Earlier this month, a bill was introduced to the West Virginian legislature that would mandate public schools in the state to offer a Bible class as a history elective. Specifically, if passed, WV HB2073 would give West Virginia high schoolers the opportunity to study “the history of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.” As a Christian, I long for the growth of Biblical literacy in this country. However, teaching the Bible in public schools is a bad idea and may very well add to Biblical illiteracy.
My main concern is with the curriculum for the proposed Bible classes. For starters, who is going to write the curriculum? Unless those who are writing the curriculum believe that the Bible is the inerrant, divinely inspired Word of God, I shudder to think what blasphemy will be woven into the proposed classes. What kind of vetting will the state of West Virginia use in determining whether or not someone is qualified to oversee the curriculum standards for the proposed Bible classes?
Similarly, which denominational distinctives are going to be adhered to? While lessening the concern, being categorized as a “history” elective doesn’t completely abrogate it. For example, there are sharp differences with deep theological implications between the way Protestants and Roman Catholics view the history and trajectory of the Old and New Testaments. As a Protestant, I would not be happy if my kid’s Bible classes at school were sowing theological confusion in their minds.
Classroom teachers present another layer to the probable mishandling of the Bible. Even if (big if) the curriculum itself passes Biblical literacy muster, public school classrooms are staffed with people largely trained in secular colleges. Many of the professors in American universities and colleges are notoriously anti-Christian. That, of course, has translated into a generation of college grads who are throwing off the “shackles” of religion at unprecedented rates. Giving someone who is hostile to Christianity the power to teach the Bible to a room full of easily manipulated teenagers is asking for the continued decimation of Biblical literacy in this country.
If the bill is passed and West Virginia begins offering Bible classes as an elective, chances are the students will exit the class with a greater cynicism and mistrust of the Bible than what they had when they entered. The students will most likely be taught to view the Bible the same way in which they view the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example. They will be taught that the Biblical anecdotes of God’s interfering with and squashing the rebellion at the Tower of Babel, Jericho’s walls miraculously crashing down, and David defeating a literal giant are nothing more than the culture building myths of a small, ancient, Semitic tribe. In the minds of the students, the Bible will be reduced to a historical oddity that has had an impact on Western civilization, for some reason or other. The Bible will not be taught as God’s Word, and it will not be handled with the deference and reverence that God’s Word demands.
My final skepticism about the proposed Bible classes in West Virginia is pointed at churches. Many of the churches throughout this country are far more concerned with appealing to consumers than with confronting sinners with the truth that God is Sovereign, all humans are sinful, and faith in Jesus is the only way for humans to restore a right relationship with their Creator. On Sundays around this country, too many churches exhibit a willingness to water down the gospel, tickle the ears of people, and entertain the “audience” in order to see their church membership rolls grow. Maybe, just maybe, the churches throughout this country, including churches in West Virginia, should focus on reclaiming a clear, robust, and God-honoring Bible teaching before shirking the duty off onto the government.
Neither a state nor the federal government can be trusted to handle the Bible in a manner that befits the Word of God. That should be obvious to every Christian concerned with teaching that promotes God-honoring Biblical literacy. West Virginia’s proposed bill to offer Bible classes in public schools will do more damage than good.