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Volume 7, Issue 5: Repairing the Ruins

Scripture at the Center

Douglas Wilson

The phrase worldview Christianity is capable of producing quite a comfortable glow, especially when used frequently in conversations with other Christians. But what does it mean?

When we undertake the task of relating the biblical faith to the world around us (which really is what Christian education is), we are confronted with four different possible relationships between our faith and the great wide world. Obviously, only one of the four relationships is that taught by Scripture itself, but the other three have had, over the years, many advocates within the Christian faith.
We may attempt to divorce the two. "What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?" Tertullian thundered. The pattern which produces this reaction is a familiar one. In a compromised age, many find it easy to react to the compromise by running in what they think is the other direction. Many of the early fathers attempted to bring Jerusalem into subjection to Athens. Tertullian reacted by saying they had nothing to do with one another. This reaction has been repeated countless times since. In this, modern fundamentalists show their basic affinity with the monastic movements of Catholicism. In Scripture, worldliness is an attitude; in all such mystic pietism, worldliness is in the stuff. Gotta stay away from the stuff. This is the pattern followed by all reactionary academies -- schools populated by refugees from condoms, knife fights, drug deals, racial tension, overtly atheistic teaching, etc. But a reaction against the world is not the same thing as a positive biblical vision for education.
Secondly, we may add our faith to the body of knowledge we acquired elsewhere, added on as sort of a condiment. Autonomous knowledge is a gray, pasty oatmeal, available to everyone, while each person's religion of choice provides the catsup, mustard, sugar, whatever works for them. This is the view taken by many Christian parents of kids in the government schools. The school is supposed to teach all the neutral subjects, and the parents add the flavoring at home. But of course, neutrality is impossible. And, as more and more parents have been discovering, somebody has been lacing the neutral oatmeal, for a century or so, with the Cocaine of Rank Unbelief. The modern evangelical world has the theological acumen of a pile of wet sponges, but even we are starting to catch on that something is amiss. "Hey!" we argue.
Some Christian schools take this same basic approach by using the same fundamental curriculum as the government schools, but then adding on prayer, a Bible class, or chapel. Christian education is seen as distinct because of the addition of a new planet to the solar system of knowledge. But true Christian education is a Copernican revolution which comes to see Scripture as the sun, which sees Scripture at the center. And that sun, that light, provides the light in which we see everything else.
Third, we may dilute our biblical convictions, but keep the biblical terminology. The result is that we can detect a pale taste of the faith everywhere. With this approach, the faith and the world certainly interact, but if it were a wrestling match, the world would be sitting on faith's head. This approach is sometimes difficult to identify, but one helpful rule of thumb would be to suspect any Christian school where dialogue is used as a verb. In the old days, Christians used to preach to Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Mormons, et al. Now we are supposed to dialogue with them. Christians who dialogue with those of other faiths are using their faith as a branch upon which to perch lightly while they survey and appreciate all the other options. In schools governed by this approach Christianity is a perspective; it is not the truth. This tendency is seen more often in those Christian schools which were founded more than a generation ago. The school carries on in the tradition of (insert name of denomination), but no one really believes it anymore.
The fourth option, that of the genuine biblical worldview, is to establish Scripture at every point as the foundation on which to build all knowledge. Moreover, Scripture is known to be the final arbiter of whether such knowledge was built in line with the foundation. If Jesus Christ is not the Lord of all, then two added to two does not equal four. If the triune God of Scripture did not speak the universe into existence, then there is no universe to understand. The protest will inevitably come -- "But you are presupposing the truth of Christianity." And the answer is, "Most certainly."
The Bible teaches that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). The fear of the Lord is not the final goal of education; such fear is the foundation of education, and as the foundation it is the basis for all subsequent goals.
A Christian school is not one in which all the occupants are regenerate people. A Christian school is one in which the schooling itself is being conducted in a biblical manner.

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