2. The Bible in the Curriculum: A Separate Subject or Foundation for Each Subject?

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 19 2024

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  • Series: Christian Education: Christian Schools
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Our concern this morning is the Bible in the Christian school curriculum. Is it a separate subject or the foundation for each subject? Dr. Cornelius Van Til in his study The Metaphysics of Apologetics has spoken of the necessity of the Bible in education. He has pointed out that the Bible is not a sourcebook in biology, nor a study for a paleontological study in Africa. Quoting from Dr. Van Til:

“The Bible does not claim to offer a rival theory that may or may not be true. It claims to have the ultimate truth about all facts.” 1

Dr. Van Til goes on to say that one does not go to the Bible instead of Africa, but unless one goes first to the Bible, he will not understand the meaning of what he sees in Africa. 2 Without the God of Scripture no fact can be truly known, the existence of nothing can be even posited. All factuality is then simply brute factuality; meaningless unrelated factuality. Factuality that has evolved out of nothing, means nothing, is related to nothing, and ends in ultimate nothingness. To reject the Bible as ultimate is to reject a world of meaning. As men have denied the inerrant Word of God they have drifted into relativism, into meaninglessness, and the belief in ‘progress,’ which is a secular version of the doctrine of providence collapses. Instead of God, nothingness is ultimate, instead of a world of meaning, nothing has meaning, all things come out of nothing, and they return to nothing. The Bible is thus important to education because apart from God and Scripture and His Word, ultimately no knowledge is possible because all things are then meaningless.

First of all, the Bible itself must be taught. If the Bible is what it says it is, then knowledge of it is essential to life. The Bible undergirds the civilization we live in, it is the mainspring of every facet of our culture. Lest we forget, before the Bible reached most of Europe, it was populated by barbarians. Europeans are prone to forgetting that fact. But we must remember that as late as Charlemagne’s time, the ninth century, he had a major problem as he moved out of Gaul, because among the Germanic tribes, the Saxons in particular, human sacrifice was routine. Incidentally, Charlemagne did something which he is criticized for in the textbooks. Every time he subdued the Saxons, he found that very quickly they reverted to their human sacrifices, so finally, after his last campaign, he took all the Saxon warriors, lined them up alongside of a river, and put his ax men between the Saxons and the dry land, and he said: “Take your choice, go into the river and be baptized and come out and put your heads on the chopping block.” They chose baptism. That was a very important choice because it ended human sacrifice. They felt that once they were baptized, the Christian God would be angry with them if they broke His rules, so human sacrifice was a rarity after that. It was a sensible decision on the part of Charlemagne, as it had been on the part of Yaroslav in Russia when he did the same thing. Of course the historians don’t tell you of the consequences of that kind of baptism. However, without our Scripture, civilization would soon regress to what it was when Charlemagne moved into Northern Europe. In fact, it is regressing now because the Bible is no longer a part of our public education, and if you want to see the barbarians of our culture, walk through the streets of any major city, pick up your morning newspaper and you will see because the Word of God has been removed from our public life, barbarism is returning. The theme-verse of the book of Judges is an important one for us to remember.

“In those days there was no King in Israel and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” 3

In those days God was not the King, the Lord, the Sovereign of Israel, and therefore the people regressed to barbarism. Every man did what was right in his own eyes. And today because there is no king in the United States, or in Europe, or in most of the world, because men have forsaken the Lord God of Hosts, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, every man is doing that which is right in his own eyes. And we have people who have a background of a thousand years of Christian civilization turning our cities into jungles, becoming our new barbarian horde.

