The New York City Department of Education is in the news this morning for banning the use of “dinosaur” on tests. The Department doesn’t want to upset people who believe in creationism. Never mind the fact that creationists don’t deny the existence of dinosaurs. The decision bans an entire species because the Department doesn’t want to upset religious sensibilities. They barred “evolution” for the same reason.
“Birthday” is also banned, since Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays. “Halloween” can’t be used on tests, since it could also “evoke unpleasant emotions in the students.” However, “religion” is also on the list, perhaps because atheists might be similarly offended.
In the alternate universe of New York City tests, there is no such thing as “cancer,” “catastrophes,” “death and disease,” “divorce,” “terrorism” or “violence.” “Politics” made the list, which is rather interesting, as did “Rock-and-Roll music.” Political correctness wins while education loses.
I have no expertise in educational psychology, but I would like to speak to the Department’s concern about offending religious people. This idea that we want to ignore subjects that may conflict with our beliefs could not be more unbiblical. The assertion that religion and reason are enemies does violence to both. A little boy, when asked to define “faith,” replied: “Believing what you know ain’t so.” He couldn’t have been more wrong.
The prophet heard the Lord say, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). “Let us reason” translates the Hebrew niw wakhah, which means to “argue it out.” Jesus taught us to love God “with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). The Apostle Paul was “thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers” by Gamaliel, the finest scholar of his generation (Acts 22:3). Some of the greatest minds in history have been devoted Christians, from St. Augustine to Dr. Francis Collins.
Unfortunately, Christians have sometimes been our own worst enemies with regard to intellectual inquiry and honesty. The medieval Church’s rejection of Galileo’s discoveries was tragic. The astronomer was right: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use.”
What decisions or challenges are you facing today? God will speak to you intuitively by his Spirit (Romans 8:16) and practically through circumstances and events. But he also wants to speak to your mind through Scripture and logic. John A. Hutchinson was right: “Unthinking faith is a curious offering to be made to the creator of the human mind.”
My Ph.D. is in philosophy of religion, a subject I have taught at four seminaries. I always close my courses with this prayer: “From cowardice, which shrinks from new truth; from laziness, that is content with half truth; from arrogance, that thinks it knows all truth, O God of truth, deliver.”