Machen’s View on the Bible in Schools


It has been my belief for some time that the worst thing Christians can do in order to turn the tide in our country is to put prayer or the Bible back into government-run and private schools.

The problem with doing so, is that you give the atheist, the cultist, the pagan, the Arminian, free reign to do with prayer and the Bible as they see fit. Placing the word of God into the hands of the enemies of the faith is no answer to the problem of cultural decay in America. They will simply turn the Bible into a screed against Christianity. If you doubt this, see Satan’s treatment of God’s word in his temptation of Christ found in Matthew 4.

J. Gresham Machen makes a similar point in his paper The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age, published in D.G. Hart and John Muether’s excellent book, Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Machen writes:

There are certain things which which you cannot expect from such a true Christian church. In the first place, you cannot expect from it any cooperation with non-Christian religion or with a non-Christian program of ethical culture. There are those who tell us that the Bible ought to be put into the public schools, and that the public schools should seek to build character by showing the children that honesty is the best policy and that good Americans do not lie nor steal.

We still hear these arguments today. What those who make these arguments advocate for is mere moralism. As Machen shows us, moralism is antithetical to the message of the Bible. The last thing we need is moralism, especially a moralism that builds up the populace in the false religion of humanism. Let me be very clear, the schools are rife with humanism. Machen continues:

With such programs a true Christian church will have nothing to do. The Bible, it will hold, is made to say the direct opposite of what it means if any hope is held out to mankind from its ethical portions apart from its great redemptive center and core; and character building on the basis of human experience may be character destruction; it is the very antithesis of that view of sin which is at the foundation of all Christians convictions and all Christian life.

What Machen is saying is that if we use the Bible for the purpose of building character in our children, by teaching them the moral law, or an aspect of the moral law, without the benefit of showing what the Bible fully says about mankind, we will be teaching them that they can have goodness in and of themselves. This is the opposite of what Scripture teaches about mankind. God’s word shows us that there is no moral good in us, and that we are completely depraved and void of righteousness before a holy and just God.

Humanist love to rip passages from the Bible in order to prop up their false view of humanity. They devalue the holiness of God, while exalting mankind to unreal levels of goodness.

This is what is already being done in the schools now. Every vestige of teaching is centered upon the premise that the children are basically good, and that all they need, is more of what the school is offering to help them realize their full-potential goodness.

Therefore adding the Bible to a false sense of morality makes it even worse. The children are raised with the sense that they are good, can do good, and therefore, are acceptable before all social and theological norms, even though the Bible teaches just the opposite.

We should have nothing to do with such initiatives. As true followers of Christ, we should leave the Bible where it belongs, in the church and gospel-centered homes, being taught by men who are truly called to preach and teach it.

See related article: Is Betsy Devos Bringing Back Prayer in Schools?


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