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Communion and community with your colleagues Deep learning for transformation Reflections on the iWord

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The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

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A MAGAZINE FOR CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS Views and opinions of writers and advertisers do not necessarily represent the position of this journal nor of the publisher. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE The vision of the journal is to affirm the lordship of Christ in education. It aims to serve Christian educators, challenging them to a fuller understanding of their task and responsibilities; raising issues critical to the development of teaching and learning in a distinctively Christian way. The Christian Teachers Journal is published by teachers as a forum for the exchange of ideas and practices for teachers to advance the cause of Christ in education.

Chris Parker Chris discusses some of the more subtle worldview shaping effects that are often overlooked when teaching digital discernment. He suggests that technologies can create patterns of thinking that draws us away from God.


Digital Responsibility Aaron Bunt Aaron presents a reflection on using digital technologies responsibly through the medium of slam poetry. This poem could be used with senior students as a discussion starter.


The 8th Commandment and Christian Education Martin Hanscamp By reflecting on the ‘8th commandment’ (from the ten commandments), Martin discusses the contribution that Christian education and Christian schools have on society?


Book Review Reviewed by Chris O’Sullivan The Book that Made Your World By Vishal Mangalwadi


Deep Learning for Transformation


My Top Shelf

Dr Geoff Beech and Dr Elizabeth Beech In this article, Geoff and Elizabeth explore the practice of deep, authentic knowing. They draw on the German word “lehrkunst” for insight into transformational learning.

David Gray We asked the newly appointed director of the National Institute for Christian Education to share his top five books that he would recommend for those engaged in Christian education.

DESIGN: Taninka Visuals COPYRIGHT: All material appearing in the Christian Teachers Journal is copyright. It may be reproduced in part for study or training purposes subject to an inclusion of an acknowledgement of the source and with permission of the publisher.

Teaching Digital Discernment


Reflections on an Unhelpful Word Nathaniel Gray Sutanto In this article, Nathaniel discusses how language that states the importance of integration between Christian perspective and Christian education, might actually be unhelpful.


Reflecting on Relationships with Christian Colleagues Debra Twartz Debra explores the nature of our communion with our Christian colleagues. She unfolds for us the impact that understanding of our unity in Christ has on our communities and therefore communication within them.


Book Review Reviewed by Christine Crump Christian Faith in English Church Schools By Trevor Cooling with Beth Green, Andrew Morris, and Lynn Revell The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


Teaching Digital Discernment Exploring the effects of informationism, mediationism, and narcissism.


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


ave you had the experience of reading educational technology articles that basically spruik benefits for learning, making you feel guilty because you just can’t seem to keep up with it all? This article has neither of these aims. What I hope to do is explore some of the subtle shaping effects that a digital technology immersed life is having on our students, and to explore the role we have as Christian teachers in deliberately discipling them towards ‘digital discernment’.

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” (Culkin, 1967)

By Chris Parker

Digital technologies, and their associated devices, have become part of the air we breathe. We are now weaving these technologies into the very fabric of everyday functioning, communicating, thinking, feeling, and relating. The length and breadth of this shaping is highlighted by Turkle (2011) in her research where she found that many teenagers discover their feelings by texting them! Another example is found in the commentary from the field of neuroscience suggesting that neurologically the smart phone is becoming, measurably, an extension of our brain (Carr, 2011). Digital technologies have not only changed the look and feel of the landscape of modern life, but they are shaping how we now think about the world, the way we understand and process relationships, our view of ourselves, notions of truth, visions of the ‘good life’, and what is virtuous character. Some of these influences happen at a deep pre-thought level—they are shaping our worldview. Christians are not immune from having their biblical worldview massaged and nuanced by these technologies. Christian schools and Christian teachers need to ask questions in this space, not only about how much this cultural storyline has impacted them, but how are they proactively teaching their students to be discerning about these effects as they attempt to unfold for them a biblical view on all things. The professional reading that might come by your desk— or hit your inbox—will largely take a utopian approach to the potential benefits of digital technologies to improve, and possibly revolutionize, education. However, there is a growing collection of publications from sociologists and cultural commentators projecting a more dystopian perspective on our technological immersion (Turkle, 2011; The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


Informationism was birthed with the invention of the telegraph. This results in a mindset that craves to be ‘informed’. Birkerts, 2015; Powers, 2011; Carr, 2011; Detweiler, 2013; Bauerlein, 2009). Boyd (2015) in her book It’s Complicated, helpfully suggests, based on the research she has done on teenagers across America, that the truth perhaps lies somewhere in the complicated middle. I suggest in this article that the biblical worldview brings a rich and beautiful lens that can help to uncomplicate our understanding. I will do this by exploring three areas of influence; informationism, mediationism, and narcissism. Informationism There was a time when the fastest way that information could be transmitted from one place to another was the fastest it could be transported by a person—horseback, steam train, etc. This changed with the invention of the telegraph. Suddenly, not only could information be transmitted as fast as it could be tapped out, but it could also go to multiple places at once. This social change birthed a cultural change in our view of the importance of information and being ‘informed’. Postman (1992), in Technopoly, explains that prior to the telegraph, people in one city in America didn’t know what crimes, for example, happened overnight in another city—but now they could. This was the beginning of an idolizing and shallowing of information. As Postman suggests, “the telegraph may have made the country into one neighborhood, but it’s a peculiar one populated by strangers who knew nothing but the most superficial facts about each other.” Schultz (2004) in his book Habits of the High Tech Heart, coined the term “informationism” (p. 21). He states, “we are succumbing to informationism, a nondiscerning, vacuous faith in the collection and dissemination of information as a route to social progress and personal happiness” (p. 26). Informationism was birthed with the invention of the telegraph. This results in a mindset that craves to be ‘informed’. Being informed brings a sense of security, safety, and satisfaction. There is, of course, nothing wrong with information; it’s good to be informed. However, when any good thing becomes an ultimate thing, it becomes an idol and the resulting idolatry begins to shape our hearts and minds—the subject of our worship. With informationism we see a tendency towards settling for context-free knowing and the shallowing of understanding. Schultz acknowledges that “As the pool of information grows our actual knowing declines” (p. 32). He continues, “Reading online about the needs of the world, for


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

instance, is never the same as personally knowing people in need” (p. 34). As context is reduced, we begin to lose our ability to discern between what is valuable information and valueless information. Have you noticed this in your students? The efficiency and effectiveness of information and communication technologies have resulted in an increase in being informed, but, ironically, a decrease, or shallowing, of knowing. The technologies that we have woven into the fabric of our lives—and education—are masterful at collecting data and communicating information: so much so that there is less time and ‘space’ for deeper knowing. However, a mindset of satisfaction with shallow knowing is permeated. Does this bend us further away from wisdom? If the sentiments in the poem, The Rock, by T.S. Elliot were insightful back in 1934, how much more are they worth considering now in the light and shadow of the Internet: Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? The abundance of information, and our informationism, are also effecting our reading. Carr (2011) in his book The Shallows (I highly recommend this book to educators of all grades) cites research showing that our reading speeds have not decreased with the abundance of information, but the nature of our reading has changed: We read if anything, faster than ever. Our reading rates have not slowed down. But we are no longer guided toward a deep, personally constructed understanding of the text’s connotations. Instead we are hurried off toward another bit of related information, and then another, and then another. (p. 166) Potted punchy grabs of information littered with hyperlinks ready to bounce you across the surface to some other context-less morsel, and all this wrapped up in a medium bordered by ads and other less than helpful temptations for informational-transportation. Hence, says Carr (2011), “The strip-mining of relevant content replaces the slow excavation of meaning” (p. 166). Our idols become the objects of our affection, focus, and security. They can be subtle and abstract like our drive to ‘be informed’ so as to avoid the fear of missing out. However, these subtle idols are just as effective at distracting us from truth that Christ alone is worthy of our ultimate worship; He provides the rest He promises when these false idols ultimately provide anxiety and insecurity.

