Friday, December 30, 2011

LHP Review: Education for the Sake of the Gospel





Korcok, Thomas. Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future. St. Louis: Concordia, 2011. 299 Pages. Paper. $39.99. (LHP)


Korcok's Lutheran Education should be required reading at LCMS colleges, universities and seminaries. Our school teachers and pastors should intentionally make it a part of their continuing education reading for 2012.

Dr. Korcok was the plenary speaker for the Tenth Conference of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education in 2010. His doctoral thesis, Forward to the Past: A Study of the Development of the Liberal Arts i the Context of Confessional Lutheran Education with Special Reference to a Contemporary Application of Liberal Education, served as an outline of his presentation that summer. Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future, is a revision and improvement of his prior book.

The liberal arts model has traditionally been preferred in Lutheran elementary classrooms. No other educational paradigm so well meets the requirements of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. There is no reason that the liberal arts cannot be adapted to meet contemporary needs. The question is, what should be the main focus of a contemporary presentation of the arts?

Thomas Korcok demonstrates how the Wittenberg theologians settled on a liberal arts education as the preferred model for Evangelical Christian elementary schools. He then traces how that model persisted and was adapted as Lutherans moved from Europe to North America. Korcok concludes that the liberal arts model fits our contemporary setting as changes in society today make it ever more important to have an elementary education that is compatible with Evangelical Theology. The book includes:

  • Historic exploration of educational models in view of theological truths
  • The challenge of influences that push educators either to the Word as objective truth or away from the Word toward secular standards of truth
  • A definition of an Evangelical Liberal Arts approach, its flexibility, and how it fits into classrooms today
  • Extensive references to educational, historical, and theological literature

What Others Are Saying

Lutheran schools have always accompanied Lutheran churches. Today the connections between church and school—theology and pedagogy, spiritual formation and practical education—are not as clear as they used to be. In this eye-opening history of Lutheran education from its beginnings through the 19th century, Thomas Korcok shows how educational issues have always been at the heart of Lutheranism. In doing so, he also identifies a distinctly Lutheran approach to education….  Dr. Korcok's book comes at the perfect time. Today the whole country is embroiled in educational controversies. Many Lutheran churches are struggling to understand the ministry of their schools. This book shows that Lutherans have a rich educational heritage, one that lives today and that holds great promise for the future.
—Gene Edward Veith, Ph.D.-
Provost and Professor of Literature
Patrick Henry College

A very comprehensive history of the factors that have affected Lutheran Education. This book is a must read for all Lutheran educators.

-Bill Cochran-

 Director of School Ministry 

 The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

Well written, engaging, and often surprising—my copy is thoroughly marked and cross-referenced. If a living tradition is innovation that succeeds, here is a book to help us think about the future of Lutheran education as innovation in catechesis and the liberal arts.

—Russ Moulds, PhD-

 Professor of Education, Concordia University Nebraska

Op-ed editor, Issues in Christian Education

A timely contribution to discussions within contemporary Lutheran education and . . . a must read for every Lutheran educator and those who are preparing to teach children.

 —Rev. Stephen W. Kieser-

Thomas Korcok, PhD, serves as a senior lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY. He is broadly experienced, having studied educational models and theology in the United States, Canada, Scotland, and Holland. Dr. Korcok has also taught Catechetics at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.  While serving as pastor of Grace Ev. Lutheran Church in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, he developed an elementary school that was based on many of the principles in this book. 

(Publisher's website)

This book will help our own pastors, teachers, and parents recover part of our heritage as Lutheran Christians. In a special Reformation Day sermon on Christian Education, I applied Dr. Korcok's insights to the context of our congregation.

ChristianEducation has always been important to Lutheran Christians.

  • Immanuelhad a school before! In the 1920's, Pastor Her, (1919-1927) taught Christianday school classes in the upstairs of the parsonage on Park Street.
  • Inthe history of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, there were more schools thancongregations in our church body from the 1870s through the early 1900's (Korcok, 188).
  • Whenthe LCMS was first founded in 1847, there were sixteen original Lutherancongregations and fourteen original Lutheran schools (Korcok, 188).
  • Whydid the Saxon Lutherans leave Germany? We know there problems with unionism andsyncretism, but recent scholarship shows that they were more concerned with thesad state of German schools than even the theological problems of the statechurch. In particular, they were troubled by the fact that what was taught inthe state schools contradicted the Christian faith that was taught at home andat Church (Korcok, 137ff, e.g., 140).
  • Lutheranslike Johann Sturm, Phillip Melanchthon, and Martin Luther revived classicaleducation in their day, founding a proper education on Christ and His Gospel,but also advocating for education for all, including girls and peasants, and afree public Christian education paid for by the state, especially if the headof state was a Christian prince.
  • TheJesuits, formed by the Roman Church as a response to the Reformation, famousyet today for their rigorous quality education institutions, patterned theirschools and curricula after Lutheran models.
  • Today,the LCMS is blessed with two seminaries, ten universities and colleges, morethan 2,300 early childhood centers and preschools operated by congregations andChristian day schools within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.  Morethan 129,000 children, ranging in age from infant/toddler to five years of age,are involved in these programs.  Additionally, our congregations operate945 elementary schools which serve 107,000 students.
  • MartinLuther Grammar School was accredited this summer by The Consortium forClassical and Lutheran Education. Both Mount Hope, Casper, and Trinity,Riverton, will have accreditation visits next week (November 2011). Three other schools are inthe CCLE accreditation process, accreditation soon to be recognized asexemplary by the Synod.

Christianeducation is important to Lutherans. And it all begins with the FourthCommandment. 


Korcok should be commended for providing a comprehensive yet concise overview of classical education, the reforms made by Luther and the Evangelicals, how and why education in Germany deteriorated (and how the Saxons responded), and how Walther, the LCMS, and other Confessional Lutherans in America adapted the Evangelical Liberal Arts to serve the Church and the Lord's People in a new land.  

Lutheran Education is no mere exercise in historical theology/pedagogy. Beyond that, Korcok applies the models and patterns of the past to our own day, highlighting modern LCMS schools that put the historic liberal arts at the head of the Lutheran classroom today. There are uncomfortable similarities between a 19th Century German school system that taught children differently than parents and pastors taught from the Scriptures, Catechism, and Hymnal and what parents and children face in the USA now.

Why is it that American schools rank lower than they did one or two generations ago? Perhaps public, private, and even Christian schools should re-evaluate why the progressive education model of Dewey became so pervasive and persuasive so quickly. Let us return to the model of the Greeks, Romans, Reformers, Jesuits, American Colonists, and of the USA before Dewey. 

Let us dare to give our children an education worthy of free citizens (free = liberal in "liberal arts"), rather than the kind of education the Greeks and Romans gave to their slaves and hired workers. 

It is a privilege for me to serve as pastor of a congregation that has a Classical Lutheran School. Being a Headmaster means that I can help provide young scholars an education that is founded on God's Word of truth, on Christ's promises to His people in Holy Baptism, that they may learn of their vocations in Christ, and be informed, well-reasoned, and winsome advocates of truth for the sake of the Gospel.

Lutheran Education is available in paperback and in Kindle formats. Order your copy today!

Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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