Last night I pointed out that the alternatives for us are autonomy, self-rule, or theonomy, God-rule; self-law, or God’s law. This is an alternative which the modern world cannot escape. Karl Marx faced it, and not very successfully. Although most American and European readers are not very familiar with this particular work, a large two volume study by Karl Marx, his most intense, his most passionate book, was directed against Max Stirner, a contemporary. Max Stirner was a logical, a consistent, atheist and an anarchist. And Max Stirner said in his book The Ego and His Own, that atheism required one to disbelieve in the validity of any law, because since there is no God, there is no truth, no right, no wrong, no good, no evil, no sovereignty in the world, except man doing what he pleases. And in his book he turned on the atheists and the liberals of his day. He accused them of being closet Christians and he said how many of you are ready to practice incest with your daughter, sister, or mother? Until you are, and if what I say horrifies you, you are simply manifesting the fact that you are a closet Christian. You are talking about not believing in God but you are believing in all his rules, you are still under theonomy rather than autonomy, And if you are still obeying your civil magistrate, your civil government, you’re still believing there is some validity to any law other than the biology of your own being. This horrified Karl Marx, because he recognized Sterner was right, that logically, the consequences of atheism, of a disbelief in the God of Scripture, was precisely what Stirner said they should be, and what he wanted them to be, total anarchy, a world in which every man was his own god, fulfilling the premises of Genesis 3:5 in which neither theft nor murder nor any kind of sexuality was illicit or immoral.

In his long and passionate attack on Stirner, Karl Marx made the point over and over again. Unless humanity agrees on some kind of collective power, the dictatorship of the proletariat, we will destroy ourselves, we will wipe out all civilization, and we will destroy humanity. Logically, Marx was right, but Stirner had the edge on him because what was there to make the dictatorship of the proletariat true or morally sound or necessary? Once having abolished God, Stirner said, all law, all authority, all rules of right and wrong have to go and in time will go.

Stirner was right. We see the truth of what he had to say every day when we pick up our papers. When we see what has happened to one family after another, where theonomy is not the force that governs the family, or the Lord is not king, and everyone does that which is right in his own eyes. We see the same thing happening in the Soviet Union where there is a tremendous black market, especially those who have money, the youth who are the sons of the leaders of the Soviet Union, in hard rock and acid rock records, in everything that pertains to our drug culture, in drugs, so that in Afghanistan they have a problem with their troops; they are on drugs.

Karl Marx could not stem the consequences of autonomy, neither can the United States. If the Bible is not central to education, to everyday life, Stirner’s logic prevails. The Bible, for us thus, must be a part of the curriculum, and we dare not teach it as a devotional book or an inspiring book, it is an inspired book, it is not ‘inspiring.’ What it tells us about our sin; it’s painful. What it tells us of the things we have left undone, we can think of better reading. When it gives us a catalog of sins that describe human nature, it can be very depressing reading. But it is God’s command-word. It is His command-word for us as individuals, as families, as churches, as schools, also as workmen, as citizens.

The Bible is as binding upon the state as it is the church. God does not say the church is mine, but the school and civil government and science and art and the vocations are secular, outside my province. Not so! All things are to be governed by the Lord, by His sovereign Word. We must teach the Bible therefore as God’s command-word, not to be read because it’ll give us an inspiring thought for the day, though it will very often. It will give us God’s marching orders: “This is the way, walk ye in it.” 4 We don’t go to it because we want to, because sometimes we don’t want to. We go to it because we must! Apart from it we cannot live, it is the Word of life. The Bible is a law-book because every Word of God is binding upon us. It is not there for us to say ‘that’s interesting, I like it’. It is there because God requires us to hear and to obey.

St. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is: “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” 5 The only true law therefore is God’s law, because he alone is Lord. You know, if you go to the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica which was produced in two fat volumes in, I believe, in 1775, and you look at the section on ‘sovereignty,’ and you look in the section on ‘law,’ it will tell you that law is the word of a Lord, of a sovereign, and a sovereign who is someone who issues law. The word ‘sovereignty’ is not in the American constitution, it was left out deliberately. One of the battle cries of many Americans of the day was that “Christ alone is King.” The word sovereignty was left out because John Adams said on the Fiftieth anniversary of the Constitution, the founding fathers believed that the Lord God of Hosts is alone sovereign, or Lord. Therefore, he provides the law and for at least fifty years when trials were held of any kind in this country when the jury studied the case to make its decision it didn’t go to statutes (there was virtually no statute law) they went to the Bible, and the judge instructed them from the Bible. It is because of this that the psalmist tells us:

