Cultivating Christian Character and Conscience

Biblical Worldview Rests on Foundational Biblical Principles: Part Two in a Series


By Dr. Carole Adams


The mission of Christian schooling is to form genuine, lasting discipleship to Christ and a comprehensive biblical worldview in God’s children. Yet many Christian school graduates succumb to the overwhelming influence of the secular culture and leave the church and their walk with the Lord.


While there will always be spiritual attrition in the kingdom, parents and teachers can be more effective disciple-makers and biblical worldview-formers. The effectiveness of Christian education depends upon a thoroughly Christian philosophy, an authentically Christian methodology, and a consistently Christian curriculum. If any one of these components is at odds with the others, the impact is weakened. Ideally, the methods of teaching Christian children should be in harmony with the teaching methods demonstrated in the greatest textbook, the Bible, by the greatest Teacher, Jesus.


Leading Ideas and the Principle Approach

After teaching experiences in both public and Christian school classrooms, I was uncertain that either fulfilled my hope for my own children’s education. In seeking answers, I was introduced to biblical classical education—the Principle Approach. This method, the product of the Reformation practiced in the formative years of our nation, drew my heart as it places the Bible at the base of every subject of the curriculum. This foundation causes the student to grapple with truth, to reason logically, and to articulate and apply truth in every area of life.


Based on recurring principles, the Principle Approach identifies seven bedrock biblical principles applied to all life and learning. By teaching and learning basic biblical principles in every subject and every life situation, we consistently, authoritatively, and authentically turn our children’s hearts toward God. Such schooling ensures them of the all-encompassing wisdom of God and His Word as preparation for a purposeful life and for eternity.


Recurring biblical principles lay the underpinnings of thousands of leading ideas that relate to every topic of life. Benjamin Rush said in 1786, “The human mind runs as naturally into principles as it does after facts. It submits with difficulty to those restraints or partial discoveries which are imposed upon it in the infancy of reason. Hence the impatience of children to be informed upon all subjects that relate to the invisible world.

I maintain that there is no book of its size in the whole world that contains half so much useful knowledge for the government of states or the direction of the affairs of individuals as the Bible.” 1


Seven Biblical Principles What are those principles, and how are they taught? Of the seven foundational biblical principles, the first two describe the personal relationship of the child to truth. “God’s Principle of Individuality” and “The Christian Principle of Self-Government,” described in the first article in this series, inculcate an understanding of the nature of God and of man in relation to life. Nature comprehends all the works of God; the essence, essential qualities, or attributes of a thing, which constitute what it is; as the nature of the soul. 2


The next two principles continue to describe the personal relationship of the child to truth. The “Principle of Christian Character” and “Conscience as the Most Sacred Property” inculcate respect for both character and conscience with the determination through Christ to live righteously.


Principle of Christian Character

As the Principle of Christian Character is taught through the various subjects and across the grade levels, children develop the discernment to recognize character as the impetus of behavior, good or bad. Children observe that the internal character is causative to external behavior. As they analyze the character of individuals in history, literature, science, and the Bible, the impact and nobility of Christian character leads them to love goodness and God as all-good.


A recent incident illustrates this principle. As her son played on the playground, a mom noticed him interacting pleasantly with another child. When it was time to leave, he said, “I don’t know who that little boy is.” The mother asked, “Did you tell him your name and ask for his?” The son replied, “Yes, but I mean, I don’t know who he is on the inside.” Praise God for this evidence of character discernment in a second grader.


Principle of Conscience is the Most Sacred Property

The Principle of Conscience is the Most Sacred Property gives children ownership of the property that most personally shapes their lives, the property of conscience—a sensitivity to morality placed within them by God. This principle teaches children that keeping a good conscience is a stewardship guarded by their consent. Behavior correction should begin with the heart and lead the child to recognize the choices they made and result in a desire to live in obedience to God. Habits of conscience are thus formed. In the words of a first grader, “My conscience is a little voice inside, and if I don’t listen to it, it gets quieter and quieter.”


The Need for Christian Schooling

A glance at the culture today clearly shows the loss of true godly education. Many Christian families and churches fail to recognize the erosion of character and conscience resulting from secular education. However ‘safe’ the secular schoolroom may seem, it is forming the child’s character and conscience based on a secular worldview. Education is formative of more than intellect, shaping the heart and soul of the child, the affections and tastes, and the character and conscience.


Progressives aim education at the goal of dependency and conformity. Ponder Noah Webster’s 1828 definition of education based on a biblical view of education: “Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts, and science is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”


This definition encompasses the whole child and is internally directed—mind, habits, manners, and temper. Notice that education is a series—a unified, connecting-the-dots experience. How much of what we know as education today is fact-driven, externally stimulated, and measured? Notice that instruction assumes discipline. It’s not enough to instruct; real teaching instills discipline—to prepare by instructing in correct principles and habits.


The Goal of Christian Education is Christian Character

Christian character is the gold of the kingdom and the Republic; it is a sustaining quality of both. There are thousands of examples in the Bible and in history, literature, science, the church, the family, in law and government, and in every subject of the curriculum of the power of Christian character combined with a good conscience to impact history and empower the kingdom of God. We have the liberty in the Christian classroom to lift the eyes of our children to those examples and equip them to go and do likewise. Let’s make the most of it!

Dr. Carole Adams serves as president of the Foundation for American Christian Education, is the editor of its Noah Plan K-12 curriculum, and author of Classic Grammar, a literature-based K-8 English program. The Adamses founded StoneBridge School in Chesapeake, VA and have a son, two daughters, and seven grandchildren.

ENDNOTES

1. Benjamin Rush, Thoughts Upon the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic, Addressed to the Legislature and Citizens of the State (Thomas Dobson, Philadelphia, 1786).


2. All definitions are from Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, first edition, 1828.