Teaching Worldview Part 2
by Joelle Grubb Copyright 2015
In Part 1 of this article, we covered the history of the development of Western thought right up to the beginning of the 20th Century. To understand Postmodernism, we need to first understand Modernism. The mark of modernism was its blatant disregard for Revelation. While Modernists claimed that the Bible was not true and was no more authoritative than any other religious writing, Postmodernism asserts that there is no objective or transcendent truth. Postmodernism rejects several characteristics of Modernism as we will see below:
Postmodernism rejects transcendence holding that truth is determined by our experience, not by anything extending beyond the limits of this earth and our experience (relativism).
Reason is now rejected as it had failed to provide answers. Being true to yourself and being free to express yourself, refusing to impose order on your life or the morals of others (i.e. how can anyone know what is true?); your happiness is what matters. This thinking has led to the formation of subcultures such as homosexuality, feminism, de facto relationships, the grey-nomad ‘spending your children’s inheritance’, etc
Humanism is also rejected since human life is no longer the most important but is equal with all other species. There is no absolute to justify humans being better than any other creature, one consequence being the justification of abortion. Evolution has also contributed to this mindset.
The rejection of humanism and that man no longer has distinction has led to the rejection of individuality since we exist as members of groups or subcultures.
To sum all that up, postmodernism has no absolutes and advocates experience based ‘truth’. The only truth you know is what happens to you – your reality. Your experience, of course, is relative. Postmodernism is ruled by pragmatism: what is morally right is determined by how useful something is and what benefit is gained. All this causes subcultures to develop so that individuals can feel safe and operate within a framework of common pragmatic morals. Society is splintered into a world where anything goes, and everything is to be tolerated, except intolerance.
Why is it Important to Teach a Biblical Worldview?
Many aspects of our society operate from a postmodern worldview. Our children need a basis of thought and knowledge to identify falsehoods and inconsistencies in the postmodern worldview that confronts them. Our legal system is increasingly pragmatic and has been moving away from a Judeo-Christian basis, i.e. Law of God, for many years. GK Chesterton once said, “If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the 10,000 Commandments.” This is what no absolutes and relativism produce. The result is a plethora of contradiction, the only escape from which is yet more pragmatism.
Child discipline is another area that has become increasingly pragmatic with distraction and manipulation used instead of honest correction.
What is the Goal of a Biblical Worldview?
The goal of a Biblical worldview is to fulfil Genesis 1:28: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
Christians need to build a Christian culture, not a subculture. This is done through the gospel and sanctification: only Christians can build Christian culture, and it requires a long-term view.
Proposing a Christian Worldview
We have certain foundational ideas to our thinking, and they become the filter through which we view the world. Going back to the foundation helps us re-establish our worldview. Below is a list of things I thought we should think about or re-think in determining our Christian worldview.
1. At the root of every worldview is the question of origins. In the creation of the world there lies an absolute. This absolute is the fact that something outside the creation itself has been imposed upon it. It provides us with a reference point. The implications of this reference point are huge as can be seen from a history of walking away from it, showing the consequences of wrong worldviews.
There are lots of views of origins, but they all boil down to two main types: Theism or Materialism
Theism has God as the creator. His Word (external source) brings all things into being. We can know truth because this source provides an objective standard and ethics from which to discern this truth.
Materialism is based on chance. It relies on our feelings and experiences, and truth is based on what they produce. It is changeable and non-absolute.
God has given us his Word, and thankfully we do not have to relinquish to our feelings and experiences. They are not our authority. Acknowledging an external source of authority gives us stability and overarching unchanging ethics, and a basis for law.
2. The Word of God is authoritative. If we believe God created the world, we must trust the rest of his Word. One way to apply this standard to establish the authority of the Word of God is when you are choosing a history program for your children. History programs must start with the history of God’s people with other cultures slotted in along the chronology. God’s history must begin with ‘In the beginning God created …’ Any history program that conflicts with the Biblical timeline, e.g., old earth, even 10,000-year-old earth, is bringing into question the Word of God. We want to establish the authority of God's word.
3. Establish family worship. If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to establish a daily time of Family Worship. Try not to make Bible study part of your ‘school work ’ to be discarded when your child finishes his education. We want to develop the idea that the Bible is part of our everyday life, not academics. Family Worship is best led by dad whenever possible and can include singing, Bible reading and prayer. Start small if that is all you can do, but starting is better than not doing it at all. God will bless your family.
4. Nurture a discipline or habit of study as a lifetime skill, not an academic skill to be discarded one day when your child enters the workforce.
5. Teach Doctrine. As women, we tend to be emotional and feelings based creatures. We need to be careful of creating a sentimental or feelings based religion in our homes. Feelings based religion will not distinguish us in this postmodern world! Postmodernism advocates experience based ‘truth’. Christianity has suffered under this false worldview with experience-based religion. Christianity is not experienced based; we cannot have our religion the way we want it. We cannot create God in our image. Does this mean our faith should be void of feeling? No. We need to recognise the basis of absolute truth on which we build. A systematic study of major biblical doctrines will teach your children that Christianity is based on the eternal truths decreed in the word of God and are worked out according to his creation and providence.
