How does a classical, Christian school lead to a transformed culture?
The instruction given to fathers in Ephesians 6 is to bring children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In the Greek, the word for nurture is paideia.
To the ancient Greeks and Romans, paideia meant an all-encompassing cultural education that included school-teaching, but was not limited to it. That is, teaching a child the Roman way of life happened not only through formal academic study in school and at home, but also informally on the way to school passing by theaters, sporting arenas, temples, market squares, and government buildings. The goal of such an education was to turn the student into the ideal man to benefit Caesar in building a stronger empire.
In contrast, bringing children up in the paideia of the Lord means nothing less than a Christ-centered education in a fully-developed Christian culture. The goal of this education is to transform the student into the image of the Son (Rom 8:29) for service as citizens of His Kingdom here on earth (Phil 1:27; 3:18).
The people that Paul preached to in Athens (Acts 17) lived in a pluralistic culture, much like our own, in which there were objects of worship to various gods on every corner. So, when Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote that Christian fathers should educate their children in a Christian culture, he was commanding something that was challenging, counter-cultural, and only able to be accomplished by the grace of God.
The culture of a society is determined by what people believe and how they act on (or work out) those beliefs. A society’s beliefs are displayed in their actions and objects, such as works of art, music, fashion, business practices, political policies, technology, architecture, and behavior. A Christian culture then, is one where the beliefs of the people are derived from the teachings of Scripture, namely, the gospel of Christ. The works of the people give glory to God as they are the fruit of a faithful people, a faith that was given to them by His grace.
The work of transforming a culture, therefore, begins with repentance and belief in Jesus as Lord of all and living in obedience to His commands by the grace of God. Paul told the people in Rome that God commanded them to repent because Jesus had all authority in heaven and on earth. The Greek word for repent is metanoia which refers to a change of mind and heart. He preached they should change their minds about the false gods they worshipped and worship the one true God instead. Repentance leads to a continual renewing of the mind, which transforms us and makes us salt and light in our sinful world (Rom 12:1-2; Matt 5:13-17).
Further, the Scriptures teach that the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life that gives healing to the nations (Prov 11:30, Rev 22:2). This means, when Christians (whether in churches, families, or societies) work out their God-given faith in tangible ways, the world is blessed. Over the ages, Christians have been responsible for many of the blessings we enjoy today such as education, hospitals, care for the poor, adoption, doing away with slavery, etc. As we follow the progression of Christianity throughout history, we see God’s hand of blessing upon the faithful as well as His discipline upon the unfaithful.
Out of love for others, then, it is imperative that Christian students learn to make every thought obedient to Christ, so they will not be captured by false philosophies and fail to produce good fruit. In doing so, they are truly loving their neighbors and are a light to the world.
For further study on the Greek word “paideia” we recommend listening to an Association of Classical and Christian Schools talk, “The Paideia of God” by Douglas Wilson.