Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Case for Teaching the Bible in Schools

David Van Biema, TIME's senior religion writer makes the case for teaching the Bible as a topic of study in public schools. His point is simple - the Bible is the most influential book ever written and no education would be deemed comprehensive if students were left ignorant of its teachings.

Sounds like a good idea? Bear in mind that teaching the Bible from a "secular" studies perspective probably means opening the door to teaching about other religions as well.

According to the article, some pastors like John Hagee have voiced concern about exposing students to "other origin stories [that] tell of ... gods who themselves are created." Hagee is also concerned that a student might conclude that polytheism is as valid as monotheism.

Other evangelical voices like Chuck Colson differ from Hagee's point of view and embrace the idea of improving bible literacy among public school students.

"Would I prefer a more explicitly biblical Christian teaching?" he asks. "Of course. But you can't do that in public education. 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."

I think Colson has it right. Teaching Bible in a public school setting isn't about converting every young, impressionable mind - it's about educating them on one of the major world religions and exposing them to the evident, self authenticated truth of the Bible. I would have no problems with the notion that other religions are taught as well. We live in a pluralistic, multi-cultural society and effective engagement means being willing to open two way conversations about the issues of faith, life, death and eternity.

We can enter these conversations confident that there is simply no god as holy, no god as loving, no god as wise as the God of the Bible who has made himself known in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Hebrews 1:1-3


9 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

An interesting thought. I studied world religions in a secular graduate school, and it was definitely a challenge to an isolationist faith. I was so surprised, for instance, to find similarities between the Hindu sacred writings and the Psalms. It was unsettling.

Yet, if God's word is true, active, and living, we should have nothing to fear... it can speak for itself and stand out above the others. Which, in my case, it certainly did.

At the same time, I felt I discovered ways I might minister to those of different religious persuasions... I could see in their scriptures what they are longing for (and perhaps what all humanity longs for) and suddenly Jesus seemed easier to present as the "good news."

andre said...

LL

Thanks for your first hand perspective. I think there's so much change in the demographics in the USA over the past 30 years that we cannot think of our nation as homogeneous in faith or cultural experience.

It requires a different way to engage society...like what you've shared. I love the way you described your experience - seeing what they are longing for...and then presenting Jesus as good news. Do you think your knowledge of world religions gave you more credibility when you spoke? (in that you were speaking out of knowledge rather than ignorance)

Ted Gossard said...

Andre, I so much agree with what Charles Colson is saying here. God's Word is powerful. And you express it so well. And good to read L.L.'s experience on this, as well.

Thanks.

andre said...

Ted

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Mark Goodyear said...

Andre, John Hagee lives near us. Sigh.

A few months ago, I had the privilege to review the book that the Time Magazine story is covering--The Bible and Its Influence.

Let me tell you, I learned a lot about the Bible! It's really amazing--something everyone should consider reading. (Of course, it is a little pricey, but it's also a good coffee table book. Seriously.)

Man, I sound like a sales pitch.

LL, is right. The bible can defend itself.

More importantly, though, teaching the Bible as literature at least ensures that kids will learn about Christianity first hand. So much of what I hear non-Christians say about Christianity is just completely bogus.

andre said...

Mark

Hey, you're back! Thanks for stopping by.

Well, I'm sure John Hagee is generally a good guy but I think he's wrong on this one.

Bible and Its Influence sounds like a pretty good book although it may just be your highly convincing sales pitch!

L.L. Barkat said...

I think it even goes beyond being credible... for, if the Hindu longs for light (which he does), then Jesus is a most beautiful gift of eternal light. But, if I do not know that the Hindu longs for light, how will I know to present this side of Jesus... this most beautiful Light that is never extinguished? "The people in darkness have seen a great light; on them light has shined..."

andre said...

LL,

Thanks so much for your perspective...you obviously speak from experience. I'm curious - how do you go about showing the Hindu the light of Jesus?

Mark Goodyear said...

I don't mean to make sales pitches, really! I just get so excited about everything. (And I'm not getting some kind of kick back or anything : )