Grace Christian School

Who is Thinking Critically?

May 15, 2019
By Donald M. Larson, PhD

When I was working on my doctorate, many of the questions asked started with, “How do you feel about…” I finally asked why we weren’t thinking about the different issues versus feeling about them, since we were working towards a PhD. I was blasted from all directions about the  importance of feelings. I didn’t say that we were not emotional creatures, but a Doctor of Philosophy in Education should be able to think through issues, including emotional issues.

We live in an anti-intellectual age that values emotional responses over knowledge and critical thinking. If you read what is supposed to be news or watch a political debate, you will observe emotional manipulation and thoughts that contradict themselves. This is not only acceptable to post-modernism but is considered normative. Our modern educational system is raising generations of young people who do not even have the knowledge to think critically. Recently, a professor at Notre Dame who teaches the top students, made this statement:

My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their minds are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten its origins and aims, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference about itself.[i]

We see this translated into a lack of thinking at all levels. The lack of critical thinking when I read commentaries or read the news is astounding. Logic has been lost. Somehow people think that if they believe in something that there are no consequences or costs.

One goal of many Christian parents is for their children to graduate from college. If they attend a secular college, there will be professors whose goal is to convert them to atheism or agnosticism. Bill Savage, English Professor at Northwestern University, has written that he doesn’t mind when conservative Christians have lots of children, because they will send their children to a university where people like him will convert them.[ii] Are we teaching our children to think, so they can defend their faith?

Top students are normally natural thinkers. The rest need to be trained, so they too can become critical thinkers. That is one of our goals at Grace Christian! We are preparing our students to weather the world they are facing when they graduate and move on to the next stage in their lives. We, as Christians, must be able to critically think through issues and life. We are emotional beings to whom God has given ability to think, so that we can glorify Him with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, and with all of our minds (Matthew 22:37).

[i] Life Among The Wokescolds, by Rod Dreher. Downloaded Feb 26, 2019:

[ii] “Lessons Learned” by Bill Savage. Downloaded 3 Dec 2010:

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What Does It Mean?

May 01, 2019
By Casey Musselman, Dean of High School Students

Last week, we focused on the question “Why?” A second question of great importance is, “What does it mean?” There are many questions one may ask of history. What happened? When did it happen? What changes came about because of an event or person? These are all very important to ask, but the question, “What does it mean?” is where the lessons of history are found. However, it is not only history that requires us to ask this question. All academic disciplines demand that we ask about deeper meanings. Asking “What does it mean?” is key to critical thinking. When one seeks the meaning of something, they are going beyond facts into theory, philosophy, imagination, and especially, faith.

The greatest examples of seeking meaning are in the parables of Jesus. These simple stories are actually so complex and so rich in meaning, that we never really understand them completely. Every essay or sermon on the Parable of the Prodigal Son reveals a different facet of the love of God shown through the father of the prodigal. The Holy Spirit reveals truth and often convicts us in challenging ways each time we read the parables. Jesus packed these stories with the tenets of Christianity. Two thousand years later, we still study them as they reveal a deeper understanding of  faith in our Lord. As we read these parables, we see the authority and the love of God in more powerful and personal ways.

At Grace, we understand the importance of seeking meaning. We challenge our students - and they challenge us - to “go deep” into events, people, the Bible, literature, and the sciences. GCS students learn that is where wisdom is found. Our students study the meaning of events like the Civil War and what it did to the country. They seek meaning in A Tale of Two Cities, Silence, and 1984. Grace students study the laws of the universe and what they reveal about God. Of course, Grace students study the Bible to gain the most important meaning of all - the meaning of existence and our relationship to God through Christ.

“What does it mean?” can apply to every facet of life. Christians should never be satisfied with shallow, superficial information that does not challenge us or inspire us. In training Grace students to seek meaning, they are learning to apply critical thinking in their lives and their world. We are confident that when Grace students ask, “What does it mean?” that they will inevitably find that God is sovereign and that He loves us.

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Why? Why? Why?

April 24, 2019
By Casey Musselman, Dean of High School Students

Children are always asking “Why?” They are naturally curious. The world according to a five year old is new, weird, fascinating, and a bit scary. Children want to know why things are as they are. However, that inquisitiveness does not normally last long. Teenagers become bored with the world. Adults have seen it all. We stop asking “Why?” because we think we know why things happen.

