Habits of the Heart – How is Jesus Christ at the center of my life and learning?
By Lowell Hagan
Getting a handle on the educational philosophy of Bellevue Christian School can seem a formidable task. For those on the staff who lived through the years of its gradual development, it can be hard to explain. The situation is similar to that of a mature Christian who grew up in the faith, guiding a new believer in the path of discipleship. Where does one begin?
In developing this set of learning goals, we wanted to state a small number of essential points that could be a reference point for students, faculty and parents. We wanted to sharpen our focus and create a quick checklist of how we are doing, while avoiding lengthy documents. We began at the beginning, with the idea of the commitment of the heart of Jesus Christ, and what it means for learning.
“Above all else, guard your heart,” Scripture says, “for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) It is in our hearts that we rebelled against, God and it is in our hearts that the seed of the word of God is sown. If what we learn does not call forth a response of the heart to the living God, then it is worthless. Therefore, the most important learning goal of a Christian school must be the development of habits of the heart.
Worldview: How do my beliefs shape my view of life and the world?
“What you believe determines the kinds of questions you can ask,” said the American philosopher Suzanne Langer, “and the kinds of questions you ask determine the kinds of answers you can get.” Belief is more fundamental than opinion. Opinion, conclusion, interpretation, and evaluation are all built on a bedrock of belief about the nature of the world and of human life.
Paul urges us to be transformed by having our minds renewed in Christ (Romans 12:2). That must begin with our most fundamental views about the world and our place in it. We and our students need to be challenged to develop a Christian worldview. Therefore we ask the question behind all other questions. Whatever opinion or conclusion we may express, we must ask, “Was my thinking about this shaped by biblical concepts of the world and of human life?”
Wholeness: How does what I learn help me see the wholeness of the creation and the glory of the Creator?
The deadliest way to read a poem is to start by taking it apart. In classrooms, this approach has soured for life many people’s view of poetry. But if we let the poem remain a poem, a whole artistic work, then analyzing the structure, the meter, the imagery, and other aspects of the author’s craft can deepen our understanding of both the poem and the poet.
So it is with the academic study of the creation. We are taking apart God’s handiwork in order to better understand it. We can see in greater detail how the creating word of God holds things together and makes them work. But the pieces are not self-sufficient. What we have mentally disassembled we must also mentally reassemble. We should be checking ourselves to make sure that our Christian schooling leads toward a unified understanding of the creation, not toward compartmentalization.
Worship: How does what I learn lead me to know and respond to God?
Paul in Romans 1 says that what humanity most needs to know about God can be read in the things he has made. But instead of glorifying God, people began to worship and serve created things rather than the Creator.
The study of the creation leads us to a deeper understanding of God, and calls us to respond from our hearts in lives of loving service to Him. Teachers need to ask how their lesson plans point toward a response to God. Students need to be challenged to ask how they can put their learning into practice in serving God. Parents need to be evaluating their children’s progress in terms of goals that reach beyond this life and connect with the coming of God’s kingdom.
The habit of asking the questions of worldview, wholeness, and worship, can help us keep our eyes on the goal of all human endeavors, which is that we may be part of the fulfillment of the prayer, “Thy kingdom come.”
With this as background, we can look next time at some of the positive reasons for having Christian schools.