a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
As a teacher, I have the same responsibility as all of creation. I am to be a conduit, not a chasm. A conduit connects one thing to another. A chasm is a deep pit that divides. A conduit moves us along to something better. A chasm swallows us whole. A conduit is only the means, never the end. The chasm is the bitterest of all ends.
In Romans 1, Paul takes us to the heart of idolatry, the act of desiring creation above the Creator. In so doing we have turned a conduit into a chasm. The entire universe, which in all places and at every instant reflects the glory of its Creator, has been “subjected to futility.” Rather than treating creation as the conduit it is, we have perverted its purpose and made it an end in itself. We have rightly marveled at creation, but we have failed to see that the marvel doesn’t stop there. It is pointing to something, that is to say someone, much more marvelous indeed. We are like children who look at a pointing hand but fail to realize that the extended finger is meant to direct our gaze elsewhere.
As teachers we must strive to keep creation from becoming a chasm. And, of course, the most dangerous temptation is to make ourselves the creational chasm. How easy it is to trade the love of learning for the love of being learned. Rather than inciting wonder and amazement at the subject matter, that bit of creation that we are entrusted to expound to our students, we desire to seize all the marvel for ourselves. Instead of impressing on our students the wonder of language or mathematics or literature or physics, to name only a few such conduits, we impress upon them our own knowledge of these things.
And surely this cripples our own faculty for joy and wonder. For such pride desires nothing in and of itself, but only the admiration that possessing some coveted thing will bring. We thereby enjoy the awe that our learning elicits, but no longer enjoy learning itself. This imperils our ability to impart the love of any subject matter because we ourselves have lost it.
So then, our first responsibility rests in resisting our own tendency to become a chasm of our student’s wonder. To be a conduit we must love the content that we teach, leading the eyes of our students away from ourselves and towards that aspect of creation that we have been privileged to illuminate.
However, our beloved subject matter is also a conduit. And creation itself cannot help but declare this. As David tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
And just as tasting the sweetness of honey shows us wisdom’s sweetness to the soul, so, too, do the linguistic wonders with which we daily work point beyond themselves. For instance, the language functions of promising, forgiving, and consoling provide us an indispensable interpersonal reference for understanding a promise, forgiveness, and consolation that exceeds anything contained in all of creation. What a marvel that such speech-acts exist amidst our chasm-prone cosmos! Accordingly, in teaching them, let us not forget the Maker of such communicative marvels and His magnificent making good on them in the person and work of the Son. That is, we are conduits teaching conduits about conduits and, thereby, pointing, along with all of creation, to Him.
Will Bankston served for six years with an educational NGO, teaching English at universities in Southeast Asia, and co-authored Exploring Parables in Luke: Integrated Skills for ESL/EFL Students of Theology. He has an M.A. in Intercultural Studies and TESOL from Wheaton College and is currently pursuing an M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He cultivates a wonder of language through the theology of Kevin Vanhoozer and the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein.