You want to more effectively help your students connect what they study and what the Bible teaches. So, you want to deepen your own understanding of the connections between what your students study and what the Bible teaches.

Question: How can you do this?

Answer: By identifying 3 things:

  1. What your students study.
  2. The Biblical principles that naturally connect to what your students study.
  3. The connections between what students study and the Biblical principles you identified.

Question: Can you give an example of what this looks like?

Kim Essenburg - 120x100.jpgAnswer: Yes. In the interview below, Kim Essenburg (English 10 teacher at Christian Academy in Japan) thinks about her introductory unit. Kim identifies what her students study, Biblical principles that connect to what her students study, and the connections between what her students study and the Biblical principles she identified.

What do your students study?

Kim: In my introductory unit, my students study literature selections from around the world, including:

    1. Allende, Isabel. “Writing as an Act of Hope.” Contemporary Chilean author describes her vision for literature in South America to undermines totalitarian regimes, tell truth, and help people love each other better.
    2. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. From “Nobel Lecture.” Winner of the 19XX Nobel Prize for literature, whose fictions depicting life in Soviet prison camps first raised the world’s awareness of human right’s abuses, describes his vision of how world literature promotes human understanding and undercuts lies and violence.
    3. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” Well-known short story by the Colombian winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature. Using his signature magical realism style, Marquez critiques society by the various reactions to a storm-battered angel marooned in a small village.
    4. Narayan, R.K. “Like the Sun.” Contemporary Indian writer explores in a short story form whether it is possible, or even good, to tell the whole truth all the time.
    5. Confucius. From The Analects. These aphorisms have shaped Chinese culture for over 2000 years.
    6. Hillary, Sir Edmund. “The Final Assault.” New Zealander conqueror of Everest describes the final ascent with great attention to detail, describing the difficulties of his assistant, and Hillary’s own arrival first at the peak.
    7. Norgay, Tenzig. “The Dream Comes True.” Hillary’s guide and assistant describes the beauty of the mountains and asserts that he and Hillary were equal partners, helping each other, and arrived at the peak together.

What Biblical principles naturally connect to what your students study?

Kim: I’ve identified 4 Biblical principles:

    1. Because people are made in the image of God, they are creative, communicative truth-seekers.
    2. God charges us with developing the potentials of creation, including language and culture. This is called the Cultural Mandate.
    3. All truth is God’s truth: truth people can deduce from creation as well as truth God reveals in scripture.
    4. The Bible is the clearest revelation of God’s truth, the touchstone for all other truth claims.

What are the connections between Biblical principles and what students study?

Kim: What helped me identify the connections was listing the Biblical principles and then writing down the connections between that principle and a given literature selection. Here’s what my notes look like:

