Sin, Satan, and Biblical Integration: Our Arguments Matter

Here is a very small sampling of the messages that our students hear regularly:

“Follow your heart!”
“You just do you.”
“Struggle is bad.”
“You’ll never be any good. There is just no point.”
“More is better than less.”
“You are the captain of your fate.”
“The most important thing about you is what others think.”
“You would be happy… if only you were taller/smarter/better/etc.”
“Just do it. No one is watching. No one will know.”
“The only person you have to please is yourself.”
“The most important thing about you is your grades/happiness/sports/popularity/mentions.”
“Things will just work themselves out in the end.”
“You are on your own.”
“Only you can give your life meaning.”
“You’ll have time later. Put it off.”
“If you have less than me, you are less than me.”
“Whiter teeth, newer cars, trendier clothes… these are the building blocks of happiness.”

Satan and the world argue that these things are true. And they argue ferociously. There is no better advertiser than the devil. He pretends to be an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). Satan pretends to be something that he is not to sell something he doesn’t have. Couple his work with the what the world uses — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) — and we have an even more difficult situation. The sinful nature uses the power of love to lead us astray by aiming hearts designed for pleasure in God toward pleasure in the flesh, the eyes, and in this life (1 John 2:15). Satan and sinfulness are always arguing to convince our students to buy into a lie. They are making their cases without rest. And their cases lead to destruction. This is why the teacher must enter the fray too. We have been tapped to represent God, his ways, and his truth. We have been chosen to combat the lies of the enemy with better arguments.

Thankfully, our Lord has not left us here to fight for Him on our own. He has given us his Spirit. He is working through us. John didn’t just describe the power of worldliness, but also of God in us, saying, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world,” (1 John 4:4). And God is not interested in fighting to a draw. Our God never ties a match; much less loses. He cannot be stopped. And He chose us to accomplish his unstoppable plan. We were chosen for his work, “having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,” (Eph 1:11) we know that He will do it.

So, make his case. Argue, argue, argue with your students on behalf of God. (Remember that arguing is not about an ugly exchange, but making a logical case.) Lovingly argue. Compellingly argue. Consistently argue. Biblically argue. That is what integration is all about. You are arguing from math, science, English, and art that God is God. You are using the evidence of your subject to show your students the truth. Truth. The world doesn’t have that. Satan doesn’t have that either. But you do. You do. The enemies of God are making their case. Are you giving your life to making God’s case? Does your classroom reflect that?

 

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Arguing with Your Class: Biblical Integration

You might have learned something that sounds contrary to this in Classroom Management 101, but teachers have the obligation to argue with their students. Now, I don’t mean you should engage in a shouting match or to make incendiary comments. No, I mean something else entirely. As Holland and Forrest point out in Good Arguments, the word argument can simply refer to “the process of giving reasons or evidence in support of a belief or claim,” (xi).

As educators, we are making a case for everything that we teach: “Alexander Hamilton should be understood as one of the most important Founding Fathers because…” or “Marshes provide an important and unique service in the ecosystem since…” We are in the business of making valid, coherent arguments for and with our students.

As Christian educators and biblical integrators, we are also making a case for the ultimate truth: God and his gospel. Every time we teach, we are entering a battlefield of ideas in our students’ minds. Poorly presented truths — or disintegrated partial truths — are not persuasive. The best arguments are more likely to come out on top. And our God is worthy of our best rhetoric. Here is an example of an argument from science:

“The First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed. But matter and energy do exist. Either they came from something or else they are eternal realities. The Second Law of Thermodynamics (or the Law of Increased Entropy) shows that the universe is winding down. Energy is gradually becoming unusable. This indicates that the universe had a specific beginning; it came into existence at a particular moment in time. If the universe began, we must ask about its cause. If matter/energy is can’t be created, we need ask about what kind of force can do the something we deem impossible.”

This argument does not go all the way to defining the cause of the universe as God, but it makes the case that the evidence supports a cause, and that cause would need to be outside of the universe and very powerful. This argument is base-hit rather than a homerun, but it is an important step in the overall argument that you might make in a year-long science class. The student sees that believing in a cause like God is not unscientific.

Finally, when we argue well, we teach our students to do the same. If they can see how to validly support a conclusion with premises, they are on a good road. If they can detect errors, manipulations of the facts and logical mistakes, they are better positioned for success. If they can notice their own errors of thinking and internal biases, they will be able to better separate truth from error.

Good arguments give God pleasure. Holland and Forrest explain, “When we reason well and present good arguments, we reflect God’s character,” (xiii). He made us to be reason-ers (Phil 2:12). He has demonstrated that the gospel can be amplified through the vehicle of reasoning (Is 1:18). And He warns his people not to get taken in by bad ideas and arguments (Col 2:8).

As you teach, recognize that God has given you a platform so that you can give an answer for the hope within you (1 Pet 3:15). Along with knowledge of your subject, He has equipped you with the power of God in the gospel (Rom 1:16). And He has wired your students for arguments. They will be influenced by something, let it be truth. Are you engaging in the argument? Are you a case-maker for Christ through your teaching? As biblical integrators, we are called to helping our students through great arguments.

**For a master-class on a Christian argument and strong biblical integration, see Paul’s discussion in Acts 17:16-31.

Thanksgiving and Biblical Integration

In Every Bush is Burning, I make the case that Christian teachers, among other things, should be incarnational. Simply stated, being incarnational means putting flesh and bones on the gospel for your students. Jesus, God incarnate, brought the perfections of God to earth when He came as a man. We can never do this as effectively as Jesus did, but, as his followers, we want to show the goodness of God in the clearest, best way that we can. We imitate Him.

The Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner and it should remind us to demonstrate gratitude to our students. Do they see us as thankful people? Christian education can be hard, but 1 Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

No matter how busy we are… No matter how tough a certain student might be… No matter how many other stresses we have going on in our lives… we are called to gratitude. Our piles of grading in no way diminish the reality of the gospel. When we allow our circumstances to dictate the level of our thankfulness, we are implying that our situation shapes our lives more than the gospel does.

It is okay to struggle.  Life is often hard. But let’s struggle while thankful. Show your students the power of the Good News through your attitude of thankfulness. Your integrated lessons will sink in deep when the ground has been saturated by your integrated life.

Worship Music and Wolves: Biblical Integration and Critical Thinking

Some of the most popular Christians teachers and theologians are musicians. As Christians, we might listen to a sermon podcast. We might study a book by a professor. But we sing and memorize the theology of musicians. This means that they must be held to the highest standard. Songs are in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts. James 3:1 says that not many should desire to be teachers because teachers will be judged more strictly than others.

One of the large issues facing the believers today is that our most popular worship musicians are often not from churches with a strong, biblical theology. For example, I believe that “Living Hope” by Phil Wickham and Brian Johnson is one of the best worship songs released recently. It has excellent, moving, and accurate words that poetically express the gospel. However, Brian Johnson’s church, Bethel, is known for errant theology and practice . Likewise, Hillsong pastor Joel Houston stated that “evolution is undeniable,” in reference to a questions about the popular song “So Will I.” (I wrote about that song a few months ago in light of their lyric on evolution.) Hillsong produces many of the most popular worship songs sung today. The list continues. “Death Was Arrested” is a fantastic and valuable worship song. It came out of North Point Church where Andy Stanley is the pastor. He recently made waves by saying that we should “unhitch” from the Old Testament. Let me repeat: many of the most popular Christian, worship songs are coming out of churches that are not teaching in accordance with the historic, Christian faith.

As biblical integrators, we must be working hard to develop the critical-thinking skills of our students. I am not contending that we should stop singing all the songs from churches like Bethel, Hillsong, or North Point. However, I do think that we need to stop singing them uncritically. We don’t want to raise up a generation that trusts a church or band simply because they are  able to write catchy songs. We want our students to develop into young Bereans who test every teaching against the Word (Acts 17:10-12).

This is where we come in. Yes, Bible class and chapel should assist in helping students trust the Bible and navigate its ideas, but much of the work is done in other classes. An English teacher helps students discover which sources are credible. A math teacher assists students in sniffing out faulty logic. A science teacher shows students how to measure and understand reality. A history teacher helps students learn from the mistakes of the past. An art teacher equips students to note the ideas conveyed in various styles and forms. A speech teacher shows brings to light the art of arguments and persuasive techniques.

We are not trying to shield our students from the ideas that these churches and church leaders are promoting. But we must be investing extreme effort to help our students develop the skills needed to assess the situation themselves. They will face dangerous and errant theology throughout their lives. We must prepare them. They need to know what to do when the most popular teachers are peddling attractive heresies. We all know that devil can attack from the outside, but he is even more dangerous when the attack comes from within. As Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt 7:15). Let’s teach our students to critically apply the Word of God to detect falsehood. Souls are on the line.

Cheesecake, Pie, and Biblical Integration

No one makes cheesecake like my grandma. For years, she would make a cherry cheesecake for me on my birthday. It was a highlight that made me excited for the next year to zoom by so that I could get to the next cool, smooth, rich cake.

My friend Ashley makes phenomenal pies and brings them to our church small group. These are pies that I rave about for weeks after having a slice. They are day-dream inducing delights that have the power to grow a small group into small church. They are nothing like my grandma’s cheesecakes. The two desserts have different ingredients and are made in different ways, but they are both blue-ribbon, gold-medal, Nobel Prize level foods.

Biblical integration is the same way. Two people can teach the same math class, but do in vastly different ways. And they can both be great classes.

The most important variable in biblical integration is you: the teacher. Every integrating teacher is coming to the course with similar (if not identical) tools. We all have the same Bible. We have the same Holy Spirit. We have the teacher manual and the textbooks. We have the same internet. So how is it that classes that bring together all the same resources can be so diverse?

A huge part of the diversity has to do with the unique way that God has designed us. He has given each of us different gifts, different personalities, different weaknesses, and different passions. And, in his wisdom, our Lord did this on purpose. A hot dog might be the perfect food at a baseball game, but it wouldn’t be fitting for a fancy wedding reception.

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Your Lord has crafted you as a teacher specifically for the task of God-glorifying, student-impacting biblical integration. But please know that the way you integrate should be a little different than those around you. Not only is this okay, it is necessary. Yes, all of us should be doing some of the same things. For instance, every chef should keep the kitchen clean. However, there is room for diversity and uniqueness in how the chef utilizes that clean kitchen. There is room for your unique gifting at your school as well.

Don’t compare yourself to other integrators and think, “Wow, they are so much better designed for this than I am.” Yes, they may be doing things differently, but your goal is not to be better than they are. Instead, you are aiming to complement what they do. You can bake the bun for their hot dog or churn the ice-cream to go with their pie. If you are a Christian educator, you are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the work that He has prepared in advance for you to do. He didn’t mess up when He designed you for this. You just need to find out how to best leverage his design for his glory.

I love my grandma’s cheesecake. I love Ashley’s pie. They are different. They are wonderful. Different chefs have different gifts and styles. The integration you bake up for and in your class might not look like mine, but that is not only good, it is God’s intention for us. Be who He made you to be. Use the gifts He has given you.

Assignments as Contracts: Improving Expectations with Integration Clauses

A contract is “a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties.” It lays out the expectations and needed components. Contracts are important in everything from home purchases to landscaping work to employment and more. And we can think of every classroom assignment as a contract as well.

Students need to know what is expected of them. When work is assigned, students agree to accomplish a certain task in a specific way. These tasks and means will vary based on age, subject, unit, etc. However, students in every class need to fully understand what success looks like. Do your students understand that biblical integration is an essential part of success in your class? This is where integration clauses in your assignments can help.

If we include biblical integration clauses in our contracts (assignments), students understand that they are expected to participate in integration. When we explicitly ask for integration in our expectations, students can leverage their creativity, effort, and critical-thinking skills to accomplish the goal set out before them. Further, if students realize that they are expected to recognize, report, understand, explain, and celebrate God’s glorious ways in their work, they will be able to rise to the occasion.

Educational assessments are the means by which we can measure how much our students are learning. If we want our students to learn Christ through academic content, we need to write our contracts (assignment instructions) in a way that allows us to see if they are actually getting it. If we don’t include integration in our assessments, we cannot know if our integrated teaching is getting through.

Therefore, when you assess (at the start, middle, or end of a unit) you should assess biblical integration. If you assign a paper, review, lab report, science experiment, quiz, creative writing prompt, worksheet, bell-work, or test, you should try to include elements of biblical integration as a part of the assessment. This means that it should be mentioned through integration clauses in your rubrics, study guides, and assignment instructions.

Here are a few examples of integration clauses in contracts (assignments):

  • Math Quiz: In 1 Kings 3, Solomon was faced with a problem. While we have to solve problems to find x in this class, he had to solve a problem to find a mom. He was able to use his wisdom and problem-solving skills to find the truth and serve justice. What is one way that you can use your problem-solving skills to help others?
  • History Essay: In our study on the American Revolution, we investigated the lives of many leaders. List 3 examples of Christian characteristics that you saw in them.
  • Science Project/Lab Report: After completing the report, include one sentence on what the results of the experiment tell us about God, God’s design, or ourselves.

