Learning Teachers = Learning Students

We all want our students to grow. We want them to learn. So what do we do? We teach. That is good. Explicit, directed instruction is essential. However, I want to suggest that if we want our students to learn, we must be learners. We must model this for them. And the beginning of a new year is a great time to set some specific goals. 

I have many learning-related goals and I am not going to bore you by listing them all here. But I am going to highlight a few. I hope that my goals will be food-for-thought that helps you create your own goals for your context, situation, available time/energy, and personality.

What one thing will I do this year that will make me better as a teacher in general?

One of my ongoing goals during the past few years has been to become a better teacher of reading. Confident, experienced readers are in a powerful position to continue to learn. Teachers understand the axiom that after learning to read, students read to learn. A bulldozer can dig deeper and faster than a spade. I want my students to have bulldozers for reading. I want them to be able to access, understand, and evaluate content. I want them to be excellent readers.

So, I am investigating “Readers’ Workshop” in more detail this year. And I am trying implement elements of it and experiment with what works best. I have long been a fan of the workshop model, but there are specifics about Readers’ Workshop that I need to learn more about. Specifically, as a Bible teacher, I want my students to increase their abilities to read the Word of God for understanding and application. Students who can’t read well can’t read the Bible well.  

What is one thing that you can do this year to help you improve generally as a teacher? Can I suggest that advancing as a biblical integrator can be a great goal? Think about reading a good book on integration or academic discipleship. Consider working with a partner to talk through your syllabus or course design. 

What one thing will I do this year that will make me better as a teacher in a specific subject area?

I am pressing hard to develop greater proficiency with the biblical languages this year. My biggest goal is to increase my reading proficiency in Greek. As a Bible teacher, it has become increasingly important to me to be able to read the Bible better in the original languages. Since this is a skill, I have designed a system for daily practice. My goal is 400 hours of deliberate practice this year (2022). Thankfully, this goal is not isolated to my teaching. I love reading the Bible. And I love learning about how to do it better. So the 66 minutes of required work each day feels fun to me. Yes, learning/practicing a language is work. But hard work can be fun. This is especially true if it is meaningful personally, tied to vocational goals, and leads to worship.

Now, your goal doesn’t need to take you 400 hours. Four deliberate hours might make a big difference in some areas. But regardless of the time-commitment, you should be growing in a specific subject area. And you should be doing it on purpose. 

What’s your goal for growing in a specific subject area? Maybe it’s reading a biography of a person in that field. Perhaps it’s taking an online training or going to a conference. Maybe it’s getting a new certification. The options are endless.

Let me finish this article with a little-known secret: People often like their work better and are more passionate about doing it well when they are good at it. A learning teacher is often a more satisfied teacher. And a learning teacher is modeling growth to students. And a teacher who sees students growing will be an encouraged teacher. Your learning will help you and your students. So plan it. Organize it. And do it. It will make a difference. 

The Teacher as Evidence of God’s Power: Biblical Integration

Teachers strive to set a godly example for students. We want to say, with Paul, “Follow me like I follow Christ!” (1 Cor 11:1). However, we often (always) fall short of the standard. When Jesus teaches, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” we realize that this is a ladder with the lowest rung infinitely out of our reach (Matt 5:48). And this is not an obscure idea that we have misinterpreted, but a central theme that runs throughout the whole text of the Bible. Here it is fleshed out with more detail:

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Pet 1:14-16).

Be perfect. Be holy. And do it for, and like, the all-perfect God. This standard is too high for us. The ladder is out of reach. But thankfully, it is not out of reach for Christ. His ability to meet this standard and to raise us up to it should motivate us to praise Him:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Eph 1:3-4).

He chose us to be holy. It is his plan. I can’t do it, but He can. And He will:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:4-6).

How does this work? How can I do this impossible thing (be perfect and holy)? How will God finish this work in us? 

Augustine offers clarity in a prayer which says, “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire,” or “Father, command what you will and grant what you command.” God tells us to be godly and then, through his power, he gives us the ability to be godly. He grows us. He lifts us up. He polishes us. He refines us. His means, methods, and timing might not always appear linear or logical to us, but they are good and they are for our good.

