Paradigms, Preaching and Politics:World Affairs Editor
Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?
-1933, Charles Francis Potter, Humanism, A New Religion 1
Kaboom! A rousing first shot across the bow had been fired. Humanists declared their intention of transforming western culture and moving it from its Christian base into the enlightened religion of humanism. In 1933, when Humanist Manifesto I appeared, its co-author John Dewey was made honorary president of the National Education Association (US). The manifesto itself stated that:
There is no God and no soul. Hence there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, the immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or permanent moral absolutes. 2
In his book, A Common Faith, Dewey went on to say:
It is impossible to ignore the fact that historic Christianity has been committed to a separation of sheep and goats; the saved and the lostI cannot understand how any realization of the democratic ideal as a vital moral and spiritual ideal in human affairs is possible without surrender of the conception of the basic division to which supernatural Christianity is committed . 3
In the early days of the Worldview Wars, humanists referred to their belief system as a "religion." That was until it became more advantageous to clamor about the "separation of church and state" in attempting to eject the Christian opposition from the marketplace of ideas. Suddenly humanism became de-religionized and rebaptized itself as secular science or philosophy. A dichotomous wedge was driven between faith and fact. Today, echoes of that shift are heard in the debates on evolution, when someone asserts that "this is science, that is faith" rather than the previously accepted idea that all are searching for truth.
In the early part of the battle, humanists did not meet a lot of resistance, since Christians for the most part remained oblivious to the fact that there even was a battle or that spiritual battles play out in the physical arena. As a group, Christians were more than happy to walk off the battlefield in the name of "just teaching the Bible" or doing the "work of the Kingdom," as if there would be no moral consequences to their dereliction of duty. The consequences, however, have been staggering - from abortion to the loss of faith in millions of children.
So humanists, meeting little organized opposition, quietly plodded onward toward their stated goal of transforming the worldview of western society, especially the field of education, where more and more like-minded future educators could be trained to indoctrinate new generations of students into the humanist worldview, while using government handouts - grants and subsidies - to do it. In 1932, William Z. Foster, head of the Communist Party USA, published a book entitled Toward Soviet America , where he predicted that:
Class ideologies of the past will give place to scientific materialist philosophy. Among the elementary measures the American Soviet government will adopt to further the cultural revolution are the following: the schools, colleges and universities will be coordinated and grouped under the National Department of Education and its state and local branches. The studies will be revolutionized, being cleansed of religious, patriotic and other features of the bourgeoisie ideology. The students will be taught on the basis of Marxian dialectical materialism [now the absolute basis of consensus use in all government procedures], internationalism [today called "globalism"] and the general ethics of the new socialist society [which virtually all English-speaking countries have become]Freedom will be established for anti-religious propagandaScience will become materialisticGod will be banished from the laboratories as well as from the schools. 4
Were he not probably occupying a place in the hell he didn't believe existed, Mr. Foster would be delighted that the humanist heirs of John Dewey had accomplished everything he wished to see. Indeed, the Communists endorsed the humanist enterprise because they believed in their common aspirations of a godless, socialist society ruled by the dialectical process of relative truths.5
By mid-century, humanists had gained a chokehold on most institutions of higher learning. By 1938, the New York Herald Tribune reported a speech by Dr. Goodwin Watson, professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he "begged the teachers of the Nation to use their profession to indoctrinate children to overthrow 'conservative reactionaries' directing American government and industry."6 In his 1951 book, God and Man at Yale , William F. Buckley, Jr. commented that:
The teachings of John Dewey and his predecessors have borne fruit. And there is surely not a department at Yale that is uncontaminated with the absolute that there are no absolutes, on intrinsic rights, no ultimate truths. The acceptance of these notions, which emerge in courses in history and economics, in sociology and political science, in psychology and literature, make impossible an intelligible conception of an omnipotent, purposeful, and benign Supreme Being, who has laid down immutable laws, endowed his creatures with inalienable rights, and posited unchangeable rules of human conduct .7
The battle internationalized by means of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. That is why the curricula and worldview battles are essentially the same in all English-language countries. The departments of education in the various countries collaborate openly with UNESCO and its goals for a "new educational orderbased on scientific and technological training, one of the essential components of scientific humanism Relativity and dialectical thought would appear to be a fertile ground in which to cultivate the seeds of tolerance an individual should avoid systematically setting up his beliefs as a model of rules valid for all times." 8
And what of the Church during this time? There were a limited number of Protestant and Catholic voices fighting the war, but generally the Church droned on mechanically with its disconnected Biblical or catechistic studies as the humanist juggernaut rolled forward. History was rewritten and Christian contributions to history, especially freedom and self rule, were eliminated or denigrated. Other events were rewritten and Christian or other religious ideas were ridiculed and banned. Patriotism was banned. Marxist, socialist, and humanist ideas took solid root as Christianity was chased out of the marketplace of ideas with little resistance. Christian morals were publicly denigrated and rejected. The Church seemed oblivious that this radical change in public education was putting the faith of millions of its youth in dire peril. "Let's just have another Bible study" was the cry.
