25 Feb Formation Is More Than Just Education

Over the past several days I have been spending some time reflecting on the difference between formation and education. In my mind, formation includes education but goes above and beyond the parameters of eduction.

Education focuses on expanding the mind. The goal of education is to provide the knowledge necessary to perform one’s role in life. Formation, on the other hand, is about nourishing every aspect of a person’s being. This means that formation includes education, but goes beyond the parameters of simply educating the mind. Formation is about nourishing the soul, mind, body, and spirit of a person. The goal of formation is to order one’s life in accordance with objective truth.

Formation enables a person to deepen their personal relationship with God. It provides them the opportunities they need to discover God’s plan for their lives. Formation helps people to develop the unique talents that God gave them, so that they can use these gifts in service to their family, community, and society as a whole. Without good formation a person cannot be all that God is calling them to.

Education is good and it is essential for the future of society, but the problem with education is it does not go far enough. Education is meant to develop our knowledge, our head, we need to go beyond this and seek formation that merges our head with our heart. Formation allows us to tap into the desires of our heart, the atomic energy of our souls. God gave us these desires to lead us back to Him so that we can be effective instruments to shape the world around us.

If we are to be effective witnesses of the Gospel we should take time every now and then to pause, reflect, and grow in our faith. Retreats and conferences can be very helpful in providing us with ongoing formation and education in the faith. Formation and education should always work together. They are two necessary components for growth in our spiritual lives. Learning more about our faith through education is important, but then we must take the time to internalize that knowledge, and allow it to transform our personal relationship with God. Ultimately we are not saved by our knowledge. We can know everything there is to know about God, and still not be saved, because salvation requires a personal relationship with God. Knowledge of God is not a relationship with God. Many theologians have troubles with this because they mistake their knowledge for a relationship, and thus miss out on the opportunity to know God personally.

To draw an analogy we can know all the facts about a person; their height, weight, shoe size, date of birth, education, family history, and yet, we do not really know that person unless we take the time to enter into relationship with them. Our personality and identity cannot be communicated simply by stating the facts of our lives. Likewise knowing all the facts about God does not mean we know God. It simply means we know a lot about God.

The distinction I am trying to make is that education is about knowledge, but knowledge alone is not sufficient. We must take this knowledge and allow it to draw us into relationship with one another and God. This is where formation comes in. Formation allows us to access a more personal and subjective level of knowledge than education does.

In order to become all that God is calling us to be we must take the time to form ourselves. Education is a part of this but we must go beyond the head and into the heart because it is in the heart that we discover God and He fully reveals Himself to us.