Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is biblical homeschooling? Part 4- Teaching Knowledge

In one sense knowledge is easier to define than wisdom, it just means knowledge.  It doesn't carry the same moral bent that wisdom does.  In another sense, knowledge is more difficult to define than wisdom because it is used so broadly in Scripture.  Strong's Lexicon gives over a dozen words in Hebrew and half a dozen in Greek that are translated into the English word knowledge

The words for knowledge used in the Old Testament that I was most interested in are da 'ath (Strong's 1847- incidentally the most common Hebrew word translated to knowledge and the primary Hebrew word used for knowledge in the book of Proverbs) which simply means knowledge or cunning, the opposite of ignorance; and madda' (Strong's 4093) which carries with it the idea of intelligence, science, or thought.  (The corresponding Aramaic word, manda' is also used in Daniel.)  Here are a few verses that commend this type of knowledge that comes by learning (as opposed to knowledge that means acknowledgement or awareness).

"Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you."  Deuteronomy 1:13

"Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?  2 Chronicles 1:10

The verses above reveal that knowledge is an important qualification for leadership.  (Don't you wish our leaders were more knowledgable?!)  The following verses further extol the virtues of knowledge.

"Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction."  Proverbs 10:14

"Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid."  Proverbs 12:1

"Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool lays open his folly."  Proverbs 13:16

"Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge."  Proverbs 23:12

I find this next verse extremely interesting.  The context is Nebuchadnezzar choosing young men from Judah to bring into his court during the Babylonian captivity of Judah.

"Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldenas."  Daniel 1:3-4

These young men represent the best Judah had to offer.  They were the ideal product of Hebrew education.  They were wise, which is most important, but they were also full of knowledge and they were good students.  We know that at some point in the future Daniel would become an expert in astronomy and astrology.  (Isn't it cool to think about how God used Daniel to pass on both his knowledge of the stars and prophecies of the coming Messiah which would someday bring wise men from the east to worship the infant Christ?)  We're not sure how old Daniel and his friends were when they entered captivity, but probably they were young teens or possibly pre-teens.  At any rate, their Hebrew education had prepared them for the difficult subjects they would study in the palace- foreign language, foreign literature, science, and the highest mathematics known at the time.  Their Hebrew education was first and foremost the Word of God, but it was more than that, as well.  

Now, let's move to the New Testament.  The main Greek word translated into knowledge that applies to my search is gnosis (Strong's 1108) which means the act of knowing, ie by implication knowledge- knowledge, science.

Colossians 2:3 in the context of teaching on the preeminence of Christ says that In Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

I think this is a very important verse for our search on what biblical homeschooling is all about.  I believe this verse means that not only does all wisdom (or moral judgement) come through Christ and apart from Christ there can be no true wisdom, but that all knowledge also comes through Him and apart from Him all knowledge will be incomplete.  This goes back to Colossians 1. 

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."  Colossians 1:15-17

In other words, all mathematics and sciences can only be truly understood in Christ since math and science are merely our attempts to explain the very natural universe that Christ created! 

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork."  Psalm 19:1

And what is philosophy, but man's attempt to understand his own existence and the world around him?  Again, since Christ made us, we can never arrive at a complete understanding in philosophy apart from Christ.  (Ever read those guys?  They were a depressed bunch!  No wonder-the very answer that would have solved their problems is the one answer most of them refused to seriously consider!)  The field of psychology tries to explain why man behaves the way he does.  Like it's possible to understand that apart from acknowledging our total depravity!  I could go on and on.  Complete knowledge of our world is simply not possible apart from knowing Him who made it- and that is accomplished through our primary objective of studying His Word.

"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."  1 Corinthians 13:2

This is an argument from the lesser to the greater.  Having faith is good, possessing the gift of prophecy is good, understanding all mysteries and knowledge is good, but love is better.    I merely point out this verse to show that according to the Bible, knowledge is good.  Again, I propose that this does not only mean knowledge of God's Word, but knowledge in general.  It's better to be loving and ignorant than brilliant and hateful, but the ideal is to possess both knowledge and love.  In fact, our love should not be a mindless emotion, but an attitude and action grounded in accurate knowledge.  (Like a right knowledge of who God is and what He has accomplished in us and in our world- since time began.)

"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense til the day of Christ."  Philippians 1:9 

This verse really gets to the heart of homeschooling.  Our greatest desire as Christian homeschooling parents is that as we impart knowledge to our children, their love for God, Christ's church, and one another will grow. 
So, we've established that knowledge is good and to be desired.  Are there any exceptions?  Are there certain subjects we're to remain ignorant of? 

Paul says to the Christians in Rome that they should be "wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil."  Romans 16:19

Christians have to exercise discernment- in what we read, what we allow ourselves to watch on tv or movies, people we allow to influence us, and what we expose our kids to.   I'm amazed at how many Christians have jumped on the Twilight bandwagon.  Now, I haven't read the books, so maybe they're not as bad as they appear and I don't want to rush to judgement, but they do not look like anything I have any business reading.  "Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" does not come easily for me so I have to carefully select what I allow into my mind. 

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."  Romans 12:2

As believers, we are indwellt by the Holy Spirit and as we read God's Word, the Spirit informs our conscience about what is right and wrong.  (Not that our conscience is foolproof, because it's not.)  For me, the Twilight series crosses the line.  I don't want anything to do with it.  Studying Greek mythology, however, as well as all other world religions including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. including humanism fall into a different category for me.  I want my kids to know how lost most of the world is and has been since the beginning.  It explains so much of the world around us.  Why expect Hollywood to put out decent movies when you understand that they're all lost and enslaved by sin?  Why expect the UN to act with wisdom and justice when you understand that they're lost and working for the prince of this world, Satan?  Does that sound just a wee bit radical?  I'm sorry.  The point is, I don't want my children to be ignorant of false religions, rather through learning about false religions I want them to gain a more complete understanding of the history of cultures, the history of war, and the history of Christ sustaining His church amidst intense persecution.  I want my kids to gain a greater appreciation for the grace of God that saves people out of darkness, and I want them to understand why the Bible instructs us not to be conformed to the world around us.

Each homeschooling family has to decide what they will and will not expose their children to (and it may vary depending on age).  My husband and I want our children to have an excellent education.  We will include many books by non-believers, excluding only those we deem to be evil.  When I was in the 8th grade I had a teacher for earth science who had a PhD and thought she was hot stuff.  She taught evolution and made fun of me in class for believing in a literal 6 day creation.  I went home and talked with my dad about it and he suggested we read Darwin's Origin of the Species together.  We discussed Darwin's findings and also listened to some tapes put out by the Institute of Creation Research, which allowed me to hear from scientists who were also Bible-believing Christians.  I'm so grateful my dad didn't just tell me to ignore my teacher or tell me that Darwin was wrong.  Reading Darwin firsthand enabled me to see for myself the giant leap taken from his observations to the theory of macroevolution.  (Here I was thinking my 8th grade teacher surely must have proof of evolution in order to publicly berate me so.)  Oh contrare.

The kids and I just finished reading Walk the World's Rim in our Sonlight Core.  The main character was a young Native American boy torn between a pragmatic appreciation of the new religion of the pale-faces and the paranoid, mystical religion of his native tribe.  Issues of religion are complex, not simple.  In my opinion, all the characters in the story were lost, even the ones doing the proselytizing.  They proclaimed a faith with their mouths, but their actions showed a greater interest in wealth and fame.  Currently, we're reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond, which certainly portrays the Puritans in a negative light.  To balance this, I ordered a CD from Vision Forum called Puritans vs. Witches.  Reading this book has given us the opportunity to discuss how unbelievers have no natural attraction to the Word of God.  Why would Kit want to go to church twice on Sunday and listen to lengthy Scripture readings or prayers when she's lost?  Frankly, I think in this day of seeker-sensitive churches, we've forgotten this.  If we're doing church right, pagans will not be attracted to it or feel comfortable there!  Of course, Kit would have loved playing Wii in youth group, but that is not the Sunday Meeting she found herself in among the Puritans.  We've also talked about the external righteousness of the Pharisees and how this, too could have been a problem among some Puritans.  God desires our heart, as well as our actions.  Certainly, not every Puritan was a believer and even those who were still made mistakes.  I am not afraid of examining two sides of an event in history.  There are always at least two sides in everything! 

This is all just my take on two of the books we've read that were written from a non-Christian angle, but the point is, we're all the richer for having read them.  We've all gained greater insight into the history of our nation, the battle of cultures that was waged during colonization, the tension between loyalty to the crown and a desire to self-govern, and how strange our faith seems to those on the outside.  That is why we will continue to read literature written by non-believers in our homeschool.  They have nothing to offer us that is purely theirs.  The atheist physicist is only trying from his limited point of view to explain God's universe.  The writer of historical fiction may show us one side of history, but as believers we know that all of history is simply the Providential Hand of God guiding events toward His ends for His glory.  There is no science or history that frightens me- it all proclaims God's glory! 

What is your reaction?  What kinds of books do you weed out from your curriculum?  At what point does "protection" become a distortion of reality?  Have you found that books with "questionable themes" sometimes bring about the deepest conversations with your children about what we believe and why?  Are you laying a firm biblical foundation with your children so that they will be able to discern truth for themselves before their education is complete?


  1. I suppose because we are such NEW believers ourselves (only 4 years this fall) that we need to be perhaps a bit more cautious when it comes to reading literature with our children. Some of this is simply because our Christian worldview and understanding of history isn't as strong as it could be in order to provide the Christian perspective our children need from us when reading titles like the ones you mentioned.

    However, it's great to read what you are doing with your little ones! I suppose we do this to a certain extent when we discuss doctrinal/theological themes behind the stories we listen to in our efforts to lead our children into a deepening dependence on Jesus alone for their salvation.

    I'll be back :).

  2. I found your blog through a comment you left on another one...haven't spent much time reading yours yet, but LOVE the song, and I come back and click on it while opening another tab so I can keep listening. THANKS!!!

  3. "Have you found that books with "questionable themes" sometimes bring about the deepest conversations with your children about what we believe and why?"
    Exactly, and being exposed to them here in the home where Mom and Dad can talk to them about it and measure it against what the Bible says is the best form of exposure to such books and ideas. The ideas are out there, our children WILL run into ideas contrary to God's word, and if we don't do our best to expose them in a controlled environment, then how will they know what to do when they are exposed to something that challenges their beliefs when they are out from under our roof?

    Excellent post :-)



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.