Christian education is not the transmission of an abstract, intellectual “body of knowledge” that involves nothing more than mental assent. Rather, it is the “handing on” (the literal meaning of the Greek word paradosis which is normally translated “tradition”) of a deep, experiential knowledge of the crucified and risen Lord. It is, quite literally, the handing over of a relationship to the Truth which demanded a total re-orientation of one’s life toward the coming Kingdom of God.
This is perhaps the most fundamental difference between secular and Christian education. For the Christian, the Truth is not merely a datum or an abstract formula, but a Person, the Person of the Word of God made flesh, the Lord Jesus. Orthodoxy, then, is not merely a mental assent to true “belief” but a betrothal, an intensely personal, one-on-one relationship. This is clearly expressed by the historical development of the words “betrothal” and “truth” in the English language: both words have the same linguistic root. Thus, in English, the very word “truth” implies relationship, a “pledging of one’s troth,” as used to be said in old English, a total commitment of one’s whole life and hope.
Christian education, taken from the Latin “e-ducere,” meaning “to lead,” is to be led ever more deeply into a relationship with Christ, the Truth. Because the goal of Christian education is an ever deepening relationship with Christ it is a life-long process. And the fruit of this ever-deepening, life-long relationship is nothing less than the gradual restoration of the image of God in our frail and broken humanity. The final result of a Christian education is the making of individual Christians into living icons of God’s compassion and holiness and the Christian community what it is by definition – the Body of Christ in the world.