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Monday, 7 November 2011

The folly of a Secular & Integrated Education

I have been asked to respond to the premise:
the removal of religious instruction from our school curriculum.

Here is a reply that I have sent:

The Word of God reminds us that there is really nothing new under the sun: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun, Ecclesiastes 1:9.

This is very true with the realm of education and the place that the Word of God and religious instruction has within it. The present clamour for the removal of religious instruction from education is not a new thing. Dr Henry Cooke, the eminent contender for 'Christian education' in the mid 1800s, within the then Synod of Ulster, argued that any system of education that did not have the Word of God at its core and centre was not worth having. Furthermore, any system that had merely 'Scripture Extracts', acceptable and agreeable to all, was equally rejected by Dr Henry Cooke and the Synod of Ulster. You can read of his views in the biography written by his son in law Prof. Porter, entitled: "The life and Times of Dr Cooke."
Why should the Word of God be deemed so absolutely necessary within education? Consider that:

I. A secular education does not impart true knowledge or 
lead to true fulfillment and satisfaction in life 
Being recent converts to education, the State and secular thinking generally countenances no alternatives. Yet it must be remembered that before the State took on the task of educating children, churches and religious organisations were engaged in the instruction of the young. When kings and parliaments were covering the earth in death and destruction, it was religious groups, particularly Reformed Christians, who were seeking to raise the young with a semblance of education. Many of the universities such as Trinity in Dublin and Queens in Belfast were commenced by Christians.

Secularism may seek, with ever increasing narrow-mindedness, to close down all discussion of the possibility that we are not here by blind chance, the result of random processes, but have been created by God for a purpose.

A system of education that denies this possibility and argues contrariwise is not going to serve well the young people who pass through it. Secularism fears setting down Biblical creationism in the science classroom as an alternative belief about origins. The belief in evolution that lies at the heart of atheistic thinking is just that, a 'belief'. No different from the 'belief' in creation. A 1971 edition of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin had a very interesting statement in the introduction:
"The fact of evolution is the backbone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded upon a unproven theory - is it then a science or a faith? Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation - both are concepts which believers know to be true but neither, up to the present, have been capable of proof." 
This was written by Dr Leonard Harrison Matthews [1901-1986], a Fellow of the Royal Society.

If secular thinking is so sure of itself why is it so fearful of permitting young people explore evolution and creationism by putting them on an equal footing? Surely the truth is never afraid of the light! If evolution is so confident that it is indeed the truth and that creationism is a figment of a Christian's imagination, then surely it will easily be determined that this is so.

Secularism may have taken over education. However, a secular education fails to adequately address the profound questions of: Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going? What is my purpose for being here?

It is an inescapable fact that humanity are religious beings wherever you find them in the world. People are not born atheists they become atheists. Wherever we are to be found across the world we are instinctively religious beings. This is not the result of influence brought to bear by missionary societies etc. Even where remote tribal groups are discovered living in virtual seclusion they worship something. This is testimony to the 'seed of religion' which is placed in every human being by the Creator. The natural state of humankind bears witness not to a secular existence but rather to a spiritual/religious existence. Education must therefore address this fact!

The more any society forsakes the Word of God, and God's ordained manner of living for all of us, the more it brings trouble upon itself. The Biblical principle is: Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people, Proverbs 14:34. Living according to the moral law of God benefits society in every way. This is evident from what happened to the European nations who embraced the Protestant Reformation. Not only was there a rediscovery of primitive Biblical Christianity in doctrine and practice, but there was an elevating of those societies that did so in every other way. Socially, economically, and culturally the European nations prospered greatly. As Queen Victoria is reported to have said when asked what made Britain great, she replied: "The Bible!"

Forsaking religion generally, and Bible religion especially, brings a breakdown of good order in society. The absence of any infallible moral standard by which actions are judged leaves everyone to do that which is right in their own eyes. The only control that is exercised is the will of the majority through the use of judicial or physical power. But this fails to keep the baser tendencies of human nature in check. The will of the majority is often wrong and ultimately harmful to the good of society.

Presently in society there is an increasing lawlessness, a lack of respect for others and a growing selfish spirit and frame of mind. I do not believe that it is a mere coincidence that this is all developing at the same time as society grows more secular by the day. The Bible teaches that the two are inextricably linked.

There is increasing dissatisfaction with life, especially among the young. It is a worrying statistic to read of increasing suicide rates, again especially among the young.

The secular emphasis upon life in this world will never satisfy the soul of man that instinctively craves for that which is spiritual in character. The Word of God reminds us that a person's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth, Luke 12:15. The things of this world do not satisfy. Possessions, pleasures, past times, etc do not bring lasting joy. The pleasures of sin only last for a season. In their wake comes emptiness and recrimination.

The Word of God teaches that Jesus Christ is the fount of life. They who find Him find abundant life! John 10:10. Our spiritual nature is the chief part of us and therefore we can be only truly satisfied by that which is spiritual in nature. It is God Himself, who is a Spirit, that truly and lastingly satisfies.

It is this knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, John 17:3, that gives a person a reason for living. Our life then has purpose and direction. We learn that we are not here by chance, the product of random processes, rather we are unique, one of a kind, endowed with the capacity to know God and enjoy Him. We have been initially created in the image of God. We teach our children the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The first questions asks: What is man's chief end? The answer states: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. It is the realisation of this truth that opens up a life of contentment and fulfillment.

A secular education doesn't give the young an elevated purpose like this in life. According to the secularist we are just a grade above the brute beast and maybe not even that. Is it any wonder that so many people are driven to despair in this world today?

II. Only the Word of God can impart a true knowledge 
The Word of God must be given the chief place in education as it alone can impart true knowledge. Without the Scriptures we are left to wander around, lost in a sea of contrary reasoning, where one person's opinion is as good as the next person's. This does not lead to progress. It just leads to a moral, spiritual, ethical and social vacuous confusion.

We need an infallible and inerrant rule by which all that we believe and all that we do can be tested and judged. Thankfully we have this in the Word of God. God has inspired His Word and preserved His Word down through the centuries. This is to be our only rule of faith and practice.

The Word of God at the centre of education is very necessary.

1. It is necessary for the knowledge of God it imparts. We cannot know God any other way. Our own views of God are not trustworthy. They have been corrupted by humanity's fall into sin. We need a revelation of who and what God is, that comes from God Himself. God's Word reveals that He is knowable, but also that He is holy and that sin must be punished. That is a concept that again is ingrained in every human being. There is an inherent belief that wrong must be punished and that wrong doers should not escape the consequences of their conduct. This lies at the very heart of the revelation of God.
2. It is necessary for the knowledge of human nature that it imparts. We can have no true and accurate view of ourselves other than that which is contained in the Word of God. Humanity is instinctively proud of itself and fails to acknowledge or recognise that it is sinful and in need of a Saviour.

3. It is necessary for the knowledge of the world around us that it imparts. Only God pre-dates time and only God was there at its beginning. Only God therefore can give us an accurate account of the world and its origin. While the Bible is not primarily a Science or a History book; what is says about Science or History is true. Any other scientific viewpoint or historical claim that contradicts the Bible is to be rejected.

4. It is necessary for the knowledge of eternal life that it imparts. The greatest need that humanity has is the need of salvation and eternal life. Our corrupted understanding cannot be trusted on the matter of salvation. We need a sure guide. The Scriptures have been given to reveal to us the work of Jesus Christ in making atonement for sin. It reveals to us that we obtain eternal life by faith alone. It is not by our efforts but by Christ's imputed righteousness.

5. It is necessary for the knowledge of morality that it imparts. The Word of God teaches us how to live toward God and toward our fellow human being. It covers every area of life either by direct precept or by recording examples of good and bad conduct. It sets before us the simple principle that righteous conduct leads to the blessing of God and unrighteous conduct leads to the displeasure of God.

It is absolutely essential that these things are taught to the young from their earliest days. It is commanded by God in His Word. Therefore an education system that neglects to do so is unworthy of the name and will only succeed in pulling a society down to spiritual darkness, superstition and to societal banality.

III. The folly of an agreed system of religious instruction 
There are those who argue and lobby for a system of education that has an agreed religious curriculum within it. Teach the things that we all agree on is the common cry. Emphasize the things that unite us and not those things that divide us. Is this true education? Is this really possible?

All religions cannot be right. It is utter folly to pretend otherwise. Contrary beliefs with respect to the truth cannot be accepted as both being valid. This is not accepted in any other area of learning and why should it be acceptable in our knowledge of God. If the knowledge of God were to be taught in this dishonest fashion it will be characterised by platitudes and lip service. It would not be teaching the Truth.

The truth is that there is error and falsehood in the world. We must be warned about this error, not taught that it is another acceptable way to know God. There is no common ground between the fundamental tenets of Biblical Christianity and Romanism or Biblical Christianity and other world religions. To find common ground with these religious systems involves denying basic Scriptural teaching. Education is about the discovery and increase in knowledge. It is not worthy of the name if it is built upon a pretense that every religious view is equally valid and will lead to eternal life. The Word of God clearly teaches otherwise: Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved, Acts 4:12.

As there is a fundamental disagreement on the most indispensable doctrine of all, namely, how can a human being be right with God, how can there be any common ground? In fact, here is where true Bible religion diverges from all other religious systems. All other religions teach a 'salvation' by works in one form or another. Bible religion teaches that salvation is not by what we do but through what Christ Jesus has done, that human nature can do nothing by itself to earn merit or favour with God: As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one, Romans 3:10-12.

Neither can the secularist view of the world, we live in, be equal to the Christian's view. One or other is wrong. They simply can't both be right. It is no surprise that the secular world seeks to push religious instruction aside. It suits their viewpoint and their ultimate goal. However, it will do nothing for society at large.

To argue for the removal of religious instruction from our school curriculum is therefore a backward step no matter what way you look at it.

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