Almost a decade ago, as a grad student at the University of Georgia, Brent entered into a discussion about research methods with a professor of his. The prof referred to solid research as that conducted from a values-neutral perspective.
Brent maintained that a person’s values will always impact his/her research, subsequent writing and teaching. Even the questions he posed for his thesis and dissertation reflected his worldview. He researched and wrote (and now teaches) as a white heterosexual, married, Christian male (and now a Dad).
The books a teacher chooses to read, research, and teach from grow out of the values that teacher holds supreme. For me, Scripture lays the foundation, underpinning the books on my table last spring.
In the name of tolerance as defined by the media today, teachers must watch what they say. But who they are, their core values will affect students. Here’s an example from Muriel Barbery’s Times bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, my local book club’s February selection. Renee, the closet intellectual who labors as a Paris building’s concierge, undertakes to understand phenomenology.
“After one month of frenetic reading I come to the conclusion, with immense relief, that phenomenology is a fraud. In the way that cathedrals have always aroused in me the sensation of light-headedness one often feels in the presence of man-made tributes to the glory of something that does not exist, phenomenology has tested to the extreme my ability to believe that so much intelligence could have gone to serve so futile an undertaking.”
Imagine a Christian making the statement, let alone teaching the idea, that after one month’s frenetic reading she had come to the conclusion, “with immense relief,” that communism, Darwinism, naturalism, or socialism is a fraud. Would the school board show tolerance or simply applaud the teacher’s ” mixture of philosophical consideration and social satire,” as one German reviewer wrote about Ms. Barbery?
Note also the author’s dismissal of theology, once referred to as the queen of the sciences because “the study of God, by definition the source of all truth, informed and illuminated all other branches of knowledge.” Barbery’s choices of the satiric “light-headedness,” and “the glory of something that does not exist,” blatantly proclaim a world view that dismisses God. Note, however, that my use of “blatantly,” and “the author’s dismissal of theology” underscore my worldview, one which holds to a sovereign God. No teaching happens in a vacuum of values.
Scripture warns Christians that people will receive our message in one of two ways. The Message paraphrases Paul in 2 Corinthians 2 this way: “Through us, he (God) brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation — an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.” Glenn Parkinson, my good friend and former pastor, used to warn us with a balance I like to remember. “We are told that the message will be an offense to some, but woe to us if we are the offense.” The apostle Paul understood the precarious balance and ends 2 Corinthians 2 this way: “This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No — but at least we don’t take God Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak. God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.”