Russell and Duenes

Christian Education and the Cultural Presumption of Scientific Materialism

with 6 comments

In my recently bygone teaching days, I used to ride the mantra that we needed Christians primarily in the marketplace, turning out work as good if not better than our secular counterparts. Toward that end, my unending drive to convince Christians of the absolute necessity of Christian education for Christian children is borne of the notion that Christ is most honored and the gospel is best spread when society is suffused with Christians who have learned the value of thinking well and doing excellent work as an offering to the Lord. When this happens, then the influence of the gospel upon the culture will be profound. However, we are not currently having the kind of cultural influence we’d like. Rather, there is a presumption in our culture that “scientific materialism” is true, which is to say, we live our day-to-day lives as though God has nothing to do with the running and sustaining of the universe. This has infected Christians and non-Christians alike. But what is the antidote to this unbiblical presumption? C.S. Lewis gives a profound answer, which answer should also be the central focus of every Christian school on the planet:

The difficulty we are up against is this: We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication.

What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent. You can see this most easily if you look at it the other way round. Our faith is not very likely to be shaken by any book on Hinduism. But if whenever we read an elementary book on Geology, Botany, Politics, or Astronomy, we found that its implications were Hindu, that would shake us.

It is not the books written in direct defence of Materialism that make modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. The first step to the re-conversion of this country is a series, produced by Christians, which can beat the Penguin and the Thinkers Library on their own ground. It’s Christianity would be latent, not explicit: and of course its science perfectly honest. (“Christian Apologetics,” from God in the Dock)

This should be our aim and goal. Of course Christians will not always be the “best and brightest” in a culture, but we certainly shouldn’t take the view, dominant in our culture for over a hundred years now, that we’ll leave the “secular” vocations and interests to, well, the secularists, and we Christians will settle for writing “little books about Christianity.” This must end, and I submit that one of the main ways to end it is robust, historical Christian education.




Written by Michael Duenes

November 22, 2011 at 9:38 am

Posted in Duenes, Education

6 Responses

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  1. I hate to tell you this, but you’ve had your chance, and you blew it. America was settled (well, conquered is probably a more apt term as people were living here) by religious zealots such as the Pilgrims and the Puritans.

    It’s hard to put all of American history into a little box, but let’s start with Roger Williams and Thomas Jefferson. Although Williams was a Calvinist nut, he had good instincts on issues such as separation of church and state, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and so on. Jefferson was probably an atheist (or very close to it) and had some good instincts on similar issues. He wrote some fine words about freedom in a document call the Declaration of Independence. I hope they troubled his conscience a bit as he was counting his slaves and frolicking with Sally Hemmings.

    In any case, America in part because of flawed oddballs such as Williams and Jefferson, decided to become an open market system as religious belief goes, and gradually the toothpaste of religious belief began to ooze out of the tube.

    You apparently think you can squeeze the toothpaste back in the tube. Well, it gives you something to do.

    You aren’t a Dominionist are you? Maybe that is what is making me nervous about your going to law school. Of course, you have every right to study law and practice it. What do you plan to do once you pass your bar exam?

    Just wondering.


    November 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    • I intend to honor Jesus Christ with my law degree, practicing his commands to “love the Lord my God with all my heart” and “love my neighbor as myself” and “do to others as I would have them do to me.” There’s nothing scary about those virtues. I’m not sure what more to say to your comments. You clearly have a very hard, cynical heart, and that’s unfortunate. On your view of things, you have no future hope of anything other than having your body eaten by worms in the next couple of decades, give or take a few years. That’s too bad. Perhaps you will take the apostle Paul’s advice: “Eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” Or you could decide that your life amounts to more than just being a conglomeration of chemicals evolved to a higher order, and trust in Jesus. But I’ve already asked you the ultimate question: “If it could be shown, to YOUR satisfaction, not anyone else’s, but to your satisfaction, that the gospels are true and that Jesus is the one and only savior, would you then be interested in trusting him?” To which you replied: “No.” So you don’t WANT to worship him, even if he could be shown to be authentic. I think that pretty much clears the fog. Every other so-called “argument against Christianity” that you put forth here is just blowing snow.


      russell and duenes

      November 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm

  2. Thank you for your answer. It’s kind of ambiguous in terms of allaying my concerns.

    There are theoretical issues — such as does God exist?

    There are empirical issues — such as did Christ live, was He born of a virgin, did he rise from the dead, was he the “Son” of a supposed “God.”

    These issues will never be resolved as far as I can tell.

    The third type of issue, and much more important to me (a person who lives in the mundane world) is policy. How do we as a society make and enforce rules?

    I gotta go and do some other stuff, and you probably should get back to your law books. I will write more later.


    November 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    • Thanks. So will I.


      russell and duenes

      November 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm

  3. The difficulty we are up against is this: We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication.

    This is the sort of stuff that has made your blog one my favourites, D. I’m reminded of the advantages and disadvantages that my wife and I bring to the table as we pursue the Christian life, she having been raised in the church, and I not. While I often think that being raised as a non-believer gives me a better ability to relate to current non-believers, that background carries a downside. Part of the downside has been this: it has taken me a long time to get to a point where I default to a Christian worldview when contemplating a given issue. I think that my wife, having been raised with Christian belief, lacks this problem.


    November 27, 2011 at 5:15 pm

  4. This is a great post. I have thought about it at different points. I find movies that are “anti-Christian” much less harmful than the normal movie in which everyone goes about their life as if God does not exist. The assumption is that He does not exist, and the characters seem to live their life happily (or not) and redemption usually comes apart from God. I leave with the subtle feeling that I barely recognize unless I actively think about it that I don’t need God and will be perfectly fine without Him. Then my life happens and I am brought to my knees. I am thankful for that (see your other post on gratitude).

    Duke Dillard

    December 14, 2011 at 12:28 am

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