Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Was Jesus the "Model Teacher?"

This question came up to me at a teacher training session at the church I attend.  (Note:  our church staff provides a "school of discipleship" for those who want to go deeper in a more academic way.  I really appreciate it and have taken four classes so far.  Good model.)
 I got to thinking about this, and here are some musings:

Jesus was perfect and He was a teacher.  However, that doesn't mean He sets Himself up as the Perfect Teacher.  Am I being irreverent?  Jesus was here to accomplish several tasks, but being a model as a teacher (in every way) may not have been one of them.  I think the question may be raised by people who want to think of Jesus as a great teacher rather than as second person of trinity and savior; that is not an option we have, as CS Lewis has so bluntly proclaimed.

Was Jesus even an effective teacher?  And if He was, was it in the way He taught (His methodologies) or for some other reason? 

Does Scripture ever tell us to follow His model as a teacher and does He ever promise we will be effective if we did follow His model?

How would Jesus even judge effectiveness in the first place?  He would be more concerned about the content of the message and the character of the messenger more than the specific processes and methodologies of the teaching. 

It is possible to have unacceptable methodology if the methodology is based on faulty philosophy or theology.  For example, Jesus was no Platonic or Socratic.  He didn't believe or proclaim that the spiritual knowledge is inherent within us and we just have to find the right way to uncover it.  (Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, Peter ..... Matthew 16). Another example:  views that people are not sinners and are therefore capable of spiritual self-development.  Or the view that truth is flexible and personally-based.  

Beyond that, the methods Jesus used are not sacrosanct.  He probably used methods similar to those of other peripatetic teachers (that's a good word to look up).  At the same time, His methods are worth studying mainly because they teach us more about Him and because the medium is the message, and His methods of teaching help us know the presuppositions we should have as we teach (see previous paragraph.  Our methodology is usually based in beliefs about human nature and the nature of knowledge and knowledge acquisition).  More on this tomorrow.

I say this because in higher ed we are supposed to have a constructivist view of knowledge and I have a hard time getting my "head around that" in terms of all disciplines.  My understanding (or practice) of constructivism is that students should be encouraged to do their own research along the lines of the specific discipline to learn more about the discipline, but the whole point is that they have to learn the methods of the discipline; they can't just come up with knowledge out of nowhere, or from just talking about it.  As I said in a workshop once, there seems to be Knowledge and knowledge, just like there is Truth and truth. 

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