The Bible in the curriculum: perspectives on teaching and learning

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“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1).

Certainly, the Bible in the school, you will agree. No opening devotions can take place properly with a closed, let alone an absent Bible; no family worship can be called truly worship if the Bible would remain closed. Daily Bible reading will form our minds and fill us with God’s wisdom.

But do we not run the risk that our schools and our families become places of piety, out of touch with reality. Should we not make sure that our schools do not become places of sweet religiosity at the cost of the quality of education?

Rest assured: proper use of the Bible does not allow such things to happen. The Bible does not place man nor the child in the centre of things. The Biblical Hallelujahs are totally different from those of the world around us; neither does the Bible speak glowing words about souls saved. The Bible is not a handbook for the study of the human soul. The Bible contains the books of the Old and the New Testament, i.e. of the Old and the New COVENANT.

The Bible speaks to us of God’s covenant with His people, and that included the whole life of the Israelite. The LORD concerned Himself with stubborn oxen as well as with burnt offerings; with cleanliness and holiness of clothing as well as with liturgy; with the division of the land as well as with the building of the temple. Nothing, nothing at all was outside the authority and the concern of Yahweh. When we speak of the covenant we must include all of life, both secular and sacred, both work and prayer, both politics and liturgy.

The New Testament does not change this message. Christ did not gain salvation for our souls only; Christ has redeemed the whole of life in all its aspects.

We are not called merely to sing constantly from the early morning to the late evening; not to meditate, or perhaps doubt it all. The LORD demands that we walk with Him in all of life, also in those “secular”, those non-religious things such as addition and division. And when we live all of our lives under the wings of God’s covenant, then the voices of praise will burst forth every now and then: unsuspected, often emotionally charged psalms, resulting from a daily working with and in God’s great creation.

Consider Psalm 104. The poet looks around in the world; he studies subjects such as science, nature study, social studies, economics. And in this way, he discovers God’s great works of creation. He is amazed about the beauty and the intricacy of things – and he shouts his hallelujahs in praise of the Creator. He speaks with awe of the phenomenon of light – how have other poets sung of the beauty of the setting sun… How interested are the children when we show them experiments with light and its spectrum. There are the heavens, reaching like a tent across the clouds – there are our studies of climate and weather. The psalmist has noticed the woods, the birds; he knows of vineyards and wine to gladden the heart – of bread and God’s great miracle in providing for it all… Yes, indeed, we are still reading Psalm 104.

And then there is the beauty of life, there is the oil which makes a face attractive. There are the plants in their infinite variety and colour shadings, maintained by the Lord Himself: He waters them abundantly.

Biology: wild goats, badgers, lions, rabbits and squirrels. Geography – how difficult many of these concepts and ideas – how interesting (and awesome!) to study the movements of the planets and the stars. Yet “Thou hast made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting…” And do not forget man himself: his work to cultivate the earth, his ships, his technology, his inventions. “O LORD, how manifold are Thy works!”

It is indeed, a privilege to be allowed and enabled to show these things to the children, be it at home or at school. And the older we become the more we realize that there is no end to the study of God’s wonderful creation.

At school the children will hear about all this, they will write about it, they will read about it. They will try to draw the things they see and hear about. They will sing of these things. They will work with the numbers which God has set as number and measure of His creation – they will have to solve those challenging (and at times frustrating) arithmetic problems according to rules determined by God otherwise you will have a wrong answer. Mathematics is not a neutral subject. Even though during a math lesson there might not be any mention of it, nevertheless the children are working with one of God’s created realities, the world of numbers.

Numbers are not derived from nature, nor from man. Yet much of modern secular thought might well speak admiringly about God’s creation, but it does not acknowledge and honour the Creator. The great danger of the 20th century is that we come to believe that there are aspects of life, aspects of reality, aspects of learning which we can know independent from God, and which have nothing to do with God. Many have been captured by the lie of objectivity and factuality, as if objects and facts could exist outside God’s attention.

The Bible in the curriculum. Yes, indeed, without the Bible there cannot be a true curriculum. Parents and teachers must show the children the great deeds of their Father in all of creation, in all of life. Only then can they also join in the Scriptural hallelujah chorus of the poet of Psalm 104.

Therefore, the works of God must be examined and studied most carefully. The children need to be introduced properly and thoroughly into that fascinating world of knowledge. The Bible in the curriculum means hard and intensive work and study, and a true and genuine love for the various subjects – amazement and admiration for the great works of God.

TMP VanderVen

 

Based on A Janse: Het eigen Karakter der Christelijke School. Hoofdstuk 11: De Bijbel op School, pp.35-40. JH Kok, Kampen, 1935.