28 August, 2012

Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future

Can you actually be what you think you are without history? In the what-do-you-have-that-you-did-not-also-receive world of Lutheran thinking, the answer to the question is an emphatic No. Our now is our past; our weal in our now is our faithfulness to our past; our way to future is mapped out on the chart of our past.

Of course, this leads to some Rip Van Winkle moments in the life of the Church of the Augsburg Confession. An uncomfortable illustration, one so close to home many who are now reading will stop: our dads tell us that the general confession of sins at the start of the Common Order is our heritage from the Reformation. Somehow they were able to map the practice over Article 11 of the Augsburg Confession. But the Fathers tell us a different story: Lutherans during and after the Reformation retained private Confession and Absolution. 

So it goes with Lutheran school and higher education, as well. Without the perspective of history, when asked, "How do you know it's Lutheran?" a well-meaning parent's or teacher's response amounts to something like, "Because it is..." "Because that's what our sign says." "Because we have synodically certified teachers." "Because we have chapel every Wednesday."

Tom Korcok devotes an entire volume to answering the question, "How do you know it's Lutheran?" by examining the historical record, tracing a line from Luther and the Reformation through Walther and the North American renaissance of confessional Lutheranism up to today. Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future is full of Rip Van Winkle moments. But no parent with children in a Lutheran school, no Lutheran school teacher, no parish pastor with a Christian day school should pass up the opportunity to imagine the future of Lutheran education by reading the map of its past in Korcok's perceptive little book. Intensely and intentionally rooted in Christian vocation, Korcok argues, Lutheran education uses the tools of the good arts (of the trivium and quadrivium) and catechesis (yes, Luther's Small Catechism--not as a book of doctrine, but as a devotional text) to shape the baptized into thoughtful, deliberate Christians living simultaneously in God's two realms, of the Law and of the Gospel. Korcok develops his thesis especially in contrast to modernist and progressivist educational thinking. If you're not sure what that means, you'll have to read Lutheran Education to find discover the ideological, philosophical and, yes, theological gulf that separates the two approaches to the education of children.

Our present present may bear little resemblance to our past; but Tom Korcok hopes his book can help us to use our past to move with confidence into our future. 

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