Biblical Integration and the Power of Truth

“What is truth?” This is a big question. Philosophers, psychologists, lawyers, and first-century Roman officials (John 18:38) ask it. The dictionary says that truth is that which is “in accordance with fact or reality.” Truth is the way things really are. Truth is what really happened. Truth is real — fact. Untruth is unreal — fiction. 

And truth does not change because we agree with it. Truth does not require our assent or permission to be true. I can say that up is down, but that does not make it true. 

Sometimes people can get confused about truth because (truly) we all have different experiences. Since we live different lives, we all experience different things in life. Different things are true of me than might be true of others, but those those truths about me are a part of the real, true world. For example: I am a man. And I have a beard. Those things are not universal truths because they are not true of all people. In addition, they are different kinds of truths. I am a man, and I always will be. Though I have a beard, I likely won’t always have one. My beard could change. But the truth that I had a beard at this time on this date will never change. In fact, it can never change.

That might have seemed like a long and wandering introduction. After all, truth is evident to all, so why bother sharing pop-philosophical thoughts about it? Well, truth is a concept that is highly valued, but not well understood. And as teachers, we are called to teach truth. We are also called to teach students to know and find the truth in a world of competing messages. To that end, the folks at GotQuestions help us understand what truth is not with the following list:

  • Truth is not simply whatever works. This is the philosophy of pragmatism—an ends-vs.-means-type approach. In reality, lies can appear to “work,” but they are still lies and not the truth.
  • Truth is not simply what is coherent or understandable. A group of people can get together and form a conspiracy based on a set of falsehoods where they all agree to tell the same false story, but it does not make their presentation true.
  • Truth is not what makes people feel good. Unfortunately, bad news can be true.
  • Truth is not what the majority says is true. Fifty-one percent of a group can reach a wrong conclusion.
  • Truth is not what is comprehensive. A lengthy, detailed presentation can still result in a false conclusion.
  • Truth is not defined by what is intended. Good intentions can still be wrong.
  • Truth is not how we know; truth is what we know.
  • Truth is not simply what is believed. A lie believed is still a lie.
  • Truth is not what is publicly proved. A truth can be privately known (for example, the location of buried treasure).

It is a fact that many intelligent academic leaders deny the truth of the Bible. But the Bible is true regardless of what they believe. It is a fact that some people get away with telling lies in this life. But that doesn’t make the lies truth regardless of the consequences. It is a fact that many people earnestly believe that there is no God. But they are earnestly wrong regardless of how fervent their beliefs are.

When you teach in a biblically-integrated fashion, you are offering your students something amazing — truth. God is the ultimate Truth. He is the Truth that all truths are contingent upon. Why is the earth in orbit around the sun? Well, gravity hold it in place. But God holds gravity. And the sun. And the earth. And our ability to notice these things. He has declared these things to be so. I tell my students that when God said, “Let there be light,” light came true. God, as Truth Himself (John 14:6), is the one who defines and declares truth. He is the Shaper of reality. Reality conforms to God. And truth is that which conforms to reality.

When you practice biblical integration, you are trying to tell “the truth, the whole, and nothing but the truth.” An dis-integrated lesson can’t be the whole truth because it is missing Truth Himself.

Thanksgiving as Biblical Integration

Thanksgiving is a holiday and it is an action. Often, I associate Thanksgiving with pie, cranberry sauce, and family. These are good things. But Thanksgiving should be most associated with God. Why? Because He is the One who is our greatest gift. In addition, He is the One who has given us all things. He is the One to whom we are grateful. And He is the One for whom we are grateful.

Who does an atheist thank for his family, friends, joys, and provisions? Random chance? Unfeeling forces of nature?

Thanksgiving is a season of pie (did I mention pie already?), but it is, first and foremost, meant to be a season of active gratitude to the Lord who provides all good things (Jas 1:17). This makes it a holiday because “holiday” means holy day. 

Thanksgiving is a holy-day, not because of some special significance of November’s Thursdays, but because it has been set aside for giving thanks. God has made us holy through the gospel:

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. – Heb 2:11

We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Heb 10:10

God has made us holy and He has made us family. He has given us ourselves and He has given us Himself. If this does not lead you to thankfulness, there is significant gospel-disconnect. And you can be sure that some of your students are experiencing that disconnect. 

As teachers, it is essential for us to use biblical integration to show students how indebted we are to the God who paid our debt. Doesn’t God give life and cause our hearts to beat? Didn’t He knit us together in the womb? Hasn’t He authored our personality? Hasn’t He given us our gifts? Doesn’t He forgive our sin? Hasn’t He adopted us into his own family? Isn’t He wonderful?

