A PROVIDENTIAL PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY, GOVERNMENT & EDUCATION
Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well,the maine end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, Joh 17,3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, let every one seriously set himselfe by prayer in secret to seeke it of him Prov 2,3.NEW ENGLAND’S FIRST FRUITS [Founding of Harvard College, 1643]
“Your view of history is your view of God.”
The effect of this truth is observed in reactions of blame and anger against God in times of suffering and tragedy. Two questions are asked: “Where was God?” & “Why did God allow this?” The first is a history question. The second is a government question. The answers to these questions form one’s philosophy of history, government and education.
These views affect whole nations. Mexico, for example, has a common saying: “Pobre Mexico! Tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca a Los Estados Unidos!” [“Poor Mexico! So far from God and so close to the United States!”] This saying expresses the view that God loves one nation and hates another. The effects are apparent in the life of the nation. In the United States, ignorance of God in history is also consequential. Miss Verna Hall in her volume Christian History of the Constitution explains:
“In proportion as Americans let go of faith in the absolute power of God, they have accepted the belief in an all powerful State. This is true of peoples or nations, for their idea of God determines the form of their civil, political, religious and social institutions.“
Another powerful statement of the cause-effect relationship implied by the principle “Your view of history is your view of God” follows:
The more thoroughly a nation deals with its history, the more decidedly will it recognize and own an over-ruling Providence therein, and the more religious a nation will it become; while the more superficially it deals with its history, seeing only secondary causes and human agencies, the more irreligious will it be. [Rev. J. W. Foljambe, January, 5, I876]
Judges 2:10-13 provides a tragic example of failure to teach Providential History:
“There arose a generation … which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in sight of the Lord, and served Baalim; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, … And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.”
We must either teach A Providential View of History or be doomed to see future generations forsake God like the generation described in the Book of Judges.
The History Question – A Providential View
PHILOS’OPHY, n. [L. philosophia; Gr. love, to love, and wisdom.]
Literally, the love of wisdom. But in modern acceptation, philosophy is a general term denoting an explanation of the reasons of things; or an investigation of the causes of all phenomena both of mind and of matter.Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language
History is an account of facts, particularly of facts respecting nations or states; a narration of events in the order in which they happened, with their causes and effects. (Webster’s 1828) One’s view of cause and effect in history is his philosophy of history. For example, an economic interpretation holds that class struggle produces advancement toward the goals of socialism and the perfect socialistic man. While secular history omits God and identifies only secondary causes, Providential History identifies God as the first cause for He is the Creator of the universe. He maintains control of the direction and purpose of history, and He maintains a Providential care over His creation. Providential History begins with creation. For example, the first sentence of Noah Webster’s History of the United States is, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This opening identifies God as the first cause of history.
Noah Webster’s definition of Providence eloquently expresses this view:
PROV’IDENCE, n. [L. providentia.]
3. In theology, the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures. He that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence, involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which caused a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Some persons admit a general providence, but deny a particular providence, not considering that a general providence consists of particulars. A belief in divine providence, is a source of great consolation to good men. By divine providence is often understood God himself.
When sin entered the world, God promised: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” This is God’s statement of His purpose in history. Before Christ (B.C.), all of history led to the fulfillment of this promise in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Since The Year of the Lord (Anno Domini, A.D.), all history is an account of the advancement of the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. Providential History is the study of the steps and progress leading to liberty of individuals and nations. As John Quincey Adams observed, “Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birth-day of the Saviour?”
TWO VIEWS OF HISTORY
The Government Question – A Providential View
LAW, n. [L. lex; from the root of lay. See lay. A law is that which is laid, set or fixed, like statute, constitution, from L. statuo.]
26. In general, law is a rule of action prescribed for the government of rational beings or moral agents, to which rule they are bound to yield obedience, in default of which they are exposed to punishment; or law is a settled mode or course of action or operation in irrational beings and in inanimate bodies.
The government question is “Why did God allow this?” The question is often phrased, “If God is loving and omnipotent, why did He permit this?” Webster’s two categories of law (one for rational beings or moral agent, the other for irrational beings and in inanimate bodies) identify the reality that while God governs the physical universe by the law of cause and effect, He governs man by presenting truth to the mind for a moral decision and then allowing the natural consequence of that decision. Therefore the sinful choices of man are the origin of evil and suffering. As Moses said, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Chapters 28 through 30 of Deuteronomy describe in detail the consequences of both good and evil choices.)
