ABHE’s collective understanding regarding the essence of our educational approach has become crystallized in terms of the following four concepts: biblical, transformational, experiential, and missional. In my previous post, I asserted that when we describe education as biblical we mean that we engage intentionally and pervasively in education that involves extensive and serious study of the text of God’s eternal Word based on our conviction that the Bible is infallible, essential, authoritative, and understandable.
A second distinctive we espouse is that we engage intentionally and pervasively in transformational higher education—transformation validated not by a life orientation toward self-actualization or self-fulfillment, but rather by a posture of submission and self-denial, living out Kingdom values and Gospel priorities before a watching world.
We engage intentionally and pervasively in incarnational (i.e., life on life, regardless of modality) education-in-community, not in isolation, resulting in II Corinthians 3:18-style metamorpha. Such transformation issues in and is validated not by a life orientation toward self-actualization or self-fulfillment, but rather by a posture of submission and self-denial, living out in community Kingdom values and Gospel priorities before a watching world.
Metamorpha . . . not Conformity
Frankly, while we have long and loudly touted our commitment to transformational education, our institutional standards and systems have too often settled for moral conformity masquerading as spiritual maturity. In writing to the Romans (12:1-2), Paul warns against mere conformity and insists that the Gospel consists of and calls for nothing short of the ongoing transformation (Greek: metamorpha) that flows from a heart of worship and surrender. Paul uses the same word (metapmorpha) in II Corinthians 3:18 to describe the journey of life in the Spirit.
We reject the Greek idea that correct knowledge will always precede and lead to wise living. Instead, we commend the Hebrew ethic that teaches that true knowing is bestowed by God’s Spirit upon the submissive and obedient.
We reject, as did Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, the Sophist ideal of teachers as professional purveyors of the skill to seduce listeners by selling ideas. Instead, we affirm the paideia mentor/friend/community model of education. Pierre Hadot (What is Ancient Philosophy?) describes it as follows: “the training of human beings, as the slow and difficult education of the character, as the harmonious development of the entire human person, and finally as a way of life.”
We also reject the duty-to-self ethic (c.f., Vitz, Psychology as Religion) as antithetical to Jesus’ teaching and example that only by self-forfeiture of one’s life can true life be discovered and enjoyed (Mt. 10:39; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:34).
There’s Inextricable Linkage
Since the Bible is given by God as a primary means of spiritual transformation (Heb. 4:12), you can easily recognize that these distinctives—biblical-transformational—are inextricably linked.
In upcoming posts, I will offer some commentary on the experiential and missional distinctives of biblical higher education.