Issuu on Google+

Academic Excellence and Christ-centered Worldview Dr. Boyd Chitwood How are academic excellence and Christ-centered worldview related to each other? Are they mutually exclusive or mutually supportive? Are they indifferent to each other? The educational orthodoxy of our culture would probably choose indifference as the relationship because it sees any claim to spiritual reality as optional and indifferent to fundamental real-world truths – fine if you choose it and it’s meaningful to you, but don’t claim it to have real substance or to make a real difference, at least not for me. Where, as a school, do we stand on this question and how would we explain or defend it to others? Of course, biblical affirmations of sovereignty play a part here. David proclaims: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it” (Psalms 24:1). Some express it thusly: “All truth is God’s truth.” So God is in charge of all our learning, all within that is true, and has claim on our allegiance in everything we do, including education. That leaves an honest question. While as a believer, I must pursue education under the Lord’s direction, it might still be the case that He leaves most of that education in the arena of His broader permissive will, guided by common grace and general revelation. In other words, use the common sense God gave you and learn what the world has to teach. Then submit it all to the test of the scriptures so that you might discern elements which contradict God’s specific revelation. As Daniel learned in the courts of the Babylonians while meeting the challenge of obedience to God’s commands and submission to God’s direction, we are to learn from our broader culture and seek the Lord to guide our way in the world.

Daniel in the Courts of the King There is truth here. This does, in some respects, describe our residence in the world with citizenship elsewhere. We see, though, another fundamental truth here. Daniel learned from the culture and was sensitive to particular commands by God which differed from that culture. He also had a broader identification with the Lord, seeing the world of the Babylonians through the eyes of faith. Being obedient to God meant not only abstaining from certain foods, but also looking for guidance from God and not the ways of the wise men and wizards. Daniel’s worldview was centered on the sovereign Lord, and his performance at court showed a God-blessed excellence. This blessing came not only from specially revealed interpretation for dreams, but also “God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and language.” (Daniel 1:17)

© 2011 Boyd Chitwood. All rights reserved.


Was this only a particular grace to Daniel for God’s purposes? Certainly it could have been and perhaps was, in part. But here we include our own lessons from experience and knowledge of educational research. How might a Christcentered worldview help one learn secular lessons better?

Contemporary Fragmentation The modern and postmodern worlds are arenas of fragmentation. Continuity and the integral character of ideas are mostly foreign to our contemporary culture. There is no unifying vision of theological or metaphysical foundation. We learn within a multitude of different sub-disciplines and knowledge increases exponentially. None can challenge the volume of knowledge in this Information Age. And though its quality is highly variable, there is no shortage of true information being discovered and produced. Our working definition of truth necessarily divides into two dimensions. We have scientific truth from the latest five years of research in 1000’s of subspecialties. We also have to have our very own ‘walk-around’ version of truth. We accord the experts their authority, but grant ourselves the authority to come up with workable truth for our lives. We create some sort of unity amidst the diversity because we must. We can’t manage the volume of expert truth and can’t live by its absence of a pattern. Is this only weakness and finitude, or is there something of the divine creative intent evident here? We would assert that finding patterns and unities of truth is what our Creator made us to do. This is true because He made us to learn in relationship with Him. We explore the garden and walk with the Lord; we have dominion over the earth and honor the boundaries given by God. These are not unrelated endeavors. Our minds make sense of ideas and information by finding connections, identifying boundaries, recognizing continuities. An Example From Memory Though dizzyingly complex in itself, among the cognitive functions memory is one of the most simple. It can be instructive to attend to how we remember things. Think of a random string of letters. How many can you remember? Make them words. Now how many? Form sentences. How many? Tell a story. Now? Make it rhyme. How many? And put it to music, and now how many can you recall? The raw data has connections and patterns. There is something for us to remember, for the data itself simply doesn’t stick. This is even more true of higher cognitive functions like reasoning and valuing. Our minds seem made to find the world this way. Educational Recognition

© 2011 Boyd Chitwood. All rights reserved.


The educational world is not ignorant of this reality. Though lacking any fundamental worldview connections, educators are being challenged more and more by research to offer patterns and contexts for student learning. Reading as a skill is learned through literature as motivation and context. History is not unrelated dates but stories of people and ideas. Science is not information to be catalogued but a process to be pursued by real people in real world settings. Educators make many settings and patterns for student learning, and many of them are successful. But the enterprise is fundamentally artificial, for the secular man inhabits a random world adrift in a random sea of existence. It’s not Darwin alone who set man free of the anchor; man out from under the ‘illusion’ of a divine unity to life is man tossed by the waves of subjective uncertainty. What Difference Does Worldview Make? Is worldview a magic incantation for learning? No. Because a school teaches in the context of a Christ-centered worldview, can it ignore all the other dimensions of excellent teaching and learning? Again, no. Is worldview a God-given provision for learning? Yes. Does learning math, English, history and science through an integrated Christ-centered worldview make a difference for that learning? Absolutely. Most other educational elements being equal, will students being taught through the integrated approach of a Christ-centered worldview excel academically? We would assert from reasoning, research and experience that the answer is yes! It’s a topic for another day to ask how those worldview connections are made throughout a school curriculum. And another day still to ask why the worldview context makes such a difference. Beyond the essential and obvious benefits of peaceful motivation to learn and respectful interaction with authorities and fellow students, a stable and consistent worldview simply makes sense of sense data, makes intelligence of information, and makes truth of fact tallies.

© 2011 Boyd Chitwood. All rights reserved.


Academic Excellence and Christ