Drawing the Line in Your Teaching
In this passage, Paul takes on the false idea that the spiritual is good, but matter is evil. Instead, he proclaims a Christ-centered universe where Christ not only creates but he personally holds all things together for his own purposes. Both what is visible and invisible, physical and spiritual, are creations of His.
God delights in his creation, and we who live in it do so before his attentive gaze. This is good news for teachers. They don’t need to justify their teaching by saying it is necessary to pass the test, or to prepare for a job. Test passing and job preparation are fine, but they are subordinate goals. The most important reason to study the creation in science class, math class, or any other class is that it comes from God for our good. We study to enjoy what God enjoys!
John Calvin illustrates how we enjoy what God provides: “Now if we ponder to what end God created food, we shall find that he meant not only to provide for necessity but also for delight and good cheer.” Creation isn’t merely to use, writes Calvin, but it is to be embraced and celebrated as good in its own right.
Sin does mar the creation and us within it, and so we don’t understand it or live in it as we should. But sin does not cause God to forsake his world. He continues to uphold us and the world as well. Unfortunately, we don’t always understand God’s purposes in creation correctly. Vestiges of pagan ideas remain, and we tend to draw a line between the spiritual and the physical as if one is good and the other is at best merely to be used, or at worst an outright evil.
Some years ago I observed this at a performance given by a Christian dance group. The dancers gave an interpretation of a musical anthem written to give praise to God. The combination of form and movement in dance with the exalted tones of the music made the event an aesthetic feast for the ears and eyes, all to the praise of God. After the performance, I thanked one of the dancers for this “feast.” She said, “O no, we didn’t mean it as an aesthetic feast, we meant it as a means of worship.” I assured her that the performance did cause me to praise God. Later, as I reflected on her comment, I wondered if she was thinking that their performance’s spiritual purpose was needed to justify the music and the dance. Those who believe that creation is at best to be used but not to be enjoyed would think so.
Where do you draw the line in your teaching? Between the physical and the spiritual, or does the line connect our loving God with his spiritual/physical creation? If it is the former, then no wonder that we sometimes justify learning as a means to pass the test or land a good job. Then student learning is reduced to a utilitarian grind. But teachers who draw the line differently, who understand that God made a good creation for us spiritual/physical creatures to enjoy in his name, they are the ones who see learning as the “feast” that God intends. Their students are in for a good time.