Time: For Teaching the Bible in Public School?
April 6th, 2007 by David Dansker
The April issue of Time magazine carries a controversial cover story entitled “Why We Should Teach The Bible in Public School: The Case for Teaching the Bible,” by David Van Biema. The basic premise is that the teaching of Bible-literacy classes in public school is compelling on the basis of the Bible’s cultural and literary value.[i] It is a sound argument, and Biema brings up good points. For the prominent role that the Bible played in U.S. History, Biema cites political rhetoric in phrases “The shinning city on the hill” attributed to John Winthrop who was in fact quoting Matthew, and Martin Luther King Jr. using the phrase “Justice rolling down like waters” which is from Amos.[ii] Biema might have added that Patrick Henry’s famous speech referred to from its famous ending “Give me liberty, or give me death!” is inspired by several books in the Bible including Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. Students would fare far better acquiring Biblical literacy by exposing them to extant literature that not only relies on the use of scripture itself, but also provides context which can assist them in developing their acquaintance with understanding. The real issue is, as it always will be, the religious one.
As might be expected, prominent secularists would entertain the notion if the Bible-literacy course were curtailed until it resembled a balanced world religion study equally covering half a dozen or so religious views, and high profile Christians are themselves sharply divided on the subject. Chuck Colson, of Prison Fellowship fame, is in favor of teaching Bible-literacy classes in public school. While he acknowledges it would be limited, he is confident in their potential for evangelism: “What you can do is introduce the Bible so that people are aware of its impact on people and in history and then let God speak through it as he will.”[iii] Although his sentiments are noble enough, Colson has been outside public school for too long to realize that he is overly optimistic. Author and attorney Wendy Kaminer is described in the article as a First Amendment sentinel who would only approve of Bible classes “taught in close conjunction with other religions” so as to not to become “a kind of promotion of the majority faith.”[iv] Kaminer’s concerns may be unfounded for two reasons.
Surveys often result in data which give Christianity overwhelmingly high numbers when respondents are asked to declare their religion. These are, however, confessions that are made in unmolested comfort, and without qualifying religious tenets to determine whether this is a faith in the Easter Bunny and the practice of searching for chocolate eggs. The other reason that should serve to alleviate Kaminer’s fears is the one given by pastor John Hagee who is also against the classes. Hagee cited the compromised curriculum of the The Bible and It’s Influence, used in 85 schools districts in 30 states,[v] and an inability of young students to assess the errors presented and sort them out .[vi] It is this last view that is the most accurate of the three, and it can be expounded on to note that absent using the King James Bible, the literary value of a Bible-literacy course would be moot. No other version compares to the majesty of its language, the scope of its influence, and the shear volume of its verses incorporated in English literature. However, the current hostile environment of public schools towards Christianity precludes the use of an accurate text, and this leads to question what kind of teachers are available and willing to teach Bible-literacy in public school, and what other motives could they have?
There is already an ongoing warfare being waged against Christians and Jews at the college and university level in Philosophy and World Religion classes. Many of the upcoming college professors are already cutting their teeth on high school students in the social sciences such as English and History, and honing their attack arguments with what they purport to be inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible. A mild form of misinterpreting scripture as contradictory, and positing unscriptural reconciliations, is provided in the Time article. When a question was asked in a Bible class about the meek inheriting the earth it was framed in the presupposition that it has finally been accomplished, but instead by force. Responding, the teacher said: “When [Jesus] was giving the sermon, people took it not just as a physical award but an emotional or spiritual kind of award. Later on, when they became more powerful, say, in the Crusades or something, they weren’t trying to inherit the earth. They were trying to take it over.”[vii] This only appears to be a case of ignorance: attributing to Christians what were the Roman Catholic Crusades, and so the blame; and allegorizing, or spiritualizing, doctrine meant to be taken literally by ascribing a false fulfillment to it. The meek will indeed physically inherit the earth when Christ returns to set up His Kingdom for a thousand years, and it will be partially restored to Edenic splendor. After that period, their inheritance will be greatly increased in value after the Lord surrenders the Kingdom to His Father, and the earth is completely renovated to perfection (Rev.20:4, Jo. 3:18, Isa. 65:20; Rev. 21:1, 2Pet. 3:7-13, Isa. 66:22, Mat 19:28, Isa. 11:6-9). If small points can send classes careening off course into error when intentions are innocent, imagine he harm that can be inflicted by careful design. It can be long lasting, or even permanent.
Damage of the long lasting kind includes what happens to Christian teens who are worked over vicariously by teachers using their spin on a Biblical characters. The emotional abuse they are exposed to over a semester can produce a kind of Stockholm Syndrome where students actually form attachments to their captors and renounce their walk of faith for a time. Parents and pastors of these students will begin experiencing sharp increases in rebellious attitudes and resentment from these students who will hold them partially responsible for the beating they are taking in class, and may even despise them for a religion that can’t be defended and is so easily ridiculed, or at least for failing to prepare them for the task. Inevitably, some will also hold God responsible. The reason this effect often goes undetected is that teens don’t like to share their defeats, and parents assign the causes for their behavior to difficulties as are typical for teens such as hormone changes, or they may search for the causes in some murky deficit disorder. Keep in mind these antics are taking place in classes that are not yet Bible-literacy classes.
