Read for This Week’s Study: Rom. 1:18–21, Ps. 19:1–6, 96:9, Gen. 3:6, 1 Timothy 6, Proverbs 1, Job 38.
Memory Text: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, NKJV).
Education includes what has been called “the arts and sciences.” But when we learn or teach the arts and sciences from a biblical perspective, what does this imply? Are we simply offering select Bible verses that relate to a particular aspect of modern medicine or art history, for example? In so doing, we can relate our practical lessons to the amazing power of God in creating our complex world. But a simple incorporation of Scripture in a textbook lesson is only a small part of true education—the education that is salvific and redemptive.
For such an education truly to function, we need God’s Word to inform the teaching of every discipline, from humanities to molecular biology. Without it, we can lose sight of God’s enormity, His sovereignty as Creator and Sustainer of our world. In learning to see how God views His creation as organic and purpose-filled, we come closer to understanding how certain disciplines could and should be taught.
This week we will look at some principles involved in how we can teach the arts and sciences from the Christian perspective and worldview.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 5.
SUNDAY November 29
The Lord Alone
There is evidence of the living God in all of His creation. This statement has been repeated so often that it has become clichéd. When we consider, for example, the heart of God in creating this world, which humans have proceeded to damage and mar, we may come closer to how we can best teach the arts and sciences.
Take the human gestation period, for example. Biology tells us that new intelligent human life emerges from one fertilized egg and grows to full gestation after nine months. The marks of a loving Creator are all throughout this cycle. The loving-kindness of God can be seen in the place that a fetus develops: right below the steady beating of a mother’s heart. As the fetus enlarges, so does the mother’s abdomen, right out in front of her person. The expectant mother is made always aware of her child, just as our heavenly Father is always aware of His children.
Read Romans 1:18–21, Psalm 19:1–6, and Nehemiah 9:6. What do they tell us about God’s work as our Creator?
Even after 6,000 years of sin and thousands of years after the worldwide devastation of the Flood, overwhelmingly powerful evidence exists not just for God as our Creator, but for the power and love and benevolence of this God as our Creator. It’s so powerful, in fact, that Paul, in Romans 1:18–21, says that those who reject this God will be “without excuse” on judgment day because enough about Him can be learned from what He has made. In other words, they won’t be able to plead ignorance!
Especially in a day and age in which many humans have come to worship the creation rather than the Creator, how crucial that Christian education in the arts and sciences always work from the assumption that God is the Creator and sustainer of all that exists. In the end, any ideologies and presuppositions that deny or exclude God can lead only to error. Worldly education all but works on the assumption of no God; Christian education must not fall into that trap, nor must it work even more subtly from principles based on the assumption that there is no God. Either way, humans are bound to wind up in error.
Think about the incredible wonder and beauty in our world, even after sin. How can we learn to draw hope and comfort from it, especially in times of personal trials and suffering?
MONDAY November 30
The Beauty of Holiness
Psalm 96:9 reads, “Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth” (NKJV). How do we understand this concept, “the beauty of holiness”? What should this mean to a Christian, and how should it impact what we teach about art and the beauty often associated with it?
Though it has been said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” we mustn’t forget who it was who created the eye to begin with (see Prov. 20:12). Though we have to be careful not to worship the creation itself (see yesterday’s study), from the beauty of the creation we can learn about God and, indeed, His love of beauty. If our fallen world still looks so beautiful, who can imagine what it must have been like before the Fall? And this teaches us that God indeed is the Creator of the beautiful.
Study of arts and sciences can and should, then, draw us closer to the character and heart of God. Because we are a part of God’s own artwork and scientific phenomena, we can also learn more about our own identity in Christ.
“God would have His children appreciate His works and delight in the simple, quiet beauty with which He has adorned our earthly home. He is a lover of the beautiful, and above all that is outwardly attractive He loves beauty of character; He would have us cultivate purity and simplicity, the quiet graces of the flowers.”—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 85.
Read Genesis 3:6. What does it teach us about how beauty alone isn’t necessarily good or holy? See also Prov. 6:25, 31:30.
As with everything God has done, we have an enemy who distorts and exploits it. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that beauty and concepts of beauty can be used against us, as well. Thus, especially in the arts, Christian education, guided by Scripture, must help us learn to be careful in understanding that not all that is beautiful is necessarily good or holy.
What are some “beautiful” things that are not necessarily holy and good? Or, what are beautiful things that can be made unholy and bad, depending upon circumstances? What standard do we use to make these distinctions?
TUESDAY December 1
Experts in Error
We know that our world has more than its share of art and philosophy that does not honor God. Many would argue that Christians should not even enter these proverbial tents. Seventh-day Adventist Christians must carefully consider their own business in serving certain industries, patronizing certain establishments, consuming certain media.
In 1 Timothy 6, we are given clear instruction as to what pursuits we should avoid, but we are also given ample explanation. In verses 9 and 10, what are the pursuits against which Paul warns?
Read the rest of 1 Timothy 6. What are the key pursuits that Paul endorses?
Notice in 1 Timothy 6:20 how Paul warns against “what is falsely called knowledge” (NKJV). Though he’s working from a different context, the principle is still applicable. That is, think about all the information, all the teaching, all the beliefs, not just now but throughout human history, that were flat-out wrong. People can, indeed, be experts in error.
For nearly 2,000 years, the world’s smartest people, the experts, believed that the earth sat immobile in the center of the universe while all the stars and planets orbited it in perfect circles. Some very complicated math and science were used to buttress this belief, even though it turned out to be wrong in almost every particular. Hence, we could say that these people were experts in error, and that this teaching certainly was “falsely called knowledge.”
Biological science today, for instance, is predicated on the assumption that life began billions of years ago, by chance, with no God and no purpose behind it. At the same time, an incredible amount of complicated and detailed scientific literature has arisen based on this teaching. What lessons can we take away from this about how people can be experts in error? How should this realization impact Christian education in general and the teaching of science in particular?
WEDNESDAY December 2
Foolishness and Wisdom
Read Proverbs 1. What does this teach us concerning what true Christian education should be about?
The Bible draws a steady comparison between foolishness and wisdom. The book of Proverbs does well to remind us of the dangers of foolhardy behavior and keeping the company of fools. The distinction is clear: God desires that His people seek wisdom, to treasure it and abound in it.
Students of the arts and sciences utilize their talents to gain knowledge and to pursue excellence in their studies. Teachers of these disciplines do similarly. We can be capable of artistic brilliance and scientific breakthroughs because of knowledge and ability.
Yet from a Christian perspective, what does a knowledge of the arts and sciences really mean if it does not involve knowing the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error? All one has to do, for instance, is read a bit about the lives of some of those deemed the world’s greatest artists in order to see that having wonderful skill and talent doesn’t equate with a moral or upright life. One could argue, too, that great scientists involved in the work of creating biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction might be highly educated, highly gifted, but what are the fruits of their work? As stated before, knowledge, in and of itself, is not necessarily a good thing.
Read Proverbs 1:7. How does this text reveal what the key to true Christian education is?
One Nobel Prize winner, an atheist, a man who studies the universe and the physical forces behind it, wrote: “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” What should this tell us about how knowledge, in and of itself, can not only be meaningless but, even worse, lead to gross error?
THURSDAY December 3
The Lord Answered Job
Read Job 38. What does this teach us about God, not just as the Creator but as the Sustainer of all life? How should this important truth impact how we understand the arts and sciences?
“Many teach that matter possesses vital power—that certain properties are imparted to matter, and it is then left to act through its own inherent energy; and that the operations of nature are conducted in harmony with fixed laws, with which God Himself cannot interfere. This is false science, and is not sustained by the word of God. Nature is the servant of her Creator. . . . Nature testifies of an intelligence, a presence, an active energy, that works in and through her laws. There is in nature the continual working of the Father and the Son. Christ says, ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.’ John 5:17.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 114.
Unfortunately, as stated earlier, so much of science works on atheistic, materialist presuppositions. This means, then, that a scientist could be staring at something of the utmost beauty, of the utmost complexity, even of both the utmost beauty and complexity together, and yet claim that it arose by chance, with no forethought or intention behind it.
This is, in fact, what science claims all the time. Life on earth, in all its beauty and complexity—from butterflies to humans—is explained as nothing but the result of chemicals billions of years ago forming by chance into simple life that, through random mutation and natural selection, evolved into all that lives and moves and breathes today.
Science, as now constituted, argues that the very idea of a supernatural Creator is “unscientific,” since it cannot be tested scientifically, and thus it is a notion that science cannot deal with. This presupposition is not anything that science itself teaches (in fact, science would seem to teach the opposite: all the beauty and complexity of the world do, indeed, point to a Creator), but is, instead, a philosophical position imposed upon the discipline by scientists themselves.
The problem, however, is that Scripture teaches that God not only created everything but that He sustains everything, as well. This means that any true Christian education in science would have to work from radically different assumptions than what science in general claims. Inevitably, clashes will occur, especially when it comes to origins.
FRIDAY December 4
Further Thought: Two reasons exist why science, which gets so many things right, gets origins so wrong: first, science, which studies the natural world, must look only to the natural world for answers; second, science assumes that the laws of nature must remain constant. Yet both these are wrong when it comes to origins.
Take the first one, which requires natural causes for natural events. That’s fine for hurricane tracking, but it is worse than worthless for origins that start out with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, NKJV). What can science, which denies the supernatural in origins, teach us about origins that were totally supernatural?
And the constancy of nature? This seems to make sense, except that Romans 5:12—“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (NKJV)—presupposes a natural environment discontinuous, and qualitatively different, from anything that science now confronts. A world in which death did not exist is radically different from anything we can study today, and to assume they were very similar when they weren’t, also will lead to error.
Hence, science gets origins wrong because it denies two crucial aspects of the creation: the supernatural force behind it, and the radical physical discontinuity between the original creation and what’s before us now.
1. In class, talk about the question of beauty. What is beauty? How do we define it? How might a Christian define and understand beauty differently from a non-Christian?
2. Christ could have come to earth as a brilliant scientist, to be richly compensated for His groundbreaking research. He could have garnered all fame as a musical performer. Instead, He came and trained as a humble craftsman. He was present at Creation, but He trained as a layperson and fulfilled His duties obediently. What encouragement does this offer us, wherever we may be in our educational or professional journey?
3. Although not every Christian is called to teach in schools, Christians can be ever teaching others in word and in deed, with intention or completely unaware. For this reason, what habits should the Christian cultivate, both as a student of Christ and as a teacher of the world?
By Marci Evans
Keeping children quiet in church became a real challenge when my niece, who was struggling with drugs, gave her two sons to my husband and me.
Five-year-old Omarion and his six-year-old brother, Diamonte, had no experience in church. They were full of energy, and they were not used to kneeling for prayer. Moreover, the formal prayer seemed to go on and on up front.
How do I keep them still and quiet? I wondered, as the boys shifted restlessly during prayer one Sabbath. What do I want to teach them about prayer?
As I cried to God for help, an idea popped into my mind. Why not pray quietly with the boys? Immediately, I began to pray.
“Oh Lord, thanks so much for Diamonte and Omarion’s school, their teachers, their shoes, their toys, and for all Your blessings,” I whispered.
The boys stopped fidgeting.
“Please, Lord, be with their mama,” I said. “She loves them so much. Please heal her from drugs and be near her today. You know just what she needs.”
The boys listened spellbound. They were thinking about their mother, who they missed and loved so much. The prayer continued at the front of the church.
“Lord, please be with Diamonte’s dad, who is living in prison,” I said. “Please give him a good cellmate. Oh Lord, please be close to Omarion’s dad.
You know just what he needs! Let him know you are right beside him now.” I prayed until the prayer ended up front. The boys remained quiet and reverent the entire time. Never once did I have to say “Hold still!” or “Be quiet!” The next Sabbath, I again whispered a special prayer for my nephews during the time of the formal prayer up front. The boys listened attentively. My prayer was about their lives and their loved ones. It mattered to them. I prayed with the boys every Sabbath until they learned to be quiet and reverent during the formal prayer time at the church. Of course, we kept praying at home.
