Physical Fitness at Providence Preparatory School
By Dave McMurry
The Biblical Understanding of Physicality
The Bible points to a glorious physicality of God’s people. It begins in the creation accounts of Genesis 1&2 and is consummated in Revelation 20-21. It is shaped in the bodily discipline of Proverbs and wondered at in the resurrection meditation of 1 Corinthians 15.
Our physicality is embraced and affirmed by the joyful incarnation of Jesus Christ. A theological term describes the Biblical ideal as “psychosomatic unity”. This means that humans are a mind-body unit. We often separate our lives into constituent parts to better understand ourselves. The Bible nowhere condemns this analytical process, and sometimes even encourages it (Matthew 22:37). However, we have to recognize that the fracturing of our souls and bodies is a result of sin and death. It is not the way things are supposed to be. Our hearts and minds should be one. Our bodies and souls should be one. God created glorious physical beings, and in the end his resurrection will redeem a people to a glorious physicality. We will love God seamlessly with all that we are.
Throughout the New Testament, we are forbidden to live in dependence on our flesh, but urged to live in dependence on the Holy Spirit. We often mistake this to mean that our minds are pure, while our bodies are corrupt. In Paul’s writing, however, our minds, emotions, and bodies are all part of the flesh that strives to justify itself by law rather than Christ. I need Christ’s Spirit to free my mind to consider others and free my body to serve others.
A purely classical school might teach that our bodies are prison-houses for our souls. Such thought was the understanding of Greek philosophy and now is an assumption of many Christians. Many think that God cares more about our minds than our bodies. However, Providence is a classical Christian school; here Hebrew thought trumps the classical Platonic assumption that mind is more important than body. We understand from scripture that physicality is the field on which Spiritual realities are displayed. Reading books and playing music is not more holy than running and throwing things. All of these endeavors are opportunities to use our gifts for God’s glory. They are also opportunities to teach children to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Extremes to Avoid in a School Setting
There are two opposite extremes we need to avoid in the development of a physical fitness program:
- the idolatry of body which over-emphasizes sports, fashion, & sexuality
- the idolatry of the mind (or soul) which over-emphasizes academics & art
Schools that idolize the mind ignore the importance of physical fitness and shame the physically vigorous. Schools that idolize the body divert resources into organized sports in ways that shame the weak and confuse the mission.
God wants our minds and our bodies to glorify Him in oneness. God wants all of us. Disciplining our minds can help us glorify God with our bodies. Disciplining our bodies can help us glorify God with our minds. The two are not opposed to each other.
The Value of Physical Fitness Training for Children
We live in a post-agrarian society. This means that modern children can grow up without experiencing hard physical labor. Much of the physical discipline of hard work described in Proverbs is impossible apart from a commitment to some sort of physical fitness program or sport. Our development of physical fitness must be shaped by our unique cultural situation.
For boys, physical fitness and sports are also a type of martial art. Before the peace of heaven, training boys to be men is preparing them for the execution of a just war (Romans 13:4). While not all boys will be soldiers, every man is accountable to offer basic protection for his own family. Physical fitness can teach boys to use force graciously. It is a training ground for the Spirit-led practice of self-control. Providence should stand out from secular elementary schools. Much of the modern educational project has taught boys to feel ashamed of their desire for gross-motor movement because biblical masculinity is often seen as a relic of an abusive Patriarchal past. Testosterone must be channeled for God’s glory, not denied or ignored.
This reminds us that the goal of female sports is not to mimic everything that happens in male sports. All sports offer great opportunities to blend mental and physical discipline. However, as a Christian school, we should not apologize for a culture of chivalry that simultaneously celebrates gender equality and complimentarian roles. The Bible does not always tell us how to draw the line between healthy femininity and masculinity, but it clearly encourages us to draw that line. We must draw it with wisdom and grace, but we must draw it with a resolve that recognizes that the secular mind despises gender distinctions. We can happily discourage our girls from playing football even while we encourage them to sweat and strive physically.
The Grammar of Physical Fitness
I propose we let three pillars guide physical fitness in the Grammar School.
- Basic Health: We will follow broadly accepted fitness benchmarks like the Presidential Fitness program. This will provide accountability to the best research available. We will concurrently teach the biblical values of hard work, discipline, and sabbath.
