Guest essay by Joel McDurmon
President Trump tweeting support for instituting Bible literacy courses in public schools has many conservatives and Christians cheering. The idea recalls for many an era when American children read the Bible and everyone was more moral. This is indeed the path to make America great again, many think.
While the idea certainly captures the nostalgia of many, it is actually a very misguided notion that Christians should oppose. But wasn’t taking the Bible out the schools the beginning of the decline? Why would any Christian oppose putting the Bible back in the schools?!?
Among many reasons, I’ll summarize three today:
First, because it can only degrade the Bible.
It is impossible to teach the Bible correctly from within a secular curriculum.
Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is powerful, able to withstand and even conquer all the corruption mankind can throw at it—that is, when it is the Bible as the Bible we are talking about. The problem is, in any secular school setting, it will by law not be allowed to speak for itself as the Bible.
Despite what many may gather from the widely-quoted 1963 Supreme Court ruling on the matter, the Bible is a necessarily religious book. Every truth it contains necessarily requires the religious truths it presupposes in order to be understood and applied. To set aside its foundational truths is to pull the rug out from under the whole and make the Bible no more than any other man-made book. This is how liberals started undermining it to begin with, before they fully took it out.
There is no neutrality with the Bible. To pretend to teach it neutrally is to deny it. If its own worldview is allowed into the discussion, it will be illegal. If it is not allowed, the secular worldview will dominate by default. Either way, in government schools, secularism wins.
Consider what has happened to every other biblical Christian viewpoint thus far. Just as Darwinism was imposed as secular orthodoxy in science, so unbelieving higher criticism and other liberal theories will dominate the content of secularized Bible courses. Any attempt to introduce conservative viewpoints on the Bible, biblical history, authorship, composition, dating, meaning, etc., will meet the same fate as every attempt to introduce creationism or intelligent design into secular curricula.
On top of this, you have schools filled with teachers indoctrinated in the liberal ideas and content, who have already compromised on other humanistic agendas: LGBT, evolution, feminism, Common Core, etc. Why would you want secular schools and teachers teaching your children the Bible?
Do you think your schools and your teachers are different? Do you really think you have a Christian teacher who is going to teach conservative Bible values covertly or quietly under the radar? Then you need to consider this second reason:
Second, because Christian educators and politicians need to quit dissembling on Bible education.
The only way a born-again, Bible-believing Christian teacher could get around the secular-content problem would be to dissemble: to pretend to follow the secularized course, but slip in faithful doctrine when they can. Otherwise, they can only pretend the course is glorifying to Christ when it is not—also hypocrisy.
Some level of dissembling is already apparent in a recent Fox News interview with an involved state legislator. He began by towing the line on religiously neutral teaching, per the Supreme Court. But when asked about a Bible quotation on the fallen nature of man, he responded,
“Amen. The Bible serves as the foundation of my life, and it serves as the guiding principles to everything that I’ve done.”
He then said students need to know how this Bible lays the foundations of basic western civilization.
I agree with this part totally, but that is hardly what they say “in the brochure,” so to speak. The “Bible literacy” issue is pretended neutral language to wedge a particular agenda in the door.
Further, in order to frame this as also a strike against the monopoly of secular humanism, he has to play a broad religious liberty game. This moves him to admit in the interview that it is not just about the Bible, but also about “the Koran, or any other religious text.”
Is this language to pacify liberals? If it works, what have you gained? Are the Koran or the Upanishads also foundational to American government and life? Or are we to dissemble on this part also?
Is a “liars for Jesus” approach really the way to go? And if you think so, how different is this approach from what many fundamentalists believe Muslims are doing—infiltrating, using taqiyah deception until they can establish a stronghold?
The whole concept of Bible literacy in public schools is ill-conceived. Think about it. The courses are optional-only. Do you think unbelievers will elect to take them? Hardly. Only people who have affections for the Bible will sign up. These are Christians. These by law can get only a secularized and false view of it! So why would any Christian subject themselves to it? Why would any Christian subject their child to it?
The only option, then, for Christians is really to abandon state-run education and pursue private Christian education instead.
Third, because public education is an unbiblical Socialistic program to begin with.
The Bible forbids all Socialism. “Thou shalt not steal,” applies to governments, too. This includes local governments, and all state-run programs and social programs. Education is the largest of all of these.
We should not attempt to institute state-funded Bible courses in the most Socialistic institution in our society—the public schools. It is frankly hypocritical to cry, “Socialism, unbiblical!” every time a liberal proposes some state-funded program, but then cheer for state-funded education, let alone state-funded Bible education. You would be advancing the very type of tyranny you claim to stand against.
Why suffer the pretense of biblical literacy in an unbiblical institution!
Instead of getting the Bible in, we should be getting the kids out!
The main question at the root of it all is, Why would Christians send their children into secular and socialistic schools to begin with? Christian children need Christian education. Christian parents ought to homeschool or private school their children.
The long line of objections that normally follows that statement is an indicator of the problem. Yes, it will require a lifestyle change for many or most. But when you realize there is no Christian option in compromising with secularism and socialism, you’ll realize it is a change not only worth making, but one you have a moral obligation to make.
As the great Reformed theologian J. Gresham Machen said in the 1930s, opposing government involvement in education:
[W]hile truth is truth however learned, the bearings of truth, the meaning of truth, the purpose of truth, even in the sphere of mathematics, seem entirely different to the Christian from that which they seem to the non-Christian; and that is why a truly Christian education is possible only when Christian conviction underlies not a part, but all, of the curriculum of the school. True learning and true piety go hand in hand, and Christianity embraces the whole of life. . ..
I can see little consistency in a type of Christian activity which preaches the gospel on the street corners and at the ends of the earth, but neglects the children of the covenant by abandoning them to a cold and unbelieving secularism.
While introducing Bible courses back into public schools may seem like “a turn back,” as Trump put it, it is the secularism and socialism inherent in the state-run schools that is the real problem to begin with. Mixing the Bible with that never really produced anything good, and cannot this time either. It in fact got us into the mess we are in already, and it is a recipe for great problems ahead.
There are free market remedies that are far better, and which even could serve the poor and underserved better as well.
I have addressed the education issue at greater length in the opening essays of my Restoring America One County at a Time.
The original of this article appeared as an essay on the American Vision Website, January 29, 2019.
Dr. Joel McDurmon is the President of American Vision, Inc., a biblical worldview ministry, and the author of Restoring America One County at a Time and many other books on biblical worldview. Dr. McDurmon is also featured in several audio and video lectures on various topics of economics, apologetics, and church history.
© 2019 Used by Permission
Nordskog Publishing (NPI) provides articles and essays by select guest authors which we believe have much to offer the Christian community—to motivate Biblical thinking and action. We believe in the market place of ideas within the context of God’s Word. However, we may disagree at points. Publishing an article does not mean absolute agreement. Therefore, please understand that opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NPI, nor of its editorial staff.