Not far away, in the center of town, stands a large church. The sermons are replete with Scripture, and the congregation has a reputation as “Bible-believing” people. This is why what I’m about to say is so hard to believe. The difficulty isn’t obvious to most, and many who attend the church don’t even realize there’s a problem. It has to do with the Sunday School.
You see, the Sunday School teachers don’t teach the children and youth that the biblical truths taught in the sanctuary are actually true and applicable to all of life. They don’t want to “impose” Christianity on the next generation or sway the youth one way or another when it comes to the Bible.
There is no discussion about how the Bible relates to all of life, provides a standard for moral order, or brings meaning to all human endeavors. They say this sort of teaching is appropriate for the sanctuary but not for the Sunday School. The rule-of-thumb for Sunday School is “neutrality in all.”
This matter is never addressed from the pulpit, lest Sunday School teachers take offense. Besides, the vast majority of parents don’t have a problem with the Sunday School. They figure if they do their job at home, there’s nothing to be concerned about.
Does such a Sunday School really exist? No Bible-believing church would tolerate such a program! Yet most churches and the parents who attend them see no problem with a Monday through Friday educational system that does the very same thing, five days a week, six hours a day!
Let me explain. If it is not okay for one hour on Sunday to give young people the idea that God’s Word plays a “neutral” role in life and does not provide the overarching light and truth by which all other things are to be understood and measured, why then is it okay to give them this message on Monday through Friday?
Why does the church, in general, see no problem with schools that provide instruction in academics divorced from God’s Word, where teachers make no connections whatsoever between the Lordship of Christ and math, history, literature, and biology and where the light by which all things are to be understood has been thoroughly put out? The outcome is not necessarily atheism but surely dualism: the toxic notion that Jesus is Lord of the church but nothing more.
Separating the Word of God from academics in school has spawned a debilitating, yet popular, mindset known as “SSD” or the “Sacred-Secular Divide.” This dualism constricts the light of Scripture to Sunday morning sermons and does not apply it to business, law, medicine, art, civil governance or anything else outside the four walls of a church.
A secularized math class that never explores how numbers fit into God’s plan for humans to govern over all of creation is as senseless as a secularized Sunday School. Once education becomes secularized, God’s Word can then be marginalized, privatized, and made solely personal. When dualism reigns, Christianity is not applicable to the public square or the daily workplace. It’s only good for Sunday morning services, inside the walls of a building, and nothing beyond.
Regrettably, the secularization of academics can happen in Christian schools as well as state schools, because many Christian school teachers aren’t trained to teach academics in the light of God’s Word. Few universities provide instruction in this acquired skill. Adding the trappings of chapel services, Bible verses on the wall, and “Spiritual Emphasis Week” will not fix the problem. It can actually magnify the problem by reinforcing the Sacred-Secular Divide.
And if we think state education is religiously neutral, think again! Millions of children from Christian homes are indoctrinated daily in the tenets of Secularism while the church remains silent. Indoctrinated is the correct word. Because it is indoctrination in the religion of humanism, which as John Dewey, the Father of so-called “Progressive Education” maintained, is a non-theistic faith. A man-centered religion.
So, if it is a religious position to teach—or to imply—that God’s Word is relevant to math, science, history, and language, is it not also a religious position to teach—or to imply— that God’s Word is not relevant to these subjects? Both are religious positions, guided by one faith or another.
A teacher does not have to stand in front of a class and say, “the Bible has nothing to do with our subject” to communicate the message that the book is immaterial. All they need to do is never mention how any subject relates to the overarching truth of God’s Word and thus give students the impression that Secularism is true, by never saying otherwise. Are such teachers really being “neutral?” This is the underestimated power of silence! For schoolchildren, this silence is far more effective than speech.
If the Bible is irrelevant to the most important things taught in school, then it will certainly be irrelevant to the most important things outside of school as well. This is the devilish outcome of dualism. In the end, we all lose.
Is it any wonder the biblical foundations for law, civil government, economics, and family that once provided accepted harbor lights for our society have been replaced? The incessant move toward the secularization of education and the privatization of Christianity has been enormously successful, being expedited greatly through elementary and secondary schools. Is it any wonder our youth are disinterested in church today since Christianity is deemed irrelevant to the majority of their waking hours?
In divorcing the light of God’s Word from language, literature, science, history, civil government, the arts, and sports, we have created a Sacred-Secular Divide that has spanned several generations. The free exercise of religion is now defined as freedom of worship restricted to a building called “church.” What’s more, Christianity (having first been secularized and then privatized) is now being demonized. Christians are branded as intolerant, bigots, and haters.
What doesn’t make sense is why the church has remained so silent about the secularization of education. Bible-believing pastors would never tolerate secularized Sunday Schools! Yet to what degree does the silence of their leaders account for the fact that 85-90 percent of Christian parents continue to send their children to secularizing schools that are indoctrinating yet another generation into a dualistic way of seeing life that will only shape their future for ill—and everyone else’s as well?
Sending children to such schools to be “lights in the world” sounds noble, until they come home thinking like their textbooks, making no connection between any academic subject and the bigger picture of God’s Word. In the end, they are quite comfortable thinking that Christianity is for church, or for one’s personal life, or for getting souls to heaven but not for directing a business, designing software, or performing civil service in the here-and-now. They become practicing Monday-morning atheists and think nothing of it. Our culture is suffering greatly because of this.
As the United States continues its transition from a post-Christian to an anti-Christian culture, churches still stand in the center of town. The congregants are fewer these days, and (as with other Western nations) the virtual disappearance of biblical thought from the public square is not far away.
Dr. Christian Overman is the Founding Director of Worldview Matters® (biblicalworldview.com). He is the author of Assumptions That Affect Our Lives and God’s Pleasure At Work & The Difference One Life Can Make. Dr. Overman has taught on the topic of biblical worldview and Christian education across America, as well as in Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. He and his wife, Kathy, have four adult children and twelve grandchildren. Contact Dr. Overman at firstname.lastname@example.org.