Original Research

Jonathan Edwards and a reformational view of the purpose of education

Esmari Potgieter
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 50, No 1 | a2123 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v50i1.2123 | © 2016 Esmari Potgieter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 March 2016 | Published: 29 November 2016

About the author(s)

Esmari Potgieter, School for Philosophy, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


The contemporary quest for spirituality (or spiritual ‘connection’) in formal education can be linked to the question what education is for. The present article is concerned with contributing to a reformational approach to the question of the purpose of education, with specific reference to spirituality. From a reformational perspective, spirituality should be understood within the framework of the relation between God and his creation. In this article I turn to the thought of Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), a philosopher-theologian who was convinced that the world exists to communicate the glory of God. This conception of the relation between God and creation gave rise to three recurrent themes in Edwards’ philosophy which, I will argue, may be conducive to a reformational understanding of the purpose of education. These themes may provide us with ways of conceptualising various types of spiritual ‘connection’ in school education. The three philosophical themes are: knowledge as the true perception of relations; human beings as creation’s consciousness; and sound morality as arising from true perception. Provided that certain weak points (from a reformational philosophical point of view) are adjusted, these themes can be fruitfully applied to the question of the purpose of education.


Jonathan Edwards; Purpose of Education; Christian Education; Spirituality; Reformational Philosophy


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