"YESTERDAY'S ruling by a federal judge that "intelligent design" cannot be taught in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district has the potential to put the teaching of the Bible back where it belongs in our schools: not in the science laboratory, but in its proper historical and literary context. An elective, nonsectarian high school Bible class would allow students to explore one of the most influential books of all time and would do so in a manner that clearly falls within Supreme Court rulings...."
This may be a solution to the long-standing conflict over whether the Bible can be taught as literature, or even be mentioned in relation to other areas of learning. I cannot imagine how American history could be taught without reference to the religious motivations of many of the people who emigrated from Europe. Certainly the contributions of the Presbyterians to our type of government cannot be ignored. The myriad of Scriptural allusions in literature of all eras provide a dimension that would be lost if the Bible were ignored in the curriculum.
When the Bible is taught in our churches, I prefer that those doing the teaching at least believe that it is the Word of God. My personal approach to the Bible is that I presume it to mean what it says, unless my study causes me to think otherwise. It is, after all, one of the key underpinnings of the Reformation.
When the Bible is taught in the public schools, though, it is entirely appropriate to keep such discussions neutral so all can come to their own conclusions unfettered by the biases that affect all of us. This is difficult to acheive, and there have been failures in the past to present balance, but this should not prevent educators from trying.
Bruce Feiler points out in this NYTimes Op-Ed piece that the extremists on either side are the ones who define the debate to the public, via the media. It is up to the center to join the debate with examples that counter the far right and far left.
Beau Weston over at the Gruntled Center has adopted the theme of "Principled Centrism". It would be worthwhile to read his articles, especially those linked on the sidebar under the heading "A GC Manifesto".
My biggest fear is that the battle between the extremes on this and other issues will ultimately turm people away from the Presbyterian Church. If there is a "winner" in all of this, what will they have won? The rubble of a once great denomination? An infrastructure that costs far more to maintain that the base can support?
We will have lost our historic witness to the nation and the world.