How to Give Your Child a Theistic Worldview
By Jessica Hulcy
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #13, 1996.
Jessica Hulcy outlines worldview alternatives and explains what's special about "theism."
In The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire defines worldview as a "set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of the world."
A worldview interprets all reality, all of God's creation, all of life. That interpretation is important, because as Francis Schaeffer says in How Should We Then Live?, people's "inner life... their thought-world determines how they act... The results of their thought-world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world. This is true of Michelangelo's chisel, and is true of a dictator's sword."
In short, a worldview is important, because it determines how you act and behave.
In spite of the impact our worldview has on our lives, Schaeffer says, "Most people catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society the way a child catches measles. But people with more understanding realize that their presuppositions should be chosen after a careful consideration of what worldview is true."
KONOS was created around one worldview, one perspective of reality... God's perspective. KONOS is Greek for "cone." God and His character are at the pinnacle of the cone. This is the pinnacle of all knowledge, all creation, all reality. A theistic worldview interprets every facet of our world according to God's perspective, measures every detail of our lives by God's Word. It is as if all data must be funneled to the apex of the cone, where it is then measured against God's Word. Likewise, all man's actions are funneled to that apex and measured against God's character.
The apex of the cone is the critical spot, since the standard against which everything is measured resides there. Belief in God, theism, can be replaced at the top of the cone by two other worldviews, naturalism and pantheism. Many author's today speak of a Christian worldview or a humanist worldview or Marxist worldview. Religions and political philosophies are not to be confused with the three broader categories of worldviews: theism, pantheism, and naturalism.
A clear condensation of worldviews comes from a chart constructed by geologist, songwriter, and homeschool speaker Monte Swan. This chart, while limited by typical chart format, clarifies the contrasting worldviews thoroughly. Swan recognizes all humanist are not communist, Jews and Moslems do not believe in salvation through Christ, and Christians use the scientific method (for science, not for theology!). However, Swan's chart is an excellent starting point for developing a complete flow chart which traces each worldview.
In Sire's definition of a worldview, presuppositions can be true, partially true, or completely false. For most of us, there is only one absolutely true worldview - theism - and one completely true religion within that worldview - Christianity. The question remains: how do we impart a theist Christian worldview to the next generation?
The next generation must be directed to the true source of all knowledge. Theistic Christians find truth and knowledge revealed in the Bible, in Jesus, in Creation and through the Holy Spirit We read about God and Jesus in scripture; likewise, we "read about God in the Creation, not with just our eyes but with all our five senses," says Swan. The fourth source of knowledge is the Holy Spirit which leads us to truth supernaturally by appealing to our hearts.
Methods Used to Teach Worldview
Experiential, Scientific Method Teaches to the Mind. How easy it would be to purchase our desired worldview in capsule form and be assured that if we give our children one capsule a day they will grow up with the correct worldview! Easy, yes. Realistic, no. Ideas do not belong to a person unless that person hammers those ideas out in his own mind. Parents cannot spoon-feed worldviews any more than they can spoon-feed education to their children.
Swan's phrase "reading God's creation" suggests that we must use our five senses to observe and gather empirical data about God's Creation in order to truly know Him. Observing insignificant June bugs flocking to a porch light at night points to a Creation of design, not chance - of intelligence, not chaos. God perfectly programmed into each insect an attraction to light as a means for species members to find each other and propagate. The behavior of June bugs underscores that our universe is designed, not evolved, and created by a God of intelligence separate from the cosmos. Imagine the impossible odds that by random chance both a male and a female June bug develop an attraction to light at the exact same place on the planet earth on the exact same night, find each other, mate and pass on genes that cause all other June bugs forever after to be attracted to light. Reading God's creation points to a Creator of design rather than a cosmos of naturalistic evolution.
Many parents want to help their children read the creation, but not having a firm grasp of worldviews themselves, feel incompetent in recognizing examples in creation that support a theistic Christian worldview to share with their children. Parents wonder, "Since I was not trained to think this way, how do I know what questions to ask to get my children to recognize examples in creation and then make the connection to a worldview? Shouldn't I first be trained, before I begin training?"
Fortunately our children come to us very young, giving us a slight head start. While acquainting themselves with worldviews, parents can train their children in skills that they will need to formulate their own worldview, namely observing life and handling data. As parents encourage their children to dig a garden, play the piano, read a book, or even eat caviar (as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it's a great way to learn about fish eggs!), they are really encouraging their children to collect data through their senses. Collecting data, compiling data, categorizing data, comparing data, conjecturing and concluding about data, and then finally communicating your own personal thoughts concerning the data is more than a list of words beginning with "C's." These C's are the foundation for logic and reason, the foundation for thinking. Children need an abundance of opportunity to practice the C-skills during their elementary years. This prepares them to apply logic and reason during their highschool years.
