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Does It Matter What Children Learn from Textbooks?

By Edward Gamble

“Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” Jesus, Luke 6:39-40

How careful should parents and pastors be in selecting teachers and leaders for their children? Would you consider going to the campus of a state university and randomly recruiting the first people you encounter as your children’s teachers? Would it matter if they were Christian believers with moral character and a strong faith? Would it matter what they believe about the authority of Scripture, basic biblical doctrines such as creation, sin, and redemption or issues such as abortion, marriage, and sexual orientation? Bear in mind the warning Jesus gave in Luke 6:39-40: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” Since our children will “be like their teachers,” we must take great care in choosing those who teach them. But do we?

We are very familiar with the influence on children’s beliefs by “teachers” such as television, video games, and sport and movie celebrities, but there is another influential group who teach our children every day—their textbooks. Nine out of ten American K–12th grade children attend a public school in which the textbooks, by law, must be free of any teaching about God. When compared with the teachings of Scripture, these textbook lessons run the spectrum from neutral at best to totally antithetical at worst. This is most egregious in the sciences and biology in particular, where any discussion of the origins of the universe and life is almost certain to be in direct conflict with a literal interpretation of the biblical record found in Genesis. Since biology is a required subject taken by 96% of high school graduates,1 nearly every high school student will be taught this unbiblical worldview of origins. If students learn from their textbooks that Genesis is inaccurate and unreliable, they begin to doubt the rest of God’s Word as well. Not surprisingly, many youths, exposed to unbiblical teachings in high school and college, leave the church and their faith behind, some permanently and others for a season.

A few excerpts from three popular biology textbooks used in American schools indicate what students are learning from these textbook teachers.

The Age of the Earth According to most modern textbooks, the universe and earth are billions of years old, and life on earth originated from nonliving materials about 3.8 billion years ago. Compare this teaching with that of the first two chapters of Genesis where God says He created the world and all life in six days.

  • “Evolution takes a long time. ... Radioactive dating indicates that Earth is about 4.5 billion years old—plenty of time for evolution by natural selection to take place.”2

  • “Geologists estimate that Earth formed between 4.6 and 4.5 billion years ago. ... It was some 600 million years or more before the earliest life evolved.”3

  • “How might life have arisen from nonliving matter? ... Biologists have conducted many experiments that simulate the conditions on early Earth ... [and] have confirmed that the formation of complex organic molecules under such conditions is possible, even probable.”4

Evolution Taught as Fact Biology texts treat evolution as fact and as the single unifying basis for all of biological study. Textbooks take considerable pains to cite proof and evidence that evolution actually occurred. Evolution is referenced throughout most texts as the explanation for many different features of living things.

  • “Evolution is a fact. ... Theodosius Dobzhansky once wrote that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.’ Dobzhansky was emphasizing the need to include an evolutionary perspective and approach in all aspects of biological study. Everything in biology is a product of evolution, and biologists need a perspective of change and adaptation to fully understand biological systems.”5

Descent from Common Ancestry and the Evolution of New Organisms Textbooks teach that all life, from amoebas to man, are descended from a common ancestor, an original first cell. Over eons of time gradual, incremental, accumulating changes have resulted in increasingly complex plants and animals with millions of new structures and behaviors like DNA, sexual reproduction, migration, lungs, eyes, wings, bones, scales, feathers, leaves, flowers, seeds, new body plans, and entirely new species and classes of animals and plants. Compare this teaching to Genesis 1 where God says each creature reproduced its own kind.

  • “We can observe and measure evolution directly, and many biologists conduct experiments on evolving populations. ... In addition, we can directly observe a record of the history of evolution in the fossil record over the almost unimaginably long periods of geological time. ... The fact that biological populations evolve, however, is not disputed among biologists.”6

  • “The millions of species that live on Earth today emerged over time, with each new species arising from an already existing species.”7

Human Beings Descended from Earlier, More Primitive Primates These textbooks assert that human beings are not special creations but are evolved from earlier ancestors just like all other species: “Many species in our genus existed before our species, Homo sapiens, appeared. Furthermore, at least three other Homo species existed at the same time as early humans.”8 Compare this teaching with Genesis 1–2 which teaches that humans were made in God’s own image as male and female as His final, unique act of creation.

Children Will Be Like Their Teachers How do these textbook teachers and the human teachers who use them affect the youth who study them? The Barna Group, Pew Research, and others have compiled considerable statistics documenting the youth exodus from churches and the Christian faith following high school and college. For me, this is not just more statistics; it is my personal experience.

I was raised in a devout Christian home by godly parents, steeped in Scripture, baptized at age eight, called to Christian service at age fourteen, educated in public schools—and was almost apostate by the time I was age twenty-one! What happened? During seven years of high school and college, I discovered a love for science and the theory of evolution through my biology classes in high school and my zoology major in college. During those seven years, I was thoroughly indoctrinated in the theory of evolution, finding it persuasive, sensible, intellectually appealing, and unchallenged by any scientific view of Genesis and Scripture. At age twenty-one, I was about to push my faith over the cliff of apostasy when the Lord called me back from the edge. He asked me two questions: “Do you believe I am?” Years of anchoring in the Word, Scripture memory, and training shaped my answer, and I replied, “Yes, I do.” Then He asked me, “Then how can what I have made be at odds with who I am?” This brief conversation with God began my journey back to full faith and a biblical worldview of science and education.

