We don’t need more nominalism
There has a lot of chatter in the press recently about efforts to teach the Bible in public schools. This is mainly because the President has opined on the idea, and encouraged states who have introduced bills to promote it. Predictably, there is opposition to this idea.
The groups argue that the bills are backdoor attempts to promote religion. As the Washington Post reports, “The legislation has drawn objections from groups seeking to protect the separation of church and state. The groups argue that the bills are backdoor attempts to promote Christianity in public schools.”
I, too, am against the idea, but for the opposite reason: it would result not in the promotion of Christianity, but in the demotion of it.
Because of our constitution and the first amendment prohibition on the establishment of any religion, any teaching of Scripture in the public schools would be gutted of any theological content, any doctrinal conviction, and most importantly, any insistence that Jesus is the unique Son of God. It would of necessity be teaching the Bible as literature or as an important component in Western culture. The Bible is indeed these things, but it is much more than this. Is it the message of God’s acting in grace and mercy to redeem sinners who were at enmity with Him. It is the story of delivering us from the curse that our first father plunged his progeny into, and of the unparalleled lovingkindess of our God to liberate us from the slavery of sin.
Does anyone expect these to be prominent themes in a public school presentation of the Bible? Would the approved teachers present Scripture as the Word of God, or have any doctrinal stance about the Bible? On the contrary, the bill introduced in the Missouri legislature specifically excises this. “Baker says the classes would focus on how the bible influenced our Founding Fathers and the U.S. Constitution. Classes would not focus on religion or theology and would be taught by a Social Studies teacher.” This is how one arrives at nominalism, at viewing the Bible as “an inspiring book”, a “great message” that forms the foundation of our government and society. But it is also how one avoids the preaching of the cross, of the necessity of being born again. It is Christianity as culture, not as life.
I understand the ACLU and others have a concern that religion not be brought into public (government) schools, but Christians also have a concern to keep the government out of our exegesis of Scripture. These bills fail on this very point: They allow the government to dictate what is and is not an acceptable exegesis of Scripture. God’s Word is powerful and active and does not need public schools for its dissemination. I am afraid that these proposals would do more harm than good, so thanks but no thanks to teaching the Bible in public schools.