Christian education

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The Christian education was of the origin of Christianity until the 20th century in the Western world predominant flow of education . Although it coincides with catechesis and its aim is uniformly faith , Christian education encompasses a multitude of educational concepts , the priorities and norms of which are quite heterogeneous and have changed considerably in the course of history.

From the 18th century onwards, increasingly secular , educational reform movements such as philanthropism emerged from Christian education . Also in the 18th century, pedagogy differentiated itself from Christian theology as a secular science .

Christianity as pedagogy

Christianity emerged with the claim of a renewal of already in the Hebrew Bible existing Federal God with the people whose outward sign of Jesus Christ was. Christ appeared in the New Testament than the expected Savior , as Redeemer, the concept of redemption was passed educational, namely to excuse since the fall guilty people born from the sin . Already for the Greek theologian Clemens of Alexandria (around 150 ‒ around 215) Christ was the divine educator who surpasses all teachers in human history; for him the Christian religion is the true paideia . With reference to Matthew Mt 18,17  EU , the Christian denominations maintained the right to universal teaching authority up to the 20th century.

Theological foundation and early history of Christian pedagogy

Differences to ancient and Jewish education

Because salvation is not through external means such as B. Sacrifice , but can only be obtained from within - through repentance and faith - Christian education does not aim at developing intellectual or practical skills, but rather at making the personality receptive to the Christian message. While the subject of ancient education was future citizens, and Jewish education was aimed at ensuring that the law was obeyed, Christian education focused on future citizens of an empire that is out of this world. Since God has no respect for the person, in Christianity - unlike in Greece and Rome - women, slaves and wage workers were also considered worthy and in need of education.

“Let the children come to me and don't stop them! God's kingdom is destined for just such as her. ” (Mark 10.14)
Painting by Carl Bloch , 19th century

Gospel pedagogy

The gospel or the life story of Christ gives little direct guidance for Christian education. Matthew 18 : 2-14 and Mark 10: 13-16, however, have been interpreted to mean that children - although they are born sinful and with a self- will that is contrary to God's holy will - have a potential for good that is not due to the The pernicious influences of the world are still undermined by an already increased lust for sin or by habits of sin, and that because the child is full of trust , still responds strongly to education. On this basis, Jean Paul (1763-1825) later formulated his pedagogical principle, according to which the spirit of education is nothing else "than the endeavor to make the ideal human being, who lies hidden in every child, free through someone who has become free" .


In the case of the apostles and early Christian missionaries , especially Paul , there are first explicit references to the role of parents as educators . Paul gives instructions such as “Fathers, do not embitter your children lest they become shy” ( Colossians 3:21) and “And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them in admonition to the Lord. “ ( Ephesians 6.4). Explicitly, maternal upbringing is only mentioned here in isolated cases, although the salvation of the soul of their children is particularly important to the mothers . The children are simply reminded of the fifth commandment : “You children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord, for that is fair.” “Honor your father and mother,” that is the first commandment that has promise: “That you are well go and you will live long on earth ” (Ephesians 6: 1f).

The subjects of instruction that are explicitly stated in Pauline pedagogy also include knowledge of the Holy Scriptures , although the Christian New Testament was initially only transmitted orally and was not canonized at all before the 4th century .

The Apostolic Fathers oriented Christian education in the 1st and 2nd centuries on the fear of God .
Allegorical painting by Peter Horemans (1753) in the Munich Holy Spirit Church

The Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers renewed the commandments of obedience and reverence to parents. One of the first Christian writings in which the educational mandate of parents is explicitly described is the letter to Barnabas : "Do not withdraw your hand from your son or daughter, but teach them the fear of the Lord from their youth" , a mandate that Polycarp also expressly granted the mothers. The commandment to fear God , which became the central goal of Christian education for the Apostolic Fathers , goes back to Psalms 34:12 for Clemens . Polycarp sums up the other tasks as follows: “Likewise, young men (should) also be blameless in everything, especially chastity, and restrain themselves and hold back from everything that is evil; for it is good to tear yourself away from the desires of the world, because every desire fights against the spirit and because neither fornicators nor sissies nor molesters will inherit the kingdom of God, nor those who do disorderly things. Therefore one must abstain from all this, in obedience to the presbyters and the deacons as to God and Christ; the virgins should walk in an irreproachable and chaste conscience. ” In the Apostolic Constitutions , parents are for the first time given up to submit to their children for the salvation of their souls and to chastise them abundantly .

The church fathers

Organized religious instruction, which prepared for baptism , came about for the first time in the time of Justin the Martyr († 165) and with greater success in the time of Origen († around 254). Already Clemens († around 215), Origen's predecessor at the Alexandria Catechist School , had left behind several educational writings. B. the Paidagogós describes the Christian education in detail.

