Biblical vs. Secular approach to education: What's the difference?


(Jay Johnson) #1

As a (former) teacher, I would strongly urge you to resist this urge. One of the greatest problems I observed in students who had a homeschooling background was gaps in their education. Find a good curriculum and stick to it. The do-it-yourself patchwork approach comes with a lot of risk attached. I know nothing about specific homeschool curricula, but Christy has knowledge and some good suggestions below …

My 2c, for what that’s worth, would be to choose secular educational materials in all subjects and supplement them with whatever “worldview” or Bible materials you deem necessary to give your children a well-rounded education. Try to get the best of both worlds, in other words.


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(Christy Hemphill) #2

Yes, same person, but he really changes for his audience. There is not snark or bitterness in Telling God’s Story, and it really brings things down to a kid’s level with the illustrations. But even adults can learn stuff because he weaves in lots of knowledge about biblical culture and background.


(Ashley Lande) #3

My kneejerk reaction is always to defend homeschoolers here… but of course, there will be some who just don’t get a great education due to negligence. BUT as someone who received my entire education at public and private schools (the latter in high school at one of the top-rated schools in my city), I can say there were huge gaps in my education, and lots of breadth (and facts memorized for tests and then immediately forgotten) and virtually no depth. I’ve come to accept that there just will be gaps in my children’s education. There are gaps in every education.


(Ashley Lande) #4

And while a secular versus Biblical view might not matter in, say, math, I would say it matters a great deal in something like literature and history. I would disagree that for someone hoping to instill a worldview in their children that recognizes Christ’s death and resurrection as the defining event of history, using secular materials in ‘all subjects’ is not necessarily the best course. I feel implicit in that is the view that secular materials are necessarily ‘better’ or ‘more advanced’. And I feel encourages students to view the Christian story as something that has been appended on to the secular world, which made it all too easy for me as a young adult to dismiss it as a mythology imposed onto the ‘real’ secular world. I want to teach my children that Jesus is not just our ‘religion’; he is cornerstone, the one for whom and through whom all things were made, and by whom the validity of all other religious, philosophical, cosmological / ontological theories are to be judged. I want that to be integrated into our homeschool and not tacked on as an afterthought…


(Jay Johnson) #5

True. I should clarify that I was not criticizing homeschooling in general. Just throwing up a caution flag based on my own experience. Your mileage may vary …

Not true. Is there a Biblical history of the Civil War that differs from the secular history? Is there a Biblical method for analyzing a short story or poem that is different from the secular method?

I hope you succeed in your goal. But I trust you’ll understand what I mean when I say that your own example of faith will do much more to instill that worldview than a stack of textbooks.

I suppose I should explain my earlier comment. On curricula and texts, my general impression is that secular materials are better. Too many authors of Christian “worldview” texts and materials are not subject matter experts. Again, I’m speaking in general, and I’m sure there are excellent Christian homeschool materials. @Christy seems aware of some of them. But it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff if you don’t know what to look for, and most parents don’t know what to look for. In any case, rather than risk choosing a subpar curriculum just because it carries the “Christian” label, I simply suggest picking the best educational materials you can find and supplementing them with separate lessons on Christianity and the Bible. That’s how I would approach it if I were in your shoes. But, of course, I’m not, and they probably would pinch my feet if I tried. :wink:

I also want to say that in your role as teacher, you are never tied down and held captive by your materials. Just because you are working from a secular curriculum does not mean that Christ becomes an afterthought. You remain in control, and you can work your faith into any and every lesson, no matter the source. That is part of the “art of teaching.”


(Ashley Lande) #6

Oooh! We got our own thread :grinning:

I would argue that yes, there certainly is a Biblical way of interpreting particular historical events, and all of history, as well as short stories, poems and other works of literature! Perhaps a word I would be more comfortable using is “Christocentric”, not because I don’t believe the Bible is inspired and authoritative, but because when I see that word in conjunction with science curriculum, it is always espousing YEC only. I love to read, mostly fiction and theology, and I find it fascinating to ponder the worldview that informs different works of fiction. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction (though I’m all ears to suggestions!) because I find much of it undergirded by a kind of totally unmoored nihilism that is just too depressing for me to endure.

Since I’ve been digging into one of my favorite theologians (Lesslie Newbigin) again lately, I’d lik to quote him here: “The world is not free as it thinks it is. We are not honest inquirers seeking the truth. We are alienated from truth and are enemies of it. We are by nature idolaters, constructing images of truth shaped by our own desires. This was demonstrated once and for all when Truth became incarnate, present to us in the actual being and life of the man Jesus, and when our response to this Truth incarnate, a response including all the representatives of the best of human culture at that time and place, was to seek to destroy it.”

