Protestant Educators

Picture of Charles B. Eavey

Dr. C. Benton Eavey (November 29, 1889—October 13, 1974), Chair of the Dept of Psychology and Education at Wheaton College from 1930-1942, was a pioneer in student development programming and in the integration of educational psychology and Christian education, and was the author of diverse and widely-read Christian educational textbooks.

Biography

Early Life, Education and Raising a Family

Of Scotch-Irish heritage, C. Benton Eavey was the oldest of four children born to Michael Vinton Eavey and Sadie Downs—the two were married near Hagerstown, Maryland on Feb. 26th 1889. Leaving behind the family farm while their first born, Charles Benton, was still very young, Michael and Sadie moved west, eventually settling in Brown County of Northeastern Kansas. There they had three more children, younger sisters for Benton. In later years, Benton Eavey would say little about his upbringing. Family relations in the home of his childhood offered little to engender social graces or trust in the Lord. When it came to the question of heaven or hell, his father Michael’s frank admission was, simply, “I’ll take my chances after I die.” Neither was he willing to encourage his son in formal schooling; the Eaveys were farmers and that would have to be good enough for Benton. Yet, as the son grew and became increasingly responsible for the farm, the father offered little affirmation or encouragement.

In 1907 when his father died, Benton left a gloomy childhood behind. Now 18, he understood himself to be entirely responsible to care for the farm and for his mother and younger sisters. The significant life challenge became the occasion of Benton’s life transformation. School attendance was no longer an option for him; but he would see to it that his sisters completed their studies and he likely read their books late into the night in order to be able to check their homework. Benton also encouraged the family to join the Pleasant Hill congregation of the Brethren in Christ Church. There he encountered Christ in a life-changing way, and was likely discipled by the pastor or another adult male of the congregation.

From these inauspicious beginnings on a small farm outside Morrill, Kansas, emerged a shy and somewhat demur young man—the experience of a non-nurturing childhood and youth impacting his personality in socially handicapping ways. In time these traits would be all but overshadowed by Eavey’s keen intelligence, goal-driven orientation, and diligent work ethic. A “late bloomer” in Christ, the advent of God’s grace in Eavey’s late adolescence enabled him to glean much good from his challenging early-life experiences. In farming he discovered gifts of administrative management and acquired a love for gardening that would stay with him throughout his life. The quality and success of his later writings show that he likely read and journalled extensively throughout his youth. Out of the necessity of encouraging his sisters in their education, he found that he was able to teach. The importance of teaching and of “shaping” the young, moreover, became foremost in his thinking. His own struggle to grow up in Christ against a tide of negative influence had opened his eyes to the need for a systematic understanding of parenting and developmental psychology. Parental influence, in his view, had nothing less than an eternal impact. As he wrote in an article entitled “The Shaping of a Life,” published in the Messiah College Yearbook for 1922 (p.14),

How important it is then to shape life aright so that it may exist in the best possible condition throughout the ceaseless ages of a never-ending eternity! How necessary it is for parents, teachers, and, in fact, everyone to know those principles which govern the shaping of a life! Each one of us has a part in either making or marring our own or some other person’s life…What a responsibility it is to realize that each impression we make upon a life will be manifested in that life during eternity…a responsibility which none can shirk.

When Benton turned 21 his mother, sensing her son’s giftedness and call to something more than farming, made the decision to rent the farm and move into town. Soon after, Benton and his oldest sister relocated to Grantham, Pennsylvania where they enrolled in the Brethren in Christ Academy, Messiah Bible School. Here, from 1912 to 1916, Benton made up for lost time academically, mastering his study of the Bible, algebra, the Latin and Greek classics, and the natural sciences—the standard curriculum of the “academy” or secondary school since the late 19th century. Benton received an offer of a teaching position at Messiah Academy along with his diploma. Now in his mid-twenties, his size (a solidly build six feet tall), serious demeanor, and mature appreciation for the benefits of education made him a natural choice for academy instructor and “preceptor” (dean of men). Already his graduating class peers had nicknamed him “Professor Eavey.”

During his first year of teaching (literature and mathematics), Benton made a favorable impression on the small Messiah student body (then only about 4 dozen students), becoming known as a friend and a counselor. He particularly impressed one student, Mabel Wengert, and received regular dinner invitations to the Pennsylvania Dutch family farm where she had been raised. In this home and especially in Mabel, Benton found everything—warmth, love, devotion to Christ—that had been lacking in his own home. By the end of his first year as a Messiah instructor (spring 1917) Benton and Mabel had announced their engagement, but Benton also announced his plans to travel to Europe in support of the allied offensive (of World War 1). Although there was no military draft in those days, many young men of Benton’s generation felt compelled to join the fight against the powers—Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey—then known as the “Central Axis.” Firmly committed to his Church’s (Brethren in Christ) pacifism, Benton served as a conscientious objector in the French medical corps, caring for the sick and wounded while managing military personnel records.

During this brief sojourn (1918-1919) Benton learned enough French to enable him to study at the University of Strausbourg the year following the war. Keeping in contact with his fiancée by mail, Benton returned home just days before their June wedding in 1920. Mabel anxiously awaited the ceremony, family later recalled, “too shy to look at the man of the world who had returned to marry a country girl.” Grantham would be home for the newlyweds for their first year of marriage: here, Benton and Mabel established a home on Christian principles and gave birth to their first child, Miriam, and here a teaching position for Benton would always be open. He would continue teaching at Messiah, but not before furthering his education at Taylor University. Six weeks after the birth of their firstborn, the Eaveys packed up and moved west to the cornfields of east-central Indiana, to the small town of Upland where they set up housekeeping in the tiny attic apartment of an off-campus house. Taylor University had been founded as Fort Wayne Female College by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1846 but became coeducational soon thereafter and, by the 1880’s, was relocated to Upland.

In the decade prior to the Eavey’s arrival, Taylor University had experienced numerical growth despite its indebtedness and lack of visionary planning. Evangelists such as Paul Rader and E. Stanley Jones had commended Taylor to national audiences as one of a growing number of educational institutions committed to stemming the tide of modernism. Taylor’s long-time professor of philosophy, Burt Ayers, may have also attracted Benton’s enrollment. Once on campus, the student literary society inspired Benton’s contributions. His philosophical essay on the nature of “The Beautiful” may have received a hearing at graduation (in those days the entire town turned out to hear the recitations of the “graduate exercises”). Benton’s essays also appeared in the 1922 college annual, The Gem:

Beauty baffles scientific knowledge, but its reality cannot be disputed. Many philosophers and theorists, from Plato to the present time, have inquired into its nature, have asked of what it consists, and have sought to explain it, but there is no agreement among theorists as to the nature of beauty. They have not even been able to give it a satisfactory definition. We have been told that beauty is truth, that it is the expression of the ideal, the sensible manifestation of the good, the symbol of divine perfections and the manifestation of God to the senses. Such phrases sound well but they do not really define. We cannot give an adequate definition of the term because it is too abstract, but we know that, deeply implanted in our nature, there is a fundamental tendency to observe beauty and to value it.

