John Amos Comenius practiced synthesis,
the intersection and unification of all things.
Sometimes I just want to scream.
Everything seems to be coming apart. Life is chaotic. Things come at me so fast.
“I just can’t keep it together” is, at times, my best response.
And that is why I work in the university life.
Keeping it together is what I seek to do.
The word “university” was first used during the Middle Ages to identify a place where the question of how “the one and the many fit together” was explored. Philosophers believed that the last, most important question to ask was “how does life work so it’s not chaotic?”
The Trinitarian Christian worldview has an answer. “Three persons in one essence” suggests that God created the cosmos to mirror His nature. In this way, education has purpose. There is a cohesive system through which to understand the world. God is the Source, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Culminator of all things. Today’s schools owe their origin to this Christian viewpoint promoted by educational reformers.
John Amos Comenius—his picture tops this essay—is considered to be the father of modern education. Comenius promoted encyclopedic knowledge. Comenius, a Moravian pastor (1592-1670), believed in “pansophy”—wisdom gained throughout the world. Comenius practiced synthesis: the intersection and unification of all things. All great universities seek the same thing—the harmony of all knowledge.
And get this: Harvard’s presidency was first offered to John Amos Comenius.
Indeed, the idea for Harvard’s seal comes from educational reformers including Comenius.
Harvard’s crest includes three books: the book of God’s Word, the book of God’s world, and the book of logic. Overlaid on these books is the word veritas, Latin for “truth.” The search for truth was to begin through the lens of Scripture examining the whole world through God-given logic. A forerunner of Comenius, William Ames, established Harvard’s early Christian view through his then famous theses, one of which reads in part
Let us not become the slaves of anyone, but under the banner of free truth, let us freely and courageously follow the truth where it leads. Testing all things, retaining that which is good, let Plato be a friend, let Aristotle be a friend, but even more let truth be a friend (Thesis #77, from Technometry).
Truth is our friend because The Triune God holds all things together. All things fit together based on the Christian doctrine of coherence. Everything fits together or coheres because there is unity, wholeness, and consistency in reality. Creation makes sense because of The Creator.
The first verse of the Bible teaches coherence. “The heavens and the earth,” in the Hebrew mind, included everything from A to Z. Believers and unbelievers alike declared The Hebrew God created and unified all things; from Rahab to Hezekiah to Hiram, king of Tyre (Joshua 2.11, 2 Kings 19.15, 2 Chronicles 2.12). Prophets throughout Scripture declare the same—all things come from and are held together by Yahweh (Nehemiah 9.6, Proverbs 30.4, Isaiah 44.24).
For educators like me, coherence allows study in a stable, ordered, structured universe. God alone gives
the physicist properties to obey,
the biologist observations to make,
the chemist sequences to expect,
the physician diagnoses to follow,
the geologist patterns to pursue,
the meteorologist models to predict,
and the environmentalist laws to encourage.
Scientists, grammarians, counselors, theologians, economists, historians, mathematicians, educators in all disciplines depend on coherence to do their work. And it was the influence of Comenius whose work established the foundations of modern education.
The reason I work in the university setting is the coherent, synthetic, wholistic, unity of all things under the jurisdiction of The Personal Eternal Triune Creator.
So when I want to scream because life seems disjointed I remember Comenius and his Pansophy of which he said
Praised be thou, O Lord, forever, Who gives us Your works and word for a pattern. Your word and works are true and lively representations of You. So education may prove a true, and lively image of Your word and works (adapted, John Amos Comenius, A Reformation of Schooles).
Being a university professor I am constantly interested in understanding how everything fits together, because He holds everything together (Colossians 1.18).
Mark is president of The Comenius Institute and also teaches for various institutions of higher education including Capital Seminary & Graduate School. Interdisciplinary studies owes it origin to the biblical doctrine of coherence and Comenius’ teaching on Pansophy. “All Things Fit Together” is Mark’s 300th essay at Warp and Woof, the title of the website also bearing witness to coherence.