Mediationism Technologies are increasingly being adopted in ways that have them mediating between the user and more embodied, authentic aspects of life. By way of illustration, consider the technology/innovation of cartography. Indigenous peoples— and Western folk prior to the innovation of mapping—had a more intimate, direct relationship and knowledge of the land where they lived. Maps begin to mediate and our spatial knowledge is potentially diminished—how much more so with GPS technologies (have you experienced this?). I am not suggesting that maps, mapping, and cartography are in any way bad. Our ability to invent and innovate is a blessing from God—as are maps! However, if we acknowledge the mediating nature of the map, how much more must we acknowledge the mediating nature of social media, text messaging, and photo-blogging etc. Digital technology is increasingly mediating between us and authentic communion. Have you ever sent a text message, for example, when you probably should have made a phone call? Texting can seem easier than a phone call as the technology plays a mediating role. It comes at less relational cost and if it draws less from my emotional account, I can perhaps have many more of these types of relationships. Powers (2010) reflecting on how his family now disperses to their rooms in the evenings, cynically asks, “Why not flee the few of the living room for the many of the screen, where all relationships are flattened into one user-friendly mosaic. A human collage that’s endlessly clickable and never demands our full attention” (p. 53). The more we allow technologies to play a mediating role in our relationships, the greater the potential for a diminishing of authentic, relational engagement. Perhaps— as the increasingly popular meme suggests—we may at times need to disconnect to connect. The more we weave these technologies into the unquestioned day-to-day of our lives and relationships, the greater potential to move away from authentic, embodied intimacy. As Groothius suggests, “The voice extends but the person recedes” (p. 38). Or as one discerning teenager puts it: Facebook and MySpace sell themselves as social networking sites, but I think they actually do more to keep people apart than unite them. Why bother calling a friend when you can post on their wall? There’s no need to visit a friend to catch up when you can just check their profile to see what’s new. (Twenge and Campbell, 2009, p. 111) This mediation then results in a growing dependency on these technologies: specifically in the context of relationships. A dependency on being connected but not necessarily on connection. Explain to a Year 10 class that

they cannot bring any devices on their week-long school camp, and you will see the fear—a now clinically recognized anxiety—in many of their faces. Along with the fear of boredom, the anxiety of not having their brain-extension with them, and the disconnection from the flow of bite-sized updates of information, there will be the fear that they won’t have their relational mediator. Unmediated connection can be confronting. We can also use our digital technology to construct alternative mediated self-identities. Many of your students are spending a significant amount of time and emotional energy massaging and nurturing their online personas. While including himself, Challies (2011) suggests that “many of us are more concerned with who we are in a mediated context than who we are before those who live in the same neighborhood or who attend the same church” (p. 105). With each of the teenagers (and increasingly tweens) in your classes, are you relating to the whole unmediated child? Or are they holding something back of themselves that is saved for their digital projection? Christ is the ultimate mediator between us and God. Could it be that the more we incorporate technology as a mediator between ourselves and authentic communion with others, we not only miss out on the relational richness that God has designed for us, but we also may be subconsciously bending ourselves towards a disposition that seeks to replace Christ as mediator in our communion with God? “We become what we behold”, says Culkin (1967), “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” Narcissism Digital culture didn’t give birth to narcissism. The first lie whispered to Adam and Eve contained a narcissistic temptation and it’s been an expression of our fallenness ever since. However, the temptation is now stronger than ever for our students—and us if we are honest. The digital technologies that we have so successfully woven into the very fabric of our lives are often self-focused by design. They have an architecture that normalizes narcissism. A longitudinal study of over 16, 000 students at San Diego University from 1982–2006 measured the level of narcissism of undergraduates using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). During this time period a 30% increase in the NPI was measured, and the study’s report states, “gadgets and online social networking sites have stoked the self-loving tendencies of modern students” (Hoover, 2007, p. 1). Postman (1992), who was not aware of the Internet, prophesied, “Will the computer raise egocentrism to the status of a virtue?” (p. 17). How much more so with the invention and integration of the Internet, social networking,

Digital technology is increasingly mediating between us and authentic communion.

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


Technologies often create subtle patterns of thinking that draw us away from God and towards an idolatry of some form. and pocketable devices that are connected to both? In The Narcissism Epidemic, Twenge (2009) suggests four main contributing factors for the increase in narcissism; permissive parenting, celebrity obsession, access to easy credit, and not in the least, digital technologies (particularly social networking). She helpfully explains that not only is social networking designed for egocentrism, but it can drag the worldview norm to the narcissistic center: Social networking sites reinforce narcissism in an endless loop. Narcissists have more ‘friends’ and connections on these sites, and narcissistic behavior and images are rewarded with more comments and more ‘adds’. Thus users are more likely to be connected to people who are more narcissistic than the average person. So in addition to the site structure facilitating narcissistic self-promotion, the way users are connected may pull the norm of behavior and selfpresentation toward narcissism. (p. 111) Technologies contribute to the development of cultural storylines and then, in the case of communication technologies, becomes the amplifier of the storytelling. Could it be that our immersion in narcissistic-nurturing digital technologies subtly hinders a pursuit of Christ-likeness? Christian education Christian education is a wonderful opportunity to teach for transformation. Additional to the curriculum—or is it through the curriculum—we seek to teach our students to: • understand and celebrate the intricacy, beauty, and grandeur of all strands of the creation • recognise the places and ways that the goodness of God’s world now tends away from Him—the “pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2) • participate in a transformation that begins with “the renewal of their minds” (Romans 12:2) and extends into all the dark cracks in the creation that desperately need the light of the gospel. The “patterns of this world” are sometimes really obvious— to both teacher and student. Often, however, they are subtle. Technologies often create subtle patterns of thinking that draw us away from God and towards an idolatry of some form. By their very nature, technologies are adopted into the everyday frameworks of life, and therefore their shaping effects can be less obvious to us—like the fable of the frog in the pot of hot water that doesn’t realise the need to jump before he boils to death. Perhaps never before has a younger generation embraced 8

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

a suite of technologies with such passion, assumption, and dependency. This provides Christian educators with a rich opportunity to teach for transformation through discernment—digital discernment. By acknowledging that we have a tendency to be shaped by the patterns of this world towards idolatry, of one form or another, a biblical worldview recognises the non-neutrality of technology. Technology is good—in fact our ability to invent and innovate is a rich blessing from God—but if we embrace it uncritically we risk being shaped by it. We may be shaped towards idolatry and away from shalom and the full and flourishing life God has designed for His people. Christian educators will courageously go further than just teaching their students to make sure they use digital technologies in godly ways. Even as they use the technologies in their classrooms to teach the curriculum, they will seek opportunities to disciple their students to see that even when they approach their technological engagement in a godly manner, they may still be being shaped by it. The media commentator McLuhan didn’t pull any punches when he stated that: Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot. For the content of a medium is just the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. (p. 18) There are many questions that this call for teaching digital discernment raises, such as: “What about when parental modeling and family culture are completely at odds with this message, making us seem like Luddites?”, “Aren’t we as teachers just as immersed?”, “The government curriculum barely has space for us to teach with a technological integration let alone teach for a philosophy of technology”. At what age/stage do we start teaching discernment, as it seems irrelevant when they are really young but too late when they are older?” These are important questions that I suggest schools should be discussing.1 However, I would like to conclude with three questions that flow from the notions of informationism, mediationism, and narcissism that may be profitable to discuss as a staff group after reading this article: How well are we inspiring our students toward wisdom through their learning and not just toward contentment with a collection of information—even though their technologies shape them to think this way? As we, and our students, increasingly embrace mediated

living through our digital devices, how can we best model and disciple a more frequent seeking of authentic relational intimacy and a reducing of the distancing effects? What can we do as a school community (what story do we need to tell) to winsomely, yet powerfully, unfold for our students that they are not the center of the universe—even though the technologies that they live and breathe are screaming at them that they are? Footnote I highlight here the great work of Covenant Christian School in NSW with their Digital Discipleship program for senior students. A number of Christian schools have embraced and adopted these resources to their own context. Visit or contact Dave Youl for more information (


