1. Religious Nature of Education, or Can Education Be Neutral?

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 19 2024

Know someone who would find this encouraging?

  • Series: Christian Education: Christian Schools
  • Topics:

Can education be neutral? Basic to the biblical view of man and history are the facts of creation and the Fall. With respect to creation we are told very plainly by the apostle John:

“All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” 1

This tells us that there is not a neutral fact in all of creation. That not an atom in all the universe that can be neutral. We cannot be neutral, nor can education. The universe is not self-generated or self-determined, and because it is a created universe, it follows of necessity that it has a given purpose, a destination, not ordained by man but by the maker of all things. Neither man nor the universe chose to come into being. Their creation, the boundaries of all things and their potential are God-ordained. All things therefore have a given nature, a predetermined being. And this means that man cannot be an impartial observer. He cannot be neutral with regard to himself or to anything in all creation. God, having made all things, has ordained their purpose, their meaning and their boundaries.

“[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation…” 2

The fact of creation; that God made all things in terms of His purpose, establishes the nature and the meaning of life, of the universe. It is a given realm; it is not of our making, we are stewards here. We cannot command nor ordain the meaning of things because every atom and all creation is God-created. There is no brute factuality.

The concept of ‘brute factuality,’ a philosophical concept, holds that all facts are meaningless facts, self-generated facts. That because all things came into being accidentally; there is no given, no predetermined, no God-ordained meaning for any fact or for any event. But there are no brute facts, no meaningless facts, no neutral facts. But the fact of the Fall is man’s attempt to deny the given, the predetermined nature of reality and to insist on a neutral and existential universe. We are told in Genesis 3:5 that the tempter said: “...ye shall be as gods, knowing (that is, determining for yourself what constitutes) good and evil.” Every man as his own God would then establish meaning, law, morality for himself. Everything would be a case of ‘situation ethics.’ Man would say: “in terms of the given situation I want to do thus and so and therefore it is right.” This is pragmatism. This is what is at the basis of progressive education, of modern schooling in state education. It means that because all facts are self-generated, because supposedly there is no God, the only meaning that can exist is a man-created meaning.

About fifteen years ago, at an institution not too far from this place, I was in a forum where a graduate professor from John Hopkins became very upset in our forum at my statement about the fact of ‘no neutrality.’ That all things have a God-ordained meaning, and therefore all things have an ultimate rationality that comes not from man, but from God who made them, from the Word of God, the Logos from whom all things came into being. He insisted that there was only a thin ‘razor edge’ of rationality in the universe, and it came from the mind of man. That apart from the mind of men no reason existed under the sun, and that the only meaning in all the universe was a man-created meaning whereby man could give a temporary meaning to things and therefore change the meaning as it suited him. This type of thinking is behind our present economic order.

To a very great extent, we in the United States, while not as tyrannical as the Soviet Union, are in some respects philosophically more radical. The Soviet Union believes in a planned society, which means that it believes therefore that there is one truth in the universe; their concept of economic order and social order. But in this country we abandoned a generation ago in our economic and political circles the concept of a planned society, in favor of a planning society. What’s the difference? A planning society improvises because it says there is no one true meaning. That all economics is purely relative and political societies are also. And therefore we improvise as we go along, and we find what suits the situation. In other words, truth is merely instrumental, pragmatic, there is no right or wrong, only what suits the moment. In terms of this, of course, a universe no longer exists, only a multiverse.

Very few people are aware of the fact that it was at the University of California, Berkeley, that the student rebellion broke out at the end of the fifties. Why there? There were other schools as radical, in some respects, as Berkeley, but Berkeley was headed by Clark Kerr at that time and in a series of lectures that Harvard published subsequently, attacked the idea of the university. Because, he said, the very concept of a universe by implication, he said this presupposed the concept of a God; One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Out of that faith came our culture, our civilization, a belief that because there is one God, there is therefore a universe, a unified body of law that governs all things. And therefore knowledge is possible because there is a consistency in all things in the universe, whether you are outside of our solar system or within it. But Clark Kerr insisted that given the fact of the modern perspective, evolutionary, anti-God, anti-Christian, there is no universe, and a ‘university’ presupposes a universe. One God, one faith, a unity of truth. On the contrary, said Clark Kerr, we have a multiverse, and therefore we should have instead, ‘multiversities.’ In a multiversity all things are possible, any kind of truth is tenable, anything can be legitimately be taught, other than, was the implication, biblical faith, because biblical faith denies a multiverse and a multiversity. One Lord, one faith, one baptism indicates wherever you teach and whatever you must be governed by the absolute truth of the God who made all things.

Given that fact, it was logical that somewhere, right in Clark Kerr’s backyard, the students came to the logical conclusion: “Why then should Clark Kerr’s truth prevail? Or the faculty’s? Or Washington’s? What we believe is as valid as what they believe, and our idea that free speech should include what they call ‘filthy speech’ is as valid as theirs? And why shouldn’t, (as some of the proponents went on to say) students copulate as openly and freely on campus as the dogs do? If it’s a multiverse, anything goes! There is no right nor wrong, nor good nor evil, no law. All facts are neutral; equally true, equally false and equally meaningless.”

This is the doctrine of the Fall. Every man as his own God, and as his own law, because all things are equally meaningless. And God can impose his meaning, but man can impose his. And for God to attempt to tell man what is right and wrong is to impose on man’s freedom. The Fall is therefore man’s assertion that reality is neutral, and that is man, not God that establishes meaning. The result was the annunciation of the principle of autonomy. ‘Autonomy’ means auto - self, nomos - law. Self-law as against theonomy; God’s law. We live in a ‘theonomous’ universe because all things were made by Him¸ are governed by Him, are judged by Him, the very hairs of our heads are all numbered, there is no fact outside his government. For the Scriptures therefore, neutrality is a myth.

It leads to making God if He exists, someone outside life, outside education and politics. This is where the ‘death of God movement’ about fifteen years ago did not say: “God is dead,” period. What they said, rather, and most people miss, and is the premise of philosophy of theology since: “God is dead for us.” Whether He lives or not is irrelevant to us, whatever He says may be interesting, but it is no more binding upon us than anything our neighbor says. Only that which we choose of our free will can be binding upon us because all things having evolved out of nothing are neutral and my meaning is therefore as valid, as true as is God’s. The self-generated universe, thus, can make its own laws, and therefore the doctrine of evolution is basic to the myth of neutrality. It has led to biblical law being shelved; it has been replaced by man’s law; statist or anarchist. Humanistic autonomy has replaced theonomy. Man’s law for God’s law. But: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” 3 And neutrality is a myth, it is a denial of the reality of the universe we live in, of the fact that the wages of sins have always been and always will be the same, death. The myth of neutrality is a form of warfare against God. There is no subject, therefore, in education that is neutral.

Education is in fact an inescapably religious concern. A culture, through its education, passes on the values, the skills it prizes to its youth, to the future. The religion of the people determines its education. Even a scholar at Columbia has made that he feels that education is inescapably religious although for him; this means the religion of humanism. Education can never be neutral. The child is not taught arithmetic that two plus two can equal three, five, ten, twenty or whatever he chooses. What point would there be in education if two plus two could mean what we willed it to mean? Mathematics is not neutral; it tells us that certain things result in certain conclusions. Education can never be neutral, but it can be humanistic. It can explain one particular religion as against another, and contemporary statist education is militantly humanistic. It leaves out teaching the central aspect to all wisdom and all learning for we are told in Psalm 111:10:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom:

A good understanding have all they that do his commandments:

His praise endureth for ever. 4

And in Proverbs 1:7:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge:

But fools despise wisdom and instruction. 5

To try and educate without reference to God is worse than teaching about the ocean, while denying it is made up of water. The key to understanding is then denied.

Let us remember again Genesis 3:5, it is the program for man’s self-deification. It is existentialism, it makes man the source of all meaning. And if man is the source of all meaning, it leads to the child-centered, rather than to a subject-centered education. Very early, progressivism depreciated subject matter, stressed the child, and studies like mathematics, English grammar and history were downgraded because they are anti-neutral. Their implications are that there are certain things, certain rules, certain dates that must be learned.

One of our staff members who works out of Lausanne, Switzerland was visiting us about a month ago, and he pointed out how progressivism invaded the schools of Europe and in one country all dates and the teaching of history, which is called ‘Social Studies’ here, are eliminated, eliminated! Why? Because dates give a fixity, dates tell us that something is right and wrong, that Columbus discovered America in 1492, not 1650. Instead what they are told is the flowof history. Which can mean whatever the teacher chooses to make it mean, or whatever the student wants to mean because the flow of history leads to the meaning I want to have, and so the future will be what I make it. The flow of history becomes man’s emancipation from God and from superstition extensively. And the student becomes a little god trained to judge the world and in my university days this was already apparent. In the English department there was one elderly professor who still taught poetry for appreciation, for enjoyment, and he was the butt of the humor of the rest of the faculty. Their teaching was that all their students should learn how to critique the poets, critique the novelists, critique the essayists, and sit in judgment upon them. As though they were their superiors! Is it any wonder that a few generations having been so taught now sit in judgment on their parents? On church and state and on all things around them? They are taught to play gods and all who seek to play god also play the role of judge, not appreciation but judgment on all things. And humanistic education trains students to judge the past, the present, and their parents; all things. And this leads to one conclusion; total egoism.

Not surprisingly, one of the great slogans of the seventies was: “I want to be me.” Self-fulfillment, not God’s mandate, became the goal of education. It should not surprise us too that there were educators that defended that and said that the older generations, not having the proper understanding, saw everything as confusion rather than success and were critical of their children instead of appreciative.

The goal of our humanistic statist education is the goal of the Fall, of Satan. It is the goal of Genesis 3:5. Whereas the goal of Christian education is summed up by Moses and our Lord. Moses says in Deuteronomy 10:12-13:

“And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul…”

And our Lord tells us in Matthew 22:37-40:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

These words give us the purpose as God requires. They do not give us a world wherein we can be neutral either in regard to man or our neighbors. The purpose of education can be no different because education is preparation for life. We include or we exclude in terms of that goal, certain things, because we are governed by our faiths. As humanists, we exclude God as irrelevant, as Christians we see Him as the starting-point of all wisdom and learning, and to exclude God, to exclude the Bible from education is not neutrality, it is warfare. Every curriculum is an affirmation of faith. It tells us what we believe is essential for life, what we believe a child needs in order to face this world, and become a conqueror therein. Humanistic education does not see Christ as essential, but as a roadblock. It claims to be neutral, but there is nothing neutral about it, only warfare against our faith. Any education apart from Jesus Christ is for us, miseducation, and it produces, not education nor an educated man, but a new race of barbarians who are today busily destroying their civilization. It is our duty through our schools to create a new one, a God-centered one. We are told in Proverbs 8:35-36:

For whoso findeth me findeth life,

And shall obtain favour of the LORD.

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul:

All they that hate me love death. 6

Humanistic education is the institutionalized love of death. Christian education, because it serves Him who said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" 7 is the love of life.

1 John 1:3

2 Acts 17:26

3 John 1:3

4 Ps 111:10.

5 Pr 1:7.

6 Pr 8:35–36.

7 John 14:6

More Series