Education is the worldview battle field. We witness the battle for hearts and minds fought on many fronts: in the classroom, in the media, and in the courts. In addition we exert our resources fighting the fruits of secularism, animism and pantheism, yet we often see little fruit. Why is this? It is because these are only symptoms of the problem and not the cause. The real battle is taking place elsewhere! It is an all-out attack on the authority of the Word of God. If we allow the Word of God to be set aside in one area, it undermines our entire foundation. Consequently we must understand this as we seek to equip and train our youth to stand strong in these secular cultures.
Education in South Africa
The educational philosophical changes that have been taking place in South Africa since 1994 have created enormous challenges to Christian school governance, management, leadership and classroom instruction. The country chose a secular humanistic worldview as an official worldview without knowing its religious nature (Humanist Manifesto II). So the country is no longer neutral or the home of other worldviews. As a result most teachers are trained in secular institutions and trained to teach their subject not children.
Consequently our system of education is designed based on a secular humanistic worldview system. The theory of evolution influences its view of God, its view of humans and its view of creation. Therefore the system has removed Theology from being the school foundation and replaced it with secularised Philosophy and Science. There is accordingly a need for Christian centres of education, for a system with a deeper understanding of the implications of their pedagogy in a complex pluralistic society and a Biblical worldview. They need to examine and clarify their worldview as well as the challenges that our country faces. These challenges include racial and ethnic attitude as well as poverty. The institutes should accordingly develop the pedagogical knowledge and skills needed to work effectively with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Christian Philosophy of Education
The Christian philosophy of education is Christ-centred, Bible-based, learner-related and socially applied. When God is in control of education through the Holy Spirit, Christ will be central. All things stand in relation to God and this includes the learner. Children should thus be viewed as created, sinner, redeemable and that they can have a fulfilled life in Christ. God created all persons in His image and likeness (Ge.1:26). Because we are images of God we should reflect God in our lives.
We call the division of philosophy that deals with knowledge epistemology; this is the area where the Christian community is in desperate need of returning to the Biblical foundations (Green: 1990). The spirit of Enlightenment has carried us away from our anchor. We have been carried by the thinking of Francis Bacon the father of Enlightenment and John Dewey. They concluded that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Dewey held that we make truth by using the scientific method, and that, if it works, the truth we make is reliable until science alters it.
The problem is how do we form a concept of knowing that can embrace both freedom and determinism? Scientific knowledge is determined but it contains no freedom. The knowledge of value and purpose or beauty involves freedom. But no concept can embrace both what is free and what is not free.
This tension had led the modern concept that only really reliable knowledge is scientific. It has pushed religious concepts off into the private sphere.
Thus serious difficulty plagues modern epistemology: it has no way to include religious or moral concepts within the sphere of valid knowledge.
Genuine knowledge, since it is knowledge of something created and upheld by God, inevitably demands a response to the God. He speaks to us in His creation. A Christian view of knowledge or Biblical worldview is that knowledge that does not include love is not knowledge. “It is true, in the love of God I discover my fellow human being and it is through the love of God that I discover the created reality.” Love gives life to all things. Things receive reality and worth only when man loves them and puts value to them. Scientific knowledge is valid and important, as long as it feeds back into our hearts to promote our love, reverence, and awe for the God who gives meaning.
Nature of Reality and Children
As Christian educators, we need to know that the nature of reality and the nature of children can be truly understood only by the redeemed in the Lord. One of the difficulties of nurturing children is that they are such complex beings, each different form the next. Therefore Christian teachers and parents need to understand children as follows: The child is created by God as a unique being. The child is an image bearer. Remember, imaging God represent our makeup, our constitution, our glory and our high and holy calling in God’s world (Fennema: 1977).
To achieve this teachers need to embrace a Biblical worldview, which is an orientation that provides not only a vision of what life is like, but also an overall guide for life. It is a framework that constitutes the conditions for our thinking and our conduct. Worldview forms the framework for any of our interpretative activities, such as philosophizing, reading, teaching, judging, evaluating etc. In other words, a worldview is a conditioning vision for life.
