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Transforming Culture

How does a classical, Christian school lead to 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.


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