The Integration of Faith & Learning

by Dr. Mark Baynes

Teach me, my God and King,

In all things Thee to see

And what I do in anything,

To do it as for Thee

All may of Thee partake;

Nothing so small can be

But draws, when acted for Thy sake,

Greatness and worth from Thee:

So wrote George Herbert in his poem, The Elixir (1633).  In this poem, he beautifully conveys the truth that all spheres of life belong to the Living God, and therefore, can be done and experienced for His glory.  Since all that exists was created by God and for God (Romans 11:36), the Christian should value every opportunity to learn more of the revelations of God.  Both the study of theology and study for the marketplace should and can mingle together as they overflow in worship to God.  In this short essay, I have set out four points which I believe sum up how faith and learning can integrate in the Christian worldview. 

An education is first of all a privilege.  Having taught in Africa to many young pastors there, it is humbling and inspiring to see their love and passion of learning.  They come to class hungry, not taking anything for granted.  Books are cherished as gold is in the West, and moments in the classroom are seen as part of redeeming the time.  In light of these enriching experiences, I have come to believe that an essential part of Christian education is teaching students not to take for granted their years of study.  The vast majority of humanity does not have the benefits and opportunities that young students in the West have today.  It is a gift from God to have the time, money and health to study in the particular field to which one is called.  Students and teachers alike must learn to treasure this gift, and come before God with thankful hearts that He has given the grace of learning to them. 

An education is second of all a journey.  A lifetime of learning does not happen in just four years.  A Christian education is an opportunity to learn how to learn.  Where does one find information?  How does one know if the information is reliable, trustworthy, and of good quality?  Where does one go to find it?  What writings and authors have stood the test of time proving they are of great quality?  How does one maximize the time by moving efficiently through a large amount of information?  These are questions a good educator asks and guides each student in answering.  A successful educator not only teaches in the moment, but more importantly equips and teaches students how to learn for a lifetime.

An education is thirdly an act of worship.  Using our minds is an act of worship before the Lord.  Numerous times in the Scriptures we see a connection between our minds and our worship of God.  In the Jewish Shema, we read, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.”  The apostle Paul says that we are to be transformed by the, “renewing of our minds.”  We are to, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Unfortunately, there are some who advocate that worshipping God with our mind and worshiping God with our “heart” as existing in opposite camps.  They are believed to be separate actions at best, or, at worst, to be incompatible with each other.  Far too often “intellectual capacity” and “spiritual fitness” are not seen as two sides of the same coin in bringing glory to God, but rather as two separate coins having two separate values   This is, however, a false and unbiblical dichotomy. 

B.B. Warfield has said it best in this matter:

"Nothing could be more fatal, however, than to set these two things over against one another.  Recruiting officers do not dispute whether it is better for soldiers to have a right leg or a left leg: soliders should have both legs.  Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books.  “Why not ten hours over your books on your knees?” is the appropriate response. Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God?

Fourthly, an education is an equipping for a battle.  The modern Church is beginning to recognize that there is a spiritual battle raging for the hearts and minds of its next generation. This recognition, however, is slow in coming and many remain unaware of what is at stake for the culture at large and the Church in particular.  Christian education has a frontline role in this war for the souls of men and the heart of a culture.  If the Church refuses to call upon its rich history of education, and chooses to recluse itself in a holy huddle for the present, hoping the winds of cultural change will blow over with minimal damage, then it has put itself in a stark disadvantage for the current battle at hand.  The Christian Church needs to be on the offensive, actively equipping the saints for various ministries in the world at large.  By integrating faith and learning, the Church contaminates the world that God loves with the truth of His Gospel in every sphere of life, including the sciences, medicine, the arts, and literature.  Integrating faith and learning is central to the mission of the Church.

The lure of the enemy is strong, his persuasion is powerful, and his weapons are numerous.  Never before has a generation been able to access so much information so fast.  What would have taken a week to discover before is now available in a matter of seconds.  This generation, more than ever, needs to be able to take these technological advances and use them for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom.  A Christian education is not solely for the benefit of the recipient — it is equipping oneself for a call of bringing glory to God. It is the receiving of a weapon, in order to fight a spiritual battle for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom.

A Christian education has the power to help change a generation.  The Psalmist commends having clean hands and a pure heart before the Lord, nor being one who trusts in idols.  He longs for that to be the characteristic of his generation, for “such is the generation of those that seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob (Psalm 24).”  As they enter into a fallen world so desperately in need of “salt” and “light,” the goal of a Christian education is to equip students for the good works that have been prepared in advance for them to do, in whatever field that may have been called. May God grant this grander eternal perspective to all who are called to educate, as well as to those who are called to learn — for His glory and His glory alone!