Monday, September 19, 2011

Another App, and thoughts on Education

An app I've been using for daily meditation is A Year with the Church Fathers.

It's free! 

Every day it has a reading from a Church Father, a question for consideration, and a prayer that relates to the reading.    I don't get to it every day since I have other daily devotionals (which I'll try to share when I run out of things to blog about, which seems to be happening more often lately).  But there is no hurry -- I don't care if I spend two years with the Church Fathers instead of one!    

Today's reading was from St Clement of Alexandria on the value of education.  I thought it was interesting because sometimes one wonders if and how education is useful or valuable, considering that we aren't going to be judged on our scholarship.

Some people who think themselves naturally gifted don’t want to touch either philosophy or logic. They don’t even want to learn natural science. They demand bare faith alone—as if they wanted to harvest grapes right away without putting any work into the vine.
We must prune, dig, trellis, and do all the other work. I think you’ll agree the pruning knife, the pickaxe, and the other farmer’s tools are necessary for growing grapevines, so that they will produce edible fruit. And as in farming, so in medicine: the one who has learned something is the one who has practiced the various lessons, so that he can cultivate or heal.
And here, too, I say you’re truly educated if you bring everything to bear on the truth. Taking what’s useful from geometry, music, grammar, and philosophy itself, you guard the Faith from assault.
–St. Clement of Alexandria, Miscellany, 1.9

Later on I read something by St Francis de Sales on a similar subject.  He said that if the Church neglects learning, it puts itself at the mercy of the Enemy, who will certainly co-opt that neglected field in order to sow weeds and tares.  That seemed applicable to me to nowadays.   

St Augustine wrote in a similar vein that Christians should take the trouble to learn about the natural sciences (not that each and every Christian has to be an expert in everything; just that learning is valuable even when it concerns temporal things).  He is writing about Genesis and creation but it could apply more broadly:

"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn."
- St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Willa. A lot to consider in those quotes. I have been thinking a lot about how it is our obligation to use the gifts God has given us- and that includes the gift of intelligence. That is not exactly what your post was saying, but it does seem related. One challenge is to seek God in all areas of knowledge (as opposed to seeking knowledge for knowledge's sake- or worse, out of pride and a desire to prove something). It seems that we can better represent God by seeking to better understand the world he created.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!