Welcome to October! It’s hard not to revel in the beauty of this time of year. I’ve loved greeting families through the doors in the newly crisp mornings, joining the students and staff on the playground in the sunny afternoons, and coming home through fields and folds of festive fall colors. We’re starting to get into the swing of things at school, and by the middle of next week, we will have already completed 10% of the year. How can that be?! Tempus fugit, goes the Latin phrase–”Time flies.”
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is boundaries or limitations. You can tell they must be important, because our world and our flesh and the Devil all rail against them. And contrary to contemporary belief, boundaries do not destroy freedoms, but instead they make freedoms possible. Genesis 1 shows us that God used boundaries from the beginning, separating light from darkness, day from night, earth from sky, land from sea, man from beast, and right from wrong. We see those boundaries governing nature and designed for our wellbeing, and God calls this all good. As others have put it, man was placed in a whole garden of yeses with only a single tree of no, and that tree was meant to protect us from a knowledge that was too much for us and a death that we could not comprehend. In other words, limits are a pre-fall blessing. Like all things touched by the curse, boundaries can be abused or corrupted by sinful man, but in and of themselves they still reflect something true, good, and beautiful about God’s character and creation. Even God, by the constraints of His own nature (e.g. God cannot lie, God cannot commit evil, etc.), expresses boundaries or limits. He is the infinite and eternal God, but He cannot be not Himself, and He cannot be untrue to His own nature. Thanks be to God!
So, how does this relate to a classical Christian education? Much in every way! As we raise our children in the faith of Christ, we hope that they will grow up in the blessed bounds and blessed freedoms of our Lord. It is for freedom, after all, that Christ set us free (Gal. 5:1). In order for our students to enjoy freedom, they need to understand the scope of their liberties. To play in and enjoy their green pastures, they have to be confident in the fixity of their fences. In fact, this very truth about the Christian faith is the kind of thing that often draws unbelievers to the Gospel. The renowned apologist and writer G.K. Chesterton wrote in his classic work Orthodoxy, “And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild” (108). Even the things we think of as relating to subjective expressionism, such as fine arts, cannot exist without limits. Chesterton writes, “But it is impossible to be an artist and not care for laws and limits. Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. …The artist loves his limitations; they constitute the THING he is doing” (39, 40). Boundaries give scope to the work, just as they did in the days of God’s original creation. They keep us from falling off of cliffs or wandering into dangerous enemy territory. They give us identity and security, guarded under the watchful eye of our Good Shepherd. They free us from worry about where we can and cannot go.
Sometimes, boundaries do keep us from good things as well, but that, too, is for our own good. Consider the boundary that God placed on the Garden of Eden after the fall, when He posted an angel with a flaming sword at the garden gate, keeping Adam and Eve from partaking of the Tree of Life and from entering with their sin into God’s presence, something that surely would have destroyed them. That limit did not just go away; instead, Christ Himself faced the flaming sword and endured death on cross on our behalf, imputing His righteousness to us and freeing us from our limits of sin and death by ushering us across the boundary of the Law and of our own sin to a place of eternal life with Him.
A good education helps students to recognize and love the right boundaries, following the God who created them. It helps them understand their own sin and need for a savior. It helps them learn to take care of their freedoms and guard their liberties, knowing they have been bought with a price. Perhaps most of all, it frees them from the tyranny of the world and the temptations that come with the false promises of self-centered autonomy and focus. Is it any wonder that the world continually strives to throw off all restraints, clamoring for more and more “freedoms” and “rights” while magnifying oppression in the name of liberation, promoting racism in the name of anti-racism, and persecuting Christians in the name of morality? When we educate in a way that maintains good fences, we teach our kids the value of everything in the yard, and we give them scope for greater and greater imagination. In fact, as Anthony Esloen suggests, we make it possible to release them to look after themselves and truly play, imagine, organize, and operate as both individuals and societies in training. This is a good work.