Every year in this fashion Christian students in public school have their faith attacked, and many have it short circuited and in turn sustain scars. The duration of their tumbling depends in part on their proximity to reserves. With youth groups that are little more than activity-based teen romps, and most pastors regularly preaching on a sophomore level, there are few forts for rearming, and reforming, and reconnoitering. Many don’t seem aware that the battle is being waged. There is, however, one formidable weapon, albeit a passive one, that the students do still have where Bible-literacy classes are not taught, and the attacks are only coming at them through social sciences.
Once a student enrolls in a class, they are required to attend and remain under the tutelage and authority of the teacher. They constitute a captive audience subject to the withholding of grades and accolades. If these same High School teachers are armed by the state schools with the mantle of Bible Teacher, the last vestige of defense will be demolished for students who can, to their own consolation, identify the fact that these teachers have no real expertise to venture into the subject they so loath and love to rail against.
While some may hold the hope that these classes, no matter what, will contribute to the furtherance of the gospel, this is not the same as the circumstance the Apostle Paul describes in his epistle to the Philippians. His imprisonment and confinement in chains prompted two opposing motives for the preaching that took place because of his persecution. Some Christian brethren were emboldened by Paul’s faith and the extent to which he was willing to suffer and remain steadfast, and they became more zealous in preaching the gospel. Others seized on the occasion to preach Paul’s message as a means of adding to his affliction, and the more accurately they retold it the surer it was to contrast his circumstances to, what they thought, would be his shame. Paul summarized it this way:
The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Phi. 1:16-18)
The significant differences between that circumstance and the one in which Bible-literacy classes are taught in public school make the analogy inapplicable. The people that were preached to then would have lent their ear only as much as they desired, would have been primarily adults or under parental supervision, and they would not have had any material considerations subject to the benevolence of the preachers. Furthermore, the preaching would have been far more accurate than public school curriculums which must pass muster for tolerance and inclusiveness.
We have had nearly two thousand years of tampering and perverting of the scriptures, and which tampering had begun in earnest before Paul’s death. Paul had to warn the Thessalonians about letters that had been circulating with his name on them that were forgeries (2 Thess. 2:2). The Apostle Peter also mentions that men who were unlearned in the scriptures were taking the complicated teachings from Paul’s letters and torturing them out of context and meaning (2 Pet. 3:16). While the principals themselves have varied over the years, their motives have remained constant. They have strived to apprehend spiritual elements from the text and fabricate an esoteric religion of enlightenment and privilege (e.g., Gnostics); to confiscate the word, reedit it and become sole arbiters of interpreting the text to garner for themselves special positions of power (e. g., papists); and to pervert the gospel of grace so as to establish the excommunicatory power of a new earthy high priest (i.e. these, et al). To day these principals include large Protestant denominations, and the plethora of perverted texts in use by liberal churches and by liberal university professors include The Message, the TNIV, the NIV, the NRSV, the NASB, the ESV, and the NLT.
These corrupt texts are what next years sincere high school teachers are ingesting. How will they be able to recognize, much less correct, the factual errors and outright contradictions in The Bible and its Influence like this: “Jesus taught with parables to put his message about God’s reign into language that all his hearers would grasp immediately.”[viii] Notice by referencing the Bible how patently false this is:
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Mat 13:10-15).
It is hard enough to excuse such blatant error in a text written in part by Cullen Schippe, former vice president at giant education publisher Macmillan/McGraw-Hill,[ix] but the claim that the text was reviewed by 40 scholars with backgrounds including Evangelical, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish scholars seems completely incredible.[x] A thorough critique of the text by Berit Kjos reveals students are prompted to questions God’s wisdom, pagan images are blended with Biblical references, the authority of scripture is undermined, Bible prophecy is ridiculed, provision is made for more endorsement of public schools’ litany in Communitarian indoctrination, and the account of judgment falling on Sodom and Gomorrah redacts the sin of homosexuality as the cause.[xi] And this is as good as it gets. To expect God’s word to be presented without bias and with objectivity in the public school districts that are openly hostile to the Bible, Judaism, and Christianity; and not to realize that it would be used as an occasion to set upon Christian students to cause them to stumble, distancing sincere inquiries by gauzing the Bible with political mysticism, and twisting scriptures in order to bolster the state’s continual endorsement of sin, is to be utterly and completely naÃ¯ve. As for the ridiculous presumption that public school Bible-literacy will offer significant evangelism, Christian students living their faith unmolested by the state would be a far more effective means of evangelizing other students who were likewise unencumbered by political/religious indoctrinating, erroneous presentation of Bible doctrine, and outright lies perpetrated in classrooms by State Credentialed Bible Teachers.
(aritlce title noted herein is from Time magazine cover; all quotes used taken from this online publication)
[ii] Van Biema, “The Case for Teaching The Bible” 2.
[iii] Ibid. 2.
[iv] Ibid. 2.
[v] Ibid. 3.
[vi] Ibid. 2.
[vii] Ibid. 3.
[ix] Doug Huntington, “Christians Pleasantly Surprised by Time’s Pro-Bible Article,”
Christian Post Reporter (Correction), March 30, 2007.
receives wide acclaim from scholars,” April 2007.
[xi] Berit Kjos, “A More Adaptable Bible?”