J. Gresham Machen and Christian Education

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Puritan Board Sophomore
Any thoughts on Machen's view of education? I would assume that the majority of people here would agree with his quotes.

J Gresham Machen and Christian Education

J.Gresham Machen was a theologian, an ambassador in high places for Christ and an educator. He was a man of principle who was not willing to compromise one inch to statesmen, cleric or professor. His tenacity and determination led, by God’s grace to the creation of Westminster theological seminary in 19… His interest in education was not limited to seminary students. He had a passionate and practical interest in the rôle of State an Church in education, speaking repeatedly before Senate on the subject. He strongly opposed State involvement in education and was an avid proponent of Christians educating their own children – here’s why.

Christianity was too great a thing to be sidelined in a secular system

“Christianity is, indeed, a way of life; … founded upon a system of truth. That system of truth is of the most comprehensive kind; it clashes with opposing systems at a thousand points. The Christian life cannot be lived on the basis of anti-Chritian thought. Hence the necessity of the Christian school.” p. 143

He was strongly opposed to a religious education acceptable to believer and unbeliever.

‘The minute a professing Christian admits that he can find neutral ground with non-Christian in the study of “religion” in general, he has given up the battle, and has really, if he knows what he is doing, made common cuse with that syncretism which is today, as it was in the first centruy of our era, the deadliest enemy of the Christian Faith.” p. 80

He viewed state involvement in education as being the revival of a once common and very ancient pagan idea,

“It is a very ancient thing- this notion that the children belong to the State, that their education must be provided for by the State in a way that makes for the State’s welfare.” pp. 87,88

Modern scientific State education was, for Machen an unprecedented threat to liberty

“But while tyranny itself is nothing new, the technique of tyranny has been enourmously improved in our day; the tyranny of the scientific expert is the most crushing tyranny of all. That tryanny is being exercised most effectively in the field of education. A monopolistic system of education controlled by the State is far more efficient in crushing our liberty than the cruder weapson of fire or sword.” pp. 67,68

The Christian school was friendly to the family, State education, was, on the contrary anti-family

“[Christian Education], in sharp distinction from the secular education of today, …exalts the family as a blessed divine institution and treats the scholars in its classes as children of the covenant to be brought up above all things in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” p. 82

He criticised the dehumanising tendency present everywhere in a central state-organised system

“…what is good for a Ford car is not always good for a human being, for the simple reason that a Ford car is a machine while a human being is a person. …. When you are dealing with human beings, standardization is the last thing you ought to seek.” p. 74

A purely technical, non-moral education was, a monstrous thing

“By this purely secular, non-moral and non-religious, training we produce not a real human being but a horrible Frankenstein, and we are beginning to shrink back from the product of our own hands.” p. 75

On the other hand, morality without a religious bedrock was an oxymoron

“A code which is the result of human experimentation is not morality at all (despite the lowly etymological origin of our English word), but it is the negation of morality.” p. 62

Dividing the intellect from religion led to an unhappy schizophrenia in the mind of the child.

“On Sundays, … we had religious instruction that called for little exercise of the intellect. Careful preparation for Sunday-school lessons was unknown. Religion seemed to be something that had to do only with the emotions and the will, leaving the intellect to secular studies. What wonder that after such training we came to regard religions and culture as belonging to two entirely separate compartments of the soul, and their union as involving the destruction of both?” p. 47

His solution was radical and simple, a Christian school were intellect and religion lived in harmony

“True learning and true piety go hand in hand, and Christianity embraces the whole of life – those are the great central convictions that underlie the Christian school.” p. 81

All quotations come from
Machen, Gresham J, Education, Christianity, and the State, The Trinity Foundation, Jefferson, Maryland, 1987

J Gresham Machen and Christian Education — Understanding Christian Education
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