Guest Article by Mark Kennedy (ACSI Canada)
If you’re in a forest in springtime, watch for something remarkable that seems to be clinging to the base of a tree trunk. It appears to be a gray wingless dragonfly, perfect in shape and detail. But look more closely and you’ll see it is just the outside form of the insect, an ‘exoskeleton’. It has the same appearance superficially, but it’s hollow. The life within it isn’t there and the little skeleton will soon crumble and be swept away by the wind.
Do you remember when we used to talk about “the Judea–Christian Ethic”? If you’re younger than 50, maybe you don’t. In the late 1970s Ontario’s leading educational lights expunge the last vestige of Christianity from public schooling. They put an end to the daily repetition of The Lord’s Prayer. In its place they gave Christian parents a palliative. ‘We will still teach a Judeo-Christian Ethic’, they said, tactfully not mentioning what, or Whom they would leave out. By the term ‘Judeo Christian Ethic’ they meant the moral principles of the 10 Commandments and maybe even of the Sermon on the Mount. And they would do so unashamedly in public schools … more or less … as long as no one objected.
Eventually some people did object of course. “Why do we need this outdated morality?!” They said. For most believers the answer should have been pretty obvious: ‘Because the living God established those moral principles out of love for humanity and concern for our well being.’ It is the response we in Christian schools are still free to give. But since the authority of the God of the Old and New Testament was no longer recognized in public education, no one could come up with a good answer. It was like trying to write a one -question examination where any response is acceptable, except for the right one.
So ‘the Judeo-Christian ethic’ crumbled to dust and vanished, ‘swept away by the winds of ‘Why?’, because a biblically based value system will not last long where people have turned their backs on its source. There’s nothing wrong with the ethic or its morality. People who choose to follow biblical morality are blessed by the results. That’s called ‘common grace’. After 25 years as a principal in ‘open enrollment’ Christian schools I’ve seen many examples where non Christian parents use scriptural principles and morality to build positive attitudes in their children and strong family bonds. And I’ve seen too many Christian families who have ignored those things and regretted the consequences. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean that sooner or later an individual or society or educational system that rejects the living God will also reject Christian values and morality because they are contrary to humanity’s unregenerate nature.
And even while the Judeo-Christian ethic is in place, those values by themselves tend to produce graduates baring a Christian façade, a mere system of external behaviors that is as lifeless and frail as those hollow insect skeletons. It makes what C.S. Lewis’ terms, “men without chests”, exactly what Paul warns about in 2 Timothy 3:5, people “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” In North America today there is an explosion of publicly funded charter schools teaching ‘Christian values’ (I’m not sure where the Judeo part went). But like the Ontario public schools 30 years ago they can’t recognize or honor the source of those values. And even if they hold unswervingly to their convictions, they face one insurmountable question that their students will ask and that school staff are not supposed to answer correctly:
The critical question WHY?