Our Uber driver chatters at us in Mandarin as he weaves through the crowded streets of Chengdu on a muggy morning after the rains. We pass honking cars, quietly-buzzing electric scooters, and squeaky bicycles loaded with cardboard boxes, heavily loaded garbage bags, and even a refrigerator. With a population of almost 18 million, Chengdu is the seventh most populous city in China. Old men mosey with t-shirts pulled up to expose their warm bellies, and children laugh as they splash in the sidewalk puddles. The usually smoggy air is cleaner than normal — probably by temporarily closing some factories — to impress the leaders of the recent G20 summit, and the locals are enjoying a rare blue sky. They have an idiom in Chengdu: “When the sun appears, the dog barks at it.” We emerge from the car, thank our driver, and walk cautiously along a slippery stone path. Consuming our greasy pork baozi and warm soybean milk, we wait in a closely packed line for the elevator to take us up seventeen stories to a classroom of Chinese college students waiting to learn logic.
Classical Christian education is taking off in China. Yes, you read that correctly. I just returned from Chengdu, Sichuan, where (through an interpreter) I taught an intensive, week-long course in formal logic in a small, densely packed room of about forty young men and women. These intrepid grad students are preparing to be teachers of mathematics, classical literature, even Latin, in newly formed classical Christian schools throughout China. They are on fire for Christ and eager to learn. Many of them arrived early from their homes throughout the city for a devotional hour of prayer and Bible teaching.
We stayed with a young family in an apartment complex of about 10,000 people. One evening, after touring their small classical Christian school, my host told me, “We do not need American missionaries or money. We need training. China has many sincere Christians, but their understanding of theology and education is shallow.” I shared with them what I had learned in my twenty five years of teaching, starting with lessons on the elements of classical education and teaching from a Christian perspective, then plunging them into the depths of defining terms, relating statements, forming valid syllogisms, and constructing formal proofs. They worked hard, learned quickly, and asked good questions. They are the upcoming generation of young people who could change the shape of Chinese education.
Please pray for the Lord’s blessing on this pioneering educational movement in China. Pray that God will richly grow their vision of a continued pursuit of biblical wisdom, that the teaching of the liberal arts through the greatest writings of all people in the light of God’s Word will spread throughout this nation, a nation hungry for truth, goodness and beauty. I told my students, “You are forty disciples in the midst of a land of 1.4 billion. But Zechariah 4:10 tells us not to despise the day of small beginnings. God is good, He loves His Chinese children. Take courage in the Lord, put your hand to the plow and do not look back.”