To know God and to make Him known.

Christian Pedagogy in Biology

The opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Classical Conversations and its leadership, staff, or communities. We are glad to provide a platform for discussion of ideas about classical Christian education in K-12 education and beyond, but publication is not an endorsement from Classical Conversations.

How can we make biology education distinctly Christian? Most biology is taught with a thorough-going evolutionary worldview, and that won’t do. Biology should be taught in an unashamedly creationist manner that seeks to honor the Author of life at every opportunity.

There is a great need for a complete make-over in the area of science education. I will pick on evolutionary science education first. One fundamental problem is that most (not all) biology education is done in a sterile and objective manner, lacking personality or aesthetic appeal. Unfortunately, many students who receive the recommended high school or undergraduate serving of biology are given only a mound of disconnected facts about the living world (I call this approach “data dumping”), with most of the wonder and beauty sucked out of it by the leech of naturalism. Many students probably marvel at how biology teachers and writers (Christian or not) manage to retain any interest in the subject matter when they dole it out with about as much enthusiasm as a server in a prison cafeteria dishing up lukewarm gruel.

If any attempt is made to highlight the magnificence of nature, all glory, honor, praise, and thanksgiving must fall upon the naturalistic gods of time, matter, energy, laws of chemistry, mutation, and (of course) natural selection. This is an abomination and a flagrant insult to the Lord of all Creation. Creation has beauty, complexity, and diversity that proclaim an infinitely wise and omnipotent Creator, but the cosmos’s existence is regularly and dogmatically attributed to mindless matter begotten from nothing. This is not only ultimate foolishness, but also blasphemy (whether deliberate or inadvertent). This can be likened to teaching an art survey course and refusing to acknowledge the genius of the masters or to even mention their names; and then, adding insult to injury, proclaiming that any apparent design of Michelangelo’s David was really the result of wind and water erosion on marble.

Some (not all) Christian biology educators (teachers and writers) mimic the aforementioned secular pedagogy and teach this glorious subject with materialistic descriptions and definitions. They may praise and honor God with enthusiasm (which I appreciate), but it doesn’t solve the sterile “data dump” teaching and writing style.

I hope to accomplish something different when I teach, whether speaking or writing. My goal is not just to present the subject matter but rather to teach it. Consequently, my teaching style and textbook, The Riot and the Dance is rife with analogies, illustrations, and anecdotes serving as handles for gripping difficult concepts, or simply to make the experience enjoyable. I don’t presume to have arrived at the ultimate solution to the “boring biology” problem, but my hope is to usher in a love of learning in biology. The natural revelation of creation is so much more magnificent than any work of human masters, and shouldn’t be taught as a pile of dry facts we’re supposed to learn (and then forget) so we can check a box on a required course list. When science is taught as just another subject for a transcript instead of a new way to see the glory of God, attempting to learn the pile of facts is about as much fun as eating gravel.

Instead, as with all subjects, the life sciences should be taught to bring glory to God. However, they should also should be taught as a subset of theology, simply because they are the study of God’s natural revelation (as I mentioned earlier). By studying nature, we are studying the direct handiwork of God, and His creation gives us great insights into His creative character. His artistry and engineering are so wonderfully evident when pondering the biological systems spanning all levels, from molecules, cells, and organs, to organisms and ecosystems. One who is called and privileged to teach God’s creation—in its beauty, unity, complexity, and diversity—should strive to learn it deeply, so that students will not only enjoy the learning experience, but will begin to respond with reverence, wonder, praise, and thanksgiving toward the Lord of all Creation.

Although this isn’t officially curricular, I would like to use this opportunity to announce a nature documentary produced by Gorilla Poet called “The Riot and the Dance” (http://riotandthedance.com/). It will be released by Fathom Events in selected theaters on March 19, 2018. Anything that invokes a childlike wonder of the living Creation while giving God the glory serves as an excellent foundation for good Christian pedagogy in biology. Come see for yourself.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:13). Jesus Christ is the Creator of all creatures great and small. We can’t properly teach biology and leave Him out.

 

Dr. Gordon Wilson is currently a Senior Fellow of Natural History at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. Before coming to NSA he was a faculty member at Liberty University from 1991-2003. He has taught a wide array of biology courses at both institutions. He has also taught on a part-time basis at the University of Idaho and Lynchburg College. Gordon received his Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University in 2003, and also earned his M.S. in Entomology (1989) and B.S. in Education/Biology (1984) at the University of Idaho. He has published his dissertation research on the reproductive ecology of the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) in Southeastern Naturalist and The Herpetological Bulletin. Prior to becoming a faculty member at Liberty he was a lab tech in molecular biology at the U of I for a couple of years. When he's not herping (look it up), you will probably find him teaching biology, discussing creation/intelligent design, studying natural history, or enjoying his family and the outdoors in his corner of the Palouse. He regularly writes popular natural history articles for Answers Magazine and has recently published a biology textbook called The Riot and the Dance and a Canon Classics Worldview Guide to Darwin's Origin of Species. He is the narrator of a two part nature documentary also called “The Riot and the Dance” (http://riotandthedance.com/). Gordon and his wife Meredith have four children and six grandchildren. 

CATEGORIES: Big Ideas: Truth, Beauty, Goodness and more!, Classical Christian Education, Homeschooling Life

Leave a Comment