The Seven Myths of Education
INTRODUCTION: Modern society universally acclaims the benefits of education. We all know that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” And we know that you waste that mind by not giving it a college education. We encourage our children to get all the education they can and stress the importance of finishing their degrees. “Whatever you do, get a good education.”
Many think that scripture places the same importance on education as we do today. Yet, the Bible sees two sides of the picture. God’s people are told to get knowledge, understanding and wisdom in large quantities. “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Prov.4:7). But the knowledge and wisdom God desires is founded on the “fear of the LORD” (Prov.1:7; 9:10).
The Bible teaches the existence of two kinds of wisdom. The wisdom God’s wants is “the wisdom that is from above” (Jas.3:17). According to James, this wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle and full of mercy and good fruits. Yet, He also warns of the second kind of wisdom. It descends “not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (Jas.3:15).
The importance God gave to His wisdom has been transferred to all knowledge. So we now have college classes where the students study and practice their skill at writing pornographic stories. We have public schools that spend their greatest energies molding the students into their concept of the perfect citizen of the world. We have an education system that does not educate.
How did this happen? It happened because we bowed at the feet of the goddess called “Education.” We decided that all learning, of any kind, was equally good. We accepted seven myths of education of which we were warned (many centuries ago) in the Bible. Here are those seven myths.
1. That Education Can Be Bought With Money
Parents spend thousands of dollars so their children can get an education. I have seen numerous people who did not mind spending the money for a degree but had to get it quick and easy or else. (Degree mills are fed by those who want the piece of paper without giving the personal effort.) But a true education cannot be purchased with money. God says it best:
“Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” – Proverbs 17:16
True learning requires a person to give their heart to it. It does not come because you attend class, or cram and pass a test or even because you receive a degree. You gain wisdom and learning by diligent application of the heart and mind to the subject at hand. Proverbs 18:1 describes the process of true learning:
“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.”
Notice the four steps to wisdom as taught by this verse:
q Desire: You must have a desire to learn. Without this, you are wasting your time. Learning is hard work. Without the desire, you will not do the work.
q Separation: Learning requires separation: separation from other people and separation from other duties. You must be prepared to spend time alone if you would be wise. We try to make learning a social experience. And, of course, you can learn much in classrooms or in conversation with others. However, wisdom cannot be gained by social learning alone. At some point, you have to separate and learn with no one else around. Wisdom is given to the man who is alone with his thoughts, his books and his God.
q Seeking: Wisdom must be sought before it can be found. You cannot catch it as you would the flu. You do not find it by looking for something else. You must seek it. You must be earnest in your search. You must seek it until you find it. God says this about Himself:
o “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13
q Saturation: The one who would be wise must intermeddle with all wisdom (Prov.18:1). In other words, you must intermingle your very being and mind with God’s wisdom in order to attain unto it. It must become a part of who you are. In godly wisdom, you learn to think the thoughts of God. You “let the word of Christ dwell in you in all wisdom” (Col.3:16). In other learning, you do the same. You intermeddle with it until it becomes you.
Education cannot be purchased with dollars and cents. It must be purchased with determination, time and application.
Many go to school for self-discovery. They want to know who they really are. This helps to explain the popularity of self-analysis tests and self-help books. As a society, we are obsessed with finding out who we are. We want to understand our feelings, our needs, our desires, our personality. Yet this longing did not begin with our generation. Three thousand years ago, Solomon proclaimed:
“A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” – Proverbs 18:2
Folk-wisdom has it that most who major is psychology in college do so in order to find out what is wrong with themselves. I wonder how close that is to absolute truth. Yet God tells us that we will not discover ourselves in the halls of education. We will more likely lose ourselves. God wants us to be little concerned about discovering ourselves (a disappointment if ever there was one) and to be much concerned about discovering Him. To know God is the heart of true wisdom. To know self is the errand of fools.
3. That Education Can Be Finished
Many think that they are going to get their education and then spend the rest of their life using it. But experience demonstrates and the Bible teaches that our learning never reaches a stage of completion. There is always more to learn. Solomon told us this:
“And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” – Ecclesiastes 12:12
In the time known as the Renaissance (14th-16th century Europe), when books were still scarce and knowledge was just beginning to open up, some men attempted to master all known truth. They were called Renaissance men. But soon they learned that no man could be master of every field. Of the making of books there would be no end.
