"I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of God’s word becomes corrupt…. I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young students, are wide gates to hell."
Thus concluded Martin Luther in his 1520 treatise on educational reform, “To the Christian Nobility.” Luther’s words may shock modern sensitivities, yet the truth of them is inescapable. The pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, untethered from the revelation of God, inevitably leads to the individual and his or her desires, being the center of the universe and the only norm and guide for what is good and right. What Luther greatly feared for the universities of his time, has become the modus operandi for the majority of modern American schools and universities, to a degree that would shock Luther himself. The vast majority of modern American uni-versities are anything but, they are really multiversities, adrift without any unifying values or educational goals and, at worse, dominated by contradictory values and competing goals.
Peter Keefe, a philosopher of Boston College, argues that this unmooring from Scripture is the norm not only in modern education but also in entertainment and journalism as well. He writes, “The three major mind-molding establishments in the Western world – formal education, entertainment, and journalism – are massively dominated by the subjectivists and secularists.” If what Peter argues is even partially accurate, then the wide gates to hell confront us, and our children, at every turn of modern life.
In stark contrast to this modern spirit of subjectivism and secularism, stand Lutheran schools. Yesterday, January 23, over 1000 students converged on Concordia Academy (including students from ten Twin Cities elementary schools) to celebrate the beginning of National Lutheran Schools Week. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Upon this Rock.” This theme encapsulates the contrast between Lutheran schools and the “three major mind-molding establishments in the Western world.” Lutheran schools, and all Christian schools where Holy Scriptures are supreme, are anchored on the Rock of Christ. The world around us is indeed adrift, tossed back and forth by every wind of doctrine and human cunning, and the wide gates to hell may indeed surround us, but in our schools we have set before us the straight road that leads to life.
Lutheran schools are built Upon the Rock, Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life. And the joy that was evident on over 1000 faces yesterday is a testament to the power and importance of that firm foundation.
Below, view a video of part of the opening event of CA's National Lutheran Schools Week Celebration.
I only remember a few things from the fourth grade, but one of those things is being assigned to the “yellow group”. I was attending a small Christian school and our teacher decided to break us up into two reading groups. Each group was assigned certain books to read and then would meet throughout the year to discuss those books. What quickly became clear to all of us was that the groups were not equal. The “blue group” consisted of the good readers and the “yellow group,” did not. To this day, I remember feeling surprised, angry, and ultimately embarrassed at being assigned to the “yellow group.” I had always thought of myself as a good student. But suddenly, I was a “yellow fellow”. Maybe I wasn’t the good student I had always thought I was?
There is no denying the power of labels. The labels we carry dramatically impact our sense of self and our understanding of our place in the world. While this is true throughout our lives, it is often painfully evident during our school years. In every school there exists a smörgåsbord of classic, ready-to-use labels. These include: “Athlete, Cheerleader, Geek, Shy kid, Clown, Weird kid, Brain, Hot, Dumb,” and of course the two biggies, “Popular” and “Unpopular”. Under each of these classic labels there exists an almost infinite variety of subtle and often sophisticated sub-labels.
There is no escaping labels. In fact, we need labels. Labels are needed for us to understand who we are and how we fit in this world. The critical question is whom do we allow to label us? I recently had it pointed out that in the manufacturing world, the only ones who have a legitimate right to label objects are those who make it, those who purchase it, and those who own it. While it’s clear that this applies to manufactured goods like tools and clothing, I believe it also applies to people.
The great message of Scripture is that we have been created, we have been purchased, and we are owned. Jesus has done all three. Jesus is therefore, the only one who has a legitimate right to label us! Who Jesus declares us to be, trumps any and all labels given to us by parents, teachers, friends, enemies, the culture around us, and even ourselves. Jesus has more right and authority to label us than we have to label ourselves. He created us, he purchased us; we are His. And what does Jesus declare us to be? “Precious, holy, forgiven.” He has declared us to be “sons and daughters of the King, heirs and co-heirs with Christ.” He declares that we have “authority, purpose, and power;” that we are the “salt and light of this world” and that one-day, we will sit enthroned next to Him! With tender words he says that we are “the apple of God’s eye.”
The mission of Concordia Academy is to proclaim over and over again who Jesus says we really are. In this proclamation is freedom from both the lies and labels of this world, and from the destructive labels we assign ourselves in our guilt and shame. Jesus has given us a new name says Scripture. And in this new name, this label is freedom, joy, and life. I am not “yellow fellow,” I am a child of the living God!