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THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF A GOOD EDUCATION

Wesley Institute Graduation, Wesley Theatre

2 Peter 1:5-8
29th April 2005

Wesley Mission has been engaged continuously in education for ministry for 116 years. Rev W.G. Taylor, our then Superintendent, established the Evangelists’ Institute in 1889. That institute trained ministers and evangelists for the Methodist Church in NSW. During the 1970’s we educated leaders from the church in third world countries. Today leaders of the church in China, India, Korea, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, the Pacific islands and other nations have trained at Wesley Mission. Dr Suter and I were once faculty members. Following an approach by Dr David Johnson in September 1989, we developed integrated training and changed the name to Wesley Institute for Ministry and the Arts.

This proved horrendously expensive, causing Wesley Mission’s donors and congregations to contribute over $15 million to subsidize the Institute, plus millions in capital contributions for properties. Our property investment was extremely wise and appreciated five fold. Our Mission Council hoped the large subsidies for faculty salaries and student fees would not continue. We made a positive Christian contribution to society as part of our core business. One high profile elder criticized Wesley Institute deficits loudly. He was our longest serving elder, and also our largest giver through his tithes and offerings. But out of our commitment to students and faculty, we did not try to stop him when he announced he would leave. Gradually our commitment paid off. I remember the night when a gleeful Dr Pendlebury reported that Wesley Institute was operating ahead of budget for the first time. Our financial projections showed 400 equivalent full time students were required.

I remember the day Richard Menteith burst into our Management Committee meeting, spilling coffee and papers and breathlessly confirmed we had reached he required number of 400 equivalent full-time students, because “41 students from USA have just arrived.”

It has been a long haul against some heavy opposition. Today’s graduation is the turn at the corner. Student numbers are at a record level. Our international standing has been confirmed. Our courses are all accredited, and bringing our Vocational and Community Education branch into Wesley Institute, has brought a cash flow and financial surplus, from our 3000 fee paying short course students to ensure our fees for full-time students are kept reasonably low. The Federal Government’s recognition of our standing with fee-help, has been a blessing to many. When Moses stood on Mt Pisgah and looked over the Promised Land, he could see Fort Jericho, but he was confident that Joshua could handle that. He had brought them through the wilderness and made them a nation. He died with a smile upon his face. I will do the same!

Now, we can concentrate our attention on the quality of our graduands. Dr Keith Suter asked in a recent column: “Are the seven deadly sins out of fashion?” There is currently a controversy in the UK over the 7 deadly sins. The BBC broadcasted results of a British survey. The original seven deadly sins anger, pride, envy, gluttony, lust, sloth and greed are now regarded as old-fashioned. Instead, they list cruelty, hypocrisy, selfishness, wastefulness, dishonesty, bigotry and adultery.

I wonder if graduands from Wesley Institute are guilty of the Seven Deadly Sins of a Good Education?

1. WORDS WITHOUT DEEDS.

There is a type of contemporary Christianity that is full of praise to God, where worship is designed to entertain, where promises of prosperity and blessing will be obtained for the believer, and where everything goes so long as it feels good. That is an aberration of Biblical faith. It says nothing about serving the needs of others, about giving to help others, or about the fact that God may call us to suffer for him or even be martyrs for him. Words without deeds is sin of a good education.

2. SUCCESS WITHOUT STRUGGLE.

I get disappointed with students who place success above ethics. Success does not come without a struggle. I am amazed that Christian students would steal library books, music, CD’s, and other people’s work from the internet pretending it is their own. Plagiarism is stealing. One new book, is entitled “Success Without Struggle: How to Control Your Destiny Through Your Attitude.” Another book is similarly entitled, “Seven Keys to Success without Struggle”. It is a sin of a good education to believe there is success without struggle. In fact, the struggle is the greater part of your education.

3. KNOWLEDGE WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING.

Experts provide us with a wealth of information. They lat out countless pieces of the jig-saw puzzle. How do we put them together when they don’t seem to fit?

