Mike Metzger’s recent essay, The Fourth R caught my attention. (As we wrote here, Mike is the Senior Fellow and President of the Clapham Institute. His weekly DoggieHead Tilt blog is a regular part of my reading.)
Mike says the Fourth R of education was religion. He reminds us that the story of the Bible—Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration—is a call for Christians to make culture: “Making culture meant making something of the world, improving on it, so that people flourish.” Mike argues for the importance of education to the development of free societies, and says that the heart of education is religion. And the religion that made the West was not just any religion, it was the creed of Biblical faith.
This is the same argument that Vishal Mangalwadi makes in his latest offering, The Book That Made Your World.
America’s founders testify to the importance of a religious (read “Biblical”) foundation for the education of free men and women. In an address on October 11,1798, John Adams, second president of the United States said:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. [emphasis added]
Likewise Noah Webster, America’s lexicographer and the “Father of American Scholarship and Education,” writing in his History of the United States (1832) testified:
The Christian religion ought to be received and maintained with firm and cordial support. It is the real source of all genuine republican principles. It teaches the equality of men as to rights and duties; and while it forbids all oppression, it commands due subordination to law and rulers… The religion of Christ and his apostles, in its primitive simplicity and purity, unencumbered with the trappings of power and the pomp of ceremonies, is the surest basis of a republican government. [emphasis added]
In 1982, writing a cover story for Newsweek Magazine, How the Bible Made America, Kenneth Woodward and David Gates wrote:
For centuries [the Bible] has exerted an unrivaled influence on American culture, politics, and social life. Now historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document: the source of the powerful myth of the United States as a special, sacred nation, a people called by God to establish a model society, a beacon to the world. [emphasis added]
Nations do not just happen; they are built. All people, as image bearers of God, have similar opportunity to build their nations. Where a people lack intentionality, the nation is built by external forces, with commensurate results.
When a society’s people are intentional about nation building, the question becomes Which religious framework will be promulgated through the educational process? Atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam … all are religious faiths just as Christianity is a religious faith. But only the latter has the moral and metaphysical framework for building free, just, and prosperous societies.
Metzger’s The Fourth R is a good reminder of what it takes to build a free society.
– Darrow Miller