- Play & Wonder: Physical fitness should be an opportunity for children to play and enjoy the wonder of God’s physical world.
- Social Sensitivity: Sport is a language we use to communicate and get to know other people in our culture. Children should be taught how to use this cultural language of sport as an opportunity to let their conversations be full of grace & seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).
The Logic of Physical Fitness
The Logic School will emphasize physical fitness as a laboratory for the application of abstract laws of science, math, and logic. Students will begin practicing the physical application of theoretical ideas like causality and entropy. One of the best ways to understand physics is to test it as an awkward adolescent.
The grammar of physical fitness will continue during this period, but students will also engage in discussion and debate regarding current research in fitness science and Biblical teaching about human physicality. Opportunities for organized sports will begin to be offered in the 7th and sometimes 6th grades.
The Rhetoric of Physical Fitness
In the Rhetoric school, students should begin communicating physically with wisdom and eloquence. Students will build on the universal foundation of health, play, and social sensitivity.
Sport should be seen as a type of art in our culture. It is a creative expression of excellence based on the disciplined study and practice of universal canons. It can be practiced as an art, and appreciated as an art. All art in our culture has been corrupted for the glory of man, we must guard against this in sport as well.
Like other art forms, sport allows gifted students to glorify God through the expression of their unique talents. Just as music students have differing abilities, but can develop those abilities based on hard work, students of all capacities have the opportunity to honor God by further investing in their differing talents with sweat and dedication. Competition in sports sharpens us, and allows realistic (although sometimes painful) feedback for the participants. Just as music study helps students of all capacities excel in other areas, so physical fitness helps students thrive in other subjects. All rhetoric students will be required to complete 6 semesters (or seasons) of physical fitness through organized sports or independent study.
- Organized Sports: Students may pursue organized sports as an artistic expression of their gifts for God’s glory.
- Students who play club sports will be given athletic and P.E. credits on a case-by-case basis. We have been helped by the Cen-Tex Chargers and will seek a relationship of mutual benefit.
- Others will participate in school-sponsored sports. We will offer sports that are affordable, and that will best enable our students to glorify God in their learning community.
- When parents and teachers volunteer to coach for the good of the community, we will be thankful, but we will not make it a requirement of every teacher to give unpaid time to the students.
- Independent Study: Some students are not interested in sports. However, we are all physical beings who should give thought to our physical health. Students who do not play organized sports will be required to design an independent study plan for their own physical fitness. These students will design an individualized plan of regular physical exercise to be monitored by a faculty sponsor and their co-teachers. They will also be required to do independent research to evaluate their fitness program and compile a family health history to develop a holistic plan for their long-term health.
Key Scriptures to Consider:
Genesis 1:26-31 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Exodus 31:1-6 1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you:
Matthew 1:18-25 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Philippians 2:5-11 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Colossians 1:17 & 2:9 And he (Christ) is before all things, and in him all things hold together… For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. 13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
1 Timothy 4:1-16 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
6 If you put these things before the brothers,[a] you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive,[b] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,[c] so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Proverbs on Work
“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6-11).
“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.” (Proverbs 10:4-5).
“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.” (Proverbs 10:26).
“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” (Proverbs 12:11).
“From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.” (Proverbs 12:14).
“The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” (Proverbs 12:24).
“Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” (Proverbs 12:27).
“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” (Proverbs 13:4).
“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11).
“The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.” (Proverbs 13:23).
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” (Proverbs 14:4).
“In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23).
“The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.” (Proverbs 15:19).
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3).
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).
“A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.” (Proverbs 16:26).
“Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9).
“Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” (Proverbs 19:15).
“The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.” (Proverbs 19:24).
“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4).
“Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.” (Proverbs 20:13).
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5).
“Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” (Proverbs 21:17).
“The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.” (Proverbs 21:25-26).
“The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”” (Proverbs 22:13).
“Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22:29).
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:10-12).
“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” (Proverbs 24:27).
“Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.”” (Proverbs 24:29).
“I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 24:30-34).
“The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” (Proverbs 26:13-16).
“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations? When the grass is gone and the new growth appears and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered, the lambs will provide your clothing, and the goats the price of a field. There will be enough goats’ milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls.” (Proverbs 27:23-27).
“Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” (Proverbs 28:19).
“She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” (Proverbs 31:13).
“Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31).