If you would be wise, your education is not completed when you receive a degree. If your education was adequate, you will have received the foundational truths of your field and will have the means by which you may continue to learn. However, you will not be master, even of your chosen field, much less of all truth. True seekers of wisdom never cease to learn. They know that they are on a journey that never ends and that never reaches its destination.
4. That Education Leads to Happiness
By God’s own testimony, Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. As such, he determined to know all wisdom. He declared, “I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven” (Eccl.1:13). The greatest mind gave years of his life in pursuing the greatest height of knowledge and wisdom. Yet, in the end, Solomon came to a solemn conclusion:
“And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” – Ecclesiastes 1:17-18
Do you believe that if only you had a better education you could be truly happy? If you do, you are wrong. Increased knowledge and wisdom is more likely to leave a happy man depressed than give a sad man peace. Education reveals the futility of man and his schemes to make the world any better. Education removes hope and replaces it with a scoffer’s heart; it removes faith and replaces it with a skeptic’s insecurity.
At this point, I must remind you that God is not anti-intellectual or against learning. Study the book of Proverbs. You will see that He greatly exalts godly learning. However, He does speak against the empty wisdom of this world (1Cor.1:20-21). Education that is not founded on the fear of the Lord brings emptiness and sorrow. Make sure that you seek the wisdom of God.
5. That Education Leads to Goodness
Much of the socialism of Europe and America has been based on the myth that education automatically creates good citizens. An educated person does not harm his neighbor, does not steal from his employer, does not deal in drugs. And, though time and experience has proven this myth false, scripture spoke of the danger of education centuries ago.
“For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.” – Isaiah 47:10
People can actually be perverted by knowledge and wisdom. Instead of making them good, it can lead them astray. We see this today in the perverting influence of our public schools and colleges. Many young people are taken away from God and goodness by their education. Although the right kind of education will be a great blessing, all forms of education are not the same.
6. That Education Leads to Humility
This myth is more prevalent among scholars themselves than it is among common people. However, there is a myth that increased knowledge brings greater humility. The reasoning goes like this. One who has learned many things knows better how much there is to know and therefore understands his ignorance more than those less knowledgeable. This learning humbles him.
As with many lies, this myth has a little truth in it. Increased knowledge does reveal better the vastness of truth and brings certain awe to the scholar. However, it does not keep him from comparing himself with others less knowledgeable and feeling superior to them. Read what the Apostle Paul said:
“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” – 1Corinthians 8:1
Knowledge puffs up its possessor with pride. “How could they be so dumb! That’s such an easy thing to know.” Again, the correction is to base all knowledge on the fear of the Lord. Our fear of God keeps us humble, not our knowledge.
7. That Education Leads to God’s Truth
A popular saying among evangelicals is that all truth is God’s truth. This statement is true as far as it goes. But, for some, it leads to false conclusions. If this concept means that you judge all other truth by the revelation of truth in God’s word, then your conclusions will be correct. However, if you use this maxim to force man’s ideas on God, you will be led down the wrong path.
The crux of the matter is in your authority for truth. If your authority is man’s scientific or philosophical reasoning and you use this maxim to correct the Bible, then you are wrong. If you accept God’s word as absolute, then all other truth will be subservient to it.
Universal education in England and America was established so that all people could read the Bible for themselves. But education long ago left its original foundations. It does not lead to God’s truth but is now designed to lead people away from God. Paul spoke of those who were ever “learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2Tim.3:7).
We deal with this today. Many are continually learning but are not coming any closer to the truth. The god of education leads men astray and makes them faithful servants of the god of this world.
CONCLUSION: The solution to the dangers of education have already been answered in the body of this article. Fear the Lord first. Then base all knowledge on this recognition of His preeminence. Bring desire and determination to your search for wisdom. Submit all truth to the truth of God’s word. Take hold of this kind of wisdom with all your might. Use the truth God gives you to exalt and serve Him. By this, God will be pleased and will grant you greater wisdom.
Education does not cure all ills or change man for the better. Only God can do that. Education, like music, is a tool. It can be founded on biblical truths and used for God’s glory. Or, it can be used to pervert God’s truth and excuse the sins of men. Make sure you keep your education in submission to God and His word. Never fall for the myths of education.
By David F. Reagan
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Antioch Baptist Church Knoxville, Tennessee