Your subject matter exists for the glory of God (Rom 11:36). How can you teach in a way that leads students to grateful praise? John Piper makes the case that thanksgiving “is not willed, but awakened.” It is our job (and our pleasure) to help students wake up to God’s goodness in giving us Himself through the gospel. And Matt Boswell says, “As we allow the truths of the gospel to enlarge our hearts, we find ever-increasing room for thankfulness to God.” Teach in a way that enlarges the hearts of your students so that they can ever-more faithfully and joyously live in thanksgiving.

Biblical Integration for the Future Church

Have you ever considered that the students in your class will be the leaders of the church in the near future? In your class sit the Sunday-school teachers of tomorrow. In your class sit the pastors and parents of tomorrow. And we are praying that God will use them to bring about transformation and revival. Richard Ross points out four tragic realities that demonstrate our need for God to bring the church to life.

  • A deficient vision for Christ’s glory plagues today’s church.
  • A desperate loss of hope in Christ’s glory exhausts today’s church.
  • A pervasive loss of passion toward Christ’s glory weakens today’s church.
  • A diminished worship of Christ’s glory impoverishes today’s church. (Student Ministry and the Supremacy of Christ, 22-23). 

God prepared David to sing and sling while he was a kid in the fields. And that preparation was used 1) by the hand of God to fell a giant so that the “whole world will know that there is a God in Israel,” (1 Sam 17:46), and 2) by the voice of God to write many of the Psalms that the Holy Spirit uses in our lives today. 

Now, Scripture is complete so we can’t expect that any of our students will write any biblical passages, but they can live lives that, through the power of God, help the whole world know that Jesus is Lord. And what is your role in this? Though biblical integration, you can teach in a way that repairs the deficient vision for Christ’s glory. Through your subjects, you can offer evidence of hope in Christ’s glory. As an example, you can demonstrate passion for Christ’s glory. And in your academic discipleship, you can direct your students to worship Christ’s glory. By doing so, you will be a hand to heal their plague. You will offer renewed strength to your students’ exhaustion. You will build their strength so that they are not weak. You will give them the riches of Christ to solve their poverty. 

God is the only one who can revive. And when He does, He uses normal means. He uses his Word. He uses prayer. He uses his church. And — thank God! — we are normal people. We are normal means. And, to his glory, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong,” (1 Cor 1:27). 

Your biblical integration is an investment in God’s people for now and for the future. Keep pressing on.

Biblical Integrators Must Be Ever-Improving Educators

Christian schools are invested in a ministry of academic discipleship. Today I am emphasizing the academic element of what we do. There are many ministries, but the Christian school is unique in that it is an academic ministry. Without question, the aim of the Christian schooling is discipleship. However, we must not expect sub-par teachers to be great integrators. Because we love our students, and because we believe that God will use them in mighty ways, we must be highly invested in giving them the very best training possible. 

Here are three ways that you can work on improving and growing into the best teacher you can be:

1) Remember your calling. Why did you get into teaching in the first place? What excites you about being a teacher? How can you represent a Christian work-ethic, standard of excellence, and desire to please God in the classroom? God has not called us to be just-good-enough as teachers. He has given us a high calling. Your work has weight. Treat your class as the exciting opportunity that God has made it to be. (Now, I don’t say this to guilt you. We will be tired at times. We are invested in other important tasks — church, family, etc. Our work should not consume us in a workaholic type of way. But I do hope that we will remember that God has called us to a good and important and exciting work that is worth doing well.)

2) Review your documents. Mission drift is real. Many teachers would benefit greatly from looking back at their own syllabus, curriculum map, or other course materials. Is there something that you intended to work on, emphasize, develop, or share that you have let slip through the cracks? Periodically review your own priorities and take stock of whether or not you are still targeting the goals that you set out for yourself. 

3) Recognize an area that needs to be improved in your teaching. We all have room for improvement. There is no perfect teacher. Our students are always changing. Our world is always in flux. Expectations shift. Things that worked in the past might not be as effective today. Therefore, it is wise to find and focus on particular areas to improve. Don’t be vague. Pick a real, concrete thing… and work on it. 

Why does this matter for biblical integrators? There are many reasons, but here are a few. a) You have been given a task by God. Therefore, you must strive to do it as well as you can. b) Your students watch you. You are in a position to model faithfulness to them. c) Improvement pictures sanctification. We are all works in progress, so we should show progress. d) Our students will carry the name of Christ with them if they graduate from Christian schools. Therefore, we need to train them so well that future employers, neighbors, family, and friends, see excellence as a result of a type of schooling that bears the name of Christ. e) You will be more engaged and excited to teach if you know that you are striving to do meaningful work excellently. Being a great teacher is good for students, but it is also good for you. 

As an academic disciple-maker, you are called to point students to Jesus. And we all can do this much more effectively if our teaching is ever-improving.

Approaches to Integration: Story

Biblical integration is a teaching task. That means that approaches to integration can be as unique and varied as teachers themselves. There are some best-practices of biblical integration, but there is no one-ultimate-way to integrate. Different teachers think differently. Different subjects might emphasize different things. For the next several weeks, I will be highlighting different approaches so that educators can explore their options. This will only be introductory (rather than a deep-dive), but I hope that you will try out some new ideas and see if you can make improvements. 

————— 

The Story Approach to biblical integration is powerful because it recognizes two truths: 1) God created all things to tell his story, and 2) the story is still in process. These are encouraging and empowering truths because if the unstoppable, wise God made this world to tell his story, then it is a good story. And if the story is in process we can play a meaningful role. 

Many young people are oriented toward action, and this approach leans on that inclination and aims it toward God. Bono challenges people, “Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Find out what God’s doing. It’s already blessed.” That is the idea here: discover the story that God is telling, find your role in it, and get to work. Charles Stanley explained a bit about what that might look like, saying, “The Lord’s specific destiny for your life has a twofold nature: It will further His kingdom on earth, and it will transform you.”

So, how does the story approach to integration work in the classroom? Here are the steps:

1) Determine how your subject is involved in the Protagonist’s efforts. He is the Hero of the story and everything He does shows that He is the Good Guy. This does not need to be encyclopedic or all-encompassing or comprehensive. You can’t cover everything. Instead of trying to do too much, pick a clear theme. In Math, you might talk about God being the great Order-Maker and Problem-Solver. In Art, you could point out that He is the Beauty-Sharer and Restorer. In Science, He can be seen as Life-Giver and System-Designer.

2) Explore how the Hero uses your subject to do things that are good, true, and beautiful. Yes, He created in the past. Yes, Jesus died and rose again in the past. But God is not done working. The Hero continues his heroic redemption mission now. Can we show that God didn’t just order the world, but continues to hold it together now (Col 1:17)? If it were not for the Hero, the world would not continue in its orderly way. He is working now and the continued viability of mathematics shows that truth. 

Can we show that God is restoring the broken, faded, and cracked? Hosea 6 shows his character and work in this way:

Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
    but he will heal us;
he has injured us
    but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will restore us,
    that we may live in his presence.

Art courses have unique opportunity to point to God as the ultimate Restorer. Just like an expert might restore and old classic painting that has been marred by the effects of the world, God is in the business of restoring people.

Can we look at conception, birth, and growth and see that God is still giving life today? Can we note from our involuntarily beating hearts that God is still in the business of giving life? Elihu states rightly in Job 33:4, that, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Science classes are an excellent arena for this kind of exploration.

3) Challenge students to get involved in a meaningful role as side-kicks. God is the Hero, but He graciously allows his people to do meaningful things. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but our students can be encouraged to get on God’s team in an active way — like Watson to Holmes or Robin to Batman. All of our subjects can be leveraged for God’s glory. They are tools to be used on behalf of the Hero in his story. Math can be used to order things, improve broken systems, share resources, build, research, and solve. And our students can be involved in those things! Artists can share beauty and goodness in ways that otherwise would be inaccessible. Our students can point to the beauty of God through art. Science can help understand God’s world, show his masterpiece of creation in more detail and depth, and propose ways to meet needs and innovate for the good. In other words, students can apply what they learn in real ways to serve a real Hero.

Key ResourceNotes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson. In his own words, “[The world] is full of conflict and darkness like every good story, a world of surprises and questions to explore. And there’s someone behind it; there are uncomfortable answers to the hows and whys and whats. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Do you think that this framework would work well in your class? Why or why not? Have you used it in the past? How did it go?

Approaches to Integration: Wisdom

The Wisdom Approach to biblical integration is more about how to think rather than what to think. It is more of an attitude than a singular approach. And anyone can use it seamlessly with the methods they are already employing in the classroom. This attitude/approach is unique because it can be implemented in conjunction with all the other approaches. The idea is to consider the perspective from which content is presented and the directions in which it might go. The goal is not that students would know certain things, but be a certain way: wise. Wisdom is key to living a life that is honorable in the eyes of God and fruitful for his kingdom (2 Tim 3:15, Jas 1:5). Those who exercise the wisdom approach think about things like: 

1) What is the worldview/agenda of those sharing info? People write, speak, and share content for a reason. This means students should be exploring the differences in the missions of info-sources. For example, World Magazine is coming from a fundamentally different place than the New York Times. While it can be easy to find daylight between news sources, students also need to learn how to understand the agendas of textbook publishers, ministries, academic journals, popular authors, and more. We live in an age where an avalanche of information is being delivered to us daily. Therefore, students must learn to wisely examine why content creators are motivated to share. They must also determine what aligns with a biblical worldview, a gospel-centered agenda, and Christian ethics.

