Today I will wrap up the discussion of what it means to train students to shine as lights in our world.
The last area of this discussion is the one that most people undoubtedly think of first when thinking about why a school exists…the academic instruction of students. Like any other school, the effective Christian school exists to provide academic instruction of the highest quality. In fact, it has always been my conviction that a Christian school that fails to accomplish this has failed the students and parents of students in its school, even if it manages to succeed in providing quality spiritual instruction. The Christian school has a serious two-fold responsibility, and it is a both-and responsibility, not an either-or. The effective Christian school does not decide between providing either top notch academic instruction or in-depth spiritual instruction and discipleship; rather, it recognizes that one cannot truly be provided without the other, and strives to accomplish both at the highest possible level.
Let me elaborate. A Christian school cannot provide spiritual instruction at the expense of academic instruction because the spiritual instruction would lack all relevant meaning and application. A student who memorizes Bible verses, learns Bible stories, and even understands the essential doctrines of the Bible, but has no idea how to apply those things in his or her life or how the teaching of Scripture can be lived out in every day interactions with others will not be able to effectively shine as a light in the world because he or she will have no idea how to do so. This student will either fail to realize that he/she has a light, or will hide said light out of fear of interacting with the world. This student will have acquired significant knowledge, but will be lacking wisdom–the ability to utilize the knowledge that has been acquired. What this means, bottom line, is that the student has been given a powerful weapon but has no idea how to use it. There is really only one word for this–useless.
At the same time, a Christian school which treats spiritual development as an aside and is too timid to treat Bible as an actual class deserving of a grade and requiring actual work from the students will have committed an equally egregious offense against its students. While the relationship between a believer and the Lord is a personal matter, it is also a corporate issue. Believers have a responsibility to encourage, edify, and exhort one another in spiritual growth, and this cannot be accomplished in a mamby-pamby manner which refuses to provide genuine accountability.
Likewise, a Christian school which teaches its academic content in a spiritual vacuum, refusing to integrate biblical principles or apply biblical instruction to the study of science, math, history, English, etc. will have succeeded in training its students to believe that “religion” is to be kept separate from all other spheres of life…which is far from what Scripture teaches.
The successful Christian school, the one that trains its students to shine as lights in this world, teaches academic content at the highest possible level, demanding excellence from its students in every area, while simultaneously weaving biblical instruction and application into every subject at every grade level. Students learn the who, what, where, when, why and how of the academic subjects (acquiring the necessary academic knowledge) and then also learn how to take what they have learned and use it as a springboard for future learning, digging deeper into certain areas and developing applications for both the academic and spiritual knowledge they have acquired in a practical way.
What might this look like specifically? In the sciences, it means understanding the scientific explanations for (insert specific content here), including the secular arguments (read “Darwinism,” for example) while also learning the pertinent biblical content. Then, when given the opportunity, these students can recognize the secular approach, can discuss it intelligently and cogently, and can respond with a well-developed and articulate apology for the biblical position. Science is but one example; the principle holds true for any topic or issue.
Students who have not been equipped to recognize and engage in this manner have been handicapped. If they fail to recognize or understand the secular arguments they are likely to be sucked in by them at worst, or to have no idea how to respond to them, which is only marginally better. This is like equipping the student with a brilliant light, but hiding it inside of a black box or forgetting to show them how to turn the light on. On the other hand, equipping the student with the knowledge necessary to recognize the secular arguments and to respond, but failing to teach him how to do so in an articulate or winsome manner is akin to giving him the same brilliant light and forgetting to tell him not to shine it directly in someone’s eyes. Let us not forget that living in total darkness is much like blindness, but sudden and direct exposure to brilliant light can also cause blindness. What I mean is that boldly and, yes, obnoxiously shining the brilliance of biblical truth into the eyes of one who has to that point only known darkness can have the opposite effect of what we may intend. It can be offensive–even painful–and can drive someone deeper into darkness. The well-trained and properly equipped student has the light and he knows who to use it (including the discernment to know how much light is appropriate at any given time, and when is the right time to increase the light). Only then can this student effectively shine as a light in our world.