Hidden Glory

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Not to Rome or Athens. Not even Jerusalem.

Not to a palace, temple or house of men.

He came in hiding to Bethlehem.

Our Lord of Glory, Creator Logos,

Silent!

Yet, the Word made flesh spoke life again

By taking on our skin.

A blazing star and angel choir announced Messiah

To just a few.

A weary couple from Nazareth,

Some rough shepherds, pagan scholars, Anna and Simeon

Waited, watched, and searched for Him.

Why did God hide His glory in a cattle stall?

Why did the Source of Life, the Living Word, the Radiance of the Glory of God endure the womb, submit to birth, and lie powerless in a manger? 

O the mystery and beauty and power of silent, humble love!

 

 

 

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Lead Kindly Light

Lead Kindly Light

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Mom at the piano. Glory always shines.
So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on, o’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone, and with the morn those angel faces smile, which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.         by John Henry Newman

I didn’t know of this hymn before 2013, when Dallas Willard quoted the last two lines in the Knowing Christ Conference (now published as Living in Christ’s Presence by IVP). As he taught about God’s joyfulness and about heaven, he recalled the line about the angel faces, and he teared up. I was sitting at home, attending the conference online, and I also teared up and wanted to understand what was going on inside of him. His face was full of joy and longing and hope. We knew he was fighting pancreatic cancer, and some of his closest loved ones were sitting right in front of him in the first row as he taught. It was intense.

It made me me deeply curious about our ongoing lives after our bodies quit. Gary Black helped me think better about everlasting life in Preparing for Heaven, his work compiling Dallas’ ideas and his experience with dying. Gary was with Dallas, working with him on the book, as the cancer was destroying Dallas’ body.

I never got to meet Dallas in person, but he’s among a group of people with kind, glorious faces that I have known and lost for awhile. I can’t wait to see them again or meet them for the first time.

My Dad’s mother,  Grandma Anna, suffered terribly for many years with rheumatoid arthritis. She was on her deathbed when our family visited in 1963. I was just six weeks old. Mom loved to tell me about Anna’s quiet joyfulness and how she adored me during that visit.  “Florence, come sit with me and nurse that baby.”

Wilbur Konkel, pioneer missionary to Liberia, was the first pastor I can remember at our little church in Oakland. Wilbur Konkel loved children, and he captured my imagination with his stories of Africa and with the giant python skin he kept rolled up in a satchel. Each Sunday he gave my brother and me a coin if we had read a chapter of scripture daily that week. We used to read Psalm 117 a lot to game his system, but now I’m blessed with having that shortest of all chapters easily and permanently memorized. One Sunday I confessed that I had skipped a day. With a twinkle in his eye, he still gave me a quarter and told me to keep on reading.

I hope I will be remembered as one of these shining ones for my family and others. I remember Dallas Willard saying, “Glory always shines!” I’ve been noticing a strong connection between this radiance in godly people and the music in their souls.  Colossians 3 urges us to have melodies in our hearts to the Lord and to sing to each other with all sorts of songs. These radiant people I’ve known have enjoyed melodies that couldn’t be contained, and their singing has been glorious.

One old friend, Lois Stetson, was a terrible, glorious singer. When I was a little kid, she used to mop floors in the evenings in a school building by our house. (She did this after serving all day as a principal and teacher). When she thought no one was around, she would typically be singing badly to Jesus. I remember thinking it was funny, but I certainly knew it was the real deal. It was joy and light! Her face seemed really shiny during church, and I remember her rhapsodizing about the book of Colossians.

I wonder if Lois Stetson and Dallas Willard have bumped into each other yet. Maybe they enjoy singing with Mom as she plays a grand piano in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Maybe Gabriel joins in with the cello?  Hey, why not? I wonder if God would enjoy putting them together with some other angel faces and blessing me with a little welcoming committee when my body here quits working. I wouldn’t put it past Him. His shining, joyful face is the reason for all of these other folks being so shiny, and His generosity is creative and particular toward each of us.

“What Jesus teaches us is that within his presence and with his word, we begin to live in heaven now, and that’s why he says that those who keep his word will never experience death, as human beings understand it. There is a continuity of life through what we view as death from this point of view, because we do see people die. Their bodies stop working, but they continue to exist as the people they are in the presence of God. I think many people do not realize they’ve died until later. Then they recognize that something is different. I love that line from John Henry Newman’s old song “Lead, Kindly Light”: “With the morn those angel faces smile / Which I have loved long since and lost a while.” See, that’s the continuity. Really, that’s the continuity of life: life now, in the action and presence of God with his people.”
Willard, Dallas; Ortberg, John (2013-12-26). Living in Christ’s Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God (pp. 83-84). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Either-Or Christianity?

“A false dichotomy or false dilemma occurs when an argument presents two options and ignores, either purposefully or out of ignorance, other alternatives.”

“In general, a false dichotomy gives the impression that the two opposite options are mutually exclusive (that is, only one of them may be the case, never both) and that at least one of them is true, that is, they represent all of the possible options.”  (from http://www.philosophy-index.com/logic/fallacies/false-dilemma.php)

tumblr_nw1kg7d4hH1uiitobo1_500Sometimes I’ve experienced teaching or have confronted assumptions in myself or other Christians based in false dichotomies.

Some examples related to spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the spiritual:

  1. The Holy Spirit works spontaneously and dynamically; therefore, when we try to be thoughtful, planned, or prepared, we are leaving out the Holy Spirit. We are just working on our own.
  2. The spiritual is mysterious and powerful; therefore, the spiritual is not found in the quiet or everyday or normal.
  3. God and other spirits are working in the spiritual realm; therefore, the work of people is only in the physical realm and their work is necessarily carnal.
  4. People are physical beings; therefore, they are not spiritual beings.

Some examples related to free will

  1. God is sovereign; therefore man does not have free will.
  2. Salvation is the work of God; therefore, my choices or seeking after God are ineffective.
  3. God is sovereign; therefore my prayers don’t impact His decisions. My prayers don’t change things.

I admit that these are not simple issues, but I don’t think we have  to resort to either-or thinking.

Some practices and ideas that have helped me to deal with these issues:

  1. Read scripture, especially complete passages that provide context and the teachings around various issues.
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit for help understanding what I need to understand.
  3. Engage in learning to do the things Jesus commanded and look for opportunities to teach these things to others. Die to my old life and immerse in the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Live out the Great Commission). A life focused on discipleship doesn’t take time out for endless wrangling over words (see II Timothy 2:14)
  4. Focus on these complex issues in the context of real relationships between the persons involved. The persons involved are the three Persons of the Trinity, other spirits (angels and demons) and people. Keep in mind that real persons live out life together, make decisions together, and are affected deeply by the decisions, and lives of the others.  For instance, when I think about how persons relate, I don’t have to worry about either/or scenarios when it comes to choice. My wife and I share decisions daily. We don’t care and rarely remember how we reached many of our decisions, but we make choices together, because we actually live in close relationship. I can join God in choosing love if my life is joined with His.
  5. Remember that God created us very complex: heart, soul, mind, body, and relationships. Remember that God wants harmony among the various parts of my life. He wants my life integrated, and ruled by His love. He wants a restored soul, and a forgiven and revived spirit, and a renewed mind, and a body forming good habits by increasingly doing the right things, and relationships that are growing in love. The fractured human life is certainly a reality apart from God, but a redeemed child of God grows in grace and knowledge and is predestined to be restored to the image of its Maker.

I need to remember God’s Tenderness and Goodness

If I believe in the tender closeness of my Heavenly Father, the love of Christ, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit . . . when I believe in my life actually lived out with God, I don’t really need to worry about whether my prayers make a difference.  Of course they do!

When I consider the greatness and goodness of God, the loving sacrifice and triumphant resurrection of Jesus, and the steady presence of the Holy Spirit, I don’t have to worry about whether my salvation is a matter of my choosing or my small effort. I simply enjoy it and live in relationship with my Savior.