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it:

Except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late,

To eat the bread of sorrows:

For so he giveth his beloved sleep. 6

And the Lord keeps the city by His Word. We have today the breakdown of law, because without the Bible, laws soon disappear, and humanistic education turns the world into a disaster-area. The Bible, thus, must be a part of the curriculum. But that is not all. The Bible must not be only one subject among many, and it must be that, it must also inform every subject in the curriculum. It is, as I pointed out, a serious error to view the Bible simply as a church book. It is the Word of God. For all spheres of creation it must govern, the state and the school is as duty-bound to obey the Word of God and proclaim it as is the Church.

Last night I pointed out how the Bible must govern every sphere, and how mathematics in a relativistic society soon disappears. In one of the books we have published, The Foundations of Christian Scholarship, there is an article by Dr. Vern Poythress, a Ph.D. in mathematics, in which he deals with the fact that the God of Scripture is the foundation of mathematics. 7 Apart from Him, the very idea of numbers collapses. Without God we have relativism. And we need increasingly to see the relevance of Scripture for every area of study.

Do you know by the way, that without the Bible we really have no chronology for ancient history, for history before Christ? All those secular historians do not tell us this. They borrowed the chronology of the Bible while despising it, in order to fit all of antiquity into that chronology, because without it they have nothing that is accurate. A University of Chicago historian of a few years ago wrote a book on The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, in which he in a sense decoded the kind of chronology which was in Kings and how accurate it was. It was simply a question of understanding the kind of dating they had, but it was remarkably accurate. The Bible, thus, must undergird the curriculum.

The word ‘curriculum’ means, in the Latin, ‘a race or racetrack, a chariot or running,’ in other words, moving in a particular direction. That is what a curriculum is about; it gives direction to all education. Modern education has no direction because it lives no longer in God’s universe, but in a multiverse. And so it’s teaching goes in every direction except a godly one, and it produces moral and social anarchy. But all things in a sound curriculum have a common purpose, a direction. And Paul tells us:

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” 8

Paul is here talking about a Christian curriculum or course of life. All things must be governed, he says, by the Word of truth. Anything outside the Word of truth is ‘profane,’ outside of the temple, outside of God, outside of Christ, and if anything be outside of Christ then it is vain babblings, it’s meaningless. A child before it learns to talk, babbles. There is no coherence, no meaning to what the child is saying. And if we forsake the Word of truth, then our education becomes ‘vain babblings,’ and we increase as Paul says unto more ungodliness. The foundational word is the Bible. If God, the living God of Scripture, is what the Bible declares him to be, He alone has the right to speak with authority, and to govern all things totally. To seek knowledge on any other premise than the God of Scripture is to sin.

Our alternatives, logically, as we face the world and the universe are the God of Scripture, or chance. If He does not exist, then all things are chance, accident, and then nothing can be accounted for. In my university days I was told that without God, of course we could not speak with certainty on anything, or talk about anything as a law. We could not say for example, that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, until we had statistically documented from day one of the Universe to the last day. Until then we could only speak in terms of probability. Relying on ‘the probability concept,’ namely, that since every sunrise had occurred according to a certain pattern, it is probable that it will continue to do so tomorrow and the day after. Since then they have abandoned the probability concept because it smacks too much of God and of fundamental law and order in creation. As a result, they are affirming chance, except when they work in the laboratory, except they work scientifically, then they presuppose an order in the universe that is God-given. What they deny, they sneak in covertly.

