We are living in tumultuous times. Political and social unrest characterize our culture. Political divisions grip our conscience, propelling us to aggressively embrace or denounce party affiliations. Many people are despairing about the current state of affairs and disillusioned by the violence and protest coming from every side. Most are displeased with the prospect of voting for anyone who is immoral or destitute in character. Socially, we face an identity crisis. Racial bigotry, sexual anarchy, gender controversies, divorce, abortion and an overall sense of despair define our fractured society. It is in this context we must recover a truly Christian education. Only by reestablishing our Christian communities, providing our families with an environment that encourages holiness, and educating our students to consistently live in and interpret the world through biblical principles can we preserve Christian culture.
Christian education shapes our sensibilities and directs our dispositions. It informs our character and cultivates virtue. Christian education applies the Gospel to each student, informing and instructing the whole child to live as becomes a follower of Jesus Christ. It is more than instructing and teaching the deep doctrinal truths of the Scriptures. While it is those things, it is the full application of the Gospel to the whole life of each student.
Smith Preparatory Academy is unapologetically a Christian school within the Reformed tradition. What makes us a Christian school is not only that we require our students to take a Bible class each year or that we pray together during opening and closing assemblies. Rather, Smith Prep is a Christian school because the faculty and staff are committed to the Lordship of Jesus over every academic discipline. Literature, history, science, indeed all subjects are taught in light of the biblical narrative of God’s redemptive purposes. There is simply no area of study that is not subject to the Lord of creation. As the apostle reminds us:
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
Throughout the course of a student’s progress at Smith Prep, they memorize poems, speeches, timelines, and other foundational works consistent with a classical education. Memorization is a fundamental tool in the training of our students. Starting in Kindergarten, students begin memorizing the Scriptures and are catechized using the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The students carefully read and study both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Our Upper School students formally study biblical theology, systematic theology, and apologetics.
Smith Prep’s Christian commitment is to teaching and training the whole person. The conviction that all human beings are created in God’s Image directs our educational endeavors. Accordingly, we recognize the dignity and significance of each person, and the aim of our education is to cultivate in each student a well-ordered love for all that is true, good, and beautiful. Smith Prep affirms the dignity of the human person because it first affirms the wisdom, grace, and goodness of God, our Creator and Redeemer. We seek truth because God is Truth; we pursue what is good because God is Good; we rejoice in what is beautiful because God is the source of all Beauty.
Our world belongs to God and Jesus is actively saving his people from their sins and renewing this cursed world. The church is eagerly awaiting the second advent of Christ and longing for the full restoration of his kingdom. Until then, Christians are entrusted to be salt and light in a fallen and broken world. We are to be faithfully proclaiming the Gospel and fulfilling the cultural mandate. As image bearers of God we are to be kingdom builders, cultivating the earth in fulfillment of God’s original intent for humanity and in fulfillment of our Lord’s model prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Christian education equips its students with the information, knowledge, and wisdom necessary to complete these tasks.
What does a Christian education offer a world in chaos? Smith Prep’s Christian education provides hope. It provides an environment that seeks to reshape our communities and create a context where we might once again flourish. Our administration often speaks of Smith Prep as an island of preservation, an island that embodies a truly Christian culture. Much like a medieval abby, Smith Prep is teaching, shaping, and sustaining a community where Christian ideas, practices, and sensibilities are cultivated. The Gospel ultimately defines Christian education, and the depth of our understanding of the Gospel directly corresponds to the breadth of our understanding of both our humanity and our world.