When I think about the precious Holy Spirit and how He quietly helps me to understand, prays on my behalf, and produces selfless love and other fruit in my life, I don’t have to worry about whether spiritual things are spontaneous or planned. I don’t have to worry about whether I’m putting in too much or too little effort. I can just pray and think and intend to cooperate with the Spirit and walk in the Spirit.  I can take part in the good training activities that the scriptures teach and that Jesus modeled to have an integrated and authentic and fruitful life of blessing. I can do my best without trusting my best. I can do my best while trusting Jesus and thanking Him for His grace that enables me to do what I cannot do on my own.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:12-13

The Love Note

You are mine. My masterpiece. I knit you together inside your mother. I watch you grow.  I enjoy working with you, and I keep shaping you. I gave you a body, spirit, and soul; a mind for thinking and for feeling, and a unique array of traits and of gifts to discover. I made you in my own image, and You will live forever with me. You are my treasured child!

It delights me to lift up my face and look at you. I enjoy each time you look back at me in love. And I see you learning more and more to share our love with your family and neighbors. It makes me so happy! I love them, too.

I love you so much that I gave my beloved Son Jesus, who cares for you as I do and gave his life for you. Because of Jesus, you may keep on living, no matter what happens in this world or whatever happens to your body. Your life is so much more than your body! Your place in my universe is so much more than this world!

Put your confidence in my Son and me. Learn to live the way we live! Receive our love. Be filled with it and let it overflow to everyone else in your life.

Keep trusting us. We have blessed you with our plan for your life, and it is a great plan! In our plan, everything will work out for good for you. It works out that way for everyone who receives and responds to us in love; everyone who hears our voice and lives according to our purpose.

We love you and will take care of you. Our Holy Spirit is by your side to help and comfort you. You are never alone. Your life is surrounded by the three of us!  We always love each other, and we always love you! Your life is surrounded by eternal love! It cannot be taken away by anything in life or in death. When you went down into the water of baptism, it meant that you entered into a life immersed in our life. Your life is in ours, and we are in yours.

Enjoy our love. Let it grow and produce wholeness, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. You are like a beautiful branch, growing out of Jesus. Stay there. Receive nourishment and strength from us. Produce flowers. Produce good fruit. Soak in the light and rain that we provide! Endure some shaping and trimming. We love you too much to ignore your growth and health. Discipline can be painful for a time, but it is for blessing you and blessing others through you.

Live with us. Live eternal life. It is a joy to have so much time together in this day and forever.  We have only just begun to show you the glory in us and in all that we make. You have only begun to realize the joy of talking with us, really sharing life with us, and learning the beginning of union that is pure bliss. We love and enjoy each other perfectly, and we are bringing you into that kind of love and joy.

You have only begun to see the wonders of the universe. It has been fun to see you impressed with some snapshots from the Hubble. We will take you on adventures through galaxies!

Remember how you feel when you are about to leave for camping in Yosemite with your loved ones. Well, that’s kind of the idea. You know how much you love music and look forward to a great concert or to singing your lungs out with a large choir? We’re putting together the greatest choir of all time and saving you a spot.

And we will sing for you. You aren’t quite ready for that yet, but you will be. We’re going to unleash our joy over you in song. If you can think about what it was like to be in your Grandma’s arms while she sang to you, it will be like that and more; like the three tenors, plus the roar of the ocean, plus the sound of children laughing and sparrows singing. Remember the sound of a stadium full of my praise, with thousands and thousands singing your favorite hymn in perfect harmony? That was just a whisper.

Back to the present. Like Jesus before you, you are living in a broken world. You suffer and you see suffering. But cheer up. We have overcome the world, and you can know that everything is all right. Even today, with all that you face, you can see life with our eyes. You can steadily enjoy a pervasive sense of wellbeing, and grow in your admiration for Jesus, who suffered deeply for you.

the-return-of-the-prodigal-son-1669.jpg!BlogBroken, desperately thirsty, shriveling people are all around you. We are always inviting them to drink freely of the water of life. Join our Spirit in bringing the invitation. They need to come. We do not want any to perish, but all to come to a completely restored way of thinking and living. They can come. They can come to know us. They can be taught to love us with every part of their being and to bring that love to their neighbors. The invitation goes on and on through our Spirit and our beloved bride, our church.

Don’t ever forget that our call and invitation is for you. Sometimes you will slip.  Sometimes you will forget. Sometimes you will try to live without our grace. Just come back. Be restored.

