By Harold Klassen
What exactly is the role of the Bible in education? Why do many students struggle to see the relevance of the Bible? How can we successfully communicate to our students the connection between all of life and learning and God and His Word? As I considered these questions, I discovered two problems in my worldview that had undermined the role of the Bible in my teaching: my understanding of both redemption and God’s calling were too small.
Understanding the Scope of Redemption
My concept of redemption wasn’t as big as the scope of God’s creation or man’s sin. My understanding of redemption was limited because I thought, “It’s all about me.” I had to begin thinking carefully about how chemistry—and everything else—fits into what God has revealed about who He is and what He is doing rather than trying to find Bible verses to fit into my chemistry classes.
For Christ-centered learning to be Bible-based, we must consider God’s revelation of His plans and purposes for all creation. John 3:16 is one of the most well-known salvation verses in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Consider all that this means.
For instance, what does “world” mean? In 1 John 2:15, the same author says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” How can both verses be true? Why would John tell us not to love what God loves? We must be careful about our definitions because at least two very different “worlds” are discussed in these verses. 1 John 2:15 focuses on the sin-shaped system that tries to function independent of God, denying His involvement and thanklessly misappropriating His gifts, while John 3:16 talks about people—right?
Why didn’t God clear up the confusion when He revealed His heart to John and inspired him to write both passages? Why didn’t John just say, “for God so loved people?” Did God want to include more about Himself in this revelation? What about saying, “for God so loved the earth and everything in it, including people?” After all, He made the whole universe with great creativity, an eye for beauty, and even a sense of humor, and then He put people in His world to care for and develop everything. Does God still love everything He made even though people’s sin has caused so much pain, destruction, and death? Do we believe that redemption involves everything?
What if John had written, “for God so loved the cows”? Does that sound sacrilegious? Consider what God said to the most famous and successful evangelist of the Old Testament. Jonah may have been reluctant, but that is understandable if we remember that his mission was like sending a Messianic Jew to Tehran today for an open-air evangelistic crusade. However, hundreds of thousands of people repented in three days, and the course of history was transformed. You remember how Jonah wasn’t pleased with the results. He didn’t believe that Gentile “dogs” should be saved. They didn’t even qualify as people in his mind. So, God had to set him down and reveal His heart to the reluctant evangelist: “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, which has more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left”—children under the age of three or four—“and also much cattle.” God loves His cows on whichever of the 1,000 hills they now live, as Asaph and David confirmed in the Psalms (50:10; 36:6).
There isn’t anything in all of God’s creation that He isn’t concerned about, even if people are worth more than anything else. Jesus confirmed that people are worth more than many sparrows (Luke 12:7), but that doesn’t give anyone the right to misuse or devalue the smallest parts of His creation. Abraham Kuyper reminded us, “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!”
All of creation is waiting for its liberation from the effects of sin. Paul states, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:19-22). Christ not only has redeemed people but will also remove all the effects of sin from His creation. People are first, but not to the exclusion of everything else.
Our understanding of redemption must be as big as God’s. Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:20-21 that through Christ, God reconciled everything to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth through Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes people who were once far from God, but it is not restricted to people. We have interpreted the Bible so that the good news it contains is only about people, as if every other part of God’s originally good creation is completely disposable and only people are redeemable.
Understanding God’s Calling The second problem I had was a limited understanding of God’s calling as I thought, “It’s just a job.” Everyone has likely heard some lightbulb jokes like, “How many folk musicians does it take to change a lightbulb? Five. One to change the lightbulb and four to write songs about how much better the old bulb was.” But what about this serious question: “How many people does it take for God to answer a prayer?” Well, it probably depends on the prayer, right?
Let’s consider a standard prayer, one Jesus told us to pray—“Give us this day our daily bread.” How many people does it take to answer that prayer? Let’s try to count them: farmer, cook, store owner, truck driver. Four? What about all the employees at the store? Who built the store? What did they build it with? Who made the truck and tractor? Where did the metal come from to make the truck? Who made the roads? Who created the money? Who organizes the traffic laws? Who collects the taxes to pay for the roads? Who developed the paint on the truck and the tractor? Who produced the electricity for the store? The fuel for the truck and tractor? So how many of those people should be intentionally and worshipfully serving God’s purposes—answering prayer—and meeting the needs of their neighbors? All of them!
We focus on a limited few instead of encouraging the breadth and depth of God’s calling. We lift up those with special gifts and roles to equip others and act as if they are the only ones serving God. Church work is defined as the work of the equippers (Eph. 4:11-12) instead of the work done by all members of the Body of Christ. Our vision of God’s purposes for all He created and all that He’s done to redeem everything can be completely distorted, even when studying the Bible, if we’re not careful to deal with the pernicious problem of SSD—the sacred-secular divide.
I realized how devastating it is to work from the basic premise that God only cares about a subset of His creation and a subset of life—the sacred—and has little interest in the rest—the secular. This thinking sets us up for all kinds of problems. We end up arguing under pressure about an ever smaller subset of sacred things while abandoning more “secular things” to the enemy of our souls. Without challenge, we let the Liar deceive everyone outside the church and many inside the church about what belongs to him (nothing) and what belongs to God (everything). Instead of all creation directing our attention to God’s goodness and greatness, we let much from creation steal God’s glory; we heedlessly misuse and destroy what He has given us to care for and develop. We need to encourage each other to see beyond our blind spots since we have absorbed many non-godly ways of viewing God’s world. We must continue the good work that God gave people in the Garden even though the effects of sin make it hard to remember our God-given purpose to be stewards of His world (Gen. 1:26-27, Ps. 8; 115:16).
Biblical Integration Is Essential Biblical integration involves the development of the great themes of God’s Word and not just cherry-picking Bible verses for specific lessons. Everyone and everything has a part in God’s Kingdom, where a great symphony of worshipful work is to include every instrument and melody working in harmony, creatively using every unique gift. Biblical integration brings every area of life into the light of God’s revelation to expose the lies that tempt us to live as practical atheists, as if He is irrelevant in huge swaths of life. There is no subject studied in any school that is not His subject and no skill that is not relevant to His calling for all humans to govern well over His material world, including the people in it. Bible integration seeks to equip every new generation to flourish in their Father’s world. As an act of obedience and sacrificial love, God’s ways will be developed, demonstrated, and defended to a world that desperately needs the way, the truth, and the life.
Biblical integration isn’t an added extra but is the essential core of every life lived under God’s authority and any education that seeks to transform any part of God’s world by bringing it into the “kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Biblical integration recognizes our need for the indwelling Holy Spirit to give all of God’s children the desire and power to do what pleases Him with everything (Phil. 2:13). It rejects every attempt to separate any part of God’s world from His influence. Biblical integration involves living in thankful acknowledgment that everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory (Rom. 11:36).
For resources to help equip teachers for Christ-centered, transformational education, visit transformingteachers.org.
Harold Klassen (email@example.com) and his wife, Betty, have served with TeachBeyond since 1977. They have four children and eight grandchildren. They worked at the Black Forest Academy in Germany in various roles, including teacher, librarian, computer technician, and high school principal. He completed an M.Sc. in Education from Cairn University in 2003. From 1998 to the present, he has been an educational consultant working with teachers worldwide. Since 2011, they have lived in Canada, where Harold has continued his international work with online and in-person teaching, especially in Asia. He has written Visual Valet: Personal Assistant for Christian Thinkers and Teachers.
Copyright © 2018. Transforming Teachers. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission. For more information, visit transformingteachers.org.