In my first post in this short series, I introduced the concept, not original to me, of Bible Integration “levels” in Christian education. At the end, I talked about “level 0,” where the Bible is not integrated into the academic disciplines at all but kept separate. This post will focus on the lowest level of Bible Integration (BI), one that is certainly necessary but often abused and overused.
Level 1: Referencing the Bible
Level 1 BI finds parallels between the Bible and the subject matter. Parallels are tricky, because it’s easy to find superficial ones, but level 1 done right is still worth doing. You just shouldn’t stop here. Each level of BI is divided into two sub-levels. The divisions are not divinely inspired. Like Bloom’s taxonomy, the whole schema should probably undergo a revision after Christian educators put it to use for a few years (in fact, one of the original authors has done just that—but he he ended up creating a brand new system, and I think it complements rather than supersedes the levels). But these divisions have proven helpful in many, many K-12 circumstances at BJU Press.*
1a Biblical Analogies
Noting that something in the academic matter is similar to something in the Bible.
- In grammar, level 1a may take the form of suggesting that there is a parallel between the importance of adverbs and the importance of how we obey God. Shallow, perhaps, but true as far as it goes.
- In science, level 1a may compare the need of a standard for scientific measurement and the need of a standard for moral evaluation. Both of these things are true, but it’s somewhat unlikely that the Bible passages a given science teacher may turn to are actually saying that there must be scientific measurement standards.
1b Biblical Examples
Finding instances of the academic matter in the Bible.
- Level 1b is perhaps easiest to do in literature. Since the Bible is necessarily written in human literary genres (we probably wouldn’t understand the bestsellers in the angels’ bookstore), there are all sorts of examples of literary devices in the Bible. Some of them we use in pretty much the same form today—like the dramatic irony in the story of Joseph (Gen. 42–44). Others are simply not used in English—like the extensive and repeated parallelism or “thought-rhymes” in the Psalms and other Hebrew poetry. The list of literary devices shared by the Bible and English is somewhat complicated by the fact that so much of our speech has been influenced by the Bible. I just heard part of a Justin Bieber song** in which he (unknowingly, I’m sure) quoted—mangled, actually—Jesus’ statement, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” But this complication only makes understanding the Bible accurately more important.Level 1b is so important for Bible study because recognizing literary devices and genres in the Bible is an absolutely crucial step in interpretation. But I was reading a Christian literature textbook for 10th graders recently which enshrined this form of BI above all others, and it got old quickly. The book was not content to show examples of metonymy and synecdoche in Scripture, a helpful exercise, but actually argued that the literary features of the Bible constitute the paragon of literary excellence and the moral standard for how literature should be written. I’m positive that the Bible has much to say about writing, but I doubt that this is the right path to finding it. Saying so ignores serious questions about cultural differences and the nature of inspiration. Future posts will, I hope, bear this out.
- In math, Christian teachers are fond of pointing out that there is evidence of π in the building of the Temple (1 Kings 7:23). Math teachers who point this out may have a problem on their hands, however, when sharp students ask why the Bible doesn’t say, “A line of thirty-one point four one five nine cubits measured its circumference.” I am a firm biblical inerrantist, but I think it should be obvious that giving the true value for π wasn’t the purpose of the Author here. Cubits are already inexact measurements, and giving rounded figures is very common in language.
Level 1 is necessary, perhaps especially Level 1b, but it often invites abuses and raises questions about the Bible and the academic disciplines that it can’t answer. Teachers and students need to go to higher levels. Stay tuned…
*I do not speak officially for my employer, but the basic levels material here has been presented many times in other formats at BJU Press.
**Almost all the pop music I hear comes from NPR stories, just so you know!
Read all the posts in this series: