The Danger of Being Traditional

I can remember as if it was yesterday.  My former pastor, Dr. Michael Catt, was preaching a message and made a profound statement.  The statement was actually a quote that he had heard Jim Cymbala, Pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, say.

It is easier to be TRADITIONAL than it is to be BIBLICAL!

As soon as I heard these words, my mind immediately went to a warning that Paul gave to the Colossian Christians.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  Colossians 2:8 (KJV)

This simple verse carries with it several deep truths about how easy it is for Christians to be taken captive.  Here are some takeaways for us to contemplate.

  • Every person has been taken or is being taken captive by some philosophy/beliefs/ideas.
  • Christians can be taken captive by false philosophy/beliefs/ideas.
  • When a person is taken captive by false ideas, the false ideas are always patterned after human tradition.

In my estimation, there is no aspect of present day life that is more based on human tradition than schooling.  So much of what we do, when it comes to the schooling our children receive, is based on human tradition.  I will not take the time to make a lengthy list of all the traditions that make up how schooling in done in our culture.  However, we must understand it is easier to be traditional when it comes to schooling than it is to be biblical.  If fact, in many instances, even Christians will be critical if Christian educators attempt to do schooling in a completely biblical way.

The following example is provided to prove my point.  Last week I was conducting a staff development seminar at a Christian school.  At one point in the seminar, I tried to define the term education.  Everyone seemed to agree that education is a multi-faceted process that includes the home, church and school.  It was also agreed that all education prepares an individual for something in the future.  Education is future focused.

With those important points agreed upon, I asked the staff a series of questions.  As soon as I asked each question, a chorus of voices immediately responded in unison.  The questions focused on what most schooling prepared children for.  The discussion went like this.

Question 1:  What does preschool education prepare children for?  Answer:  Kindergarten

Question 2:  What does kindergarten prepare children for?  Answer:  1st Grade

Question 3:  What does elementary school prepare children for?  Answer:  Middle School

Question 4:  What does middle school prepare children for?  Answer:  High School

Question 5:  What does high school prepare children for?  Answer:  College

Question 6:  What does college prepare students for?  Answer:  A Job

In other words, traditional schooling prepares students for more schooling that will end up getting them a job!  It is very easy for any school, including a Christian school or homeschool, to be traditional when it comes to preparing students for the future.  Very good programs can be developed that will prepare students for the “next level” of schooling and eventually ensure them of being accepted into good colleges or universities.  The reason why it is so easy to follow after this tradition is that parents believe that this is what good schooling is all about.  They have been captured by ideas that follow the tradition of human opinion when it comes to the purpose of schooling.

However, it is much more difficult to be biblical when it comes to schooling.  How would one answer the six questions above biblically?  The answers would definitely not be to simply prepare the children for more schooling.  I believe the answer would go something like this.

Schooling must prepare children to fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for why He created man in His image.

This is a powerful statement that most Christian parents, church leaders and educators would quickly say amen to.  Unfortunately, I have found few Christians who could clearly describe what that ultimate purpose is.  This is because so few Christian adults have received training that helped them develop a biblical worldview.  Thus, they have to try and explain that statement from a secular, humanistic worldview perspective.

As a new school year is upon us here in most of North America, it would be a good time for parents, church leaders and educators to sit down and give careful thought to what should biblically-based education prepare our children for.  Then, we need to develop biblically-based strategies to make sure this takes place in the home, church and school.   We may discover that we need to make some drastic changes to how we educate future generations.  I would love to know your thoughts on this.  So, leave a comment below.