Who would have thought that such a simple solution would calm twitchy boys? With that solution, the Lord allowed me to be a missionary in the most important mission field—the home. Ellen White tells us, “Let not parents forget the great mission field that lies before them in the home. In the children committed to her every mother has a sacred charge from God. ‘Take this son, this daughter,’ God says, ‘and train it for Me. Give it a character polished after the similitude of a palace, that it may shine in the courts of the Lord forever’ ” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 37).
God is so good. He gives us mission-minded ideas when we need them most.
Marci Evans is a member of the Milton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Milton-Freewater in the U.S. state of Oregon.
Nature is God’s 24-hours-a-day, 3-D, multimedia, stereophonic revelation of Himself. It requires no paid subscriptions, no streaming devices, and is everywhere and always accessible (Ps. 19:1). For this reason, an appeal to ignorance for not knowing and following God will be inadmissible in the final evaluation (Rom. 1:18–20). The arts, as well, to the degree that they reflect beauty and/or truth, can be a source for seeing God and reflecting on His character.
Biology, physics, and the other branches of science are rigorous and effective tools for understanding different aspects of God’s creation. But they often stumble with regard to origins. For example, it has been said that there are only two things for certain in this world: death and taxes. But we know that this was not always the case. Though death is such a natural and guaranteed part of our lives now, it was a nonexistent condition originally (no taxes, either). The physical world was affected by a moral/spiritual decision (Rom. 5:12). Biological science, as it currently stands, does not permit this information, and, therefore, its model for the origin of life is often misleading.
God has so masterfully written and organized the laws of the universe, on both a macro and a micro level, that it is understandable why science can effectively study and manipulate the natural world for its purpose without acknowledgment or recourse to God. In a sense, God made the system so well and seemingly independent of Himself that people use the system as evidence against His existence. A Christian education and worldview does not make that mistake but sees nature as both evidence of, and insight into, God.
The history of science shows a piling up of stupendous gains and insights, both theoretical and technological. From medical advances to information technology, we are indebted to the scientific community for its indefatigable efforts to improve modern life. Those advances, however, ride on a veritable ocean of mistakes, discarded theories, and outdated paradigms that were retained past their prime due to many variables, including what all disciplines are susceptible to: prejudice and bias. In light of this history, why should it not be considered eminently reasonable to take scientific “truths” with reserve instead of jumping with all fours onto the next scientific theory, which may slip into the scientific dustbin in a generation? This perspective is not popular because science is not in the business of advertising its mistakes. It also has a way of absolving itself from its errors or carefully concealing them.
Here are two examples: the first, in which science should have taken a bow to the church but didn’t, and the second, in which the church was the scapegoat for a more general mistake. (The following two examples are taken in part from John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? [Oxford: Lion, 2009], pp. 24, 68.)
1. Early Christian thinkers (Augustine, Irenaeus, Aquinas), relying on the biblical account, agreed that the universe had a beginning and that God created it. However, for much of the modern scientific era, the consensus was that the universe was infinite in both age and extent. When atheists debated Christians on the existence of God, apologists would use the origin of the universe as evidence of God’s existence. The atheists responded with the “fact” that the universe was infinite, thereby undermining that argument. Fastforward to the late twentieth century, and the consensus among scientists is that the universe indeed did have a beginning. But some were reluctant to admit it. Why? Because it gave Christians a justification for their creationist beliefs. Let that sink in for a moment. The scientific evidence, such as red shift in the light from distant galaxies and background microwave radiation, supports the theory that the universe had a beginning. This supposition aligns with the biblical account. But scientists were resistant to this conclusion because it gave too much ground to religion. Wouldn’t it be nice for the scientific community to play fair and simply say, “We blew it, but those Bible-believing creationist Christians got it right”?
