Faith Learning Integration can be found in all classrooms and across all disciplines at Liberty University. Below is a showcase of some successful examples of Faith Learning Integration.
In both the Center for Writing and Languages and many of the writing courses offered here at Liberty, we place quite a bit of emphasis on the genres of writing. Not only is academic writing just one correct way to write among many, but there are also many ways to do academic writing—a research paper, a lab report, a discussion board, a conference presentation. Each genre has its own conventions, and each is appropriate to a particular context and audience. Trying to apply the conventions of one genre in the wrong context—for example, following the rules of the literary analysis genre while writing a legal brief—can lead to confusion for both writer and audience.
As Christians charged with communicating a message, we need to remember a similar principle. The gospel is a constant, unchanging message that can take on an infinite variety of forms. As is the case when choosing a genre of academic writing, knowing one’s audience is crucial when communicating the gospel. It’s even more crucial, actually, because although there may be some general principles for sharing the gospel with a particular demographic, such as children, God speaks, and uses us to speak, in a unique way to each person.
Speaking God’s words to real, non-abstract people takes emotional intelligence. It takes empathy. It takes the ability to analyze a situation and choose the right course of action. As it turns out, it takes a lot of the same qualities that make a good writer.
Teaching English grammar and composition to international students has its own unique challenges, but as a Christian professor charged with and privileged to share his faith with those students, I seek to reflect Christ’s love and grace in each class. That includes—but is not limited to—my dealings with the students in and outside the classroom. Can they see “Christ in me, the hope of glory”? Additionally, I introduce Scripture at the beginning of class before prayer. Those Scripture passages are chosen carefully for what they say about the nature of God, humankind, sin, and redemption, but they are also used to introduce the day’s lesson. For example, to introduce the lesson on pronouns I highlight subjective, objective, reflexive, and possessive pronouns, reading from Colossians 1:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Similarly, when we discuss definition paragraphs, I take these international students to I Corinthians 13, Paul’s exquisite definition of love. While emphasizing that the Scriptures were not written just to teach grammar and composition, they can reinforce the subject for students new to this country and often new to the claims of Christianity.
Literature is worthy of study in its own right. But for the Christian student, the study of literature has even greater significance. Scripture provides a strong foundation for both studying and delighting in literature. Below are just a few of the principles I share with my students when I teach literature classes.
Literature is an art that uses language as its medium. Language is a gift of God (not an accident of evolution). Therefore, to study and enjoy language arts is to appreciate God’s good gift. Furthermore, God created the world through language: he spoke it into existence. He called us to imitate that act of creation in the first work he assigned man: naming the animals. Using language to name things is an act of creativity and power that must be stewarded responsibly. The study of language arts helps us to witness and practice this important act of stewardship.
Reading literary works in light of scripture also helps us to fulfill the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22: “Test all things; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” Literature embodies ideas, characters, and worldviews which provide excellent “tests” from which we can learn indirectly. Biblical figures such as Daniel and Paul set an example for this in demonstrating mastery of literary knowledge which they put to the Lord’s service.
Christians are uniquely a people of the Word. The care and study of words ultimately cultivates in us a love and faithfulness to the Word.
When a business concept is first introduced, we often note the research behind the concept and end up relating best practices for applying the concept. But some students inevitably wonder, “What does this really look like in a real-world organization?” Thus, in most business curricula, case studies are incorporated to help us connect theory to actual practice. Case studies present outstanding opportunities for students to see the practical application of the terms and concepts discussed in class. Case studies provide an excellent way to integrate biblical principles by allowing us to examine their “real world” applications via studies from scripture.
We know that the Bible is not a book of theoretical concepts. It is a vibrant account of real-world people, organizations, and events—or “cases”—that we can learn from. For example, studying Exodus 18 allows us to see the wise counsel of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, as he discussed such important principles as leader burnout, delegation, and managerial integrity. In Genesis 33, we read a fascinating account of the risk management Jacob demonstrates when meeting his estranged brother Esau. And in Acts the interchange between Paul and Barnabas regarding John Mark gives us an animated example of conflict within a Christian organization and how the organizational mission is best carried out. These descriptive accounts in Scripture provide a rich context for seeing how both biblical principles and business concepts play out in the “real world”—and this provides an excellent context for meaningful classroom discussion.
Businesses have to choose the right method of corporate formation; whether that is a C Corporation, S Corporation, Partnership, LLC, or Sole Proprietorship. The way a business is formed will have a direct impact on an individual’s personal taxation. After discussing the various forms of businesses in ACCT 412 Taxation II: Corporate Formation, students are asked a variety of questions to determine if the students fully understand the individual ramifications for each form of business entity. We continue the discussion with the different rules and regulations and corresponding tax benefits and consequences.
There are several different biblical truths that come out of these chapters. One of these truths deals with the Parable of the Three Servants in Matthew 25:14-30. God commands us to invest what He gives us wisely. The formation of a corporation allows us to use the money and resources that God has blessed us with to further His kingdom. The proper formation legally minimizes the amount of taxes paid (i.e. still render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25) and provides the owners with the legal protection needed to further invest in His kingdom. By choosing the proper business entity, we allow our money to grow and invest much like the servant who was given the five talents and the two talents.
In philosophy of education, we implement critical thinking by evaluating theoretical assumptions through a biblical lens. For instance, various learning theories assume that the nature of the learner is basically good (Rousseau and Dewey), sinful (Aquinas and Calvin), or neutral (Locke and Skinner). These assumptions hold clear implications for instructional practice. In light of Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:23, and Romans 7:23, students typically conclude that a biblical perspective assumes that the nature of the learner is basically sinful. When we do the following activity, however, they also consider the instructional implications of considering that their students are created in God’s image.
Francis Schaeffer provided a grid to evaluate worldviews. We apply his following questions to several theories: (a) What does the theory claim is right with the world? (b) What does the theory claim is wrong with the world? (c) What does the theory propose be done to correct the wrongs of the world? When students apply these questions to diverse theories, they begin to understand the distinctive differences—especially when they apply the three questions to a biblical worldview that would answer the questions with (a) all people are made in God’s image, (b) all are sinful as a result of the fall, and (c) Christ’s redemption is needed to restore humanity. After applying this grid, future teachers begin to see the importance of considering, first of all, that their students are made in God’s image and can therefore reason and create. A perspective of the nature of the learner is skewed if it focuses solely on sinfulness, neglecting that learners are made in God’s image.
As we prepare future teachers, we encourage both those in public and those in Christian schools to instill critical thinking skills so their students are prepared to compare and evaluate all worldviews.
When discussing parentage in LAW 601: Family Law, the issue of alternative family structures presents challenges. A common challenge occurs when two women or two men form a relationship and one of them has a biological child during the relationship. A custody battle ensues when the couple separates. In exploring this situation with students, we start with the questions of who is a parent and who makes that determination?
We first examine God’s design for marriage and family. In Genesis 2:24, the Bible states, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife...” Genesis 1:28 continues with God’s command to “Be fruitful...” We then discuss God’s view of same-sex relationships as sexual sin. The students realize that it was not God’s plan to deprive a child of a mother and father through same-sex households.
What is the state’s role in resolving custody in this situation? Students learn civil government is God’s servant to promote good and punish evil (Romans 13:1-4). Because God’s standards for family and parentage are clear, government should not advance a family paradigm contrary to scripture. What role should government play in determining parentage? Students learn the parent, not government, is responsible to God for training a child (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:1-3). With the exception of abuse, the government lacks the authority to interfere with parenting decisions, including limiting visitation of a former same-sex partner.
In ENGI 220 Engineering Economy, I give the students an assignment to explore Biblical references to financial resources, contrast these with how society portrays money, and discuss how Biblical and societal influences affect the financial decisions in their life. In ENGR 110 Introduction to Engineering and Problem Solving, the students review selected sections of the National Society of Professional Engineers Code of Ethics and develop plausible scriptural references that could be used as a basis for the ethical statements. The students also develop a biblically-based position paper dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. In ENGR 131 Calculus for Engineers, I show the students that a Christian’s life can be summarized in a simple, standard calculus equation (which can be found on the inside cover of many calculus textbooks):
∫ du=u+C (note:it is always lower case u and upper case C)
Here, u is the independent variable, C is the constant of integration, and the symbol ∫ represents the sum of the infinitesimal parts (du). We, as Christians, have lives filled with infinitesimal moments, and are independent variables with free will. The best way to live life is to join with the only constant in our life, Jesus Christ, and remember John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” If Christ is increased in your life (upper case C = Christ) and you stay small (lower case u = you), you will live a sum of infinitesimal moments that will glorify the King of Kings.