Augustine is considered to be the greatest Christian educator of late antiquity , whose De Cat. Rud. Although it was tailored to adult teaching, it offered a wealth of information on education, with Christian love (as love for God and neighborly love ) counting among Augustine's central educational goals ; As the main condition of a successful lesson, he calls the joy of the teacher, who seeks friendliness, patience and self-improvement in dealing with the student. Two letters with educational content have also come down to us from Hieronymus (347-420).

Christian education in the Middle Ages

Unlike Philippe Ariès it in his history of childhood has shown the lives of children and the relationship between parents and children were indeed different alien than it is today and its distance for us, but this relationship was entirely conceived as a loving care and practiced. The image of the child corresponded to that of early Christianity: it was understood as sinful and educable at the same time.

Spiritual singing was an important part of monastic education.
Representation from the 14th century

Monastery education

One of the answers of Christianity to the practical difficulty of living in the world towards an empire that is not of this world is monasticism that began in the 2nd century and expanded rapidly from the 4th century . From the 6th century, starting from Franconia , the first women's monasteries also emerged. The youth, the majority of whom had already been baptized since the 5th and 6th centuries , were able to study not only Christian doctrine here in the ascetic renunciation of the world, but also, under Basil for example , also study the parts of ancient education that were considered useful. Basil's detailed monastic rule , which was laid down around 355 , had a strong influence on the Orthodox monastic system and is also an important testimony to the Christian pedagogy of this time. The rule of monks, the Regula Benedicti , written by Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century, had an impact on the entire medieval monastic system . Benedict not only demanded obedience, chastity and poverty from religious , but also wanted to bind them permanently to the monastery and to educate them to work, so that they would be protected against the temptations that threaten if one does not pray . The aim of the Benedictine formation was the willingness of the faithful to imitate Christ . While Benedict's pedagogy was aimed entirely at religious and moral discipline, under the influence of Cassiodorus (around 485 to around 580) science also became the professional work of monks, with the Seven Liberal Arts forming the basis of secular knowledge. At the Benedictine monasteries, monastery schools (monk schools) were established, into which future religious were accepted from an early age. Towards the end of the 8th century, outside schools were also set up in which lay people and future secular clergy were taught. Corporal punishments were, as u. a. Columban the Younger remembers, an ubiquitous educational tool.

Carolingian Renaissance

Under Charlemagne (747 / 748-814) and his advisor Alkuin , the education system in the Frankish empire took a strong boom. Through letters such as the Epistola de litteris colendis (784/785) and the Admonitio generalis (789), Karl commissioned a comprehensive program to maintain education that was to be borne by the church institutions. He was so interested in the revival of the liberal arts because he was convinced that a deeper understanding of God's Word was only possible through science. At the monasteries and bishop's cathedrals ( cathedral schools ), schools were set up where boys were trained as future clergy, but also as laypeople; Because Charles wanted to educate the whole people and raise them morally, the pupils were also instructed to instruct their relatives at home. Charles wanted all Christians to know the Our Father and the Creed by heart, "in Latin and in whatever language" . In his pedagogical writings, Alcuin instructed the masters to practice order and serious discipline so that the boys would be diligent and not be spoiled by debauchery. To a lesser extent, the Carolingian educational reforms were also shaped by personalities such as Paulinus II of Aquileia and Arn of Salzburg . With the Anglo-Saxons , Alfred the Great followed Charles' example and founded monasteries and schools.

After the death of Karl's grandson Lothar , the Carolingian school system began to decline, especially since the Popes did not support classical studies either. Exceptions were the large East Franconian monasteries of Fulda , Reichenau and St. Gallen , which produced teachers such as Rabanus Maurus . His work De institutione clericorum was considered a pedagogical code and the first theory of a complete spiritual education. Brun von Sachsen in particular did a great job at the monastery schools.

High and late Middle Ages

The re-appropriation of Greek philosophy continued with the establishment of the first European universities in Bologna (1088), Oxford (1167), Paris (1200), Cambridge (1209) and Salamanca (1218). The universities of Charles University in Prague (1348), Vienna (1365) and Heidelberg (1386) were established under the rule of the Roman-German emperors . The early universities were centers of scholasticism . At the same time, city and Latin schools were founded in which the next generation of businesspeople and tradespeople could receive formalized, class-specific training for the first time.

