Teaching to the Head & Heart

I couldn’t let it slip by.

Amidst all the nostalgia (and talk of my hometown, Dallas) surrounding the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, there’s another death to remember.

C.S. Lewis died today, 50 years ago.

The genius of Lewis was his ability to move deftly between the didactic and the imaginative, between the cognitive and the affective; or, as we would say in adult education, the HEAD and the HEART.

The heart, if you remember, is the seat of the will and the passions. Even more than the head (the seat of the intellect), the condition of our hearts determines (not too strong a word, I think) what we actually do.

Those of us who teach desire to see growing followers of Jesus changed at the level of the heart. We do this by bringing growing disciples to the place where the Spirit of God will apply the truth of God’s Word to their imaginations. Those with transformed imaginations know, increasingly, the will of God, and God’s own heart.

Lewis showed us how to teach this way. In stories like those in his Narnia series, we see what it looks like when characters have their hearts’ transformed.

If you’d like an example—or, if you’re stuck in an airline terminal over the next couple of days—you might enjoy the 8 minute, twenty-three second video clip by John Stonestreet. I’ve pasted it below. Then, consider leaving a comment. How are John Stonestreet’s examples from Lewis’ work helpful for our own work in adult education?

 

What Makes Our Teaching Christian?

Some time ago the “Fellowship” of adult educators at Faith Bible Church met for breakfast. Talk ranged from how we’d been doing in the past to how we could serve our participants better in the future.

Then, around the time I pocketed the check (see, there are live benefits to the group), someone asked the question: How do you build a lesson anyway?

That’s the question we’ll be addressing in a series of nine posts. (They’ll be released on this FaithWorks blog spot on this site, www.faithb.org.)

You’ll find response questions below each post so you can share your immediate thoughts. After we’ve been at it awhile we’ll do breakfast…Maybe I’ll pick up the check.

 

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Before we get to our question we have one matter to clear up. We need to answer an even more basic question:What makes our teaching Christian to start with? 

 

EDUCATION THAT IS CHRISTIAN ASSUMES PARTICULAR THINGS ABOUT GOD

Before we ever take our stand in front of our participants—or sitting alongside them, all depending on your method—we’ve assumed much about God.

 

Education that is Christian assumes that God is other than His creation.The word we need here is transcendent. When you stroll in the beauty of the autumn and stoop to pick up a blazing red leaf, you’re only seeing the fringes of God’s glory. Even then, you’re learning something about God. And when we teach in a way that is properly Christian we’re assuming that God has something to tell us—something that travels from one mind to another, something about Himself that starts with Himself.

 

Education that is Christian assumes that God has revealed Himself. This revelation—that’s the word we want—takes place in a general way through the order and design of nature. But even though we learn enough in nature to know that God exists, we still don’t know enough about God to really know Him.

For that we need Jesus, and all that is true about Him as told us in the the Gospel and the Bible.

 

EDUCATION THAT IS CHRISTIAN REQUIRES A RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL

The Gospel is the good news that Jesus died…was buried…was raised (proving that He is God)…and was seen. And just as all Scripture points to Jesus, the whole Bible points to the Gospel.

This message of the Gospel, together with the whole Bible, carries freight: There’s content that must be delivered from one person to another. This content includes facts—the facts that Jesus died and rose from the dead, and in a way that can be witnessed and reported. This content also includes the rest of the Bible that points to Jesus’ work in the Gospel. This revelation gives us knowledge of how to live.

This content takes the form of “head knowledge” (Yes! There’s a place for that) that must be delivered by the teacher and and responded to by the learner. Making certain this freight gets delivered is the job of the teacher. 

 

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Education that is Christian not only delivers this message through the teaching of the Bible but makes certain that the learner has, at the very least, the opportunity to respond. 

 

At its simplest this response might demonstrate knowledge (How does God show, in Genesis 1-2, that He is strong? Answer: He created the world.) Slightly more complex, this response might demonstrate understanding (What does God’s judgement of the world, in Genesis 6-9, tell us about sin? Answer: Sin must be punished.) At its most complex, the response might demonstrate evaluation (How have I, as a husband, and in response to Ephesians 5:25, loved my wife with the same love with which Christ loved the church?)

These responses require “head-knowledge,” because the Gospel (and the rest of Scripture) requires—for starters—a mental response to something that is true and has been truly revealed by the transcendent God.

But education that is Christian doesn’t stop with head-knowledge alone…

 

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EDUCATION THAT IS CHRISTIAN REQUIRES A HEART RESPONSE THROUGH THE GOSPEL

The Gospel also requires a “heart-response”. This response assumes the facts of what Jesus did, but includes our wills and desires, our attitudes, and the continuing change in our values that God brings about through the Gospel.

The teacher teaching Christianly—having delivered the head-knowledge—now challenges the learner to make a heart-response. The heart-response might involve awareness (How does God’s creation of the world, in Genesis 1-2, help me think about God’s ability to help me in times of trouble?), a change in values (How does God’s punishment of sin, in Genesis 6-9, change the way I think about sin in my life?) or a willingness to organize one’s life around the truth of the Gospel (How might I as a husband in loving my wife as Christ loves the church, and in response to Ephesians 5:25, adjust my work schedule to better serve my wife?)

Though the teacher can’t require a heart-response, he can indicate the response required. Education that is Christian presents the heart-response necessary. 

 

All of this takes place in response to the Gospel! And no part or particle of the learner’s life is out of bounds to the Gospel. What difference does it make that I’m a sinner saved by grace through faith in Christ alone? the learner asks. Since every facet of the Christian’s life is being transformed in response to the Gospel, the scope of this question is nothing short of cosmic!

Money, relationships, time management, leisure, parenting, gardening, intimacy—nothing lies outside the cosmic scope of the Gospel. For the Christian learner every relationship is being shaped and molded by God’s continuing work through Christ in the Gospel.

 

Education that is Christian helps the learner live out the Gospel in all of life. 

The teacher teaching Christianly has the job of making these connections to all of life through the truth of the Gospel. This sets Christian education apart from other models that teach “head-knowledge” alone. This sets Christian education apart from other forms of learner that fall short of whole-life transformation by Christ in the Gospel. This answers the question: What makes our teaching Christian to start with? 

 

Have a look at our questions below and post your own response in the “comments” box. Then, join us for our next meeting of the “Fellowship”. (…I’ll pick up the check.)

Then, check back at FaithWorks next week. We’ll get back to our main question: How do you build a lesson anyway? 

 

Questions for discussion:

According to this article what sets teaching apart as uniquely Christian? Do you agree? If not, why? 
 
How much teaching you hear qualifies as uniquely Christian teaching? How about your own teaching?
 
What would be the dangers of teaching to the “head” but missing the “heart” ? (That is, teaching the facts of what Scripture says, but never getting to the attitudes, values and desires that God would change through the Gospel.)