After just two years in Upland, Benton was able to graduate with both Bachelors and Masters degrees in hand (1922). Having focused his studies on philosophy and education, his rapid progress toward these degrees was aided by credit granted for his studies abroad and by the practice, in those days, of granting masters degrees for one year of study beyond the bachelor’s level (together with the successful completion of a research paper). Benton’s love for and independent pursuit of learning was thus awarded, and a strong recommendation from Professor Ayers would be forthcoming when Benton later needed it.

In the summer of 1922 the Eaveys returned to Grantham, Pennsylvania, home of Messiah—now chartered a Junior college—and also the Brethren in Christ who had nurtured Eavey in his youth. Here at his alma mater, then, Benton would answer the call to teach and to have his own contribution woven into the rich tapestry of Messiah traditions. The couple’s desire to put down roots in Grantham is apparent from their decision to purchase old Treona Hall, formerly an orphanage, and to open its rooms as a residence hall for Messiah students, with Benton and Mabel serving as house parents. Benton’s return to the classroom was accompanied by an air of expectation for many (family and friends recall his reputation as the outstanding intellectual on campus) but was also a catalyst for jealousy among some of the faculty. His European experiences seasoned Benton’s teaching with interesting stories and a dry sense of humor. His natural inclination to befriend students found many opportunities. The college Clarion articles from these years describe the many games, activities, and dinners for students hosted by the Eaveys in Treona Hall.

Benton also assisted struggling students, helping them to find jobs, to improve their study habits, to arrange for transfer credit, and anything else that might keep them enrolled. Not that his assistance ever included excusing incomplete assignments or offering easy exams. Professor Eavey became known for frequent exams and a low level of tolerance for distractions from his lectures. As preceptor (hall director), moreover, he required strict residence hall conduct, including a 10:00 pm lights out rule! On the other hand, Professor Eavey would also be remembered for his peripatetic style of teaching—leading students on “French walks” (to broaden their vocabulary with examples from nature) and exploratory hikes into the Pennsylvania countryside. His involvement with all aspects of campus life led rather naturally to administrative responsibilities, first as “college department” head (Messiah also continued to offer secondary-level preparatory studies) and later as the college registrar and vice president.

During these years at Messiah (1922-1928), Benton’s administrative style and manner of relating to colleagues set a pattern for which he would become known throughout his career in higher Christian education. His steadfast desire to serve and to be helpful was not always balanced with relational or conflict management skills. His authoritarian approach to leadership, moreover, was perceived by some to be harsh and controlling. E. Morris Sider’s Messiah College: A History, notes that before accepting any position, Eavey “laid out the conditions by which he would operate—in other words his own job description.” Minutes from the Messiah Board of Managers quoted by Sider further portray Eavey as one who expected complete and unquestioned authority over an area, once installed in the position. One is inclined to read Eavey’s past troubled relationship with his father into these control issues and strained collegial relationships.

It should be recalled, however, that Eavey was also nurtured in a Brethren culture known for its avoidance of conflict in order to keep peace. Whatever may have been the major contributing factors to Eavey’s growing discomfort at Messiah, by 1925 he had begun spending his summers studying for an advanced degree—pursuing coursework at both Columbia and New York Universities—and setting his sites on new horizons. Eavey’s continuing studies matched the progressive aims of some Brethren in Christ leaders who desired excellent career training for their students, even as it conflicted with other denominational leaders who saw in such progressivism an enemy of faith. Not yet seven years into his teaching career at Messiah, Benton tendered his resignation.

In the summer of 1928 the Eavey family —now numbering five (a son, Harold, was born in 1924 and another daughter, Anna Marie, in 1926)—moved to Woodstown, N.J. where Benton took a job teaching high school French. Continuing to excel in his studies of psychology and education, Eavey completed his Ph.D. dissertation—“A Study of the relation of the doctor’s degree in the field of education to preparation for the teaching of undergraduate education”—graduating from NYU before his 41st birthday, in 1930. The faith at work behind Eavey’s decision to relocate his family and his successful pursuit of the highest academic degree at NYU was considerable, not only because of the troubled economy (the country was just entering the period of the great depression and career positions were scarce) but also since his selection of a “liberal” school would surely rendered him an unsuitable candidate for teaching at the many conservative Christian institutions of that era which tended to eschew secular education. The opening line of his only surviving letter of inquiry, written to a college president, is characteristic both of the times and of Eavey’s self-effacing demeanor: “At the risk of seeming to you as a sort of tramp seeking an educational lodging place, I am writing to ascertain if there might be a place on the teaching staff…that I could fill.”

It just so happened that Eavey’s inquiry (dated May 6, 1930) was addressed to President J. Oliver Buswell of Wheaton College, and that the arrival of his letter coincided with the departure of the chairman of the education faculty to become president of a college in Montana. Buswell immediately sent a wire inviting Eavey’s application; a successful interview process soon followed. Within a few weeks the Eavey family would undertake a second journey westward, this time to Wheaton and to a position that must have seemed like miraculous provision given the times.In the fall, Eavey would begin serving as Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology and Education at a substantial salary increase.

Wheaton College, under the administration of President Buswell (1926-1940), was in many ways a good match for Eavey’s education, experience, and administrative style. First of all, that the door to a teaching position at Wheaton College should open so quickly for an unknown academic is not surprising in light of Buswell’s drive to increase the number of faculty with excellent academic and professional credentials (Eavey came with both a Ph.D. from a nationally-known university and membership in Phi Delta Kappa, the honors education society). Buswell’s self-appointed mission since his arrival at Wheaton in 1926 as its third president had been to shape the fundamentalist college into an institution of intellectual respectability. Among other things, this would entail the pursuit of accreditation from several quarters, including the North Central Association, whose standards grew out of the emergence of public education at the secondary level. Eavey’s teaching and “precepting” at the secondary level (Grantham Academy and Woodstown High School) combined with his professional and philosophical training at both Columbia and NYU made him the ideal candidate to assist with the professional transformation of his own department as well as that of the college.

Secondly, Eavey’s insistence in maintaining tight control over his own areas of responsibilities matched Buswell’s practice of leaving decisions about admissions standards and other key matters in the hands of department heads. Finally, Eavey’s administrative gifts and his burden to help struggling students came together in his organization and management of an Appointment (placement) Bureau for Wheaton undergrads, and through his service to the Student Personnel division of the college.