During the early days of the university, Dr. Falwell used to talk often about our “action-oriented curriculum.” Spanish classes provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate this kind of action orientation.
One of my favorite activities features prayer partnerships that I form with individual students (James 5:16). All it entails is a sharing of prayer requests, praying for each other separately, and then meeting briefly before or after classes to share updates. What results is a beautiful array of spiritual relationships without the complexities that can arise from frequent office visits.
In following the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), this action-oriented curriculum seems to appear most fully in Guatemala, where students spend two months each summer participating in intensive language instruction and equally intensive efforts toward sharing the Gospel in Spanish. Typically these labors result in eternal outcomes as, each summer, dozens of destitute Guatemalans accept Christ as their Savior.
Theodor Adorno famously declared that there could be no more poetry after the Holocaust, insisting that such a horrific subject could all too easily be sentimentalized or aestheticized and thus stripped of its power. In my ENGL 222 World Literature class, we attempt in fear and trembling to “describe the indescribable” by respectfully, yet realistically, approaching the subject of Holocaust-era literature.
One of the most important points I seek to communicate is the primacy of memory. God continually urges His people to call to mind His redemptive acts in history and to continue telling them to their children and grandchildren. To aid the memory, memorials constructed of standing stones were often erected to commemorate a great miracle done by God. Peter in the New Testament describes all believers in the same language—our lives are ‘standing stones’ in a sense, testifying to God’s great work in our lives (1 Peter 2:5).
But how do we go about confronting a period in history when to many people it seemed as if God was silent or inactive? All too often, those “standing stones” appear to only point to absurdity and man’s inhumanity to man. At this point, I solicit volunteers to read aloud testimonies of 12 survivors of the death camps in order to hear their dehumanizing experiences, but more importantly to capture in their voices the rich and priceless existence of individual lives that the Nazis would have been all too happy to erase. I conclude class by reminding students that as Christians, we imitate God through exercise of our memories since God tells us that He has engraved our names in His hands (Isaiah 49:16). I encourage students to do the same as the names of children killed during the Holocaust scroll silently on the screen, an experience that replicates the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Students enrolled in the Individualized Programs of Study (IPS) program are required to synthesize their cognates through their Christian worldview. As director for the IPS program, it is important that I assimilate faith integration into my life, worldview and teaching techniques. Students in any faith-based institution watch for truth’s reflection, not only in the classroom, but also as it is ”fleshed out” in my life as an instructor. The entire atmosphere of my classroom is one in which the students understand that their professor has a divine calling upon her life to reach into their lives and to share knowledge of the subject matter in a professional manner while, simultaneously, reaching into their hearts with a sincere and earnest desire to make them enlarged, faithful children of God—children who grow in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” because they see it lived out in the role models before them in the classroom. As a teacher, I help create within students a deep, abiding yearning to live godly lives that evidence care for work, care for others, and devotion to their faith.
This can only be because I have (1) been saved by the grace and mercy of Christ, (2) drunk deeply at the well of devotion to his fellows, and (3) determined to daily walk in the Way. “But if we keep living in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another …”(I John 1:7). As Dr. Falwell was our model for doing that, I scoured his speeches for particularly moving excerpts for my CLST 301 Advanced Reading/Vocabulary students to review and consider. For example, “God never called anyone to be a quitter. The word ‘retreat’ should not be in the Christian’s vocabulary. The only way is upward and onward for the Lord.” Spiritual mindset and lifestyle are what students assess as real and truthful. Professors who “walk the walk” are the ones to whom students turn for the reality of faith integration.