Does it surprise you that we see you as our bride? Does that help you see how much you are adored, and also how closely we want you to join each other and us? You all are like single body, a single bride, with Jesus as your Lord and husband.

Delight, like we do, in being together, and together with us. This delight can grow deeper even in times of great suffering. We are especially near to you when your heart is broken. We bring comfort to you in mourning and strength to you in weakness.

We really are taking care of all the details, and we really are providing you a way through. There is glory ahead for you. Bright, amazing light that will shatter the remnants of your worries and pains.

Stay faithful. Trust us. We have been with you. We are with you today. We will always be with you. Be with us.

Scriptural Notes: 

1. creation and shaping (Gen. 1-2, Ps 139, John 15, Eph. 2)

2. how God sees us and loves and blesses us (Num 24,  Ps. 23, Zeph 3, John 3, Rom 8)

3. the idea of unity founded in the loving union of the Trinity (Song of Songs, Matt 28, John 3, John 17, Eph 4, Rev. 22)

4. His ongoing work in us and the good fruit that is in the good tree (Ps. 1, Matt. 7, Jn 15, Rom 8, Gal 5, Eph 2, Rev 22)

5. His provision in disciplining, strengthening, and pruning us; the fellowship and blessing  in suffering (Ps. 34, Is. 40-41, Matt 5, John 15 – 16, Rom. 5, Rom 8, Heb. 12, James 1, I Peter 5)

7. The glorious resurrection light and life of God (Zeph. 3, John 1, John 3, John 10, II Cor. 4, Rev. 5, Rev. 22 )

Special thanks to Dallas Willard and John Ortberg for their anointed teaching on Living in Christ’s Presence (available from IVP in video and text and small group study). It was Dallas Willard’s last public teaching as his “little power pack” was failing with sickness in Feb. 2013.  He was welcomed into Christ’s presence (a place that was quite familiar to him) a few weeks later, with thanksgiving on his lips as he passed.

The influence of this wonderful teaching is changing me and opening the scriptures to me. Sometimes it seems like I’ve never even seen the verses before; they are new and rich when framed in growing knowledge of God.

Some favorite phrases from Dallas Willard on joy:

“It’s a joyous God who fills the universe!”

“Joy cuts through everything”

“a pervasive sense of well being . . . that everything is O.K.”

“Creation was an act of joy, of delight, in the goodness of what was done.”

“it’s the creative aspect that goes through the love of God in creating”

“And to anticipate that the moment of passing from this earth will be one of great joy!”

“in His presence and His joy, we begin to live in heaven now”

Governance Core Values for Christian Organizations

1. Courageous Conservatism

Change for the sake of change is to be avoided. When possible, keep structures, policies, and practices that are effective in place. When things need changing, courageously confront,  and move forward together.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! If it is broke, don’t pretend it ain’t!

2. Knowledge

High quality reporting and communication processes are a priority. Good information helps leaders make wise decisions based on knowledge of the properties, the people, the legal issues, the history, the finances, and other major aspects of each ministry.

My people perish for lack of knowledge. (and their meetings are much too long when they stew over things without getting good information).

3. Intentionality

Change always happens in organizations. Individuals and groups change internally and also face continuing pressures and change from outside forces. We need to intentionally respond to change and instigate needed changes for the health of the organization. We need vision for what we are to become, intention and determination to move in that direction, and application of specific means that are necessary to get there.

Aim for nothing, and you’re sure to hit it.

4. Leverage

Look for opportunities to find small improvements that have great benefit at low cost.

Bang for the buck.

5. Stewardship

Governance is responsible to steward finances, property, core beliefs, mission, and leaders. Sustaining and improving the health of each of these key resources is vital.

Lord, find us faithful, no fearful!

6.Trust

We do not hold the future in our hands. God does. We demonstrate our trust in God by joining our diligent effort to the grace of God on an ongoing basis. We must work hard to build trust among ourselves through kind and consistent communication. We must be trustworthy by doing own work well.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. Join all your efforts to His power and grace and gentleness, and He will provide wisdom for the steps that need to be taken.