Eavey’s service at Wheaton during the early to mid-1930s was busy and fulfilling as he contributed to the securing of various accreditations, while developing his own department and courses. On his arrival he was invited to address the faculty on “the improvement of teaching” and the incoming freshmen on “how to study in college,” and he would continue to offer these seminars throughout his years at Wheaton. Memos and letters in Eavey’s personnel file for 1930—1936 show that, during these years, President Buswell frequently consulted Eavey on a range of matters, including appropriate teaching loads for faculty (Eavey surveyed other institutions), student test scores (Eavey tracked student performance and made recommendations), concerned letters from parents (Eavey kept copies and wrote some of the responses), and Wheaton’s association with national organizations such as the Evangelical Teacher Training Association (Eavey secured Wheaton’s membership and served on the ETTA Textbook Committee). In turn, Eavey kept the President informed about his own plans for departmental growth and invited Buswell’s contributions to departmental publications and functions.

Under Eavey’s administration, the Department of Education and Psychology expanded, adding courses and eventually a major in Christian education. Since no national honor society for the discipline of Christian education existed, Benton founded and sponsored Chi Sigma Theta, by which he planned to involve his own students in a national network of evangelical Christian educators. His reputation as Professor of Psychology grew such that, by the late 1930s, most Wheaton College sophomores were required to enroll in Professor Eavey’s Mental Hygiene course. When the time came for him to make his case for tenure, Eavey had published his first textbook, Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers (1940).

Despite these and other significant contributions to Wheaton College, Professor Eavey never received tenure and in fact was forced to resign from his position in 1942. Eavey’s lost bid for tenure at Wheaton, however, should not be interpreted as a personal failure. As early as 1935, circumstances which formerly made Wheaton a good match for Eavey had begun to change. These circumstances centered on the withdrawal of support for the administration of President Buswell, whose public advocacy of radical separatism in reaction to modernizing trends within the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. had outraged some influential Wheaton College constituents. While the negative press concerning Buswell’s Presbyterian Church struggles may have had little effect on Eavey’s daily experience, memos he exchanged with the President throughout the later 1930’s point to increasing tensions in their working relations.

After ten years as President, Buswell had seriously overextended the college on several fronts, including financially (the College’s enrollment outran its endowment), and spiritually (Buswell’s administration tended to subordinate spiritual concerns to collegiate advancement). In 1936, for example, Eavey wrote to advise the President to give Coach Smith (an internal candidate) a “free hand” as head football coach instead of seeking “an outside expert.” Buswell’s decision to hire the “outside expert” became controversial and the new coach became a foil for criticism aimed at the President. In 1938, for another example, in order meet the needs of rapidly increasing enrollment, Buswell asked Eavey to teach French (as Eavey had done at Messiah) until a slated financial drive could secure the necessary funds to add new faculty. When Eavey objected that his administrative duties (in the College Personnel and Student Appointment Bureaus) made compliance with the request impossible, Buswell simply recommended that Eavey no longer consider himself an administrative officer, noting “your future personal development really lies in the teaching field” (Buswell to Eavey 3/14/38). For his part, Eavey responded negatively to Buswell’s 1939 survey regarding faculty satisfaction with the President. And in 1940, a letter from Eavey to the trustees was one of several calling for Buswell’s resignation. The trustees replaced Buswell with V. Raymond Edman that very year, but the year following Eavey and several of his faculty colleagues were notified that they would not be receiving contracts for the following year. This decision was in keeping with the new president’s fiscal restraint but perhaps also with his desire to reshape the faculty along new lines. Eavey had found a home at Wheaton during an era of educational progressivism but would not be invited to remain under the new administration. As a parting concession, President Edman granted all three Eavey children tuition exemptions at Wheaton.

A final letter from Eavey to President Edman mentions his “gathering up the broken pieces” as he searched for a new position. At age fifty-three, with a questionable (to conservatives) educational pedigree and no tenure, there were in fact few places in academia that would welcome him now. Although Eavey took with him a strong letter of recommendation from President Edman for another academic position, he worked odd jobs as a laborer before securing a salaried position in the personnel department of a large, Chicago-based corporation. In his new place of business, no longer inundated by the many people and projects that occupied his time at Wheaton, the former professor was free to reorganize his teaching notes into textbooks, of which he published more than a dozen before his death, at age 85, in 1974.

Sources

  • Eavey, C. Benton. (1931-1943). Personnel file. Wheaton College Archives, Buswell Memorial Library.
  • Eavey, C. Benton. (1931). A study in relation of the doctor’s degree in the field of education to preparation for the teaching of undergraduate education (Doctoral dissertation, New York University, 1931).
  • __________ (1937). Syllabus of Mental Hygiene, Psychology No. 338, Wheaton College.
  • __________ (1940) Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • __________ (1952). Principles of Personality Building for Christian Parents. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Eavey, Harold, personal interview, 3/17/04
  • Eavey, Miriam, personal interviews, 8/21/03 & 3/16/04
  • Ediger, Anna Marie Ediger, personal interview, 3-15-04
  • Hamilton, Michael S. (1994) The Fundamentalist Harvard: Wheaton College and the Continuing Vitality of American Evangelicalism, 1919-65 (Doctoral dissertation, Notre Dame University, 1994).
  • Hamilton, Michael S. and James A. Mathisen. (1997). Faith and learning at Wheaton College. In R.T. Hughes and W.B. Adrian (eds.) Models for Christian higher education: Strategies for survival and success in the Twenty-first Century (pp. 261-283). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Hiney, Clarabelle F. N. (1944). Wheaton College, Education Department History. In Faculty Bulletin of Wheaton College, Vol. VII No. 3 (January).
  • Hostetter, Christian N. Jr., archival papers, Messiah College Archives.
  • Hoover, Jesse W. Interview, Collection 319, audio tape interviews, 1985, Billy Graham Center Library.
  • Lansdale, David. (1990) Citadel Under Siege: The Contested Mission of an Evangelical Christian Liberal Arts College (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, 1990).
  • Malone, David, personal interview, 3/22/04
  • Martin, Rachel, personal interview, 3/29/04
  • Messiah College Clarion, annual yearbooks and student newspaper. (1920s-30s). Grantham, PA.: Messiah College.
  • Osielsky, David, personal interview, 3/22/04
  • Sider, E. Morris, personal interview, 3-17-04
  • Sider, E. Morris. Messiah College: A History. Grantham, PA.: Messiah College, 1984.
  • Taylor University Gem, annual yearbooks, 1920s.
  • Wheaton College Annual Catalog, 1930-31 to 1943-44.
  • Wheaton College Tower, Annual Yearbooks, 1920s, 30s, & 40s.

