The Case for Theology in the Home Classroom
It is a common misconception that theology is for pastors and seminary students. Perhaps it is the depth of study and complexity of doctrine that propagates this fallacy. Regardless, there is much to be gained from theology for anyone who calls himself Christian. My own time in seminary taught me that most pastors and church leaders wish their congregants would spend more time and effort in theology.
When developing curriculum for your home classroom, you probably consider the traditional subjects: math, reading, science, art, and social studies. There is a case for including theology in your home classroom and I encourage you to consider making it a regular part of your curriculum.
I hope that by sharing my insights as a former homeschool student, seminary student, and now teaching parent, you might also see theology as an essential element for your home classroom.
I want to start by sharing my working definition of theology. Theology at its core is the study of God. We learn theology when we study the nature, behavior, and character of God. Theology informs our religious beliefs when we act and behave based on what we believe to be true about God. Because of the Bible, we have access to the words of God, the testimony of first-hand witnesses to His acts, and His laws and governance. Theology shapes our world view.
Theology as a course of study often includes textbooks, reference books, concordances, and exegetical works. Students may also choose to include language study in Greek and Hebrew. When I studied theology in seminary, we focused on four main areas of study:
- Scripture (content, methods of interpretation, and exegesis)
- Doctrine (apologetics, ethics, polity, and church history)
- Practical theology (pastoral care, missiology, evangelism, and worship)
- Personal theology (Christian education)
Theology is essential to the Christian faith.
As Jared Wilson put it, “every Christian must be a theologian.” There is no student too young to begin the study of who God is. Even the faith of a child is enhanced by what he knows about God. My three-year-old understands that God is good, loving, and always with us. It’s a simple theology but in it are the seeds of his faith. With God’s help, we will build on that simple theology as he grows up.
Apart from a personal study of theology, we have only spoon-fed doctrine without the weight and authority of it being proven in our own hearts and minds. Making the study of who God is and what He says and does a part of your homeschool curriculum is even more foundational than math, reading, science, or art.
Theology gives all learning context.
When your student looks at a mitochondrion under a microscope, a distant planet in the solar system through a telescope, or the intricacies of the central nervous system, he will see how detailed the very nature of our existence is. If your child has also studied the doctrine of creation, he will understand that everything from the proton to the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall existed first in the mind of God.
Everything to be learned or studied was created by God (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). The world and everything in it was set in motion by God. The history of the world and the nature of the world belong to Him as does the future.
To put it plainly, how can we study art without also studying the artist? To have access to the Artist and not invite Him into the study of His own work seems very strange indeed.
Theology teaches us to learn in humility.
Christians are familiar with the story of Job. We look to his story in times of grief for comfort, doubt for faith, and anger for forgiveness. One of many lessons in the life of Job is that knowing apart from humility breeds pride.
One of my favorite parts of Scripture is when God answers Job beginning in Job 38:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it.’
Instructing your student in theology encourages an attitude of humility when approaching every other subject. As I mentioned earlier, we cannot study art without studying the artist. Similarly, we cannot interpret art in any way other than what the artist has intended. Theology teaches us that God has purpose and plans for every living thing. In light of this truth, God becomes your co-instructor.
For many of you, it may not be a question of whether or not to include theology in your home classroom but how. There may be many doubts and fears holding you back from including more in-depth theological content from your child’s curriculum, especially if you are developing the curriculum yourself.
For those who think teaching theology is too hard, I say it does not have to be. As I mentioned earlier, my son’s theology is simple because his understanding is elementary. You would not teach calculus to a 6-year-old, and no one is asking you to. Theology does not have to begin with apologetics and the doctrine of the trinity but you can begin by encouraging your student to pursue the questions he has about God. God leaves breadcrumb trails for His people to follow, to seek Him out (Proverbs 25:2).
If you fear you are ill-equipped to teach your student theology, you are not alone. There are wonderful resources written by theologians that can assist you. You can always lean on the experience and education of the pastoral staff of your church or a seminary trained friend. And remember God wants to be known and you can ask for His guidance. He will not lead you astray.
Looking for help?
Here are just a few resources that may help you introduce basic theological study into your curriculum: