ChristianTeacher.org

Using Scripture In School

By B. Jane Kulp

Unfortunately, there are many Christians today who simply go through the motions of teaching in public school classrooms. They fulfill their duties in a way that is no different from that of their worldly co-workers. They never say a word about God or the Bible. Fear and insecurity have made them ineffective servants of the Lord. "I donít dare to mention the Bible for fear Iíll lose my job," admitted one Christian teacher. "I thought about comparing the sayings of Ben Franklin with verses in the Bible," said another, "but I wasnít sure I could get away with it."

Christian teachers need to be assured there is no national law which totally bans the use of Scripture in schools. The Constitution of this great nation guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech. However, a few general limitations do apply in public settings, including the educational setting. Those stipulations, safeguarding the freedoms all citizens enjoy, are easy to work with and allow plenty of latitude to a creative Christian teacher.

Every U.S. President since this country was established has found appropriate ways to use Godís Word in their public speeches. A public school teacher is a government employee, just as the President of the United States is a government employee. A classroom teacher is a public speaker, in much the same way that the President is a public speaker (but on a smaller scale). Therefore, Christian teachers in public schools should have no more fear of using words from the Bible than the President does.

The concern should not be "May I use Scripture," but "How may I use Scripture?" Teachers need to remember that Satan also knows Scripture, and he delights in twisting it and misusing it to serve his own diabolical purposes. Given the opportunity, he delights in putting Christians in humiliating, degrading situations. To prevent that from happening, teachers must stay within government guidelines, seek Godís guidance, and plan lessons carefully.

Stay Within the Guidelines

Primarily, a Christian teacher is prohibited from blatant use of the Bible for indoctrination of students. Students seated in a classroom are considered to be a captive audience, and no teacher in America has the right to attempt to brainwash that captive audience. Scripture cannot be used for the purpose of convincing students to accept the teacherís beliefs. To do so would be considered propaganda or undue pressure and persuasion.

However, use of Scripture is permitted if done objectively and in a way which is deemed relevant to the curriculum. Any teaching about the Bible must be academic, not devotional. It must be done in a way which neither undermines nor reinforces the beliefs of students in the class. [1] Thus, having students study biblical passages along with other influences which provided the background and inspiration for the sayings of Benjamin Franklin, or for the writings of any of Americaís founding fathers, would be a legitimate use of the Bible. In the case of Stone v. Graham (1980) the Supreme Court specifically stated, "the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like." [2]

The teacher might also be prompted to cite Scripture when it directly relates to the moral lesson of a short story. In such cases, the biblical passage must be shared in the same way the teacher would present a comparison using one of Aesopís fables or a statement from a well-known author or speaker. The teacherís key concerns must be relevance and objectivity. (For more specifics about the government guidelines for religion in education, see my article Shining His Light in a Dark Place.)

Seek Godís Guidance

A Christian teacherís lesson preparation should always begin with prayer. Jesus told His followers, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7). James, the brother of Jesus, advised Christians, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him" (1:5). Likewise John, the beloved apostle, wrote, "This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:14-15).

Christians who answer Godís call to teach in the public schools have the assurance that He hears their calls for help and he will give them guidance. No matter how barren the curriculum may seem concerning religious matters, public education is not a total wasteland. God will provide the means by which thirsting souls can be satisfied. "The Lord shall guide thee continually," wrote Isaiah, "and satisfy thy soul in drought" (58:11).

Daily time in the Word is another prerequisite to effective preparation of lessons which include Scripture. Asking advice of worldly co-workers will not help. Reading educational journals will not provide the necessary inspiration. Sitting at the computer and surfing the internet may cause more confusion than good. Only God can provide the necessary guidance, and He does that through His Word. David began his Psalms with these words,

"Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."

The only way to learn to use Scripture meaningfully is to study Scripture regularly. A person cannot teach what they do not know. A Christian teacher whose delight is in the Word of the Lord will flourish in the classroom. There will be an abundance of Scriptures verses and Bible stories which can be used in appropriate ways at appropriate times. Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). As Godís servants develop better understanding of His Word, they feel more and more free to share it.

Plan Lessons Carefully

The use of Scripture in the classroom must be planned and synchronized with the curriculum so that lesson plans clearly reveal appropriateness of the material and use of the teacherís professional judgment. [3] Words from the Bible should be used sparingly and purposefully in order for them to be memorable. King Solomon wrote, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."

The Christian teacher must be very careful not to flaunt Scripture in a way that may be offensive or irrelevant. The letter to the Hebrews says, "The word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword" (4:12). A sword is a pointed tool which yields amazing results with only a few confident thrusts in the hands of a skilled warrior, but it can create havoc and devastation in the hands of a novice with improper training and preparation. Godís servants in public schools must learn to use His Word with care and precision.

Spouting verses continually and haphazardly throughout the day is definitely not deemed an appropriate use and may very well be considered objectionable by some students and parents. Likewise, using only Bible passages without ever citing portions of other religious documents would also not be considered appropriate. The teacher, as a public employee, must appear to be neutral, giving fair and balanced treatment to all religions. The Bible & Public Schools states:

In keeping with the First Amendmentís mandate of governmental neutrality toward religion, any study of religion in a public school must be educational, not devotional. This principal holds true whether teaching about the Bible occurs in literature, history or any other class and whether the course is required or an elective. [4]

A wise teacher will learn to appropriately use manís laws for Christís advantage. For a Christian teacher to exclude Godís Word from the public classroom is an offense to our founding fathers, an offense to God, and an offense to the children He has entrusted to the teacherís care. The apostle Luke recorded Jesusí words concerning those one who offends His little ones, "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea..."(Luke 17:2).

A Christian teacher who stays within the guidelines, seeks Godís guidance, and plans carefully should have nothing to fear from parents, administrators, or the courts. A greater fear for that teacher should be of one day standing before the Lord and hearing Him ask, "Why did you never invite me to visit my little ones in the classroom?"

NOTES

  1. A Teacher's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools (Annandale, VA: The First Amendment Center, 1999), 5.
  2. Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (1980).
  3. Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987).
  4. The Bible & Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, published by National Bible Association and First Amendment Center, 1999.

The contents of this article reflect the authorís views acquired through research and experience. The author is not engaged in rendering any legal professional service. The services of a professional person are recommended if legal advice or assistance is needed. The author and ChristianTeacher.org disclaim any loss or liability to any person or entity with respect to loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly by the utilization of any information contained in this article.

All right reserved. Copyright ©2002 by B. Jane Kulp

This material may be quoted in written form but give credit where credit is due (authorís name, title of article, and web site address: It may not be reprinted for commercial publication. It may be copied or reprinted for distribution as long as it is given away and no charge is made for copies, shipping, or handling.


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