6. Beware of Pragmatism. When you come to recognise pragmatism, you’ll come to see just how many Christians operate under it, albeit unwittingly. Postmodernism is pragmatic. If you have developed a pragmatic method of dealing with issues with your children, then you have probably blurred the line of authority. Your children will learn to be pragmatic very quickly, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they use the same method of argumentation back on us. Pragmatism ultimately leads to a power struggle – who’s going to get what they want or think is best? How do you decide whose gain matters the most? Does this mean that pragmatism should be avoided? Again, what we need to be watchful about is what we are establishing as our authority.
7. Synthetic Knowledge vs. Analytical Knowledge
We’ve seen that postmodernism is producing a fragmented society with no foundations. No truth; no foundation – not just a wrong foundation, but no foundation. This study would not be complete without reference to education in the postmodern world. Analytical thinking is what you are most familiar with; it is used mostly in a textbook approach. It studies things in isolation and takes things apart to learn them. There is nothing wrong with analytical thinking, except that its right place is after synthetic thinking. Synthetic learning comes from the opposite perspective in studying things as a whole first. Synthetic learning recognises that all things are connected and relate to one another and ultimately to God, the creator. Synthetic thinking is not complete unless you recognise God in the big picture. It recognises the relationship of new knowledge to old knowledge in building knowledge, the connection between disciplines, and the relationship of man to it all.
Charles Dickens in Hard Times has an example of the difference between analytical thinking and synthetic thinking. One of his characters, a teacher named Gradgrind, calls on one of the girls in the class to tell who she is and what her father does. She states her father is a horse trainer. Gradgrind then asks her what a horse is, which she is surprised at, of course, and is unable to answer. Gradgrind then asks another student to define a horse, and he states: ‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ We all know that the girl certainly knows what a horse is because she lives with them every day. She has a relational knowledge of horses. The other student has an analytical understanding of what a horse is. If we’re to combat our fragmented lives and work toward a coherent future, we need to teach our children in a holistic way.
Some Practical Tips
Teaching worldview will become more apparent when your children are teens due to the abstract ideas involved but don’t wait until then. While your children are little, you will teach them the scriptures and the idea that we just believe them. You will also teach by example, so concentrating on developing your worldview while they are young will go a long way in influencing them. As mentioned earlier, establish family worship, so that your children take it for granted that the scriptures are esteemed and believed without question. This is achieved much more effectively when Dad leads and thereby establishing God's given line of authority.
What Should we be Teaching?
History is the easiest way to get in worldview studies. When teaching history to older students encourage thinking beyond the facts into the realm of belief systems, i.e. the motivations and reasons for action; causes for behaviour, etc. Learn to ask questions such as:
Why did rulers do what they did?
What influence did Christianity have on various issues or events?
What impact did (insert particular society/civilization) have on Christians?
How did religion affect politics? How are religion and politics different and how are they the same?
How did the Gospel influence the development of civilization compared to other belief systems? e.g. During the crusades, the Moslems got rid of the wheel (which required the building and maintaining of roads), preferring camels and their fast horses, and set back their development by centuries. That is not taking dominion.
Now having said that, you would probably not delve into the area of belief systems with young children, in fact, I would avoid it with young children and spend the time establishing right beliefs first. Remember we need a biblical grid through which to analyse other beliefs. While your children are young, it is the time for establishing right doctrine and encouraging faith.
Don’t be tempted to skimp on art; it can be incorporated into your history studies. One of the main purposes of art is to communicate ideas. Art is an easy medium for children to understand and you can begin teaching worldview using picture study with very young children. Using a visual medium to help them consider ideas is good training in discerning worldview. Don’t just leave it at the artwork, but also study the artist and their life. Compare the work of Christian artists to that of non-Christian artists.
When studying art with older children, study the art of whole civilizations, e.g. Egyptian art remained the same for thousands of years. Why?
e.g. Mesopotamian art consisted of large monuments, large repetitive patterns and wall murals, scenes of battle and taking their enemies captive, etc. This communicated power, intimidation and awe, using art as a form of propaganda.
The art of whole civilizations communicates their worldview – their perspective on what they thought was important, beautiful and authoritative.
Learn to Appreciate Beauty and Cultivate It
If culture is religion externalised, don’t we want to externalise the beauty of God? Spending time creating, appreciating and promoting that which is beautiful will improve our culture and reflect our belief that our God is beautiful. Beauty should go hand in hand with utility, however utility on its own will cause culture to go backwards (there is no neutrality with culture).
e.g. Some parents and teachers believe that teaching cursive writing is a waste of time since the child will revert to their own style anyway as they get older. We need to appreciate the value of skills that produce beauty. We are working on building Christian culture, not utilitarianism.
To sum things up three words to remember that will help us as we consider the building of Christian culture are beauty, goodness and truth.
And lastly, a little quote for encouragement... There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.
As home educators, we have a brilliant opportunity to be some of those who make things happen.