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.