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Book Review: Education for Human Flourishing by Paul Spears and Steven Loomis

Paul Spears and Steven Loomis. Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009. 248 pages. $22.00. ISBN: 978-0830828128.

If you’re looking for an incredibly in-depth and thought provoking analysis of current Christian pedagogy (i.e. study of education), then philosophers of education Paul Spears and Steven Loomis will knock your socks off with the impressive and highly challenging book Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective. This book is a string of books in a series called Christian Worldview Integration Series – books which are all challenging and ground breaking in Christian thought practice.

If you’re not familiar with the current conversations surrounding Christian pedagogy (like me) then this book will be especially challenging. Nonetheless, if you are somewhat of a renaissance wo/man of sorts (like me) then you are always looking for new topics to tackle to get a better understanding of the debates, the issues, and the thought processes surrounding them. Spears and Loomis are two very qualified men who are passionate about the topic of education generally and Christian education specifically. But the interesting note about that latter categorization is that Spears and Loomis desire greatly for Christians to be involved in higher education, not necessarily at Christian higher education institutions.

The authors are fair about not getting into “what is best” as regard to education options for people – public school, private school, Christian school, home school, etc. They are fair yet critical in a sort of way with all aspects of education. For these two authors, American education has severely dropped the ball on being a front runner for global scholasticism. For Christianity, this is a shame because there have been so many forerunning Christian intellectuals over the centuries – two of these authors’ go-to favorites are St. Augustine and C.S. Lewis.

More than a shame, for Christianity this is a disaster due to the responsibility and in fact stewardship of education and intellectualism that we are wrought. The overarching question and lament of these authors is Why have Christians withheld our responsibility to steward education in light of growing secularism and secular agenda? My own thought: Is it any surprise that the majority of scientists are atheist/agnostic when Christians shy away from the “hard” disciplines that may challenge their faith? If people like Steven Meyer (and his superb new book Signature in the Cell) is any example… don’t! If Christianity is true and the fingerprints of God are all over His creation and if general revelation is true and if natural theology is true, then science, literature, law, business, and every other discipline are ripe fields for the taking for Christians to engage intellectually. But we don’t.

For these authors, and something that struck me as most profound, was their emphasis on the why of obtaining education. Do we pursue graduate and doctoral degrees for the sake of boredom or to spice up our resumes? Most do, admittedly. Spear and Loomis pursuay their readers to think about the purpose of education in a metaphysical way, both ontologically and epistemologically.

While spicing up resumes and learning new pragmatic skills are essentially good and necessary, the urge is to pursue education for (as the title suggests) human flourishing. We learn to learn. As humans we desire to learn because God gave us a mind to think, question, and reason. Isaiah 1:8 comes to mind, “Come, let us reason together’ says the Lord.” The debate surrounding “divine hiddenness” aside, God desires for his sons and daughters to ponder the world around us and thus to ponder God Himself. He desires for His created ones to search out the creation and pursue the Creator. God draws us to Himself and one way is through our minds and unique ability to reason.

Education for Human Flourishing is a ground-breaking book that will hopefully pave the way for future thinking on issues of pedagogy and specifically why and how Christians ought to engage the discipline and the praxis. This is certainly not light reading, nor is it a book for the light-hearted. But it is a book for those who are involved in higher education, who are Christian, and who desire to delve deeply and passionately into their chosen vocation. The world needs top notch Christian thinkers in all academic disciplines as well as practicing these disciplines apart from the ivory tower. May Spears and Loomis’ book be a strong catalyst and encouragement for those who embark on this remarkable, unique, and fearful (see James 3:1) calling.


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