Contributions to Christian Education

C. Benton Eavey’s significant contributions to Christian education spanned the (approximately) half-century period from the late 1920s to the mid-1970s. His career coincided with the emergence of Christian education as a modern, professional discipline responding to the liberal religious-educational critique and initiative of the early 20th century. Teaching courses in psychology, education, and Christian education from 1930 until 1942, Eavey integrated social-scientific findings on child development and pedagogy with evangelical theology, thereby laying the foundation for B.A. and Masters-level degree programs in Christian education at Wheaton College. Through the publication of textbooks such as Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers (1940), The Art of Effective Teaching (1953), and History of Christian Education (1964), Eavey’s ideas reached a large readership among students and faculty of evangelical colleges and Bible institutes.

In addition, Eavey should be recognized as a founder and early practitioner of what would become known in higher education as student development programming. In summary, C. Benton Eavey was among those pioneers of our discipline who, in the space of a few years, helped transform Christian education from a hodgepodge of 19th century pedagogical laws and traditional practices offered as “advice for Sunday school teachers,” to a reflective academic discipline and respected profession. A detailed prospectus of Eavey’s specific contributions follows, first to student development programming and curricular development at Messiah and Wheaton Colleges, second to the preparation of vocational Christian teachers, administrators, and missionaries, and third to the development of an evangelical perspective on the modern theory and practice of Christian education.

Eavey’s contributions to student development programming

While at Messiah Bible College (1922-28) and later at Wheaton College (1930-1942) Eavey’s personal concern for students found many practical expressions that, in time and with the aid of his considerable administrative gifts, would become institutionalized in student development programming. As a new faculty family at Messiah, Benton and Mabel Eavey purchased a large dwelling to house themselves and their students. Serving as “Preceptor” (hall director) of Treona Hall, next to the Messiah campus, the Eaveys hosted dinners and socials designed to orient students and to stimulate positive interaction in a Christian setting. Their approach to collegiate hospitality, while not unique, nonetheless provided a progressive alternative to the prevailing model of formal dinners hosted by faculty for students and member-only socials hosted by competing student clubs and literary societies. Mabel’s outgoing and loving manner made a strong connection with female students. Benton taught study skills and helped students arrange for transfer credits, scholarships, and part-time jobs while in school, and placement opportunities after graduation. His holistic approach to teaching reflected a clear understanding of the relationship of motivation to learning. As he explained in The Art of Effective Teaching (1953).

Learning goes on well as living together in shared activity provides fruitful experience in meeting social needs…the student must feel that he is loved and that he is secure…(for then) energy is released freely for use in constructive activity; when he does not have it, his emotional state causes inhibition of energy…(Thus, an) understanding teacher is keenly aware that the kind of emotional climate which prevails in the classroom has a definite bearing on the emotional adjustment of each pupil. The teacher is a person and the students are persons. Real teaching is a series of personal relationships between teacher and individual pupils. More than any other factor, the teacher determines the emotional climate for students…as he establishes rapport with students. Rapport signifies a personal relationship marked by mutual respect, confidence, harmony and understanding (172—173).

Respected both inside and outside the classroom, the Eaveys’ support of students inspired some to follow them when they moved to Wheaton College. Benton’s connection with prospective students is also evident in his four-page letter to Buswell, just days after receiving the President’s invitation to join the faculty. Eavey writes, “There are three young men of splendid character who might be secured at students for Wheaton College.” His letter proceeds to explain each boy’s home situation and financial needs, as well as his spiritual and intellectual qualifications. That he understood the importance of student retention was evident in his efforts to encourage the compassionate administration of scholarships at Wheaton. His concern along these lines is seen in another letter to President Buswell dated January 15th 1932, in the case of a student whose scholarship was in jeopardy due to her recovery from surgery. Eavey wrote to explain that, “Miss Arnt…has been laboring under difficulties that may possibly be surmounted by the end of the semester…On the basis of what I have learned about her…I suggest she be granted a music scholarship next semester.” These letters are typical of many he sent on behalf of students.

In time, and by reason of his considerable administrative gifts, Eavey’s personal concern for students led him to establish a means of formal institutional assistance. At Wheaton College he surveyed incoming freshmen and transfer students regarding their life interests, work skills, and experience in order to organize a student Appointment Bureau which facilitated part-time student employment and placement after graduation. Impressed with the efficiency of his organizational gifts, President Buswell appointed Eavey as Personnel Officer, in which capacity he developed the College’s first system of personnel records for both students and faculty. In addition to his initiatives for formal, institutional service to students, Eavey employed students to work in his home and found numerous creative means of support for struggling students while at Wheaton.

Eavey’s contributions to Wheaton College curriculum and the preparation of career Christian educators, administrators, and missionaries

Eavey also played a key role in new student orientation and national accreditation at Wheaton College. Each fall, after his arrival to the campus in 1930, Eavey offered presentations on “How to study in college” for students and “Problems in teaching” for faculty. Through his surveys of sister institutions, Eavey generated comparative data on curricula, faculty load, and internship requirements, all of which were used to establish Wheaton standards for accreditation purposes and for association with national teacher education associations. Other aspects of accreditation, for example, collecting data for institutional self-studies, were also entrusted to Eavey, and he played a key role in helping Wheaton to explore and formalize its association with professional and evangelical organizations such as the Evangelical Teacher Training Association.

Through his leadership of the Department of Education and Psychology at Wheaton, Eavey established an undergraduate major in Christian education and laid the foundations for a Masters degree in that field within a few years of his arrival in 1930. As the departmental history (authored by Clarabelle Hiney, one of Eavey’s colleagues) notes, “(In addition to) the two professional courses in Christian Education, Dr. Eavey added those courses which would make a strong major in the field, all of which, excepting the course in missions, he taught” (Faculty Bulletin for 1944, p.13).

The Wheaton College Catalog for academic year 1937-38 lists these additional major courses as Methods of Teaching, History of Religious Education, Christian Education of Children, Christian Education of Adolescents, Philosophy of Christian Education, and Problems in Christian Education. Moreover, Eavey’s courses in educational psychology and child and adolescent psychology enrolled many Wheaton students who would later serve as career teachers in public and private education. His seminal Psychology 338 course, “Mental Hygiene” (Eavey’s psychology of personal development), enrolled the majority of Wheaton College students (as sophomores) during the decade of 1932 to 1942. Within this context of vocational training in a liberal arts setting, and based on a thorough grounding in the social sciences, Eavey prepared many Christian educators and leaders at the undergraduate level. A survey of existing alumni records for the four-year period of 1937 to 1941 alone lists the names of twenty-eight career educators, seventeen missionaries, eight pastoral ministers, and more than a half-dozen college presidents and executives of national Christian organizations who studied with Eavey.