7. God’s Power Applied

Leaders should use their ingenuity to solve problems; however it is a deadly trap to slip into self reliance. We do our best, but we do not trust our best. We trust God and rely on His wisdom. We rely on Him to supply the leadership gifts to our group that are needed in order to maintain unity, to build us up in Christ, and to effectively help the people in our ministry to be built up in Christ.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  Eph. 4:11 ff  

8. Unity based in the Trinity

Cooperation and collaboration are essential, and these unifying practices of unity are evidence of the image of God in man and in the common grace that God provides. When our unity is based in the glorious Trinity, our cooperative efforts are empowered by the boundless love of God in His perfectly united three persons. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit continually practice perfect love for one another and for us. This love can be overflowing in our hearts and in our leadership groups.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.    Jesus prayer for us in John 17

 

My Philosophy of Education

David Gross
Philosophy of Education
March 2013

There is no avoiding the fact that we live at the mercy of our ideas.
This is never more true than with our ideas about God.”
― Dallas Willard

Introduction

I build my philosophy of education on biblical theology and on correlating beliefs about humanity. Beliefs about human origin, constitution, purpose, corruption, and development are particularly impactful.  I’ve organized this paper around five questions:

  1. The question of origin. Where did we come from? Are we designed or accidental?
  2. The question of constitution or design. What are we made of?
  3. The question of purpose. Why are we here? What are we made for?
  4. The question of evil. What is wrong with us? What is to be done about it?
  5. The question of development. How do we grow? What and how should we learn?

1. Origin. Where did we come from?

The popular notion about human origin (or origins) built over the past couple of centuries does not inform my philosophy of education. I find that Darwin’s theory as originally framed is self refuting, built on the assumption that living things are just arrangements of simple building blocks (cells). Subsequent knowledge of the many types of cells, their wide range of functions, and their interdependent parts has shown that these building blocks are irreducibly complex and full in themselves of incredible design. I also find current, popular versions of the “scientific” theories of evolution unsatisfying and unstable, driven by scientific and academic correctness more than by an honest curiosity about our origin.

I can logically accept complex evolutionary processes as tools in the hands of God for creation, but I have no biblical or practical reasons to need such an explanation for human existence. What I rely on is the conviction that God is our Maker. His time frame and His means are not fundamental to my philosophy of education.
However, His creation of humans in His image as His highest, “very good,” creative work is fundamental. Scriptures teach that the human race is God’s special creation, and that each particular human is His special creation. Together, we are of infinite value. Individually we are of infinite value. This understanding of our origin and value has tremendous implications for education. The infinite value of each child makes the care and teaching of each child vital. Our creation in the likeness of God suggests that attributes such as creativity, beauty, autonomy, order, goodness, virtue, and freedom are key components in our learning and development. Our relationship to Him gives us certain responsibilities toward God, toward each other, and toward the created world. Education must train people to grow in capacity to fulfill these responsibilities.

2. Design. What are we made of?

I believe that modern physicalism and the later postmodern explanations about the stuff of humanity are not helpful in forming a good philosophy of education. (see this article on  postmodernism:  http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=70).  Physicalism (like atomism or materialism) is the belief that people and all other things that exist are simply physical. In this view, we are just bodies with brains, and we last until we die. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Some of the staunchest advocates of this view seem to believe it with a sort of religious fervor, and this passion seems to refute idea it preaches. Physicalism tends toward hopelessness, apathy, and/or recklessness. It makes it hard to know what a good life might be or why one might aspire to live one. It leaves me wondering whether my annoying classmate is worth any more than the drowned earthworm squirming out on the sidewalk. It leaves me wondering whether what I do matters. If I’m just matter, than maybe I don’t really matter, or maybe I am the only thing that matters. In education, it results in much focus on the brain, and this has brought about some helpful insights. However, much brain research points to the high impact that the metaphysical world has on the formation or deformation of the physical.

This new knowledge about the brain does not demand or confirm physicalism.
Postmodern approaches are harder to define, but can be described as refuting simplistic physicalism by adding vague notions of metaphysical or spiritual reality that are mysteries to be explored by each of us. It tends to be relativistic, with each one finding personal perspectives or “truths” for various situations. Since we live in communities, this results in some confusion when my truth bumps into yours. A sort of majority-rules approach results, as we attempt to figure out what is right or wrong at a given time. Opinion polls sometimes drive opinion as much as they measure opinion.