So what kind of example can we offer our students? Not perfection in ourselves, but someone who is being perfected. We are testimonies of his power in our weakness. We are pictures of progress through his caring might. 

We are evidence. Evidence that He is alive because He is alive in us. Evidence that He is powerful because He is powerful to change us. Evidence that He is kind and forgiving because we celebrate his kindness and forgiveness toward us.

We are saved by grace. It is his work. And we are sanctified by grace. It is his work. 

There are many helpful apologetics for God’s existence, goodness, activity, and power. But we must not neglect this one: our students can see Him working in us. Here are some starting point activities that might help you showing them how He is working in you:

  • Apologize to your students when you have messed up. Humble apologies without self-justification are so rare. Why? Because true humility is a gift from God.
  • Share some of your storyline. Tell students about a struggle (in an appropriate way) and tell them about your journey toward holiness. You can share even if you are not there yet.
  • Ask students to pray for you in the midst of a struggle or challenge. Let them know and see that you need the power of God in your life.
  • Discipline in a way that leads to “seek and trust God,” more than “be good boys and girls.” Growth over laws. Repentance over box-checking. 
  • Share your goals: “I really want to become more gentle and meek so that I can represent Christ better,” or “I am praying that God will help me to listen more,” or “I am actively seeking to be thankful every day.”

Why might activities like this make an impact on our students? Because they teach that He will supply what He commands. And He will get all the glory. As Augustine said:

You he crowns with compassion and mercy; and even if your merits have preceded you, God says to you, “Have a good look at your merits, sort them out carefully, and you will see that they are my gifts” … When you depart from here you will receive according to what you deserve, and you will rise again to receive what you have achieved. Then God will set the crown, not so much on your merits as on his gifts. Whatever he has given you, if you have kept and preserved it, he will recognize.

So we can tell students, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” What we are saying is, “Follow me in growth, in progress, in sanctification. And He gets the glory.”

Academic Discipleship for Greatness: Biblical Integration

What do we want our students to become? Reading the Christmas account in Scripture, I saw a clear answer to that question in a description of John the Baptist. In Luke 1:14-15, an angel tells Zacharias about his future son: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”

This is what we want our students to become: great in the sight of the Lord. Not great in the sight of peers. That would be fine. Not great in the sight of certain institutions. That would be nice. Not great in the sight of the general public. That would be good. But there is a bigger, better, higher goal: great in the sight of the Lord. This means that our schools must be invested in discipleship. 

If this is the goal, we should be able to examine all of our activities, processes, and expectations to see if they assist in helping the students reach the goal. Now, I am not saying that academic elements are unimportant. Schools have an academic responsibility and exist for academic reasons. But Christian schools exist for academic discipleship. This must be our focus, our obsession, our singular aim. Therefore, I think it is wise to ask: Is [this activity/process/expectation] accomplishing a discipleship aim? 

Again, I am not saying our schools must be Sunday Schools. I am saying that our schools must be Christian schools. 

Let’s get back to the angel’s description of John: “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” What made John a joy to his parents? What made his birthday a joyous time for many? Well, it wasn’t his style or diet. His prophet-uniform and crunchy proteins were not mainstream. It wasn’t his circle of friends. He seemed to grow up to be somewhat isolated. It wasn’t the fact that he was loved by all. Religious people didn’t like him and a powerful politician jailed and killed him. John was a joy to his parents and to others because he was great in the sight of the Lord. 

What kind of greatness are we teaching? Standardized test scores matter. Social skills matter. Influence can be meaningful. Skills are crucial. And the list could go on and on. But we know what we are after. We want our kids to be great in the sight of God. That is all that really matters. That is the end-all-be-all. And joy flows from that. 

So let’s check our practices. Let’s check our goals. Let’s check our motivations. And let’s adjust, refresh, and retune so that, when we return from Christmas Break, we are even more prepared to help our students grow in informed godliness. We want them to be great in the sight of the Lord.

Read and Remind: Basics for Biblical Integrators

Today, a fellow teacher shared some of what she was gleaning from her personal Bible study. She had been reading, was challenged, and decided to share. Her email was thoughtful and encouraging. As she closed, she wrote this:

“Love how God can give new insights and conviction through a passage that I’ve read many times.  Very thankful for His patience with me…He has to remind me of some things over and over!”

