The key purpose of these materials is to support pupils in developing their understanding of Christianity, as a contribution to their understanding of the world and their own experience within it. It does this by integrating pupils’ developing understanding of significant theological concepts within Christianity with their own self-understanding and understanding of the world, as part of their wider religious literacy.
- Enable pupils to know about and understand Christianity as a living world faith, by exploring core theological concepts.
- Enable pupils to develop knowledge and skills in making sense of biblical texts and understanding their impact in the lives of Christians.
- Develop pupils’ abilities to connect, critically reflect upon, evaluate and apply their learning to their own growing understanding of religion and belief (particularly Christianity), of themselves, the world and human experience.
How does Understanding Christianity support our approach to teaching and learning?
By addressing key questions, Understanding Christianity encourages the children to explore core Bible texts, examine the impact for Christians and consider possible implications. Each unit incorporates the three elements:
- Making sense of the text – Developing skills of reading and interpretation; understanding how Christians interpret, handle and use biblical texts; making sense of the meanings of texts for Christians
- Understanding the impact – Examining ways in which Christians respond to biblical texts and teachings, and how they put their beliefs into action in diverse ways within the Christian community and in the world
- Making connections – Evaluating, reflecting on and connecting the texts and concepts studied, and discerning possible connections between these and pupils’ own lives and ways of understanding the world.
Each unit begins with a ‘way in’ and then offers teaching and learning ideas for each element. The teacher chooses how to weave together the elements, from making sense of the text, through looking at the impact on the world of the Christian, and helping to make connections with the world of the pupil, in order to achieve the outcomes.
This model shows that the Understanding Christianity approach is not just getting the children to learn what Christians think. Instead, it is about developing skills to help them ‘think theologically’ alongside learning lots of knowledge about the Bible, Christian belief and practice. It also shows that these three elements do not represent rigid, distinct steps, but that pupils can ‘make connections’ whilst ‘making sense of the text’, for example.
Core Concepts and the 'Big Story' of the Bible
The following core concepts are explored in the Understanding Christianity approach, as part of the ‘big story’ of salvation.
1. God - Fundamental to Christian belief is the existence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2. Creation - The universe and human life are God’s good creation. Humans are made in the image of God.
3. Fall - Humans have a tendency to go their own way rather than keep their place in relation to their Creator. This attitude is called sin, and Genesis 3 gives an account of this rebellion, popularly called ‘the Fall’. This describes a catastrophic separation between God and humans, between humans and each other, and between humans and the environment. This idea that humans are ‘fallen’ and in need of rescue (or salvation) sets out the root cause of many problems for humanity.
4. People of God - The Old Testament tells the story of God’s plan to reverse the impact of the Fall, to save humanity. It involves choosing a people who will model a restored relationship with God, who will attract all other people back to God. The Bible narrative includes the ups and downs of this plan, including the message of the prophets,5 who tried to persuade people to stick with God. The plan appears to end in failure with the people of God exiled, and then returning, awaiting a ‘messiah’ - a rescuer.
5. Incarnation - The New Testament presents Jesus as the answer: the Messiah and Saviour, who will repair the effects of sin and the Fall and offer a way for humans to be at one with God again. Incarnation means that Jesus is God in the flesh, and that, in Jesus, God came to live among human.
6. Gospel - Jesus’ incarnation is ‘good news’ for all people. (‘Gospel’ means ‘good news’.) His life, teaching and ministry embody what it is like to be one of the people of God, what it means to live in relationship with God. Jesus’ example and teaching emphasise loving one’s neighbour - particularly the weak and vulnerable - as part of loving God.
7. Salvation - Jesus’ death and resurrection effect the rescue or salvation of humans. He opens the way back to God. Through Jesus, sin is dealt with, forgiveness offered, and the relationship between God and humans is restored.
8. Kingdom of God - This does not mean that no one sins any more! The Bible talks in terms of God’s ‘Kingdom’ having begun in human hearts through Jesus. The idea
of the ‘Kingdom of God’ reflects God’s ideal for human life in the world - a vision of life lived in the way God intended for human beings. Christians look forward to a time when God’s rule is fulfilled at some future point, in a restored, transformed heaven and earth. Meanwhile, they seek to live this attractive life as in God’s Kingdom, following Jesus’ example, inspired and empowered by God’s Spirit.
The core concepts fit into a spiral curriculum, whereby concepts are revisited and explored in more depth as the children move through school. These are explored through key questions, however, and so are not applied exclusively - links and connections will be made between concepts during units.