References Bauerlein, M. (2008). The dumbest generation: How the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future (or, don’t trust anyone under 30). New York: Tarcher/Penguin. Birkerts, S. (2015). Changing the subject: Art and attention in the Internet age. Minneapolis: Gray Wolf Press. Borgmann, A. (1987). Technology and the character of contemporary life: A philosophical inquiry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale: Yale University Press. Carr, N. (2010). The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: W.W. Norton. Challies, T. (2011). The next story: Life and faith after the digital explosion. Michigan: Zondervan.

Discernment or Deception By Dr Ken Dickens

CulkinJ. (1967, March 18). A schoolman’s guide to Marshall McLuhan. Saturday Review. Detweiler, C. (2013). iGods: How technology shapes our spiritual and social lives. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group. Elliot, T. S. (1934). The Rock. Groothuis, D. (2005). The soul in cyberspace. Grand Rapids: Baker. Hoover, E. (2007). Here’s you looking at you, kid: Study says many students are narcissists. Chronicle of Higher Education, 53 (27). McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. Massachusetts: MIT Press. Postman, N. (1993). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books. Powers, W. (2010). Hamlet’s blackberry: A practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age. New York: Harper Collins. Schultze, Q. J. (2002). Habits of the high-tech heart: Living virtuously in the information age. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books. Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2009). The narcissism epidemic: Living in the age of entitlement. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Chris is editor of the Christian Teachers Journal and lecturer with the National Institute for Christian Education. Chris and his wife Coco live in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. They have two children and a growing collection of ukuleles.

I think it was Martin Lloyd Jones who said that discernment was the last thing to be developed and the first thing to go in Christian character. It is biblical discernment that stops us being sucked into false stories in which we are immersed. To discern means to distinguish, which in a relativist age, smacks of intolerance.

The two common memes of “Whatever” and “It’s all good” urge us not to distinguish, not to discern. In Colossians 2:8 Paul urges us “not to be taken captive to the hollow and deceptive philosophies that depend on human tradition and the basic principles of the world rather than on Christ”. The contrast is stark—either discern or be deceived! Discernment is not just resistance to being sucked in, it is active critical engagement with ideas, trends, and habits. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul writes “We take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ”. So our curriculum—an unfolding of the world to our students, needs to be concerned with discernment— distinguishing between conflicting stories. Our curriculum needs to promote critical thinking that is not based on autonomous human rationality but on biblically informed wisdom. This discerning wisdom is not a crass black/white, good/bad exercise. It is finely nuanced. Returning to our memes, it requires reclaiming “Whatever” and saying, “Whatever I do I do in the name, in the character of Jesus”. It’s seeking and finding whatever is true, noble, right, pure, and admirable. Discerning wisdom means affirming that it is indeed ‘all good’ because of creation, but that it’s all distorted and corrupted because of the fall and it’s all in need of redemption. This is the transcript of a video resource used in the Certificate of Christian Education (Deliver) developed by the National Institute for Christian Education. The video can be watched here:

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


Digital Responsibility By Aaron Bunt

Click – the small sun burst forth,

I’m training at ten times gravity

reflects and closes in an instant.

Super Sayan or not the pressures too tight

Two swipes several slaps of fore…

I slip and stumble I’m not steady

fingers and thumb and my audience is distant.

I can’t win this fight

Rome wasn’t built in a day

I need Link’s ocarina to travel,

but it burnt in less

back seven years at least.

it was only clay, stone and hay

I can’t help the thought

no more solid than your rep-u-tation, I guess.

I wish my helper fairy had taught me to; LISTEN! Life’s no game,

Over 9000 likes and counting but who’s counting, not me

aint no re-spawn, hear this,

all I can see is the negative comments mounting

the digital world is mythless

like Vegetta’s Power Level in Season 3.

Dragonball wishes are worthless, hopeless one click, one post – respect it

12 cutting comments flowing like poison causing 3 poignant questions to be chosen

the digital beast is bigger than Bowser

‘Why did he post it?

but unlike Mario, you wont be glad to have this encounter.

How could the bully write it?

‘It’s not my fault’ – this wont do

Why can’t they delete it?’

stand up, recognise it’s all up to you.

Now I can’t shake it,

Your profile, your life, digital footprint

I try fake it, make and break it

that one’s for life.

but the mantle fits too tight

You better believe it

moulded, cast just for my height

10 years on and the ghost of it still haunts me. Every time I turn it chases, it wont quit Employer, landlord and family wont let me forget. I aint kidding man, I’m dead set.

2196 likes Aaron Bunt Aaron is the secondary team leader at Nepean Christian School. As well as teaching English he likes to write/perform slam poetry to challenge students.


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

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The th Commandment and Christian Education By Martin Hanscamp


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

How do we speak with confidence into the public square? Does Christianity, or do Christian schools, make a worthwhile contribution to society? Why should a secular society listen to what they see as a dusty old and irrelevant manuscript? These questions are important for us to consider as the relationship between Christian schools and broader society is being questioned and critiqued. The Indian Christian Vishal Mangalwadi, in his outstanding book, The Book That Made Your World, tells a wonderful story of him overhearing a conversation with an Indian man who is bragging about his success as a businessman in Great Britain. He’s perplexed by the Sikh gentleman’s comment that business in England is easy because everyone trusts you there. He lands in Holland for a conference and his host, Jan, invites him to go for a walk. They head down the neatly organised lanes until Jan takes a detour into a milking shed. Mangalwadi follows and watches Jan dip into the storage vat to draw out a beautiful mug of milk. He then pays into and extracts change out of the money jar on the ledge. Mangalwadi couldn’t believe his eyes, “Man if you were in India, they’d take the milk and the money”. In that instant Mangalwadi understood what the Indian businessman had been trying to say. If this was India, you’d need a cashier to ensure the customer paid; an inspector to check the milk wasn’t watered down; another bureaucrat to ensure the inspector wasn’t being bribed, and so on—all the extra costs being covered by the consumer. Mangalwadi points out that the cashier, the water, the bribe, the inspector add no value to the milk. The corruption stops the consumer from patronising a value-adding business and thus reduces the economy’s capacity to create jobs. So why the contrast between Holland and India? Why can a Dutch farmer leave his money jar out and get a fair return for his product? Mangalwadi points to the Global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that ranks 175 countries from the least corrupt to the most. In 2014 Australia comes in at 11th. He points out the clear correlation between corruption and poverty. It’s an interesting question to ask; which causes which? The circular causation means it is difficult to interrupt the cycle. Mangalwadi goes on to say, “An important finding of the CPI is that the least corrupt countries are the Protestant countries, that is, secular nations whose cultures were shaped decisively by the Bible” (p. 253). Why is this form of honesty so easy within Dutch society? My heritage is a Dutch