Her experience here should be normative for all Christians. And it can be quite helpful for teachers in particular. Here is her point reworded: God teaches us through his Word. Often, He isn’t giving us something new, but a new perspective or better grasp on something we already know. God reminds us. God convicts us. God deepens our understanding. And this happens through the Word. 

God demonstrates regular, consistent, incremental, patient care for our growth. And, as teachers, that should be our posture and practice toward our students. God reminds me. God is patient with me. God slowly deepens and develops my understanding. Therefore, I must do this for my students. Peter wanted this for the people under his care as well:

“I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things (2 Pet 1:12-15, emphasis mine).

We must do this work of reminding by bringing them the Word. I know that God uses his words to shape me. And I know that they are his means to shape them. Am I comfortable letting God be muted in my classroom? Am I willing to allow my coursework to only engage with a gagged God? (Of course, God is able to speak for Himself. We have no power over his abilities. But we know that He has chosen to speak to us through the Bible. Therefore, if we want to hear God speak, we must open his Word.)

Paul said it like this in Romans 10:14-15: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” 

How can your students believe? Hear the Word. How can they hear? You tell them. This is true for your students who are believers and non-believers. They need to hear. They need to be reminded. They need to be patiently encouraged. They need the Word to be in your mind and heart. They need it to be on your lips. They need it to be in your coursework. They need it to be in your classroom. They need it. 

How do I know? Because I know we need it too. 

So what is your next step? Read. Read the Bible yourself. Fill your mind and heart with the Word. Then, it will overflow. You will start reminding others. A colleague did it for me today. And I am praying that we will all do it for our students as well. 

Do We Trust the Bible?: Christianity and Christian Schooling in America (Part 4)

In 2 Kings 22, the Bible speaks about a country that finds the Scriptures. The Word of God had been lost, but religious activity had continued without it. There was still a temple. There was still a high priest. But no Word. And then—one day—they found it and read it. What was King Josiah’s response? He tore his clothes in anguish because he understood something scary: “Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13b, emphasis mine). God was angry at the nation because they had neglected his Word. They didn’t reject it. They neglected it.

Upon renewing attention to the Word, things changed. 2 Kings 23:3 tells the next step in the story: “The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant” (emphasis mine).

What turned the nation around? Attention to the Book. If Barna did a survey of Judah while the Book was lost, I think it might have looked quite a bit like this one from ACU.  So what role can Christian schooling play in turning our nation around? Well, we can’t change hearts. But we can direct people to the Book that does. Christian schools can play the role of Josiah by putting the Word back in the spotlight. 

Tony Merida tells his high school students, “If you want to hear God speak, open the book. When you open the Word of God, you open the mouth of God” (The Christ-Centered Expositor, 50-52). Our schools should take this to heart. We must trust that God’s Word is God’s voice. And we must trust that his voice is powerful to change things. 

So I must ask: Do we trust the Bible? When people say that we do, I think we usually mean that we trust that the Bible is true and authoritative. However, I am curious if we trust the effectiveness of the Bible. Do we trust the Bible to do its work in the lives of our students? Do we believe that the Word form worldview in the lives of our students?

Let’s get a tiny bit technical for a moment: The Word of God is living, active, and sharp (Heb 4:12). The biblical worldview is not. You can’t make someone a fisherman by giving that person a fish; you have to give them a fishing pole. You can’t form a biblical worldview by giving them worldview alone; you have to give them the Bible. The biblical worldview is an outcome. It is born when a person starts to see the world through the lens of Scripture. How does this worldview form? By interacting with the Scriptures. But do we trust the Bible to do what the Spirit who authored it says it will do? 

Below are three truths about rightly interacting with the Bible. With those in mind, we will be in a good position to consider some potential ideas to adjust Bible curricula to better accomplish our goals. 

1) We need to trust the power of the Bible. 

This year, my wife and I have been using the book The One-Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids to help us pray for our children each night. Reflecting on 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Nancy Guthrie discusses what it means for the word of God to continue to work after it has been shared: 

“What does it mean to believe the Word of God is what accomplishes the work of God in the lives of our children? Certainly it means that we do our part to expose our children to the Word of God. But it also means that we trust the Word of God to do its work in them. We trust the Word to convict, convince, and challenge them. It may not happen in our preferred time frame or in our preferred way, but we trust it to work” (283).

