The Principle Approach: Follow-Up (Part 1)

Dear Reader,

In my recent post on the Principle Approach to homeschooling, I indicated that I had a lot more thoughts about this method that I would like to explore further. So here we go.

As a little review, the Principle Approach, or Biblical Principle Approach (BPA), says that there are principles underlying all areas of study and that we must uncover these principles and teach them in all subjects:

“God designed us to live best when we live according to principles.” [from]

“All Principle Approach learning prefers primary sources rather than secondary texts
to identify the purest stream of knowledge in every subject.” [“Biblical Classical Model” from]

It further says that the Bible is the source of all these principles:

“There is no better textbook than the Bible. Everything we need to know about how to live is contained within its pages.” [“The Principle Approach” from Home Hearts]

Finally, it also has a very definite view of American government, saying that it acknowledges “America’s Christian history (Christ, His Story) and Biblical form of government, teaching them in every subject” []. That is, it sees the American form of government as the biblical form and seeks to promote this form and the principles of liberty and individuality in general.

To my mind, there are a few streams of thought coming together here. I would think one could subscribe to one or more of them without accepting the whole.

I like the idea that there are principles behind different subjects that we need to discover and teach. I am big on knowing the ideas behind what one believes; that is the whole reason why I have been doing a long series on different approaches to homeschool. I also think that ideas have very practical implications. We can either make these deliberate or we can ignore them, but what we truly believe still comes out in how we live. So it is better to know what you believe and to act on it in a thoughtful way than to be carried away without knowing it.

However, I do wonder about what principles lie behind something like spelling or grammar or a foreign language. It is much easier for me to see that there would be principles behind history and science and even math.

So while I do have some questions, I can accept in theory the idea that there are principles and we should teach with them in mind.

I can also accept that as we seek to discover these principles, the Bible should be the first place we turn. In my church’s langauge, the Bible is “the only infallible rule for faith and life.” I would not, however, say that it tells us everything we need to know as the BPA does. Is the distinction clear here? Both accept the Bible as a guidebook for life. Both believe it is infallible and is the only source which is infallible. But in my view, there can be other valuable sources of wisdom, though they would all be capable of error and discernment is necessary in using them. And in my view, the Bible doesn’t tell us everything we need to know. Well, it does tell us everything we need to know for salvation, and it does contain all the truths about God that we need to know though even some of these, like the Trinity and the two natures of Christ, took the church many centuries to understand. But I would not say that it tells us everything we need to know about history or science or math. How can it when our knowledge of these things has progressed so much beyond where it was at the end of the apostolic era?

I think perhaps I am taking BPA’s assertion that the Bible is the source of all we need to know too literally. For of course, they do study history beyond biblical history so clearly there is more to be learned. But I do have the feeling that there are some fundamental assumptions about God’s revelation here that differ.

I do believe that the Bible is God’s Word in a unique way and that nothing else rises to its level. I would also say that such revelations from Him have ceased with the end of the apostolic age. But I also believe that God is the source of all wisdom and that He has continued to reveal things to His people and even to those who are not His people through the millenia. We tend in my circles to elevate the early church and to use the argument “that is how the early church did it” as conclusive proof that our views are right. But the truth is that it was centuries before some of the very basic truths about God were understood by His people. It is not that the seeds of these beliefs (the Trinity, for example) are not in the Bible, but they are not so clearly stated that they were understood early on. Clearly, God continued to guide the thoughts of His people as they worked out these truths and began to understand them. In other realms apart from theology, there has also been much that humanity has learned. And many of those who discovered these truths were not believers. But as I believe God is the source of all wisdom, I am comfortable saying that their knowledge came from Him whether they knew Him or not.

I have encountered this issue before in other posts. How we as Christians educate depends in large measure on how we view the knowledge that reaches us through seemingly worldly sources.  On one end of the spectrum, we can take the view that every area but be made sacred, that even subjects as mundane as spelling must be done in a Christian way (whatever that means). On the other end, we can esteem knowledge for its own sake and take it however it comes to us. Personally, I would say with Charlotte Mason that there is no distinction between sacred and secular, that all wisdom comes from God no matter which human source it comes to us through. But I would also add that we must approach all with discernment, testing it against God’s Word and also letting new ideas sit a bit before we subscribe to them wholesale to see if they do stand the test of time (see also this post on CM, Science and Biblical Scholarship).

How does all this relate to the Principle Approach? Honestly, I am not entirely sure because I don’t have  a good understanding of how their approach works out in practical terms. The language they use makes me think that we would disagree on these issues which is why I have brought them up, but I am just not certain how they would phrase things.

I have only begun to scrape the surface of my thoughts here. I have not even gotten into the BPA’s ideas on government so I think I will have to save that for a “Part 2.”


3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Links « The Principle Approach: Follow-Up (Part 1) […]


  2. […] homeschooling methods, but it has also generated a lot more posts. I would recommend reading parts 1 and 2 for a little background before going further with this […]


  3. […] Principle Approach and follow-ups 1, 2, 3 and […]


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