Integrating Christian Virtues into the Science Classroom

I used to tell my physics students that I would know I had done my job well if they left my class not only knowing how to calculate an object’s kinetic energy but also with a sense of wonder at the way the universe works and a deepening love for the God who created it. Science, after all, is about so much more than mere facts and equations. It’s also about how we view and respond to the world around us.

Science, after all, is about so much more than mere facts and equations. It’s also about how we view and respond to the world around us.

As Christian educators, we strive to develop the hearts of our students along with their minds. Faith integration in the science classroom, however, can feel forced or superficial when it is limited to out-of-context Bible verses or thinly stretched spiritual metaphors. But while there may not be a Christian version of electrostatics that we can teach our students, that doesn’t mean our science education can’t be distinctly Christian in nature.

BioLogos, a Christian nonprofit that explores God’s word and God’s world to inspire authentic faith for today, has created a science and faith curriculum supplement called Integrate designed for high school biology and Bible teachers. Integrate not only allows students to consider the theological and ethical questions raised by modern science, it also explores and cultivates Christian virtues such as humility, wisdom, and wonder in the unique context of scientific inquiry.

Curriculum Structure

The Integrate curriculum includes fifteen units covering a variety of topics that are covered in a general biology course, ranging from cells and genetics to fossils and ecology. Each unit consists of a series of five different types of modules:

  • Meet: A short video introduction to a Christian role model in an academic field that relates to the unit’s topic. Discussion questions are provided to help students personally connect with the content of the video and get them thinking about some of the essential questions the unit will explore.
  • Grow: A devotional on a Christian virtue that includes guided Scripture reading and reflection questions. 
  • Engage: An activity that invites students to explore a topic related to the intersection of science and faith and respond in a meaningful way.
  • Experience: A hands-on activity that interacts with specific (often scientific) content that is important for students to understand and address from a Christian perspective.
  • Integrate: A final, reflection-based activity that invites students to assess and apply what they have learned in the unit as a whole.

Each Grow module highlights a different Christian virtue that is relevant to the scientific topic of its particular unit. For example, one unit explores the topic of climate change and humanity’s role in the changing composition of our atmosphere. The Grow module in this unit focuses on hope and asks students to consider how our Christian hope inspires us to work for change even as some people predict a bleak future.

The Grow module in this unit focuses on hope and asks students to consider how our Christian hope inspires us to work for change even as some people predict a bleak future.

While the highlighted virtues are rooted in Scripture and Christian tradition, many of them also play important roles in the collaborative practice of science itself. From small research labs at universities to international collaborations like the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists must work together to bring about new insights into the natural world. These collaborations would be severely hamstrung in their scientific efficacy without practicing virtues like integrity and perseverance. 

Below are summaries of three Integrate units and their respective virtues to help us further explore how Christian virtues contribute to the effective practice of science.

Faith and Science Foundations (Humility)

In this introductory unit, students become familiar with the richness of the intersection of science and faith. Students explore the “two books” metaphor for Scripture and nature, interview multiple adults to see the various ways people understand the relationship between science and faith, and consider ways in which science and Christian faith can complement each other. In the unit’s Grow module, students reflect on how Christlike humility equips us to learn from God and others. 

This relationship between humility and learning could easily be reframed to apply to a collaborative scientific setting as well: how does humility equip scientists to learn from each other? Gone are the days of the solitary scientific genius who makes groundbreaking discoveries in singular “Eureka!” moments. Science today is almost exclusively done in group collaborations with members proposing ideas and evaluating them collectively. 

But what happens when, for example, the principal investigator of a research group is convinced that her insights are more valuable or accurate than those of the rest of the team? This lack of humility may cause her to overlook a valuable contribution from another member and so undermine the efficacy of the team. On the other hand, a research group that is characterized by individual and group humility will be more free to explore a wider variety of ideas, learning from each other and from other groups in the process, and thereby produce deeper and more robust scientific insights.

DNA Technologies and Ethics (Wisdom)

The unit on DNA technologies and ethics delves into genetic testing, genetically modified organisms, and CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, and considers how Christian ethics should inform our acceptance of these new tools. [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]

Faith Stults is Program Manager at BioLogos where she supports K–12 educators through resources development and training opportunities and is leading the Integrate curriculum program. Faith has attended Whitman College (double-major in astronomy and religion), Stanford University (MS in science education), and Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia (MS in astronomy). She also worked as the Project Coordinator for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s program on the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion and spent seven years teaching high school physics and astronomy at a Christian high school in the San Francisco Bay area.