Friday, August 13, 2010

Keep the Bible Out of Public Schools

“…if the law of God is proclaimed in public schools to people of different faiths, it is bound, in the very nature of the case, to be proclaimed with optimism; and if it is proclaimed with optimism, it is proclaimed in a way radically opposed to the Christian doctrine of sin. By hypothesis it is regarded as all that good citizens imperatively need to know; they may perhaps profitably know other things, but the fundamental notion is that if they know this they know all that is absolutely essential. But is not a law that is proclaimed to unredeemed persons with such optimism at best only an imperfect, garbled law? Is it not very different from the true and majestic law of God with its awful pronouncements of eternal death upon sinful man?

The answer to these questions is only too plain. A proclamation of morality which regards itself as all that is necessary—which regards itself as being capable at the most of nonessential supplementation by additional motives to be provided by Christianity or other faiths—is very different from that true proclamation of the law of God which may be a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. It is not merely insufficient, but it is false; and I do not see how a consistent Christian can possibly regard it as providing any part of that nurture and admonition of the Lord which it is a duty of every Christian parent to give to his children.

What other solution, then, has the public school to offer for the problem which we are considering just now? Well, many people tell us that the reading of the Bible can be put into the public schools. Every educated man, we are told, ought to know something about the Bible; and no intelligent, broad-minded person—whether a Christian or not—ought to object to the bare reading of this great religious classic. So in many places we find the Bible being read in public schools. What shall we say about that?

For my part, I have no hesitation in saying that I am strongly opposed to it. I think I am just about as strongly opposed to the reading of the Bible in state-controlled schools as any atheist could be.

For one thing, the reading of the Bible is very difficult to separate from propaganda about the Bible. I remember, for example, a book of selections from the Bible for school reading which was placed in my hands some time ago. Whether it is used no I do not know, but it is typical of what will inevitably occur of the Bible is read in public schools. Under the guise of being a book of selections for Bible reading, it really presupposed the current naturalistic view of the Old Testament Scriptures.

But even where such efforts are avoided, even where the Bible itself is read (and not one of the current mistranslations but in the Authorized Version) the Bible still may be soread as to obscure and even contradict its true message. When, for example, the great and glorious promises of the Bible to the redeemed children of God are read as though they belonged of right to man as man, have we not an attack upon the very heart and core of the Bible’s teaching? What could be more terrible, for example, from the Christian point of view, than the reading of the Lord’s Prayer to non-Christian children as though they could use it without becoming Christians and as though persons who have never been purchased by the blood of Christ could possibly say to God, “Our Father, which art in Heaven”? The truth is that a garbled Bible may be a falsified Bible; and when any hope is held out to lost humanity from the so-called ethical portions of the Bible apart from its great redemptive core, then the Bible is represented as saying the direct opposite of what it really says.

So I am opposed to the reading of the Bible in public schools. As for any presentation of general principles of what is called “religion,” supposed to be exemplified in various positive religions, including Christianity, it is quite unnecessary for me to say in this company that such presentation is opposed to the Christian religion at its very heart. The relation between the Christian way of salvation and other ways is not a relation between the perfect and the imperfect, but it is a relation between the true and the false. The minute a professing Christian admits that he can find neutral ground with non-Christians in the study of “religion” in general, he has given up the battle; he has really, if he knows what he is doing, made common cause with that syncretism which is today, as it was in the first century of our era, the deadliest enemy of the Christian faith.” --- J. Gresham Machen, Education, Christianity, and the State pages 77-80

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