Christian schools must not simply teach Christian things. We cannot be satisfied by teaching things from the Bible. We must teach the Bible itself. This is where biblical integrators and Bible teachers must work in tandem as an effective team. Both roles are important. They are complementary. The success of one depends largely on the other.
This is part three of an ongoing reflection on data published by ACU’s Cultural Research Center. Last week, I wrote about how American culture has suffered because of the persistence of Christian words and categories that have been stripped of their biblical foundation. A passion for biblical worldview may have, in some instances, outrun a passion for the Bible. What the Bible can do for us may have displaced what the Bible is. The Bible is not merely a means to an end; hearing God speak is a most wonderful end. And, of course, his words are transformative. They do accomplish God’s purposes. However, we must be careful not to read the Bible only to get nuggets of truth, but to hear the voice of the one true God.
The words of God about the Word of God must shape us: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word” (Is 66:2). When we tremble before the Word of God, we will be changed. Paul tells us that the Scripture is able to make us wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:15). David says God’s laws are more valuable than gold and sweeter than honey (Ps 19:10). So how do we live in response to what the Word says about the Word?
Bible classes must focus on teaching the Bible. And all other classes must focus on integrating the truths of the Bible. Both tasks lead to biblical worldview development. These points may seem obvious, but even Bible classes at Christian schools can fall into the trap of teaching Christian topics without teaching the Bible itself. We can teach biblical worldview, church history, apologetics, and theology while referencing the Bible, but without really teaching it. This is a problem. Our Bible classes must not become Christianty classes or worldview classes. We must read and wrestle with the Word in order to tremble at it. Where there is only a little Word, there will be only a little trembling.
To illustrate the way this looks in real life, note that the scope of Summit’s popular Bible curriculum is almost entirely a worldview curriculum. It is wonderful. I use part of it in one of my classes. And a student in that class just told me that this year has been the most meaningful Bible class of his school career. I have learned from it. This is not a critique of that material (in fact, I happily endorse it). However, it is called a “Bible” curriculum with the intention that it will be taught in Bible classes. This means that a more Scripture-centric type of class will not be taught in that slot. (Note: I’m not trying to single out Summit here. This reality is visible in varying degrees across many excellent publishers of many excellent curricula. Summit just serves as a good example because they did a wonderful job of clearly articulating the scope of their worldview curriculum.)
My school clearly states that we use “Scripture as the foundation for all Bible classes,” and that “students [will] develop a Christian worldview.” We strive to do this. But I see room for improvement in my own classes and in the wider culture of Christian schooling.
This may be a controversial statement, but I think it is true: Bible classes should primarily teach the Bible. Worldview topics should stem from and be organized out of the Bible. These are Bible classes. When worldview is taught first, the Bible is used to support the objectives of the worldview lesson. The worldview-objective becomes the leading actor and the biblical text becomes the supporting actor. These roles must be reversed. While biblical support is a good and necessary thing, the worldview teaching should flow from the text of the Bible.
Prioritizing the Bible will not diminish worldview teaching. After all, the Bible does shape and form worldview. Genesis 1 assumes the existence of God and identifies Him as Creator. Romans 3 is clear about the sinful nature of mankind. The Bible teaches about ethics, obligations, priorities, origins, issues, truth, sin, culture, and more. It is all there. Summit’s Understanding the Times textbook has been structured to help students compare what the Christian worldview teaches about these things with what other belief-systems say. It is brilliant! But it does not engage deeply with the Bible itself. This makes it a magnificent worldview textbook—that is what it was created to be—but it is not a Bible textbook.
In the school, and in the culture at large, a problem arises when we teach ideas that have been harvested from the Bible without teaching the content of the Bible itself. It is the Scripture that is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). It is the Scripture that is able to fully equip God’s people for every good work (2 Tim 3:17). It is the Scripture that is living, active, and sharp (Heb 4:12). We must not fall into the trap of teaching a godly worldview without teaching God’s Word. This is building a house without a foundation. There is no substitute for what is God-breathed. SparkNotes can’t replace Shakespeare even if the main plot-points are there in clear, helpful ways. It is infinitely more true that worldview classes can’t really replace Bible classes. But they can and should be taught alongside of Bible classes.
Now school administrators might be thinking, “We can’t add another class to our schedule. We are over-filled as it is.” Don’t worry. You already have what you need. You have a team of academic disciple-makers doing biblical integration in every class at every level.
So Bible classes should teach biblical worldview as it is borne out of the text of the Bible itself. Bible classes move from Word to world. But all other subject areas work the other way. They move from world to Word. All the classes in the school—the entire spectrum of liberal arts—should then bring clarity of Christian worldview teaching. Why? Because each course (science, literature, art, math, music, physical education, etc.) highlights a different part of the world and teaches students how to view it. In other words, every class in the Christian school is a biblical worldview class.
Now I am not saying that Christian schools are to blame for the decline of a biblical worldview in America. However, I am saying that we might be able to make an adjustment to be a more effective part of solving that problem.
Here is the point: Those who know Christ and are committed to understanding and applying his Word will develop an increasingly Christian worldview. However, those who are taught a biblical worldview without being grounded in the Word will find areas to compromise and redefine.
To conclude, I want to reiterate that nothing I have said here is intended to undermine or criticize the importance of teaching biblical worldview in Christian schools. We must be doing that. What I am saying is that I think that there is a problem when we teach biblical worldview without sufficient time in the text of Scripture itself.
Next time, I am going to look at some avenues which schools might start to consider enacting this idea and responding to the research data in practical ways.