That is not how we were meant to be. One of the best descriptions of God, and a favorite verse of mine, is Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  We worship a big God. A God that we cannot understand. God gave us a desire to have a relationship with Him and to know Him as best we can. That involves asking Him “Why?” We have to be curious like a five year old. We read God’s Word to learn about His ways so that we can know Him. We pray for wisdom by asking “Why?” God is a dynamic, relational God who wants to reveal himself to us. We have to engage and ask “Why?”

In Christ-centered education, we also ask the question “Why?” God’s creation is logical and knowable. He designed it for us to explore and understand. Why do the laws of Physics work? Why do societies need governments? Why does Shakespeare move us like no other author? How does DNA replicate all living beings? At Grace we are not satisfied with simple, shallow facts. We want to know why those facts exist. We challenge logic. We challenge popular ideas. We employ the reason God gave us to dig deep into knowledge. We know that the answers we find will lead us back to an all knowing, all powerful God.

There are many reasons Jesus told us to have the faith of a little child. Trust, unconditional love, joy, and a dependence on Him are all reasons why we should be like children to God. One important reason that is often ignored is to continue to ask “Why?” God has all the answers and wants to reveal Himself to us. As another favorite verse, Isaiah 1:18 reads, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” God wants us to know Him. We just need to ask.

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Education and Truth

April 16, 2019
By John Morrison, Former GCS Head of School

Now that I have fully transitioned out of my former role as head of GCS, I have been able to step back a bit in gaining perspective in “looking back” and evaluating Christ-centered education as it is practiced at Grace.

One of the interesting dynamics on which I have reflected pertains to the issue of why parents choose GCS and similar schools for their children.  According to Independent School Management, a private school think tank, parents engage with private education for one or more of the following five reasons: safety of their child, loving and affirming faculty, character education, faculty expertise, and academic rigor.  As a parent whose four children have graduated from GCS, I am certainly in agreement that these are important reasons to be involved with GCS.

However, I believe there is an even more compelling reason, which is to soak our young people in the radical truth that is grounded in Christ and the biblical worldview. Paul was quite clear about this priority in stating to the Colossian believers: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Col 2:8).  How seriously do we take this and similar biblical admonitions? Isn’t this a fundamental principle which should undergird the nature of our children’s education?

This and related biblical exhortations are one reason the folks at GCS have worked so hard to take Christ-centered education far beyond merely tacking on Bible verses and Bible class to the “regular” curriculum.  Staff have invested many hours in learning what it means to integrate biblical presuppositions about truth, as grounded in scripture, into all subject areas.  Indeed, in our opinion, such integration is an essential dynamic in genuine Christ-centered education and is consistent with Paul’s admonition from Colossians 2:8 as stated above.

The five reasons stated above for enrolling in a school like GCS are important.  As a parent, I wanted my four daughters to benefit from each of those reasons. And we worked hard to ensure that our children were not deprived of a well-rounded education and extra-curricular opportunities as a result of attending a small school with limited resources.  I believe the GCS track record over thirty-nine years speaks for itself when it comes to these important issues.

But more importantly, we must ask ourselves as parents and educators: “Have we radically grounded our children in the biblical worldview?”  Frankly, if we are Christians who subscribe to biblical principle, an education permeated with biblical worldview assumptions and truth must be the primary criteria for our children’s education.  If we as parents, or if we as GCS staff, are not given to this first priority, I fear that we have drifted away from a truly Christ-centered understanding of the kind of education we are commanded by Christ to give our children.

May God help our roots grow deeper in thinking clearly about this priority as we are rapidly entering times where orthodox Christianity is being caricaturized by the popular culture as bigoted, prejudiced, intolerant, and out of step with “the world.”  Christians had better be prepared for what is upon us in terms of our being marginalized by mainstream culture. And nowhere is this more apparent than in how we educate our children in a society increasingly antagonistic to Christianity.

The notion that education can be religiously neutral is a myth.  At no time has the need to be fully given to ensuring that our children are receiving an education where Christ is at the very center been any more important, lest, as Paul states, their “minds are led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

PS.  A friend recently sent me this clip from the Dr. James Kennedy Ministries of an interview with Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, concerning the priority of Christian education.  Dr. Piper minces no words and steps on more than a few toes. Listen to his interview from about the 14:15 to 19:00 minute marks.