Eavey’s contributions to the discipline of Christian education

In the 1920s and 30s there were few opportunities for advanced training in (what was then known as) religious education from an evangelical perspective. Eavey was among the earliest of evangelical educators to pursue Ph.D. studies at Columbia and New York Universities. Receiving his Ph.D. from NYU in 1930, Eavey blazed a trail later followed by Rebecca Price, Mary Lebar, and Lois Lebar, all of whom completed NYU doctorates with the aim of developing their own models of religious education. At that time there were no mentors in higher education modeling the integration of evangelical Christian faith with scientific findings in education and psychology. Eavey was both progressive (as his education shows) and evangelical—nurtured in the theologically conservative Brethren in Christ Church and shaped by the evangelistic revivals of the 1910s and 1920s. In 1936 Eavey invited Rebecca R. Price to Wheaton to develop the Masters program in Christian education. Price remained at Wheaton until leaving to teach at Fuller in 1952. At that time the Lebar sisters were invited to direct both the undergraduate and graduate degree programs at Wheaton.

The integration of faith and learning at Wheaton College

In their analysis of the relation of Christian faith to higher education throughout the history of Wheaton College, Michael Hamilton and James Mathisen describe four models that represent increasingly nuanced approaches to “the integration of faith and learning.” Of the two historically prior approaches, the first (The Convergence Model) (naively) assumed “that the study of the natural world always confirmed the truths of Christianity”, while the second model (The Triumphalist Model) tended to mirror secularism in simply disregarding the value of the other’s contribution. In essence, then, both of these models are “triumphalist” in their denigration of the value of scientific investigation. A third model, dubbed The Value-Added Model, values both “secular” and “sacred” knowledge, viewing them as occupying distinct, non-conflicting spheres which may enrich but not fundamentally alter one another. Thus, for example, “faith can bring to learning an ethical dimension, an appreciation for the transcendent, and answers to questions of meaning.” So too, “learning can…enrich faith…filling in the details of God’s creative handiwork, and so forth” (Hamilton and Mathisen 270).

The Value-Added Model is “centered around the sciences” and pragmatically concerned with the impartation of “specialized knowledge and skills that will enable (students) to take their place in various professions.” A fourth model, called the Integration Model, begins by acknowledging that certain philosophical presuppositions guide all inquiries. Some presuppositions, like the secular scholarship that gives rise to them, are necessarily “shot through with secular assumptions” which in turn may “distort its outcomes” (271). The Integration Model contrasts sharply with the Convergence model (described above) in that “systems of discovered knowledge (i.e. secular) and revealed knowledge are, by themselves, incomplete,” such that “both are needed for full understanding.” Nevertheless, “Christian scholarship begins (as it must) at a different starting place,” and (via The Integration Model) values a liberal arts education “with its emphasis on the training of the mind,” and takes “the side of anti-pragmatists against vocation-oriented education”(271). The four models just described will serve as a framework to consider the nature of Eavey’s teaching, as reflected in one of his popular textbooks.

Eavey’s approach to the integration of faith and learning

According to Hamilton and Mathisen, Wheaton’s first steps to “truly integrate faith and learning” were taken during the Buswell administration (273), i.e. when Eavey was at Wheaton. That his first and most widely-read textbook, Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers (1940), offers us an example of his approach to integrating faith and learning appears justified by many statements within that text, for example, “A great need in Christian education is the translation of the best in educational philosophy and science into terms that can be understood and appropriated by teachers in the church school” (p. 17, emphasis mine). What does Eavey mean to imply by his use of the term translation, and what does he accomplish by way of integrating evangelical faith with social-scientific findings? Translation, for Eavey, means that “False views need to be corrected, technical expressions need to be reduced to familiar forms, and…Teachers of the Bible must gain understanding of the learning process without becoming enslaved to a philosophy of life that banishes all Christian interpretations” (17-18).

The first chapter of the text presents the author’s several foundational principles as the necessary “superstructure” based on certain “fundamental facts” and emphasizing “the place of teaching in promulgating Christian truth…”(9). First Principle: God is Supreme. Drawing on the biblical figure of gardener (the point of which is that only God gives the increase), the text emphasizes the teacher’s reliance on the Holy Spirit (with whom the teacher works in partnership), the impossibility of guaranteeing results from Christian teaching, and the subsequent humility that attends the discipline. While Eavey may not explicitly say “faith is better caught than taught,” his anecdote “from the life of a recent covert” amounts to the same thing. When asked by his minister to explain which sermon point led to the life- changing decision, the man replied “Nothing you said had anything to do with my accepting Christ. The reason I came to Him was that I saw His life exemplified in the daily living of one with whom I was in constant contact”(10-11).

Second Principle: Man needs a Personal Savior. Eavey’s exposition of the biblical teaching of the sin nature provides an occasion to debunk the “prevalent emphasis in religious education today (which) considers man as inherently good…and needs only the right kind of instruction to make him what he ought to be” (11). In this example of his critical appropriation of progressive methodology, the author first rejects the naturalistic presupposition—“(No) kind of mere teaching, however perfect in content or in method, is sufficient…to eradicate the evil of man’s nature”(11), and proceeds to revise and adapt progressive-educational ideas (in this case the definition of teaching as is “the introduction of control into the experience of a person”) to his own ends:

(Natural) growth and development (is) without definite goal, direction, or purpose except as some sort of outer control is exercised…Christian teaching is the introduction of control into experience in terms of Jesus the Savior of men. Man is dead in trespasses and sin. No system of nurture can bring him to life. Only the power of God brought into effectiveness through faith in the atoning merits of a Redeemer Whom God has set forth as a propitiation for sin can impart spiritual life to man. And until he is born again, there is no possibility of growth in an experience that begins only when life begins.

Hence, the initial task of the Christian teacher is to so present Christ as Savior that he who is taught may believe, accept, and pass from death to life. Teaching that is truly Christian stands, therefore, for the reception of Christ as a personal Savior, the realization of his indwelling presence, power, and love, and a reciprocal relationship that reproduces the spirit of Christ in every-day life. To make possible this threefold development is the task of the Christian teacher (though God gives the increase) (11-13).

Eavey’s “translation” of the principle of directed growth on the basis of his theological presuppositions thus yields the Christian teacher’s threefold sequential task of (1) presenting Christ as Savior, (2) leading believers to “the realization of his indwelling presence, power, and love, and to (3) “a reciprocal relationship that reproduces the spirit of Christ in everyday life.” Third Principle: the Bible is the Textbook. “Various tests have revealed,” Eavey admits, that “knowledge of the Bible obtained through attendance at Sunday school does not lead to the practice of …virtues of Christian character” (14). However, in its rush to correct this problem (and particularly under pressure from the liberal critique of traditional teaching), the church has begun to emphasize “character (i.e., behavior) outcomes” at the expense of content. Thus, for example, while modern educational psychology rightly emphasizes the “worthlessness of mere knowledge” and the centrality of the principle of self-activity as basic in learning, yet, “In Christian teaching, technique cannot be substituted for content, for there is a gospel message” (14).

