Teaching worldview part 2
This article is a continuation of Teaching Worldview, Part 1. It covered what worldview is and why it’s important to be deliberate about teaching it. It also gives a brief history of the development of Western thought which will help us see how we got to the culture we are immersed in currently. Modernism was rejected and Postmodernism began to pervade the cultural worldview from about the mid 1900s, and we pick up from there in this part.
While modernism asserted that the Bible was not true, Postmodernism asserts that there is no objective or transcendent truth. It rejects transcendence holding that truth is determined by our experience, not by anything extending beyond the limits of this earth and our experience (relativism).
Humanism is also rejected. Human life is no longer the most important but is equal with all other species i.e. abortion is justified. There is no absolute to justify humans being better than any other creature – evolution has also contributed to this.
Reason is now rejected. 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, e.g. subcultures of homosexuality, feminism, defacto relationships; the grey nomad “spending your children’s inheritance”, etc.
Individuality is rejected. We exist as members of groups or sub cultures; the rejection of humanism and that man no longer has distinction has led to the rejection of individuality.
Summed up, Postmodernism has no absolutes, and advocates experience based “truth”. The only truth you know is what happens to you – your reality. This 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?
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 produces. The result is a plethora of contradiction, the only escape from which is yet more pragmatism.
Child discipline has become pragmatic: distraction and manipulation are 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 sub-culture. 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 to re-establish our worldview.
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 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: God is the creator. His Word (external source) brings all things into being. We can know truth because there is an objective standard and ethics from which to discern this truth.
Materialism: 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 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.
The Word of God is authoritative
If we believe God created the world, we must trust the rest of his Word.
Establish the authority of the Word of God in your family and homeschooling, e.g. history programs must start with the history of God’s people and other cultures slotted in. God’s history must begin with “In the beginning God made…” Any history program that conflicts with the Biblical timeline, e.g. old earth, even 10,000 yo earth, is bringing the Word of God into question.
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.
Nurture a discipline or habit of study – not just a “school time” skill, a life time skill
“School work” will end, but study should not. Nurture the habit of study as a life skill, not an academic skill that will end one day when your child gets a job.
As women we tend to be emotional and feelings based creatures – more so than men at least. 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. 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.
Beware of pragmatism
When you come to recognise pragmatism, you’ll come to see just how many Christians operate under it. 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? We need to be watchful about what we are establishing as our authority.
Synthetic knowledge v’s 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.
I’m going to define two terms for you: Synthetic thinking and Analytical thinking.
Analytical is what you are most familiar with, it is used mostly in a textbook approach. It studies things in isolation and takes things apart in order to learn them. There is nothing wrong with analytical thinking, except that it’s 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, 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. A teacher called Gradgrind calls on one of the girls to tell who she is and what her father does. She states he is a horse trainer. Gradgrind 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: ‘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 as 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.
What should we be teaching?
In a nutshell: all truth is God’s truth; God’s creation is beautiful; dominion.
History is the easiest way to cover worldview studies. Encourage thinking beyond the facts into the realm of belief systems: the motivations and reasons for action; causes for behaviour, etc. Learn to ask questions such as:
What motivated rulers to do what they did?
What influence did Christians have on various issues or events?
What impact did such-and-such society 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, preferring camels and their fast horses, and set back their development by centuries. That is not taking dominion.
Now having said that, you would not delve into those areas with young children, in fact I would avoid studying other belief systems 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.
Make the study of art part of your history. Don’t be tempted to skimp on this.
Don’t underestimate art and its communicative value. 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 that might be communicated is good training. Don’t just leave it at the work, 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, scenes of battle and taking their enemies captive, etc. Mesopotamian art communicated power, intimidation and awe.
The art of whole civilizations communicates their worldview – their perspective on what they thought was important, beautiful and authoritative.
The only antiquities of the ancient Hebrews consist of household items. What does this say about what was important to them? What does it say about what God wants us to remember about them, and where he wants us to get our impressions from? (His record – the Bible.)
Learn to appreciate beauty and cultivate It
If culture is religion externalised, don’t you 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 God is beautiful.
Beauty should go hand in hand with utility. Utility on its own will cause culture to go backwards (there is no neutrality with culture).
e.g. Some parents and teachers have the view 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 in skills that produce beauty. We are working on building Christian culture, not utilitarianism.
Three things easy to remember that will help build Christian culture are beauty, goodness and truth.
There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. As a home educator, you have a brilliant opportunity to be one of those who makes things happen. Trust God to help you in your calling and part in building a Christian worldview and culture.