International Apologetics Project [IAP]
History and background:
At the second International Conference for Reformed Education (Sumas, WA, September 24-26, 2007), much attention was paid to topics related to worldview and apologetics. One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Frederika G. Oosterhoff presented a paper on Integrating faith and learning. In follow-up discussions, the topic of teaching world view and apologetics was raised several times.
In order to move this discussion forward at different levels and in different places, a steering committee was appointed consisting of coordinators in Australia (Mr. Antoon Breen and Mr. Aart Plug, John Calvin Schools’ Support Office), Canada (Dr. Christine van Halen-Faber, Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers College), and The Netherlands (Drs. Huib van Leeuwen, Gereformeerde Scholengemeenschap Randstad).
The IAP steering committee has identified a number of initial goals as follows:
1. Create awareness of the significance of worldview and apologetics in the Reformed educational community.
2. Stimulate professional and staff development especially among high school teachers and teachers at the senior elementary grades.
3. Serve as a conduit for sharing resources.
Frederika Oosterhoff was willing to spearhead the development of an annotated bibliography. We also thank our Dutch colleagues (Drs. Huib van Leeuwen; Ir. J.A. van Loon, and Ir. W. Sonneveld) for their contributions, and invite others to submit items for inclusion in this resource.
Some of the books and annotations are in the Dutch language. They will be placed separately, under the proper headings. These Dutch entries usually consist of an annotation based on the information provided by the publisher, but a more personal impression is sometimes added. The latter is placed in italics. An asterisk (*) will indicate books that are discussed in both the English and the Dutch sections.
Schools were invited to submit outlines of apologetics courses presently taught in Reformed secondary schools. We are pleased to post two course outlines with permission from the schools and authors:
1. Biblical Studies 12 developed at Ebenezer Canadian Reformed School,
Smithers BC, by Mr. Steve Bisschop and Mr. Dave Penninga
2. Reformed Worldview, Apologetics and Ethics [Grade 12, University/College]
developed at Heritage Christian School, Jordan Station ON, by Mr. A. Ben
Harsevoort and Mr. Erik Van Dyk.
With permission from the author, we include the following articles:
“IN WISDOM YOU MADE THEM ALL...” (1) by F.G.Oosterhoff
“IN WISDOM YOU MADE THEM ALL...” (2) by F.G.Oosterhoff
"DEFENDING THE FAITH 1..." (1) by F.G.Oosterhoff
"DEFENDING THE FAITH 2..." (2) by F.G.Oosterhoff
"DEFENDING THE FAITH 3..." (3) by F.G.Oosterhoff
"DEFENDING THE FAITH 4..." (4) by F.G.Oosterhoff
"DEFENDING THE FAITH 5..." (5) by F.G.Oosterhoff
"DEFENDING THE FAITH 6..." (6) by F.G.Oosterhoff
In Ontario, high school teachers were invited to attend three meetings during the 2008-09 school year (November 21, January 9, and May 1) in which “Teaching and learning worldview and apologetics at a Reformed High School” forms the central topic of discussion.
On November 21, we began with a general introduction using Apologetics and worldview – A summary. The follow-up meeting on January 9, 2009 was intended to position the topic of “Teaching and learning worldview and apologetics” in its context of a reformed high school. A document entitled Enduring understandings of reformed education was prepared by Mr. George Alkema and Mr. J.G. (Hans) VanDooren. It helped set the tone for our discussion, and with the invaluable input from teachers representing several Reformed high schools in Ontario, we decided to use the final draft of Enduring understandings of reformed education as a steppingstone for our next meeting.
On May 1, 2009, many Reformed high school teachers came together once more to round off the 2008-09 apologetics discussion. Under the general heading of "The impact of evolution", two teachers of the Guido de Brès Christian High School in Hamilton, ON, made presentations. Steve Foster spoke about "Darwinism - Atheistic or Religious?" . David Dykstra addressed the topic "Reformed apologetics and evolution". Although the presenters had prepared a "Discussion starter", the participants eagerly provided their own questions and thoughts for discussion. For a summary, please see the May 1, 2009 Meeting Notes.
During the meeting, participants shared how Reformed teachers can collaborate in identifying Christian perspectives that need to be included intentionally in a secular curriculum. For example, the science department of the Guido de Brès High School in Hamilton, ON, has recently articulated perspectives that must be incorporated in various science courses. These perspectives can be found in "Christian Perspectives - Science" . The teachers then refined this general, cross-course document to indicate strands in specific science courses where these perspectives will be taught explicitly. We were also reminded again of the importance of involving parents in the discussion. School magazines are helpful communication tools between home and school. Featuring courses and placing brief descriptions outlining the Christian perspectives in such courses will inform parents and others of the work done at school. As an example of such communication, David Dykstra shared his The importance of teaching evolution.
As part of their on-going professional development, teachers themselves also must continue to increase their knowledge, and hone their skills of discernment - whether in science or in other areas of the curriculum.
In reflecting on the meetings held during the past year, we agreed that the “2008-09 Apologetics Discussions” provided worthwhile opportunities to discuss ways in which our reformed identity can be translated into real classroom practice. By focusing on “apologetics & science” we have only made a small, but good, beginning. We therefore propose that our “thinking apologetically” ought to be continued locally and centrally, and extended to include other areas of the curriculum.
Specifically it was suggested to:
- Have schools work locally to implement ideas and share their work in a year or two. Keep in touch with other schools in the meantime.
- Use the work we did in science as a model for other disciplines. Teachers have to work through the process themselves. This is what will make them compelling instructors. Each generation of teachers has to wrestle with the questions.
Conclusion and invitation:
It is our desire that the International Apologetics Project may serve as a stimulus and support to all those interested and involved in Reformed education. We thank all those who have contributed already: Your participation is much appreciated. To those who wish to join the discussion, please contact us with your comments, suggestions, and contributions. It is our hope that our shared efforts may serve to the praise of God’s glory, when together we assist in educating the youth of Christ’s Church.
For the steering committee
Christine van Halen-Faber