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Jonathan Edwards and a reformational view of the purpose of education
Increasingly, calls are being heard for the integration of spirituality into formal education. The emphasis seems to be on spirituality as ‘connection’ - whether a ‘deep connection’ between the teacher, the learner and the object(s) of study (Jones 2005:6; cf. Palmer, 1993:88-89), connection between the learner and the world (Wane & Ritskes 2011:xvi; Van der Walt & Potgieter 2011:81; Dayton, 2015:2), or connection between knowledge and ethical behaviour (Culham, 2015:309). These are only a few examples - indeed, as Vokey (2003:174) suggests, approaches to spirituality in education are as varied as views of ‘what it is that we are currently alienated from’. The search for spirituality in education is fundamentally related to the question: what is the purpose of education? This is illustrated by Carr and Haldane (2003:2), for instance, when they explain their and their co-workers’ interest in the relation between education and spirituality as being an interest in ‘the question of what schooling might aim for in the field of personal formation beyond the acquisition of transferable skills and broad social values’. Acknowledging that there is no religiously neutral view of spirituality or of the purpose of education, the present study aims at contributing to a Christian, specifically a reformational approach to these issues as they pertain to school education. The question that this study is specifically concerned with, is: How can the purpose of school education be understood in such a way as to do justice to the contemporary search for spirituality (or spiritual ‘connection’) in education? In an attempt to contribute to an answer to this question, the present study explores and seeks to apply the thought of the philosopher-theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758). The focus is on Edwards’ understanding of the relation between God and his creation, since the relation between God and creation is what should provide the framework for a reformational view of spirituality (and its place in education). Edwards is well known for the remarkable ways in which he conceptualised the ‘God-relatedness’ of the world, partly in response to mechanist and deist influences of his time (Marsden, 2003:73, 460). The study commences with a brief introduction to Edwards’ worldview and ontology, paying special attention to his understanding of the relation between God and creation. Secondly, three recurrent philosophical themes in Edwards’ thought are explored, as they arise from his understanding of the relation between God and creation. Thirdly, applications of these themes to the question of the purpose of school education are suggested. Finally, a preliminary evaluation is made of the potential of Edwards’ thought for a reformational view of the purpose of education. The following resources were consulted: Works of Jonathan Edwards Online, Jonathan Edwards Studies (online journal), Library catalogue of the North-West University, research articles through Ebsco-host database, and dissertations and theses through ProQuest database. The mini-dissertation is presented in the form of an article, in accordance with rule A.7.2.5 of the ‘General Academic Rules’ of the North-West University. The article will soon be presented for publication in the journal In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi. This journal’s style and referencing requirements are included as an appendix. The article contains the following subdivisions (numbered only here and not in the article itself, in accordance with the style requirements of In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi): 1. Introduction 2. Created reality as related to God 3. Knowledge as the true perception of relations 4. Human beings as creation’s consciousness 5. Sound morality as arising from true perception 6. An application to the question of the purpose of education 7. A preliminary evaluation from a reformational philosophical perspective 8. Conclusion The research article includes a summary in English and Afrikaans, in accordance with the requirements of In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi. The research article is followed by a section in which the contributions of the study, the limitations of the study and suggestions for further research are reflected on. Finally, an appendix is given with the style and reference requirements provided by In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi.
- Humanities