Now, from the past few posts on the blog one may begin to think that I am talking about the necessity of having a Christian school in every neighborhood and possibly in every church. I am not. I am in favor of Christian schools, but I do think a child can stay close to God and be a Christian while attending a public, non-Christian school if the child’s parents are actively engaging the child’s curriculum while simultaneously and consistently teaching the Truth of the Scriptures in the home with the child as well. Whether or not you agree with my position on this is not the subject of this paper. Rather the subject I intend to unveil is my vision for Christian education, which would be applicable in a Christian school, a church school, and a Christian educational ministry within a church. My vision of Christian education encompasses two grand realities which I think are completely Biblical, God-honoring, and needed in our time. These two realities are God-Centeredness and Christian Hedonism. I’ll take the one at a time.
Massive Reality #1: God-Centeredness
“God-centeredness”, or a Biblical view of God’s sovereignty, is an often spoken term thrown around without abandon that’s often misunderstood. It would be wise to avoid this misuse of the word by having a proper understanding of what the word actually means. To define what God-centeredness is, let me define what it is not. God-centeredness is not man-centeredness, which places man at the center of all things. Man- centeredness believes mankind is at the center of God’s affections. Everything God does is for His love of man, first and foremost. God-centeredness does not believe this or endorse this view. Rather, God-centeredness believes God is uppermost in the affections of God, and that God loves His glory more than He loves us or anything else. To be God-centered is to love that God is the most God-centered Person in existence. We see this in salvation. We were saved for “His name’s sake”. Psalm 106:6, 8 says, “Both we and our fathers have sinned… Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” God’s desire to save us from sin was “His name’s sake.” What does “for his name’s sake” mean? It means God saved us so that “He might make known his mighty power” in us. God saved us to use us for His glory, in other words. 1 John 2:12 similarly says that God forgave our sins for “His name’s sake.” Again look at what this is not. God did not save us and forgive our sins because He placed His foremost affections on us. I often hear people say, “God saw so much in us that He sent His Son to die for us.” This is not true if the one saying it believes that God loves him more than God loves God. It is true in the sense that God knew how our salvation would glorify him. This opportunity for glory moved God to pursue us, “for His name’s sake.” After all, because we’re sinful to the core, the only thing God “saw” in us was our hatred toward Him. This is man-centered theology. God does not believe in these things. God is God-centered, if I can say such a thing, because He saves for the sake of his name, He saves to make known His own power. I am God-centered and I desire to be God-centered because I like it when God gets the all the glory. I think that God is first in God’s mind/heart, not us. I also think that I’m not the only one who thinks this way, I think God does to. J.I. Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ is the best written defense of God-centeredness to date. In this introduction Packer states that man-centered theology is natural to fallen man. It’s natural because, even in doctrine, man cannot bear to renounce his own self centeredness, but places the same desire in God’s heart claiming that God loves man more than His own glorious majesty.
Usually, a knee jerk reaction to this kind of thinking comes quickly. Some often get confused at how God can be loving and be God-centered Himself. Is God really a God of love if He cares more about Himself than He does about us? To this I answer yes! God’s love for His own glory is the ground of God’s love for us. Let me explain. God is love because He relentlessly pursues the praises of His own name in us. When we behold God in His glory, our souls find the very thing they’ve been searching and longing for and are immediately and infinitely satisfied upon that gaze toward Him. This is why David asked to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord in His temple in Psalm 27:4, because he knew that his soul would find rest when it found sight of the God of glory. Thus, by God pursuing the praise of His name in our hearts, we become satisfied in the God whom we behold. We get the joy, God gets the glory. Therefore God’s passion for His glory is the measure of His commitment to our joy. This kind of thinking and believing leads to the glorious truth that God being God-centered is the only way that God can be loving and our souls be satisfied. I say this because if God is indeed the most pleasurable Being in existence (Ps. 16:11, 36:8) and gazing upon Him in His glory really does fill our souls with matchless delight and happiness, God would be unloving to withhold revealing Himself to us through His Son, who is the full image of His glory. If I have not explained this clear enough, listen to Jonathan Edwards:
This is…the difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and the joy of the true saint. The hypocrite rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy. The true saint rejoices in God. True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and pleasant nature of the things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures. But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice…that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground, He seems in a sort, lovely to them.
The stark contrast between the order of loves in the saint and in the hypocrite would not be welcomed in most churches today, because I fear that most line up with the Edwards words about the hypocrite. Although this may be true, notice the truth contained in the above quote. God is glorious not because God makes much of us, but because of who God is. If God is only lovely to you because you believe that you’re the center of God’s affections, you’re using God in a selfish, self-congratulatory manner. That is wrong. God-centeredness is the antidote to man’s selfish sinful desire to place themselves at the center of everything.