The Father of Modern Education

 

Jon Amos Comenius (1592-1671)

Jon Amos ComeniusJon Amos Comenius has been listed as one of the five people to most impact the modern world.  Some would argue that he should be at the top of that list.  Considered the “Father of Modern Education,” Comenius was the first to effectively advocate for educating all children, not just children of the nobility.  With this vision, he developed schools and a philosophy of education that gave birth to modern education.

As much as education has advanced, there are few, if any, schools that have attained the effectiveness and excellence of Comenius’ schools as he envisioned them.  The reason for this is that most educators and educational systems drifted from the core elements of Comenius’ philosophy of education.  Now, they often do the opposite of what he believed education must be built upon.  So, what was this philosophy?

Comenius was a devout Christian and Hussite, or follower of the teachings of John Hus.  The core of his philosophy of education was that all knowledge is Christ-centered because “all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (see Colossians 1:16-17).  Comenius was devoted to raising up the strongest Christians possible to prepare for a generation that would fulfill the Great Commission.

Even so, if one was to completely leave out the spiritual aspects of Comenius’ philosophy of education, but recovered the other basics, there would be a dramatic increase in the effectiveness of education.  Jon Amos Comenius may have been the first true modern educator, but he was also a true genius working in the field.  Lesser minds that tried to improve on his system have only diluted the power of true education.  To recover just the practical principles of education that he taught would revolutionize education as we know it today.  However, if we added his Christ-centered principles, it would multiply the effectiveness of education and release the light that Christians are called to be.

Comenius considered himself a pastor and a teacher, but in many ways, he was the essence of true apostolic ministry.  He was also a true missionary because he knew his mission, and he stayed true to it.  It was a mission of such lofty purpose that he would impact the known world in his own time from the smallest platform imaginable — as the pastor of a little flock of persecuted refugees.  Like other great apostolic voices in history, Comenius left a profound mark on the whole world in his own time and for all who have come after him.

That was the power of Comenius’ vision and his ability to articulate it.  The King of Sweden sought his help, as did the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.  The great poet Milton brought him to London to help start a college, and there is evidence that he was invited to be the first president of the newly-formed Harvard University in the American colonies.

Comenius tried to help Milton start the college in London, but their work was cut short by the outbreak of the British Civil War.  He explained to the Ottoman Sultan that he was a Christian and that his education was devoted to leading his students to Christ.  The Sultan wanted him to come anyway.  Comenius declined both the Sultan’s and Harvard’s invitations because he did not feel that he could leave his flock while they were being persecuted.  He did take the time to help Sweden reorganize its public education system.

Comenius’ believed that the church carries the mantle of education, not the government. Since education is illumination, he saw education as a basic way that the church was to be “the light of the world.”  He sought to prepare a generation that would fulfill the Great Commission’s mandate to make disciples of all nations — meaning to make students of Christ of all nations.  He saw the church as the ultimate school that led to the ultimate knowledge — knowledge of the Creator.  He therefore saw schools as churches, but ones that meet on the other days of the week.

As a theologian, Comenius was described by George Edwin as “a mystical believer in prophecies, dreams, and revelations.”  One prophecy that Comenius devoted himself to was the one John Hus made at his execution.  Hus said that his message was a seed that would fall into the ground and die, but would sprout again and bear much fruit. Comenius claimed to have had a revelation that the seed Hus spoke of would sprout in one hundred years (after Comenius’ revelation).  This was a remarkable word, as not many would be encouraged about something happening in one hundred years.  However, it did the opposite for Comenius, fueling his vision for education even more to prepare the generation that would experience the sprouting of that seed.

Almost exactly one hundred years after Comenius had this revelation, Hus’ seed sprouted when Count Ludwig von Zinzendorf happened upon Comenius’s writings in the Dresden library.  This led to “the Moravian Pentecost” on Zinzendorf’s estate.  This event gave birth to modern missions and one of the most far-reaching, high-impact moves of God since the first century.

Comenius was a lover of God and the spiritual aspects of how He communicated to His people through dreams, visions, and revelations.  He was also a great lover of His creation and how He communicated through it.  He called nature “God’s second book,” reflecting the Apostle Paul’s statement in Romans 1 about how the Lord is seen in all of creation.

Comenius was an innovator in too many ways to cover in such a brief biography, but we have been blessed by many of them.  For instance, he was the first to promote illustrations in books.  He also loved and promoted science, believing that true science led to the Creator.

As great as Comenius’ accomplishments were, what he became is no less astounding. He was one of the most Christ-like of history’s great figures, especially in the area of patience — a problem many of us struggle with.  When his beloved wife and child were killed during the Thirty Years War, he said the Father must have allowed this so he could understand how hard it was for Him to let His Son go to the cross.  When his books and manuscripts were destroyed, he remarked that the Father must know that if he wrote them again, he could do a better job.  He still published nearly two hundred books.

Comenius is one of those remarkable souls that passes through history and leaves a legacy that keeps getting bigger.  He was like a teacher to the whole world.  He made learning one of the high purposes of man and truth glorious.  We can thank Comenius that education is now considered a basic human right, but he also left a vision for the church.  To become the light of the world it is called to be, the church must become the school it is called to be — leading the world to the One who is the Source of true knowledge.  The “father of modern education” could also be rightly called “the grandfather of modern missions.”

Comenius’ vision had an unprecedented impact on the world in many ways, but the essence of it — to reveal Christ and fulfill the Great Commission — is yet to be accomplished.  Is it now time for that seed to sprout?

 

~ Pastor Rick Joyner


Rick JoynerPastor Rick Joyner is the founder and executive director of MorningStar Ministries and Heritage International Ministries and is the Senior Pastor of MorningStar Fellowship Church.

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