This article first appeared in the March 1, 2008 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.84, #11) and was written by Mr. Calvin Kalsbeek
"And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment."
Richard Dawkins might consider it an honor to be mentioned in the title of a prestigious religious periodical like the Standard Bearer... and then again, maybe he wouldn't. Whatever the case may be, the "honor" is his because of his blatant atheism, and the challenge it poses for modern-day Issachar and her covenant seed.
Maybe a taste of Dawkins will help us understand that challenge. In his recent book,The God Delusion, Dawkins writes: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving controlfreak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." Atheists have written books against God and Christianity before, but of late Dawkins and others of his ilk (e.g., Sam Harris in his book: The End of Faith, and Christopher Hitchens in: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) appear to have stepped it up a notch. In defense of his tirade against God and those who worship Him, Dawkins writes:
...We all need our consciousness raised. Atheists as well as theists unconsciously observe society's convention that we must be especially polite and respectful regarding faith. And I never tire of drawing attention to society's tacit acceptance of the labeling of small children with the religious opinions of their parents. Atheists need to raise their own consciousness of the anomaly: religious opinion is the one kind of parental opinion that—by almost universal consent—can be fastened upon children who are, in truth, too young to know what their opinion really is. There is no such thing as a Christian child, only a child of Christian parents. Seize every opportunity to ram it home.¹
So, it's all about the kids! Dawkins would protect the children from the propaganda of their parents and replace it with his own; and it is his task and that of other fellow travelers to "ram that home." Something like what Charles Francis Potter had in mind when he wrote in his book, Humanism, A New Religion: "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?"
And therein is a significant part of the problem. While it is true that many of Issachar's children are instructed in Christian grade schools, and many even in Christian high schools, once they reach college they are often confronted with the likes of Dawkins, professors who are on a mission to "ram home" their godless philosophy. That their numbers are legion is not difficult to demonstrate.
Numerous studies "...indicate that our institutions of higher learning, both private and public, are thoroughly dominated by political and cultural liberals." One such study reveals that "...72% of professors describe themselves as 'left/ liberal.'" That's about four times as liberal as the general public. Another indicator of their tendency toward liberalism is their political party affiliation, which is largely Democratic. One study that was done over a ten-year period revealed that "...80% of professors voted for Democratic candidates compared to only 8% who voted for Republicans." Further, here's how they stand on some of the issues of today: 67% believe the homosexual lifestyle is acceptable. 84% say a woman has the right to have an abortion. 75% are accepting of extramarital cohabitation. 66% say the government should guarantee employment. 72% say the government should reduce the income gap.²
These figures should not be surprising and would not be so troubling except that many of these professors do attempt to "ram home" these beliefs. That they are doing exactly that is suggested by the results of a study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni:
...49% of students said their professors often made political comments in the classroom even when it had nothing to do with the subject they were teaching. ...almost half the students said there were no alternative views offered to counterbalance their professors' political presentation, leading 29% to think that agreeing with their professors' politics was necessary for good grades.
In short, according to those with first-hand knowledge, in the college classroom today, many professors are preaching rather than teaching.³
Furthermore, methods of indoctrination on the college campuses go beyond the classroom. At most—if not all—colleges, methods of indoctrination are promoted in a number of ways, including "...freshman orientation, speech codes, mandatory diversity training, dormitory policies, guidelines for registered student organizations and mental health counseling."4 It's all about tolerance—tolerance of everything except biblical, Christian beliefs. The case of Missouri State University junior Emily Brooker illustrates this:
(Emily) objected to an assignment in which students were asked to write their state legislators and urge support for adoptions by same-sex couples. The evangelical social-work major was promptly hauled before a faculty panel and charged with maintaining an insignificant commitment to diversity. The panel grilled Brooker on her religious views without her parents present, convicted her of discrimination against gays, and informed her that to graduate she needed to lessen the gap between her own values and the values of the social- work profession.5 (See pages 109-110 of the Dec. 1, 2007 issue of the Standard Bearer for more of this article.)
The Brooker case had both a happy and sad ending. Happily, the Alliance Defense Fund sued Missouri State on Brooker's behalf and won. An independent investigation into the case "found such widespread intellectual bullying throughout the university's school of social work that investigators recommended shutting the program down and replacing the entire faculty."6 Sadly, it was not shut down.
