The tenth and final featured article in this month’s Tabletalk on the church in the 16th century (the period of the great Reformation) is on “The Reformation and Education.” Penned by Dr. Peter Lillback (Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia), the article briefly summarizes the major impact the Reformers and their biblical principles had on the field of education.
As children of the Reformation, we experience and benefit from that impact in our own homes, churches, Christian schools, and Seminaries to this day. As we do so, – and as we need to remain in that heritage – we need to be grounded in those same biblical principles of education. Reading this brief article will help.
I post a few paragraphs from Lillback’s article tonight, encouraging you to read the rest at the Ligonier link below.
The Reformation has been an extraordinary force for global education. The Middle Ages gave birth to the first European universities that trained a select cadre of scholars. But in the Protestant Reformation, the quest for universal education was unleashed. Martin Luther, a professor at the University of Wittenberg, early on called for the magistrates to establish schools so that children could learn to read the newly translated Scriptures and benefit from the learning of the ages. Later, John Calvin, in the French context, established the Academy of Geneva that became the center of Reformed theology.
The educational methods of the Reformers reflected their theology. The goal of general literacy manifested the Reformation principle of the priesthood of all believers—all Christians have the spiritual privilege to read and to study the Scriptures for themselves. Sola Scriptura—the Scriptures as the only infallible source of saving knowledge and true wisdom—was buttressed by pedagogy consistent with Scripture. For the laity, this was accomplished by biblical literacy and catechisms. For adults and church leaders, confessions of faith served as summaries and standards of biblical doctrine and practice.
…The Reformation’s educational reforms also affected university studies. Speculative medieval scholasticism was replaced by a biblically grounded systematic theology. A worldview shaped by a belief in a sovereign Creator who rules an orderly cosmos encouraged the investigation of the empirical sciences. Linguistic studies accelerated. Latin was dethroned as the only scholarly language, since the common tongues of Europe had become capable of scholarly discussion due to the elevation of these languages by the translation of the Bible. Nevertheless, the study of the languages of biblical scholarship—Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—increased as a trained clergy became a reality. The Reformation’s educational impact spurred the printing industry, spawning libraries and advanced study in various disciplines. Some of the renowned academic centers greatly shaped by the Reformation are the universities in Wittenberg, Geneva, Zurich, Heidelberg, Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh.