The first three posts in this series discussed 1) the problems created in Christian education when the Bible is not soundly integrated into the curriculum, 2) Level 1 Bible Integration (BI) at BJU Press, and 3) Level 2 BI. Now on to Level 3!
Level 3: Rebuilding with the Bible
3a Evaluating the Premises
Remembering the fallenness of man’s mind, identifying and calling into question the assumptions of an academic discipline.
Evangelical Christians as a whole, both Calvinists and Arminians, believe formally in original sin and total depravity. That is, all born-again Christians necessarily believe that the effects of the Fall have extended to every part of man. In actual practice, however, many Christians in the West assume along with the Enlightenment that their reason is pretty much trustworthy; they assign the effects of the Fall to their passions, mostly. That predisposed Christians to trust the conclusions of contemporary science.
This trust worked out okay in the West for a while because the academic disciplines were so heavily influenced by their Christian (broadly speaking) heritage. The Christian community had every reason to trust the assured results of modern scientific inquiry, because it knew that God’s general revelation in nature was just as true as His special revelation in Scripture. Christians operated on the assumption, What we see is true, because God is the author of both Scripture and nature, so the two will agree.
But especially with the advent of Darwin, the church suddenly found that religion and science did not agree. Somebody was wrong. The church had to reevaluate the role of reason: is it a fallible tool for accessing God’s infallible revelation, or is it the final arbiter of truth? The discipline of science was being ruled by the latter presupposition: What we see is true, whether it agrees with Scripture or not. (That assumption has morphed in our day to become What we see is true, and what we can’t see does not exist.)
Many Christians have lost their faith over this issue. Some are on their way. Those left standing firmly on Scripture’s final authority do not say that the discipline of science has discovered nothing true, nothing of value, only that it is now generally being ruled by anti-Christian presuppositions. It is right for Christians to call these assumptions into question.
- For example, high school students in science class may rightly be led to question uniformitarianism and naturalistic materialism. Christians know better than the scientific community on these points, because we have written revelation from the only Person who really knows by experience how the world came into being.
- In language arts, a high schooler should be able to see that certain pieces of literature reject the objectivity of truth. He should be able to challenge that rejection.
- In government, a student should be able to evaluate the competing claims of capitalism, socialism, and other ways of doing government. Each system is based on what are essentially theological views of man. This is well within the Christian province.
- In math, does traditional math equal God’s truth? A Christian teacher should give guidance here.
3b Rebuilding the Discipline
Sanctifying the student’s thinking within a particular academic sphere.
God does have standards for how the academic disciplines ought to work. It’s not merely that they all ought to serve as means for glorifying Him, obeying the Creation Mandate, and loving our neighbors—though these alone will effect radical changes in any discipline. There are divine standards for beauty and order which are sometimes hard to pin down but nonetheless exist.
The highest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy are evaluate (Level 3a above) and create (Level 3b here). And I find that interesting from a wannabe theologian’s perspective. Creating is one of the capacities God gave us that makes us most like Him. If an entire academic discipline in the Western world is built on a faulty foundation, we have the responsibility to do our own work on a biblical foundation. That means we are rebuilding the discipline, even if no non-Christians join us.
- Christians have the right and responsibility in language arts to affirm the objectivity of Truth (2 Tim. 2:13; John 1:1; Col. 2:3), even to develop new genres of literature or inventive uses of old genres to communicate Truth.
- Christians ought to feel confident in science that they can build the discipline on a different foundation than that of the scientific community. We can and must affirm God’s work of Creation and the Flood (2 Pet. 3:3–6).
- Christians, like John the Baptist did to Herod, are the only ones who can call government to account before God. We are the only ones who will ever repeat God’s words to them: “Be wise, O kings. Kiss the Son” (Ps. 2:10-12).
- Christians in math can and must affirm the finitude of the human mind (Ecc. 3:11; 7:14; 8:17), even if this goes against the hubris ruling the mathematical discipline.
- Christians writing music and producing art can and must send beautiful messages that glorify the God who created beauty—and created creativity!
Christians have more in the Bible than a sourcebook for classroom illustrations. They can even do more than worship and serve God through their academic disciplines. They can evaluate and then rebuild (restore? redeem?) their disciplines.
I am not a theonomic postmillennialist. I do not believe that our efforts will usher in the kingdom or that lost people will ever truly acknowledge Christ’s rule of their disciplines until they are born again from above.
But every Christian is going to practice his discipline according to some principles and standards. He might as well follow God’s norms in Scripture and nature rather than fallen human presuppositions. If he does that, he will be remaking his field. He won’t be able to help it.
One example has really helped me here. Whether America was ever a Christian nation or not—whatever that means—it isn’t now. I don’t believe that Christians should replace the Great Commission with the Great Campaign. The best kind of change happens not from the top-down but from the grass roots up: one fallen human heart at a time. But what if a politician gets saved? How will you disciple him, and what will you tell him to do in his job? What if he tells you that he thinks politics isn’t holy enough, that it’s a waste of time, and that he thinks he ought to go into the pastorate?
There has to be a wise, Christian, God-glorifying way to politic, just like there has to be do everything Christianly in a world Christ rules. As the great Dutch theologian/statesman Abraham Kuyper famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'”
Read all the posts in this series: