Precept, Principle, and Person {guest post by Israel Wayne}

In my post Is Your Curriculum Giving Your Child a Christian Education, I spoke of how one simple statement from author and conference speaker, Israel Wayne, changed the way I viewed Christian curriculum.  Many of you asked for more ideas on how to turn your homeschool lessons into “God Hunts.”  I asked Israel if he would share more about this concept, and despite his incredibly busy schedule, he sent me this article, originally written for a homeschool magazine a few years back that addresses this topic quite nicely.  I pray you read this and consider how this could bring a new depth and meaning to your homeschool.
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Precept, Principle, & Person {Israel Wayne guest posts on the topic of homeschooling from a Christian worldview} | RaisingArrows.net

A number of years ago, I read a book by Josh McDowell entitled Right From Wrong, which was designed to help parents guide their children (particularly teenagers) through moral dilemmas. In the book, Josh discusses an instruction method of teaching from a precept, to the principle behind the precept, to ultimately teaching our children about the nature and character of the God (person) Who created the precept and the principle.

As I have thought about this concept over the years, I have pondered how a Christian parent could use this methodology to transmit an understanding of our Creator to his or her children utilizing the teaching context of homeschooling. My burden for parents is that they think and live Biblically, and teach their children to do the same. A Christian education is not merely tacking a Jesus bumper sticker onto a secular methodology; it is, instead, understanding that everything we study (all of the created order) is a reflection of the marvelous Creator who made all that is. (John 1:3)

 Precept

Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “precept” as:

“In a general sense, any commandment or order intended as an authoritative rule of action.”

As we study the world around us, we begin to observe certain laws that are embedded in the structure of the universe. Some of these are natural laws, some spiritual, but when we encounter a precept, it forces us to think about the original purpose for the command or the rule by which our universe is governed.

Studying God’s precepts brings us back to the very foundational questions of our existence. Psalm 119 is all about studying, learning, meditating on and obeying God’s commands, judgments, laws, precepts, statutes, testimonies, word and ways. Precepts are to be carefully deliberated over and considered. We should not easily pass them by and ignore them. Just as a sign on the road tells us to watch for deer or a railroad crossing up ahead, a precept reminds us to look for the God Who made this particular precept.

Road Sign

Example: As we study various subjects in our homeschooling, we will doubtless see many laws of the universe. For example, as we study biology we will see that there are many breeds of dogs. There are Poodles, Labradors, St. Bernards, Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, and Dalmatians, just to name a few. They are all very different, and yet, they are much the same. They are all dogs. Through genetic breeding humans have created amazing varieties of dogs, yet they are limited in regards to how extreme they can go in their variation. You cannot, for instance, mate elephants and dogs, or cats and dogs to create a completely different animal. You are restricted to working within certain parameters. Genesis 1:25 refers to this law as animals reproducing “after their kind”.

So, the precept is that you can crossbreed dogs to create new breeds, but you cannot crossbreed different animals to create new kinds of animal. In fact, Biblical law strictly prohibits even attempting this. (Lev. 19:19)

Principle

Once we have learned what the precept (teaching, rule or law) is, we should ask ourselves why God made the universe that way. Granted, we may not always be able to discern this,

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Is. 55:9 KJV)

It is not always easy or attainable for us to “think God’s thoughts after Him.” But our goal is to understand the reasons behind the commands and laws He has established in creation. Just as our children understand us better when they comprehend the reasons behind our instructions, so we understand our God better when we realize that the precepts He created reflect His character, likeness and image.

If I tell my son, “Don’t play in the street,” he needs to obey me whether or not he understands my motives behind the instruction, but it will help him to know me better and appreciate his father more if he comprehends the danger of being hit by an on-coming vehicle. He should learn that there is a principle behind the precept: His father loves him and wants him to be free from harm. This teaches him that his father is someone is to be trusted, not merely a hard man who makes up senseless, meaningless rules.

What is the principle behind the precept? In the example given above, regarding the diversity we see when we study dogs, one principle we can observe is unity in the midst of vast diversity. God created the universe to have boundaries and limits, and yet within the confines of His unity, God allows and encourages enormous diversity.

Person

Realizing that God made everything that exists (Heb. 3:4), all we study reflects His image and glory. Granted, we live in fallen world where the created order has been distorted because of sin. This makes the discovery of His divine attributes more challenging, but they can still be seen, just beneath the surface of the marred visage of the creation. (Rom. 1:19-20)

sunflower

As we examine the precept we learned while studying biology, we conclude that a principle of “unity in diversity” exists. As we ponder why such a principle was created, we have to ask ourselves, “Does this principle reflect the personality of the God Who made the principle and the precept?” In other words, is this what God is like?

To this question, I would answer affirmatively. In His very nature, God is both unified and diverse. He is unchanging and absolute, (Mal. 3:6, James 1:17), yet He does not create everything the same. He likes to have variety and zest in what He makes. His creation has boundaries and parameters, but it also has beauty, vitality, and spontaneity. (Ex.28:2, 2 Chron. 3:6) He is mathematical, precise, calculating and logical. Yet He also is an artist with awesome creativity and imagination.

Practice

Once we learn what God is like, we should desire to be conformed into His likeness. We want to be like Him. Therefore, we do what He does. We can apply the principle we learned in our biology lesson to any creative activity we engage in. Suppose we are painting a landscape portrait. If we are to create as our Maker does, we must be orderly and precise in terms of technical excellence, yet we must also strive to fashion a work of beauty. Thomas Kincaid told me recently when we met at a conference that beauty has intrinsic value, because it reflects the nature and character of God, Who is, in His very essence, beautiful. (Ps. 96:6)

piano

The same principle of “unity in diversity” would apply to composing a musical piece. We should play the notes correctly, ensuring that the song is appealing to the ear, and is not out of tune, or discordant. Yet, we should not merely create a bland song with predictable melodies and simplistic chord progressions. To the best of our ability we should construct intricate harmonies and weave inventive nuances into the work. We want to have boundaries and guidelines that keep us on track musically, but we should not be stifled or restricted to lackluster works of art that fail to delight the listeners.

So, by practicing this little exercise, we have made a connection between biology and art. We can see how varieties in canines has a bearing upon how we make music, build houses, sew clothes, or write literature. All of life is intertwined and weaves together in a beautiful tapestry that reflects the Author of it all—God. Learn to look for Him in every subject.

There are no morally neutral subjects. Everything in all of creation reflects the Creator and tells a story about the fall of man and God’s ultimate redemption of our fallen world through the shed blood of Christ.

When you discover a new precept, ask yourself,

“What is the principle behind this law or rule of the universe? Why was the world created that way?”

Then ask yourself,

“Is this what God is like, or does this reflect our fallen world?”

Then ask yourself,

“In light of this principle, how should I then live?”

Teaching from precept to principle to person will give us a new perspective about how we can practice and live out the nature and character of “The God Who Is” in the world around us.

israelwayne

Israel Wayne (www.IsraelWayne.com), is an Author and Conference Speaker who serves the Lord through Wisdom’s Gate Ministries (www.WisdomsGate.org).

4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Precept, Principle, and Person {guest post by Israel Wayne}

  1. That’s so timely, I just used that same example of the dogs with my kids the other day and we discussed this very thing. Isreal Wayne is one of my favorite homeschool speakers. I heard him last year at the MPE conference in KC, and when I heard he, along with Carol Barnier (another favorite), would be at the Wichita conference I decided to go there this year. So looking forward to this weekend!!!

  2. Thanks for sharing this post, Amy. I have listened to Israel’s recording from TTD in Nashville already twice, and have gained such wisdom and conviction. As much as we’d all like to think we know what we need for our children to learn, God is truly the one we are to follow with everything in our lives. So glad I was able to meet you there!