Much research has focused on the best ways to integrate faith and learning. The curriculum must reflect Biblical worldview. In addition, many researchers found that integration is “caught [more than] taught” (Sorenson, 1994, p. 342). Students are more impacted by the people with whom they share a relationship. “Integration is as much about a who as a what: affectively engaged relationships seemed to shape how students learn integration, with current mentoring relationships” (Sorenson, Derflinger, Bufford, & McMinn, 2004, p. 356).
To encourage integration, even in large classes, I strive to get to know the students as people: their names, where they are from, their major… I try to arrive at least 15 minutes before class and stay after class so I can interact with the students, checking on their prayer requests and their lives. We begin class each day building connections with the Lord through the Bible and sharing prayer requests. I pray for and with my students as they need it, in class, in the hall, in my office and through emails. I encourage the students to connect with each other through group work, problem solving and critical thinking, even in the large classes. My husband and I invite the classes to our home once a semester, for a big pot of something and lots of fellowship. We try to attend their events outside of class, basketball, theater, music. Building relationships with students is as integral to integration as sound curriculum.
Aviation instruction has a unique advantage over traditional classroom instructing in that there is a lot of one-on-one time with instructor and student. Our goal is to utilize this time to not only teach our students the technical skills they need to excel in the cockpit, but also to mentor them for success as a believer in Christ. A few years ago, we published an Aviation Devotional that has now become a part of our training curriculum. It encourages our pilots to integrate their faith with real life situations. We also have a very active mentoring program led by advanced students for lower classmen.
Almost everything a pilot does is part of a checklist. From preflight to landing, our students learn to do it properly and precisely by following a checklist. Part of our Pre-start checklist is prayer. Every single classroom lesson, simulator lesson and flight begins with prayer. Over the years we have actually cancelled or delayed flights because of serious prayer needs that arose during the pre-flight prayer.
Once our students are ready to earn their pilot certificates, they are sent to a FAA representative for testing, and they always include prayer in their checklist usage. We teach our pilots that they are not only being observed for their flying skills but also in their walk with Christ. Some of the examiners are not professing believers, but we have had a tremendous amount of feedback on the student’s positive attitude and Christian walk.
“Why serve?” is a question I ask students in GNED 102: Contemporary Issues II, when teaching the topic of community service. The idea of service is embedded in the scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The Genesis account gives Adam and Eve creation ordinances or rules to live by. One command is to care for His creation and each other. But Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. This rebellious act caused a shift in humanity’s thinking from taking care of creation and each another to a more self-centered focus. Service chases away selfishness and returns the focus to God’s original intent.
Service has a direct connection to the Christian faith. This metanarrative is God’s story embraced by and embodied in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to set an example of a life lived for God and service was a fundamental part of His life. I challenge the students with Jesus’ motto, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). As students think redemptively, their mindsets are motivated toward service. Through Jesus’ example, students recognize that serving is more than a graduation requirement, it is a lifestyle transformation. When students learn to be the salt, light (Matthew 5:13) and leaven (Matthew 13:33) they become a godly influence wherever God places them.
One of the greatest challenges that teachers face in the classroom is the student who has special needs or challenging behaviors. If our Great Teacher was in a school today, you would probably find him surrounded by students with special needs (Psalms 72:12-13; Job 29:14-16; Luke 14:12-14). People with special needs are a representation of God’s ability to make great the least of these and that beauty is in all things wonderfully created for his purpose (Psalms 139:14; Romans 12:3, 6; Matthew 25:40 2 Corinthians 12:9).
It is often easier to grasp this great story of beauty and redemption in the disabilities and abilities that are seen and better understood. But one of the greatest challenges for a teacher lies in the unseen afflictions or the difficult student. Teachers often feel priority should be given to the 99 other students that are doing as they should. However, the Good Shepherd left the 99 sheep to save the one sheep (Luke 15:4; Matthew 18:12). As much as the difficult student can try and challenge our faith (James 1), our other students are watching how we demonstrate God’s grace and love. As demonstrated in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, this difficult student may need the discipline of a loving father, but celebration and favor follow the son’s return. Teachers should – “warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (I Thessalonians. 5:14).