Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The latest Time Magazine cover story is "Why We Should Teach The Bible in Public School." The premise, per the title, is that teaching the Bible might be necessary for a well rounded public school education. I'm skeptical because I believe it is a little wierd to teach the Bible without doing so in a context of faith. That would be like a math teacher instructing students about literature. Studying the Bible is not simply an intellectual pursuit. It is, at its core, a spiritual pursuit. So, while I'm not opposed to students being exposed to Scripture, I am uncomfortable with the idea of the Bible being taught in an intellectual vaccum. It was never intended to be viewed in this light.

Here's a snipet from the Time Magazine article:
"Says Stephen Prothero, chair of the Boston University religion department, whose new book, Religious Literacy (Harper SanFrancisco), presents a compelling argument for Bible-literacy courses: "In the late '70s, [students] knew nothing about religion, and it didn't matter. But then religion rushed into the public square. What purpose could it possibly serve for citizens to be ignorant of all that?" The "new consensus" for secular Bible study argues that knowledge of it is essential to being a full-fledged, well-rounded citizen. Let's examine that argument."


r! said...

This is a very man centered argument for Biblical literacy. They want to read the Bible so they can be more "well-rounded" and to me this treats the Bible no different from Shakespeare. The Bible is God's Word and is meant to be read and studied to know him, not so that man can be more "well-rounded".

However, at least they want the Bible to be read and not the Quran. That would suck.

ryan said...

On the other hand, I don't think we can expect unbelievers to suddenly want to study the Bible to deepen their faith because, um, they don't have faith. Plus, teaching faith from the Bible is clearly not an option for public schools. But teaching it as literature is, and I think it should be. Sure, we're lumping it in with Shakespeare and all the rest, but let's trust the Word itself to support its own claims that its importance surpasses even our most beautiful literature. It won't return void.

Steve Hayes said...


What you're saying sounds real good about the Bible not returning void, but I submit to you that, although the Bible may not return void, it may return with results that aren't necessarily positive. For instance, we could go through a list of folks who have gone to the Bible to disprove it, but have come to faith instead. On the flip side, we could look at many others who have gone to the Bible to disprove it, and have come away convinced that it is nothing more than a book of ancient fables. Sam Harris, for instance, is a current athiest who knows the Bible backwards and forwards. So I ask, did the Bible return void in his case?

Now, I don't have a problem with the Bible being referenced in schools as an important historical work, but I have no faith that the Bible will be taught as a valuable spiritual guide. If the assumption is that the Bible should be taught in schools because of its importance in literature, that is far from teaching the Bible as a positive book. Hitler's works are valuable to history, but they are not positive. So, while having more Bible in school is not necessarily a bad thing, it's also not necessarily a good thing. Being an important book is not synonymous with being a good book.

Can God use this to bring glory to Himself? Sure. Will he always use the Bible to bring about positive results? Well, I think it can be argued that the Bible didn't bring about positive results in the life of Sam Harris and other skeptics.

Ultimately, I am a Calvinist, and I therefore believe that God's sovereignty will win out. He will choose those to whom the Bible will speak truth, and He will find a way to get that truth in their hands. Perhaps the public schools are a way in which He will do so. That does not mean, however, that we can assume that Bible's in schools = more Christians. Perhaps it will mean Bibles in schools = more hostility toward the claims of Scripture.