According to Eavey, the (methodological) problems of (liberal) religious education are (1) that it borrows uncritically from a new and untrustworthy source—secular education; (2) that secular education “deals almost exclusively with the intellect, while (liberal) religious education is mostly concerned with the “emotions, sentiment, and ideals which have never been studied to any adequate extent”; and (3) the technique of (liberal) religious education conveys its own (non-biblical) content. Eavey’s methodological alternative acknowledges that “…the most important thing in learning is not to gather a quantity of information but to develop experience as a means to gaining power which will enable the learner to adjust himself to new situations and conditions as he meets them.” So, while “the world cannot be saved by teaching”, nonetheless, “the teaching of Christian truth can be of tremendous help in saving men” (14).

In light of the foregoing description, evidence exists for Eavey’s employment of both advanced faith and learning models. First, in accordance with the Value-Added model, Eavey acknowledges the potential value of secular education to enrich Christian education, and demonstrates a critical, limited appropriation of its principles. Second, in accordance with the Integration Model, Eavey begins his text with a thorough examination of presuppositions, in order to establish the right starting point. In this way, Chapter 1 of Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers establishes the basis for an evangelical theology of Christian education by articulating biblical presuppositions in contrast with (Eavey’s critique of) key liberal assumptions concerning the role of the Bible and secular educational methodology in Christian teaching. From here, Eavey’s text proceeds to establish the importance of Christian teaching in light of examples from the Bible and church history (chapter 2), to describe the aims, character, and preparation of Christian teachers (chapters 3-5), to explain (in detail) the physical, emotive, and conceptual bases of learning (chapters 6-9), and to conclude with several chapters on teaching method, planning, and improvement (10-14).

Unfortunately the themes addressed in this text are not tightly interwoven, nor are they well-developed on the basis of the premises outlined in chapter 1. In other words, although the text begins well as a model of faith-learning integration, it soon stalls in the morass of information and traditional advice scattered throughout the text, e.g., “the success of any teacher is in large degree dependent on his enthusiasm for his task, his love for his pupils, and his thoroughness in preparation.” Nonetheless, Eavey’s contribution to an evangelical theology of Christian education is significant, and his preference for non-triumphalist (i.e. non-combative) language in this text (speaking, for example, of the “lessening of biblical authority”) leaves the door open to dialogue.

The fact that Eavey’s Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers develops neither of the two advanced (non-triumphalist) models of faith-learning integration very thoroughly may be related to a question of conflicting priorities within our discipline, viz., “does Christian education belong to the realm of the (social) sciences or to the (Christian) humanities?” Earlier in this section we noted Hamilton and Mathisen’s description of each of these two models as suited to particular educational contexts, (1) the Value Added Model “centered around the sciences” and pragmatically concerned with the impartation of “specialized knowledge and skills that will enable (students) to take their place in various professions(270)”, and (2) The Integration Model, which values a liberal arts education “with its emphasis on the training of the mind,” and takes “the side of anti-pragmatists against vocation-oriented education (271).”

In light of this, it is important to note the bi-polar context of Eavey’s teaching at Wheaton: i.e., his immediate context as professor of psychology and education, preparing students for vocational ministry, (thus matching the Value-Added Model), and the broader, cultural context that included the fundamentalist –modernist debates of the 1920s and 30s, and the experience of serving a college president (Buswell) who paradoxically advocated cultural engagement in the classroom and separatism in ecclesiastical matters (Hamilton 96) (matching the Integration Model). Like many of us who teach Christian education in a liberal arts setting (or from that tradition), Eavey labored under dual expectations of preparing his students for vocational ministry while training their minds to think Christianly (as we would say) about the findings of social sciences. Given these somewhat competing objectives, one foresees limited success for Christian-educational philosophy—the sort of success one finds, for example, with apologetic method: you cannot finally persuade someone of the truth of the gospel apart from the miracle of faith; neither can you “teach” someone to be a Christian apart from the work of the Holy Spirit—as Eavey himself notes in his Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers.

Eavey’s late career contributions—publications

Christian education, however, is primarily a kerymatic and not an apologetic enterprise—one that properly begins with decision making about how best to impart revealed truth. After leaving the faculty of Wheaton College Eavey continued to make significant contributions to the discipline of Christian education, particularly through his publications. About a decade after leaving Wheaton 1953 Eavey published The Art of Effective Teaching, a decidedly less technical work than Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers in which he described teaching as a creative and spiritual process. In contrast to key concepts emphasized in Principles and in his teaching at Wheaton, Eavey was now underscoring the idea that Teaching is not a science. The complexity and variability of human life make impossible the application of the laws and the methods of science to personal relationships…(which) involve emotions and human values which cannot be made a matter of science. (As an art, teaching) is essentially a fine art, not a technical art (42).

Nevertheless, this text offered readers a moderate dose of educational behaviorism and progressivism to the Christian learning environment. Evidence for the text’s favorable reception among conservative educators is found in its only review, written by R. D. Heim for the Lutheran Quarterly Vol. 5 for November, 1953. “This is a long step toward the kind of book we have been needing…(as it) sets forth the meaning of developmental teaching in a practical manner with an abundance of suggestions.” The author “is to be commended,” the review continues, for balancing the psychological emphasis in educational theory with some of the implications of sociological findings (and in dealing also with) motivation” (p. 418).

In spite of its favorable review, Eavey’s The Art of Effective Teaching saw far fewer printings than his Principles (2 re-printings for the former and 20 for the latter), and a correspondingly smaller circulation. Within another decade, however, Eavey’s educational theory once again found a larger audience and influence among a new generation of Christian educators through his contribution of a chapter to J. Edwards Hake’s An Introduction to Evangelical Christian Education (1964). Crystallizing his thinking on “Aims and Objectives of Christian Education,” Eavey wrote that “Meanings and values are basic to aims” (p.51). Unpacking this statement, Eavey begins by observing that the work of developing meanings, making choices, and deciding values in Christian education, just as in life, is the work of knowing and developing a philosophy about something. In the case of Christian education, theology—a correct conception of the nature of Christianity—is essential.

