Should the Bible be Taught in Public Schools?
For some time, well-intentioned people and influential groups have been working to get the Bible and prayer reintroduced into public schools. Pres. Trump gave his whole-hearted support to the movement:
Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!
Do we really want this? Would the Jews have wanted the Babylonians or Romans to teach the Bible to their children?
Everyone should know something about the Bible. So much of English literature is based on the Bible. How is it possible that any school student can be considered educated without knowledge of the Bible and its central message?
According to one estimate, [William Shakespeare] alludes to Scripture some 1,300 times. As for the rest of literature, when your seventh-grader reads The Old Man and the Sea, a teacher could tick off the references to Christ’s Passion — the bleeding of the old man’s palms, his stumbles while carrying his mast over his shoulder, his hat cutting his head — but wouldn’t the thrill of recognition have been more satisfying on their/own?
If literature doesn’t interest you, you also need the Bible to make sense of the ideas and rhetoric that have helped drive U.S. history. “The shining city on the hill”? That’s Puritan leader John Winthrop quoting Matthew to describe his settlement’s covenantal standing with God [Matt. 5:14]. In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln noted sadly that both sides in the Civil War “read the same Bible” to bolster their opposing claims. [Let’s not forget Lincoln’s use of Jesus’ words “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matt. 12:25) in his “House Divided” Speech.] When Martin Luther King Jr. talked of “Justice rolling down like waters” in his “I Have a Dream” speech, he was consciously enlisting the Old Testament prophet Amos [Amos 5:24], who first spoke those words.1
There is no way to understand history and literature without some knowledge of the Bible. The phraseology of the King James Version (KJV) has become part of our common vocabulary: “to everything there is a season,” “ends of the earth,” “escaped with the skin of my teeth,” “drop in a bucket,” “gird your loins,” “pearls before swine,” “apple of his eye,” “birds of the air,” “broken reed,” “scapegoat,” “drop in the bucket,” “fleshpot,” Behemoth,” “clear as crystal,” “decently and in order,” “handwriting on the wall,” “labor of love, “lick the dust,” “a leopard can’t change its spots,” “multitude of sins,” “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” “beat swords into plowshares,” “blessed are the peacemakers,” “cast the first stone,” “feet of clay,” “forbidden fruit,” “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” “many are called but few are chosen,” and too many more to list here.
Except for the words “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and the final line — “I swear it’s not too late” — in the song of the same name by The Byrds (1965), the lyrics are taken from the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
To be sure, there is ignorance of the Bible, inside and outside the church. I saw this in a post about the song: “My brother made a video to play at my Father’s Funeral and used this song. A lot of people sort of rolled their eyes at it, thinking it wasn’t appropriate for a funeral. Until we told them it was from Ecclesiastes.”
James B. Jordan writes:
The most cursory glance at the history of Western literature reveals that it has been deeply influenced by the Bible. Some of the greatest classics of Western literature draw their plots, characters, and ideas largely from Scripture; Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost are two of the most notable examples. Even when plots were not derived directly from the Bible, Scripture provided a commonly understood source of symbols and themes. Critic Northrup Frye has said, “a student of English literature who does not know the Bible does not understand a good deal of what is going on in what he reads.”
Atheist Richard Dawkins agrees:
Oxford atheist Richard Dawkins, who in The God Delusion denies the God of the Bible but insists we should remain acquainted with KJV phraseology and imagery in order to understand our cultural past, cites more than 100 expressions to underscore its pervasive presence, from “signs of the times,” to “grapes of wrath,” to “no peace for the wicked.”
In the 1963 Abington School District v. Schempp decision, the Supreme Court ruled that sectarian Bible classes could not be taught in public schools. “The court did allow for the teaching of the Bible, provided it was done in a neutral, objective matter.” Neutrality is impossible.
It’s one thing to teach how the Bible has influenced literature, culture, ethics, economics, medicine, science, etc. But it’s another thing to put this type of teaching in the hands of people who despise the Bible and the Christian faith.
Will parents think it’s safe to send their children to government schools when they learn that a Bible course is being taught? Who will teach the class? What perspective will be presented? Who will develop the textbook? Do you want the same schools that are teaching your children that same-sex sexuality, gender fluidity, and that there are umpteen genders are OK teaching the Bible?
Secularists don’t want to give up the near monopoly they have on education in America. Charles Francis Potter, who founded the First Humanist Society of New York in 1929 and signed the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933, made no secret of the purpose of the American public schools:
Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-school, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?2
Rushdoony was not the first to understand the goal of Statist education. Robert L. Dabney (1820–1898) saw it more than 120 years ago:
[T]he Jeffersonian doctrine of the absolute severance and independence of church and state, of the entire secularity of the State, and the absolutely equal rights, before the law, of religious truth and error, of paganism, atheism, and Christianity, has also established itself in all the States; and still the politicians, for electioneering ends, propagate this State education everywhere. By this curious circuit “Christian America” has gotten herself upon this thoroughly pagan ground; forcing the education of responsible, moral, and immortal beings, of which religion must ever be the essence, into the hands of a gigantic human agency, which resolves that it cannot and will not be religious at all. Surely, some great religious body will arise in America to lift its Christian protest against this monstrous result!3
What would America be like today if Christians had heeded Dabney’s warnings and some “great religious body” had arisen to make the break from an educational system that was designed to be the indoctrination center for the State and its secular messianic motives?
The usual Christian response is to reform the public schools, to get more parents involved, sue to get a moment of silence, prayers at sporting events and commencement exercises, release programs to teach religion, and pass laws to teach the Bible as literature.4
There will be pressure groups in some cities to teach the Koran. Then there’s the question of how the Bible will be taught. Will the Old Testament be taught as myth? Will someone teaching on the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) point out that Jesus was mistaken about His coming?
The better approach is for parents to take control over the education of their children and get them out of government schools. Humanists and Statists hate educational independence more than anything else is. What they can’t control, they fear and want to destroy. Is it any wonder that a New York Times’ writer is trying to destroy Christian schools? They are competition to the secular State.
Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato. “Everything for the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” – Benito Mussolini
If you want to take back the country and make liberals go insane, the best place to start is with the future of the country – the children.
- David Van Biema, “The Case for Teaching the Bible,” TIME (March 22, 2007). [↩]
- Charles Francis Potter, Humanism: A New Religion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1930), 128. Quoted in David A. Noebel, J.F. Baldwin, and Kevin Bywater, Clergy in the Classroom: The Religion of Secular Humanism (Manitou Springs, CO: Summit Press, 1995), vi. [↩]
- Robert L. Dabney, Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney: Secular, ed. C. R. Vaughan, 4 vols. (Harrisonburg, Virginia, Sprinkle Publications  1994), 4:548 [↩]
- David Van Biema, “The Case for teaching the Bible,” TIME (March 22, 2007). [↩]