Protestant one. As a child, I’d hear my dad preach from the Heidelberg Catechism on Sunday nights. The Dutch church, after the Heidelberg Catechism was written in 1563, decreed that each year all 52 ‘Lord’s Days’ would be on the weekly preaching roster. This type of instruction has been going on for over four centuries in Holland and its influence has been profound, reaching into the very DNA of the country, despite its current liberal secularism. The extended explanation of the 8th commandment given in the Heidelberg Catechism (Lord’s Day 42) goes way beyond theft. It covers issues like tricks, sneakiness, exorbitant interest, coveting, waste, and then on the positive side— seeking the betterment of your neighbour and caring for the needy. The Heidelberg illustrates the breadth of “Thou shalt not steal” and explains it in the light of the rest of Scripture. Throughout his brilliant book, Mangalwadi explores the idea that the Bible is the single most powerful force that has influenced the unique vision of Western thought, Western values, and Western institutions. What is the relevance for Christian education? 1. It helps us to understand and appreciate where our social/legal values and institutions have come from. Where does good business trust in UK commerce come from? Where does paying when no one’s looking in Holland come from? Where does the freedom to teach from your faith perspective in Australia come from? Mangalwadi says these values and freedoms are founded in the Scriptures. 2. It’s also a substantial confidence booster. In a secular context where

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


Christian schools are painted as being narrow, exclusivist, irrelevant, bigoted, intolerant, judgemental, and so on, we can interrupt those false perceptions and point out that we stand for a wonderful set of values and attitudes that are steeped in the Scriptures. 3. It affirms again the message of the Scripture’s relevance. By opening up the way the Scriptures speak into our everyday, we inspire our students to see how essential and relevant God’s Word is for their lives. 4. It reminds us we’re making a contribution to the common good. If you were to brainstorm a list of core values that undergird Australian society (e.g., the need for a fair and just legal code where citizens respect the rule of law) the majority would find their beginnings in the Scriptures. We’d say these are intrinsic to our lives and pivotal for a healthy society. This underpinning also includes values in education. For example;

We particularly want our teachers to use the Scriptures meaningfully and not in trite, trashy, or tacky ways education is a free right for all children; education assists students to grow in confidence and competence; fairness and justice for all students means each child is gifted and should be given the opportunity to grow; students need to work together in forging community and loving their neighbour as themselves; students are charged to actively contribute to the common good and build a flourishing society, a healthy nation. In this whole discussion about the impact of the Scriptures in the development of Western civilisation (what some call the Judeo-Christian ethic): a word of caution. Some Christians claim that all we need to do is return to our heritage, our roots, and reclaim the territory. I suggest this is potentially unhelpful as such claims that a Christian ethic has always worked towards the common good


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

LORD’S DAY 42  110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?  Not only such theft and robbery as are punished by the magistrate; but God views as theft all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we seek to draw to ourselves our neighbor’s goods, whether by force or with show of right, such as unjust weights, ells, measures, wares, coins, usury, or any means forbidden of God; so moreover all covetousness, and all useless waste of His gifts.  111. But what does God require of thee in this commandment?  That I further my neighbor’s good, where I can and may; deal with him as I would have others deal with me; and labor faithfully, that I may be able to help the poor in their need.  Extract from the Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

are historically and intellectually challengeable. It’s perhaps more balanced, and theologically sound, to talk about contributing to the common good. In drawing the threads of this article together we recognise that one of the big challenges for Christian school leaders is to ensure that the Scriptures speak into every nook and cranny of the school yard. We particularly want our teachers to use the Scriptures meaningfully and not in trite, trashy, or tacky ways. As we affirm again the dynamic nature, the significance, and the relevance of the Scriptures, we return to the 8th commandment “Thou shalt not steal” and we can see two contrasting approaches. In our society even the most secular person knows that one of the biblical commandments suggests that we should not steal. Unfortunately, it is an example of how the Christian faith is viewed—a whole list of ‘thou shalts nots’. Their viewpoint is that if you obey these you can join the weird religious club. We are reduced to a bunch of ‘do gooders’ or worse (since the Royal Commission into sexual abuse) ‘do-badders’. When reflecting on this distorted perception and reception, we could curl up and cry. We recognise that our God, who wants to speak wisdom and grace into every square inch and not be side-lined into scoffing and irrelevance, would be deeply grieved. But thankfully there’s another way to read the text. Even though the phrase, “Thou shalt not steal” is just four words, they are still rich and relevant in meaning. We know the 8th commandment touches our actions when no one’s watching. We know it impacts all the mechanisms needed for a flourishing economy. We know that when we dig deeply, contextualise, and unpack the relevant, needed, and applicable message, the Scriptures come alive with renewed influence and meaning. As we seek the Kingdom of God in education, let us continue to drink deeply from this vat of delicious milk, this well spring of God’s revelation for schooling: for life. Reference Mangalwadi, V. (2012). The book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of western civilsation. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Martin is the executive officer for the Australian Association of Christian Schools undertaking political advocacy for the Christian school sector. When he’s not writing submissions or trying to have coffee with politicians, he thinks back on his days as a secondary science teacher bumping into real students who wrestled with real questions of what’s around the corner in life and vocation.


Vishal Mangalwadi The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization 2011. This is a most interesting and challenging book. It was written as a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Mangalwadi declares “The Bible created the modern world of science and learning because it gave us the Creator’s vision of what reality is all about. That is what made the modern West a reading and thinking civilisation” (p.xxi).

Mangalwadi explains how, as an Indian, he sees that the West’s loss of its way, and its soul, is directly related to the decline in understanding and acceptance of the Bible as God’s Word. Each chapter tackles a separate problem or issue as Mangalwadi explains how, as an Indian, he sees that the West’s loss of its way, and its soul, is directly related to the decline in understanding and acceptance of the Bible as God’s Word. Each chapter also leads neatly to the next, building the strength of Mangalwadi’s argument. Be prepared for deep philosophical arguments as Mangalwadi examines

the impact of the Bible and Christianity on the most wide-ranging of ontological questions. Some of these include: • why the West was so passionate to explore medical and scientific technologies • how human dignity was enhanced by biblical teaching, including the social and emotional ‘liberation’ of women through the sacrament of Christian marriage and the strengthening of society through the bolstering of the family unit • how literature and language owe much to the structure and characterisation in the Bible. Mangalwadi believes that the West has lost its way and may be teetering on the edge of a new Dark Age. This learned, long book prays that the West will rediscover the Word of God as it did after the collapse of Rome and that it will again illuminate our thinking in every field—as do we all.

Chris O’Sullivan is deputy principal pastoral care at Covenant Christian School, Sydney. She has taught there for over 25 years, in roles including Languages, extension and enrichment and English. Chris and her husband John have 2 sons who also attended Covenant, and 4 grandsons.

