Teaching vs. Training – A Christian Perspective

Unique Creations of God

As a Christian educator, I view the learner as a unique creation of God. I believe that no individual is the result of cosmic happenstance. Each is uniquely created in the image of God. “We hold that the mind of man, created in the image of God, is endowed with thought-forms and capacities which can receive and correlate truth about reality.”[1] I believe that it is God’s desire that we know Him in all of His fullness. God has provided all of us with the ability to accomplish that task. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”[2] The trusted school leader, within a Christian school, fundamentally recognizes these divine purposes.

Every human being is created in the image of God… [and] the mind is the greatest gift God has given. This Godlike quality has the potential to elevate a person to lofty levels of positive achievement and righteous performance and, on the other hand, to plummet a person to an abyss of degradation and degenerative behavior.[3]

Therefore, the compassionate and trusted leader never approaches the student as an animal responding to intellectual stimuli, but a unique creation of God with the ability to grow into the likeness of the Creator. The leader understands his or her role, and the role of every adult employed on the campus, as teacher instead of trainer.

Training is a method of Behaviorism. “Behaviorism is a worldview that operates on a principle of ‘stimulus-response.’ [A belief that] All behavior is caused by external stimuli (operant conditioning). All behavior can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness.”[4] Teaching is much different. It involves guiding and encouraging the student to participate in his or her own search for reason, evidence, argument, and justification.

The weakness of Behaviorism is that it may produce an outcome, which appears to be successful but is only on the surface. If a student has not internalized his or her beliefs and knowledge through the struggle of reason and revelation, then they do not truly possess that knowledge. “Christian education must engage the mind; it must confront the person with choices.”[5]

Fellow Believer-Priests

Trusted Christian school leaders, who model compassion toward their students, view and identify their students as fellow believer-priests. Jim Wilhoit promotes the concept that the Magna Carta of Christian education is the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. He argues that administrators, teachers, parents, and students all share as equals in service to the King of the universe. It is the endeavor or the purpose of Christian education to assist the student in discovering the divine purpose of his or her priesthood. “The aphorism that the two greatest days in a person’s life are the day of birth and the day one finds out why one was born is really true.”[6]

©2017 Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.

[1] Kenneth O. Gangel and Warren S. Benson, Christian Education: Its History and Philosophy (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 339.

[2] John 10:10 (NASB).

[3] William David Beck, Opening the American Mind (Aba, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1991), 211.

[4] “Behaviorism,” Learning Theories, accessed 21 June 2016, http://www.learning-theories.com/behaviorism.html.

[5] Ibid., 214.

[6] Jim Wilhoit, Christian Education & The Search For Meaning (Aba, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1991), 107.


  1. Thank you for presenting an important notion concisely. Assisting students to think deeply is crucial as we ultimately teach them to think deeply about God. Current society pace counteracts deep thought, calling for quick decisions and living in the moment. However, a Christian knows it is not the ‘moment’ that counts, it’s living in light of eternity.

    Liked by 1 person

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