Classes begin today. This will be the start of my 25th year of teaching at the college level and my 8th at SEU. My two courses today are the American history surveys—one from the colonial era through the Civil War, the other post-Civil War. Yet I give both sections the same introduction because there are some basics the students need to be reminded of.
First, I offer a brief testimony of what the Lord has done in my life and why I’m called to teach. After going over the mechanics of the course in the syllabus, I then turn to some real substance. I make sure the Scripture is central to this introduction. The initial passage I draw attention to is Colossians 3:23-24:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
I tell them that they are not there merely to get a good grade or to please me primarily. They need to keep their focus on the Lord’s calling on their lives and do their best for Him. I then go to Romans 12:2:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
This should be a time to solidify their faith. This course, and all courses, should be an opportunity to compare what the world has to say with God’s truth. They need to examine their thought patterns and be sure they’ve not succumbed to the thinking of the culture around them. The word “transformed” in that Scripture is the same word used for the transfiguration of Jesus, when He appeared to his disciples in all His splendor. In the same way, our minds must be transfigured—totally changed.
I also confront the stereotype that many students have of a general education course such as an American history survey. This is not going to be an easy, but boring course with few or no expectations. What it will be is a course that will challenge them to think about history critically from a Biblical worldview. This is followed by another favorite passage, Colossians 2:8:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Philosophy means, literally, “love of wisdom.” Christians should be the greatest lovers of wisdom. Philosophy also has been defined by Noah Webster as “an explanation of the reason of things.” Who better than Christians, who have the Source of all wisdom as their Lord, to provide explanations for the reason of things? Therefore, I let them know they shouldn’t fear philosophy itself, but only false philosophy. They need to learn how to distinguish the true from the false.
My final Scripture for the day is 2 Corinthians 10:5:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
As faithful followers of Jesus Christ, they are tasked with a certain amount of destruction. False arguments and phony ideas that seek to undermine the truth of God have to be taken down. Once that is done, we then construct reasonable arguments based on Biblical principles. When we do so, we are making our knowledge obedient to Christ, in Whom we live and move and exist.
I love the first day of class because it’s such an opportunity to help guide students into how the Lord wants them to think throughout the semester. I pray He will use these courses to change minds and hearts.