Monday 2 August 2021

Is mortal life a test, or an education?

Most Christians tend to regard this mortal life as a test - or rather as a series of tests. This is upside-down; because life is actually an education. 

Of course, an education will involve passing tests - but the over-arching reason for a (real) education is to learn new stuff, to develop abilities - to learn from experiences and thereby be raised to a higher level in the subject being studied. 

That is the purpose of mortal life - of living, developing, growing, and having the experiences which God brings to us by his arrangement of ongoing creation. Some of these experiences take the form of tests that we should overcome; but many other aspects of life are experiences from-which we may learn. 

Here is an analogy: I was at medical school and studied to pass tough exams; and I needed to pass these exams to qualify as a doctor. 

However, the educational aspect was primary. For example; spending the morning interviewing and examining patients, and then presenting a summary and conclusions to a more senior doctor. Or assisting with medical procedures or surgical operations. Or sitting next to doctors in clinics, watching what was done, asking and being asked questions. 

In other words; most of medical education was about having experiences and learning from them - and that was the real and positive purpose of the education. And the exams (the tests) were one type of experience; yet of a double-negative kind: I must not fail them. 

In sum - the first job of a good medical school is to provide students with experiences from-which they can learn to be a doctor if they take the opportunities offered. Also, in the end, it was necessary to pass the tests in order to proceed. 

Christians often fall-into a way of talking that seems to frame mortal life in the exam-like way: as tests that must not be failed. So, these end times were are going through, where apparently supernatural purposive evil dominates a world government, which rules all major social institutions aiming to make society a machine of damnation - may be described as testing-times; and a test which God has set us his children. It is said that we must pass this test to be allowed into Heaven.

I have myself described four Litmus Tests, by which we can discern which side a person or institution has taken in the spiritual war. This might be taken to imply that such Tests are 'set' by God; and that these times of trial are to be conceptualized as like exams for admission to Heaven.

Ultimately, this way of thinking leads to what I have called the double-negative theology which is all too common in Christianity, historically - with the idea that life is about avoiding damnation.

But the truth of our life situation is more more like the whole of education than a set of exams. An alternative and positive idea, is that of life as a chance for theosis; that God engineers our personal experiences such that we can learn from them - and this learning will be of value in our post-mortal eternal life in Heaven.  

So, these 'testing times of trial' should also be seen in the broader context of providing each of us - individually - with the personally-tailored experiences we could most benefit from - if we take the opportunities offered, and learn from them. 

And at the end of this life; it is also necessary to pass the 'test' of salvation - of being able to make an eternal commitment to Love and follow Jesus Christ - in order to proceed to Heaven. 

Note added: William Wildblood's new book Earth is a School is now available for pre-order. It looks in more detail at the idea of life as education. 


MagnusStout said...

That rings true to me. Something else I considered: individuals are part of the body of Christ as well. That covers status as well as purpose. Some of us may not really understand what our "education" is for--especially if that involves a lot of suffering. But, those individual experiences suddenly make "sense" -- forming something like a coherent spiritual mosaic -- when shared in a group setting (church, heaven). God appears, at least in this mortal life, more present, profound & sublime when spoken of through the many and varied voices and experiences of Believers. This must be one reason the enemy is so keen to shutdown group meetings.

jana gatien said...

God created Man to rule the Earth with Him, as His family (I believe, even the Bible uses familial language a lot). This temporary dramatorium is a learning realm (no doubt in my mind) and God is watching to see who cares about truth, who is trustworthy, who is able to discern truth from lies and good from evil. It's a school with many tests, but I think you are correct in that it is a school, foremostly, and the tests happen within that framework.