This is the transcript of Dr. Johnson’s talk on the Why and the What of Christian Education at CBA. As you will see in this talk, we believe the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is more central to the universe than the sun is to the solar system.
“Religion” is a bad word?
We live in a cultural climate where “religion” is a bad word. Even “church” can carry negative connotations. Separate the state from church. Subconsciously, we might believe that the state is neutral and the church is charged. Definitely, we have all read about atrocities and abuses that have happened through organized religion. And personally, it is quite possible that you have experienced distasteful or even traumatic situations in a church or with “Christian” people. If you study enough history, you might be swayed by the Richard Dawkins of this world, claiming that religion is the root of all evil. Or you might just be wary of any organized religion and are more content doing it on your own, privately. I will come back to this thought at the end of my talk.
Everyone views the world through a worldview
However, for this talk, let’s avoid emotionally loaded words, and reset the table of conversation. Instead of religion, we will use the word “worldview.” Where many humans do not belong to an organized religion, everyone has a worldview (albeit subconscious or intentional).
And by worldview I mean, what are your basic beliefs about the greater story of existence and how do the resulting convictions impact your thoughts, words and actions?
The public sphere might try to be religiously neutral (meaning it avoids alliances with organized religions), but it still operates out of its worldview. For all teachers, public and private, worldview is revealed in what content to teach, what content to omit, how to handle disagreements, how to handle disappointments, how to treat others, how to filter (conversations, friendships, tv shows)…. Our children’s view of the world (worldview) is constantly being formed and calibrated, but it’s parents and teachers who lead and moderate what influencers are allowed.
In the Weight of Glory C.S. Lewis writes, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”
The Biblical narrative helps us understand the “why” of everything. The Bible tells us that the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit created everything and holds everything together out of the overflowing love between the Three Persons in the Trinity. And EVERY CREATED THING has been purposed to broadcast His amazing power and love (Psalms 19, Romans 1:20, Colossians 1:16-18). We are kind of like “moons” whose job is to reflect the perfect light of the sun. As we look to Him, then we begin to look like him (images bearers reflecting His glorious love), and then we project His glorious love to this world. Everything hinges on Jesus. Everything hinges on this God who Isaiah 40 describes as the One who holds the stars (infinitely Huge) and at the same time is a tender Shepherd who holds His sheep.
The School of the Sunless Solar System
Imagine a school that said, “We teach the solar system, but we do not talk about (or even name) the yellow circle in the sky. We talk about the order of orbits and the growth of plants and vitamin D but we do not discuss the yellow thing. We allow each family to decide what they believe about the yellow thing.”
I doubt any of us would consider that school for our impressionable children. If all of life on planet Earth is hinged on the sun, how much more is all of life hinged on the One who created the sun (and everything else). The Triune God has perfectly tuned everything in the universe, all the way down to the earth’s exact tilt and distance from the sun to provide life. This Designer included “little” details such as putting a massive planet like Jupiter just far enough away to protect us from being pulled into its orbit while at the same time just close enough to protect us from an onslaught of meteorites that are flying recklessly through space.
Science does not work without a Designer. For example, what if another school said you could blow up a mountain with dynamite, and the rocks would tumble to form the Taj Mahal. Even if the school said you could blow up the mountain one katrillion times, you know that it will never form the Taj Mahal. Why? Because we know a designed building requires an architect. And there is nothing more finely designed than this universe. For instance, I am very grateful gravity still works each time I jump. I am also grateful that 1 is still 1 today and not .25 (because that would stink for my bank account if values were not predictable and could randomly change). I am grateful for cellular osmosis that occurs while I am speaking, keeping my body oxygenated and hydrated. Our universe has an Architect, and that reality is the foundation to our worldview.
What’s so indescribably amazing is that the omnipotent Architect who breathes stars also tenderly holds His children lambs. But to teach everything about creation, without revealing how He is the Glory in the center of it all, is a doughnut education that misses the middle (the yummiest part!).
One of our student-expected outcomes is for our children to discern between truth, falsehoods and opinions. We want our students to think logically/scientifically. We want them to deduce that a predictable universe (scientific laws/ constants…) comes from a rational, ordered, immutable God. They will see that the scientific law of noncontradiction is ubiquitously evident in the physical universe. For example, you cannot say both that Mars exists and it doesn’t exist. That would violate the law of noncontradiction. And we can then deduce the same law consistently applies to the Architect.
It is often subtle how our current culture attacks the Biblical worldview. Often people who embrace the Bible do not realize how their presuppositions, values and convictions can contradict the character of the Triune God.
For example, to say all religions lead to God: How can God be the God who is both Triune and not Triune? How can a loving God also lead religions like Jim Jones’ cult that led over 300 children to drink cyanide? It is illogical to say all religions lead to God. In fact, I don’t like that word “Religion.” I believe religion is human’s attempt to reach God, whereas Jesus Christ attempts to reach humans through a “Relationship.”
In our parent chat, we played a game where I have several volunteer treasure hunters. I pulled out a treasure map and read the directions for each hunter (this idea is adapted from Elizabeth Urbanowicz’s professional development).
As Urbanowicz explains, “The lesson was designed to enable students to “explain what it means for something to be True and defend why knowing and following the Truth is or is not important.” In my version, the different treasure maps are as follows:
- Dr. Calculation Map (follow lots of exact calculations but never arrive at any treasure)
- Professor Post Truth Map (the hunter is told to go make whatever they want as their treasure)
- Atheistic Atlas- (the hunter is told there is no treasure and asked to return to their seat)
- Señor Survival of the Fittest- Map (The hunter is told to go take someone else’s treasure)
- Disney princess plan (The hunter is told they are the treasure)
- Majority Culture Map (The instructions keep changing and never have a final destination)
- True Treasure Map (Exact instructions lead to a hidden prize)
The Triune God is the Great Treasure
The Map matters. The Treasure matters (finite treasures will never satisfy our infinite appetites).
There is a TRUE treasure- and it’s beyond treasurable (much greater than us)
What/Who is at the end of the treasure, motivates why and defines how to get to the treasure.
There is a great Designer. To that there is no doubt. But what is evident in nature and clarified in the Bible, is that this All-Wise and All-powerful Creator is also All-Loving (which we talked about in Chapel Wednesday).
God is the great treasure. This infinitely valuable relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit where they are always focused on the other- there is an outwardness in their love. Like in John 17 where we see Jesus solely focused on glorifying the Father, and we see the Father solely focused on glorifying the Son.
I love how Genesis 1 reveals the inter-dependencies and interconnectedness of creation (day and night, water, land, and sky, plants and animals made in kinds, and then humans (male and female). It’s amazing how all of creation comes together with this “out-ward” sharing posture reflecting the “outwardness” of the Triune God, and thus reflecting His shalom in the Uni-Verse. Creation was purposed for spectacular codependence where everything flourishes by His Spirit.
The magic is hinged on glorious, selfless love that seeks God and the best for others. And yet this shalom is broken when humans become self-centered (remember Adam and Eve?). And since Genesis 3 we have been trapped in a broken world. Going back to Dawkins’ belief that religion is the root of all evil, the reality is selfishness is the root. And every human is culpable. Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot who did innumerable atrocities in the name of atheistic communism are quick evidences that evil goes beyond just organized religion. Yet, just because man has been selfish and broken, God is NOT. Just as the Triune God overflowed creation, He is now overflowing our rescue. Jesus’ selfless love for the Father and for us freed Him to come, suffer and die for us to restore the selfless shalom of creation. Because of our selfishness, our relationship was broken with Him for all eternity to come. Romans 6:23 says the cost of our selfishness is death. But Jesus paid that cost for us, and for anyone who reaches out and begs for his forgiveness, then NOT ONLY does He forgive, but reconciles us to RELATIONSHIP! He gives us His Holy Spirit who begins to restore us to our original purpose. And that purpose is to be filled with His eternal love and then go and overflow it onto others (loving Jesus and loving others!). It is the great irony- if you try to gain the whole world you will lose it, but if you lose everything for Jesus, you will gain Him (the Infinite One) and generously pour yourself out for others!
We live in an individualist culture. Go “be you.” And while it’s true that God spectacularly makes each of us with unique strengths, it is not for our own selfish ends. He uniquely purposes each of us, so that we would then generously, even sacrificially share our uniqueness to take care of all creation, filling the world with the image of Jesus.
While there is much more to be said, At this point, I will just conclude by giving examples of how we “do” Christian education here at CBA.
First, we often talk about this “good news” that I just shared. I especially love talking about it in chapel. Every teacher/staff member has a personal “relationship” where they walk with the Lord each day and then pour that out on others. You can’t fake authentic love.
Secondly, we ask 4 questions at CBA- based on this rational logic, allowing students to evaluate the greater purpose/narrative/worldview.
- Who made it? (By establishing the author, then you identify who has the author-ity. Do I decide what is the purpose of my life? Am I my own author? Or do I seek the Designer to find out why I am here?)
- What is its purpose? (The author designs everything purposefully. e.g. I can use a cellphone as a hammer but that is not the designer’s purpose, and it will destroy the phone.)
- Is it good? (Does the application of the this “thing? bring life and ultimate goodness? Is it morally right? Is it used according to its purpose?)
- Is it beautiful? (If something is true to its purpose, and used for the good of others, then it is beautiful. Even a cockroach that devours rotten wood beautifully joins the process of decay, fertilization, and rebirth- which is indeed beautiful. It’s not their fault if you leave decaying food in your house and invite them in!)
The classics saw this rationale synchronization between what is true, good and beautiful. It goes way beyond a subjective decision that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and recognizing how froggy frogs, oakey oak trees, wet water, selfless humans… have a perfect plan and will flourish when they live according to their purpose. And when they follow the trueness of their form, it is good and beautiful! But just as this framework reveals beautiful design, it also exposes where things do not follow their God-given purpose and it brings destruction and death.
Finally, here are other areas we are intentionally Christian:
- Pleaful prayers. We start every class asking God to supernaturally show His loving glory to and through the class (knowing Him would transform our thoughts, words and actions (Romans 12:1-2).
- Study and memorize God’s Word (Bible class and chapels).
- We have the posture of a treasure hunter, being in awe of His amazing, purposeful, good, and beautiful designs in creation, which give us glimpses of His Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.
- We are forming rationale/logical/scientific thinkers.
- We are working hard and depending on God to help us form selfless, collaborative relationships.