My story of falling away and almost losing my faith is not unique. Untold thousands of youth and adults have left their faith, in part or entirely, due to the wholesale teaching of the theory of evolution. No other doctrine of the day is as ubiquitously, aggressively, and persuasively taught as the idea of evolution, and it is now viewed and taught as a fact instead of a theory. This is evident in nearly every textbook, museum, science-based TV program, and even in the movies, such as Jurassic Park and Star Wars, where various alien life forms are pictured having evolved on their own planets just as humans evolved on Earth (e.g., Yoda, Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks, Wookies, Jabba the Hutt, and many others).

Understanding the debate between religion (Creation) and science (Big Bang/Evolution) requires an examination of the underlying assumptions made by each belief. Both aim to explain the origin of the universe (energy, matter, and life), one by invoking a creator God and the other by rendering a creator unnecessary. In the latter case, all things come into existence spontaneously without a creator or cause. A supernatural agent like God is not required but is a matter of opinion or personal preference. The philosophy of naturalism is at the heart of evolution, postulating that there need not be a creator and that nature itself is all there is. As a result, atheism is the dominant belief system or “faith” arising from naturalistic evolution, since no creator is required. Atheism is a hard sell without evolution to explain the existence of the universe and life, but as atheist Richard Dawkins said, “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”9

Creation, on the other hand, assumes the existence of a transcendent, all-powerful, creative, intelligent God who spoke energy, matter, and life into existence. Note that each system is based on a non-empirical, untestable assumption which must be believed and accepted by faith. By faith, creation says God is. By faith, evolution says God is not, or God is not necessary. Proponents of evolution, especially atheists, do not like admitting this distinction because it recognizes their position as a faith just like that of the theist who believes in God. Instead, they prefer to set up the argument as science/facts versus religion/faith, supposedly giving them the upper hand, since facts trump faith every time. This is a specious and disingenuous tactic since the facts about the created order are the same for both sides. They both observe the same fossil record, finch beaks, vestigial organs, rock layers, and pharyngeal pouches. It is not the facts and evidence that separate the two but how they each interpret what they observe through their respective worldview lenses. One sees only nature; the other sees the hand of God.

Over the years, I have asked many pastors their thoughts about having a Christian school or homeschool network at their church, in light of the required secularism in public schools. A frequent reply was, “We don’t really need a Christian school. We have really good public schools in our community, and many of the teachers in our system are Christians.” So how much poison does it take to render the water in a good well unfit to drink? In my personal experience, it does not take much. The truth of Jesus’ caveat that our children will look like their teachers is regrettably obvious in the growing number of youth leaving their church and faith and the mounting antipathy of our culture for truth about God, Scripture, the church, sexuality and gender, marriage, the sanctity of life, and many other issues addressed clearly in God’s Word. Yet ninety percent of Christian students still spend 16,000 hours over 13 years of schooling in secular schools which purport to be neutral toward God and religion. However, as theologian and philosopher Gordon H. Clark observed, “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.”10

I have always supported VBS (Vacation Bible School) as a way to reach children for Christ, and I took my grandsons to a week of VBS this summer. Since VBS is such a good idea for one week out of each year, what would happen if churches offered Christ-centered education for K-12 students forty weeks each year? I believe it is time for a new “public” school system, one that is open to the public but owned and operated by the body of Christ instead of the government, staffed by carefully vetted Christian teachers, focused on biblical worldview formation and academic rigor, supplied with the best Christian worldview books and materials, and underwritten by the Church. What a world- and culture-changing adventure! Do we dare ask this of God? Do we dare ask for a kingdom education for every American child? Do we dare ask God to give us America’s children to teach?


Ed Gamble is a native of Memphis, TN and graduated at the University of Memphis with a BS in Zoology/Chemistry and an MAT in Secondary Education. Ed is a life-long teacher and Christian school leader. During a calling that spans five decades, he has served as a teacher and headmaster in four private and Christian schools. From January 2003 until his retirement in July 2016, he served as Executive Director of the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools (SBACS). He now serves on the SBACS board and as a senior consultant. Ed and his wife, Wanda, enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and traveling. Ed also loves teaching, fly fishing, gardening, and restoring broken things.


ENDNOTES 1. “Percentage of high school graduates who completed selected mathematics and science courses in high school: 1990 and 2009,” NCES, accessed June 4, 2018, 2. Kenneth R. Miller and Joseph S. Levine, Biology (Boston: Pearson, 2012), 466. 3. David M. Hillis, David Sadava, Richard W. Hill, and Mary V. Price, Principles of Life, Second Edition (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, McMillan, 2014), 2. 4. David M. Hillis, David Sadava, Richard W. Hill, and Mary V. Price, Principles of Life, Second Edition (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, McMillan, 2014), 2. 5. David M. Hillis, David Sadava, Richard W. Hill, and Mary V. Price, Principles of Life, Second Edition (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, McMillan, 2014), 11. 6. Hillis et al., 11. 7. Stephen Nowicki, Biology (Orlando, FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), 435. 8. Miller and Levine, 770. 9. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: Norton, 1986). 10. Gordon H. Clark, “A Christian Philosophy of Education,” Trinity Review, May/June 1988.


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