Martin Keast

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4, ESV)

The word ‘paideia’(παιδείᾳ) is a Greek word used in Ephesians 6:4 which is usually translated ‘discipline’ as in the ESV above. Paul is here requiring parents, under the headship of the father, to bring up their children in the ‘paideia of God’. This term is a very significant one in 1st century culture and we sometimes miss the richness that this imperative involves and its application to Christian and classical education. Doug Wilson, one of the early pioneers of the modern classical revival in Christian educational circles, wrote an essay entitled “The Paideia of God” which explored this richness (Wilson, 1999). I wanted to share some of these insights as a contribution to what I hope is the beginning of a classical renewal here in Australia.

The term ‘paideia’ to the ancient Greek mind, was a hugely important term. It is the essence of what classical education is about. It involves “nothing less than the shaping of the ideal man, who would be able to take his place in the ideal culture” (Wilson, 1999, p. 11). It is an incredibly rich concept which Paul has taken and applied to the training of the Christian young person. It implies the idea of a truly Christian culture eventually developing and of forming and training a young person to prepare for, and participate in, the ultimate ushering in of such a culture. Wilson notes that such an educational approach, where parents took their calling seriously and sought to genuinely do this, is enormously transformative from a cultural viewpoint. For most of the history of Western civilisation, classical education has been the accepted and understood approach to education.

We are witnessing our nation adopting a political and social agenda that is a major shift away from our Judeo-Christian roots – it is effectively a major cultural transformation which if it goers unchecked, has the potential to take us into a new dark age. It is for this reason that the beginnings of a possible classical renewal we are part in ACES is so exciting.

Imagine the cultural leadership a whole cohort of young Australians could give who have trained in the richness of Western civilisation and equipped with the tools of learning (the liberal arts)? Young people equipped to be competent communicators and thinkers, and who have been immersed in the rich heritage of Western culture which has been intertwined with the development and expansion of the kingdom of God.


Wilson, D. (1999). The Paideia of God and Other Essays on Education. Moscow, ID 83843, USA: Canon Press.

  • About the Author: Martin Keast, Principal at Covenant Christian School, Canberra.