While Guthrie is writing about the children in our homes, her point also applies to our schools. Are we trusting the Word to do the work? Or are we leaning on something else?

2) We need to trust that the Bible is for our students. 

There is a big difference between a class about the Bible and a class of the Bible. Let me give an example. We all know that there is a canyon-sized gap between a class about playing guitar and a class of playing guitar. In the first class, the teacher might hold a guitar and point some things out to the students. The teacher might even play the students a song. In the second class, students have guitars of their own. They are making noise… and sometimes music. The second class is much more messy and loud. But it is also the one that will lead to students knowing how to play. 

Teachers rightly have the desire to make every lesson organized, clear, and assessable. But the Bible is not always so clean and clear. It is not a systematic theology book. We might have a concordance, but the Book wasn’t written with an index. But the fact that the Bible is not systematic does not mean that it is flawed. God perfectly gave us what He wanted us to have. And He gave it to us in the way that He wanted us to have it. 

Though it can be easier and simpler to teach about the Bible, we must do the hard, messy work of teaching the Bible itself. We can explain. We can share context. But we must be careful not to replace the Bible itself with teaching about the Bible. Students won’t be able to play guitar if we don’t put guitars in their hands. Students won’t be able to read the Bible if we don’t put the Bible in their hands. 

This does not mean that we give them the whole thing all at once without any developmentally-appropriate framing. We still need to use wisdom. We are not going to give the details of David and Bathsheba to first graders. 

Think of it like this: Learning ukulele can help students learn guitar. You can give a plastic baby-fork to a young child. It’s not an all-or-nothing situation. Even with the ukulele, the student is still making music. Even with a dull plastic fork, the toddler is using utensils. They are in it. Really in it. In an appropriate, healthy way.

In the best possible ways, we should give our students real Bible. They need classes where they are in it. Might younger students need to live in the Gospels for a while? Maybe. Should we save Song of Solomon for later in the sequence? That makes sense. There is nothing wrong with playing ukulele if it is what they need to prepare for the full guitar. But if the students are just getting material about the Bible (or with sprinkles/nuggets of Bible), we are showing that we might not trust that the Bible is for them. We know that we trust that the Bible is for our kids when we actively, expectantly give it to them. They need to be in it. Even when it is messy and challenging.

3) We need to trust that the Bible forms worldview.

We do not need to choose between teaching the Bible and the biblical worldview. When we teach the Bible, a biblical worldview follows. When Josiah read the Bible, idols were destroyed. Ingesting the Word affected his worldview. This still happens. It is God’s plan for changing us. 

Let’s get practical! How can Christian schools enact this? The simplest, easiest idea might be to employ a Bible curriculum that is text driven. These do exist. However, there is another option: use the Bible as the textbook for Bible classes. This might be wise because students can learn to study the Bible without workbooks and other study-resources that they will likely not employ after graduation. If we use the Bible as the textbook for a reading-focused Bible class, students can build habits that will translate beyond the classroom. They can keep going long after they leave out classrooms. Here are some basic starting points:

  1. High school. Read-the-Bible-in-Four-Years Plan. Devotional plans to read the Bible in one year abound for personal use. They take about 12 minutes per day on average for proficient readers. So what if we allotted 15 minutes per day in a high school setting over four years? We could read the text, do an inductive study, consider worldview implications and applications, and pray from the text each day. Over 440 days, students would graduate having considered the entire Bible and built serious Bible-study muscles. In addition, there would be room for 280 days of assessments, discussion, projects, and focused worldview conversations.
  2. Middle school. Read-the-New-Testament-in-Two-Years-Plan. Proficient readers can read the New Testament by reading six minutes per day for 180 days. Middle schoolers might not be there yet. So what if they read for 10 minutes per day for 200 days? They could read the entire New Testament in two years and still have 160 days for assessments, discussions, projects, etc. 
  3. Middle or high school. Read-the-New-Testament-in-One-Year-Plan. 20 minutes per day would do it with room for lots of conversation and assessment.
  4. Elementary. Bible-story-time. For younger students, the teacher can read the Gospels and Acts to students in 800 minutes. This could be a great time to choose an easy-to-understand translation and read for 5 minutes per day. In one year, these books would be covered. For older elementary students, the learners could do the reading for themselves (or read along with the teacher). 