    1. Because people are made in the image of God, they are creative, communicative truth-seekers.
      1. Allende: Began her first book as a letter to her grandfather (communicative). In this essay she tells how she seeks to communicate the truth of Chile’s history (truth-seeker) through her novels (which use magical realism—very creative!).
      2. Solzhenitsyn: Communicates in a speech the importance of writers from all countries in communicating truth to unite people and defeat violence (something he has modeled in his fiction).
      3. Marquez: Uses magical realism (very creative!) to explore the truth of how people work, why novelty (spider girl) and position (doctor, priest) exercise more influence than spirit (angel).
      4. Narayan: Creatively explores in fiction some effects of truth on social interactions.
      5. Confucius: Sought to find and communicate the truth of what makes society work well.
      6. Hillary: Wanted to communicate to the world his version of the truth of his conquest of Everest.
      7. Norgay: Wanted to counter Hillary’s version and communicate his own.
    2. God charges us with developing the potentials of creation, including language and culture. This is called the Cultural Mandate.
      1. Allende: Magical realism is one such potential of language closely associated with South American culture. She talks about the importance of writers and books on her continent, the opportunity to use all media (“not only the cultivated language of academia but also the direct language of journalism, the mass language of radio, television and the movies, the poetic language of popular songs and the passionate language of talking face to face with an audience”) to challenge injustice and untruth.
      2. Solzhenitsyn: Power of language to tell truth and counter violence.
      3. Marquez: A well-known example of magical realism (see 2.a.).
      4. Narayan: Can the power of language to tell truth be overused?
      5. Confucius: Power of language to affect people: Confucius’s analects affected Chinese, in fact, most of Southeast Asian, culture for more than 2000 years.
      6. Hillary/Norgay: Communicate the beauty of creation we’ll never see, the heroics of human actions we’ll never do.
    3. All truth is God’s truth: truth people can deduce from creation as well as truth God reveals in scripture.
      1. Allende: Writes to reveal truth; to counter the mass media that “promote a colonialistic culture, which justifies the unjust organization of the world as a result of the legitimate victory of the best—that is, the strongest. They lie about the past and about reality. They propose a lifestyle which postulates consumerism as an alternative to communism, which exalts crime as achievement, lack of scruples as virtue, and selfishness as a natural requirement.” Writes ultimately so that people will love each other more.
      2. Solzhenitsyn: Writes to reveal truth, to counter violence. Aligns with Biblical values of truth, justice, responsibility for our fellow humans.
      3. Marquez: Reveals human hypocrisy, self-interest, blindness. Aligns with Biblical
      4. Narayan: Explores complex human relationship to truth.
      5. Confucius: Understands a lot about ethical behavior.
      6. Hillary: Creation is factual, measurable. People are amazing.
      7. Norgay: Creation is awe-inspiring! People need each other. The record should be set straight.
    4. The Bible is the clearest revelation of God’s truth, the touchstone for all other truth claims.
      1. Allende: Aligns with Biblical values of truth, justice, beauty, love, and insistence on the existence of hope. I admire her strength; it is knowing that God has redeemed the world and will one day restore it that gives me reason for hope and strength to continue working for truth, justice, beauty, and love in the midst of a world that often seems without hope. Questions: What does she mean by truth? Love? What is her basis for hope? Does she ever lose hope?
      2. Solzhenitsyn: Truth is powerful and important, words are significant in preserving and communicating it, loving our neighbors as ourselves is furthered by understanding our neighbors through their writers. “Mankind’s salvation lies exclusively in everyone’s making everything his business….” In terms of ultimate salvation, this is not true: Only the atoning death of Jesus could redeem mankind from the effects of the fall, including personal faults, structural injustice, a marred nature, and eternal separation from God; yet we are saved not for our own good, but to do justice and love mercy, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to be our brothers’ keepers. Question: What does he mean by salvation? Will telling truth alone bring this?
      3. Marquez: Childlikeness is extolled in the Bible—the humility, honesty, trust on one not caught yet in the adult illusions of independence and importance. Question: His powerless angel and silly priest—are they symbols of the institutional church in South America (the Bible often critiques institutionalized religion) or of the heart of Christianity?
      4. Narayan: Truth can’t be divorced from love. Question: How does one discern the relationship?
      5. Confucius: Aligns with Biblical values of obedience, humility, respect, integrity, honesty, and reliability; similarity to many verses of Proverbs. Questions: What is the value of women? When should authority be challenged? How do you know?
      6. Hillary/Norgay: Many verses in Psalms portray the majesty of the mountains at proclaiming the even greater majesty of their Maker. People are given the charge to care for creation, but this has too easily been interpreted as a self-interested dominion. Questions: Does “conquering” a peak make one fall down in worship at the feet of its infinitely more majestic Maker, or does it confirm one’s own power and pride? How do we relate to creation? To the Creator? And how do we manipulate language to show ourselves in a better light and others in a worse?

Your turn: Identify 3 things:

  1. What your students study.
  2. The Biblical principles that naturally connect to what your students study.
  3. The connections between what students study and the Biblical principles you identified.

Target Biblical perspective. Deepen your understanding of the connections between what students study and what the Bible teaches. Today.



©2009 Michael B. Essenburg, Close the Gap Now

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