The uniqueness of Christianity and its Founder proves Christ to be the center of a philosophy of Christian education, since it is in Him that humanity discovers the meaning and values it seeks. Education focused on any other center is inevitably human-centered, trusting in the sufficiency of human intellect, and opposing God through prideful self-will. The educational philosopher Alfred Whitehead was right in noting the essence of all education as religious, but another philosopher—John Dewey—was wrong in his belief that education contains its own end. Indeed, education must be Christian if it is to be education at all (54).

Christian education has Jesus Christ as its center, enabling people to live as they were created to live and to become what their Creator intended them to be (55). Once the purpose—to become like God— is settled, the Christian educator may get on with the business of taking aim—i.e., focusing the attention “to make possible (the) expenditure of energy for achieving a predetermined purpose.” In other words, “to (take) aim is to see beforehand what is to be done and then so to concentrate attention as to direct energy to accomplish what is in mind” (55). Practically speaking, aims (here used synonymously with objectives) “give direction to all activity involved in the educational purpose,” and are like climbing flights of stairs, ascending level to level, in order to reach the top of a building. Individual steps and levels are plotted by Scripture since the “… interpretation of facts in the light of the revelation of God…gives man a sense of true values (54). 2 Timothy 3:17, “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (KJV), grounds the “one final aim” of Christian education--“bringing those taught to perfection in godly life and character” (62). Neither the “Aims and Objectives” article nor The Art of Effective Teaching ever eclipsed Eavey’s Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers, which continued to be reprinted in English until 1968. Moreover, its translation into the Korean language gave the text new life through its publication and distribution in that country in 1984, and again as recently as 1995. In another popular text—History of Christian Education (1964)—Eavey traced key biblical themes through their historical expression in various religious-educational institutions and movements.

By contextualizing the development of Christian education within a broad scope of cultural history, Eavey produced a text that was valuable not only for the training of church-based educators but also for private and public school teachers. Reprinted annually until 1975, History of Christian Education became a standard in evangelical colleges and seminaries, and its concise summations have been quoted frequently (as in the1983 historical survey by Gangel and Benson’s, Christian Education: Its History & Philosophy) and recently (as in the 2003 text by Estep etal, C.E. The Heritage of Christian Education).

Finally, Eavey’s Principles of Personality Building for Christian Parents, published in 1952, was named “A prize winner in Zondervan’s Christian textbook contest,” and carried his influence beyond the classroom into churches and Christian homes. Eavey published a number of less successful textbooks on a range of topics, including Christian ethics, “mental health,” and Sunday school teaching and administration. His several trade books offered devotional talks, resources for speakers and preachers, and an analysis of the effects of modernism on the Methodist church.

Assessing the value of Eavey’s contribution

Aside from a cursory sketch here and there, Eavey’s work is rarely mentioned in print and is only once formally evaluated. In his 1996 text on Models of Religious Education, Eavey is included in Harold Burgess’s survey of Evangelical/Kerygmatic Model of religious education, alongside educators such as Clarence Benson. Burgess notes Eavey’s employment of “useful constructs derived from the social sciences” within the context of thoroughly evangelical approach to ministry (153). Eavey, Burgess continues, grasped the Christ-centered theme of Christian education, identifying the work of Christian teaching not with “the dispensing of a body of truth but with the impartation of a Life, even the life of a crucified, risen and living Saviour” (Burgess, p. 170, quoting from p. 49 of Eavey, The Art of Effective Teaching). This impartation is nurtured only by teachers who are themselves new creatures in Christ. Burgess recounts Eavey’s nine marks of such a teacher, viz., “Does the prospective teacher give evidence of (1) Being a child of God? (2) growing as a Christian? (3) being cognizant of the nature of the sacred task in view? (4) being mindful of a sense of obligation to God? (5) being a practitioner of the art of prayer? (6) maintaining a consistent Christian life? (7) possessing a real heart interest in individual learners? (8) readiness to meet the needs of the pupils? And (9) always allowing the supreme place to the Holy Spirit in preparation?” (Burgess, 172-173, drawing on Eavey, “Aims and Objectives of Christian Education, in J. Edward Hakes, An Introduction to Evangelical Christian Education, p. 61).

Burgess affirms that Eavey’s work “presages a key dimension of the social science model (the description of which follows in the next chapter of Burgess’s text) by raising the possibility that environment might be employed as a useful teaching strategy.” Indeed, “(t)he first essential in teaching is control and direction of the environment so that pupils have experiences related definitely to the ultimate purpose of teaching…(thus) an effective teacher…organize(s) the environment and set(s) the stage so that the pupil learns” (Burgess, p. 183, drawing on Eavey The Art of Effective Teaching, pp. 20-23). In conclusion, while he finds Eavey’s work as “underscoring many of the issues addressed by (Clarence) Benson,” Burgess also notes that Eavey “added an essential dimension (presumably the integration of social scientific constructs) to evangelical thinking (Burgess, p. 153).

Sources

  • Eavey, C. Benton. (1931-1943). Personnel file. Wheaton College Archives, Buswell Memorial Library.
  • Eavey, C. Benton. (1940). Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • _________ (1964) History of Christian Education. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • _________ (1956) Principles of Mental Health for Christian Living. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • _________ (1953) The Art of Effective Teaching. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • _________ (1958) Principles of Christian Ethics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • _________ (1952) Principles of Personality Building for Christian Parents. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Burgess, Harold W. (1996). Models of Religious Education. Wheaton: Victor Books.
  • Estep, etal. (2003). C.E. The Heritage of Christian Education. Joplin, MO: College Press.
  • Ganel, Kenneth O. & Warren S. Benson. (1983). Christian Education: Its History and Philosophy. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • Hamilton, Michael S. (1994) The Fundamentalist Harvard: Wheaton College and the Continuing Vitality of American Evangelicalism, 1919-65 (Doctoral dissertation, Notre Dame University, 1994).
  • Hamilton, Michael S. and James A. Mathisen. (1997). Faith and learning at Wheaton College. In R.T. Hughes and W.B. Adrian (eds.) Models for Christian higher education: Strategies for survival and success in the Twenty-first Century (pp. 261-283). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Hiney, Clarabelle F. N. (1944). Wheaton College, Education Department History. In Faculty Bulletin of Wheaton College, Vol. VII No. 3 (January).
  • Hoover, Jesse W. Interview, Collection 319, audio tape interviews, 1985, Billy Graham Center Library.
  • Lansdale, David. (1990) Citadel Under Siege: The Contested Mission of an Evangelical Christian Liberal Arts College (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, 1990).
  • Sider, E. Morris. (1984) Messiah College: A History. Grantham, PA.: Messiah College.
  • Taylor University (1920s) Annual yearbooks.
  • Wheaton College. (1930-31 to 1943-44). Annual catalogs.
  • Wheaton College. (1920s—40s). Annual yearbooks.

