Approaches to Integration: Perspectives

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. 

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The Perspectives Approach to biblical integration offers the teacher multiple angles from which to view academic content. While this post will be a bit more technical than the others, please stick with it. You will find it worthwhile. 

Regarding the perspectives approach, each angle offers a new, complementary take on how any idea, unit, concept might be rightly integrated. John Frame has helpfully trumpeted the idea of triperspectivalism as a theological method. Many find this type of philosophical writing difficult to understand and apply, but the idea is extraordinarily powerful. Let me (over)simplify.

The idea of triperspectivalism is that everything can be looked at from three (tri) perspectives. Whenever a person views an object or idea from more than one direction, that person is able to gain understanding. These are the three perspectives that Frame directs us toward: authority, power, and presence. For our biblical integration, we would ask, “What does God’s authoritative Word say about this academic content? And How does it display his power, control, and nature? And how should it affect how I live in his presence?”

Below, I have arranged the three perspectives so that they are connected to other key ideas like the roles of Jesus and the elements on inductive Bible study.

*Authority — Prophet — Normative — Standard — Information — Observation

**Power — King — Existential — Object — Understanding — Interpretation

***Presence — Priest — Situational — Subject — Action — Application

Take a look about how these might be applied to biblical integration (and note that I am referencing key-words from above with asterisks and bold-text ). In history class, we could note that God is in control of all things from Daniel 4:17, 25, 32. In these verses it is repeated that, “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” No matter what happens, from wars to politics to technological changes, God has *authority over it all. We can *observe this truth and rely on it. The fact that He has authority is the key piece of *information when understanding anything and everything. We could explore that single perspective for a long time, but there is more. That concept from Daniel also points out God’s active **power — He gives kingdoms to whoever He wishes. Therefore, when we **interpret history (or current events), believers can rely on the fact that his power is never in question. And even if terrible things occur, what the enemy intends for evil, God intends for good (Gen 50:20). Our **understanding must be shaped by God’s power. Lastly, God has spoken to us about his authority and power so that we can live accordingly in his ***presence. In other words, in our situations we can take ***action by ***applying these truths. His authority and power allow us to live wisely and faithfully. 

In other words, we ask of our content: 1) What does the *Prophet say is the *normative *standard? Here we lean heavily on the special revelation of the Bible. 2) How does the **King exercise his **power on the **object? Here we can look to God’s work of general revelation in the world. 3) How should I — the ***subject — act in response as I ***apply truth in my ***situation? Here we recognize that we live in the ***Priest’s ***presence for his glory. 

I know that this was a more challenging read than usual, but I didn’t want to leave this out because, when harnessed, it can be very powerful. 

Key Resource — The most robust place to go would be Theology in Three Dimensions by John Frame. However, the easiest place to get started is to get a deep understanding of inductive Bible study. Thinking about content in these terms will help get the ball rolling without needing to expend too much effort in understanding this approach. As you can see from this article, there is significant alignment between these two seemingly different frameworks. 

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 Wisdom Approach to Biblical Integration. 

Approaches to Integration: Contributor

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. 

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The Contributor Approach to biblical integration is significantly different from the approaches discussed previously. The biblical-theology and worldview approaches hinge on the teacher using a grid of questions to structure well-organized lessons that lead toward specific truths. However, the contributor approach is different; instead of leading directly to truths, it leads to questions. 

You see, throughout life, students will not always have their teachers to guide them in biblical thinking. Therefore, it is important to teach young people to ask the right questions so that they can teach themselves. In other words, the aim of this approach is to help students learn to learn. 

So how can we do this? What does the contributor approach look like? 

The idea is to lead students in a form of directed freedom. Think of directed freedom as giving students an overarching task, but allowing them to have freedom in how they go about it. This allows them to explore, try things, make adjustments, and be creative. Here are a few ideas:

1) Academic Content Creation: Asking students to include biblical-integration as part of an assignment. For example, if your students write a book review or paper, create a project, or develop a presentation, you can ask them to include biblical integration in that work. Tell them what you are looking for and include the integration in your grading rubric. They could be asked to search the Bible for connections, develop a biblically-formed analysis, or demonstrate the truths about God that they learned. 

2) Class Discussion: After introducing a new topic in class, ask the students leading questions about how this content points to God, discipleship, brokenness, etc. For example, if a PE teacher introduces a game that requires teamwork to the class, that PE teacher could then ask, “This game requires teamwork to succeed. Can you think of any other areas of life in which teamwork is needed in or to succeed?” This could lead in many directions: family/relationships, the church, communities, etc. Or the PE teacher could ask, “We can tell who is on our team in this game by looking at the uniforms. How can we tell who is on our team in life?” This could lead students to talk about beliefs/convictions, willingness to sacrifice, and more. Another idea would be for the PE teacher to ask, “There is a difference between a good and a bad teammate. If someone is distracted or unwilling to work, that causes a problem in our game. What makes a good teammate in life? Do you think you are a good teammate? Why?” And the discussion would move ahead from there.

3) Practical/Real-Life Engagement: Different classes are passionate and equipped in different areas. Some course material opens doors for moving outside of the class environment. One class, upon learning how to address envelopes, might be asked to send a letter of encouragement to someone in their life. This gives them freedom to choose whether to write to a parent, sibling, friend or pastor. They are contributing. Another class, upon learning about the justice system, could choose to pray for those who are incarcerated by using the tools provided by Prison Fellowship. As you can see, these activities are teacher directed, but students have varying levels of freedom to engage as they think is best. They can use their own will and choice to make an impact.

There are many other ideas that we could discuss, but the main idea of the contributor approach is to give students the opportunity (and expectation) of participating in the process of biblical integration. Many of these ideas are low-stakes and variable which generally sets them up as formative assessments. This approach might not be sufficient on its own, but it can supplement other approaches and help your classroom come to life. In addition, it helps the students learn to take responsibility for their own biblical thinking… and that is worth working toward. 

Key ResourceFormative vs. Summative Assessment from Carnegie-Mellon University

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 Perspectives Approach to Biblical Integration.

Approaches to Integration: Worldview

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. 

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The Worldview Approach to biblical integration is similar in many ways to the Biblical-Theology Approach. They are both versatile and helpful in all subject areas. However, rather than taking cues from the overarching meta-narrative of Scripture, the Worldview Approach uses worldview questions to better understand what a particular area of academic content teaches about God, ourselves, the world, and life in general. 

Personally, I think that James Sire’s list of eight worldview questions may be the most comprehensive toolbox of worldview questions. But they may be overwhelming to many teachers. Therefore, I recommend that those using this approach to integration lean on four questions from Ravi Zacharias instead. They are:

Origin  – Where do we come from?

Meaning – Why are we here?

Morality – What’s right and what’s wrong?

Destiny – Where are we going?

For example, an art teacher might point out that God is the origin of art — He is the ultimate Artist that all others strive to imitate when they create. He is also the definition of the beauty and wonder that art tries to convey. The teacher might also explain our response to, and desire for, beauty demonstrates that we were made to experience the beauty of holiness (Ps 96:9). We find our meaning in the One who defines beauty. We were made to be satisfied by his glory. 

Art also allows us to explore and express morality. It can point to the tragedy of sin. It can illustrate the treasure of kindness, bravery, self-sacrifice. It can help us see that true morality is loving God and others. To that end, one famous artist said, “My paintings are messengers of God’s love.” Our subjects are not only subjects to study, but to use to share and teach and explain the Good News. And art can also speak to destiny. From stained-glass to film, art can express things and ask questions that ordinary means cannot. It can show that life is a vapor, that we long for something beyond this world, and much more. Even more, students can lean into their destiny as imagers of God by creating art that reflects God’s glory, nature, and character. 

Key ResourceRZIM Ministries: What is a Worldview? from Ravi Zacharias 

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 Contributor Approach to Biblical Integration.

Approaches to Integration: Biblical Theology

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.

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The Biblical-Theology Approach is one of the more common frameworks for structuring integration. It’s particularly helpful because of the way that it leans on large biblical themes, can be applied to every subject well, and allows room for creativity. The idea is to consider your class’s material through the lenses of Creation, Fall, and Redemption.

  • Creation: God has made all things. And He made them for his glory. So how does your topic/lesson/unit point to a wise, powerful, kind Creator?
  • Fall: All created things have been broken by sin. Where and how do you see the marring of sin in your material?
  • Redemption: Believers are called represent the Redeemer. So how can you and your students use class-content to help, serve, build up, or make wrong-things right?

A biology teacher might say, “Look at the way that God created cells. They demonstrate wisdom and power. But we can also see the effects of the Fall. Cancer, for instance, shows that sometimes cells are broken. But, doctors and researchers are trying to bring redemption into the situation when they love and serve others by treating and healing those with cancer.

Key ResourceBiblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption by Mark Ward

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 Worldview Approach to Biblical Integration. 

Tell Your Story: Biblical Integration and Your Life

You are not a teaching robot. You cannot be replaced by an instructional video on YouTube. You are more than the information you know. You have more to offer than learning strategies, rubrics, and assorted dry-erase markers. You are not just a disciplinarian. You are not just a lesson-planner. No. You are more than all of that. 

You are a person made in God’s image. You are a child adopted into God’s family. You are a soldier in God’s army. You are a missionary sent into a needy mission field. 

Do your students really know you?

Do they know how you got where you are? How you’ve grown? Do they know what you are learning today? Do they know why you are passionate about teaching? Do they know the areas of your teaching that excite you about God? 

In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul said to the church there, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Paul was not willing to be a mere preaching robot. He was more than a content delivery system. He loved the church in Thessalonica so much that he shared the gospel (yes, yes, yes!) and his life. 

I know that you love your students. I know you want them to have the gospel. So if you hope to share life with them eternally, start sharing your life with them now. Of course, you need to do this in an age-appropriate and thoughtful way. 

If you want to be a great academic disciple-maker, show your life. Biblical integration is a teaching action that rightly unites biblical truth and academic content in your class. Your life is one of the vehicles through which this can happen. The instructor is part of the instruction. So don’t be afraid to show your integrated life. It will make your material come alive. It will grow relationships. It will impact your students’ lives through the power of God and for the glory of God.  

9 Integration Lessons that Can Be Learned Through Sports

Sometimes my writing about biblical integration can focus more on classroom activities than co-curricular ones. However, most Christian schools also teach students outside of the classroom — often through sports. Here is a list of nine truths that can be easily taught in the context of sports. I hope that you find it helpful!

1) Treat others as more important than self. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Phil 2:3-4

When you are on a team, you have to look out for one another. Each team member is meant to serve the others. In football, linemen block for those with the ball. In basketball, players might give up their own shot in order to get the ball to a player in a better position. This teaches us big lessons about life. In our churches, neighborhoods, families, and workplaces, we are to always treat others as more important than ourselves. 

2) Hard work makes a difference.

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled,  but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. – Prov 13:4

Who ends up satisfied? The hard worker. In the end, we will not see the most talented individuals holding gold medals. No, we’ll see the hardest workers. This doesn’t mean that talent is meaningless. But it does mean that it is not enough. Hard work will also pay off in future marriages, in evangelism, in giving, in serving. 

3) Preparation pays off.

Go to the ant, you sluggard;  consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. – Prov 6:6-8

The ant works in the summer so that it will be ready in winter. When you lift weights, work on conditioning, or cross-train out of season, it pays off in-season. This truth helps in every area of life. Preparation pays off. Want to be a missionary? Prepare by not accumulating student-loan debt. Want to be a doctor? Start working on science-knowledge and people skills now. Want to be able to retire? Start saving and investing now.