Worldview is part of the structure that makes seeing, knowing and acting in the world possible. It is a compass or map that points us in a certain direction. Furthermore it shapes and orients our belief, action and attitude (Walsh and Middleton: 1996).
As illustrated in Isaiah 8:17-20, the way of the Lord provides a distinctive way of looking at the world. Throughout the world people who grow up in Christian families accept certain perceptions of reality that are different from non-Christian people. When Jesus called Paul to be a minister to the Gentiles, he described the transformation that would take place. Jesus said, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith” (Acts 26:17-18). These words infer that there is a distinctive worldview change that occurs when one turns to God and follows the way of Jesus Christ.
Four major types of worldviews
At least four different worldview types are present in world cultures.
Stated succinctly, a secular worldview divides the world into natural and supernatural realms and focuses almost exclusively on the natural realm. Secularists considered God to be either non-existent or irrelevant to human affairs. They tend to be resistant until they realize, usually during times of trauma, that humans are unable to “direct their own steps” (Jer. 10:23), that the divine and the human are interrelated.
An animistic perspective of reality believes that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have power over human affairs. During times of disease, death, and drought, they use divination to discover which beings and forces are impacting them in order to ward them off or to employ their power. Animists must learn that creator God is approachable and concerned about human life, and unlike the gods, “majestic in holiness” (Ex. 15:11). Through the death and resurrection of His son God has defeated all the principalities and powers (Col. 2:15).
A pantheistic worldview perceives that an impersonal, all-pervading essence, sometimes defined as “god,” fills the universe. As droplets of water merge to become a stream, then a river, and finally an ocean, so individuals can become one with the essence of the world through meditation, thus achieving a change of consciousness called enlightenment. The pantheist, through living illustrations of Christian meditation, must experience God to be living and personal, full of compassion and having a distinctive holiness.
A theistic plausibility system presupposes that God created the heavens and the earth and continues to care for that universe. Some theists follow God’s distinctive way of salvation through Jesus Christ while others focus on submission to and honouring of Allah.
The complexity and influences of secularism, animism, pantheism, and theism mar Africa within the host culture. While most cultures emphasize one or two of these types, influences from all four types may be syncretized in various configurations. Understanding the various influences in the culture enables Christian educations to encode the gospel in theological metaphors appropriate to the culture.
Biblical Worldview as a Driving Force of the Learning System
A Biblical worldview forms the framework for any of the interpretative activities, such as philosophising, reading, teaching, judging and evaluating (Walsh and Middleton, 1984). This principle helps educators to understand the impact of their own worldview. This in turn helps them to understand who they are, where they are, and where they are going (Van der Walt 2003, 40). Understanding their own worldview consequently helps them to understand the student’s cultural background. It also helps them to understand the importance of the student’s identity in a multicultural classroom.
South Africa’s pluralistic societies are in a process of developing a new way of understanding and viewing the reality around themselves. Therefore, the principle assists the educators to validate and check whether the worldview that is driving the curriculum implementation is in line with the Word of God. Walsh and Middleton’s questions can be used as a criterion for evaluating the validity of one’s worldview as a vision of life:
- Does it elucidate all of life?
- Can it open up all of life to those who adhere to it?
- Is it truly a worldview?
- Does it tend to open up only to some aspects of life or ignore others?
- Does it overemphasise or idolise one thing at the expense of others? (Walsh and Middleton, 1984. p. 36).
Challenge facing Rainbow Nation
The emphasis of the above questions is on the transparency and holistic nature of such a worldview. There are challenges that are facing South Africa’s Rainbow Nation (Tutu, 1999) today. The nation cannot escape the fact that, although people may interpret the realities of life differently, they have the same structure of reality and they are all bound by South Africa’s Constitution (Act, No. 108 of 1996). It gives the framework that forms the structure of the worldview of a pluralistic society.
- “Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights”.
- “Improve the quality of life for all citizens and free the potential of each person and lay the foundation for a democratic society and the law equally protects open society in which education is based on the will and needs of the people and every citizen”.
- “Build a united and democratic South Africa, able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations”.