But what if a Christian school is already committed to a worldview curriculum in Bible class? It is still possible to simply devote a few minutes per day of Bible reading. For example, if a school uses something like Summit’s curriculum in high school, they could still devote 12 minutes per day to Bible reading. This would at least allow those students to have direct contact with Scripture itself in Bible class. While this might not be ideal, it might be a step in the right direction.

Bible Class and Worldview Class: Christianity and Christian SChooling (Part 3)

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.

The Bible and Being Biblical: Christianity and Christian Schooling (Part 2)

This is the second installment of reflections on the data from a fascinating research project conducted by Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center. Last time, I highlighted the simple fact that the Christian worldview is rare—only 6% of Americans fall into a group that systematically holds to biblical doctrines. 

Why is this number so small? And why do so many people class themselves Christians—even evangelicals—if they don’t believe what Christians believe? In this article, I am going to share a hypothesis regarding why this is.

Question: Why do people call themselves evangelical Christians, but don’t believe what Christians believe?

Hypothesis: Many Christians have faulty understandings of the Bible and those faulty understandings allow for erosion of biblical beliefs.

The biblical worldview cannot long survive without the Bible. Why? Because the Bible is what makes the biblical worldview biblical. It will not work to teach biblical worldview without a foundation of the Bible. It will not work to teach biblical ethics without a robust engagement with the Bible. And yet, this is something that certainly happens. And, it happens in Christian schools. But before we get to that, let’s focus on the issue at large. 

Let me put it like this: Scripture is not the mine where we find the gold; Scripture is the gold! 

B. C. Newton explains it like this, “We can subtly treat Scripture as our primary source of many for understanding God’s special revelation to humanity rather than viewing Scripture as God’s special revelation to humanity.” The Bible is not only a record of God’s voice and God’s teachings. It is God’s voice. It is God’s teaching. 

I am fascinated by the report from ACU’s Cultural Research Center that many people self-identified as “evangelical Christians,” but that those in that group do not believe what evangelicals believe. Bebbington’s clear definition of what it means to be evangelical is well-accepted and well-known. Evangelical Christians prioritize the teaching and authority of the Bible, are centered on the saving work of Jesus on the cross, are passionate about conversation by grace through faith, and are actively pursuing transformation through evangelism and service. 

So in this survey we learn that many in the group that calls themselves evangelical Christians don’t hold to evangelical beliefs. About 40% deny the first commitment of evangelicals (the authority, accuracy, and reliability of the Bible as the Word of God) and about 40% believe that doing good works saves you (denying the second and third commitments of evangelicals). Additionally, about 75% say that “having faith matters more than which faith you have.” 

Thomas Kidd, well-known Christian historian, explains where we stand with the confusion

“There are good reasons for churches to continue to describe themselves as ‘evangelical,’ if by that term they are referencing their historic commitment to the Bible’s authority, the necessity of spiritual conversion, and the felt presence of God in daily life, but pastors in particular should realize that the meaning they attach to evangelical may not be the same as that of some in their congregation.”

Kidd’s point here is that while the classic definition of evangelicalism still exists, many people have replaced that definition with an alternate concept. And, the survey shows that the new, replacement view has a lower, less-central view of the Bible and less accurate views of what the Bible teaches about truth and salvation. 

Back to my hypothesis, I believe that this has happened, in part, because Christian institutions have emphasized Christian truths that have been mined from the Bible rather than the Bible itself. People’s minds are populated with Christian words and Christian categories. However, the house has been removed from its foundation and it is crumbling. This hypothesis obviously relates directly to what happens in Christian schools. 

Teaching biblical worldview in place of Bible will lead to failure. In addition, teaching Bible without the practical application of biblical worldview will lead to failure. But the biblical worldview must stem from robust engagement with the text of Scripture itself. The next post will more closely consider how Christians schools can rise to the occasion and meet this challenge. We can be a part of the solution.

