This may seem obvious, but it must be said: there is no Christianity without the gospel. In turn, academic discipleship must be gospel-teaching, gospel-celebrating, gospel-reminding. In Gospel-Centered Teaching, Trevin Wax explains,
“We may be commenting on Christian Scripture, pulling out good points of application, and offering solid information. But it’s the gospel that makes our teaching distinctively Christian. It’s the gospel that separates our study from mere moralistic suggestions or information overload,” (78).
Now, as I often say, this does not mean that you need to turn your physics class, art class, or history class into Sunday School. No. But your class should distinctly belong in a Christian school. Christian schooling is more than just Bible-related schooling. Later in his book, Wax recalls missiologist Ed Stetzer’s reminder that we shouldn’t preach sermons that could be true if Jesus had not died on the cross and been raised from the dead (83). [Some call these “synagogue sermons.”] Wax suggests asking ourselves two questions as we prepare to teach: 1) If I am teaching Old Testament truths, am I teaching them in a way that “a faithful Jew could not affirm?” (79), and 2) Is my teaching of the New Testament distinctive from the teachings of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Muslims? (81).
Each of these groups teaches things from and about the Bible. But they are not teaching in a way that is distinctively Christian. What is the difference? The gospel.
The gospel is everything to the Christian. It is the key. If we graduate students who believe that God is big and strong and wise, but don’t recognize their need for the Savior, we have failed. If we graduate students who think that Jesus was a great teacher, but not the Lord of all, we have failed. If we graduate students who don’t believe in the deity or resurrection of Jesus, we have failed. Paul said it like this:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures… And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. – 1 Cor 15:3-4, 14
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved… For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Rom 10:9, 12-13
There are many groups, like those listed above, who teach and use the Bible in various ways. But only those who believe that Jesus is Lord, that Christ died for our sins, and that God raised Him from the dead are saved. In other words, the gospel essential. And the truth of the gospel is the interpretive key to the whole Bible. Without the gospel, we cannot rightly be biblical. Jesus made this clearly to non-believing Jewish people when He said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life,” (John 5:39-40).
Therefore, in order to practice real, true biblical integration, we must be teaching the Jesus-centered gospel. Biblical integration must include gospel-integration. We must be pointing to Jesus.