Facts, Islam, and Schools

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Christian parents know that they must be vigilant in protecting their children from anti-Christian propaganda in the world and particularly in schools. This week, the Nashville paper, The Tennessean, published an article about the teaching of Islam in Tennessee public schools. The article is titled “Islam in Schools: What Parents Should Know” (http://tnne.ws/1ONYo6B). Some parents in Tennessee have become concerned that their children are being indoctrinated with the teachings of Islam. The Tennessean article assures parents that students are being taught only historical facts—and not value judgments—about Islam. Vanderbilt University religious studies professor Tony Stewart is quoted:

“To ask if any of [Islamic] beliefs are true is not an academic question, but a normative question that is defined by the norms and standards of a particular religion and therefore not neutral in any way. . . . In the academic study of religion facts are learned and questions are formulated that do not depend on belief for their answers.”

Two things are striking about Stewart’s comment. First, Stewart thinks that it is impossible to know for a fact whether any religion is true. Second, Stewart thinks that teachers can teach “just the facts,” the historical facts, about Islam without leading students to judge whether Islam’s teachings are right or wrong. As Joe Friday used to insist on “Just the facts,” Stewart thinks teachers can stick to the facts about religion and never make any judgments.

And yet, as Albert Mohler points out, it is rarely possible to clearly differentiate—especially in the minds of young students—the difference between the facts about a religion and judgments about the value of that religion’s teachings (http://bit.ly/1PnVt2w). For example, consider how a secular, worldly teacher might deal with the historical facts of Christianity? The biblical, historical facts include these: Jesus Christ was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25), performed many miracles to prove His identity with God (John 20:30-31), was resurrected from the dead (Luke 24), and established His church (Matthew 16:18; Mark 9:1; Acts 2). It is going to be highly challenging for a secular teacher to teach “facts” about Christianity without making a value judgment about whether the biblical account of the life of Christ contains facts or fiction. What happens when an inquiring student says, “Is what the Bible says about Jesus true?”

The same problem holds with Islam. What will govern the “spin” or “value judgments” that the secular school teachers attach to the teachings of Islam? One can only hope that the judgments will be governed by common sense, true history, and not by what is politically fashionable in many circles. If faithful Christians teach the historical truth about Islam they will expose it as a heresy and as fraudulent. But since school teachers mostly are not faithful Christians, then Christian parents must be more vigilant now than ever to protect their children from anti-Christian influences in classrooms (Proverbs 22:6).

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