Logic and Reason are Promoted through Dialogue. Logic and reason were championed during the Enlightenment, but to the exclusion of Scripture. Scripture, which had long been the unchallenged absolute, was challenged by science, the epitome of logic and reason. After all, men reasoned, science could be seen, heard, smelled, felt and tested; whereas, God and his Word were accepted on faith, and faith was blind.
It was Luther, however, who encapsulated the rebonding of faith and logic, of mind and soul that came with the advent of the Reformation. At the Diet of Worms in 1521 Luther was ordered to recant his 95 Theses. Luther, a teacher of Aristotelian logic as well as a lover of Scripture, thundered, "Unless I am convinced by Scriptures or by plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything. Here I stand, I can do no other!" John Robbins, in the Trinity Review newsletter, points out that reason for Luther meant logic. Robbins states, "Fundamental to upholding a doctrinal Christianity is the upholding of logic. If logic is ignored or denigrated, no doctrine can be known to be true or false." Luther valued logic as well as Scripture and was clear that if both came from God, they could not be in conflict. Reason and God's Word were congruent, not in conflict.
"Congruent" is the key word I use to teach my children the application of their worldview to all aspects of their lives. In geometry we are taught that congruent triangles have the same angles and the same lengths to all their sides. If you placed congruent triangles on top of each other, they fit perfectly. Likewise, our worldview should be logically congruent with all reality... with our choices in art, in music, in science, even in the way we keep our room!
I ask my children, "Do you believe your God reveals himself as an orderly God in His universe? Are there examples of orderliness in God's Word? Do you have any indication from Scripture that God was ever disorderly?" After answering and discussing these questions, I ask them, "Would evolution, a theory of the universe moving from chaos to order, from simple to complex, be congruent with your view of God? How about the music you listen to? Is it orderly or disorderly, harmonious or full of discord with no resolve? Is it congruent with God's orderly universe? Is your room congruent with your worldview?"
Sometimes my kids are tempted to change their worldview rather than clean their room, but the point is through dialogue I force them to rationally, logically examine parts of their lives which are incongruent with the worldview they embrace.
Scripture Teaches to the Heart. Logic, reason and the scientific method all employ the Greek method of teaching to the head. But can God only be know through our five senses and mind? If all it takes to know God is five senses and a mind, why are millions of people with both senses and mind ignorant of their Creator?
Pastor Max H. Sotak likens knowing God to examining a finely-cut jewel from all different perspectives. Our senses reveal one facet of God. Our mind reveals another facet, while the Holy Spirit and the Word shed light on another facet. The physical, mental, and the spiritual work in concert painting a clearer portrait of our Creator. There is more than "knowing God" in just the concrete. The Scriptures and Holy Spirit cause us to "experience His presence" in our hearts. Unlike the Greeks, the Hebrews wanted to know God "with all their heart and with all their soul."
Worldviews Cannot Be Forced
Whether teaching to the heart, head or senses, a worldview can never be forced on a child. Otto Scott, in the forward to his book The Great Christian Evolution: How Christianity Transformed the World, tells how when he was 13 years old his father hired a tutor for him, since his family was living in Rio. Scott describes how his Cambridge tutor at their first meeting handed him a book to read by the next session and then left.
At the next session the tutor asked Scott if he liked the book, to which Scott answered, "Yes." The tutor then asked, "Why?"
Scott had no answer, believing all book were indisputable, needing only to be read not thought about.
The tutor replied, "You stupid little boy. It was a worthless book." He then began to demolish the book.
Scott realized he had failed the test and resolved to have arguable thoughts on the next book.
Scott states, "What I experienced... was both the blunt candor of English boarding schools and the famous tutorial method of Oxford and Cambridge. In this the pupil is stretched and not stifled. The purpose is to force him to react, to think, and to apply himself. It is a method reserved through the centuries to crowned heads and to the wealthy. It is the best of all methods, and is one being used to great advantage by those parents who teach their children themselves."
Scott's conclusion is that "teachers... can only teach. It is the student's task to learn."
Until parents help fan the flames to create independent learners and thinkers, students can cover material and never learn it.
Parents must honestly ask themselves if they are more concerned with education or with graduation. This graduation versus education mentality is growing in the homeschooling movement. It is grievous that despite what Scott thinks, most homeschoolers are not taking advantage of the tutorial dialogue method formerly reserved for crowned heads. Many homeschoolers gladly embrace the theistic Christian worldview in content, yet mimic public-school teaching methods that stifle thinking. The workbook/ textbook method of learning, when used in exclusion to all other methods, gives rise to telling and regurgitating pat answers. There is no room for thinking.
The danger is that children who acquire a worldview in this manner will find someday that it is not their worldview at all. It was pre-digested, pre-packaged and spoon-fed to them. When put to the test, the worldview they espouse is not congruent with their beliefs or behavior.
The challenge for parents is to train a generation of thinkers who not only hold a theistic Christian worldview, but who have their own personal worldview hammered out in their own minds, hidden in their own hearts, congruent with every part of their lives, permeating all their beliefs and actions. Imagine what could come from those fingers and tongues!