Education Through Imitation: An Essential Part of God’s Design for Growing in Wisdom

A few days ago Drew Byers loaned me a book entitled A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle. As I did an initial scan of the chapters, something jumped out at me. It was one of those exciting moments when someone says just what you were thinking.

The moment occurred as I read a chapter called “Alone Together.” In it, the authors write, “Parents and mentors have a lot of competition these days. So do pastors and teachers. Why seek wise counsel when kids can just google the answers to their questions?” (125)

That’s right,” I thought,” I have noticed that too.”

Today’s young people do face many challenges tied to the information age. Stonestreet and Kunkle note, “For example, kids are tempted to confuse information with knowledge and completely forgo the pursuit of wisdom” (125). I could not agree more. Having access to facts is not the same as understanding the them, and neither are the same as wisdom.

Biblically speaking, wisdom is the right application of knowledge by the right means to the right ends. It is the wonderful ability to use what you know the right way for the right reasons. Wisdom is, as Ray Ortland writes, “A skill for living when there is no obvious rule to go by” (165). This explains why my grandfather could be one of the wisest men I have ever known without finishing the 8th grade.

Another challenge associated with living in the information age is, “Having all the answers at their fingertips teaches students that teachers are not necessary.” Hence, “Gray hairs used to indicate wisdom. Now it identifies someone who is out of touch.” (125)

I see this challenge every day, especially with the explosion of online classes. Access to information has never been easier, but that does not mean wisdom is abundant. This is true because of one, powerful, biblical truth; namely, God uses people to change people.

There is something unique about face-to-face interaction that does not translate through a screen. There is a level of give-and-take necessary in true education that is impossible through a webinar. Yes on-line classes and seminars can be helpful, but they can never replace what God does through a gifted teacher who is teaching to a particular group of students in the moment.

I believe much of education happens through imitations. This is by God’s design. After all, it was Jesus who said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

While technology brings great blessings, it is not the end-all-be-all. It can increase our knowledge of almost any subject, but it cannot guarantee wisdom; it cannot replace called and gifted teachers; and it will never replace God’s design for the importance of imitation in education.