Postmodernism recognizes that we are more than just bodies, but it is reluctant to say anything definite about what that something more might be. It doesn’t demand logical coherency. It embraces ambiguity and notions of human identity that shift from place to place and from time to time. It tends toward a loose, experimental way of living. Human desires become confused with human identity. Bizarre notions of identity such as “metrosexual” result. Narcissism and extreme consumerism may result. Postmodernism is like a boat without a rudder. It can seem pleasant enough when the seas are calm and there is no need to get somewhere, but it’s inherently weak foundation puts its adherents at great risk. It leaves educators in a quandary, unsure how to train students to lead the good life without a commonly accepted moral compass. In contrast, I believe that a Christian view of human nature and composition is coherent and provides a solid foundation for effective and good educational endeavors. The Christian view is seen in the Great Commandment, where Christ calls on humans to love God with our whole being: heart, soul, mind, and strength. The scriptures further teach that our bodies are mortal containers that will experience resurrection and a perfecting renewal if these other parts have been reborn and restored to reality and permanency.

Christianity provides an educational framework beginning in the home, with parents responsible to steward their children on God’s behalf and train them in the basics of life, especially the curricular progression seen in II Peter 1 that systematically builds the great virtues and addresses each part of the human. Children engaged in this training enter school with great capacity to learn the sorts of things that schools are responsible to add. A child taught by his parents to diligently add knowledge to faith, and self control to knowledge is the sort of person that can best learn grammar, math, and science at school.

What’s more, the Christian home can be joined by Christian teachers in school and Christian community in local churches, and the child can be given consistent training for life that is coherent and addresses the wholesome development of body, mind, soul, and spirit. In all three contexts, the mentors and teachers will see the child as infinitely valuable and will be eager to build up every part of his being.

3. Purpose. What are we made for?

The popular answers to the questions of human origin and constitution are unsatisfactory as a basis for education for myriad reasons. A particularly crucial problem is their failure to deal with the question of purpose. Modern physicalism and post modernism struggle to articulate reasons for human existence in general or for purpose in the lives of each human. Perhaps this explains why consumerism is so prevalent in our society. If we have no noble reason to live, then perhaps we can derive some temporary meaning by being the first to own the iPhone 5s. Perhaps we can find the good life through devotion to the 49rs, at least in the years when they win most of their games. Perhaps it can be found in acquiring more Facebook “likes,” or in finding clothing that gets me the most compliments from the particular group whose opinions I now value.

Physicalism and post modernism devalue our children by seeing them as no more than bodies, or by seeing them as on their own to discover reality beyond the physical. They are left without knowledge of the truth about their origin or their constitution. Consequently, they are left without any clarity about their purpose in living. Formal education receives children from parents who think very formulaically about the reason for school, because they think do not think well about the destination for their own lives and for the lives of their children. Good grades and high test scores are seen as a ticket to college which is seen as a way to get a good job, which is seen as a way to lead some sort of good life. A relatively small percentage of students find this to be an adequate explanation of things and become effective students. They have a loose foundation of life skills such as diligence and organization, and this is enough to get them through a school system that asks for very little in terms of deep character development. A subset of these students continue to study well through their college years and find a sensible way to live.
Tragically, the success rate is extremely low, with many students never completing even high school, and fewer still completing college and actually finding rewarding employment. Most students, including the ones that seem most successful, are floundering when it comes to the reason for living, and they practice simple pragmatism in their approach to education. Teachers and parents and leaders in government get caught up in the same sort of thinking, and what naturally follows is “No Child Left Behind” sorts of solutions to our educational woes. We solve our high failure rate by doing more of what was not working in the first place. We reinforce a reductionist view of humanity by using simple extrinsic rewards as the reason for learning. Children suffer, and they enter their adult years thinking that learning is hard work and engage in it only when they receive obvious pay. In stark contrast, biblical theology answers the question of purpose with clarity and in ways that work brilliantly in the day-to-day lives of people.  It changes everything when we The convictions that we are permanent, and that we are to live our lives for the good of our loving God, our neighbor, and ourselves changes everything. . The Christian view of the world allows us to learn how to love in every way and to love learning. Life is an adventure that begins here and now, but can be dominated by agape love, the greatest force in time and space. A knowledge of the Creator results in gratitude and deep curiosity about creation, relationships, and solution to the problem of evil and it’s many children. The Christian sense of purpose makes every day meaningful because each day is a part of a pathway of permanent growth, creation, and discovery.

