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.

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. 

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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?

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. 

Inventory: Biblical Integration Flows From Bible-Intake

Excellent biblical integration is important. It takes effort. It takes intentionality. It takes planning and consistency. But biblical teaching will be empty if it doesn’t flow from a renewable source. Teachers are busy people, so we need to regularly assess if we are functioning in a healthy way. Even good cars need regular maintenance and care. Even the most reliable vehicle needs a repair from time to time. Likewise, we need to examine our lives to see if we are rightly and regularly interacting with God through his Word. We may need maintenance, care, or repair. 

Let’s look at these snapshots from Psalm 119 in order to put together a biblical picture of a right relationship with the Bible:

Your word is a lamp for my feet
    a light on my path.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end.
My flesh trembles in fear of you;
    I stand in awe of your laws.
Your statutes are wonderful;
    therefore I obey them.
Great peace have those who love your law,
    and nothing can make them stumble. –
Psalm 119:105, 112, 120, 129, 165

God’s Word — the Bible — is a lamp to light the way; it is awesome and wonderful, and it brings peace. Do you believe that? Does your life show that you really believe that? We can tell what we believe if we resonate with the psalmist’s response to the Word. He says that: 1) His heart is set on keeping God’s decrees, 2) His flesh trembles in fear and awe of the God who shows Himself though the Word, 3) He obeys God’s Word because it is wonderful. 

So… what is your heart set on? Are you deeply committed and invested in following where God leads through Scripture? And do you tremble and find yourself in awe when you open his Book? And are you aiming to obey God’s Word because you believe they are wonderful?

The aim of this post is simple: I want to call you to consider your relationship with the Word. I want you, the teacher, to take inventory of your practices (Are you intaking the Word regularly?), your attitude (Are you in awe of God’s wonderful Word?), and your integration (Is your personal Bible-study feeding your teaching?). Think of this as a little formative assessment of yourself.