The perspectives of this book are important for Christian educators as the place of the Christian school is being questioned in secular society

It is fascinating to view the impact of the Bible on the world from the perspective of a great Christian scholar who is Indian. He looks critically at the culture of the West as well as of India. The perspectives of this book are important for Christian educators as the place of the Christian school is being questioned in secular society (see Martin Hanscamp’s article on page 12)

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


By Dr Geoff Beech and Dr Elizabeth Beech

Deep learning for transformation:

Exploring Lehrkunst There has recently been much hype about the wonders of the Finnish education system with educators and politicians alike wondering which of their specific educational practices may be implemented in the Australian school system.


ealistically, however, this would be an impossible task since their system of practices does not exist in a void but, rather, it is grounded in—and flows out of—very particular worldviews. In all honesty, to truly embed the Finnish system here, we would also have to transport the underlying Finnish worldview as well. Interestingly, the educational underpinnings in Finland are not only a product of their unique culture but, until recently, have also been built upon a strong biblical worldview. Indeed, a teacher from Finland has said that this had been the real reason behind stories of unsurpassed excellence and the flourishing students in Finland (A. Silova, personal communication, April 14, 2016). Interestingly, Silova also mentioned that the quality of the education system in Sweden seems to be dropping following experimentation with individualistic constructivism. She expected that a similar introduction that has begun in Finland would have a similar impact as the focus was moved from teaching to student-constructed learning. Certainly, we should always be encouraged to delve deeper into new teaching practices that can help our students to thrive and retain the greatest and most important parts of their learning. Such ‘success’, as it were, would not be measurable simply in regurgitated facts but evidenced in a thirst for truth, particularly, in light of God’s truth, in all of His creation. This type of deep learning requires an overhaul of the underlying worldview assumptions students hold. If we have thought about the idea of being Christians who ‘teach Christianly’, and if we understand the concept of an underlying worldview, we will appreciate just how difficult it can be to change these foundational assumptions in a significant way in our students. Once an idea has become embedded at the level of basic assumptions about our world and, therefore, is part of the schema a student has that helps them make sense of the world, then it tends to resist change.


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

One example can be seen in research done at MIT and Harvard University in the USA in the 1980s and 1990s which showed that graduates of their science and engineering courses still held fast to misconceptions, even some rather bizarre ones, regarding basic scientific principles. Some highly trained students were shown to have no real idea of the simple fact that electric currents consist of electrons flowing in a circuit despite having passed exams involving complex electromagnetism formulas. It was found that at some stage in their early education, perhaps even before reaching school, they had developed a false mental picture, which had become a deeply embedded assumption that persisted through all of their education.

Lehrkunst is a German word with no direct English equivalent in terms of the connotation given it by educators in Europe, but it is sometimes taken to mean ‘the art of teaching’. Educational psychologists have found in their research on changing misconceptions, that one of the best ways is to go back to scratch and ‘start over’ in rebuilding correct assumptions. This is where one specific practice borrowed from European culture—Lehrkunst —could be particularly useful, especially when aligned with an all-encompassing biblical worldview. Lehrkunst is a German word with no direct English equivalent in terms of the connotation given it by educators in Europe, but it is sometimes taken to mean ‘the art of teaching’. The theory and practice began in Switzerland and Germany and has spread north to the Netherlands and beyond. Hans Christoph Berg, one of the key educators working on the idea of Lehrkunst, and others, have written mostly in German

and Dutch, so very little is available in English. Their method, Lehrstückunterricht, rejects the shallowness of education that teaches only to a test, particularly standardised tests, or that sees students primarily as sponges who will simply soak up data as information. Instead, a system of learning was developed that takes students deeper in relevant topics than is typically allowed in traditional education. One of the key features of this concept is to realise the connectedness between ‘facts’ within their historical context and their relation to the thought processes of real people. As students explore the realities within which discoveries were made, theories were proposed, and science was advanced, students build new basic assumptions with the help of their teachers who act mainly as facilitators of this process. For example, in studying art, questions can be raised, and should be formulated by the students themselves, regarding not just the paintings of Claude Monet, for instance, but also regarding his thinking processes and those of other artists, politicians, philosophers, and religious leaders at the beginning of the Impressionist movement. What was he painting, yes, but also what was he communicating, how had his painting evolved, and how did his work relate to that of his contemporaries? What problems did the Impressionists want to solve and what processes did they go through to solve them? What was happening in the church and religious communities at this time as a result of these societal underpinnings? Examples of other topics might include Michael Faraday’s The Chemical History of a Candle, Jost Bürgi’s discovery of

the logarithm, the creation of Mozart’s Figaro, the innovation of human flight, or the writing of a great novel. In each case, rather than only teaching facts and then testing before moving on, the teacher acts as moderator between the originator and the students, assisting them as they question the famous model and delve deeply into all social, cultural, scientific, and religious aspects of the topic. As they get in contact with original documents, students are encouraged to uncover the originator’s perspective of their unique problems and explore solutions with them. Through the use of problem-solving skills and critical thinking as applied by the originator, students acquire a much deeper, holistic understanding of a particular piece of knowledge and how it came about. The very moment of the originator’s insight was always the climax of a real dramatical process—a real, historically relevant problem. In Lehrstückunterricht, the ‘dead’ facts of knowledge are reconsidered as ‘living’ processes and bringing these processes back to life for the students is elementary for the structure of the unit. (Michael Jänichen) Obviously, it takes a significant time commitment to adequately do this and would be impractical for every fact in every subject of the curriculum to be treated this way, so it would be wise to choose a number of significant themes or topics to apply Lehrkunst in one’s classroom on a regular basis. In Europe, a growing number of teachers have developed and shared their lessons, or units, on specific

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


themes chosen from significant events, major discoveries, or key turning points in history, philosophy, politics, and so on. (If you read German you may want to explore these at http:// In Australia, perhaps this could become a CEPA project.

examples of real people in real situations so that students could explore the history and relationships of people using that language. What a privilege it is, as Christian teachers, to bring God’s grand narrative alive, at all points in history and through all subjects in the curriculum, for our students!

Although not known by the term Lehrkunst, some Australian schools have implemented history projects related to the World Wars that do not involve learning from textbooks as much as researching real people and real events through a variety of other sources. By examining historical documents and books, doing web searches, and conducting interviews, students identify wars and battles, people from the local community who participated or died there, and the direct consequences of these events on their families in Australia. In some cases, students have even travelled to Europe or the sites of other battlefields to see the actual places linked to their research, visiting historical monuments and graves, and taking photos back to the descendants in Australia. Such learning, involving people and relationships, has a much deeper impact on students’ assumptions than simply committing facts to memory.

For this very reason the National Institute for Christian Education has shamelessly promoted the need for Christian teachers to comprehend the foundations of biblical theology—the understanding of the whole scriptural narrative as the gospel message and the need to site individual verses or passages within that narrative to fully understand their place in the big picture. The Bible seems like a complex compilation of writings yet, through a Lehrkunst approach, and led by His Holy Spirit, we can develop a deeper understanding of God’s complete story for us and be enabled to involve our students to acquire a paradigm-changing biblical perspective regarding any topic. The resources and training provided by the National Institute are valuable tools to help gain the knowledge necessary for understanding God’s grand narrative and how to share it through a more Lehrkunst-like approach in our classrooms.

While the Lehrkunst depth of understanding may not be possible for all topics, it does highlight the need to create patterns of learning, or ‘schemata’, that truly make sense to the learner, as indicated in recent educational research: Schemata, or schemas, are the basic units by which we organise and structure our knowledge. Whereas ideas might be acquired somewhat randomly or accidentally, it is at the level of the schema that deeper meaning occurs, and the grasp of an ‘overall big picture’ becomes possible. Schemata provide the necessary frames we need to make sense out of ideas and facts that would otherwise exist as isolated islands of knowledge. (Hattie & Yates, 2014, p. 130) As well as correcting misconceptions, this deeper understanding within a schema has obvious benefits such as setting students up as life-long learners. At the moment, time and curriculum constraints can make this a more difficult approach within school classrooms, especially since modernism has led us down the standardised test track and we can only hope for an eventual revolution when deep learning methodologies will be accepted more readily by governments or departments of education in the English-speaking world. Until then, however, there can be some particular benefits derived from even a limited application of Lehrkunst within the Christian classroom. We know that in order to fully understand a biblical text we must look deeply at the author, the situation in which he was writing, the audience, the language used, and the connectedness of the text to the grand narrative of God— from Creation, through the Fall, to Redemption and the Fulfilment. Likewise, in Lehrkunst, study should involve relationships with real human subjects (i.e., the Claude Monets) in order to develop an empathetic understanding of them and their place within God’s grand narrative. Many will have heard David Smith, when presenting conferences in Australia, mention teaching practices similar to Lehrkunst. David used a personal example of teaching a novel where he has promoted the idea of deep reading— reading to understand the author and his or her point of view. Similarly, he mentioned teaching languages by using


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

What a privilege it is, as Christian teachers, to bring God’s grand narrative alive, at all points in history and through all subjects in the curriculum, for our students! References Hattie, J. A. C., & Yates, G. C. R. (2014). Visible learning and the science of how we learn. London: Routledge.

Geoff Beech worked for eight years with the National Institute for Christian Education before retiring to work part-time with the Institute as well as TeachBeyond. With his wife, Beth, he also does a variety of things through their consultancy: Lifeworld Education ( Much of this article comes from part of a new book Geoff and Beth are working on: God’s Teachers and Learners in a Parallel Universe. Elizabeth Beech has worked in Christian higher education for over twelve years in the USA and South America before coming to Australia where she is currently working with the National Institute for Christian Education. She has also taught English as a second language and home-schooled her four children while serving on the mission field in church planting and community development.


Senior High curriculum




Consumerism Feminism


Christianity Modernism

New Age spirituality Relativism


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My top shelf

A Christian educator shares their top 5 books When I first began working in a Christian school over eight years ago, I had limited background in Christian education. I recommend the following books. They greatly assisted me in developing a deep appreciation and desire for the task at hand. By no means is my journey of discovery complete, but I do commend these books to anyone with a desire to grow their understanding and passion for Christian education. With all that in mind, nothing will prepare us in the task of Christian education more than a daily reliance and dependence on God’s Word, the Bible. If you only read one book, read His.

By David Gray


Joined-Up Life Andrew J. B. Cameron

Within our Christian schooling network we are regularly encouraged to consider the culture around us and to read the culture through gospel lenses. All very helpful, but where does one start (apart from Scripture of course)? What does that actually look like in practice in the 21st century? In step with the Holy Spirit, how does one grow and apply the mind of Christ to everyday discussions and ethical decision making? Joined-Up Life provides a helpful account on how a Christian worldview can move from theoretical head knowledge into everyday action. The best thing about this book is that it not only ponders the framework and worldview underpinning the discussion, it challenges the reader to consider the manner and fashion in which they have the discussion.


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


Letters to Lisa John Van Dyk

I really loved this book. It is such an easy and practical read, littered with helpful insights for classroom teachers. For teachers new to Christian education, this is a must. Old teachers, this book may help re-spark your passion and desire for developing Christian education. Time has not wearied this book. It provides personal insight into the relationship between a father and daughter and how Christ is at the centre of her classroom. It is like having a wise counsellor guiding you through the ups and downs of a classroom and encouraging you to remain faithful to God at every junction. If you generally find reading tough, this is a book for you.


UnCorinthian Leadership David Starling

Not necessarily a book for everyone— depending on their age and stage—but a book nonetheless that takes a candid look at what leadership should look like within Christian communities. Too often the Christian church (and schooling network for that matter) can get ‘enamoured’ with the latest and greatest secular leadership literature that floods our screens and bookshelves. UnCorinthian Leadership challenges us to consider how leadership should function among the people of God and the idea that ‘ego’ needs to be left out of the discussion. At the very least, I encourage our school leaders to invest their time in reading this book.


Christ-Centred Biblical Theology Graeme Goldsworthy

The Goldsworthy name is synonymous with thinking through the Bible as one big story. For those of us in Christian schools, phrases such as ‘metanarrative’ or the ‘drama of Scripture’ are regularly referred to. This book provides a helpful and winsome study into how God reveals Himself to a broken world, culminating in Christ Jesus. Investing quality time into this book will help you, in my opinion, to better consider the ‘big picture’ step within the National Institute’s Transformation by Design model for curriculum development.


Creation Regained Albert M. Wolters

All of us in Christian education will at one stage be exposed to the helpful framework of creation, fall, redemption to describe God’s revelation of Himself. Whilst there have been a range of attempts to build upon this framework, Wolters has helpfully articulated the basis for study into Christian worldview. The word ‘worldview’ is a term that is regularly thrown around Christian education. If you have ever wondered what everyone is going on about, this is an excellent starting point. The final chapter on discerning structure and direction was my ‘penny dropping’ moment in relation to what Christian education can be.

David has recently been appointed the director of the National Institute for Christian Education. His passion in education is to identify and rigorously apply design thinking processes to the task of supporting schools towards their primary aims. His long-term focus is to reinterpret and redeem corporate business structures to sit within a community setting of God’s people. David is a husband to Anna and father of his son Darcy. Both Anna and David look forward to the arrival of their second child in early 2017. If you cannot find David, he is most likely surfing.

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


By Nathaniel Gray Sutanto


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

Reflections on an Unhelpful Word It can be common to hear Christian schools claim the importance of, “the integration of faith and learning” or “biblical integration to science (or philosophy, psychology, history, animals, food, business, comic books, film, and so on)”. The implication is clear. We have a body of knowledge that we can glean from the discipline in itself first unaffected by Scripture. We learn what we can through the disciplined use of human reason and intellectual effort, and then later see what biblical revelation might say. We understand as Christians that the Bible will have helpful things to say, add, or supplement, to any field in question. We refer here to a method of addition, whereby previously disconnected propositions gleaned from the two differing studies are integrated to conclude a more comprehensive understanding. Now not every Christian educator who uses this term understands it this way. In fact, I’ve sat through college courses and church seminars that use the word ‘integration’ while later clarifying that they actually seek to avoid the approach described above. However, it is undeniable that the word has that basic connotation. An example might help, say, from the doctrine of sin. An integrationist model may well argue that a well-defined doctrine of sin requires taking seriously the empirical evidence that not all human beings are equally evil prior to a consideration of scriptural revelation. If this observation is taken as a starting point, then the inference that the effects of the fall are not equally distributed among creatures can easily be drawn; some are affected by the fall more than others, and the extent to which one is affected is outside of divine (to preserve

God from charges of injustice) and human control. Such a procedure seems different to one according to which the scriptural teaching of total depravity (e.g., Rom. 3:3–19) is the lens through which we are to interpret our empirical evidence. The examples can be multiplied. But this unhelpful word brings about several severely faulty and interconnected assumptions. I will mention just a few: 1. The first is that ‘integration’ seems to assume that there is a body of knowledge that is neutral to both believer and the unbeliever, discoverable by any human being, and that could be understood properly without recourse to the Word of God. In this manner it is assumed that we can somehow set aside our Christian perspectives for a moment to deal with the real matters of mathematics (or history, science, etc.) before bringing in what the Bible might reveal. This assumption also brings with it the belief that the Bible speaks relatively little on matters outside of theology, or that theology is not actually integral to all knowledge. 2. Contrary to what the integrationist model may imply, Christianity is not something additional to an already accessible and clear body of knowledge.

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


Rather, Christianity is foundational, constitutive, and paradigmatic for the proper understanding of anything. However, a supplementary view of Christianity is what is necessarily implied within the word ‘integration’. The word, therefore, only contributes to, and is emblematic of, the secularization of society in which religion is a matter of private life, the inclusion of which bears no direct effect on matters of knowledge and public life.

The unbeliever’s problem is not an incomplete knowledge. Christianity does not merely offer the addition of propositions to believe about the resurrection of Christ and what we ought to do on Sundays. Christianity demands the entire transformation of the unbeliever (and believer) that requires nothing less than a total paradigm shift and a completely different starting point to all understanding.

3. As implied in the previous two points, the word ‘integration’ evokes the sense that theology is just one discipline among many other disciplines, rather than the discipline in terms of which all other disciplines must be seen. God’s Word is the authoritative means by which we interpret God’s world. The word ‘integration’ assumes that there is a body of truth that we can know rightly apart from God’s Word, and that His Word only expresses truths about other facts non-discoverable by human reason. Embedded, therefore, in the word ‘integration’ is a nature/grace dualism with respect to knowledge—that some things are knowable by natural means and others knowable by grace. I suggest, then, that the best way to understand the relationship between Christian theology and other disciplines is not by way of the word ‘integration’ but by way of reinterpretation or recalibration. These words, of course, are not perfect. But they express the basic idea that the


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

I suggest, then, that the best way to understand the relationship between Christian theology and other disciplines is not by way of the word ‘integration’ but by way of reinterpretation or recalibration. Lordship of Christ over all things is not something we bring as an added extra to integrate with an already-established discoverable order of things, but that which informs our basic understanding of everything else. We ought to begin with the Word of God, and then any field of learning has to be reinterpreted and recalibrated in light of it. It is the result of sin that the link between Christ’s Lordship and all things becomes unobvious to us. Sin makes mechanical that which was once organic—it causes us to see things connected to be initially severed. The task of Christian education, therefore, is not to discover an integrative link between Christ’s Lordship and a field of study, but to re-acknowledge it and to remove the obstacles that sin has made which have clouded our judgements in the first place. The Christian worldview is a truly comprehensive worldview to be lived out by united, embodied, covenant creatures who acknowledge the Lordship of Christ over all things (Col. 1:15-20).

Nathaniel graduated from Sekolah Pelita Harapan (a Christian international school in Jakarta) in 2009. He has a primary degree from Biola University and a master’s degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is presently a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, focusing on work relating to Herman Bavinck. He rejoices daily in the grace of God and the person of Jesus Christ who redeems and renews.

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


Reflecting on relationships with Christian Colleagues By Debra Twartz 26

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

Communion, Community, and Communication I

n reflecting on how we relate to our colleagues in Christian workplaces, particularly those with whom high levels of mutual trust and close teamwork is a necessity, I suggest that we can frame our relationships based on the concepts of communion, community, and communication. Each of these concepts has principles that underpin the other, commencing with the notion of ‘communion’. Communion and Community Communion is a word that has a specific meaning in a church context, however it is also a word with a broader meaning outside of a ‘religious’ context. Some synonyms for communion include: rapport, togetherness, fellowship, accord, unity. Each of these words describes the way we need to relate to colleagues with whom we require close and trusted working relationships. Within a Christian church context, the specific meaning of communion includes all of the above ideas. It also has an added deeper meaning, as communion is about entering

into the presence of God. Within church liturgy, communion is the time of partaking in the ‘body and blood’ of Jesus, as first demonstrated by Jesus during the Last Supper. It is a time of recalling the new covenant that Jesus prescribed for members of the body of Christ through His life, death, and resurrection. The words used during communion will be familiar to us: “Take and drink; this is my blood of the new covenant” (Matt. 26:28). In thinking about the concept of communion as it relates to our relationship with fellow believers, there is a particular instruction that Jesus gave when He issued His new covenant, or new commandment. We find in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This is a specific commandment to love one another, but to do this in a particular way. How are we to love one another? We are to love as Christ has loved us. As we know, God’s love for us—demonstrated through His son Jesus—was a sacred love, a sacrificial love, a holy love.

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016


as Christian colleagues, we can specifically invite God into our presence to bring His holiness into our communion–our togetherness This leads us to reflect on the idea of holiness and the idea of holiness in Christian relationships. Again, as we think about communion within church liturgy, it is also known as Holy Communion. Why is it holy? What creates the sense of holiness? It is the presence of God, through the sacrificial body and blood of His son Jesus that makes this a holy rite. The presence of God creating holiness and a sacred space is also reflected in the well-known passage of Exodus 3. When God spoke to Moses through the burning bush, the surrounding area became holy, not because there was anything special about that particular patch of the Sinai Desert, but because the presence of God created a holiness in the ground: a sacred space for God to deliver His message and instruction to Moses. So now let us link those two concepts of communion (togetherness, fellowship, unity, accord) and the holiness that comes through the presence of God. I suggest that as Christian colleagues, we can specifically invite God into our presence to bring His holiness into our communion—our togetherness— to create a sacred space existing between us. Therefore communion, as described in this way, is the underpinning principle for relationships with our Christian colleagues. Through our communion with each other and the holiness and sacredness that exists through the presence of Christ, we can now reflect on what it means to be members of genuine Christian community. Unsurprisingly, Scripture is filled with instructions about how we are to relate to our fellow believers as we live and work in community. Galatians 6:2 issues the instruction, “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” Let


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

us remind ourselves how we fulfil the law of Christ. We follow the new law, the new commandment: to love one other as Christ has loved us. We love each other with a sacrificial love, made holy by inviting God’s presence into this love and our relationships with each other. 1 Corinthians 12–26 reflects on the way we become members of the body of Christ, through our baptism. Within this rite of the Christian church, we are baptised not only by water but by the Holy Spirit. It is through the presence of the Holy Spirit that we become members of the body and it is through the Spirit that we are sustained in our relationship with God and one another. From the first moment that we enter into Christ’s body, we are linked as members through His presence, and again, a sacred space exists between us. As the 1 Corinthians passage continues, further reflection reminds us that although we are joined in the deepest unity through the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, there is not to be uniformity within the members of the body. Rather, there must be distinction in order for all members to be both useful and necessary to each other. Each member of the body has different powers, yet there exists a mutual dependence and interdependence. Just as the human body is joined by muscle, skin, tendons, and bones, so the body of Christ is to be joined. Our union in the body is through the strongest unifier: Christ’s love in and through us. The passage closes in verse 26, with the instruction for all members of the body to “suffer together and rejoice together”. What better example of deep communion with our Christian colleagues than to wholeheartedly embrace the instruction to share each other’s joys and sorrows as we live and work in genuine community!

