While celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary, it’s good to reflect on the contribution of faith to the fabric of Canadian life. One of the places faith is nurtured is in Christian schools, and the question quickly becomes: Is Christian education only good for Christians, or does Christian education contribute to the good of Canadian society as a whole?
Across the country, there is a cultural conversation happening about education. Instances such as the controversy over Ontario’s sex education curriculum or Trinity Western’s legal battle to grant law degrees highlight significant shifts in how Canadians view the purpose of education and by extension, the place of faith in public life.
Two widely held beliefs about education seem to be implicit in policy and curriculum advocacy in secular education systems today. First, education should prepare a labour force to meet job market needs through appropriate skills and training. Second, education should empower individual self-expression in order to ensure a diverse, pluralistic society.
“Robust Christ-centered education begins with the perspective that all people are created in the image of God.”
Though there are elements of truth in these principles, a historical perspective on education reveals that education has often had a deeper purpose centered on character formation and the development of moral virtues. This emerged from the western cultural heritage where Christianity was a foundational part of all education systems. That didn’t make those systems perfect by any means, but it allowed the opportunity for spiritual and eternal purposes to inform the temporal.
In the context of Canada’s pluralistic secular society today, many Christian education institutions are still motivated by getting at the deeper “why” of education. Robust Christ-centered education begins with the perspective that all people are created in the image of God, and therefore are imbued with dignity and value. Further, Christian education rests on the understanding that creation is broken by sin and that redemption is only possible through Jesus Christ.
When education starts here — whether it’s specific skill training, philosophy, science, business or anything else — it leads to graduates motivated to make their organizations better in responsible ways and to care for those around them, at their place of work and in their neighbourhoods. This is true even amidst cultural differences related to beliefs and values. And this is good for all.
Yet society is changing, and by virtue of its truth claims, the Christian worldview is increasingly at odds with the tenets of secular education. Freedom of expression seems to be gaining priority over freedom of religion in public life. Under the cultural microscope more than ever, vibrant faith-based university education is a vital public testimony to the value that all levels of Christian education bring to Canadian society.
At Redeemer, we remain committed to Christ-centered university education. In all our programs, knowledge transfer and skills development are embedded in a process of discipleship through learning. Our recently launched new Core Curriculum is the backbone of an education that grows our students academically while centering their education around deepening their faith and finding their callings in Christ.
In this way, Redeemer is preparing the next generation of Christians to bring the gospel’s transformative power to all kinds of careers and vocations. That means graduates who are able to communicate, critique, and lead in ways that reflect the hope of Jesus Christ. And He is the best hope there is.