Religion, Science, & My Personal Philosophy on a Christian’s Education
By Robert Lane
Education is impossible to avoid. We don’t choose to be educated or non-educated. The only option we have is what we are educated in and the level of education we obtain. The human brain is an amazing creation. The brain can process massive amounts of information from multiple sources. Our brains are constantly coding information into our storage systems while refining sensory modules to process information more efficiently.
We have the ability to naturally learn our first language with amazing speed and effectiveness. We can call multiple factors to the fore of minds, reconcile schedules, relationships, preferences, and past experiences as we work up the courage to ask a friend to lunch. But our brains are far more than computational processors or storage devices. Our brains produce beauty and evil. The same species that is responsible for the hydrogen bomb also produced Handel’s Messiah. The Imago Dei which rests upon every human being is by its own nature creative. Education should magnify the image of God: what we produce becomes more godly as we become more educated.
Conforming to Christ
It is the educational responsibility of the believer to seek alignment with the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is not easy. The world we live in is opposed to our conformation to Jesus. The development of our minds is a battleground where holy and unholy ideas compete. Education, when done properly, enlightens our minds to God’s truths affirmed and found in Scripture. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Developing a Christian worldview
A Christian worldview is difficult to develop as biblical truths must be learned in order to counter unhealthy thinking. The Spirit of God is pressing us to become a more perfect image of Jesus. The world we live in imposes an opposition pressure to be conformed to the culture of our surroundings. Education is the holistic development of the person through moment by moment sensory input. The information processed by our senses molds our being into an image of our mental content. May the believer follow the admonishment of the Apostle Paul to think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
My philosophy of education is founded on my philosophy of existence. I believe the world to be more than the complex interplay of energy and matter. God is a force that supersedes our materialistic universe. God can interact with His creation at will. In His interaction with humans, we are taken outside of a mechanistic universe as we move beyond the natural forces that affect the world. This is not an unusual occurrence. The supernatural working of God happens every time a human is brought into fellowship with Him through salvation in Jesus. Salvation is a special type of education, which is the illumination of God in man.
The pursuit of knowledge is a pursuit of God. Again, the Apostle Paul says, “in [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). The truest wisdom and knowledge is found in Christ and made known to man through divine revelation. God makes Himself known to every human through His created order (Romans 1:20). However, this general revelation of God to humans teaches us about God and how He works but doesn’t show us how to have a relationship with God. This only comes through God’s specific revelation of Jesus as Savior recorded in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2).
It is my educational philosophy that every believer, after he or she is illuminated through God’s special revelation of Jesus, should pursue knowing God better through His Scriptures and His creation. By studying nature, we study the nature of God. His creative works reveal what type of God we worship. By studying the Social Sciences, we study God’s special creation and understand better the human condition. Humans produce an array of languages and cultures. By knowing more about human social systems, we know how to better win the members of these systems to Christ.
Living a Christian worldview
Before the ascension, Jesus told His followers, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Church has been given a great commission to make the Gospel accessible to every people group. By studying human societies and cultures, the Church will know best how to communicate the Gospel and fulfill the command of Christ to “go and make disciples of every nation” (Matthew 28:19). My educational philosophy is based on the Church’s responsibility to take the message of Jesus to all the world. The reason we educate ourselves is to know God more. The reason we educate others is that they may know God more.
Educating others is required by Scripture. Paul states that Christian leaders must be able to teach: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Every believer, like every other human, is in a constant state of cognitive development. It is the responsibility of Christian leaders to teach from a Christian worldview.
Many of those within the Church have a severely underdeveloped Christian worldview. The average church member has a worldview more in line with others of the same political party than with those of the same faith. A Republican Christian’s worldview has more in common with a Republican non-Christian than with a Democrat within the same church. This anecdote brings to light a failure of the Church to educate in a way that impacts not only how we act but how we think.
Teaching a Christian worldview
A Christian worldview should permeate our teaching. A student should have a fundamentally different experience in relation to the faith of the teacher. A Muslim, Christian, or Atheist will teach the very same subjects from a different worldview. This is not limited to religious education but should be evident in any subject including the Arts and Sciences. Christians in every academic discipline should press hard to discover what God has hidden within these fields, which will bring glory to Him. As a church planter, I have benefited greatly from modern advancements in Anthropology, Sociology, and Ethnography. Woefully, much of what missionaries use today in cross-cultural ministry was given to the Church from the Academy.
If we are teachers, what should we teach and is the scope of our teaching limited? The approach of our teaching must be two-fold: we must keep Scripture as our authority and we must seek to understand the world we live in. The authority of Scripture is foundational and serves as ballast in our lives keeping us upright before God. Our devotion to scripture serves as a counterbalance to all other educational pursuits. With Scripture as our equipoise, Christians can pursue all fields of knowledge with courage.
Because I believe in the security of the believer I do not fear that any educational direction can separate me from my relationship with God. My study of Linguistics and Anthropology has made me a better Christian. My desire to study the Social Sciences requires me to deepen my understanding of Scripture to maintain a balanced view of the world in relation to biblical truths.
Robert (Bobby) Lane is a former SWO staff member who now serves as a church planter and missionary in N’Djamena, Chad (Africa). He’s now spent over a decade serving with the IMB (International Missions Board). He specializes in linguistics and training indigenous pastors to faithfully plant and shepherd new churches.