Communication Now, through the prism of the foundational principles of communion and community, let’s explore the notion of communication with each other. Once again, Scripture overflows with instructions about how we are to communicate as wise, discerning members of the body, working in sacred togetherness. The apostle James provides us with three key principles for good communication: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). I suggest that we are given many opportunities to practise these good communication skills, particularly with our close Christian colleagues on a day-by-day and sometime moment-by-moment basis. Yet, how frequently do we fail to heed James’ excellent advice? As “Keys to Good Communication” (n.d.) suggests: Many of the communication pitfalls that wreck relationships come from violating these three keys. We tend to be slow to listen but quick to speak our minds, and in the resulting confusion and selfishness we are very quick to get our feelings hurt and get angry. (p. 2) Good listening skills are a key to good communication. Often, we are slow to listen but quick to speak out of a right motivation to be helpful: to quickly provide someone with an answer in order to solve their problem. Yet without fully and deeply hearing what another person is saying, we can easily misinterpret their message and assume we understand what the real issue is—we may be committing ‘assume-aside’. We need to make every effort to check the messages we are receiving from others in order to ensure we have accurately heard and understood each other. When it comes time to speak, how are we to frame our words? We are to speak with grace and humility, with a reliance on God’s wisdom. Paul suggests, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each other” (Col. 4:6). As Christians, where do we obtain our saltiness? By remaining firmly connected with Christ. In this area of communication, let us continue to reflect on the underpinning principles of community and communion. We can communicate well when we honour our part as a member of the body of Christ, loving others as Christ first loved us in sacrificial service. Finally, our communication must be characterised by prayer and thankfulness. We are to have a perpetual mindset that focuses on these things. “Rejoice always”, Paul reminds us,

“pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you” (1 Thess. 5:16–18). This passage does not command us to give thanks for all circumstances, rather to give thanks in all circumstances. Life is difficult and challenging, sometimes surrounded by grief, tragedy, and heartache. Relationships are hard work, particularly with those we are closest to. In our communication with our Christian colleagues, we are to remain prayerful and thankful because this is God’s will for us. God has placed each of us in different work contexts and environments. In our work roles, we are called to bring glory and honour to Him as we further the work of His Kingdom. Close collegial relationships depend on a high level of mutual trust and respect if they are to function at their best. As Christians, we are called to honour God in our working relationships in order to serve Him to the best of our ability. As Christians, we have a unique opportunity to bring out the best in our close working relationships by specifically inviting God into our workspaces, relationships, and communication—by creating a sacred space between us. Within this sacred space, each member of the body can fill the position that they have been called to, as we live and work in community. Imbued with Christ’s love, and through the unity of the Holy Spirit, we can genuinely suffer together and rejoice together. It is this communion and community that lays the groundwork for us to develop respectful, rigorous, and robust communication protocols with our Christian colleagues as we speak the truth in love. References

Debra is the CEO of NT Christian Schools. She has a strong commitment to preserving and perpetuating the vision for Christian education in the NT and beyond. Debra has recently completed a Graduate Diploma in Education with the National Institute for Christian Education. She and her husband Simon have two children who attend Marrara Christian College in Darwin.

without fully and deeply hearing what another person is saying, we can easily misinterpret their message –we may be committing ‘assume-aside’ The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016



Christian Faith in English Church Schools By Trevor Cooling with Beth Green, Andrew Morris and Lynn Revell. Christian Faith in English Church Schools: Research Conversations with Classroom Teachers April 2016. I begin with a warning; this review is not impartial. I first met Trevor Cooling when I was working at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in Sydney several years ago. Despite being a professor of Christian education, or perhaps because he is that, I was taken by his humble, intellectual, yet practical approach to teaching Christianly. What if Learning was fledgling then, but it has grown to be a rich, imaginative way to grow a thinking faith in students. The title of this book is drab, it’s price expensive, but it’s content bountiful. The text navigates Trevor, and his co-researchers’ investigation into the impact of What if Learning in a range of church schools in England, the experiences teachers had


The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016

when using it, and the theological and ontological bases of both the study and What if Learning. The first part of the book explains the parameters and methods of the research project and narrates the stories of individual teachers› experiences with What if Learning. Because story is at the centre of what it is to be human, because the classroom experiences retold are multifarious, and because the writing is clear and succinct, they resonate with us as readers. Christian Faith in English Church Schools, elucidates fluid complex concepts with clarity. The next section expounds the What if Learning approach more specifically.

The approach focuses on reshaping lessons guided by three steps: seeing anew, choosing engagement, and reshaping practice. Cooling offers the same epistemic humility, diversity, and intellectual curiosity for which he advocates—that is until he meets positivism. Cooling advocates that positivism in education is overemphasised; that it is problematic and that critical realism is a viable theological alternative. Critical realism is thoroughly discussed, including its theological application. He proposes that Christian educators seeking to

Because the story is at the centre of what it is to be human, because the classroom experiences retold are multifarious, and because the writing is clear and succinct, they resonate with us

make a difference in their classrooms move from a transmission to a transformative approach to teaching Christianly—a move from information to formation, a move from knowing to embodying, a move from values to virtues, a move from isolation to collegiality and shared habitus, a move

Cooling advocates that positivism in education is overemphasised; that it is problematic and that critical realism is a viable theological alternative. from instructional to constructivist pedagogy. It is the latter on which What if Learning is built. It’s about character formation and purposeful pedagogical change. My favourite example from the text is how James, a PE teacher changed the purpose of his push pass lesson in hockey from a skillsbased, individualized, and potentially competitive one, to one of coaching. When the students were asked what they were doing, one 12-year-old boy responded, “We were learning how to encourage someone else” (p. 57). I yearn for this in my students. No rigour was lost from the lesson. In fact it was heightened as the students were called to learn how to push pass well, whilst also caring for their classmates. When sharing the push pass example with my middle school teachers recently, one of the PE teachers said, “I can do it (Christian education). It isn’t hard.” After the recent WA CEN conference where Cooling was a keynote, a technology teacher on my team now considers how lessons might contribute to character formation. The text is honest and grapples with failures, misconception, and misguided intentions too. It sings with integrity.  All in all, Christian Faith in English Church Schools is an outstanding

text, which offers a “theological understanding of excellence in learning” (p. 147). It is not the only model of Christian education—there is the National Institute for Christian Education’s Transformation by Design, Vanhoozer’s Everyday Theology, Holland’s Through the Eyes of Faith series and more. I’ve given the book 4.5 stars, simply because it is hard to procure and a tad strong in its critique of positivism. Given that positivism has captivated much of Christian education in the past, and positivism riles against the perceived subjectivity of religion, revelation, and resurrection, I understand Cooling’s stance. The book’s constructivist approach concurs with best practice for middle school teaching and learning and the website offers a plethora of resources at no cost for a wide range of subjects and learning contexts. Check it out at Recently I met Trevor Cooling at Perth airport, having disembarked unknowingly from the same plane. We were wending our way towards quarantine. Despite being well ahead in the queue, Trevor waited for me

The book’s constructivist approach concurs with best practice for middle school teaching and learning and the website offers a plethora of resources at no cost for a wide range of subjects so we could catch up. It’s testament to his character, a character modeled on Christ as is the What if Learning approach. I quickly found out where I might sit under his teaching in the week ahead, took my principal along, and listened to Trevor expound his approach. I urge readers to do the same. 

This year Christine began as head of middle school at Swan Christian College after 30 years of teaching and leading learning in various schools. Recently Christine worked out that she has taught about 25 different English courses, with a raft of different theoretical foundations, in two states, including the IB Diploma. She has been co-writer for 3 syllabuses, and taught a range of non-English courses too. These experiences have been foundational to her new role, a role that is enormous and challenging, exciting and life changing. Christine admits to making lots of mistakes and is always ready to learn something new. Her personal vision is to be impelled by the gospel and compelled by love.

The Christian Teachers Journal November 2016



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CTJ 24.4 Nov 2016  

The vision of the journal is to affirm the Lordship of Jesus in education. It aims to serve Christian educators, challenging them to a fulle...