What’s the key to making a society good, and just, and wise, and happy? Some answer as did this Greek fellow, Plato, in his Republic. They say, with him, “Education is the key.”
That’s certainly a compelling thought, compelling enough for American’s to dump more and more money each year into the black hole that is our public education system. Why is it so compelling? Because what it assumes is so flattering.
What does this common answer assume man’s problem to be? Society, no matter which society you pick on this lovely earth, is a mess. Problems abound, man-sourced problems. So what’s our problem? Well, if education is the key to a good, just, wise, and happy, a virtuous, society, then man’s problem is ignorance. If it can be addressed by informing and training, our problem is lack of training and information. That means that all the bad that man makes is not because man is fundamentally bad himself. He’s just misinformed. If he just knew better, if he just had better training, everything would end up groovy. “He’s good-hearted. He just didn’t get enough education. He needs more schooling. Or maybe some penitential time in the penitentiary.” If education is the key, then a good society can be made up of us. And we love that thought.
And, if that’s not enough to make us love the idea that education is the key to a great society, such an idea also assumes that the solution to our problems is found within our powers. So our nature is affirmed, and our power is lauded. We have it in us to make that grand mountain upon which righteousness shall dwell. We can educate. We can get it done.
It’s helpful to point out the assumptions made by “education is key” for, in so doing, its error is highlighted. To be true, it requires man to be fundamentally good. And we know that is not the case. We know ourselves. We know how bad we are. We would melt with shame if others truly knew us for what we are, for we are vile. When we are self-aware, we find that we disgust ourselves. We’re liars, adulterers, murderers, covetous, thieves, and God-haters. And though we’ve been told in various ways, from within and without, that being and doing such is wrong, we still are and do. Education, no matter how deficient our educational experiences have been, hasn’t helped us in that department. We are what we are. And it is ugly.
Not only do we know this to be the truth about us, but history testifies to its truth as well. Athens, with its shining democracy and philosophies, loved pedophilia. Rome, with all its greatness, used men as torches to light their orgiastic festivities and built one of the world’s greatest structures to facilitate manslaughter as entertainment. The fifty States of America have joined forces to murder some 60 million babies, to name just one social ill. We’ve looked back on the wrongs done in the West, and, instead of wielding some innate power to do better, we’ve just continued in moral decay. We’re bad and powerless.
The wrongness of “education is key” is historically made plainer by none more than Israel, God’s special nation-state, a nation with the best rules, the best information, the best instruction, the best structure for training. If education was fundamentally the key, then Israel would have been and would be to this day a city on a hill. But what did Israel do with all these educational gifts? It denied God and turned to evil. Women chopped in pieces and put in the mail, daughters slain, wood worshiped, babies cooked in fired bronze, fornication, bloodlust. Israel, educated preeminently, forgot God, and so knew nothing. And so was justly destroyed.
Education is key? Please, get some schooling. That answer is trash. It’s like saying, “We can grow into a playoff contending NBA squad. We just need the right coaching.” I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky. I’ve been told I can be and do anything I want to be and do. So I just need that coaching, right? That’s just a special kind of stupid. I have more in common with Gimli than Giannis. My uncle is a Hall of Fame basketball coach. If he’d owned my every moment from birth till now, I wouldn’t have made it past high school ball. Give me the best education, I still don’t intrinsically possess what is necessary for the goal.
We can’t construct a good society through education because we are bad. We are morally inept, bankrupt. We are unjust to the bone. And to educate such men simply gets you clever devils.
So, to hell with it all, right? Well, no. If that was the answer, God wouldn’t have saved Noah and his family through the flood. He wouldn’t have given us the very rainbows with which we give him the poofter middle finger.
Things are not hopeless, if we look not to ourselves and our own strength. What we need is for our bad hearts to be made new. We need what the Bible calls new birth, to be washed by the blood of Christ, the only good man, who died in the place of all his people. We need to be born again, no longer enemies of God and goodness, but born again with God’s law written on our hearts and our wills at peace with righteousness. We need the gift of regeneration and faith and repentance in Jesus.
We are the problem. The solution is found in Christ. We need to be made new in him. And then, if we recognize this, we find that education, specifically Christian education, though not the key, is not just useful but necessary. Being born again in Christ, we are to be trained up into him, we need to be enculturated into his kingdom, we need to learn to serve and obey him, and to kill our desires for that which displeases him. We need to fear him and so know wisdom; and then we need to turn around and teach others the same.
Because of our wickedness, education isn’t our hope. But if we’re born again to a living hope in Christ, education becomes the focus of our lives. Though educating bad men gets you clever devils, educating Christian men gets you honed conquerors. Born again and educated in Christ, we can and will build a good, just, beautiful society. The glory of God will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. The nations will be submitted to King Jesus. And mankind will walk according to his righteous precepts.
This is the gift of God, so that no man may boast but in him.
Yes, praise is due his name.