John Milton eloquently answered the government question in the Book I of Paradise Lost:
Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos:
… what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the height of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
[line 344 et seq.] …his creating hand
Nothing imperfect or deficient left
Of all that he created, much less man,
Or aught that might his happy state secure,
Secure from outward force. Within himself
The danger lies, yet lies within his power;
Against his will he can receive no harm.
But God left free the will; for what obeys
Reason is free; and reason he made right,
But bid her well beware, and still erect,
Lest, by some fair appearing good surprised,
She dictate false, and misinform the will
To do what God expressly hath forbid.
Education – A Providential View
EDUCA’TION, n. [L. educatio.] The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.Webster’s 1828
A Providential Philosophy of Education is the expression of a Providential Philosophy of History and Government. Providential History tells us that man is made in the image of God having the abilities of mind, will and emotion. Therefore man is not an animal to be trained by stimulus-response like a horse or dog. Providential Government tells us that God governs man by presenting truth to the mind for a moral choice and bringing appropriate consequences. Therefore education must enlighten the understanding so that the student will be trained to govern himself by truth.
The goal of education is to prepare the student for eternity. This goal is far greater than the goal of secular education, which is merely to prepare the student to earn a living in this present life. Jesus prayed in these words: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) Therefore education for eternity is built entirely on knowing God, the source of all wisdom and knowledge.
“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)
A Providential Philosophy of Education posits both a curriculum and a method.
Curriculum: A Providential curriculum is the study of the Creator and His Creation. Not only has God created the Universe but He also continues to govern and provide for all His creatures. All things are related to the Creator in whom “we live, and move, and have our being.” A study of truth outside of the context of God is like a study of fish outside of the context of water. A correct understanding of each subject in the curriculum reveals both God’s purpose for it and how He has developed man’s understanding of the subject to bring forth His Redemptive purpose in history, which is liberty from sin – both internal and external, evangelical and political.
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col. 1:16-17)
Method: A Providential Method of Education is Biblical reasoning and appeal to conscience. Moses reasoned with the people presenting truth concerning sin and righteousness and appealing to them to “choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Jesus, the Master Teacher, continually reasoned with those He taught. One example is the Parable of the Good Samaritan which is His answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Rather than simply stating that a neighbor is one who loves and cares for others, Jesus told the Parable and then asked, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” After his student had reasoned to the answer, Jesus appealed to his conscience: “Go, and do thou likewise.”
Also in The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:18-23) Jesus teaches that understanding is the good soil: “He that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
The Providential Method is described again in Nehemiah 8:8-12:
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused [them] to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, who [is] the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest, the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said to all the people, This day [is] holy to the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. …So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day [is] holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
The method of Biblical reasoning and appeal to conscience is training in virtue. John Locke’s essay, “Some Thoughts Concerning Education – 1690,” explains:
As the Strength of the Body lies chiefly in being able to endure Hardships, so also does that of the Mind. And the great Principle and Foundation of all Vertue and Worth, is placed in this, That a Man is able to deny himself his own Desires, cross his own Inclinations, and purely follow what Reason directs as best, tho’ the Appetite lean the other way.
Just as weight lifting etc. are methods of training for physical strength, so also Biblical reasoning and appeal to conscience are methods of training for a life of virtue. This is the method that is consistent with God’s design of man. God gifted man with reason and He governs him by presenting truth to his mind followed by choice and consequence. His method of education is consistent with His method of government and both are revealed the history of His Creation and His relationship with it.
Education must continue throughout one’s life, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor 13:12)
All education in every subject in the curriculum must build faith and not destroy it. Its purpose is to inspire the learner to follow the passion of the Apostle Paul: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Phil 3: 10-11)
The foundation of all learning is the knowledge of the nature and character of God, of man – made in the image of God, and of sin and the atonement. This learning will produce liberty for, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:17-18)
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
Paul exhorts us to be educated in the following passages:
“So l tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” (Ephesians 4: 17-20)
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
Noah Webster On the Importance of Education: “The education of youth [is] an employment of more consequence than making laws and preaching the Gospel, because it lays the foundation on which both law and Gospel rest for success.”John Milton On the Purpose of Education: “The end …of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our soul of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection