The motto of Mount Paran Christian school is, “A place where faith and intellect grow as one.” In Latin, it translates to, Fides et intellectus simul unus. It is on our crest, but more importantly, this principle is woven into the fabric of what, how, and why we teach and learn together at MPCS.
Saint Augustine, in the 4th century, was known to have said, “All truth is God’s truth.” Since the beginning, we, at MPCS, have wholeheartedly endorsed this ideal and the theological position that affirms there is and can be no separation of the sacred and the secular in life and learning. In other words, we believe in the immersion of biblical understanding and truth in all we do and in all we study.
EVERYTHING IS WORTHY OF INVESTIGATION
If, in fact, all truth is God’s truth, then the reverse can also be assumed – God is all truth. And, if God is truth and if all truth is God’s, then such truth exists in every field of study, in every course we teach, and in and through the content of all we examine in every classroom on campus, on the stage, on the sports court, and on the athletic field. Starting in the preschool, this philosophy extends to every room and space throughout each division, culminating with high school graduates who can articulately express, defend, and support the faith and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
David Smith and Ron Hoch, in their book, Old School, New Clothes, state, “To know God necessitates knowing the world and vice-versa – this is acknowledging an interrelated world.” Likewise, Richard Riesen, in one of my all-time favorite books, Piety & Philosophy, says the following, “…since everything is God’s, everything is worthy of investigation.”
The idea of an interrelated world suggests and reinforces the truth claim stated previously by Augustine. Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV) likewise, states
“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.”
This “integrated reality” (Smith & Hoch) is the reality we teach at MPCS in every grade level and in every subject. But, it must be done with intentionality. As such, we study the great works of authors, thinkers, and philosophers – those who profess Christ and those who do not.
SEEKING GOD'S TRUTH
Some wonder why we teach from “secular texts” and from the philosophies and ideologies of those who may not agree with our faith perspective. There are several reasons for this. First, going back to what I had previously stated, if we believe that all truth is God’s truth, we understand and know that through non-Christian novels, textbooks, words, and the deeds of those who do not confess Christ, we have much to learn. We recognize that not all that is written, heard, or seen is God’s truth, but we also seek to help students see God’s truth amidst ideas that seek to lead them away from his perfect will for their lives. We know that within non-believers’ writings, philosophies, and ideologies, we can find truth and can learn and grow. The great theologian, John Wesley, in 1756, stated the following:
“To imagine none can teach you but those who are themselves saved from sin, is a great and dangerous mistake. Give not place to it for a moment.”
Imagine not getting on a plane and flying somewhere because the pilot was not a believer in Jesus Christ. Or, how about not allowing a doctor to operate on your torn ligament because she ascribed to another faith. Most of us would never do this. It is the same when reading a classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald or Thomas Hardy or studying biology or chemistry from a textbook written by an author who is an avowed believer in scientism and not a believer in God, the God of all creation, as we believe.
We read, watch, listen, and engage with the secular world, because we want to know God more fully, not because we want to shrink away from thoughts and beliefs that differ from our own. We find truth in the words and thoughts of non-believers because God is so big that they cannot help but, despite their unbelief, teach his truth. This type of engagement, when done properly and well grows our faith, not fractures it.
THE CULTURE MANDATE
Secondly, we engage with the non-believing world around us because, as believers in Jesus Christ, it is what we have been called to do. Dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden, we see that Adam and Eve were given a mandate to fill and care for the earth. This is known as the culture mandate. We have been called, along with Adam and Eve, since the beginning of time, to care for our earth, to engage with our world, and to practice love toward all with whom we come in contact. This is the common grace available to all, believer or not. We, therefore, as a Christian school, engage with non-Christian thoughts and ideas all the time, as we seek to continue the believer’s mandate to impact the world around us.
C.S. Lewis suggested, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” However, we cannot answer bad philosophy unless one has been engaged with and understands the ideas behind and within such bad philosophy. This is therefore an appeal to study, outside the teachings of Christianity, bad philosophy (and even other not so bad philosophies) so that we may understand the world around us in order that we may answer poor thinking with sound biblically-informed reasoning. It is our call to be light in the darkness.
THE WORK OF OUR MINDS
As Christians, we are called to know God deeply, to seek to know him fully, yet we know we cannot and will not know him fully until we are with him in eternity. In the meantime, we have our work cut out for us. Our work must then include the work of our minds. In fact, Jesus stated in Matthew 22, we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. He didn’t suggest it. He stated clearly that we are to do so – to love him with our mind.
If we seek to love God with our mind, we must know God with our mind. As we know him more and more, we will then love him more and more. Dr. John Piper, in his book, Think, asserts, “The mind serves to know the truth that fuels the fires of the heart.” And, he goes on to say for himself, “Putting knowledge in my head about God and his ways was like throwing wood in the furnace of my worship. For me, seeing has meant savoring. And the clearer the seeing, the sweeter the savoring.”
This is what we desire for our students. We want to throw wood on the fires of the furnaces of their hearts and minds and, through God’s truth, help them discover their love of him and for him. We want God, as John Piper says, to be their “supreme pleasure…to prefer above all else to know him and see him and be with him and be like him.” As we help our students better understand loving God with their minds and hearts, we seek to help them better understand that their faith and their intellects truly will and do grow as one.
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