An Approach to Worldview Integration:
A Key Teaching Tool for the Authentic Christian Teacher
By Dr. Marti MacCullough, chair of the Department of Teacher Education at Philadelphia Biblical University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania
What does worldview integration look like?
I have coined some names for three possible models for biblical integration: parallel model, interpersonal model, and integrating core model. Identify the integration model represented by the dialogue of each of the following Christian school teachers who were asked the question, “Do you practice biblical integration?” Then decide which of the three models you practice. This article addresses the third model, the integrating core model.
- Oh yes, I biblically integrate. Anytime a student has a question that relates to both the subject and the Bible, I answer the question and share a little sermon with the class. You really don’t need to plan for integration if you are an integrated person!
- Integrate? Well, truthfully, I don’t think that knowledge from various subject areas needs to be unified. Each subject stands on its own and is its own authority. I teach social studies, not Bible. Spiritual knowledge is for the family and the religion teacher. Of course I begin most classes with prayer. It’s a great way to get the kids quiet!
- You bet I plan for worldview integration just as I plan the curriculum for other important learning outcomes. I find that using subject-to-subject integration and some of the suggested enrichment activities often helps me to design activities that lead to having the students process new material in light of biblical answers to life’s biggest questions. Biblical truth is the integrating center.
The authentic Christian school teacher must include biblical worldview integration in the design of the curriculum. It cannot be just a nice thing to talk about, to espouse on Back-to-School Night, or to include in the school brochure. It must be the element that answers the question, What can a Christian school education do for my child that a good Christian home, a good church, and the local public school—all working together—cannot do? Above all, it must be planned!
What is integration?
A standard dictionary definition is “to incorporate into a larger unit: bringing together into a larger whole.” The concept of bringing together into a larger whole will help us immensely in examining what it is we need to do as we design the Christian school curriculum for worldview integration. Integration is not substituting a Bible devotional for a solid teaching of the subject!
A working definition could be “teaching the subjects of the Christian school in such a way that students develop a biblical worldview out of which to think and act.” This definition presupposes that there is a teaching approach essential for promoting worldview integration. And the use of this definition requires an understanding of the term worldview. In his book The Universe Next Door, James Sire (1997) describes worldview as “a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world.” J. P. Moreland (2001) gives the following definition for worldview: “A worldview is a set of beliefs a person accepts, most importantly, beliefs about reality, knowledge, and value, along with the various support relations among those beliefs, the person’s experiences and the person himself.
It is the role of Christian parents and educators to help young people examine concepts and misconceptions in light of God’s perspective found in His Word. It is our task to bring together new information from such subjects as science, math, social studies, language arts, and the visual and performing arts—that is, knowledge found in every area of human inquiry. Then we must align that information with God’s perspective in order to help our students not only view life coherently and biblically but also ultimately hold firmly to a personally accepted biblical philosophy of life.
In the integrating core model, we begin with a whole, the integrating core—a set of beliefs about the world and life. We then move to new knowledge, skills, and attitudes from various subject areas. And as we return to a larger whole, our worldview grows. It is enhanced, appreciated, enriched, and clarified as it is compared with contrasting views. It allows us, within the limits of human learning, to come to view life and learning as a unified whole. Because it begins with a core, this model answers the question, What do I do when there is clear conflict between knowledge sources? The integrating core, which is made up of biblical truths, is the standard. Integrity, or wholeness, is the goal!
Element One of Worldview Integration: Biblical Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions
I use the seven questions that form a framework for cataloging worldviews, found in James Sire’s book The Universe Next Door (1997). These questions include the three issues considered in philosophy: metaphysics (ultimate reality, existence, and being), epistemology (knowing), and axiology (values). Different worldviews answer these questions differently:
- What is really real? What is prime reality? (metaphysics)
What is the nature of external reality, the world around us?
- Possible answers: (a) God, (b) matter, (c) energy, (d) some impersonal force
- Biblical view: God is.… He exists. Psalm 90:2 says, “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God,” and Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning God.” What kind of God is He?
What or who is a human being?
- Possible answers: It is (a) real, (b) designed, (c) created, (d) orderly, (e) sustained, (f) an illusion, (g) here by chance, (h) chaotic
- Biblical view? (What would you say?)
Is there life after death? What happens to a person at death?
- Possible answers: A human is a (a) machine, (b) sleeping god, (c) naked ape, (d) person made in the image of God
- Biblical view?
How do we know? Why is it possible to know at all? (epistemology)
- Possible answers: (a) extinction, (b) transformation, (c) some higher state
- Biblical view?
What is the basis for morality? How do we know what is right and wrong? (axiology)
- Possible answers: (a) Humans are made in the image of God. (b) Evolution is responsible for our ability to think. (c) Thinking is a survival tactic. (d) We can’t really know anything for sure.
- Biblical view?
What is the meaning of human history?
- Possible answers: (a) It is determined by the culture. (b) It is determined by human individual choice alone. (c) God’s character is good, right, and just; He is the standard.
- Biblical view?
- Possible answers: (a) What goes around comes around. (b) It is to make a paradise (utopia) on Earth. (c) It is to realize the purpose of gods or God.
- Biblical view?
A teacher who wishes to design integrative activities in the curriculum must not only examine biblical answers to these worldview questions but also understand other worldview answers and identify them in textual material. Using seven or so key worldview questions makes the task manageable.
The next study for the teacher is to ask which of these worldview questions is the focus of the subject area, lesson, or unit at hand. For example, I find at least four biblical truths that have core value status in science: (a) God exists, (b) God designed and created, (c) God sustains, and (d) We owe Him thanks (worshiping the Creator rather than the creation).
In discussion of worldview questions, we must note that Bible teaching in a Christian school should focus in part on biblical truths or concepts that answer these questions. Bible curriculum should address worldview issues as often as possible. For example, in a study of the life of Joseph—who endured ups and downs, good times and difficult times—students can read to find out Joseph’s perspective on times of struggle. Joseph said to his brothers, who had sold him into slavery, “[Y]ou meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NKJV). Joseph lived the biblical truth of Romans 8:28, reflecting his worldview. Good Bible teaching will enhance worldview integration! The authentic Christian school teacher, therefore, is not only a Christian but also one willing both to study God’s Word seriously and to articulate the Christian faith in worldview terms.
Element Two of Worldview Integration: Interactive, Engaging Lessons
Students must be engaged mentally and challenged to use prior knowledge to connect to new knowledge. They also need to fit this new knowledge into their meaning schemes in such a way that they can store and retrieve it for use in real life and not just for regurgitation on a test. I encourage the use of subject-to-subject and subject-to-life integration activities such as those often included in the curriculum guides under the title of enrichment, expansion, or processing activities. These activities are a tremendous help in engaging students’ minds and in developing worldview integrative experiences.
Element Three of Worldview Integration: Processing Activities, the Heart of Worldview Integrative Teaching
Basically, three types of processing activities may be planned as part of a good lesson. These are student activities rather than teacher talks:
- A. Correlation: What in the lesson today or in this unit correlates, associates with, or fits together with a biblical answer to one of life’s major questions?
- B. Correction: What in the lesson today or in this unit needs to be evaluated in light of a biblical answer to one of life’s biggest questions because it appears to conflict with what we know clearly from God’s Word?
- C. Continued Study: What in the lesson today brings up a question in the mind of the student for which there is no immediate answer from either the subject area or the Bible? This processing experience is an opportunity for further study together.
Element Four of Worldview Integration: Assessment Activities
Worldview assessment is designed to find out if students connect, relate, and make sense out of the new material in light of the integrating core. Just as we assess any kind of learning to find out if the student has processed and conceptualized well, we must also assess biblical integration. We can conduct assessment through tests or other means such as portfolio artifacts, projects, papers, and performances of various kinds.
The only way to develop the skill for planning worldview integration is to begin doing what we understand and to ask God for wisdom in bringing together knowledge from any domain with knowledge from His Word. It takes more than desire to accomplish the task. It takes planning and hard work. But it is eternally worth it!
See Worldview integration: A key teaching tool to view illustrations of the activities in element three, a sample plan for worldview integration, and the resource list.
Dr. Marti MacCullough from Christian School Education (CSE), Volume 6, Issue 1. Used with permission.