A few years ago after the first successful moon shot, the symposium was held for the scientists involved. I described this in my book The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum and to me it remains a continual fact of amusement that when it came to explaining how they pinpointed a man, sent out into space, to land at a particular point on the moon, and they said we can’t explain how we did it. Why couldn’t they explain it? Because, they said, how can the logic of the human mind pinpoint a man on the moon when man’s mind is a product of chance and the universe of chance? Of course they presuppose a common order in the human mind and in the logic and in the world of physical matter. Of course we then presuppose a God. And this we cannot do. One of the scientists Dr. Remo Ruffini said :

“How a mathematical structure can correspond to nature is a mystery. One way out is just to say that the language in which nature speaks is the language of mathematics.” 9

Let me say parenthetically that’s just another way of saying there has to be a God who made both. But the ultimate profanity for these people is to even to say the word ‘God’ so they walk all around it without saying it. Ruffini continued:

“Often we are both shocked and surprised by the correspondence between mathematics and nature, especially when the experiment confirms that our mathematical model describes nature perfectly.” 10

Very logical, but they refuse to follow their logic. There is a correspondence but all they can say is: “we are shocked!” This exact correspondence between the mathematical model and the natural world points to God, to the creator of man’s mind and the physical universe. This to the man involved in the moon shot is a mystery, but to us is a logical fact. For us the mystery is rather that of sin, of unbelief, of blindness.

Whenever we attempt to understand life in the universe apart from God and his enscriptured word, the Bible, we repeat the error, the sin of Eve. She sought knowledge apart from the God of Scriptures. In listening to the tempter she was saying: ‘it is possible that somebody other than God knows the truth.’ The implication of her listening has been clearly set forth by Dr. Van Til:

“She said we know independently of God. She said that God’s authority was to be tested by herself. Thus she came to take the place of ultimate authority. She was no doubt going to test God’s authority by experience and reflection upon experience. Yet it would be she, herself, who should be the final authority.” 11

This is why I believe it is a sin to try and prove the Bible to our students or to anyone, or to prove God to anyone. How dare we do so!? Are we the authority to which the Bible is true, and God is real? No! We believe the Bible because God gave the Word. We believe the Bible and God together because we dare not pass judgment upon them. We dare not say it is up to us to say whether you are right or wrong, but for us to hear and to obey. It is the Bible who proves us, that tests us. Our Lord told the tempter:

“It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” 12

And the word translated into English as ‘tempt’ means to try to test, to prove, to assay, or to try. So for us to prove the Bible is true, or to prove that there is a God is blasphemy. We exist because He created us. And it is our duty to hear, to obey, and to be faithful. We cannot sit in judgment over Him and His Word. We teach presupposing the Word of God, presupposing the God of Scripture. We teach because we believe, because we fear Him who is the beginning of all knowledge, wisdom and understanding. He is also the beginning and His Word is the beginning of any true curriculum. Apart from God and His enscriptured Word, we have no university of knowledge, no curriculum, no course. We have only a multiverse; chance, meaninglessness. In a world without God there can be no unity of truth or knowledge, no common standard or truth, only brute factuality, only the world of Max Stirner. Then every fact from Adam’s man is his own universe and his own unrelated world to anything else. In such a cosmos the one thing impossible and inacceptable is the God of Scripture, but such a universe, such a cosmos, does not exist.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” 13

The Bible alone, therefore, can provide education with a curriculum, because apart from the God of Scripture, there is no unified field of knowledge and finally, no knowledge, no knowledge at all, only chance and universal death.

Thank you.

1 Van Til, C. (1969). A Survey of Christian Epistemology (p. 124). Phillipsburg, NJ.

2 Van Til, C. (1969). A Survey of Christian Epistemology (p. 125). Phillipsburg, NJ.

3 Judges 21:25

4 Isaiah 30:21

5 1 Ti 6:15.

6 Ps 127:1–2.

7 Poythress, Vern. “Mathematics.” In Foundations Of Christian Scholarship: Essays In The Van Til Perspective. Vallecito, Calif: Ross House Books, 2001.

8 2 Timothy 2:15

9 “The Princeton Galaxy,” Interviews by Florence Heltizer, in Intellectual Digest, III, 10 (June 1973), p. 27.

10 1. “The Princeton Galaxy,” Interviews by Florence Heltizer, in Intellectual Digest, III, 10 (June 1973), p. 27.

11 Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith. Phillipsburg New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1979, 34.

12 Mt 4:7.

13 John 1:3

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