4. Evil. What is wrong, and what can done about it?

Once again, we find insufficient answers provided by the prevailing philosophies of our time. Evil is seen simply as the things that threaten the body for the physicalist. For the post-modern, it’s a squirrely thing that needs to be addressed somehow by individuals and by society, but it is impossible to find consistent common ground on root causes or even on the symptoms of evil. The result is that we are able to agree on only the most simple matters. We can mostly agree that it would be good to pick up cigarette butts at the beach on Earth Day, but we can’t agree on what to teach little child about right and wrong.
Christianity provides clarity about the source of evil, about its manifestations, and about its elimination. Children can be taught to turn away from the things that damage themselves and others. They can be taught to be forgiven and to forgive. They can be taught to overcome evil with good. They can be taught how to give up their lives while finding a heavenly sort of life in Christ. They can be taught that they are perfectly safe in the hands of their loving Heavenly Father, regardless of their circumstances. They can be taught absolute security, hope, and love. Paul’s anthem of love in Romans chapter eight proclaims this truth with great force and beauty.

5. Development. How do we grow?

The emphasis on scientific and educational research of the past century has helped us to better understand our physical, social, and emotional development. This new knowledge works very well with the propositions described above:

1. that we are highly valuable
2. that we are complex beings
3. that we exist for good purposes
4. that we should work together to make the world a better place by standing against disease and crime.

Our Christianity is complemented by this growing knowledge of how humans learn. When we integrate this knowledge with biblically revealed knowledge of human development, we have a truly robust basis for education.  I will offer two examples.

First, consider integrating Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory with biblical knowledge of the creative design, incredible worth, and potential growth and impact of each life. Consider its integration with the body metaphor for the church in Ephesians.

Or take Piaget or similar theorists’ work in describing human development. Integrate developmental stage theory with the stages of virtue taught by the Apostle Peter. Developmental theories typically show growth from simple perception and belief to capacity for logic and care. Peter calls for persistent learning of virtues corresponding perfectly with developmental stages.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your
faith with virtue,
and virtue with knowledge,
and knowledge with self-control,
and self-control with steadfastness,
and steadfastness with godliness,
and godliness with brotherly affection,
and brotherly affection with love.
(2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV)

In conclusion, Christian theology provides us with a foundation of knowledge that answers fundamental questions of human existence and growth, thereby informing a rich educational philosophy. This philosophy addresses our worth and our design. It gives students, parents, and teachers a hopeful, purposeful model for life and learning, and it addresses the temporary problems of evil and the everlasting path of good.

Jacob Gross and Christian Gross Deathbed Farewell Letters

from Chapter 2 of

Deep Run Mennonite Church East– A 250 Year Pilgrimage

Bishop Jacob Gross Farewell Letter

Bishop Jacob Gross, who with others advised Canadian Mennonites from Bucks County concerning ordinations in 180I, also wrote a farewell letter to the congregations of Deep Run, Blooming Glen, and Doylestown in 1810 before his death on December 12, 1810. This letter reproduced below demonstrates Jacob’s love for the church and something of the piety of the times that is also reflected later in his son Preacher Christian Gross.