Hence T.S. Eliot’s questioning in Choruses from ‘The Rock’: ‘Where is the life we have lost in the living, Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge, Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’ That is why we seek to educate in ministry and the arts round the theology of creativity. We need to understand the meaning of life beneath the panoply of knowledge. Because you can read a telephone book, doesn’t mean you know how to live. Too much knowledge; too little understanding. It is a deadly sin to acquire knowledge, but be thin on understanding.

4. FAITH WITHOUT WORKS.

People can learn good habits. A good person, said Aristotle, is someone who has learned good habits. For Aristotle, goodness doesn’t come naturally, is not some innate human ability. Goodness is a virtue that is present in those who have trained to be good. Philip Haille wrote of the little village of Le Chambon in France, a town whose people, unlike others in France, hid their Jews from the Nazis. Haille decided that the one factor that united them was their attendance, Sunday after Sunday, at their little church, where they heard the sermons of Pastor Trochme. Over time, they became by habit people who just knew what to do and did it. When it came time for them to be courageous, the day the Nazis came to town, they quietly did what was right. One old woman, who faked a heart attack when the Nazis came to search her house, later said, “Pastor always taught us that there comes a time in every life when a person is asked to do something for Jesus. When our time came, we knew what to do.” Faith lives in good deeds.

5. SCIENCE WITHOUT HUMANITY.

The nuclear era opened up before us the sinfulness of possessing the capacity to change the life on earth forever, without having regard for other people. Just because we can do something, does not mean we do what is right. It is no education that doesn’t involve a love of humanity. We are not good enough to be so clever. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom and power without conscience. We can keep people alive by feeding them through a tube, but that does not mean we have the insight to know when we should remove it. Good education alone only improves the writing on the back of the public toilet doors.

6. COMMERCE WITHOUT MORALITY.

In the 1987 movie “Wall Street” the major figure Gordon Gecko proclaims “greed is good”. Gordon Gecko is one of Wall Street’s most celebrated traders. He sinned by having commerce without morality. Many students plan for life like a game of Monopoly where they buy and borrow, putting money and property as the end game, while they avoid going to jail. It is no education that teaches how to make money but not how to be honest.

7. BELIEF WITHOUT COMMITMENT.

Just knowing about goodness does not make one good. Some people approach ethics as though it were a consumer choice — who insist that they are free to choose their own value systems. That often means rejecting the teachings of home and church. But it is not enough just to believe something. Christian education requires commitment.

8. RELATIVISM WITHOUT ABSOLUTES.

Relativism is the view that all beliefs are equally valid and that truth itself is relative depending on the situation, environment, and individual. This believes that so long as we don’t “hurt” anyone, anything goes. Absolute truth has been discarded along with God. We live in a society of pluralism and tolerance. Many reject the idea of universal right and wrong. Hence our legislative system is having a harder time defining the laws. Our court system is having a harder time interpreting them. In just a few decades, our entertainment industry has pushed the “acceptance” of lewdness and indecency to levels we never imagined. Our children are losing their moral compass and lashing out in violence like never before.

If you question any of this you are abused as “intolerant,” “homophobic”, “hate mongers.” Many things that were deemed a “sin” only a few years ago are now either accepted or promoted in our culture. According to the relativists, all points of view are true except for those that teach absolutes — absolute truth, absolute right or wrong, or an absolute God. Yet psychological studies reveal that young adults taking courses that teach individual decision making as a basis for ethics end up with higher rates of drug use and sexual immorality. The reason is obvious. Without a timeless, universal set of ethical guidelines, they have no defence against temptation. As society changes, morality becomes a moving target. If the standard of right and wrong is based on relativism, then society has no standards at all. It is no education that leaves you trying to head in all directions at once.

A good education, can leave you short if you submit to any of these seven deadly sins of a good education.

The Apostle Peter puts it clearly: “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Your graduation from Wesley Institute should be the mark, not merely of competence in your chosen field, but of Christian character, effective and productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gordon Moyes

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.