Principle Approach: Conclusions

Dear Reader,

You are probably sick of this topic, and I have probably spent way too many posts on it. I suppose the problem is that there has been something here to intrigue me, and yet there is also something that doesn’t sit well with me, and so I have spent  a lot of time trying to work through it all. I think I am finally ready now to give some conclusions.

There is a core in the Principle Approach (or BPA for Biblical Principle Approach) which I like. I like the idea that there are principles to be discerned in most (they would say all I think, but I am going with most) areas of study. I think where they begin to go wrong, however, is in their view of the Bible. As I have mentioned before, BPA says that “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 This is very different from how I would put it that the Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and life. I think they would agree with my statement, but they go beyond it. I would say that all we need to know about God and for our salvation is contained within the Bible. And really, these are all the things we need to know. But the BPA seems to take this much farther. Starting with the assumption that there are principles we need to know in every area of study, it says that all these principles can be found in the Bible. In other words, the Bible can tell us what we need to know about science and history and math and spelling. Not that it contains all the facts we need to know, but that it does have something to say about each of these and especially about the principles behind them.

I feel a little awkward saying that they give too high a role to the Bible, but that is what it comes down too. I think they expect too much of it. I would say rather that while the Bible is our only infallible source of knowledge, it is not our only source. God has also teaches us through His creation, and He also uses our wisdom (ours personally or that of our predecessors) to instruct us.

But there is one more layer. The origin of BPA’s error (to my mind) is in their view of the Bible. But they go even more astray when they combine this error with some definite views on government. BPA has a lot to say about government, and what they basically say is that the American form of government is the right, biblical form. They have biblical texts they point to to justify a lot of their assertions, but as I have said in earlier posts, I do not find most of these at all convincing. I do not think that if one approached the biblical text and asked what it has to say about how  a government should be constructed that they would end up with something identical to the U.S. government.

I think what has happened instead is that the BPA has combined these two ideas: that the Bible tells us all we need to know and that the American form of government is right. The combination of the two has obligated them to find justifications for the various aspects of our government on the biblical text. And find biblical texts they have. But this is very different from coming to the biblical text with an open mind and asking what it has to tell us about government. If we were to do so, I think we could find very many principles to apply. But I think we would lack a lot of specifics as well. Because, as I have said, I do not think the Bible is a handbook for all of life.

One final thought and that is that BPA is never (in what I have read) critical of any aspect of American government. That alone makes me very nervous. The Bible is our only infallible rule. People are inherently sinful. And people have devised our government and are its agents. Just as I do not think any one Christian denomination can have everything right, so I do not think any one country can ever have the right form of government. Semper reformanda, as they say; there is always a need to reform and to adhere more closely to the standard God sets before us. I am always skeptical of anyone who claims to have everything right.

So my conclusion is that I think there are some good ideas underlying the Principle Approach, but in the end I think they go astray. The origin of their error is in their view of the Bible, and they compound it when they add to it their view of government.


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Patti on October 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Good thoughts well put – thank you for that helpful post. I agree with you – the Bible is the best and is the only book that is all true and completely dependable. It doesn’t need to be scrutinized for error like other works, but it is not by any means our only gift of truth from God – He has extravagantly blessed us as you pointed out with nature and the wisdom of others – this can even be found in the thoughts and words of unbelievers because all truth is God’s. Of course some voices have more truth than others and we must be discerning. He said that the Spirit would lead us into all truth – we need to humbly seek the Lord and be dependent on Him. I also agree with your conclusions about their view of government – the only perfect government is our Heavenly Kingdom ruled by our all-wise God. All earthly kingdoms are ruled by fallen man and are used by God, but not to be depended on for our security or even answers to our social issues. Jesus Christ is the answer to these needs living His life out through those who love Him – we are his hands in a hurting world. American government is government by the people and is only as good as the people it represents and that is definitely a mixed group of righteous god-fearing but fallen people and those who openly reject Him, some even living in open wickedness. Thanks again for your thought provoking post! Blessings, Patti


  2. Thanks for taking time to comment, Patti. It is funny I was just reading a blurb about Romania and how some people there want to bring the king back because their attempts at democracy aren’t wokring so well. Of course, absolute power currupts absolutely but I can see how even in human governments a kind king could be the ideal form. Well, maybe a good form at least. Democracy has worked so well here but that’s seems to be somewhat unique, I suppose because we started from scratch. It seems to be much tougher in places with long histories of fighting between different people groups.


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


  4. I realize i’m coming to the party late, but i’m thankful for the time you put into this. I have been struggling with many of these same issues with Principle Approach, and I’m glad to see i’m not the only crazy one out there.

    I think you are right on with your comments about the mixing of Biblical and American idealism.

    Thanks again.


  5. […] approach reminds me very much of the Biblical Principle Approach (I have no idea what if any his connection to that approach actually is). It seeks to find the […]


  6. […] Generations is a distinctly Christian curriculum. Within the spectrum of approaches, I would call it fairly traditional in terms of technique. Philosophically, it falls among the values- or character-based curricula, a category which includes A Thomas Jefferson Education and The Principle Approach. […]


  7. […] here), the Biblical Principle Approach (I did a number of posts on this one; the conclusions are here), and, to a lesser extent, Generations Homeschool Curriculum (which I looked at recently […]


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