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Recent Posts

5/15/19 - By Donald M. Larson, PhD
5/1/19 - By Casey Musselman, Dean of High School Students
4/24/19 - By Casey Musselman, Dean of High School Students
4/16/19 - By John Morrison, Former GCS Head of School
4/11/19 - By Abigail Erdman, GCS 7th Grader
4/2/19 - By Robert Brent, GCS Parent
3/25/19 - By Brian Fitzgerald, High School Principal
3/12/19 - By Brian Fitzgerald, High School Principal
3/6/19 - By Brian Fitzgerald, High School Principal
2/27/19 - By Kristen Lihos, Interim Advancement Director

Headmaster's Blog

GCS Core Values

November 21, 2017
By John Morrison
Happy Thanksgiving!
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting!
Psalm 106:1

I trust all my readers will enjoy this very special Thanksgiving holiday!  Indeed,  we have much for which we can be thankful, no matter our circumstances,  because of the redeeming grace of God poured upon us through Christ!  May this be a special season for thankfully remembering His gracious blessings lavished upon us!


As part of our accreditation self-study, we carefully review our school documents, especially those dealing with our fundamental mission and vision.  No document spells out our sense of “core values” better than, well,  our “GCS Core Values” statement.  As recently updated by our Board of Trustees, these four basic values define what we trust are those ideals that make GCS distinct as a Christian school.  In this and the next three blogs, I would like to share with you each of these core values.  With God’s help, we seek to be the best school we can possibly be, and our being reminded of these fundamental values helps us avoid “mission drift” by staying  focused upon these essential goals.  

None of these four values is any more important than the very first, stated as  follows:


All elements of the ministry [of GCS] must continually be evaluated in the context of the simple question, “Does this aspect of the program and/or curriculum directly or indirectly encourage and instruct our students in their need for a personal relationship with Christ and to walk in obedience to His will?”  Administrative leadership must continually use this simple question in evaluating all aspects of the program.  As the Board, we emphasize this priority as the essential value for which Grace Christian School stands.

Furthermore, this value must be deliberately applied not only to Bible classes and chapels, but to all aspects of the School’s programs.  It is vital that administration continually train teachers and staff in how to integrate the Christian worldview into all educational curricula, as well as into all extra-curricular activities.  This must be done purposefully and thoughtfully as one of leadership’s continual, highest priorities.

My last two blogs featuring a kindergarten and a high school finance class are examples of how seriously we take this challenge of purposefully integrating the Christian worldview in all aspects and levels of our instructional program.  Can any educational priority be of greater importance than this first core value?  We think not, and we expend a great deal of time and energy to this end as demonstrated by our engagement with the outstanding Worldview Matters Biblical integration program.  Our students must understand not only the content of our faith as truth, but also the why and how that makes it relevant to all walks of life

In my next several blogs, I will focus on three additional core values that we believe make GCS a very special and unique Christian school.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

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An Outstanding Class!

November 15, 2017
By John Morrison
GCS Personal Finance Class (from left to right): Josh Lockwood, Cheyenne Hareford, Tyler Johnson, Karson Wright, Byron Forsyth, Clayton Duke and instructor, Chad Brown.

God has enabled us to provide our high school students with a well-rounded education via a healthy offering of high school courses.  One of my favorites (and best kept secrets!) is Mr. Chad Brown’s personal finance course.  In a day when many  students know little about practical finance,  Mr. Brown’s class teaches essential management and stewardship skills vital for maintaining a stable financial ship.  Enjoy this following excerpt from one of Mr. Brown’s emails to his students’ parents outlining a sample of the kinds of excellent lessons he is passing along to his students.

The last couple of weeks we've been looking at purchasing reliable and affordable transportation, and some important things to consider in that process. I had the students work in the computer lab where each picked three cars to present to their classmates.  Their job was to "sell" their choice to the class. The general restrictions included the following characteristics: economical, reliable, within 200 mile radius (to allow a test drive), no more than 12 years old, 156,000 max mileage (based on average of 13,000 miles per year), affordability payment wise, within their income.

There were some interesting picks, to say the least, including a 2003 Cadillac CTS roadster, a 2004 Infinity G35, a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 truck, a 2005 VW Jetta, etc.

After their presentations, I had them work in two groups, where each would pick his or her top three vehicles, scrutinizing whether or not they fit the general guidelines.  Then, we narrowed it further to the top three picks for the class, relating each potential vehicle back to the general restrictions above. Their final choice was a 2003 Honda Accord (14 years old) with 133,000 miles (9,500 miles per year, which is less than average annual mileage) for $2,950, which was a great deal.  Although it was slightly outside the general age guidelines, it was, in my view, a very wise choice.

