Faith Integration Modules / Learning Objects
Module 7: What is meant by the integration of faith and learning?
Video Clip Introduction (Download RealPlayer)
The idea of the integration of faith and learning, or IFL, has much to offer in the understanding and practice of Christian education. Yet is still one of our the misunderstood concepts in that area. Since its popularisation through Gaebelein's The Pattern of God's Truth  some decades ago, authentic examples of that vision seem to be few and far between. For many, IFL is a frustrating cliché and relatively meaningless slogan.
A likely reason for the problem is the way we tend to think about it. We tend not to appreciate how much our thinking has been corrupted by modernism  and secularism. Paul's warnings  about being squeezed into a worldly mould are as relevant today as they ever have been. There is a desperate need for a totally new paradigm - a transformation of thinking. In short, it calls for a return to biblical thinking. What follows is an attempt to demystify and revitalise the concept of faith integration from a biblical perspective. 
In attempting to clarify IFL, a number of underlying principles are vitally important at the outset:
- The concept should be viewed holistically. The Greek, holos, from which the term derives, envisages not simply a collection of elements that comprise the whole, but elements so intertwined and interdependent, that to remove one destroys the integrity of the whole. In other words, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. A recognition and understanding of the interdependence of those parts is vital. Gaebelein's allusion to the idea of pattern is intentional and significant. In Christian education, acknowledgement of the whole person and our mental, physical, social and spiritual capacities reflects is consistent with the concept. But it extends beyond the individual to encompass the culture, ethos, and environmental setting in which such persons interrelate. Popular use of the term big picture in wider society recognizes the potential of such holistic thinking. A key word in this context is integrity and its implications in all facets of our being.
- The practice of IFL means much more than incorporating overt spiritual content and references into courses of study. It extends beyond the subject itself, and has implications and responsibilities for all members of the faith-learning community supporting the education program and the courses that it sponsors.
- In adopting a biblical mind set, IFL needs to consistently reflect a biblical view of reality, what it means to know, why we engage in such effort, and ultimately, what is the goal of any enterprise that presumes to call itself “Christian”. 
To adopt a biblical mind set is to think in Judeo-Christian terms. Some writers like Harry Blamires and James Sire have developed the concept of "thinking Christianly" in an attempt to transform the way we think and act in a contemporary world.
Because biblical thinking is holistic by nature, the imagined dichotomy between the sacred and the secular is artificial. As Gaebelein reminds us, “All truth is God’s truth”. Therefore dualistic and reductionist thinking and practice clash with the spirit of genuine IFL. 
- While the spiritual orientation in thinking, behaving, and teaching Christianly is extensive and encompassing (ie. holistic), we should recognize that some aspects of life and behavior in God’s order are not essentially spiritual of themselves. This reality by no means demeans that activity or skill, because it is part of the life and living in its fullness. Calling such aspects “spiritual”, does not make them spiritual. To do so is artificial, and such contrivances trivialize spirituality, and run the risk of ‘turning students off’. David Wolfe describe this as pseudointegration.  Skills such as teaching a pre-school child to tie shoelaces, a math student to solve simultaneous equations, an apprentice to reassemble a machine, or a computer-user to format a document or compile a multimedia presentation are, by nature, non-spiritual behaviors or skills that can be undertaken by a Christian teacher without feeling the need to create overt spiritual applications. 
However, this does not deny the reality of the Judaeo-Christian recognition that in God we live and move and have our being  . Nor does it deny both our status and accountability as stewards and disciples of His kingdom apply and practise skills that are part of life and vocations.  But such considerations fit within a macro awareness or context. The fact that such awareness may be tacit rather than overt does not diminish its significance and influence.
We should hasten to insist that this view does not deny the potential and legitimacy of open, explicit integration of faith-values and concepts within some disciplines. In this, David Wolfe’s proposal for genuine integration with respect to the various disciplines is helpful:
Genuine integration occurs when an assumption or concern can be shown to be internally shared by (integral to) both the Judaeo-Christian vision and an academic discipline. 
Neither does this view deny the opportunities for unplanned, spontaneous acknowledgment of God’s presence and action.
The preceding discussion might be seen by some Christian educators as diminishing the significance of IFL. Far from it. Appreciation of a total environment in which the disciplines form only a part, increases the accountability of those who choose to participate within it. It is a responsibility shared by every member that is part of the particular learning community. This will only be successful when those in all positions of responsibility are, themselves, models of integrity, albeit growing, authentic image-bearers. This includes the janitor and those in similar important roles. The following aspects are all vital to authentic teaching and learning from a Christian perspective.
- Our Ultimate Purpose as Christian Educators - all activity under the auspices of the particular learning community should seen as part of a process that is conducive to wholeness, connectedness and meaning for all its members, enabling them to be authentic image-bearers of the Creator. (See Module 2)
- The View of the Learner - Students will be viewed as creatures in the image of God who are thinkers, decision-makers and actors, with diverse intelligences, gifts, and emerging theories about the world. But as fallen creatures, they are seen with a need to develop comprehensive wholeness and integrity, to reach their highest potential in all human faculties, and to God's purpose for their lives. (See Module 1)
- Knowledge - God is acknowledged as the essential source of all wisdom and virtue. Knowledge is viewed as more than merely intellectual. True knowledge encompasses cognitive, experiential, emotional, relational, intuitive, and spiritual elements functioning as an interrelated whole. Acquisition of true knowledge leads to understanding that is manifested in wisdom, integrity and appropriate action. (See Module 5)
- Teachers - As well as being experts in their teaching fields and their ability to promote and support learning in those areas, true teaching is “a sharing of realities”, likening the teaching process to “weaving connections” between their subjects, themselves and the world till the students make it their own. (See Modules 2 and 6)
- The Disciplines - Some areas of study might be seen as windows to see or perceive and understand something of God and His activity as reflected through the created world, the Bible and the Cosmic Conflict. Others might be seen as windows of opportunity to respond, apply, express and practise in ways that are consistent with biblical values. They address the major developmental needs in the spiritual, intellectual, physical, social, emotional, and vocational realms. It also reflects appreciation for Christian heritage, community building and citizenship, concern for social justice, and stewardship of the environment.
