Today Christian educators speak enthusiastically of integrating the Bible with the rest of their curriculum. They will, for instance, look at a lesson plan and ask, “Where’s your Biblical integration?” All right, it’s a start. But sometimes it seems that we’re trying to mix a bit of theology into an essentially secular curriculum. We need to be more radical than that. We need to ground our content and philosophy in every subject on a clear understanding of Scripture.
The Biblical Worldview
After all, God created the universe. It’s His. It moves in terms of His decree and providence. It shouts the glory of its Maker. It has its coherence, goal, and destiny in Jesus Christ. It is authoritatively described and discussed in Holy Scripture. It is the Christian’s area of service and dominion.
As Christian educators, we want to tell others about this incredible universe. That’s our calling before God. Because we can’t discuss everything at once, we pick a dimension, a facet, an area of concentration, and we try to get a handle on it. Here are some thumbnail sketches of how we might begin.
A Christian Curriculum
Suppose we choose ancient history. Scripture is the only original source document we have for the first half of that era. It gives us particulars — names, places, customs, political relationships — and a chronology to hang them all on. Far more important, it tells us what God was doing in those centuries and how it all leads to Christ and the redemption of the world. Archaeology and the ancient classics can give us more information, but both are fallible and must pass the judgment of Scripture.
That was easy. But what about literature? Literature is written communication at its best. Communication began in the Trinity, and Jesus is the eternal Word of God. The first book in Earth’s history was probably The Generations of the Heavensand the Earth, what we know as the first thirty-five verses of Genesis. In other words, literature began with the Bible. The Bible gives us an inspired example of all that’s best and most powerful in written communication. More than that, it tells us why we do write, why we should write, and what kind of things we should and shouldn’t write.1 Beginning with this authoritative standard, we can evaluate the literature of the world and reject, enjoy, correct, and imitate what we find.
Physics? God transcends His creation; it has a real existence outside His being. But God is also immanent within His creation; He governs it personally and immediately. Because God rejoices in unity and harmony, His rule evinces regularity and pattern. Moreover, God has promised that this regularity will continue until the end of the world; planetary motion, organic processes, and thermodynamic flow “will not cease” (Gen. 8:22). God’s regularity is so precise that we can actually describe it mathematically. But we also know that God can, for His own purposes, alter His pattern and perform miracles.
Math, then. How do you teach Christian math? The proper response I think is, “How do you teach anything else?” Hinduism and other monistic faiths say all is one. So 1 + 1 = 1? Does anyone really do math that way? Or what about post-modernism? It tells us that all perspectives on reality are equally valid. So shall we say that 1 + 1 is 2 for me, but 2.5 for you?
Mathematics has an absolute and universal character, and anyone who follows a recipe or builds a bridge knows that. The Bible tells us why. Number begins in God, who is One and Three. He made a world that moves in linear time, a world full of diverse things that sustain relationships to one another. The evening and the morning together were the first day. There was a second day, a third day, and more — all different from one another. The man and his wife became one flesh. Humanity was to multiply in order to exercise dominion over the Earth. From creation onward, then, God counts and measures, adds and subtracts. He calls man to imitate Him, and to do so accurately and justly. Mathematics is a tool for communication, service, and dominion.
Foundations for Christian Scholarship
If we’re going to teach like this — and this is only a beginning — there are some things we need to work on. Here are a few.
Our understanding of our subjects must rest on a thorough understanding of Scripture, both as a book and as a system of truth. Word studies or random verses are an inadequate foundation for serious scholarship. Christian educators need to master both systematic and Biblical theology, and they need to know the creeds of the church.
We must draw from Scripture both overarching principles (doctrines) and specific facts. We must, for example, confess God’s sovereignty; we must also confess a six-day creation, a universal Flood, and 480 years from the Exodus to the Temple.
We don’t need to wear our presuppositions on our sleeves — at least not all the time. There are times to discuss our presuppositions; there are times to get on with the business of learning in terms of them. Christian textbooks don’t need to be littered with devotional sermonettes. They need to focus on teaching the subject at hand and teaching it well.
We don’t need to limit our studies to things “Christian.” We don’t have to count angels in math class or read sermons in literature. This is our Father’s world. He does shine in all that’s fair. Even unbelievers bear His image, and often they play key roles in history, literature, and science. We would be fools to excise their contributions from our studies simply because of their unbelief. Of course, we have to make sure we don’t follow them in that unbelief.
We need to use Scripture as our ethical yardstick in all of our studies. We need to reject the nice, the sweet, and the sentimental in favor of the godly, the just, and the true.2 We need to move beyond pious generalizations to the specific requirements of Scripture. In economics, for instance, we must do more than speak of justice and compassion; we must also insist that debasing the currency is theft — even if it’s done in Jesus’ name (Is. 1:22, “Thy silver is become dross, thy wine is mixed with water”).
And we must be a bit more honest and a lot more thorough in our scholarship. We need to admit that godly men have often been in error; that great men may speak well of God and yet be strangers to the gospel; that philosophies with a Christian veneer may actually have a pagan heart. We need to be much quicker in distinguishing morality from godliness, and the traditions of our fathers from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We’ve come a long way in the last thirty years. The Christian textbook industry has mushroomed. The phrase “Biblical worldview” is common coinage. Christian schools are actually talking about challenging and transforming our culture. But we still have a long way to go. We need to learn the Bible better. We need to take it more seriously. We need to trust it more. We need to work hard at being better scholars. And we need to be excited about our calling. It does come from God.
1 It is important that we actually read the Bible; otherwise, we will may well read our own neo-Victorian standards into its demand for the pure, the just, and the lovely. God did write Song of Solomon and the Apocalypse.
2 Spenser over Homer, Kipling over Longfellow, and unexpurgated Shakespeare over Lamb’s Tales.
- Greg Uttinger
Greg Uttinger teaches theology, history, and literature at Cornerstone Christian School in Roseville, California. He lives nearby in Sacramento County with his wife, Kate, and their three children.