Two Types of Wisdom and the Christian School

whatsbestnextI recently read a blog post featuring an excerpt entitled “How Productivity Advances the Gospel” from a book by Matt Perman- What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.

Perman’s exposition of the two types of wisdom go directly to the heart of the content and process of a holistic Biblical integration of faith and life that forms the foundation of Christian schooling.

Perman defines the first type of wisdom as “the wisdom that helps us live in this world. It is the wisdom of how to do our work well, how to be a virtuous person, and how to be effective.” The second type of wisdom “is the wisdom that leads to eternal life…This is the wisdom that consists in how to know God and live a life that is pleasing to him in a spiritual, eternal sense.”

The two types of wisdom could also be described in this way:  there is the wisdom of what we have been saved from and a wisdom of what we have been saved to.

All creation groans under the futility of sin’s curse but will one day be set free. (Romans 8:18-25)  Our present and future freedom is wholly the result of the astounding grace of God in Christ.  He is the pre-eminence of all things, the fullness of God, who is reconciling all things  to himself through the blood of the cross. (Colossians 1:15-20).  In creation, God endowed us with his image and charged us with subduing the earth and having dominion over it. (Genesis 1:27-28).

Our relationship with God has changed because of sin, but it has not been withdrawn. The creation mandate to subdue the earth and have dominion over it shifted in the fall, but it has not been retracted.  

As a result, Christians schools should have cultures that are shaped by God’s radical, life changing grace.  The heart, soul, mind, body and strength of students should be nurtured with the hope and truth of the gospel.  Students must know that the love of teachers and administrators is not tied to their performance, but instead mirrors the loving and costly grace and mercy of God.  The process AND content of the learning community, and the relationships within, must vividly represent what we have been saved from (the second type of wisdom).

At the same time, there must be an intentional effort to rigorously challenge students to reach their full potential. The motivation for unyielding standards of developmentally appropriate growth is to prepare students to exercise the creation mandate to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. The quality of our curricular and co-curricular programs should be consistent with importance of the special and unique calling of God on each student. The graduates of Christian schools should be represented in all spheres of society and culture.  Christian schools must prepare students with excellence for what they have been saved to (the second type of wisdom).

Special care must be given to ensure balance in the application of the two type of wisdom.  To disproportionally focus on what we have been saved from, risks schools that under-prepare their students for what they have been saved to.  To disproportionally focus on what we have been saved to, risks schools that value the highest performers and create cultures where identity is found in what students do rather than in what Jesus has already done.

Creating learning communities that exercise the proper balance of “saved from and saved to” could not be more important.  May God grant Christian schools the ability to open our eyes daily to where better balance is needed and the willingness to learn from each other as we seek to strike the proper chord.    

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