Bibliography

Books

  • Eavey, C. Benton. (1931). A study in relation of the doctor’s degree in the field of education to preparation for the teaching of undergraduate education (Doctoral dissertation, New York University, 1931).
  • (1940). Principles of teaching for Christian teachers, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1952). Principles of personality building for Christian parents. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1953). The art of effective teaching. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1955). How to be an effective Sunday school teacher. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1956). Principles of mental health for Christian living. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1956). Ninety-five brief talks for various occasions. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • (1956). Each day. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1958). Principles of Christian ethics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1959). Practical Christian ethics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • (1959). Chapel Talks. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • (1959). 2500 sentence sermons. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • (1959). Why the Methodist Church has gone modern. Wheaton: Church League of America.
  • (1959). A shocking study of modernism at its worse: an analysis of the Christian understanding of God (review of book by Nels Ferre). Wheaton: Church League of America.
  • (1959). Starting branch Sunday schools. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1963). Speakers handbook for occasional talks. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • (1964). Aims and Objectives of Christian Education. In J. Edward Hakes (Ed.), An Introduction to Evangelical Christian Education (pp. 51-66). Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1964). History of Christian Education. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1966). 300 thought stimulators for sermons and addresses. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • (1968). Talks to young people. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • (1970). Inspiring poems (compiled by C. Benton Eavey). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Excerpts from Publications

(1922) “The Shaping of a Life” in the Messiah College Yearbook.

How important it is then to shape life aright so that it may exist in the best possible condition throughout the ceaseless ages of a never-ending eternity! How necessary it is for parents, teachers, and, in fact, everyone to know those principles which govern the shaping of a life! Each one of us has a part in either making or marring our own or some other person’s life…What a responsibility it is to realize that each impression we make upon a life will be manifested in that life during eternity…a responsibility which none can shirk. (p.14)

(1940). Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Christian teaching is the introduction of control into experience in terms of Jesus the Savior of men. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. No system of nurture can bring him to life. Only the power of God brought into effectiveness through faith in the atoning merits of a Redeemer Whom God has set forth as a propitiation for sin can impart spiritual life to man. And until he is born again, there is no possibility of growth in an experience that begins only when life begins. Hence, the initial task of the Christian teacher is to so present Christ as Savior that he who is taught may believe, accept, and pass from death to life. Teaching that is truly Christian stands, therefore, for the reception of Christ as a personal Savior, the realization of his indwelling presence, power, and love, and a reciprocal relationship that reproduces the spirit of Christ in every-day life. To make possible this threefold development is the task of the Christian teacher. Always, however, it is God, not the teacher, who gives the increase. (pg. 12-13). A great need in Christian Education is the translation of the best in educational philosophy and science into terms that can be understood and appropriated by teachers in the church school…Teachers of the Bible must gain understanding of the learning process without becoming enslaved to a philosophy of life that banishes all Christian interpretations. Learning must be related to living just as Jesus did long before modern education devised any of its much emphasized “new” principles. Christian teachers must acquire a working mastery of the principles fundamental to learning and teaching that they may put them to the service of Christianity. (pg. 17-18)

(1952). Principles of Personality Building for Christian Parents. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The first responsibility of Christian parents is maintenance of a vital and personal relationship with God. If husband and father, wife and mother, have Christ as Lord of their lives and if they live sincerely in the fear of God, reducing to practice in daily life the teachings of His word, the home is on a solid Christian foundation. No amount of profession without possession, of pretension without actual contact with God, will take the place of true piety. (pg.27).

(1953). The Art of Effective Teaching. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

When done well, teaching is an art and one of the most complicated arts. Of course, much of what is called teaching is not artistic. However, a teacher has just as much opportunity to be a creative artist as does any worker in any other field. The teacher has an infinite variety of materials with which to work. Every pupil he teaches is different and every teaching situation differs from every other. A teacher’s art is the sum total of what he learns from living and what he learns from books. No matter how much knowledge he has from the latter, he must work our his own way of teaching and there are no limits on his creative opportunity. (from the Preface). Teaching is the activity of organizing and guiding learning. Learning takes place only through experience that is meaningful to the learner. From the day of his birth, the child is having learning experiences as a consequence of interacting with his environment. The learner is a spiritual being made in the image of God, a purposeful energy system, who functions through a body and through a mind. As a living person, he acts and, because he acts, he learns. As he learns he grows; as he grows, the potentialities of his nature become actual in his life. As a purposing being, he chooses his own tasks, makes his own world, and determines his own destiny. The more effectively the teacher organizes and guides the learner’s experience, the better the quality of his learning. The better the quality of his learning, the more completely he develops and the more perfectly he realizes the purpose of his existence. (from the Preface)

(1964). History of Christian Education. Chicago: Moody Press.

Jesus “was” before He did. He lived what He taught, and lived it before He taught it. He has no peer in loftiness of teaching and holiness of character. Witness to this is given not only by disciples and followers who view Him from the standpoint of faith but also by rationalists and skeptics who look at Him from the standpoint of reason. None ever taught as effectively as He. (pg.77)

(1970) Inspiring Poems. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Life is far more than a matter of rights and political doctrines, dresses and suits, houses and furnishings, bank accounts and bonds, gadgets and knick-knacks, and the endless number of other things, large and small, that men ceaselessly stretch themselves to get. Thus we need truths to cling to, truths that feed the soul and spirit, truths that are connected with the unseen realities of a life that is not nourished by the everyday aspects of this mortal existence. In these troubling times we need truths that alleviate our fears, encourage us to simple deep faith in God, inspire us to the attainment of the best of which we are capable, and stimulate us to living on a high moral level. (Preface.)


Recommended Readings

Books

(1940). Principles of Teaching for Christian Teachers, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Eavey’s first and most widely read textbook, Principles provides the classic example of the author’s approach to the integration of evangelical faith with social scientific principles. Eavey’s articulation of presuppositions in chapter one also provides readers with a fine example of developing a theology of Christian education.

(1953). The Art of Effective Teaching. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Written a decade after leaving Wheaton College, this text represents a less technical, more practical Christian learning theory comprising an effective early synthesis of social science and evangelical theology.

(1964). Aims and Objectives of Christian Education. In J. Edward Hakes (Ed.), An Introduction to Evangelical Christian Education (pp. 51-66). Chicago: Moody Press.

A concise sample of Eavey’s philosophy of Christian education made practical, this article is the best single (and most widely familiar) introductory source of Eavey’s work.

(1964). History of Christian Education. Chicago: Moody Press.

Eavey’s wide reading shines through this work. His ability to place episodes in the history of Christian education in their broad, cultural setting is insightful and instructive.


Author Information

Robert F. Lay

Robert F. Lay serves as Professor of Christian Education at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.

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