2. The “conflict thesis” that says that religion and science are fundamentally at loggerheads with each other gets much of its popular steam from stories such as Galileo’s. That such stories are given dramatic headlines only reinforces the thesis, headlines such as: “Galileo, Secular Scientist Extraordinaire Versus the Church, the Institutional Incarnation of Unscientific Religious Dogma.” Of course, Galileo was right about heliocentrism, and the medieval church was wrong, but the narrative is skewed claiming that this was a clear-cut case of science versus religion and that science won. The fact is, Galileo believed in God and the Bible and did so for his whole life. His initial trouble was not with the church but with the academy. In a letter in 1615, he claims that the academic professors who opposed him tried to influence Roman Catholic Church authorities to speak out against him. Galileo’s scientific arguments were a threat to the reigning Aristotelianism of the academy. Rome aligned itself with a worldview that was supported by the Italian philosophers and professors. This understanding doesn’t absolve the Roman Catholic Church of its treatment of Galileo, but it does show that Rome was simply in harmony with the reigning academic paradigm of the day.
To use Galileo as an illustration of science’s victory over religion is to scapegoat the medieval church and distort history. “And though the story has been gleefully transformed into the archetypal example of ignorant religionists fighting intellectual progress, the reality remains more complicated. It wasn’t just the stark binary of religion versus science; the Galileo disaster is an example of the tyranny of dogmatic science and scientific tradition over every other means of acquiring knowledge.
“ ‘The ignoble affair,’ wrote Gerhard and Michael Hasel, ‘associated with the famous trial of Galileo in the seventeenth century could have been avoided had the church’s theological consultants recognized that their interpretation of certain Bible texts was conditioned by tradition based on the cosmology of the pagan mathematiciangeographer Ptolemy.’ It wasn’t just tradition but one that arose from the acceptance of prevailing scientific dogma.”—Clifford Goldstein, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2017), p. 47.
These two examples show that the battle between faith and science is a straw man in many respects. The idea that big bang cosmology is a de facto concession that creationists were right in the first place is virtually unknown today. Now, the big bang theory for the origin of the universe is used against believers as an argument against the existence of God. Many lay creationists don’t realize that their victory trophy (i.e., that the universe does have a beginning) has been snatched out of their hand and is being used to figuratively clobber them again.
One positive that has come from our postmodern era is that it has caused us to ’fess up to the fact that scientists are in the same boat as any other academics working in their fields, and that all the science that hits the public marketplace has passed through the human sieve of subjectivity, fallibility, bias, ethical conflict, and more. Modern secularists often look at science through rose-colored glasses and are probably unaware that science has not come close to disproving the existence of God or the reliability of religious belief.
In the end, Christians need not retreat from the study of science as though it were something inherently antagonistic to theism or the Bible. On the contrary, it was the belief in God and an orderly, purposeful, and planned Creation that motivated some of the greatest scientific minds of history to pursue scientific inquiry into the physical world.
Traditionally, there have been five branches of philosophy. Those branches and their objects of study are:
1. Logic: ideal thinking
2. Ethics: ideal behavior
3. Politics: ideal social organization
4. Metaphysics: ultimate reality
5. Aesthetics: ideal form/beauty
Though many of these subjects can be heard by turning on the radio, reflections on beauty have become rare. Primarily because of the cultural and moral relativism of our age, beauty is considered simply a subjective preference. Deep down, though, we know that this assertion cannot be true. In fact, just as we know that there are bedrock concepts of the “good” that are not relative to time, culture, or place, “beauty” is the same. As one philosopher put it, “Beauty is goodness made manifest to the senses.”
Turn on the news and people are using arguments and counterarguments (logic) to say how people should or should not behave (ethics) or whether politicians are governing properly (politics). But when was the last discussion you heard on the subject of beauty? Discuss these questions in class:
1. In what way do you think “beauty” is understood from a Christian worldview rather than a secular one?
2. The role the arts play in our lives may not seem a priority, but when one thinks of how media and the arts are affecting the morality of our nation (think of your own), the significance becomes clear. Andrew Fletcher went so far as to say, “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.” Why did he say that? What kind of contributions can Seventh-day Adventists make in music, art, and literature that can be a witness for God?
3. Society is saturated with clichés about science and religion. Unfortunately, the clichés usually favor science and mock religion. What sort of preparation is needed for Seventh-day Adventist students who enter scientific fields to maintain the credibility of both the Bible and the Christian worldview?
4. Not all Seventh-day Adventist youth go to Seventh-day Adventist schools. How can churches become “the schools” for these youth in order to reinforce their faith at secular universities?