On the sixth day of creation, God created man. Genesis 1:26-28 explains that man is different than the rest of creation because God created man in His own image. Man has the ability to think and reason, because man is fashioned in the image of God. Man has an innate sense of morality because we get an objective moral law from the character of God. Humans were also to have dominion over all of creation as ambassadors to God’s glory. Humanity finds purpose, as does the rest of creation, in glorifying God. God has given humans a variety of means to accomplish this purpose. God delegated the authority of naming the animals to Adam and therefore gave Adam a job. Through work and using their abilities, man can glorify God. God gives man more commands in Genesis 1:28 to multiply and take dominion over creation. Nancy Pearcey, a teacher of worldview, explains that this command establishes the Cultural Mandate. By subduing creation through creating cultures, civilizations, architecture, art, etc. man fulfills his purpose on the earth; to glorify God (Pearcey, 2004, pg. 47).
Genesis 3, however, explains man’s current state of reality. Adam and Eve, although they lived in perfection, brought sin into the world by disobeying God’s law. Due to the character of God’s holiness, sin effectively separates man from Him. As a result, man must die because of his sin and all of creation is cursed. Adam’s very nature changed to sinfulness which all humankind has inherited. Anything and everything that man tries to accomplish now is tainted by sin and is essentially disobedient to God. Sin distorts God’s good purpose for creation. Instead of glorifying God, sin twists man’s purpose in glorifying the self. God is a God of justice and before Him man is evil, depraved, and deserving of punishment. The punishment for sin is a death where man experiences God’s wrath against sin for all eternity.
However, Ephesians 2:4 explains that God is also rich in mercy, and abounding in great love for His creation. This introduces a dilemma between justice and grace. As a judge, God wants to show grace to humanity, but He must also fulfill the requirements of His justice. God attacked this dilemma head on and sent His only Son to fulfill the requirements of His justice. Jesus Christ lived on earth as a man and fulfilled the law in every way that humans could not. He paid the penalty for man’s sin through His death on the cross. God the judge is able to show grace to mankind if they surrender their life to Jesus Christ who saved them from their sins.
Ephesians 5:1-2 lays a foundation for humans to develop the value of love because “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” Later in the same chapter, humans are also called to develop the values of diligence, understanding, character, and to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (v. 21). Being motivated to be imitators of Christ, man should also develop a great value for justice and grace. Through the redemption of Christ’s blood, man is able to return to their original purpose of glorifying God through the fulfillment of the Cultural Mandate.
The purpose of education has a firm foundation in the Christian worldview which lays out a macroscopic road map of reality: Creation, Fall, and Redemption. God created students in His own image, to inherently reflect God’s characteristics as ambassadors on this Earth. Through man’s disobedience of God’s good law, however, sin entered the world and man’s state became naturally depraved. Students are sinners in need of redemption. The purpose of education is a refining process that prepares students to use their God-given gifts and talents to glorify God and help mend a broken world.
God has created a real world for humans to manipulate and take dominion over. This is in contrast to the theory that reality is simply formed from the ideas that man creates. Man certainly has the ability to think critically and understand the theory of what they experience, but this is firmly rooted in a reality of a very real creation. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:20 that “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Paul is explaining that man is able to experience God through the things that He has made. Through observation of the natural world, and careful manipulation of creation, mankind acquires a better understanding of the reality in which they live and the God who holds it all together.
In this refining process, the purpose of education is to examine the reality in which students exist so that they can grasp a better understanding of the God who created all of reality. Students can accomplish this through studies in math, science, language, history, music, art, Bible, etc. These disciplines reflect God the creator as they offer descriptions of reality and build upon the cumulative experiences of humanity. At its core, all matter follows the rules and principals of mathematics. Studying science allows students to answer why and how questions through observable and repeatable processes. Language directly reflects God as a means of communication within the reality. Studying the past helps to inform decisions about the future, so that humanity is building on what they know. Studying music and art allows humans to stretch and expand the creative aspects of reality. These disciplines help give a strong foundation for students to learn about reality and effectively take dominion over God’s creation.
These disciplines may help to fulfill the purpose of education but how do humans learn? Throughout their lives, humans are constantly experiencing reality and are therefore learning. Infants are receiving their first experiences in reality as they gaze at light fixtures or place every conceivable object in their mouth. Soon they start to use previous experiences to delineate which objects meow like cats and which objects bounce like balls. Humans are able to acquire knowledge through their own experience, the study of others’ experiences, and theoretical analysis of previous experiences. Each and every human certainly learns in a way that is unique to them, but experience is a common underlying foundation for knowledge. This knowledge gives a deeper understanding of reality and a more meaningful picture of the God who created it all.
McDowell, J., & McDowell, S. (2009). Evidence for the resurrection: what it means for your relationship with God. Ventura, Calif. Regal Books.
Pearcey, N. (2004). Total truth: liberating Christianity from its cultural captivity. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.