2) Now that I know ________, how can it be leveraged for God’s glory and kingdom? Everyone lives for something. Many students hope to leverage skills for wealth, fame, attention, comfort, etc. And none of those things are innately bad. However, we know that if God made all things for his glory, we should work to aim all things toward his glory. To illustrate, when students learn to speak publicly, we want them to consider how they might share the Good News publicly. When students learn to understand cells, energy, or the parts of the body, we want them to intuitively lean into using that scientific knowledge to show love and make a difference. Students should not only learn about any specific thing, but must also learn how to orient and use that thing for God and godliness

3) How should this information change me? How can this form me more into the image of Christ? As we learn anything, wisdom compels us to become more like Christ. If we see big demographic problems in the world (poverty, disease, etc.), we should become more grateful for God’s grace to us, more prayerful that God would use his church to serve those in need. If we learn about history, we can see the successes/mistakes of those in the past and, then, consider how we can learn from them. If we learn to count, we should become awed at the number of things, both big and small, that God has made in his wisdom and power. If we read a novel about forgiveness, we should consider who and how God might call us to forgive. If we sing in the choir, we can think about how we can partner  and unite with others in other ways for God’s glory. The wise person learns about God by learning about God’s world, but he also learns how to live more faithfully for God in the world. 

There are many other questions and ideas that could come from integrating using this attitude, but this is a start. 

Key Resource Wisdom and Curriculum: Christian Schooling After Postmodernity by Doug Blomberg. This book is a deep-dive into some of these concepts. 

Do you think that this framework would work well in your class? Why or why not? Have you used it in the past? How did it go?

Next time, we’ll look at the Story Approach to Biblical Integration.

The Power of Song for Biblical Integration: Some Examples

While recently listening to Sparkle. Pop. Rampage. by Rend Co. Kids, I came across strong songs that powerfully engaged in biblical integration. (This is the best album of kids’ music that I have come across in recent times. I cannot recommend highly enough.) Check some of these songs out with selected lyrics below. Think about how you might use them in your classes. 

God of Science — I love the emphasis on how God has made everything that is. There is no conflict between Christianity and scientific work. [Good for science classes.]

“You started science and quantum physics
Wrote the law of gravity
You are the smartest, You are the greatest
Scientist in history
You thought of narwhals and armadillos
All the creatures; great and small
Even the dinos a long, long time ago
With their teeth and terrible claws.”

King of Me — I am thankful for the way that this song highlights that God continues to be in control today. He is still the King of all… including me. [Good for any class dealing with God’s work in the world today — current events, etc.]

“My God’s the king of the giants
My God’s the king of the lions
My God’s the king of the creatures of the deep
My God’s the king of me”

 

I’m so excited that there are new songs being written that can help with biblical integration. However, this is not a new thing by any means. Here are a few songs that have been around for a while.

This Is My Father’s World — Everything in nature is charged with the glory of God. This is a real Psalm 19 song. [Great for biology and art.]

“This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas–
His hand the wonders wrought.”

All Things Bright and Beautiful — This song is similar to Rend Co. Kids’ song, “God of Science,” in that it points to God as the Maker and architect of all things. 

“All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.”

How Great Thou Art — A classic that calls us to consider what God’s works say about Him (click the link to here the Elvis version!).

“O Lord my God When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed”

God of Concrete, God of Steel — I found this song to be odd when I first heard it years ago. However, it makes the excellent point that all of the things that we make still fall under God’s lordship. [Great for any creative class — STEM/STEAM, art, or language.]

“Lord of science, Lord of art,
God of map and graph and chart,
Lord of physics and research,
Word of Bible, Faith of Church,
Lord of sequence and design,
All the world of truth is thine!”

You’re Beautiful — God has made a beautiful world. The art says something about the Artist.

“I see your power
In the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion
And galaxies are bright

We are amazed
In the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who you are
You’re beautiful”

Songs are powerful. Use them. Use them with your students. Use them with your family. But make sure you are carefully choosing songs that are biblical and theologically precise and helpful.