Should Public Schools Teach the Bible?


Six state legislatures have proposed bills that would require public schools to offer Bible courses as electives.

These Bible courses would have the purpose of educating students in the literary and historical significance of the Bible.

This is drawing several reactions. Some instantly question the legality of Bible courses in public schools. However, the Supreme Court has only ruled that mandated Bible courses violate the First Amendment (a ruling that I criticized here). An optional Bible course taught for secular purposes is permitted.

Others have reacted positively, believing that Bible courses will increase biblical literacy and improve the quality of the public school system. There are even several Christian groups behind this push.

So what should we think of public school Bible courses?

Positives of Public School Bible Courses

There are both positive and negative aspects to these courses. On the positive side, these courses could improve biblical literacy. The general public’s Bible knowledge (not to mention knowledge of other subjects) is nothing short of pathetic. Sadly, this is true even of Christians, many of whom attend public schools.

These Bible courses will be optional, so it is probable that mostly Christian families will opt for them. However, the public schools have been thoroughly secularized, and chances are good that most teachers of these courses will be teaching the Bible from a secular and critical perspective. This will be no substitute for the education that should be provided by parents and the church.

There will likely be some exceptions of knowledgable Christians teaching these courses , and there will still be some non-Christian students who will be exposed to the Bible for the first time—and God can certainly work through such means. But there is no neutrality in one’s approach to the Bible. So we should temper our expectations.

Why We Should Oppose Public School Bible Courses

The greatest concern of these Bible courses is that the public schools will corrupt the teaching of God’s Word. Granted, there is corruption of the Bible in the churches. But while some liberal churches attack the Scriptures, it is more common that churches simply neglect the Bible.

Consider the fact that the vast majority of American children still attend public schools. If states require public schools to offer Bible courses, there will be thousands upon thousands of students exposed to the corrupt teaching of the Bible by unbelieving teachers.

A good comparison is to look at the Bible courses offered in secular universities. Such courses employ higher criticism and seek to undermine the accuracy and authority of God’s Word. They have done great damage to the faith of many Christians.

And if that does not convince you of the danger of such courses in public schools, just look at the other things being taught there. Public schools cannot even figure out the difference between a man and a woman. They will certainly find a way to distort the Bible.

In the end, I think the negatives far outweigh any potential good that would come from these courses. If we really want Bible literacy, we must start with Christian parents teaching the Bible to their children and pastors teaching the Bible to their congregations.

The church should be the central place for Bible teaching. And if Christians want the Bible taught in schools, they should leave the public schools and join the world of Christian education.