4) Each role is important.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts,according to the grace given to each of us. – Rom 12:4-6

The quarterback might be the star, but, in the NFL, the left-tackle has become the second highest-paid position. Not receiver. Not running back. Left tackle. The left tackle should never touch the ball, should never make a tackle, should never run a route, but is very highly paid. Why? Because team-success requires that this player be there to protect and block. This isn’t a headline-grabbing role, but it is one that results in wins. In other words, each member of a team plays an important (but different) role. Some might get more attention, but all are important.

5) Doing hard things can be satisfying.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. – Eph 6:11

Success in life often relates to standing against the devil’s schemes. The devil is power and smart and active. It is hard to stand against him. But it is worth it. We see this in sports too — cutting a minute off of a 5k time is hard, but satisfying. 

6) We must respect authority.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Rom 13:1-2

Referees, umpires, judges, and committees have authority in sports. We must respect them even when we disagree. We also have authority-figures in our coaches and captains. Athletes can learn to respect authority in sports. This understanding will pay off throughout life. And will help them respect the ultimate authority — God Himself. 

7) Disqualification is a real threat.

I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. – 1 Cor 9:27

Lance Armstrong. Barry Bonds. SMU. UNLV. Maria Sharapova. This is a tiny list of the many famous athletes or organizations that have felt the string of disqualification in one way or another. These were all greats, but they’ll be remembered by many for what they did wrong. Sports can teach athletes the importance of remaining eligible. Other things can disqualify us from more important things in life. People can be disqualified from ministry, certain jobs, military service, relationships, etc. from not living rightly. 

8) Life is made up of many individual matches.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. – Heb 3:13

A team can lose a game, but still win a championship. A team might even lose a conference, but still win a championship. Life is not defined by any one day (although, one day could disqualify us). Therefore, when we fail, we need to learn to get up, grow, and keep going. 

9) My mistakes can hurt others.

If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive. – Jer 13:17

If a player doesn’t run out a ground-ball, it can hurt the whole team. If a player gives up on his blocking assignment, it can hurt the whole team. This teaches important lessons. The sins of a father can hurt his kids and spouse. 

Sports are powerful tools for biblical integration. Don’t waste the opportunities that they provide. 

Biblical Integration: Is It What You Hoped?

Most teachers are a few weeks into a new school-year at this point. All of the dreams and goals and plans expressed in your syllabus or guidelines are now bearing the weight of real students in real classes. So, how is it going? Now that we in the swing of things, we need to adjust and adapt our plans in light of real life.

I don’t mean that you need to do a dramatic overhaul or throw anything out However, if we are honest, we can note that not every plan that we dreamt up over the summer and during in-service training is working perfectly. Good teachers are always adapting because good teachers are always improving. 

Take a moment to consider your biblical integration. Are you have the kinds of discussions you wanted to have? Are you interacting deeply with the content in the ways that you planned? Are your students understanding and growing as you had hoped? These are basic questions. If you find an area that is not everything that you had hoped, you need to understand why things are not working in life like they did in your plans. Are you running low on time? Is the mix of students different than you expected? Were your goals unrealistic in some way? Those questions can help you find the pain-points — the factors that separate your planned biblical integration from your actual biblical integration. 

Once you notice some issues and identify some causes, you can work to adjust. Sometimes a little tweak, a tiny bit of attention, or one structural alteration can get things back on track. Other times, you might need to step back and make a bigger shift. But that is okay. There is nothing wrong with noticing that something is not working, but it is wrong to notice that something isn’t working and not address it. As academic disciple-makers, we need to work hard to make sure our biblical integration is as effective and accessible as possible. This year (or semester, or month) may be the only chance we get to point our students toward God’s glory.