- Teaching and Learning - The teaching-learning environment will be sensitive to the nature of human nature as it was originally created in the image of God. It will honour students as creatures of God by engaging and stimulating the full range of their gifts via a rich and diverse pedagogy. Teachers will seek to develop connections between the knower and the known, between the head and the heart, fostering the development of maps of meaning and understanding in their students. Consequently there will a marked shift from behaviorist to appropriately transformed cognitivist approaches to learning. Teaching approaches will acknowledge and affirm the diversity of intelligences and gifts shared between the learners. Teachers will generally behave in an interactive manner with students, functioning as facilitators and mentors. Students will be encouraged to make choices and appreciate the implications of those choices. Student questions will be valued and addressed constructively. Students will often work in collaborative learning, cooperative learning and peer-sharing settings. The program will encourage putting into practice what has been learned. This will include opportunities for unselfish sharing and service in a wide range of activities, both within and beyond the school. Excellence will be sought, modelled, encouraged, and facilitated in all areas. (See Modules 3 and 4)
- The Learning Community - The community will seek to reflect an atmosphere infused by spirituality, industry, and a sense of safety and security (shalom). It will nurture the mental, social, physical and spiritual faculties of each person, and in so doing, will respect the diversity of individuals and cultures. Interpersonal relationships will support individuals in the culture of the school as a community of faith, encouraging them to live out and share its story tacitly, actively and confidently. Relationships will be sensitive, accepting, inclusive, affirming and supportive of all members of that community. Teachers, as mentors, will model consistently the values that characterize the culture of the school community. (See Module 6)
Learning environments such as these will be conducive to the restoration of wholeness (cosmos out of chaos) in the most comprehensive sense. They will represent true religion (re-ligere = to tie back), and as such, will be part of the process envisaged by Paul in Ephesians 4. Both the communities and the persons who comprise them will progressively reflect something of God the Creator, in ways that He intended from the beginning. Such efforts will constitute ministry in the fullest and truest sense.
- What problems does modernist and secular thinking cause for thinking Christianly?
- Why is it important to begin developing a new paradigm based on holistic thinking for understanding and applying the principles of faith integration?
- Why is it important to address carefully the contribution of all elements of the process of education?
- Identify those elements that are significant to Christian education, discuss their potential, and suggest ideas for implementing them to reflect authentic faith integration.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, The Pattern of God’s Truth: The Integration of Faith and Learning, Oxford University Press, 1968.
 The separation of the material world from the spiritual domain advocated by Descartes was a timely response to the superstition and witch-hunts of his day. However, it opened the way for the unnatural dichotomy between the sacred and the secular that became deeply entrenched in modernist thinking. Many assumptions underlying certain approaches to research reflect this disposition.
 Romans 12:2
 The previous 6 modules in this series have reflected on aspects pertinent to discussion of IFL, and it is recommended that reference be also made to that material.
 Earlier modules in this series have endeavoured to explore many of these aspects, and reference to these is recommended and assumed in the discussion in this module.
 Of worthy consideration is the example of the Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, who practiced the presence of God through the washing of pots and pans and serving his brothers. In similar vein, Calvin recognized that the cobbler and panmaker are all ministers.
 See H. Heie and David Wolfe (eds), The Reality of Christian Learning: Strategies for Faith-Discipline Integration,
: Eerdmans, 1987, pages 4-5. Grand Rapids, Michigan
 It should be remembered that God as Creator is outside of His created order, not an integral part of it such as viewed by pantheists. But at the same time, because it is His creation, and bears testimony to aspects of His personality, it is worthy of our honor and respect. For this, humanity is accountable as stewards.
 In similar vein to Footnote 6, Martin Luther’s perspective of the status of apparently menial vocations provides a refreshing insight. See Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther,
: Abington, 1950, pp.156, 181, 190. Nashville, Tennessee
 Heie and Wolfe, op. cit., p.5. The whole chapter, ‘The Line of Demarcation between Integration and Pseudointegration’ (pp. 3-11) offers a rigorous frame of reference, and is worthy or serious attention.
Blamires, H (1978) The Christian Mind, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Servant Books.
Gaebelein, F. (1968) The Pattern of God's Truth, Chicago: Moody Press.
Heie, Harold & Wolfe, David L. (eds) (1987) The Reality of Christian Learning: Strategies for Faith-Leaning Integration, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans.
Sire, James W. (1990) The Discipleship of the Mind, Chapter 4, IVP, Downers Grove, Illinois.
Tucker, James A. (2001) “Pedagogical Application of the Seventh-day Adventist Philosophy of Education”, Journal of Research on Christian Education, Summer, Vol. 10, Special Edition, pp. 309-325.
[Access paper at http://circle.adventist.org/download/SDATeachLearn.pdf]
©2002 Don C. Roy, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Last updated April 23, 2006