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.  

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. 

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. 

Develop Biblical Integration That Excites YOU

Have you ever noticed that the best, most memorable teachers are usually the ones who are excited about their content? Students get excited when their teacher is excited. Students love to learn when teachers love to teach. In other words: engaged teachers engage students.

So what are the elements of your class or your subject that cause you to be amazed at what God has done? What aspects of your content makes your want to worship Him? 

It is important to identify those elements because you can authentically highlight them for your students. And it won’t be forced. It won’t be artificial. It will be passionate and real and right.

This idea reminds me of something recorded in Mark 1:40-45. There, we read about Jesus healing a man from leprosy. But after healing the man, “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’” 

Jesus did a mighty miracle, but strongly warned the man to keep quiet about it. However, if we read on, we can see that this man just couldn’t hold it in. “Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.” 

When we see God’s power, goodness, glory, and work, we will be compelled to tell the story. The man in this episode spread the news so effectively that Jesus couldn’t even enter a town without the paparazzi finding Him. Instead, He stayed outside in “lonely places.” But they didn’t stay lonely for long — the people just couldn’t help but come to Him. One man’s enthusiastic sharing of God’s work changed things for a lot of people.

Likewise, if you are excited about an element of biblical integration, it will have an impact on your students… and perhaps beyond. So take a little time to think about what enthuses you, and then infuse that into your integration. It will make a difference. 

Biblical Integration Is Worth Doing Poorly

At the start of the year, teachers have incredibly full plates — we’re talking marathoner-at-the-buffet-after-the-race full plates. We’re planning lessons, organizing rooms, learning names, figuring out new procedures, and more. But as academic disciple-makers, we must keep our goal — implementing biblically-integrated classes — in mind. 

“But,” you might think,”I can’t really do it well because I am so overwhelmed!” Don’t worry; “If you want to do something well, the best way to start is by doing it poorly.” 

That’s right. It’s okay not to be perfect and polished when you are getting started. That’s just part of the process. How did your first day of driver’s ed look? How did your first piano lesson sound? How was your first golf-swing? I bet there was room for improvement. And that is the point that I am trying to make.

Learning occurs in stages. In order to get to to step 2, you must take step one.

G.K. Chesterton, the noted author, said something similar — “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” He was making the case that, while there are experts out there, many things gain value because you are the one doing them. For example, it is possible that there is a hug-expert out there in the world. This person might have just the right arm-length, smell, technique, etc. This person may be able to execute the most technically excellent hug: a perfect 10. But does a crying child want a perfect hug from the expert or an amateur hug from mom? I think we all know the answer.

This is true for you and your class as well. Your students don’t need the PhD-level, scripted integration that is technically sound and perfectly organized from someone else as much as they need your integration. 

I am not excusing poor teaching or preparation here. No, we should strive to be excellent. But don’t forget that excellence is achieved one step at a time. If you want to do something well, start by doing it poorly. You will grow. And your students will grow with you. So get started right now. You might miss the bulls-eye at times, but at least you aimed for the target.

You Don’t Have to Reinvent the Wheel: Resources for Biblical Integration

As you are getting ready for the upcoming school-year, I want to take a big burden off of you: you don’t need to come up with all-new, original material for your biblical integration. Just as you don’t need to start from scratch in your content (you might use a pre-written curriculum, for example), you don’t need to start from scratch for your integration. Here are four simple tools that you can use to resource your well-integrated course.**

1) Subject Specific Books

I recommend the “Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition” series. There is something there for nearly everyone. They have low-cost, biblically-faithful books on most subjects. There is, without question, enough material in each of these books to engage a class for a year (or more). 

You might also enjoy other books that relate to your topics. For example,I have been reading Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition that Life is Designed by Douglas Axe. I could see it being helpful as a resource in high school biology classes — the teacher could quote from it to begin discussions, or assign different chapters to different students to present on, or simply read to privately help build up a more cohesive worldview. 

2) Podcasts

There are numerous options out there in this category. If you search, you can probably find almost anything. But here are some that I engage with regularly:

The Briefing from Albert Mohler – daily news and events from a Christian worldview. 

Help Me Teach the Bible from The Gospel Coalition – valuable interaction with numerous biblical topics

The Great Books Podcast from National Review– not explicitly Christian, but helps me regularly engage with great literature.

The World and Everything In It  from World Magazine – a Christian news and society show. 

Marketplace Tech from American Public Media – not Christian, but helps me understand what the world is thinking concerning digital and technological ideas. 

One of the great things about a podcast is that there is a pipeline of new material. You can get to the end of a book, but many podcasts just keep going and going. 

3) Magazines

Books take a long time to write, edit, and publish. Magazines, on the other hand, are much more current and quick to press. Therefore, they can help us stay connected to current ideas, news, and questions in a helpful fashion.

World magazine stands alone (as far as I know) in terms of quality concerning biblical-worldview thinking. A subscription is worth getting, but it also has wonderful “Science and Tech”  and “Business and Economy” sections online for free. 

Christianity Today has a good topic list that can help you find Christian material in any number of areas. 

4) Interaction with Experts

Have you seen elementary school kids get excited when the fire-truck visits the school? Well, this kind of thing can happen in other areas too. And it can make biblical integration come to life. Do you know Christian business-person that could visit your business class? What about a Christian engineer for physics, a writer/journalist for English, an immigrant or missionary for Spanish, or a musician for music? You don’t have to always be the expert. There is massive power in connecting students to people who are using the skills they are working on in class. There is even more power in showing students how an area of work is unique or important from a Christian worldview in real life. 

I can foresee times where Christian experts and professionals share their testimonies, or do demonstrations, or engage in Q&As, or judge a competition, or lead a masterclass. All this to say: Why not bring in someone who lives out biblical integration in life? You and your class will benefit from their expertise. 

So, what should you do now to help you develop a great class for this year?

First, explore a little bit. Next, pick a resource or two to use. Don’t try to do too much. Then, look at its contents and figure out how/when/what you will include in your class. Finally, note that in your syllabus or unit plans. This will help you in many ways. You’ll have an idea of what integration ideas to use, you’ll have a concrete plan for how to use them, and you’ll be free of the pressure of needing to come up with all of your own ideas.

**Please note that while I am pointing to what I believe are powerful resources, I am not endorsing all of the content you might find in each area.