Philosophy of Education

Math, the Biblical Worldview, and the Mystery of God

Question

How does a biblical worldview ground math? Is math a reflection of the mind of God (which we recognize because His creation is orderly, and to some degree reflects His nature)—similar to laws of logic being a reflection of the perfect mind of God?

Answer

First some groundwork: It seems highly presumptuous for us to assume that something reflects the mind of God, when the only way we can truly know the mind of God is through what He has told us in His Word. To make that argument means we are interpreting general revelation as providing specific content regarding His invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature, when Scripture only reveals that those three aspects are seen through His creation (which would include math).

The problem is that there is no (authoritative) hermeneutic for general revelation except for special revelation, and thus we cannot make authoritative claims of specificity regarding the extent of revelation within general revelation.

Instead, I prefer to rely on special revelation for specifics about general revelation—to be dogmatic on the content of general revelation only where special revelation gives us permission. For example, Genesis 9, Job 38-39, and Isaiah 40 describe processes of nature, and assert God’s sovereign control over those processes. The aspects that are revealed in those processes are related to His sovereignty, so I can dogmatically assert His sovereignty, because special revelation does so.

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Why Biblical Foundations for Education Still Matter, Part 4

Continues 3 Biblical Models for Grounding Education. Read the series so far.

3. Elihu’s Is/Ought Model

The final of the three Biblical models for our consideration here is what I call Elihu’s Is/Ought Model. David Hume once critiqued divine command moral systems on grounds that they didn’t earn the right to move from is (descriptions of reality) to ought (prescriptions for what we should do about reality). Hume’s critique is not entirely unfair, and quite a few moral systems crack under the weight of the Humean accusation.

However, Elihu models a different approach, and one that transparently asserts an earned prescription for human ethics and understanding. We discover the wisdom of Elihu in Job 32-37, just before God’s case-closing response to Job. It is worth noting that Elihu’s and God’s arguments are so similar as to be indiscernible, if we weren’t told who was presenting the arguments in each case. As it turns out, there is further evidence for Elihu’s positive influence, even beyond his agreement with God’s own assertions. The only main character not rebuked in the book of Job is Elihu. Each of Job’s other friends stand guilty before God (though He would forgive them), and even Job himself is rebuked, though also ultimately forgiven. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were guilty of speaking wrongly of Job. Job was guilty of ignorance, but not for long, and Elihu helped with that.

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Why Biblical Foundations for Education Still Matter, Part 3

Continues 3 Biblical Models for Grounding Education. Read the series so far.

2. Paul’s Model for Transformative Learning

Paul recognizes that in order for us to understand how best to educate people, we must understand what a person actually is. These days he has competition, however, as five major contemporary theories of learning all make significant assumptions about what a person is and how they are best educated.

Behaviorism focuses on the learners’ response to stimuli, and postulates that if you can control the environment through operant conditioning, then you can create change in the behavior of the learner. B.F. Skinner was convinced that the person was essentially an active organism that was conditioned to behavior. Cognitivism focuses on “the representations and processes needed to give rise to activities ranging from pattern recognition, attention, categorization, memory, reasoning, decision making, problem solving, and language.”22 Humanity is essentially a computing device, processing and acting based on schemas. As the educator assesses where the student is in Piaget’s four stages of development (sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational, or formal operational),23 the educator determines what information and tasks are age-appropriate for the computer to handle next.

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Why Biblical Foundations for Education Still Matter, Part 2

Three Biblical Models for Grounding Education

1. Solomon’s Worldview Model

Solomon’s commentary on the foundations for learning is not insignificant. Solomon is lauded as the wisest person who would ever live,6 and he formulates a very straightforward philosophy of education. He asserts that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,”7 and adds that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”8 Solomon is not limiting the scope of education here to religious education. Rather, he makes a much more profound and far reaching epistemological statement: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding all find their derivation in the fear of the Lord.

Arguably, there can be no education without the increasing of knowledge and understanding, nor any fruitful application of knowledge and understanding without wisdom. So, at least according to Solomon, we can not get far into the educational process without an awareness of how to foster wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Solomon’s formula directs the educator to focus on the fear of the Lord.

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Why Biblical Foundations for Education Still Matter, Part 1

Presented to the Association of Christian Teachers and Christian School Regional Educators Convention, Grandview Christian School, Grandview, Missouri — November 2, 2018

Introduction

Mark Twain once famously said, “I never let schooling interfere with my education.” He also added that, “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice, then he made the school board.” Twain’s humorous disdain for formal education might invite a chuckle or two, but it also affords an opportunity for educators to assess ourselves, to look in the mirror and consider whether we are being the benefit that we hope we might be or whether we are failing as miserably as those educators of which Twain spoke. Perhaps we are part of the problem. When he said that “nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” perhaps those other people to which he was facetiously referring was actually us. It is not enough to be driven to make a difference, we have to use the right tools, and we have to build on the right foundations.

Virginia Union University educator and dean, Matthew Lynch recently presented identified 18 reasons that he believed education in the U.S was failing. His reasons are thoughtworthy:

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