Why “Integration” Is a Valid Term

In my book, I speak in detail about biblical integration as overcoming three artificial divides: heart and mind, general and special revelation, and word and deed. In much of Christian education—especially as it has been iterated over the past several decades in America—these areas have been divided. It has been asked, “Isn’t math just math?… It doesn’t really speak to God or his ways, does it?” Or, as Tertullian asked, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

Some people think that the term “integration” is not a good one when discussing worldview teaching because it denotes the coming together of separate things. I agree wholeheartedly that this can be an issue. We must recognize that biblical integration is “not creating biblical connections, but noting, investigating, and celebrating the connections that already exist through Christ.” However, we must also understand that, while these things are not disconnected by nature, they have been disconnected through practice… our practice. A separation has occurred. It is real. It is not healthy, but it does exist.

And so, it is by practice that these artificially divided concepts must be reunited. Putting the pieces back together will take work. What should this academic jigsaw called? This reconstruction can be termed integration, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The idea of integration refers to the intermixing of those things that were previously segregated. Segregation is the act of division—setting things apart from one another. Biblical integration is necessary because the sacred and secular have been segregated. They do not naturally exist as separate entities, but have been taught and understood as such by many for some time.

The work that must be done to bring divided subjects back together is rightly called “biblical integration.” When we speak of biblical integration, we are not saying that teachers must work to integrate the content. All created things point to their Creator. So, if we are not integrating the content, what are we integrating? Our teaching—not our what, but our ways.

When we integrate, we are pressing back on the idea that nature can be taught without its supernatural Maker. We are letting the Word of God have a voice and a place of authority in the classroom. (It is God’s classroom after all!) We are restoring, reuniting, rebuilding an understanding of the world and ourselves with God at the center—teaching all things from and toward his glory. That is an integration that we should all want to be a part of.

Christian educators need not fear the term “biblical integration,” but should instead look to understand it, practice it, and live it. This is a way we can be about our Father’s business. One day, He will integrate (bring together) Heaven and earth and, in the process, make everything new (Rev 21:1-5). The segregation of the heavenly and material—the celestial and Terran—will end. He will bring together mind and hearts, special and general revelation, and word and deed around Him. He will restore. He will rebuild. He will make his glory known. He will teach us perfectly about who He really is and how his world shows his glory. Let’s jump in and teach in a way that anticipates that glorious day by practicing biblical integration every day.

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Modern Worship Sings Integration (and Evolution)

NOTE: This is a quick music review that will be of interest to Christian educators and leaders. It addresses serious issues that apply to many topics beyond music itself.

So Will I (100 Billion X) is a popular worship song by Hillsong United. The first several segments of the song highlight different areas in which creation glorifies God. And each ends with a personal commitment. For example, “If the stars were made to worship so was I,” or “If creation still obeys you so will I.” This is a great picture of the healthy integration—when we see God’s world, it should press us to respond rightly to God.

However, there are some problems with this song. The most glaring is that it seems to clearly endorse evolution. Look at these lines about God’s creative work:

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If creation still obeys You so will I

While this might just be a lack of precision in language, the writers seem to clearly endorse a theology of theistic evolution.

Like most things, this song has some good and some bad. However, in this case, the strong call to a biblical response of worship to God is wonderful. And, on the other hand, the endorsement of theistic evolution is unhealthy (at best, divisive) and almost hidden in the middle of the song.

So here is the call for you as an educator (or parent, or pastor, etc.): Don’t assume that everything with a Christian label can be consumed by your students without critique and care. Hillsong United is popular. In the world of worship music, they are tastemakers. Their lyrics are on the lips of millions. But one of the biggest weapons of the evil is a lie coming from a trusted voice. And just last night, I was at an event where almost 200 students (and their leaders/parents) sang this song with vigor. No one seemed to bat an eye or pause with concern. And that is what concerns me most.

We must teach our students to discern truth and error. We have the means to do this because we have the Bible. Use your biblical integration to help students think and weigh things from a biblical perspective.

Screwtape, Students, and Biblical Integration

I recently read the short essay by CS Lewis, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” in one of his essay collections. If you are unfamiliar, Screwtape is a fictional character created by Lewis to help us understand how Satan and his demons might work to harm us. In short, Screwtape is an accomplished administrator for the cause of demonic activity. He supports up-and-coming Junior Temptors as they enter the field. Lewis’s essay records Screwtape’s speech for the graduation of a new class of temptors.

About halfway through the speech, Screwtape comes the to the topic of education. He has a great deal to say about how education can be, and is being, used for evil. He latches on ideas that are popular in education even today. However, his main point relates to a warped view of democracy: treating different people as if they are the same.

He says that if we can get schools to teach students as if they are all the same—equally gifted, equally engaged, equally hardworking—then many future leaders will be damaged. If the future theologians, teachers, poets, scientists, doctors, musicians, and philosophers are treated as identical they will be held back. If their learning is frustrated, we can be confident that their contributions in the world will be held back too.

Every person (yes, this includes students) is equally valuable as an individual created in the image of God. However, people do have different aptitudes, strengths/weakness, characteristics. We know this is true. And in most areas of life we live with the differences in mind. For example, a tall, athletic student will likely excel at basketball more than a small, uncoordinated student. Therefore, we should help each of them achieve their full potential, but we should not give them the same standard for success. Greatness for small student in this area might be mediocrity for the large one.

Screwtape’s plan is to keep students from learning because an accurate understanding of the world, and their place in it, has the power to unleash godly leaders in all fields. In other words, Screwtape is adamently opposed to biblical integration. And part of his plan to harm the process of biblically integrated education is to diminish education as a whole.

So what are we to do as Christian educators?

  1. Know the students. We need to understand their gifts and struggles and teach accordingly. Screwtape celebrate a child able read great literature like Dante being slowed down because of other students his age who are still spelling out, “a cat sat on a mat.”
  2. Call the students to their giftedness. Expect great effort and great results in areas of great gifting. Screwtape intends that, “All incentives to learn and all penalities for not learning will vanish. The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows?”

There is no shame in recognizing differences of gifting. A great athlete is great. A great musician is great. A great writer is great. A great scientist is great. But there is a great shame in treating all students as if they have been created identical. They are equal in value, but not identical in design. This is why my school (and many others) emphasize individualized learning.

To integrate well, we must know the students well. And then we must help them grow to be successful in the areas in which God has gifted them. Why? Because just as He shows his glory to students as they study the world, He also shows us his glory as we note how He uniquely designed each student.

 

The Power of Reminders to You and Your Students

Recently, one of our science teachers was out for a little while and I substituted in that class for a period. I was encouraged to see the following sign posted up in the classroom.

There are many things that I love about this sign. Here is a list:

  1. It is handwritten, and clearly has been changed over time. This means that the teacher is regularly thinking about what the students need to know about how God works in this area.
  2. It is prominent. Therefore, the message stands out and proclaims the truth to teacher and the students.
  3. It is specific. It doesn’t just say, “God is the designer of all things.” That is a true statement, but this sign brings more clarity and connection to the class.

What reminders can you put in your room to remind you and your students that your material points to God? (It could be a sign, but you might also use other objects, pictures, etc.)

Is it possible to make those reminders adjustable so that they can be tweaked as you move through the year? (This can help the students see how worldview ideas are connected.)

How can you zoom in to remind the class of specific truths related to your material, rather than sharing at the broadest level?

A small reminder can make a big difference.