The second half of the 20th century bore witness to the danger, as humanism took over the major organs of education, media and politics, and the youth began to fall away from even Bible-believing churches in droves after receiving years of humanist indoctrination in government schools. Those who remained, while not totally abandoning their faith, began to have a belief system which was an admixture of conflicting worldviews.
Absolute truth was replaced by relative truth. Indeed, the belief in no absolutes has remained the greatest challenge to faith because it totally undermines any basis for belief in a God, His Word, His Law or His salvation. As a matter of fact, if there are no absolutes, how can we know anything absolutely? How is it possible to even say absolutely there are no absolutes if nothing can be known absolutely? It's an absurdity. Nevertheless, millions of Christians have adopted this into their belief systems.
New voices, like Dr. Francis Schaeffer, sounded the alarm and took up the banner but few took up the fight. Even today, few youth pastors have read Schaeffer or understand the nature of the battle in which they are engaged. Indeed, they are facing the challenge that today's students do not believe in absolute fact and consider it arrogant that anyone should claim to have an absolute truth. Unfortunately, they don't see the contradiction when they state that absolutely. Nevertheless, this belief alone makes evangelism difficult, because the worldview basis for discussion between Christians and non-believers has become so wide that bridging it is difficult.
The most urgent call for an attitude change in youth pastoring today is to begin training church youth to grapple with the worldviews, which they will encounter in schools and colleges, and to have a strong countering response using the Christian worldview. A number of ministries are attempting to achieve this, but until it becomes a top priority for all churches, several things will happen:
1) The Church will continue to lose large numbers of youth to other worldviews, despite all the Biblical training. Bible study must stop being taught in a vacuum and begin to have a functional objective in the world. This includes the basis for belief, the basis for believing why God's Word is His Word, etc.
2) Churches themselves will continue to grow in numbers but decline in believers because those churches will have adopted the prevailing worldviews, while calling it Christianity. As Francis Schaeffer predicted, many churches are beginning to look more and more like the world because they are unable to stand against the humanistic spirit of the age. Already many mainline churches have been knocked totally off a Biblical base and have wholeheartedly adopted the new humanist worldview while retaining only a patina of Christian language and belief in God. Their worldview systems are amalgams of atheism and Christianity, similar to some of the heresies the Church experienced in its infancy.
3) Because of having allowed itself to be chased out of the political arena in the name of separation of church and state or the "work of the Kingdom," the Church will find a new challenge from a totally "atheized" secular government, which is now poised to begin telling the Church what it will say and do and what it must not say and do; what it can believe and what it cannot believe. Moreover, the governments of the West will continue their deterioration towards increased authoritarianism as the chaos caused by the new relative values continues to unravel the bonds that held society together under the Christian paradigm.
We are simply following in the footsteps of those countries of the past, which embraced the humanist, socialist worldview; from Rousseau and the French Revolution to the Bolsheviks in Russia, to Nazi Germany, to Chairman Mao, to Castro's Cuba. In each case, the holders of the new worldview knew they had to co-opt or defeat the Church in order to put their value system in place in the hearts and minds of the people, especially the children. Typically, the churches of those countries never saw it coming and in many cases actually participated in their own demise. In essence, been there, done that - but few of the churches see the oncoming danger.
There is still time to meet the challenge in the West, but the window is closing rapidly. One thing is certain: western Christians in the first half of the 21st century will increasingly face a brave new world of unexpected pressures on their faith, mainly as a result of having abandoned the field of battle in education and politics almost 50 years ago. They are still having trouble remembering that the practice of one's faith is a battle, not a picnic.