by Chris Schlect
I became aware of the necessity for sound, biblical thinking in each of the academic disciplines while I was in college. At that time I had become convinced from Scripture that up to that point in my academic career I had been disobedient to the greatest commandment: to love God with all of my heart, soul, and mind. I had no idea of what a distinctively Christian outlook on mathematics or history would be like, but I knew that as a student I was called to develop such an outlook.
My high school graduation ceremony capped twelve years of instruction in public schools. I had succeeded in my studies, I thought, having earned a strong GPA and an academic scholarship. Over the previous twelve years I had been taught by about thirty different teachers. I learned more from some of them than I did from others, I liked some more than others. But what all my teachers shared was a commitment to the government school program, and each of them did well to teach within the bounds of government-set guidelines.
For my teachers, staying within the guidelines meant, among other things, that no theological (or atheological) stance would be advocated in the classroom. In fact, there were almost no references to God at all. But there were certainly references to other things. I learned trigonometry and differential Calculus in math classes. I learned about the Renaissance and the Civil War in history classes, and of the anatomy of a frog in Biology class. Never in any of these classes was there a reference to Jesus Christ. Nor did I expect there to be such a reference, for at the time it would have seemed out of place to discuss Him, for religion had nothing to do with these subjects. Or so I thought.
In not mentioning God, my public school teachers preached a thundering sermon every day. By implication, they taught that God is not relevant to most areas of life. The most destructive things I was taught in the government schools were not the outright lies that were presented (e.g., I descended from apes, the Puritans were nasty people, etc.). These obvious falsehoods can be easily corrected. The most destructive things I was taught were, by far, the subtle lies about the character of God. Daily I was taught that two and two are four, the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, and that frogs breathe in water, regardless of whether Jesus Christ is Lord over such matters. Every lesson attempted to debunk the clear teaching of Scripture that Jesus Christ is the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
I had believed in God since childhood, and I never relinquished this belief. But with every lesson, in every class period, all day every day for twelve years, I was being taught to think like an atheist. And I didn’t even know that I was being indoctrinated.
The results of such constant exposure to unbiblical, “God-neutral” thinking in my own mind should not have been surprising at all. Jesus taught, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Having been trained for twelve years in the government schools, where as a matter of principle Christ is not exalted as Lord over all things, I naturally had no idea of the lordship of Christ. To me, Christ had become relevant only to very narrow conceptions of morality and worship — church stuff — and yet I still thought that I was a good Christian. I was not; I was a student who had been perfectly trained to become like his teacher.
God graciously called me out of my academic futility. I now teach in a Christian school where Christ is acknowledged as Lord in every area of study. In that capacity I have seen a tremendous need for both teachers and students to beware of slipping into unbiblical patterns of thought –even in Christian schools. Scripture clearly states how this is to be done –by “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This includes every mathematical thought, every historical thought, every artistic thought, etc. This essay introduces this kind of thinking.
This essay is about Differential Calculus, Botany, Renaissance History, Hebrew Grammar, and numerous other areas of academic pursuit. But only indirectly. The focal point here is to provide a very basic foundation for all these areas of study. The foundational questions behind all academic inquiries can be reduced to three very basic ones: What is real? What is true, and how do we know it? and, What is good? All worldviews have answers to these questions, but not all of them provide adequate answers.
Consider the following basic beliefs, which most people regarded as axiomatic: two contradictory statements cannot both be true; nature behaves uniformly; human beings should be treated with dignity; division by zero is invalid; similar events recur in history; sensory perceptions reflect objective reality. Such claims are so taken for granted that few bother to justify them. Are they true? If so, how would we know? Will just any view of reality, knowledge, or ethics provide adequate justification for these claims that we all take for granted in our everyday experience?
All worldviews purport to make some sense of everyday experience, and the Christian worldview is no exception. In fact, the Scriptures claim that only the Christian worldview is sensible, and that all others are foolish (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:20). What is this glorious Christian worldview that is so central to education? How does it differ from its competitors? The following overview addresses these questions. Its organization covers the three most basic building blocks of any worldview, the areas of reality, knowledge, and ethics.