Tag Archives: revelation

A Christian Educator’s Thoughts on Revelation and Integration

I have a lot of interest in faith-learning integration. A constant question as student in the sciences was, “What does this teach me about God?” It was a natural question and practice for me, as it never occurred to me that the studying creation to understand God was a bad thing. After all, the glory of God is revealed in the heavens seemed to mean that if I looked at the heavens (which was clearly a metonymy for all of creation) then I would understand a bit more about God and His thoughts about me, Himself, and the rest of Creation. It wasn’t until I ran into some of the Bible-only psychologists who completely discarded any source of knowledge about ministering to others that originated from outside of scripture that it occurred to me that other people think differently about the issue.

Until recently, I couldn’t resolve the problem of why some would reject faith/learning integration. Why is it that well-meaning Christians have such difficulty contemplating the conclusions of other fields? Many (most of them non-Christian) would argue that we’re a bunch of ignorant fools chasing after ancient myths and fairy tales in order to retain a sense of superiority and personal well-being. I don’t quite buy that notion.

My friend recently graduated with her PhD in Theological Studies, where she studied the topic of general revelation, and introduced me to one Herman Bavink, a Dutch Reformed theologian. A quote from Herman Bavinck’s The philosophy of revelation; the Stone lectures for 1908-1909, Princeton Theological Seminary. Stone lectures; 1908-09. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.

Although God is immanent in every part and sphere of creation with all his perfections and all his being, nevertheless, even in that most intimate union he remains transcendent. His being is of a different and higher kind than that of the world (23).

And a second quote from the same source.

One of the results of the trend of present-day science is that theology is just now largely occupied with…how revelation has come about, than in the question what the content of revelation is (23).

Can you see the issue? We forget that God is the source of all revelation and instead focus on what people are doing with it, rather than what it says. In the process, we’re robbing ourselves of precious perspectives and resources for understanding God. Simply put, if God reveals, then it bears his essential character (see Ash’s unpublished dissertation A Critical Examination of the Doctrine of Revelation in Evangelical Theology, p 152 for more details on this).

We need to study creation. We need to look at ants to learn about laziness and industriousness (Proverbs 6:6). We need to look at  plants to learn about God’s character (Luke 12:27). We need to study the origins of the earth to learn about God’s power (Job 38). We need to study the law to learn about God’s love (Psalm 119).

Why study creation? Because the Bible tells me so.

Bavinck, Herman. The philosophy of revelation; the Stone lectures for 1908-1909, Princeton Theological Seminary. Stone lectures ; 1908-09. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.

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April 23, 2013 · 11:46 pm

Defining Christian Education

While having a discussion with someone about the differences between the leadership degree and Christian education degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, they made the comment that (paraphrased) people who want to teach Sunday school or lead children’s ministries should choose Christian education (with the implication that anyone else should choose leadership). I have this discussion often, unfortunately. This common misconception plagues us (particularly in protestant evangelical circles) because it shows we really don’t understand Christian education. Today, lets try to remedy some of that by giving a couple of definitions.

Definition #1: In the interest of representing him well, I need to note that I gleaned this particular information from Dr. Mike Lawson, former chair of the Christian Education department at DTS, from several conversations with him and his students. He answers this problem by defining a Christian and defining education, boiling the essence of the definition into a core issue or phrase. Given our conversations, I suspect the root of his Christian education philosophy comes from Deuteronomy 6.

  • He describes a Christian as one who loves God through Jesus. Scriptural support comes from John 14:6 (I am the way…), Matthew 22:37 (love the lord your God…), and 1 Corinthians 15 (the definition of the Gospel).
  • He describes education as teaching which occurs at all times any by any means. I know that he recognizes education is more than teaching, but includes learning, curriculum, programs, and the environment, to name a few issues. However, at it’s essence, and when it comes to the actions and responsibility of the teacher, teaching is the main focus. Scriptural support comes from Deuteronomy 6, and particularly verses 6 through 9.

Therefore, one can define Christian education as “Teaching others to love God, through Jesus, by any means and at all times.”

Definition #2: Without disagreeing with a man who has forgotten more than I will ever know about Christian education, I follow his lead but take a slightly broader definition of Christian education. Deliberately relying on not only my understanding of the Bible, but also a broader theological base, I come up with the following:

  • There is a God.
  • God reveals Himself through creation (the universe), Christ, and canon (scripture).
  • We respond to that revelation, Christ being the highest revelation of God.
  • The appropriate response to God’s revelation is to trust and accept that revelation, and then to alter our behavior, values and beliefs accordingly.

Therefore, I define Christian education as, “Teaching others to respond appropriately to God’s revelation.

To tip my hand, I do not assume that everyone (namely the students) within Christian education are actually Christian, and so I believe that Christian education retains an evangelistic mission. I, in part, derive this from Deuteronomy 4, where God gives the reasons for giving the law in the first place (to make you wise and to bring Him glory). I believe that if Christians educate well, that educational excellence will draw people in to marvel at the God we serve. I believe we can and should promote and propagate the gospel through excellence in education.

Christian education: more than teaching Sunday school, however you define it.

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