Western culture has experienced the progressive ‘death of truth’. In 2006, the Word of the Year, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary was truthiness, meaning “the quality of a claim seeming to be true, or feeling true, even if it isn’t supported by logic or factual evidence.” In 2016, the Oxford Dictionary word of the year was post-truth. Feelings, personal perceptions, polls and surveys have become the framers of reality.

Charles Taylor, the Canadian philosopher, coined the phrase ‘exclusive humanism’: “the idea that the highest possible good is human well-being with wellbeing deflated …. Entailing only the satisfactions offered by growing GDP and the newest iPhones.” (RJ Snell)

Students are taught to distrust and deconstruct any claims to truth. Students are left speaking their own truth, which leaves their lives unexamined and alienated from others. In this closed world, secularisation “the process by which religious ideas, institutions and interpretations have lost their social significance” (Os Guinness) has led to the loss of the sacred. A sense of purpose has been lost, technique, pleasure and choice have replaced truth and a moral framework. The destiny-defining consequences of exclusive humanism have now moved from the arena of philosophical theory taught in universities to a social reality which our students are enculturated into. A birthday card in my local store reflected this on its cover design:

“Life – there’s no right way to do it … so… worry less, laugh more, just wing it and be happy”

What does this mean for exploring truth and meaning in the classroom?

NT Wright gives the analogy that living under the authority of the Bible can be compared to a person given the task of writing an Act for a newly discovered but unfinished Shakespearean play. What are the comparisons?[1]

The person would:

  • Be faithful to the authority of the narrative of the unfinished drama and to Shakespeare’s wider body of writing, that is, the new act would be shaped by the intended direction of Shakespeare’s storyline.
  • Be self-authoring the new script. Their creativity would be influenced by their own historical and cultural context. This could result in a diversity of new acts that are faithful to a Shakespearean piece of writing and its ending.

They would orientate the present writing on the basis of the preceding acts and in light of the future and how the story is consummated.

This means that as we seek to shape curriculum under the authority of the Bible, teachers are to unfold truth in such a way that students in a learning community can self-author (be constructivist) under the constraining authority of the text.

“New meanings can emerge as new questions are addressed from the text, new insights are discovered through critical scholarship… The task has been described as creating forms of life that correspond to the biblical text in contemporary cultural contexts.” [2]

Consider a unit of work you will be teaching next term:

  • In what ways can you assist students to critique and discern the beliefs and themes being unfolded through the learning?
  • How can we lead them to imagine a different world shaped by those who participate in God’s true story?

God has given us the Biblical boundaries and norms to explore and discover truth which enables us to explore reality and see it through God’s eyes. May we be true to this task.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1,2)

[1] Ed. K Goodlet, J Collier, T George. “Better Learning: (2017) St Marks National Theological Centre

[2] Ibid