Secular Education in a Noisy Universe

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.”

–Psalm 19:1-3

Ponder this claim for a second.  Day to day, night to night, you live in a noisy universe, where everything around you is speaking of the nature and characteristics of God.  This fact is denied in practice by both Christian and non-Christian.

On one side of the aisle, many Christian attempt proofs of God’s existence, as if we must infer from present data back to a time when God’s actions were more visible.  No!  The Bible is clear.  Not only God’s existence, but even some of His “invisible” characteristics are both audible (as in Psalm 19) and visible by means of His daily providence–so much so, that men are left “without excuse” for not worshiping God (Romans 1:20).  If there is any trouble in men not hearing or seeing God, it is due not to a deficiency in the evidence, but rather to a deficiency in the spiritual sensory system.  To stand in the midst of God’s noisy universe and demand evidence of God is like a deaf man standing with his back to Niagara Falls, claiming he needs more evidence.  We should not cater to man’s blindness, but preach with the expectancy that God opens blind eyes.

On the other side, the non-Christian world teaches our nation’s youth without hardly a mention of God.  Students learn of geography, astronomy, sociology, and psychology without any reference to what the earth, the heavens, society and individuals are telling us about the glory of God.  Overall, the impression is given that the universe has nothing to say about God.  If He exists, He is, at best, irrelevant (see Already Gone, mentioned below).  Is that education?  Even though many useful details are learned, the fundamental meaning is denied, for at root everything declares the glory of God.  Therefore, as a whole, secular education is a lie, for we live in a noisy universe.

Notice, the problem with secular education is not so much what is said (and there are bald-faced lies being said), but rather what is not said.  Nothing substantial is said about God.  According to the Bible, secular education is no education at all, for “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).

As a pastor, I am deeply moved by this fact.  Christian families send their children to twelve years of secular education, where these kids are taught for thirty hours a week that God has nothing to do with the real world.  Then, when they attend church, even regularly for four hours at most each week, they are taught the Bible without any reference to the topics of school.  The separation is stark.  After a while, the impression is given that the Bible may be helpful as a story book for moral guidance, but it has nothing to do with the hard-core social, economical, civic, and fiscal realities of life.  Is this habit right?  Are we truly bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4)?

The effects of a secular education are often devastating.  According to A. W. Pink, for example, it was his secular education that overwhelmed the faith of his pious father.  Though not universally the case, thanks to God’s grace, Pink’s story has been repeated time and again, as shown in a recent study done by Answers in Genesis (see Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It).  And why should this not be the case?  In Psalm 19, the reality of an inspired word is mentioned immediately after the reality of a noisy universe.  God is a vocal God, and He is speaking both in His world and in His word.  To deny the one seems to prejudice us against the other, as A. W. Tozer once reasoned, “The Bible will never be a living book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in His universe.  To jump from a dead, impersonal world to a dogmatic Bible is too much for most people” (from “The Speaking Voice,” in The Pursuit of God).

Therefore, what should we do as a church?  What should I do as a pastor?  First, we need to quit abiding by the intellectual rules of modern society.  Moderns adhere to the lie of Immanuel Kant, that the phenomenal world of hearing and sight can teach nothing about the noumenal world of God and spiritual life.  As a result, our very educational institutions keep the two worlds separate, leaving the real world to school and the spiritual world to church or to some other religion.  In contrast, Psalm 19 demands that we bring the two worlds together, teaching what the noisy universe is saying about God, and illustrating our Bible exposition with “real-world” issues.  Indeed, there is only one world–God’s world–and it is noisy.  This is the very agenda J. Gresham Machen espoused almost one hundred years ago, when, after having fought eight years of doubt against Kant, he called on the church to join knowledge and piety together in real-life study of all the arts and sciences to the glory of God (see his 1912 address,  “Christianity and Culture”)

Second, we need to make some weighty choices about our children’s education.  Even though our children may not be taught audacious lies, teaching them any subject in a spiritual vacuum impoverishes their understanding.  They will miss so much of what a skilled Christian teacher could point out.  Yes, our children can be saved without a holistic education; and yes, the Gospel is more powerful than education (God be praised!); but why should we throw an intellectual obstacle in their way to Christ, or risk the beguiling effects that entrapped men like Pink in their childhood?  Secular education is a lie.  The universe is not silent, but noisy.  Let us, as Machen advised, “destroy the obstacle at its root.”  Besides, the Bible commands fathers to immerse their children in Scripture (see Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

Third, we need to live lives ourselves in accordance with what the universe is telling us about God.  It will do no good to give our children a thorough grounding in Christian worldview thinking, while we ourselves live secular lives according to the dictates of secular reasoning–whether socially conservative or liberal–and not according to the full range of Scripture.  Why should we send our children to Christian school, when we ourselves listen to Christ-less conservative talk radio all day long, and never open our Bible?  Yes, we need information, but when will we take every thought of our lives captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)?

Often, I yearn for the day when we will overhaul the very categories of our education, and live our lives more in accordance with the truth.  Do you hear what God is saying, in His world and in His word?  We live in a very noisy universe.

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