When the Bible Doesn't Reach Beyond Morality
"Only 8 people survived? No way!" The student's comment surprised me. We were at a Christian camp, the small group leader had his finger in his Bible, and this student didn't believe a word of it. His reference to Noah's ark was just the tip of the iceberg. I was brought in for answers. I wondered what truth he was hoping to get from me as I quietly shuffled in my backpack for my Bible, praying for confidence.
The line of questions started with the student asking me if it was a sin to name your baby 'jesus'. His questions were followed with a series of queries from me. If I was going to help this small group of young boys at Bible camp, I'd better find out where they were coming from.
There was a gentle breeze that cooled us off as we sat under a tall pine tree. My hands propped me up as I intently listened to their answers. They were a group of boys who hadn't met before camp. One was an athlete, another liked Pokémon. Two quiet boys flanked the talkative ones. The quiet ones had answers, but kept quiet.
My new friends were church veterans. Three of the four wore polos to session. They all stacked their plates after lunch and bowed their heads when conversation grew serious. They took notes, the pages on their Bibles were folded in, and their backpacks had a supply of pens. They said they went to Sunday school, but it was clear they weren't buying the Bible beyond morality.
That's when the question about 8 people on a boat above a worldwide flood came. I paused after they floated their question, retreating to a world of black and white for what felt like a series of hours. I was transported to memories of my mom reading a children's Bible in a weather-tattered farmhouse, a scene in my kindergarten classroom where my teacher was holding a small Bible in leading the class in a round of "Jesus loves me", and my sixth grade classroom where I heard, for the first time in memory, the overarching story of the Bible. The black and white mental pictures flashed quick with images of the Hillcrest Castle, a Bible under a desk lamp, and a vignetted picture of me shaking hands with Chuck Colson popping into focus before I shook myself awake to address the question. There was some history to the answers that I gave. I'd spent a lifetime of learning preparing for these questions.
I worked to open a door to learning rather than dogmatically tear apart their question. I shared evidence for the flood that transcends pop-science.
I explained how, in studying language, we see that the Chinese symbols for boat and flood holding a Biblical context that is unique to the Genesis stories. I explained that history is filled with ancient stories, passed down through generations. Many stories about the foundation of the earth are followed by a flood story in ancient cultures.
I went on to share that the geologic record lends a sample of evidence that water covered the entire earth, and there were living things before the water occupied the earth that are now fossilized because of the geologic phenomena that are recorded in Scripture.
In closing, I shared that they are going to put their faith in something at the end of the day. But a world without God is a dangerous world. Without God, following science, Hitler should've been permitted to continue evolutionary development through the Holocaust. But, a world with people who live a Biblical-view bring life. William Wilberforce fought world-wide movements to silence his outcry against slavery. National economies depended on the slave trade, and Wilberforce's faith in God and education to see the world from God's perspective led him to fight slavery for over four decades. The Bible gives morals, but its active gift to the world encompasses much more.
The point of education is salvation. The world believes we can save ourselves through study, developing knowledge, and achieving wisdom. The Bible teaches that all attempts to save ourselves lead to disorder and confusion. However, in believing the Bible and trusting the redemptive and restorative work of Jesus on the cross, man sees that God holds all things together, and is the redemptive and restorative agent in the world. Man is then called to align with the reality of scripture and engage the world to flourish the way God designed it to flourish.
A recent Barna survey of 1100 college students asked what the purpose of education is. The Evangelicals were divided from the pack by pre-survey answers. 11 distinct questions about God and church history separated Christians from the rest of the pack. In the survey about the purpose of college, only 9% of Evangelicals said school was expected to grow their faith. 9% of atheists surveyed agreed.
There is a problem with how we view education. Barna found that 70% of evangelicals go to college to increase their financial opportunities. After my question-and-answer session with the four boys, I think for many the pathway of education is focused on earthly thoughts that are no heavenly good.
Education drives students to deeper faith, whether we acknowledge it or not. High school is the fundamental place students begin unifying their world. In most public schools, students are taught about the world from a godless perspective. Students are taught the best ideas to come up with the world without an active god-like creative force. So, naturalistic explanations come into play and man's wisdom is being praised.
In a Biblical perspective students hear a more unifying truth. In order for things to be designed there has to be a designer. From this, students begin to process what this means in terms of organizing mathematics, language, government, the arts, and other academic disciplines. Every study in academia drives students to see the organization in the universe and God is praised for his creative order. All of education is faith formation. Students are either taught to trust themselves and other man-made ideas, or they trust the order and design of God, found in Scripture and their study of the universe.
A Godless religion continues to infiltrate our thinking, teaching us that the ultimate goal of education is to achieve, which is an evolutionary thought. The Christian perspective is that education drives us to be better caretakers, who enhance the earth and make it more abundant to the glory of God. The Bible reaches beyond morality, do you believe it?