WRITTEN BY Chase Ringler
At a gas station in Indianapolis as I walked out of the door after paying for my Combos and PowerAde I saw a headline that brought a smile to my face. The headline read that there is a push to put Bible classes back into public schools. The headline was from USA Today, and after President Trump tweeted his endorsement for these classes, the Washington Post, The Hill, and Politico all ran stories featuring the rising tide of Biblical literacy classes in our nation’s public schools.
For those who follow the news, this may be nothing new. In 2018, Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky passed a similar bill to the ones being proposed in Indiana, Virginia, Florida, North Dakota, and West Virginia.
What might be news to you is that this youth pastor, after initial joy, had a great concern about the Bible being taught in public schools.
Yes, you read that right.
But why would anyone who loves Christ have concern about the Bible being offered in one of our nation’s greatest mission fields? Don’t I want those students to know about the Bible? Don’t I want God back in the public arena? Wouldn’t the addition of Bible classes in the public schools help me with my own job?
Let’s slow down with the questions and think for a bit.
Knowing a little history helps in assessing if this would be an overall good idea, or not. First let’s remember a guy named Constantine, Emperor of the Roman Empire AD 306-337, who converted to Christianity and made Christianity legal in the Roman world. After Constantine came a ruler named, Theodosius, Roman Emperor AD 379-395, who eventually made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Now I am sure that if we were to interview Christians who lived during this time what they thought of the establishment of Christianity as the state church, they would be thrilled. The alternative was to hide for their lives as they faced persecution. However, with the good also came the bad. Christianity became popular, and whenever Christianity becomes popular the central message of Christianity, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, gets put in the background. As if that isn’t bad enough, Roman officials began to appoint church leaders, and vice versa. The state and the church became almost inseparable well into the middle ages.
Then a little thing called the Reformation happened. Why did the Reformation have to take place? The church had become corrupt and the specific bond between church and state had no little part in the degradation of the Gospel.
Lest you think separation of church and state is a Roman Catholic problem, there are the stories of the Scottish Covenanters. In 1580 the people of Scotland established the National Covenant. According to the Scots, they were one of two countries that had made a national covenant with the Lord, and they intended to have a pure church where Christ was King. However, in 1603 there was no English heir from Elizabeth, and thus, King James VI of Scotland became King James I of both Scotland and England (and of the King James Bible). James took over the crown, but not everyone was happy about this. To appease his English constituents, James promised to appoint bishops over the Kirk (the Church of Scotland). There was some upheaval during James’s reign, but James was not nearly as tyrannical his son Charles. While I never met Charles, the accounts of whether he was a Christian or not vary. At the very least the Scots didn’t care for him. The Scots took the National Covenant and signed it with their blood and said that Charles was not the king of the Kirk, but Christ was the only rightful King. This, and a whole heap of angry English Puritans led to the English Civil Wars. Charles died and Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan brothers ruled. However, Charles’s son, Charles II, lied to the people of Scotland about His love for the National Covenant, came back as their king, waited until the Puritans ticked everybody off in England, and skated his way back to the throne. Once there, Charles II began to say that any pastor who opposed him couldn’t preach in a church building (remember the government owned the church buildings). In one day over 300 pastors were kicked out of their respective churches in Scotland and began field preaching. The Scots continued to espouse that Charles II wasn’t the king of the Kirk, only Christ was. This would later lead to the “Killing Times” in which more Scots lost their lives from 1680-1685 than in all of England during the persecution of “Bloody” Mary.
Why all of these history lessons?
It is important to know the past to make informed decisions of today for the future. And, just to add some more clarifications for what happens when governments get in the Christian “game,” we need to look no further than China. The state sponsored church is being censored on what they can teach and preach. When you limit the teaching and preaching of the Word, you limit the power of the church. History shows us that we need to be at least leery of these Bible classes.
A couple of questions give me pause over openly rejoicing about the Bible literacy classes. Who would be teaching these classes? If the respective teacher was a Christian and actually believed the Bible, then I would consider that a win. If the teacher is anyone else, someone who has any other religious background, or no religious background, the content would be undermined by the presenter. Who is teaching is almost as important as what is being taught.
What if a Christian teacher is teaching a Bible class and students start having a radical worldview compared to the rest of society (as every Christian should)? Will school districts or the ACLU sit idly by as the youths of America are converted to the Kingdom one Bible class at a time?
What if there is a non-Christian teaching the Bible class and students who come from Christian families start doubting the Bible in high school because their teacher doesn’t believe in the veracity of the Bible? Are we prepared in our churches for our students to be taught the Bible in the public sphere? Perhaps the 80% or 70% number of college students who leave the church after high school might become a reality of those high school students who take these classes. Would the situation be made better if parents taught their children the Bible at home before sending them off to counter a teacher who is posed with teaching a Bible they believe to be false? Yes. But are parents equipping their respective teens with the Bible currently?
There are countless other questions that could be posed about the potential Bible classes. My point in writing this is that we need to be slow to fully embrace these classes.
These Bible classes still have a potential to be great. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s words do not come back to void. God reveals Himself through His Word. So, despite who is teaching the class, the Word of God is delivered to students. According to the Westminster Catechism, “The chief end of man is to know God and to enjoy Him forever.” Countless teenagers in public schools have yet to have the opportunity to know their chief end as it is presented in the Scriptures. The common grace that the Bible classes would provide would benefit those teens. And, who knows, some might even come to know Christ and have their eternity’s changed because of this.
Chase is the Youth Pastor at Wallen Baptist Church