“Evangelicals throughout the nineteenth century had not worked very self-consciously at thinking about the best ways, consistent with the Bible itself, to push thinking from the Scripture to modern situations and back again. That is, habits of patient study were far less well exercised than habits of quick quotation. Proof-texting did not cause great damage so long as the culture as a whole held to general Christian values, but when those general Christian values began to weaken, the weakness in evangelical theologizing — even more, in thinking like a Christian about the world in general — became all too evident.” (p.108, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind).
Mark Noll identifies a major weakness in recent evangelical history: we have abandoned the capacity to think and substituted instead with quotes of convenience. It’s time for a change.
In the province of Ontario, our public school health curriculum will be undergoing a significant change in the fall of 2015. These changes were first introduced in 2010 but will now, it seems, be mandated in just a few months. The premise is that the times have changed, digital influence has changed and therefore we need to be educating our children about their bodies, diversity of families, and what counts as consensual sexual activity – from as young as Grade 1.
An interesting quote from a grade 8 student at the January 27, 2015 news conference:
“Whether or not teens are going to be having sex when they’re 13 or 14 … learning about abstinence isn’t realistic because sex is a part of society, part of our lives,” she said. “Not learning about consent means not knowing what consent is when you do decide to have sex.”
Let’s just say that the conservative side, including evangelicals, of our province has been in quite a stir and it continues to get a little more frenzied as the time for implementation draws near. There is truth in many parts of this adolescent sentiment. It will serve the evangelical community well to listen to the truth within it. We must be willing to acknowledge what is true and earn the right to be heard.
“The Bible will always provide the deepest and most far-reaching orientation for carrying on the life of the mind. But proper examination of the world is required in conjunction with proper use of the Bible in order to understand the world as God ordained that it should be understood.” (p.53) While I don’t necessarily have solutions readily available, I do believe that retreat from our public education schools is not an answer. Neither are demonstrations or ‘grandstanding’. Mark Noll, in the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, said it this way: “As the New Testament so vividly illustrates, Christianity seems to work best from a modest position. That posture keeps its advocates humble, which is the paradoxically powerful servant stance.” (p. 248)
The incarnational example of Jesus is that He came into a world that had not had any sign, prophet, message or king who was God’s representative for hundreds of years. He was born into a culture of violence and fear. Mark Noll, in Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, says it better this way:
“If it is true that the Word became flesh, it must also be true that the realm that bore the Word, the realm of flesh, is worthy of the most serious consideration. (Loc. 449)… If Jesus Christ shows us God in human flesh, does not God-in-human-flesh also show us something of great importance about humanity? (Loc. 478)
Yet he never came with a temporal political agenda, instead He took time to get to know the people around Him, understand their interests, points of view and then spoke clearly and resolutely about the truth of God as it related to that matter. He asked questions, and He was willing to accept ridicule and mockery along the way from those who, were inwardly challenged by the depth of Truth He spoke, while they outwardly tried to hang onto their power, position or possessions.
Jesus’ posture enabled Him to serve the needs of those who were looking for God; His words communicated that God was also looking for them. In a practical sense, for our situation, that means that:
- We need to ask for forgiveness for ways in which we, as evangelical believers in Christ have misrepresented Our Lord and His Truth.
- our churches should be looking to build relationships with our schools, seeking ways to serve the real needs (not just the ones that are convenient for us) of the schools in our area.
- Our parents should be involved on parent councils and volunteering in the classrooms as needed.
- Our people need to remember that everyone in the school is created in the image of God, loved dearly by Him and that God desperately desires to redeem their lives. Our conduct should reflect that perspective.
- Being more conscientious about discipling our children, at home, to think critically and biblically.
- To take initiative as parents and students to offer alternative work projects for any subject areas that may be outside of our comfort level.
- Prayerfully support and encourage our educators who may be struggling with teaching the new mandate.
For those who are already doing this, my prayer and encouragement will continue toward you. For those thinking of getting out of the school system, it would be a shame to lose the potential of your Spirit-given, Christ-centered, biblically-founded perspective. How can we influence change if we’re not present and ready for engagement, whether it’s this matter or any other?
I’m not sure how this will all play out when the new curriculum rolls out in September, but I do know that only those willing to think clearly with the mind of Christ and willing to serve resolutely with the love of Christ will ever gain a credible voice in the classroom, parent council or their local board of Education. “The main point, however, is…: for serious intellectual efforts, those who look to Christ as their prophet, priest, and king act most faithfully when they carry out those efforts with norms defined by Christ.” (Loc. 1396, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind)