Proverbs 22:6 implores the believing parent to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Lying within the crags of this command is an imperative for those who love beauty and the finer things of life. The Hebrew word for “train” is chanak. One of the cultural and Hebraic inferences of this word is to make serenely clear to the parent that their role in their child’s life is to “initiate, and create an appetite” in their child for what is right, what is truly beautiful. This illustration has application to the process of training.1 “The word actually means, ‘palate, roof of the mouth.’ Related to the basic idea of initiation was its later use in Arabic of the action of a midwife who would rub the palate of a newborn with olive oil or the oil of crushed dates in order to give a taste, to create an appetite and get the baby to suckle.”2
The parent’s job, then, is that of literally working to shape the child’s way of tasting life. To train a child is not only to discipline a child when they go the way of perversion and disobedience, but it’s more profoundly to lovingly make our child a connoisseur of all that is righteous, beautiful, worshipful, and reflective of God’s nature and character. Not only are we to enjoy such beauty, but we are to become an agent, a creator, and a reproducer of such love, artistry, and worship. This is the supreme task of educating a child in truth and artistry. Thus, “the supreme task of education is the cultivation of the human spirit: to teach the young to know what is good, to serve it above self, to reproduce it, and to recognize that in knowledge lies this responsibility.”3
This brings great weight to bear in considering how the beauty of God is displayed in the world through His artists, innovators, and craftsmen. In every excellent craft, a believer’s heart is displayed in the very fabric of their presentation. The work itself becomes infused with truthful implications and is edifying to a child’s faith through meditation upon such beauty. David V. Hicks says this about created beauty and its role in education:
“Whereas Plato recognized beauty in truth, the rhetorician saw truth in beauty; more than that, the rhetorician believed that whenever truth comes to man by way of beauty, it necessarily transforms his character and ennobles his behavior. Virtue, in his view, grows out of the beautiful adornments of dogma, not from the inelegant dialectic of philosophy.”4
Beauty, art, and thoughtful innovation are forming to the entirety of a person’s ontological essence. This concept dovetails well into another Proverbial notion—the notion of the paideia, or the “whole” of a person. A person is shaped mentally, physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually through one’s palate and through one’s acquired taste for such beauty. The parent, in shaping a child’s palate to love splendor, crave magnificence, and thirst for the finer things in life, aims at the goal of training a child’s paideia. The ultimate goal of such an endeavor being that they live imitation Christi—that Christ takes shape in them.
1 A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, editors, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1907, p.335.
2 J. Hampton Keathley III, “The Principle of Nurture; Training Your Child,” accessed June 26, 2015, https://bible.org/seriespage/6-principle-nurture-training-your-child
3 David V. Hicks, Norms and Nobility (New York: University Press of America, 1999), 13.
4 Ibid, 26