More sad still are some of the results of this "bullying." (A note of caution must be expressed here. The examples in this article are not to be construed as typical for all college campuses, at least to the degree shown in the examples. Nevertheless, college students will face similar challenges to one degree or another, and these challenges have contributed to some very sad outcomes.) For example:
A mother describes what happened when her daughter went off to college: "our daughter was raised in Christian schools and in a Christian home. Two years out of high school at 20, she enrolled at the University. Unfortunately, she was overwhelmed by the professors and began to believe their philosophies. She graduated two years ago...and has turned her back on all that she believed in. We are trusting God to bring our girl back."7
While this is but one example, national surveys indicate that this trend is growing. These "...surveys indicate that up to 51% of Christian students no longer claim to be 'born again' by their senior year."8 That is a startling statistic! One might wonder, how can this be?
A George Barna poll suggests that student ignorance due to lack of preparation in the home, church, and school is the main problem. According to that poll, "Just 9 percent of evangelical students believe in anything called absolute truth."9 One might be inclined to question the accuracy of this poll; however, it appears to be collaborated by the results of the PEERS test. The PEERS test is designed to determine the worldview of the test-takers by examining their beliefs in five key areas: politics, economics, education, religion, and social issues. Test results indicate that,
From 1988-2000 average scores of Christian school students dropped by 30.3%. Results of evangelical family students in public schools dropped 36.8%.
Christian students attending public schools now regularly score in the lower half of secular humanism, headed toward a socialistic worldview. Students in typical Christian schools score as secular humanist.10
Preparation for Standing in the Days of Dawkins
Those statistics require a sense of urgency such that Issachar's children not be numbered among them. For them to stand in these days of Dawkins they need to be equipped, not only to know the vain philosophies of Dawkins, but also how to respond to them. Helpful might be some suppertime discussions using the sword of the Word to combat the following (and other) common statements that the likes of Dawkins present as truth:
1. The Bible is a myth.
2. The male gender is responsible for the world's problems.
3. Current translations of the Bible are not accurate.
4. The Bible is full of inaccuracies and/or inconsistencies.
5. Tolerance means accepting all lifestyles as valid.
6. Human beings are the product of evolution, not creation.
7. There are no absolute truths.
8. Christians are responsible for the earth's pollution.
9. Homosexuality is okay with God.
10. Christians are hateful.
11. Christians are bigots.
12. All religions say the same thing.
13. If God created all things, He must have created evil; therefore God is evil.
14. According to the rules of empirical, testable science, God does not exist.
To further prepare Issachar's young people for the challenges of the likes of Dawkins, a Reformed, biblical, Christian high school liberal arts education is of utmost importance. This needs to be an education in which the students are taught antithetically in all the areas of study. Not only do they need to know the truth of each discipline, they need to know the enemy's lies with respect to each and be equipped to combat them. Too often high school students begin to focus on a particular area of study too early. At this time in their educational journey, more important is a broad exposure to all areas of learning. It may even be advisable to offer a course of study that exposes the students to the specific worldviews of the day and equips them to combat their false teachings. Also, Issachar's seed should have opportunity to articulate a Reformed, biblical, Christian worldview of their own. In this regard one cannot emphasize enough the importance of systematic, sound catechetical instruction provided by the church, which will firmly ground Issachar's covenant seed in the Scriptures and the Reformed creeds. Furthermore, they will need spiritual support when they go off to college. While it may be a challenge to be able to provide this support if they are far from home or stay on campus, provide it we must. Clearly, modern-day Issachar must not simply assume that just because her children are raised in Christian homes, taught in Christian schools, and regularly attend church, they are not at risk when they fall under the shadow of Dawkin's post-modern culture. The warning of Colossians 2:8rings as true today as it did in the days of the apostle Paul: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." However, the apostle's warning is more than just a warning, it is also a call to action: "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him" (Col. 2:6). Furthermore, in Ephesians 6 the apostle supplies marching orders for this battle "...against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). The marching orders for this battle of ideas require that Issachar put on "the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:13).
1. Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion: Introducing the Paperback," Free Inquiry Aug./Sept. 2007: 14.
2. Rusty Benson, "Power politics at postmodern U," AFA Journal June, 2005: 20.
3. Benson: 21.
4. Rebecca Grace, "Colleges Turn Left; Students Think That's Right," The West Michigan Christian September, 2006: 1 & 8.
5. Mark Bergin, "Tenured bigots," World August 18, 2007: 28.
6. Bergin: 28.
7. Chuck Edwards, "Surviving a college education," AFA Journal July, 2004: 17.
8. Edwards: 17.
9. Charles Colson, "Worldview Boot Camp," Christianity Today December, 2004: 80.
10. Brannon S. Howse, "Test reveals Christian students lack biblical worldview," Christian Renewal February 11, 2002: 16.