GQ Magazine vs the Bible

GQ Magazine recently published an article called “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read.”  In it, they point out why many famous books are unnecessary, evil, boring, etc., and suggest books to read instead. You may not be surprised to see the Bible come in at #12. They say we don’t need to read the Good Book because some parts may be good, but “overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.” They go on to call it “repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.”  We are going to note three important questions that differentiate between GQ’s view and the understanding that Christians hold.

1) Who Produced the Bible?

GQ is correct that the Bible is “not the finest thing that man has ever produced.” We can heartily agree with that statement because man did not produce it—all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim 3:16). Of course, GQ’s words may be technically correct in this case, but their intent is disastrous. The secular, man-centered perspective that the famous magazine offers is in direct contradiction with what Christians know to be true. However, they make their point with confidence and without any apparent need to support their view. The magazine presents their perspective as authoritative.

Questions: How would you go about refuting GQ’s claims? How can we effectively share the truth about this with a culture that leans away from the Word’s unique authorship?

2) Why Do We Read the Bible?

The article in GQ offers several reasons for us to avoid reading the Bible. A red-flag should go up in the mind of the believer, not just because of a challenge to the Bible, but because many of the reasons are self-centered preference issues. But should we choose not to read truth because it doesn’t fit with our desired style/content? The author of the article calls the Bible repetitive and filled with moral lessons (that’s what “sententious” means… just in case you are prepping for the SAT) as if those are negatives. The argument is something like: “We don’t like being reminded of how we should live.” But not liking something does not mean that we do not need it or that it is bad. An individual with an illness may choose surgery. Why? Not because they like the experience, but because it can sustain life. Likewise, mothers do not like the pain of childbirth, but it is a good thing. I love the Bible because it is God’s words and I love Him. But when it corrects me, I don’t always want to hear it. The issue here is not that there is a problem with the Bible. I don’t like what it might say at times because there is a problem with me.

Questions: Why do you read the Bible? Why should we encourage others to do so?

3) What Guides Our Lives?

This is where we get to the real heart of the issue (magazine pun intended). GQ exists to report on and analyze men’s fashion and style news. It claims to be an “unrivaled guidance and companion for a successful man.” Here we can see why it might have issue with the Bible. The Bible also claims to be an unrivaled guidance and companion for a successful man. Psalm 119:105 says that the Word of God is a lamp to guide our feet and a light to show our path. Proverbs 2:6 points out that the Lord gives knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. 2 Timothy 3:17 declares that the Bible prepares men for every good work.

In other words, GQ can’t approve of the Bible as the sufficient guide because it is itself claiming to be an unrivaled guide. GQ is trying to fill the shoes that the Bible has worn for past millennia. Just like a sports-team might talk negatively about a rival, this magazine has reason to put the Bible down. GQ has set itself up as competition for God’s Word. But God has no rivals (Rom 11:33-36). Psalm 115:3 says it so well: “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.” And of course the Bible explains this well: the Word is how He speaks.

Questions: What does our culture look to for guidance? How can we explain that the Bible is better?

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Portraits of Teamwork in Biblical Integration

One of the best parts of being a teacher at a Christian school is being a member of a team. Different team members might have different roles, but we are all called to work together to accomplish the mission. At my school, we are working to “produce academic, social and physical excellence through a program where minds and hearts are coming fully alive in Christ.” We need each other, and we can rely on one another. Since biblical integration is what makes Christian education Christian, we are called to support each other in this most important endeavor. Here are a couple examples that I hope will encourage you to engage with your team more:

The Guy Across the Hall

On our spread-out campus, I have the privilege of being one of the few that works in a building with other teachers around. There are only are four teachers in our area, and we are all different. However, my building-mates are all excellent instructors and often teach me by setting an example. Their skillful instruction, thoughtful assessment, and improvement-focused feedback show me what a strong teacher does in real life. One of them recently asked this conflict question in class as a part of of biblical integration:  “How is being entertained without thinking dangerous?” He was helping them grow in worldview thinking. The students were challenged by the fact that all the media they consume has a message—movies have motives, Snapchat posts have intent, songs have underlying assumptions, books have agendas, etc. Therefore, we must think about what we are taking in. We must be aware of it and respond to it.

This teacher shared this great question with me. As a result, I have been able to have similar conversations with students, or follow up with his students on the topic. We have been able to start discussions related to 1) Does all media have presuppositions? 2) Does watching/listening/sharing affect me? If so, how? 3) What can we do to more effectively use media to share the Good News with others?

