Biblical Worldview Integration: The Hallmark of Kingdom-focused Teaching
by Dr. Glen Schultz
Today the term “worldview” is an oft referred to topic in every aspect of life. The subject of worldviews has a major impact on education in two major ways. First, worldview thinking influences how and what a person teaches in every classroom. There is no question that a teacher’s worldview has a tremendous influence on the worldview that his/her students will develop.
Second, an educational system’s worldview helps shape the worldview held by any given society. It is interesting to note that anytime a revolutionary government takes over a country, one of the first acts of the new government is the taking over of the country’s educational system. The leaders of the new government know that education can shape the thinking of its citizens according to the beliefs of the government that now directs the educational system.
In order to understand the impact that worldview thinking has on education, we must first define what is meant by the term “worldview”. Phillip Johnson states that “our worldview is the window by which we view the world, and decide, often subconsciously, what is real and important, or unreal and unimportant.” Another working definition of this term is that a worldview is
a person’s mental concept of the “big picture” of reality as shaped by our conscious beliefs or subconscious assumptions about God, Creation, Mankind, Moral Order and Purpose.
From these two definitions we can see that a person’s worldview forms a framework around anything and everything in life that causes that person to decide what is real and what is true. Our personal worldview will drive all of our actions and attitudes in everyday life.
Education has been greatly influenced by a secular worldview. In the realm of a secular view of life
- God does not exist or, if one does exist, he is not involved in the affairs of man and therefore the supernatural is not relevant to truth and reality
- the universe is a product of time and chance
- mankind is a result of the naturalistic process of evolution
- moral order is determined or constructed by each individual and/or culture
- there is no universal purpose to life.
The impact of this predominant worldview in education has resulted in life being divided into two spheres – the secular and the sacred. This dualistic view of life is sometimes referred to as the secular/sacred divide.
When Horace Mann lobbied to get a common (public) school system established in our country, his main point of emphasis was the secular/sacred divide that separated religion and education into two different and isolated compartments of life. He successfully argued that the home and the church should teach faith and values and the school should teach facts. The implied meaning behind this statement was that education dealt with neutral facts and faith and values only applied to one’s religious life. According to Mann, these two spheres can operate exclusive of one another.
The longer I am involved in Christian education and still see so many Christian parents and church leaders send their children to secularly-based education programs, the more I am convinced that the average Christian has adopted a secular worldview – especially when it comes to educating their children. Even in the minds of many fine Christian teachers, pastors and parents, there is the belief that “we all have access to neutral knowledge where religious and philosophical values are not supposed to interfere.”
By accepting this secular/sacred divide, “Christians have essentially accepted a trade off: so long as we are allowed to hold our Bible studies and prayer meetings, we’ve turned over the content of the academic fields to the secularists.” Even in our Christian schools we find everyday practices reflecting this secular view of “academics”.
In many Christian schools, the typical strategy is to inject a few narrowly defined “religious” elements into the classroom, like prayer and Bible memorization – and then teach exactly the same things as the secular schools. The curriculum merely spreads a layer of spiritual devotion over the subject matter like icing on a cake, while the content itself stays the same.
I agree wholeheartedly with Phillip Johnson and Nancy Pearcey when they warn that
Christian education is likely to be an exercise in futility if it does not prepare our young people to confront and survive the worldview challenges that they will surely meet…training young people to develop a Christian mind is no longer an option; it is part of their necessary survival equipment.”
Christian education has historically sounded the call for integration of faith and learning. Biblical integration, however, has remained mainly in the theoretical part of teaching and learning. There has been very little guidance in how to effectively plan and implement true biblical worldview integration.
The education we give our students must lead to true wisdom and understanding by connecting all knowledge to a biblical worldview frame of reference. Training teachers to be able to do this is one of the biggest challenges facing Christian school administrators today.
The first thing that every Christian educator must do is reject the secular dualistic view of knowledge. There is no such thing as a neutral or value free body of knowledge. This is because
God is the sole source of the entire created order. No other gods compete with Him; no natural forces exist on their own; nothing receives its nature or existence from another source. Thus His word, or laws, or creation ordinances give the world its order and structure…There is no philosophically or spiritually neutral subject matter.
For example, consider the simple mathematical fact that states 2 + 2 = 4. To a person who interprets this math expression from a secular worldview, it simply means that 2 of something plus 2 of something equals 4 of something. It is purely a neutral piece of knowledge.
However, when this fact is connected to a biblical worldview framework, it takes on greater meaning – its God-intended meaning. To the biblically-integrated teacher, this absolute math fact teaches that God is a God of absolutes, that the Creation operates under God-created absolutes, that Man has the ability to understand these absolutes, that Moral Order requires accountability to moral absolutes and that one’s Purpose in life can be achieved by obeying moral absolutes. Even in math, one can understand more about God and His creation when it is taught within the framework of a biblical worldview.
Second, we must completely submit our minds to the God of creation. As Pearcey points out, “the fear of some ‘god’ is the beginning of every proposed system of knowledge.” We must follow God’s Word that declares the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This will require us to interpret every piece of knowledge in the light of God’s truth.
Nothing has an autonomous or independent identity, separate from the will of the Creator. As a result all creation must be interpreted in light of its relationship to God. In any subject area we study, we are discovering the laws or creation ordinances by which God structured the world.
Biblical worldview integration requires that every teacher develops his/her own biblical philosophy of life. Effective integration cannot rise out of biblical ignorance. Over the years that I have been involved in Christian school education, I have witnessed a great improvement in the quality of teachers that schools have hired. We have improved greatly on putting faculty in the classroom that have degrees in education and are very knowledgeable in the subject areas they teach.
However, we now tend to fall short in hiring and/or developing faculty members who are strong in the area of biblical knowledge “expecting that strong church affiliation and personal devotions will fulfill that side of the requirement. Such teachers can no more construct an evangelical world and life view than a practicing pastor can integrate Scripture and astronomy from watching several episodes of ‘Nova’.” I have witnessed this first hand as I have recently trained over 600 teachers in how to effectively plan biblical worldview integration. One of the biggest challenges many of these teachers faced was not having an arsenal of biblical truths that they could use to connect the subject matter of a lesson to one of the five components of a worldview that have been mentioned earlier in this article.
Finally, we must learn how to plan, implement and evaluate true biblical worldview integration into any lesson we might teach. We cannot leave this all important aspect of Christian education merely to chance. Every teacher must be intentional in connecting any and every subject at every grade level to be a biblical worldview framework.
I am excited about the recently developed Biblical Worldview Integration Planner that has been put together by Don Johnson and Christian Overman. This planning tool effectively moves the Christian school teacher out of the theory of integration into the practical application of this theory in the classroom. Here at LifeWay Christian School Resources, we have trained over 1,000 teachers in one month on how to use this planner. We have seen teachers view their subject matter from a new perspective – one that is connected to a biblical worldview framework. Thus they are able to teach the students not just neutral academic facts but unveil to them the God-intended meaning behind these facts. This is training that every Christian educator needs to have if we are going to be successful in the mission of Christian education.
With God’s help and our determination to think, act and teach from a biblical worldview we can provide an education to the next generation that will equip the students to see all of life as it relates to God, Himself. It is a daunting task but it is what Christian education is all about.
Recommended resources on this topic include:
Kingdom Education by Glen Schultz – www.lifeway.com/schoolresources
Making the Connections training available through www.biblicalworldviewinstitute.org
The Whole Truth by Mark Eckel – www.biblicalintegration.com
Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey – Crossway Books