Christy Hemphill
 on May 10, 2019

Four Reasons We Recommend Secular Science Curricula

Here are four arguments in favor of using secular textbooks paired with Christian worldview instruction to teach high school biology. We suspect Ken Ham will disagree.


I’ve been a moderator of the BioLogos Homeschool Forum for quite a while now, and people often ask me if I can recommend an Evolutionary Creationist (EC) biology textbook or if BioLogos has any plans to write one.

The assumption that there should be an EC textbook is fueled by the fact that there are multiple Young Earth Creationist (YEC) textbooks to choose from. These textbooks, which are especially popular among homeschoolers, weave the science information the authors decide is compatible with biblical truth into their preferred interpretation of Genesis. It only seems fair to many people that there should be an option for Christians who want a different interpretation of Genesis woven into the science. They are often surprised by the suggestion that it’s best to use one of the many biology textbooks offered by secular publishers.

YEC biology textbooks are necessary for those who subscribe to that view because YEC offers a narrative at odds with the findings of the scientific community. They leave out or attempt to discredit significant areas of scientific consensus and they present hypotheses and conclusions that the vast majority of scientists would not accept as plausible.

On the other hand, ECs don’t offer a unique scientific model of the beginning of the universe or the development of life on earth. We don’t rule out any scientific evidence as suspect or incompatible with the Bible. So most EC educators find that textbooks by secular publishers serve their purposes well when it comes to science education. Thoughtful parents and teachers can address legitimate concerns about anti-Christian bias in secular textbooks with a little preparation. And, essentially, they can introduce their theological commitments where they are relevant. BioLogos INTEGRATE, a curriculum supplement in development, is designed to equip parents and teachers to do just that sort of Christian worldview integration, but there is nothing being added to or taken away from the science that would demand a special textbook.

There are at least four reasons why the developers of BioLogos INTEGRATE recommend using a standard secular biology textbook instead of a YEC biology textbook:

1. Accredited colleges, even Christian colleges, expect students to be knowledgeable about consensus science. Material designed to promote a worldview that avoids, discredits, or debates consensus science may not properly prepare students for college admission, for college level science courses, or for College Board tests such as the AP Biology exam. In fact, universities in California won a court case allowing them to reject high school coursework that was based on textbooks by creationist publishers when students apply for admission.

2. Material that exclusively promotes YEC ideas tends to communicate that it is the only valid Christian perspective. This can set students up for disillusionment when they go to college. When they are confronted with scientific evidence and realize that many Christians accept consensus science, they may call into question other aspects of what they have been taught at home.

3. Secular textbooks are updated regularly with respect to science and current educational strategies. Their latest editions will likely be correlated to the most recently published national science standards, which inform standardized testing and college admissions requirements. In contrast, many small Christian publishers lack funds, staff, and initiative to regularly update their texts or align them with current educational standards.

4. Since secular texts do not try to teach Christian doctrine and Bible interpretation alongside the science, parents do not have to worry about separating out religious dogma from scientific fact when their own Christian convictions or their denomination’s teaching clashes with the beliefs of the textbook author. They have more freedom to contextualize the science content with their own church’s theology and their own understanding of what Scripture teaches.

While a secular text paired with faith integration materials can be a great option, we nevertheless hope that in the future publishers will respond to the growing demand for high school-level textbooks that present accurate and up-to-date science from a Christian perspective. We look forward to seeing the forthcoming biology textbook from Novare, as we have been pleased to recommend their other books in the past. Another resource EC parents and teachers may want to check out is the college-level textbook developed by five Wheaton College professors: Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins: Cosmology, Geology, and Biology in Christian Perspective (IVP, 2018). Parents or Christian science teachers who want to become more educated on the various issues of Bible interpretation and science that inform the EC perspective will find this a useful resource as they prepare to engage Christian students studying biology.

If you are interested in teaching biology from an EC perspective, please check out BioLogos INTEGRATE. And feel free to bring up any questions or concerns you have on the BioLogos Homeschool Forum.

About the author

Christy Hemphill

Christy Hemphill

Christy Hemphill and her husband Aaron work as linguistic consultants on a minority language Scripture translation project in southern Mexico, where she homeschools her three children. Prior to her work in Mexico, she worked as an educator for eight years in various contexts including high school, museum education, college, and adult education. Christy has a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics/TESOL from Old Dominion University, and a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics/Bible Translation from the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics at Dallas International University. Christy serves on the curriculum development team for BioLogos Integrate and on the BioLogos Advisory Council. She has also served as a moderator on the BioLogos discussion forum since 2015, and you can often find her there sharing her pursuit of good biblical exegesis and good science with anyone who wants to join in.