An Academic Disciple-Maker’s Prayer: Biblical Integration from Philippians 1

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11

Lord, help my students to grow in love for you and others. Use the time they spend in my class to deepen their knowledge and insight. As they learn my subject matter, teach them to fear you and to follow you. Teach them your Word. Empower them with supernatural discernment to seek what is best. Strengthen their allegiance to you in their thoughts, words, desires, and actions so that they may live in a way that is pure and blameless. Fill their lives with the fruit of righteousness that comes only from you. And may this righteousness be clear to others so that they too will praise and glorify you.

High-Pressure Testing: Biblical Integration and Calling Students to Examination

Testing is a hot-topic for teachers. What kinds of tests are best? How should tests be constructed? What are the outcomes that we are looking for? What do test-results really mean?

Tests are often on the minds of students as well. They can sometimes be opportunities to shine. But they can also be stressful. This is especially true of high-leverage tests like the ACT/SAT or other standardized tests. Graduation could be on the line. Acceptance could be on the line. Scholarships could be on the line. Tests, especially in academic settings, can be high-pressure activities. However, they can also be quite valuable. This is also true in our spiritual lives. 

Recently, our school devoted time in MS/HS chapel to interact with the question, “How can I know for sure that I am saved?” This is an important test: a probing question. And it is one that many students were asking. Thankfully, it is also a biblical question. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul challenges the church there, saying, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” There is a way to test ourselves. And it is possible to fail.

Self-examination is a crucial part of following Jesus. And the test-results should lead people to know where they actually stand. In 1 John 5:13, the motivation of John’s writing is clear: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Believers should test themselves. And they should know if they pass the test. 

So what does this examination look like? How can we examine ourselves? How do we really test ourselves so that we can know for sure that we have eternal life?

One of our chapel-speakers pointed out that one evidence of salvation is change: Have you been changed by the gospel? Is your life becoming more Christlike? Are you hating and battling sin? That is in line with what John says just a few verses later: “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them,” (1 John 5:18).

A famous Reformation line is something like, “We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that remains alone.” We can test if our belief is real by the impact it has on our living. Good faith will be joined by good works. Are we being changed? Are we growing? Do we keep fighting?

At the close of this article, let me take a turn toward academic discipleship in particular. As a teacher, you likely test your students. You probably also teach them to self-assess. They may learn to do study guides, reviews, practice activities, ungraded quizzes, and more. But are you teaching them to examine themselves to see whether or not they are in the faith? 

I am burdened that there are many non-Christian students populating Christian schools. There will come a day when they face the true final exam. Standing before the Lord Himself, will they hear, “Well done!” or “I never knew you,”? Perhaps practicing some self-examination now will put them in position to prepare for that final exam.   

If you speak of God in your integration (and I am confident that you do), consider helping students test where they stand with that God. The final exam is coming for all of us: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.,” (Heb 9:27-28).

Biblical Integration Must Be Fully Christian

This might seem obvious, but Christian schooling is about more than just helping students believe in God. James tells us that even the demons believe (Jas 2:19). And, it goes without saying that we are not content with bringing students to the level of demons. Believing in God is not enough. Even being amazed by God is not enough (after all, the demons tremble at God). It comes back to knowing God, trusting God, loving God. It all comes back to the Son.

The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:35-36).

Let me encourage you to highlight the Son in your class. Every session of your class does not need a gospel-presentation, but Jesus must be exalted. Teachers may need to work to figure how to highlight Him best, but Colossians 1:15-17 clearly states that everything we teach has been made through Him and is for Him and is sustained by Him:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This is what I mean when I say that biblical integration must be “fully Christian”: our work must turn the eyes and minds of our students toward Christ. He is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6). Colossians 1 continues in verse 18:

And [Christ] is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In everything He should be seen as supreme. How is Christ’s supremacy demonstrated in your classroom? I understand that it can be daunting to call for teachers to integrate so specifically. But for a school to be Christian, the classes that make up the school must be Christian. And, a class cannot be truly or fully Christian without making much of Christ. 

Would you consider how you might shine the spotlight on Jesus once through your material this week? Just start there: aim for one specific element that highlights the Son. And as you exalt Him in and through your course, I am confident that you will love making much of Him. I am confident that you will want to keep doing it.