I would argue that acknowledging Christ as Truth and King forever over all, whether or not the forces, powers and principalities within the world choose to acknowledge as much at this time, is indeed part and parcel of my own example of faith (and, in that sense, your concluding paragraph is basically saying what I’m trying to accomplish in our homeschooling). I love my parents, and they did the best they could at the time and I had a wonderful childhood in many ways, but for the most part God was in a box that we took out and opened on Sunday mornings and put away for the rest of the week. Of course, that was not the reality, but it was how we lived. Harking back to your original comment, I would argue that there is no such thing as “both worlds” - there is one world with differing and competing interpretations. I believe that world is governed by the One through whom and for whom all things were made, and in whom all things live and move and have their being.

That being said, I sometimes just have to be contrary, and we use many ostensibly ‘secular’ materials accompanied by discussions where needed.


(Jay Johnson) #7

Well, sort of. Pretty much anytime you see me as the OP in a thread, you can rest assured that it was against my will. haha

Christocentric would be better, since that expresses your concern more accurately and is actually more flexible than saying an interpretation of history/literature is Biblical.

Absolutely. But now you’re sounding like Kuyper and his notions of “sphere sovereignty” …

Well, if I hark back to my original comment, we were discussing secular educational materials versus religious materials, which is a distinction that I’m perfectly comfortable making. In any case, I certainly agree that there is only one world and people have differing interpretations of it, but you should not buy into the culture war jargon that declares all differing interpretations to be in competition with one another. That is one problem with the “worldview” approach. I would simply point out that “secular” historians have contributed a great deal to our understanding of the Bible. God is the God of truth, and as his servants, we have nothing to fear from the truth, no matter the source.

By the way, “Contrarian” is my middle name. Doh!


(Christy Hemphill) #8

This is my main concern. Take the Mystery of History, for example. It tries to combine biblical history with world history and present a distinctly Christian worldview. But it imposes YEC dates on things and the author has no credentials in history. I believe she was a journalism major and has homeschooled for a long time. On the other hand, Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World incorporates biblical information into ancient history the way you would incorporate other ancient historical documents, and she at least has a PhD in a history related field. It’s not an explicitly “Christian” perspective on history, though it is written by a Christian.

I have been happy using mostly “secular” history books, but supplemented by biographies of Christians and church history to show how the Christians/Church has responded at various moments at pivotal times. I think that teaches us how to move beyond the facts of “what happened” to “how should we act.” We are just finishing up the History Lives: Chronicles of the Church series by Brandon and Mindy Withrow, and it has been a good supplement to world history.


(Ashley Lande) #9

:rofl: Well, I think I probably totally agree with you, and have backed myself into a corner arguing for things I don’t necessarily support or would even choose to use (most explicitly Christian curriculum, at least in science and perhaps history). It’s that dang contention bone…

Anyway, sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. And I must admit I don’t know who Kuyper is nor did I know I was encroaching upon his sphere. Not all interpretations are in opposition to one another… but some most certainly are. While I don’t want to be a paranoiac who sees an “agenda” beneath every rock, I have noticed that I’ve become more discerning since beginning our homeschooling journey. My husband and I were raised in virtual media ‘free-for-all’ environments (with the exception of his mother’s occasional but passionate boycotts inspired by her friends… one year my husband and his brothers got a drove of Simpsons paraphernalia for Christmas and two months later when it The Simpsons were declared verboten they had to throw it all out :rofl:) and dang… I saw and read a lot that negatively shaped me. So perhaps that informs my mild suspicion when it comes to (some) secular materials. But I also have high suspicion when it comes to explicitly Christian homeschool materials in the realm of science. It would be so much easier just to be a YECer… :rofl:


(Jay Johnson) #10

Not a problem. Your mention of Newbiggin and overall direction made me think of Kuyper. He may have been the original “worldview” thinker, but part of the problem with his approach, or at least how his approach was applied here in the U.S., is the notion of an atheistic science in opposition to a Christian science, where Christ was acknowledged as Lord and science was conducted for the glory of God. If followed to the extreme, this basically leads to a kind of separatist movement, where Christian alternatives to every form of “secular culture” are established. Christian education. Christian media. Christian music. Christian literature. Etc. With Kuyper, I think the idea was that these Christian alternatives would eclipse their worldly counterparts and demonstrate the truth of the Christian worldview. In actual practice, this impulse often took the form of a retreat from the world, a sort of “go out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17) approach to culture. I don’t think that’s the proper approach. In an earlier letter to that same audience (1 Cor. 5:9-13), Paul had discussed the fact that one would have to vacate the world entirely to escape from immoral and idolatrous people, which is just not possible in this life.

Definitely. It’s a tough balance, trying to be “in the world but not of the world.” And like most folks, I talk a good game, but often seem to stumble on the smallest stone when it comes to walking the walk. Nevertheless, we get up and keep pressing toward the goal …

Onward and upward!