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INDOCTRINATION OR EDUCATION?
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INDOCTRINATION OR EDUCATION?
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). It is one thing to uncritically accept that which is proposed, but quite different to evaluate the matter oneself. Herein is said to be the difference between indoctrination and education.
Consider a case in point. I was sharing with a colleague the anguish I felt upon learning that one of my former students had forsaken the faith in which he had been raised. Whereupon, a visiting instructor observed: “We must accept the risk involved in education, rather than settle for indoctrination.” While I agreed with him, it did not greatly diminish the anguish I felt.
As a classic example of genuine education, I recall my theology professor from Seminary. He would on occasion introduce some controversial issue; and then cite several solutions that were proposed. After which, he would single out perhaps two or three that seemed most likely to him. Of these, he would opt for that which appeared most plausible, and detail his reasoning. In conclusion, he would allow that given new considerations, he might alter his impression. This served as an encouragement for us explore the issue on our own.
It was decidedly not his intention to promote tolerance as indifference. He took the quest for truth seriously, and encouraged others to do likewise. In this regard, I have observed from time to time: “The more we know, the more we realize that we do not know.”
Indoctrination sometimes surfaces in what may seem to be an unlikely context. For instance, a friend was pursuing doctoral studies at a prestigious university, when advised by his major professor to transfer his credits to another institution. Given his explanation, “We do not want persons with your perspective as graduates.” By way of confirmation, the university’s extensive library was highly selective, so as to exclude alternative options.
Conversely, the educational ideal may arise in some unexpected situation. As when a Communist official offered me a faculty position at a Chinese university. Surprised by this invitation, I called her attention to the fact that I would be teaching from a Christian perspective. She allowed that this was alright, while observing that they would not permit me to teach more impressionable children, lest they be lead astray. In any case, I was unable to accept the offer, due to other commitments.
Now my mother was previously a grade school teacher, who carried over much of her former disposition into raising we siblings. So that she would remind us from time to time, “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” Such would seem to be the intent of Paul’s instruction to Timothy.
So as to be approved unto God. Others may be satisfied with less exacting standards. Which recalls a fictional interchange. With reference to the decalogue, the inquirer asked: “What is a passing grade?” When told that he should keep all ten commandments, he felt overwhelmed by the prospect. Understandably so!
Consequently, not to experience shame. In a more shame oriented culture than our own, it is said that persons might prefer death to the experience of shame. As with regard to taking the life of a family member rather than bearing the reproach derived from his or her behavior. In this regard, an Armenian bishop alluded to a young lady who had enthusiastically embraced the Christian faith. When this came to the attention of her parents, she was told that she must reconsider. She refused to do so, and was executed by her family. “What did the authorities do?” I inquired, supposing this would be a criminal offence.
“Nothing,” he replied, “since this was considered a family matter.” And, as such, appropriately dealing with the prospect of shame. While in other cultures, the focus is more on blame. Then in context of the apostle’s exhortation, not one to the exclusion of the other.
By whatever means, correctly handling the word of truth. Accordingly, to take due consideration of its historical and literary settings. As set over against an uncritical compromise with current cultural standards. Thus while perhaps soliciting the criticism of others, along with God’s hearty commendation.
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