Thursday, April 14, 2011

Education or Indoctrination?

I am getting to that time in my semester at school where my students are nearing turning in research papers.  They just wrote a test for me which needs to be graded, but looking at it reminded me of the real difference between education and indoctrination.

Indoctrination:
1 : to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments : teach
2: to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle
 
Education: (technically educating but education is defined as “the art of educating”)
1 a : to provide schooling for <chose to educate their children at home>b : to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession
2 a : to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction b : to provide with information : inform <educating themselves about changes in the industry>
3: to persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a desired way <educate the public to support our position>
 
So of course in a grace-centered way, which are we trying to do with those who we are trying to train to see God’s grace in salvation and sanctification?  Are we trying to indoctrinate or are we trying to educate?
 
To me, the difference in approach is critical.  The Pharisees spent a lot of time indoctrinating.  In Acts 15:5 some believers who were Pharisees argued that all Gentiles needed to get like them in every respect before they could be acceptable in the church.  They had a very narrow idea of what it meant to be a believer and they wanted everyone to be exactly like them.  In other words, they focused on indoctrination!  Their “sectarian opinion” was that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses to be part of the church.  The Apostles, though, said no way.
 
The counterbalance to this approach is found a couple of chapters later, in Acts 17.  As Paul traveled on his second missionary journey he encountered some opposition to his teaching, but in Acts 17:11 Luke speaks approvingly of the people of Berea. When Paul came and preached to them, they searched the Scriptures for themselves.  Paul gave them information and appealed to them to believe in Christ, but he didn’t browbeat them.  He focused on education, not indoctrination.  And as a result, these noble Bereans believed in the grace of salvation by faith alone, both Jews and Greeks.
 
So within the span of a couple of chapters of Acts we can see the difference between a desire to indoctrinate and a desire to educate.  It seems clear that the grace of God is served when we pursue the latter rather than the former.  I firmly believe that if we teach people good Bible interpretation skills, educating them on the need for a literal, grammatical, historical approach, and then give them the options on how to view the biblical text then many if not most will see it from a Free Grace perspective.  We won’t win the hearts of all, but we will help many see the true freedom of eternal life in Christ by faith alone plus nothing in Christ alone plus nothing.  The alternative, to me, just doesn’t work and in fact seems to go against the grain of Scripture.
 
What do you think?  How do we best help people see the grace of God?