies with the theological principles that I abide by. These components are important because just like in a secular learning environment, a one size fits all learning experience is not efficient. Therefore, insights gleaned from social science behavioral studies, and socio-cultural demographic studies can assist the Christian education facilitator in meticulously designing curriculum for their intended audience. I must add that there are aspects of social science theory that should not be integrated into the Christian education paradigm, these would include the introduction of philosophical assumptions such as metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would say that in my current ministerial context we fulfill the above practical implications at a level of 2. While the current educational resource material is theologically sound, it does not fully capture the social diversity of the local context. This diversity includes not only generational barriers but also the critical reality that there are also educational obstacles within the various age groups who have difficulty comprehending some of the resources. Additionally, the material does not fully address the different levels of spiritual maturity present within the community.

As I conclude, I will surmise that the reading of Estep (2008) from a Christian education perspective has inspired me to closely look at ways in which I can succinctly integrate relevant social science theories into the Christian education paradigm, so that it is relevant to the entire socio-cultural context of my community. This integration is predicated on how successfully I can filter in the correct amount of social science attributes where they provide a benefit to the overall Christian education process. Notwithstanding the benefits of the appropriate social science components to the Christian educational process, I am also cognizant of the fact that the educational resource material and its delivery to the relevant recipients must at all times remain true in its Christian distinctiveness and theological principles.

[1] James Riley Estep, Michael J Anthony, and Gregg R Allison, A Theology for Christian Education (Nashville, Tenn.: B & H Academic, 2008).

Photo Credit:

Smith, John-Mark. Pink Pencil on Open Bible Page and Pink. December 23, 2016.

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