My last sincere words to the Church, whom I must now leave, among whom I, as an unworthy servant, preached the word, especially the churches at Deep Run, Perkasie [Blooming Glen], and New Britain [Doylestown]. Brethren and sisters and others: I embrace you in the arms of love, precious, blood-bought souls; I regret that I must leave you under the circumstances of which the Lord spake; and because iniquity shall abound~ the love of many shall wax cold, but he that shall endure to the end shall be saved, Matt. 24:12. 0 love! 0 indispensable love to God and His word, how little room findest thou in the human heart towards Thee and Thy Word, towards friend and foe! 0 love of the world! 0 lust of the eye, and lust of the flesh! 0 pride of life, how high hast thou risen up! But farewell! This is my last admonition to you, written with my dying hand, therefore repent; come diligently to the public meeting and hear the word of God; love your teachers and ministers, so shall both they and you be strengthened, and if not, the candlestick shall be taken away altogether. No more. Any brother who is able to read so that he may be understood by all, may read this before the Church, as it is of interest to all of them.

December 7th, 1810. Jacob Gross

Preacher Christian Gross

Preacher Christian Gross, a son of Bishop Jacob and Mary Krall Gross of Deep Run, was born December 24, 1776. He married Barbara Wismer on April 26, 1803, after which he settled in Plumstead Township, Bucks County. He died July 22,

A Pilgrimage Through Fire, 1800 – 1865

1865. Christian was ordained preacher at Deep Run by 1834. His brother Daniel was ordained a deacon at Deep Run, a brother John K. a preacher at Doylestown, and a brother Jacob a preacher and then a bishop in Ontario, Canada.47
During his life, he wrote a number of letters. Although the addressee is not always identified, they appear to have been sent at times to his brother, Preacher Jacob Gross, and others in Ontario. Some of the spiritual themes that appear in his letters emphasize the powerfulness o f God and the helplessness o f man, the fleeting nature of life and our need to be ready for death, the need to call sinners to repentance, and the struggle of love for the things of the world versus love for the things of God. Frequently in his letters Christian Gross appeared somewhat burdened or pessimistic. Some of that may have been due to some of the experiences, he and the church must have gone through before, during, and after the split at Deep Run in 1847.

As an example of the piety of Christian Gross, a portion of a letter written in 1853 is reproduced below.

Compelled by love I am undertaking to write a little to you because we are passing through this vale of misery and are not likely to see one another again for I do know that the time of my departure is at hand and I have nothing as a source of comfort except for God’s grace and mercy if He will go with me into Judgement. I as a poor sinner could not stand up against Him, so it is my wish and prayer that He the Prince of the Sheep might in His goodness let His light shine upon us and illuminate the way for us with His divine light, so that we might be able to pass through this wilderness of the world where so many temptations beset us. I shall finally pass through Jordan, that is to say death, into the heavenly abode or the glorious eternity where peace and joy will be eternal, where there is no separation or division or any separation from peace, this is what I am wishing for myself and for you and indeed to all people in and through Jesus Christ. Amen.

In an earlier letter in 1834, Christian gave advice to his brother Jacob Gross of Ontario who had recently been ordained a minister. Christian encouraged Jacob to serve with humility, realizing that without God we can do nothing. We can develop or quench our talents depending on whether we are obedient or disobedient to God. In preaching, a few words with the power of the Spirit will bring forth more fruit than a “decorated sermon or many words.” We need also to be a pattern for the flock. Additionally, he wrote that “it is ‘a hard office’ especially here with the mark of a true Christian disappearing from many.It seems as if all my labor and advice is fruitless.”
In an 1844 letter, Christian confessed that he had seen so much in his office as minister that his love for God has grown less and less while the pull of the world has grown stronger. Yet he so much wanted to see God at work among his people and expressed hope that God in his mercy would bring light so that his people might not waver.5°
16 Deep Run Mennonite Church East– A 250 Year Pilgrimage
In another portion of the previously mentioned 1853 letter, Christian addressed an unidentified group of believers (probably located in Ontario) expressing his anguish that they had departed from the Mennonite position of faith. Christian asked them, “Where can we find a better evangelical basis of faith than what was taught to us in our youth?” He noted that their fathers held onto this faith in spite of difficulties and opposition, setting forth an example for future generations. He expressed regret that one’s coworkers in the faith would be offended by the truth. In the same letter, he expressed a fear that the upcoming youth would reject the belief and practice of nonresistance.51
In an 1856 letter, Christian mourned the condition of the church in their generation. He diagnosed their generation as seeking luxury rather than simplicity and being abundant in material possessions yet poor in soul. Love for one another had decreased and quarrels had increased.