I recently overheard a religious leader state that a good Christian education will emphasize teaching children good behavior. Children should learn early how to act in Christian ways: being kind and polite, telling the truth, being honest, etc.
Those are all good things, of course. Who will argue that children should be capable of good behavior? But a Christian education which focuses only on good behavior (orthopraxis) may be as detrimental to the spiritual formation for children as one that focuses primarily on right belief (orthodoxy). Behavior is an outward action which can be totally unrelated to inner values or beliefs. Acting kind is not necessarily an indicator that someone has moved from a state of egocentricity and is capable of being considerate of othersâ€”it may be reciprocally motivatedâ€” â€œI scratch your back, you scratch mine.â€ Acting honest may only be a fear of getting caught and an aversion to being punished (pain-avoidance). And, acting polite may only be a thinly masked skill in manipulation.
Someone has warned about our propensity of making pagans act in Christian ways while neglecting the inner realities of the faith. A good Christian education will give attention to the formation of the inner beingâ€”regardless of behavior. Rebellion may be a sign of honest faith struggles. What appears a selfish act may be an appropriate response to personal boundaries. Expressing anger is not a sin. Hurting a personâ€™s feelings because the truth must be held as a higher good is not being unkind.
Effective Christian education is holistic and therefore avoids the perils of an overfocus on any one dimension of the self. Both right behavior (orthopraxy) and right belief (orthodoxy) are important. And while one does not lead to the other each informs the other.
How balanced and integrated is your Christian education enterprise in teaching your children acting, knowing, and being?
Date posted: Wednesday, February 27th, 2008 12:16 am | Under category: children, Christian Education
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