Strategies for Implementing Biblical Integration

This post is a simple list of ideas for implementing biblical integration in your classroom. The idea is to help you bring the great ideas that you have developed in your syllabus to life. These are just starting points for acting on your plans. Each idea begins with a prompt that you might use to introduce your integration to students. Feel free to tweak them to work best in your class.

The Partnership: “I need you to help me understand how to help young people understand how [insert lesson content] relates to God/Christian-living/worldview/etc.”

The key here is that you are asking for your students to help you by sharing their expertise. They are youth-culture experts. Why engage their expertise and understanding in integration?

  • Example: I need you to help me understand how to help people your age understand that the laws of physics show that God is the powerful Law-maker.

The Pitch: What if I told you that [insert lesson content] helps us see the reality/goodness/power/etc. of God in the world?

This type of implementation is excellent for starting a unit because it is promotional. You are asking students to evaluate the credibility of what you are saying. This invites students to judge your idea… and they often love judging. Use this to get them talking, assessing, improving, and otherwise engaging.

  • Example: What if I told you that the fact that humans like us can create and appreciate art shows us that God made human beings uniquely in his image?

The Question: “What does the Bible tell us about [lesson content]? Does the Bible help us understand [lesson content]?

When the Bible speaks clearly about a principle or idea, we can ask students to generate the integration themselves. This is an excellent idea for moving them up Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  • Example: What does the Bible us about the importance of words and language?

The Conflict: “[Non-Christian] says that [subject area] tells us that Christians are incorrect. What would you say in response?”

Some kids love to fight. Why not leverage that instinct to help them fight for good?

  • Example: Richard Dawkins says that God might be “the most unpleasant character in all of fiction.” What separates a hero and a villain in literature? How can we tell if God is a hero or villain?

The Explorer: “In your [research-paper/science-project/case-study/book-review] include one paragraph showing how [your topic] relates to biblical teaching and worldview.”

All students can use their own unique gifts to observe and note worldview issues. You might share an integrated rubric to help them know what you are looking for.

  • Example: Your interactive review of The Cosmos’s “Where did we come from?” should include one paragraph pointing out where the host denies the biblical worldview. Then write one paragraph with a biblical response.

The Shovel: “Now that we have started to understand that [insert unit title] supports a biblical understanding of the world, let’s dig deeper by [insert research activity.]

Students can often do self-guided work once they have been started off in a supported way.

  • Example: Now that we have seen that solving equations shows that God equipped is to be problem-solvers, let’s dig deeper by discussing how solving equations could honor God in the real world. [Ideas: stewardship in calculating interest; service in determining the right amount of paint to buy to do a service project; missions in determining the amount of gas needed for a mission trip.]

The Hammer: “Using [insert academic idea], how would you smash [insert anti-biblical idea]?”

Many students like the idea of tearing things down. Be careful with this one, but don’t be afraid to use it wisely.

  • Examples: Using this math concept, how would you smash the idea that taking on debt is not a big deal? Using the historical example of Hitler’s rise to power, how would you smash the idea that political engagement is not important? Using your persuasive speech-skills and body-language, how would smash the idea that Bible-studies must be boring.

The Screwdriver: “We loosely described how [content idea] relates to [Christian idea]. But how can we tighten it up?”

One key element of integration is taking the general and moving to the specific.

  • Example: We loosely discussed that many great books echo the story of Jesus, but how can we attach that idea more tightly to Mark Twain?

The Role-Switch: “Last week, I showed you how [academic content] demonstrates the glory/love/work/etc. of God. Now I want you to step up to the front and teach it back to me.”

We often learn more through teaching, so let the students teach.

  • Example: Last week, I demonstrated that the human eye’s irreducible complexity shows God’s design. Erica and Steve, can you come to the front and teach those ideas to me? I’ll take a seat at your desk.

The So-What: “We saw that [academic idea] is important in understanding [Christian worldview idea], but how does that affect our everyday lives?”

Abstract worldview concepts are important, but they need to touch our lives too.

  • Example: “We have talked about the fact that the moon is the perfect distance from the earth for many reasons. Clearly, this is evidence of God’s design. But how does understanding God’s design help me follow Him today?”

Of course, there are many other ways to jump into implementation, but I hope this list helps!