Wednesday, November 03, 2010

To teach is to gain

Saint Augustine wrote On Christian Teaching at roughly the same time as he wrote his astonishing literary land(re)mark(able) Confessions. You can find an online Confessions reading group, here.

On Christian Teaching was written to help people interpret the Bible. It also helps readers communicate clearly to others. As such the work provides an outline of Christian theology with stuff on ethical problems, early sign theory and advice on content.

If you’ve ever worried about whether Harry Potter is suitable material for children, On Christian Teaching might help you think about the content of your homeschooling syllabus. (“So, boys and girls, which pagan shall we study this week?”) Augustine allowed for and defended the use of classical secular works. But he turned the focus of Christian education towards the Bible.

Encouragement for all teachers is found in the opening paragraphs. The basic lesson appears to be that, when we hope in God for the completion of the work, Christian teachers find an abundance of provision.

“For all the things which do not give out when given away are not properly possessed when they are possessed but not given away… [God] will give to those who have: this means that for those who make generous use of what they have received he will supplement and increase what he has given… the material which God has already supplied to me for starting this work will be multiplied, through his own provision, when discussion begins. So in this act of service, I will not only experience no shortage of material, but in fact enjoy an astonishing abundance of it.”

P8, On Christian Teaching Oxford World’s Classics.

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