Also during  the process, I had Chris Jones, a great Christian friend who has been in the automotive industry for thirty years, and who is the current Commercial Sales Manager for Charlie Obaugh, come and give his perspective on how to purchase a used vehicle.  He has been helping me with this aspect of the course for six years.  Chris brings an excellent checklist for a prospective buyer to use when test driving a car.  I always pick up new  insights from his presentation, and in fact used this checklist when considering the last car I bought.  Graciously, he gives them his business card and cell phone number and invites them at any point to call him if they ever have a question.

After their final choice, we went back to the lab to check the NADA and Kelley Blue Book values for a couple of the cars, including their 2003 Honda.  Although they got a good deal on the Honda, we looked at a couple of other vehicles that were priced well above retail value for their car.  This let the students know how not to just arbitrarily pay someone their asking price without doing their homework.

All-in-all, I think this has been a very good process for them.  In the near future, we will be looking at maintenance on this car, purchasing insurance, and making monthly payments (with the goal of paying it off early).

Yes, Mr. Brown, most certainly this has been a very excellent experience for our students!  Thank you for all of your time and effort in equipping our young people with these most practical and important life skills!

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The Joy of Learning: Going Beyond Mere Rote

November 08, 2017
By John Morrison
Kindergarten teacher, Kristi Pananas and student, Max Banta

We are certainly all about teaching the fundamental content of our Christian faith and academic subjects to our students.  But a Christian education is simply deficient if it does not go beyond focusing on mere content in influencing the formation of the child’s basic assumptions about truth.  Thus, we talk a great deal at GCS about teaching biblical worldview integration and critical thinking skills that help each child examine his or her basic assumptions about reality.

Following, in the words of Kristi Pananas, one of our kindergarten teachers, is an example of how this can work in the classroom.  

Recently, during a kindergarten math lesson, I introduced patterns: red, yellow, red, yellow; smiley face, star, smiley face, star; ABAB, etc.  We practiced a few different examples. And then, the neat stuff happened.

A little girl raised her hand and asked “What does God think of patterns and does he like them?”. Wow!

I put my worksheet aside, sat down and knew that this discussion was more important               than the “math” lesson.  I asked the question back to the class…..

           And the following were some of the answers:

The first little boy said , “We know God likes order so he must like patterns because patterns are in order.”  We had previously talked about how God is a God of order, not chaos.   I thought, “They are getting it, they remember, this is important to them!!!”

Hands were flying and everyone wanted to be part of the discussion.

Another student added, “God ordered the days, he made all things….”  We had talked about creation, and how our calendar was in order and what God thought of that.

And another remembered, “God made animals with patterns.” Patterns were related to camouflage and a way of protecting animals and God did that.

We discussed how God made people with patterns: 2 eyes, 2 arms, boys/girls. How God doesn’t make mistakes when he creates anything. How we are all created perfectly and in a special way and are made in His image (patterned after God).

       Mrs. Pananas and student, Ella Parker

To answer the question about “does God like patterns?“ everyone agreed that he does!  He made rainbows, and they are patterns.  He likes pretty things.  He wants to enjoy patterns; they thought that God wanted us to like patterns, too. We talked about how God is creative and thinks of everything.

A 20-minute math lesson turned into a 45 minute worldview lesson initiated by a child with a heart wondering about God. We were late for lunch...and no one cared, and kindergarteners always care about snack and lunch (and recess)!

I was amazed and proud.  We had been in school less than a month and the kiddos were using the questioning that they hear at school…”what does God think/feel about...?” These kiddos are 5 and 6 years old!  I can only imagine what the rest of the year will be like. God is at work in the hearts and minds of these kindergarten students.

The above is an example of taking  learning from the level of rote (which is important) to the level of critical thinking with an emphasis on biblical worldview integration and experiencing learning as one of life’s greatest joys.  Indeed, this is our goal for our students at GCS: to stimulate their curiosity in investigating and discovering the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and how it all ties together in one unified whole.  And the stimulation of critical thinking is something, as demonstrated by these little ones, that can be cultivated from the earliest years all the way through high school!  This is (or should be) one of the core dynamics of a truly Christian education!

Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Pananas!  

And what she has shared is but one example of what is taking place daily throughout GCS!

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