This teacher helped me practice integration and I love it!

The Moment of Need

Throughout this year, I have gotten numerous emails from fellow teachers about biblical integration. Many teachers find themselves in challenging subjects and feel stuck at times. But, when this happens, they usually just need a starting point. They need a little spark, and then they use that spark to burn down the forest.

For example, this is the content of an email from last week: “I need your help. I am going to be teaching Probability, Tree Diagrams, Line Graphs, Bar Graphs, etc.  Do you have any insight on what I bring in to the lesson? In Science, we are studying the ecosystem (producers, consumers, the food chain, food web). Any ideas that I could use?”

I cannot tell you how much I love to receive these types of emails. Why? Because this teacher is working hard to engage the students with biblical integration, and is not afraid to seek out some help. I responded with a couple of quick ideas:

Math: Probability/Graphs/Diagrams

– Probability: You could share about mutual exclusivity in regard to our faith… That if we are new creations, the old is GONE and the new is here (2 Cor 5:17). It is mathematically impossible to be both new and old.

– Graphs: You can show how these might be used to for self-assessment to chart growth. How often am I reading the Bible/praying? (make a chart for the week)

– Tree Diagram: Make a diagram that shows how amazing it is that God is able to be in perfect control even when it seems like there are so many possibilities. Use the graph to show that with Him, nothing is left up to chance.

Science: Ecosystem

You might make the connection that in an ecosystem everything works together (because God designed it), and everything has a role. We are like that too, in fact, 1 Cor 12 talks about how we are like different members of a body that work together too. But, we are not like animals because we are made in God’s image, so we should look out for the needs of others (Phil 2:1-4).

This teacher may have used these ideas, or she may have developed other, better ones. She may have been able to work out some questions/thoughts that worked better with her long-term unit-planning… or these might have fit well with her class goals. The important thing is that we were able to work together.

Being a part of a team is big. You can contribute when you have help to offer, and you can receive assistance when you need it. God has brought us together, and we can model cooperation, humility, creativity, and commitment to our students and peers as we grow as integrators.

 

How Does the Holy Spirit Speak in the Classroom?

I recently asked a student, “How can you know what God wants you to do? How can we listen to the Holy Spirit?” The answer was fascinating. The student answered by pointing to prayer, talking to parents/mentors, and turning off the smartphone. While those are helpful and needed answers, the foundation was missing. Even after much prodding, the student could not seem to get there. Of course, the key to knowing God’s will is listening to his words… the Bible.

It is amazing that many seem to miss that God is speaking still today through his ancient words. Scripture is living and active (Heb 4:12). It is fully equips us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). It comes down to this: you cannot know the Lord if you don’t listen to Him speak. And, while there are variations between English translations, there are about 800,000 words in the Bible we read. There is no question in the believer’s mind that these 800,000 are God’s own words. This is the objective message of God. So we must hammer home that in order for students to hear the voice of God, they need to listen to Him speak through his Word. Do we want to hear the Spirit speak? Do we really? If so, we must go to the Word.

And, of course, we know that. How did the student know that it is important to pray, speak to wise mentors, and eliminate distractions? From the Word.

A pastor painted this picture beautifully for me from the Bible. Ephesians 5:17-20 (NLT) says, “17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How do we understand what God wants us to do? By being filled with the Spirit. But how do we do that?

Look at the parallel passage from Colossians 3, “16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Here Paul replaces his statement about being filled with the Spirit with being filled with the message. So how do we know what the Spirit says? How can we become filled with the Spirit? Become filled with the Spirit’s message. Become filled with the Word. He is the Author of the Bible, after all.

So do you want the Spirit to speak powerfully in your classroom? Then give the Bible, the Spirit’s own words, a prominent voice in your teaching.

A Simple Question

John Frame is one of the theologians who has most influenced me over the past few years. I love the way that he is able to communicate complex truths in simple ways. In one of his articles, he speaks on Christian education from Deuteronomy 6:6-9, saying:

“God-centered” is really too weak a term to describe this kind of education. “God-saturated” is more like it. Children are to grow up in an environment where they cannot avoid the Word of God; it is always there, searching them, admonishing them, instructing them in the truth. [emphasis mine]

I love this statement. Christian education should be so saturated with God, through his Word, that students cannot avoid encountering what He has to say.

So here is the simple question: Can a student in your class avoid being searched, corrected, and instructed by the Word of God?

I pray that we would all improve in this area so that our teaching is truly biblical. Let me close by quoting Frame from the same article. Note his strong case for a truly biblical form of biblical integration:

It follows that everything the child learns about the world should be related to God’s Word. And in a way Scripture speaks about everything. It doesn’t give us detailed instruction about plumbing, or British history, or auto repair, but it does teach us how to relate all these things to God, how to study them, and how to implement our studies in practical life so that God is pleased. We cannot, for example, study history while ignoring divine providence, let alone (as in many secular curricula) ignoring the substantial role of religion in forming the culture and politics of nations. We cannot teach science without emphasizing that this world is created and directed by God. It is God’s providence that makes the world an orderly place that we can understand and dominate (Gen. 1:28-30). We cannot teach modern music and film without teaching children how to evaluate these from God’s perspective.

 

The Difference Between the Coffeeshop and Classroom

Today, I was in a coffeeshop working on some lesson plans. While I was grabbing a refill (sometimes lesson planning requires refilling), I noticed a man with three cups of coffee. I said something silly along the lines of, “You don’t have enough hands.” He responded that there are two questions that have haunted him throughout life–1) How many fish does it take to make a mess?, and 2) How much is enough?

Looking to engage, I responded that 1) I could definitely make a mess with just one fish, and 2) Enough never seems like enough.

I was hoping to jump into a conversation about how Jesus satisfies like nothing else. He truly is enough, and nothing in this world can back up the claim to satisfaction like He can. Psalm 16:11 says that the fullness of joy is found in the presence of God. You could say that I was looking for some coffeeshop-style biblical integration.

However, I never got the chance. Before I was able to advance the conversation, he expertly picked up his three cups and kindly said good-bye. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the rich young ruler described in Mark 10:17-27, who, after hearing Jesus respond to him, “went away sad.” Coffee in hand, but empty in heart, this man left.

I don’t know if I will ever see that man again. And even if I do, I am not sure if we will be able to pick up where we left off.

But in your classroom, you have the great privilege of seeing and interacting with students every day. Make the most of that. Talk about things that matter. Use your content to point your students to Him in every opportunity. Show the beautiful, worthy Christ in all that you do so that, at the end of the year, students don’t leave with heads full of equations, grammar, and art but void of the value of Christ. Engage in integration so that your students can be truly satisfied.

Banking or Building: Biblical Integration

Recently, I have been able to engage in some great conversations about biblical worldview and integration with other Christian educators. It is apparent that Christian schools (and all believers) need an understanding of how beliefs should impact teaching and learning. The interesting analogy of teaching as either “banking” (where knowledge is stored up) or “building” (where knowledge is applied) was brought up. Should we teach primarily so that students know or so that they do?

Biblically, the case should be made that we must do both. Faith without works is dead (James 2:17), but works without faith is dead too. Understanding without action is not real understanding.

We must “bank” (store up knowledge) and “build” (apply that knowledge). However, these are not necessarily separate things. Proper “banking” leads to proper “building.” For example, no contractor can build without proper tools or blueprints. The action requires the knowledge.

As Christian teachers, we know that every subject is meant to help people know God (John 17:3) and live for Him (Luke 10:27).

With this in mind, every lesson can, and should, be characterized by biblical integration. By this I do not mean that we should tie a foreign biblical concept into a lesson to “Christianize” it, but we should see things as they really are… and understand what they are for. I define biblical integration like this: teaching all things from and toward the glory of God. This is the classic, historic worship rhythm of revelation and response. The title of my book on biblical integration is based on CS Lewis speaking to this idea,  “Every bush (could we but perceive it) is a Burning Bush.”  Elizabeth Barrett Browning said it similarly and beautifully:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware…”

Our job as teachers is to help students see, so that they might take off their shoes. Knowledge (banking) should lead to action (building).

Teaching Against that Spurious Logic

Christian teachers have an essential job when ministering to Christian students. We are helping these young people learn the God they love. The more accurately they see God’s world and Word, the more they can respond to Him in lives of worship. In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer said it this way:

“How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him.” (12-13)

Those who know Christ are exactly the ones who should seek Him most passionately. We have tasted. We have seen. It is up to us to guide the students under our care to seek Him as well. They need to know that accepting Christ is accepting a whole new way of life.

Students need to grow in awe of Him as they see his creation. They need to learn to thank Him as they see his grace to broken people throughout history. They need to deepen their partnership with God as they better love the people that God has made in his image.

It is up to us to guide them on this journey. A Christian education that does not educate students in seeking the God they love may be Christian in name, but not in essence.

In your classroom, how will you press fight the spurious logic that accepting is an end rather than a beginning?