early American colleges were distinctly Christian institutions.
But the public school system, unlike the colleges, was not so
inspired. On the other hand, the public schools were not intended
to be irreligious. In the readers of our grandparents’ time,
God and Jesus Christ were mentioned. Today no such references
can be found in the books of the public schools. The reason is
not hard to find. The public schools were founded with the idea
of not favoring one religion above another, and the result is
that they now favor no religion at all. They are completely secularized.
the public schools, while not supposed to favor one Christian
denomination above another, were not intended to attack Christianity.
The idea was that they should be neutral. And because the majority
of Protestants believed the promises of the schoolmen that they
would not attack religion, the Protestants did not found primary
schools as the Romanists did. Now it is clear that the Romanists
adopted the wiser course of action because the promises of the
schoolmen were soon to be broken.
is attacked all through the public school system. Reports from
parents say that the evolutionary denial of the creation of the
world by God is taught to the children of the second grade. How
can a child of seven or eight stand up against an organized attack
of the theistic worldview? How can parents protect their children?
The public school makes no pretense of being neutral in religious
matters, and when a parent here or there protests, he is promptly
ridiculed and squelched. The notion of religious liberty, or even
of the toleration of Christianity—that is, the original
claim to neutrality—is not a part of the schoolmen's mental
already been made of the exclusion of Bible reading from the public
schools. The result has been a generation of children who are
handicapped in the English language and literature. It is an incontrovertible
fact that the English Bible has had a greater influence on our
language, our literature, our civilization, our morals, than any
other book. The children who are deprived of the Bible are culturally
deprived, as well as religiously deprived. Someone has well said
that knowledge of the Bible without a college education is of
more value than a college education without knowledge of the Bible.
In view of this fact, the prohibition of Bible reading is acutely
significant of the hatred the public schools, and a large section
of our society, have for Christianity. Books attacking Christianity
are not illegal. Teachers can deny God, creation, and providence;
but the law forbids them to recommend Christianity.
cultural deprivation of this policy is so obvious, some of the
educators want to teach the Bible as literature. This reintroduction
of the Bible into the schools might also allay some of the criticism.
It may turn out, however, that the Bible as literature will be
worse than no Bible at all. Will the Bible be taught as divine
literature or as human literature—mere literature, and not
revelation? In one school where this was tried, the teacher required
the pupils to write a paper. She was very flexible in her requirement:
Each student could choose any part of the Bible for his subject.
One little girl asked if she might write on Isaiah. The teacher
asked, Do you mean first Isaiah or second Isaiah? Thus the teaching
of the Bible as literature becomes an attack on its veracity.
It will be used; it is being used, to undermine Christianity.
schools first became popular, the Protestants generally were deceived
by the specious promises of the public school people. They thought
that if they maintained Christian colleges, the primary schools
could be entrusted to the state. But not all the Protestants were
deceived by these false promises not to attack Christianity. The
Lutheran Church and the Christian Reformed people early established
primary schools for their children. They believed that the influence
of the Christian home and the preaching of the Christian church
should be strengthened by a Christian school system. But both
the Lutherans and the Christian Reformed, with their European
background, have remained somewhat closed societies as it were;
and unfortunately they have exercised little influence, in this
respect at least, on the rest of American Protestantism. There
was one man, however, among the English-speaking American churches
who saw the implication of the public school system; he warned
of what was to follow, but his warning went unheeded. It is interesting,
sadly interesting, to read his warning today, now that ninety
years have proved him to be right. For it was in lectures given
prior to 1890 that A. A. Hodge made the predictions now to be
In his Popular
Lectures on Theological Themes, page 283, he wrote:
and centralized system of national education, separated from
religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling
enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic
unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual,
social, and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.
before, he had written:
It is capable
of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has
the right of excluding from the public schools whatever he does
not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give
way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least
must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter
in how small a minority the atheists or agnostics may be. It
is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and
persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United
States system of national popular education will be the most
efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of Atheism
which the world has ever seen.
What A. A.
Hodge did not see, at least what he did not explicitly say, is
that although the irreligious have seized the right to exclude
Christianity, the Christians are denied the right to exclude attacks
on Christianity. There is no neutrality.
the schools are not Christian. Just as obviously they are not
neutral. The Scriptures say that the fear of the Lord is the chief
part of knowledge; but the schools, by omitting all reference
to God, give the pupils the notion that knowledge can be had apart
from God. They teach in effect that God has no control of history,
that there is no plan of events that God is working out, that
God does not foreordain whatsoever comes to pass. Aside from definite
anti-Christian instruction to be discussed later, the public schools
are not, never were, can never be, neutral. Neutrality is impossible.
Let one ask what neutrality can possibly mean when God is involved.
How does God judge the school system, which says to him, "O
God, we neither deny nor assert thy existence; and O God, we neither
obey nor disobey thy commandments; we are strictly neutral."
Let no one fail to see the point: The school system that ignores
God teaches its pupils to ignore God; and this is not neutrality.
It is the worst form of antagonism, for it judges God to be unimportant
and irrelevant in human affairs. This is atheism.
is excerpted from an essay which originally appeared in the May/June
1988 issue of The Trinity Review. It is reprinted with permission
of , P. O. Box 68, Unicoi, TN 37692. Available
online under "Review Archives" at .