The Biblical worldview captures this principle well. It can therefore be used as a tool for Christian education. It is the right vehicle to foster shared values, patriotism and a common identity as a nation. The advantage of a Biblical worldview is that it helps the teacher to develop their classroom initiatives. It also helps students to answer the theological: who am I? Where am I coming from? Where am I going? It further helps the Christian institution to achieve its vision, mission and the ultimate goal. These catered around learners’ expected outcomes.
Model for Success
Our institutions must become very effective learning centres, places that teach and model the living, breathing gospel of Jesus Christ. God calls us to build relationships that transform people and ultimately culture and society. Our success will thus depend on the type of people we put in our classroom. It will further depend on the quality of their relationship with our God and students. But not only personal relationships, we need men and women who will able to help the young people to answer the questions on meaning. Why do we exist? Where am I going? And how shall I live?
Why are we here?
This is the question that asks for the reasons for our existence. The type of Christian education that we offer should equip our students. It should help them to live a life without fear. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our greatest fear and danger is not the fear of death but fear and danger of life without direction. It is the fear to be the captive of empty existence, or the danger of walking through life without meaning.
You wonder why so many young people are committing suicide; is it because we are living in an age, which no longer has an answer to humanity’s urgent question? Why do I exist?
Our greatest problem today is not that we do not know enough knowledge, knowledge is overflowing; rather the problem is that such knowledge is, unfortunately, flowing meaninglessly.
Whatever we teach we need to do it in a way that will help our students to get the meaning of what they are doing. It should further also give them reasons for what they are doing. In other words, we can no longer be satisfied teaching them to know; we must strive to teach them what to do with what they know; and this requires meaning, rather than just mere knowledge. That is, it requires a certain kind of faith. This is teaching from a Biblical worldview.
Where are we going?
This teleological question—the question of direction and destiny—does not deal with our origin. On the contrary it deals with our destination. It deals with the ultimate goal of our lives.
We are living at a time where people measure direction and destiny by success, efficiency, competition and achievement. More wealth motivates us and we teach them for more money, recognition and prestige. The questions about the meaning of their goals are, however, seldom asked, and fewer times answered.
Unfortunately, even by those parameters our young men and women are not making it. For example, there are many dropouts, forced through poverty or voluntarily because of meaninglessness. Even the most so-called successful are often not too happy. They have been pushed into the endless and meaningless circle of getting more and more.
Our education programs should be able to equip young people with the understanding that Christ has conquered the threatening meaninglessness. Instead of being travellers down a cul-de-sac or wanderers to nowhere, they should know that it is Christ alone who can lead them to their final destination. It is not death but eternity. They need to realize that Shalom is a life-giving meaning for society and culture. Peace and justice, wholeness and equality, freedom and joy are the marks of meaning. Itrequires a certain kind of hope. This is education from a Biblical worldview.
How then shall we live?
This is Bennie van der Walt’s third question about meaning. Unlike the first and second questions, this one does not deal with our origin nor destination. It deals with the present reality on our way from origin to destination.
The fundamental reason why many today have no answer to the questions of where and how is because they have not answered the question, why.
If God does not exist, we lose the creator-creation distinction. Perhaps then the world becomes completely explicable (however, this is a purely Greek idea). But if God does exist, then the creation’s origin and destiny retain a certain mystery, full of awe and wonder. More importantly, the question of the present—how we should live today—will remain unanswered. It relies on a call to the creation from outside the creation. The call of shalom breaks into creation as an answer to the question: how should we live today?
In other words, God’s Word provides the solution to this third burning question. He equips us with the plan and necessary guidelines for life’s journey. His answers for our first two questions are faith and hope. The answer for our last question, how then shall we live: in love.
Love God through Loving thy Neighbour
Love your God with all your heart with your entire mind … and love your neighbour as yourself. It is only in love where we can see God’s creation in obedience; it is only in love where we can understand what we are doing and how we are doing what we are doing. In fact, loving God and loving our neighbour are so closely intertwined that we might say; love God through loving thy neighbour (Groome, 1980). This is a Biblical worldview.