Laying a Firm Foundation

Over the past month, my church has been studying Romans 1:18-2:5. As we have examined this passage, it has been a sobering reminder to me of why our job as Christian educators is so important. No matter what our cultural context, we are surrounded by a world that is operating on the philosophical assumption that the foundational answer is “not God.” Thus entire systems of thought in every academic discipline have developed on a “darkened and futile” foundation. In much of the West—including most published academic curriculum—there is a fundamental assumption that organizes the world into two stories: a scientific, rational, factual, universally-binding, public lower story and a belief-based, intuitive, values-oriented, personally-chosen, private upper story.[1] Eastern culture rests on a different, yet equally futile philosophy of pantheistic transcendence.[2] All of us are so regularly exposed to these systems that it becomes easy to accept them as normal without questioning their validity. Yet as Paul reminds us in Colossians, philosophies which depend on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ are hollow and empty.[3] Any “knowledge” or “belief” system based on these philosophies will be unable to stand up to the truth of the created order, because all creation is held together in the person of Christ.[4]

What does this mean for us as Christian educators? First, we have a responsibility to understand and communicate the totality of the gospel message. All things were created good, but as a result of sin, all things—including systems of thought and elements of culture—were corrupted. The sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus paid the price of atonement so that all things can be restored to their created order. When we reduce the gospel message to just a message of personal salvation, we risk losing sight of the larger transformational purpose of the cross.[5] We also unwittingly allow the gospel message to be relegated to the story of personal belief, and thus become a private matter that is not universally-binding by those who are writing our cultural narrative on the foundation of “not God.”

Second, as Christian educators, we have a responsibility to help our students critically evaluate all systems of knowledge and belief that they encounter. It is important to give our students the tools necessary to discern the philosophical roots behind ideas. Equally important is to help them develop a biblically-based apologetic for the ideas that we impart within our subject matter. Equipping our students in this way is not a guarantee that they will chose the path of salvation; that is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit working within their hearts. However, when we teach our students the tools of discernment and apologetics, we equip them for the encounters they will have with others who have built their knowledge systems on a secular foundation. We also help them recognize that cultures cannot be transformed outside of the person of Christ. Thus, we encourage students to personally submit their lives to the lordship of Christ, while at the same time highlight the importance of the gospel message for all people.

If you haven’t given much consideration to formulating and implementing a Christian worldview in your classroom, this task can seem daunting. Where do you even start? At TeachBeyond, we’ve compiled a number of resources to help you in your journey. Transforming Teachers is a website devoted to this topic; here you’ll find an abundance of resources from around the world dealing with developing a Christian worldview, as well as practical suggestions on how to connect God’s Word and God’s world in all the different subject areas. Suggestions for books about approaching your subject from a distinctly Christian perspective can be found here, in this early OnPractice post. And this summer, at the TeachBeyond Institute in the Philippines we will spend time exploring biblical worldview issues, as well as an afternoon track devoted to tools for transformational teaching. To find out more information or to share from your own experiences in the classroom, contact us at onpractice@teachbeyond.org.

Becky Hunsberger, M.Ed.
Teacher Education Services
TeachBeyond


[1] For a remarkably in-depth exploration of these two stories, and the philosophical ramifications of them in Western, particularly (US) American culture, check out Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity.
[2] Since most of those sent out by TeachBeyond come from a Western background, this article is written from that perspective.
[3] Colossians 2:8
[4] Colossians 1:17
[5] This is not to diminish in any way the importance and amazing wonder of personal salvation, but to remind us that not only did Christ overcome sin and death for each of us, He also desires to restore all creation. It magnifies, rather than lessens, the scope of the gospel message.
Photo CreditsCracked Foundation. shaire productions via Compfight cc. Crossbadjonni via Compfight cc. Resources. RLH.