HomeArticlesEducation: A Brief History and Cause of Decadency (Part 2)

Education: A Brief History and Cause of Decadency (Part 2)

At the advent of the Church age the training for ministry was ordained to the local church (Ephesians 4:11-13). There remained an unusually high percentage of literacy amongst Christians as the parents were to teach their children the Holy Scriptures. The Apostolic Constitution, an ancient document dated to the 4th century states, “ye fathers, educate your children in the Lord… teach them wisdom with severity… Do you therefore teach your children the word of the Lord… teaching them the Holy Scriptures, which are Christian and divine, and delivering to them every sacred writing…”1) Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book IV, Sect. II, Chap. XI; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 7, p. 435-436 This was to eventually split Christianity in two by its means of educating the next generation. “Alexandria becomes the brain of Christendom: its heart was yet at Antioch…”2) The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 2, p. 165 In Antioch the “school” was not a literal institution but a system of thought taught from within local church while in Alexandria a college developed as a parachurch academic institution outside of the local church.

The Antioch School was not a regular institution with a continuous succession of teachers, like the Catechetical School of Alexandria, but a theological tendency, more particularly a peculiar type of hermeneutics and exegesis which had its center in Antioch. The characteristic features are, attention to the revision of the text, a close adherence to the plain, natural meaning according to the use of language and the condition of the writer, and justice to the human factor. In other words, its exegesis is grammatical and historical, in distinction from the allegorical method of the Alexandrian School.3) Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Hendrickson Publishers Market, 1858, fourth printing 2011, Vol. 2, p. 816

Hence the Antioch school was more specifically a method of hermeneutics which infers the obvious study in cognitive reading with a focus on grammar and history. The Antioch school did eventually become an actually school institution for the purpose of countering the multitudes of errors propagated from the school of Alexandria. “The oldest and most celebrated was the catechetical school of Alexandria…. From the Alexandrian school proceeded the smaller institution of Caesarea in Palestine, which was founded by Origen after his banishment from Alexandria… Far more important was the theological school of Antioch, founded about 290 by the presbyters Dorotheus and Lucian. It developed in the course of the fourth century a sever grammatico-histoircal exegesis, counter to the Origenistic allegorical method of the Alexandrians…”4) Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Hendrickson Publishers, 1858, fourth printing 2011, Vol. 3, p. 236-237
The college of Alexandria arose early in the second century being founded by Pantaenus who was succeeded by Clement of Alexandria. “He [Clement] became the successor of Pantaenus in the catechetical school, and had Origen for his pupil, with other eminent men.”5) The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 2, p. 166 Because this was a parachurch institution many unregenerate Greeks attended the lectures which drove Clement to apply an eclectic method of synchronizing pagan philosophies to develop his own brand of Christianity. Clement of Alexandria, who wrote, “Perchance, too, philosophy was given to the Greeks directly and primarily, till the Lord should call the Greeks. For this was a schoolmaster to bring the Hellenic mind, as the law, the Hebrews, to Christ. Philosophy, therefore, was a preparation, paving the way for him who is perfected in Christ.”6) Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book I, chap. V; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 2, p. 305 Exactly what he meant by “philosophy” he defined specifically to leave no misinterpretations. “And philosophy— I do not mean the Stoic, or the Platonic, or the Epicurean, or the Aristotelian, but whatever has been well said by each of those sects, which teach righteousness along with a science pervaded by piety—this eclectic whole I call philosophy.”7) Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book I, chap. VII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 2, p. 308 This “eclectic whole” was strongly opposed by Christians outside of the influence of this catechetical school. For example, Tertullian stated, “Unhappy Aristotle! Who invented for these men dialectics… Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition!”8) Tertullian, On Prescription Against Heretics, Chap. VII; Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book I, chap. VII; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 3, p. 246 This opposition was based on the Apostle Paul’s words of warning in Colossians 2:8. However, it is credited to Clement as the originator of the Christian colleges that are mere parachurch academic institutions. “To our author’s [Clement] versatile genius, much credit is due for the elements out of which Christian universities took their rise.”9) The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 2, p. 568 That is because the word “university” literally means to bring the diversity of knowledge into unity – i.e., the eclectic whole. In fact, the academic institution outside of the local church was a synthesis of the Hellenistic schools as adopted by the Roman culture and its method of education which was briefly acknowledged by Paul (Galatians 3:24). The New Encyclopedia Britannica referenced the rise of Christianity and its adaptation of the Greek school: “This new religion could have organized an original system of education analogous to that of the rabbinical school—that is, one in which children learned through study of the Holy Scripture—but it did not ordinarily do so…. The synthesis of Christianity and classical education had become so intimate that, when the barbarian invasions swept away the traditional school along with many other imperial and Roman institutions, the church, needing a literary culture for the education of its clergy, kept alive the cultural tradition that Rome had received from the Hellenistic world.”10) The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1988, Vol. 18, p. 24
After some years under Clements teaching, persecution arose in Alexandria causing Clement to flee and his chair was succeeded by Origen who was at that time a layman under the age of eighteen. Origen learned his lessons well from Clement and took them to such an extreme, he remains a historical figure associated with much heresy. “Origen was the first major Christian theologian to adopt the allegorical principles of the Gnostics…. Tragically, the great theologian St. Augustine followed this allegorical approach of Origen and gradually influenced most teachers in the Western Empire over the following centuries…”11) Grant R. Jeffrey, Triumphant Return: The Coming Kingdom of God, Frontier Research Publications, Inc., 2001, p. 34 He was eventually excommunicated from the local church and exiled from Alexandria by the bishop Demetrius which caused Origen to establish colleges in Palestine and Caesarea where his influence spread widely into the following centuries. Origen’s chair was then succeeded by Heraclas who was succeeded by Dionysius.
Mark Cahill wrote of how dangerous such a college could be to Christians. “I have heard so many horror stories of students who go off to college and get deceived by their professors. But the worst of those stories is when that deception takes places at Christian colleges.”12) Mark Cahill, The Watchmen, BDM Publishing, 2012, p. 11 Ken Ham documented statistically such “horror stories” in his book Already Compromised in which he stated, “the numbers from the surveys of Christian colleges prove the exact opposite: in many cases, it tends to be the scientists who believe in the Bible’s account of origins and accordingly a young earth, while the majority of those in the religion departments embrace evolution and undermine the authority of Scripture!”13) Ken Ham & Greg Britt Beemer, Already Compromised, Master Books, 2011, p. 49
During the days of Constantine, the Constitution of the Holy Apostles was being composed which stated, “for the Church is the school…”14) Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book VIII, Sect. IV, Chap. XXXI; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887, Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 7, p. 494 but this did not last as the norm. A short period after Emperor Constantine, churches pursued underground efforts in training its youth by returning the education to the local church when persecution arose again from pagan authorities. “Equally unjust and tyrannical was the law, which placed all the state schools under the direction of heathens, and prohibited the Christians teaching the sciences and the arts. [Emperor] Jullian would thus deny Christian youth the advantages of education, and compel them either to sink in ignorance and barbarianism, or to imbibe with the study of the classics in heathen schools the principles of idolatry.”15) Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Hendrickson Publishers, 1858, fourth printing 2011, Vol. 3, p. 53 When the church and state were united again, the amillennial eschatology which dominated the schools caused persecution from the state-church to those considered “schismatic” by which a remnant continued the ordained purpose of the local church to continue training and educating the next generations to serve the Lord.
Education through the local church had ceased except for in the various obscure sects labeled “Anabaptists,” who were all but ignored as dissidents, only remembered by their blood that stained a few pages of their persecutor’s record of history. Thieleman J. van Braught, a Dutch Anabaptist, who, in 1660, compiled numerous accounts of Anabaptists martyrdoms related the electing and ordaining of a pastor by a local church.

And since it is a known fact that a lack of faithful ministers, and the erring of the sheep because of the lack of good doctrine, arise principally from the unworthiness of the people; therefore the people of God, needing this, should not turn to such as have been educated in universities, according to the wisdom of man, that they may talk and dispute, and seek to sell their purchased gift for temporal gain; and who according to the custom of the world do not truly follow Christ in the humility of regeneration.16) Thieileman J. van Braght, The Bloody Theater of Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only Upon Confession of Faith, and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus, Their Savior, From the Time of Christ to the Year A.D. 1660, (trans. Joseph F. Sohm) Herald Press, 1660, first English edition 1886, twenty-fifth printing 2004, p. 395

He describes that the local church was to “choose him as an elder and teacher in the full ministry,”17) Thieileman J. van Braght, The Bloody Theater of Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only Upon Confession of Faith, and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus, Their Savior, From the Time of Christ to the Year A.D. 1660, (trans. Joseph F. Sohm) Herald Press, 1660, first English edition 1886, twenty-fifth printing 2004, p. 395 because he was the pastor and the teacher of the church, training the next generation to be faithful as they were not to be “educated in universities” of the Catholics or Protestants which propagated the idea of a “universal” church and thereby removing the education from the local church to a denominational or hierarchical head.

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Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

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