The work De eruditione filiorum nobilium by the French Dominican Vincent of Beauvais is one of the most important educational writings of the High Middle Ages . Despite its title, the book is by no means limited to the upbringing of princely children, but is a theory of upbringing in general. Vincent believed that the soul of the child, initially pure due to its heavenly origin, falls into sensuality as soon as it enters the body; because from the moment of birth she is neither capable nor inclined to knowledge nor to correct action, the child needs guidance, both intellectually and morally. While the teacher has to combine wisdom with eloquence, dexterity and experience, Beauvais demands the student's ability (= memory and understanding), practice and discipline, whereby he understands the student's willingness to learn, but also the will, life and teaching in the student To bring in line.

Another key work of Christian pedagogy comes from Thomas Aquinas . His writing De magistro testifies to the great importance that teaching had for Thomas and which for him represented the ideal way of life, because it ideally brings thinking and action together. For him, the goal of education was virtue, the development of the perfect maturity of man according to his human nature.

Christian Education in Modern Times

Evangelical education


Martin Luther developed his pedagogy among other things in 1520 in the sermon of the good works . With reference to the 5th commandment, he primarily demands obedience from the child, and "that the children's self-will should be broken and they become humble and meek" .


Johann Amos Comenius is considered the great pedagogue of the 17th century , although today's authors like to point out the modernity of his educational ideas, but ignore the Christian theology on which these ideas are based. Comenius compares the child to a plant whose growth and prosperity are given by God; the educator, however, must act as a conscientious gardener. For Comenius, the sole goal of education is to restore the lost divinity of man, although he is not concerned with the improvement of the individual, but with the “perfection” of mankind as a whole.


In the Pietist tradition, too , the teacher was primarily a pastor and religion teacher. The pedagogy of the founder of the Francke Foundations , August Hermann Francke , was centered on God. Francke laid down the basics of his pedagogy in the large essay in 1704 . To honor the Creator through behavior in the sense of following Christ was for him the main task of man, which should be fulfilled through a rigorous upbringing from early childhood. God works in the individual so that his successes and failures can be ascribed to God and understood as God's blessings or tests, whereby the human being is required not simply to leave things to God, but to follow his instructions. While Francke's image of the child, similar to Luther's, was positive, Johann Arndt , a forerunner of Pietism, considered the child to be evil from the womb onwards.


In the United States , the conservative evangelical James Dobson has been promoting an increasingly authoritarian education, including severe corporal punishment, in the name of religion since the 1970s.

Catholic education

The main pedagogical writing of Ignatius von Loyola is the Spiritual Exercises from 1522/23 . The salvation of the human soul is at the center of Ignatian pedagogy, which continues to this day not only in retreats , but also in schools.

Furthermore, Catholic moral theology has shaped education up to the present day. The sins against modesty and chastity played a special role. Fritz Leist published a book in 1972 in which he criticized Catholic sex education from a psychotherapeutic perspective.

Christian education in fictional media

The film The White Ribbon conveys an image of abusive upbringing in a rectory .


  • Gustav Baur: Christian education in its relation to Judaism and the ancient world . In: KA Schmid, Georg Schmid (Hrsg.): History of education from the beginning to our time . 2nd volume. Cotta, Stuttgart 1892, p. 1‒93 . ( full online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  • Hermann Masius: Education in the Middle Ages . In: KA Schmid, Georg Schmid (Hrsg.): History of education from the beginning to our time . 2nd volume. Cotta, Stuttgart 1892, p. 94-333 . ( full online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  • Klaus Prange : key works of pedagogy . Volume 1: From Plato to Hegel. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-17-019605-6 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )

Individual evidence

  1. Baur (1892), p. 7f
  2. Baur (1892), p. 15
  3. Meinolf Vielberg: Klemens in the Pseudoklementinische Rekognitions . Studies on the literary form of the late antique novel. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-05-003492-0 , pp. 86 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA ); Even according to the Bible, Jesus Christ was a teacher (Luke 10.38-42; John 3.2)
  4. Wingolf Lehnemann: churches, schools, state . Religious instruction in the 19th century. In: Ruth-E. Mohrmann (Ed.): Individual and Piety . Folklore studies of the 19th and 20th centuries. Waxmann, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-89325-558-3 , p. 131-144 .
  5. Baur (1892), pp. 15f, 23
  6. Baur (1892), p. 19f
  7. Baur (1892), p. 24f
  8. Matthew 18: 2-14 ; Mark 10:13 ; Baur (1892), p. 25f
  9. Baur (1892), p. 26; Jean Paul: Levana or Education . Cotta, Stuttgart 1861, p. XXV . , for the first time in 1807 ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  10. Baur (1892), p. 26; Examples: Matthew 20.20ff, 1. Timothy 4.6, 2. Timothy 1.5
  11. 2 Timothy 3: 14f ; Baur (1892), p. 26
  12. Clement's first letter , chapter 1.21; Letter from Polycarp to the Philippians , chapter 5
  13. Quoted from Baur (1892), p. 33
  14. ^ Letter from Polycarp to the Philippians, chapter 4
  15. Psalms 34:12 ; Baur (1892), p. 33f
  16. ^ Letter from Polycarp to the Philippians, chapter 5 .
  17. Apostolic Constitutions ( RTF ; 972 kB) 4.11
  18. Baur (1892), p. 37
  19. Baur (1892), pp. 54f
  20. Baur (1892), pp. 41f, 69-75; Augustine: On the first catechetical instruction (De catechizandis rudibus) ; Augustine: De Catechizandis Rudibus . In: Gustav Krüger (Hrsg.): Collection of selected church and dogma historical sources . 1904, p. 1 ff . ( full online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  21. ^ Letter to Laeta about her daughter's upbringing ; Letter to Gaudentius about the education of his daughter Pacatula ; Baur (1892), pp. 88-92
  22. ^ Heinz-Elmar Tenorth: History of education . Introduction to the basics of their modern development. 5th edition. Juventa, Weinheim, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-7799-1517-1 , p. 53 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  23. Baur (1892), pp. 84f
  24. Baur (1892), p. 47
  25. Baur (1892), p. 85
  26. Baur (1892), p. 86
  27. Masius (1892), p. 121f; Prange (2008), p. 55
  28. Prange (2008), p. 53
  29. Masius (1892), p. 123
  30. Baur (1892), pp. 92f; Masius (1892), pp. 96ff, 122ff; Cassiodorus: Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum
  31. Masius (1892), p. 114ff
  32. Masius (1892), p. 124
  33. Masius (1892), p. 125
  34. Masius (1892), p. 128
  35. Masius (1892), pp. 145ff
  36. Masius (1892), p. 156
  37. Masius (1892), pp. 158, 166, 189
  38. Ars grammatica (grammar); De rhetorica et virtutibus (On the art of speaking and the virtues); Disputatio Pippini cum Albino (conversation between the noble youth Pippin and the teacher Albinus); De ratione animae ad Eulaliam (Of the essence of the soul); Alc. Ep. 172 (Alcuin's letter to Charlemagne); see. Masius (1892), pp. 166-174
  39. Masius (1892), pp. 179-182
  40. Masius (1892), pp. 210ff
  41. Masius (1892), pp. 189f, 193
  42. Masius (1892), p. 196ff
  43. Masius (1892), p. 203
  44. Masius (1892), p. 234ff
  45. ^ Heinz-Elmar Tenorth: History of education . Introduction to the basics of their modern development. 5th edition. Juventa, Weinheim, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-7799-1517-1 , p. 52 f . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  46. Masius (1892), p. 289
  47. Masius (1892), pp. 290f
  48. Prange (2008), p. 66; The work from 1256-1259 is available in two versions: firstly as a section of the Summa theologica and secondly, somewhat more extensively, as a single script
  49. ^ Enrique Martínez: Ser y Educar . Fundamentos de Pedagogía Tomista. Universidad Santo Tomás, 2004 ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  50. Martin Luther: All works . 20th volume. Carl Heyder, Erlangen 1829, p. 256 ff . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA ); Henning conclusion: Martin Luther and pedagogy. Attempt at a reconstruction (PDF; 1.5 MB) , quarterly journal for scientific pedagogy, volume 76, issue 3, 2000
  51. For example: Prange (2008), p. 114
  52. ^ Didactica magna
  53. Michael Göhlich, Jörg Zirfas: Learning . A basic pedagogical concept. W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-17-018869-3 , pp. 77 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  54. Jürgen Sammet: Communication Theory and Pedagogy . Studies on the systematic "communicative pedagogy". Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2004, ISBN 3-8260-2473-7 , p. 62 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  55. ^ Werner Loch: Pedagogy using the example of August Hermann Francke . In: Hartmut Lehmann (Ed.): History of Pietism . Beliefs and lifeworlds. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-525-55349-8 , pp. 271 . ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  56. Loch (2004), p. 264ff
  57. Johann Arndt: Six books on true Christianity . Book 1, Chapter 2. 1605, p. 9 f .
  58. The Spiritual Exercises (PDF; 7.1 MB) in German translation
  59. ^ Klaus Mertes: Suggestions for Ignatian pedagogy
  60. P. Dr. Heribert Jone Catholic moral theology , p. 222ff, 1940, Verlag F. Schöningh Paderborn
  61. Catholic Catechism of the Dioceses of Germany, p. 328ff, 1955, Bonifatius-Druckerei Paderborn
  62. F. Leist The sexual emergency and the churches. Herder, Freiburg 1972, 2nd edition Mohn, Gütersloh 1972.
  63. "Sick in Faith" DER SPIEGEL 1964