The Case for Theological Curriculum

In a previous post, I argued that many Christian schools have a weak theological curriculum because they do not value theology. Let me now make a positive case for why we should value theological education and why we should teach a theology course every year of high school. Here are three reasons:

(1) Theological education is essential to Christian growth. Christians cannot grow in their faith if they do not know what they have faith in. So we should teach Christian children what they should believe—the Bible and theology. We are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom 12:2).

(2) Theological education is essential to Christian academics. Christian schools are schools, and they therefore ought to educate in all subjects, especially in theology (“the study of God”). Theology was considered “the queen of the sciences” in the medieval period, and it is sad that our modern age limits “science” to subjects like biology and chemistry. “Science” means knowledge (from the Latin scientia), and what greater knowledge can we have than the knowledge of God and His Word? Theology is not only the most important subject one can study, but it will also aid the student in his study of all other subjects. 

(3) Theological education is not just the responsibility of parents and the church. Yes, parents should teach their children the Christian faith, as should pastors at their church. But even if the church and parents are doing their part, they are spending far less time in formal instruction of children than the child’s school. Why should high school students spend 30+ hours per week in school with no theological instruction and then have an hour or two per week of theological teaching in church? This only further compartmentalizes theology, teaching kids that academics and theology are at odds. Furthermore, school is an extension of parental authority. Parents are entrusting a Christian school to teach their kids a Christian worldview, and that necessitates the study of theology. And let us not assume parents and churches are always teaching theology at a high level. Many of them are not even able to do so. The Christian school has an amazing opportunity here. Do not let it go to waste. 

Yes, a Christian school is not a seminary, and it does not have the goal of educating future pastors (though some will become pastors). But a Christian school does have the goal of educating Christians. And Christians need to know theology in order to live a Christian life. They need to know the Bible. They need to know what the Bible teaches about God, man, Christ, salvation, church, and last things (this is called Systematic Theology), and they should be prepared to live the Christian life in a secular culture (this is called Apologetics). 

There is not just one right way to implement a robust theological curriculum. But if a Christian high school values theological education, here are some suggestions to make it happen:  

(1) Teach two full-year Bible classes. Though possible, it is difficult to teach the entire Bible in-depth in only one year. It seems better to split up the Bible into two years, possibly one year of Old Testament and one year of New Testament (this could be modified, as the OT is twice as long as the NT). Bible should be taught early in high school (9th and 10th grade), as the understanding of Scripture is foundational to further study of theology.

(2) Teach a Systematic Theology class. This could be done in a semester, but it may be better spread over a full year. Systematic theology is something that every Christian should study, as one learns the Bible by topic—God, man, Christ, salvation, church, and last things. Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine is a great book for high school Systematic Theology.

(3) Teach a full-year Apologetics and Worldview class. This should be a senior capstone class. Apologetics is the “defense” of the faith. Christians need to understand the different worldviews out there (like naturalism and Islam) so that they may defend their faith against outside attacks, as well as critique unbelieving worldviews. Students will enjoy this class since it is flexible and can cover a wide rage of contemporary issues (such as cults, modern attacks on Christianity, and political issues). It will also help prepare students for college and life in a secular culture.

(4) Focus on theological controversies in history classes. Theological discussions should be a regular part of any European and American history course. Examples of theological issues in Western civilization abound—the church councils in ancient history, the development of Catholicism in medieval history, the Reformation and theological liberalism in modern European history, and the Great Awakenings in American history. Of course, this requires a school to have a strong history curriculum. But that is a topic for another day.