‘More Dangerous Than The Crude Tyrannies Of The Past’: A Profound Theologian’s Prophetic Warnings About Government Education

‘More Dangerous Than The Crude Tyrannies Of The Past’: A Profound Theologian’s Prophetic Warnings About Government Education

Amid the chaos of the past two years, American evangelical Christianity has been infiltrated by social justice ideology, the worldview assumptions of cultural Marxism, and other philosophical flotsam that poses a threat to a simple adherence to the biblical doctrines that the Church has confessed through the ages.

Yet American Christians forget that the early part of the twentieth century likewise had a “Great Awokening” that came with its own skirmishes in the public square.

J. Gresham Machen — a New Testament scholar who helped to launch the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Theological Seminary — wrote his magnum opus, “Christianity and Liberalism,” almost exactly one hundred years ago. The treatise profoundly dismantles the secularism that eroded many ministers’ profession of truths such as the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, the depravity of man, and the inspiration of the Bible.

Although most believers continue to read “Christianity and Liberalism” for wisdom on dealing with those who would syncretize evangelicalism with secularism, American Christians would benefit from considering Machen’s words on the education system — which he clearly treated as the front lines for the battles of his day.

Machen recognized that government education is the ideal mechanism to separate children from their families and disrupt an upbringing rooted in the fear of God. As many parental rights activists are now discovering for the first time, American children are still receiving indoctrination rather than education.

“Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them then to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.”

Machen’s era followed the work of utilitarian social philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, who theorized that education — as a democratic endeavor — ought to be a tool for the creation of “an enlightened public” knowledgeable enough to “discern who are those that know them better.” The education system of the twenty-first century, in the name of transmitting methods and processes rather than information, leaves students with nothing save the tools necessary to interpret and obey the authoritative knowledge handed down by experts.

“The object of education, it is now assumed, is the production of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. But the greatest happiness for the greatest number, it is assumed further, can be defined only by the will of the majority. Idiosyncrasies in education, therefore, it is said, must be avoided, and the choice of schools must be taken away from the individual parent and placed in the hands of the state.”

Once removed from the watchful eye of their parents, bureaucrats are free to manipulate children through methodologies like social-emotional learning so that they can absorb Critical Race Theory or transgender ideology — even to the extent that they wholly reject their maleness or femaleness.

“The state then exercises its authority through the instruments that are ready to hand, and at once, therefore, the child is placed under the control of psychological experts, themselves without the slightest acquaintance with the higher realms of human life, who proceed to prevent any such acquaintance being gained by those who come under their care … The dominant tendency, even in a country like America, which formerly prided itself on its freedom from bureaucratic regulation of the details of life, is toward a drab utilitarianism in which all higher aspirations are to be lost.”

Robert Bortins — the CEO of Classical Conversations, a provider of homeschooling curriculum for Christian parents — explained to The Daily Wire that Machen was correct when he identified “an unparalleled impoverishment of human life” as the result of an education system stifled by secular government.

“When the public is free to be educated as they see fit, as opposed to government-funded education that controls institutions directly or indirectly, then the public can choose and pursue education that is best for the individual,” Bortins commented. “This will lead to freedom, and all the benefits and struggles related to choice and consequences.”

Rejecting the fact that the world was created — and indelibly bears the marks of its Creator — therefore produces chaos.

“As Christians, we believe that Truth is a person, and that person is Jesus Christ. True education is the pursuit of knowing and making known truth, beauty, and goodness,” he said. “A rejection of orderliness for chaos is causing the record amount of depression and other impoverishment of human life we see in young people today. If we all have our own truth, then that leads to chaos.”

With the path to reformation in mind, Bortins rejects education savings accounts and other policies that allow conservatives to “win battles on the way to losing the war.”

“A faster and more sustainable way would be for private enterprise, the church, and families to work together to educate and leave the government doing what God designed the government to do,” he explained. “The good news is there are plenty of entities working towards this already, and all we must do is join in on their work.”

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire. 

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