Why Teach The Bible In Baptist Colleges
By E. B. Pollard, Ph. D.
Professor in Columbian University.
Washington, D. C.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.-John 5:39.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.-2 Tim. 3:15-17.
THAT was a facetious, yet very pointed remark of Chas. Dudley Warner, when he said that we may soon expect some enterprising educator to offer to the public the instructive course: ”Drop a nickel into the slot and take out a complete education.” That there is a popular tendency toward hasty-pudding methods in education is evident. No less marked, however, is the growing belief that true culture strikes deep into the very soul.
Along with this more adequate view of education-and indeed, as one result of it has come the recognition, by all the leading colleges and universities, that the Bible is one of the great educational agencies of the world; that it has been for many centuries the most potent factor for advancing the civilization and enriching the life of the race.
That Baptists ought to have the Bible in their schools should go without a ”why.” There are three very simple but cogent reasons. First, because the Bible is what it is. Second, because education is what it is. Third, because Baptists are what they are.
What is the Bible? Once it was looked upon as little more than a spacious magazine of prooftexts to support a theology, a convenient arsenal of bludgeons, with which to crack the enemy’s defenseless head. While the Bible undoubtedly speaks with authority, and is at the foundation of any adequate system of theology, yet it is all this because it is preeminently a book of life.
For this reason the Bible has entered into the life of the world as has no other book. It advances life, because it is life. No man can consider himself educated who does not know the book which, more than any other, has influenced the material progress of the world; shaped the leading civilizations of the age, molded its best institutions; directed and colored its choicest thought and literature; elevated and refined the instincts, motives, morals and ideals of the most advanced peoples of the earth. Well might the poet Heine exclaim: ”What a book! Vast and wide as the world, rooted in the abysses of creation, and towering up beyond the blue secrets of heaven. Sunrise and sunset, birth and death, promise and fulfillment, the whole drama of humanity are in this book.”
One of the special needs of to-day is consciousness of God. Even educational institutions tend to become materialized. The Bible is the best antidote for materialism, pessimism and worldliness, since it is a record of man’s life history, viewed from the side of providence. It is man’s struggle toward the light, viewed from the Godward point. Why should we study in our schools the dim glow of wisdom from heathen sage, the imperfect and often false philosophies of the pagan mind, and call them ”classics,” while we exclude the revelation of Him in whom God chose that all wisdom and fullness should dwell; of Him in whom was light, even the life of men? Theodore Parker was right when he said: ”The literature of Greece, which goes up like incense from the land of temples, has not half the influence of this book. The sun never sets on its glowing page.” Should not this volume so replete with life, the highest order of life, with spiritual life, with the divine life-this book which has so influenced for good the best life of the race, be a factor in any effort to prepare men and women to live?
What now is education? It has been said that education is a ”leading out” and not a ”stuffing in.” It is both these - expansion and enrichment - but it is more. It is teaching one the power and purpose to direct this greater self to the attainment of divinely appointed ends. No book so enlarges the mind as the Bible. Showing men to themselves as they really are, it inspires a wish for higher things. It breathes the very purposes and plans of God; it is more than a book of rules, it is a book of principles; more than a book of facts, it is a book of truth. Truth always enlarges the soul; and how that mind must expand which thinks the thoughts of God! This is education. If tracing the thought of God in nature, in mind, in the constitution of all things, be the processes in education, then how can any education be complete without a study of His highest revelation ?
Education means bringing to rights, things that seem disjointed, unrelated, chaotic. Every work on science, every valuable system of philosophy, helps toward this end. But it is in the Bible, as nowhere else, we discover the unifying power of all things, and by its teachings alone we are able to be convinced, with the great English poet:
”I doubt not through the ages, one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.”
No one can begin to apprehend the world-plan without the light which comes from this record of God’s progressive revelation of himself to men. And what of enrichment ? If Matthew Arnold was right in saying that ”Culture is becoming acquainted with the best that has been known and said in the world,” then the Bible has its place not only in higher education, but in the very highest. We have reached a time when in the multiplicity of arts, sciences and of systems of thought, education must be eclectic. Education no longer means, and can no longer mean, knowing everything; it must choose the best things. The sage of Grasmere counseled ”plain living and high thinking.” In the Bible we have both. Why then should our youth know of the comedies of Aristophanes and not of the tragedy of Eden? Why Plato’s vision of an ”Ideal Republic” and not the prophecies of the Kingdom of God? Why concerning the martyrdom of Socrates and not of the ”Suffering Servant?” Why the odes of Pindar and not the inspired lyrics of David the ”sweet singer” of Israel. Why the vacant fancies and often prurient output of heathen mind, and not the pure, uplifting truths of prophet and of saint?
But self-mastery and self-direction in right lines is the goal of education. Not knowledge, then, but wisdom, is its end. The Bible, speaking in terms of life, is of necessity a book of conduct and right living. It speaks to the individual; and its ethics is touched by the heavenly motive. It taps the inner springs, and is not satisfied till it has found the real self; recognizing that ”As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Without this element, education is a delusion and a snare. The greater the mental powers not brought under the direction of a wise heart, the greater the power for evil, and the more frightful the wreck! The education that leaves soul development out of view is doomed beforehand to a melancholy disaster. For these three essential elements in education, enlargement, enrichment and the power of self direction toward the right ends, no text-book can be found equal to the Bible.
Now, lastly, Who are the Baptists? They are a people who have never been able to thrive in the dark. It is for this reason that Baptist historians have had no easy task. The ”Dark Ages” were a sad era for Baptists. But when the sun arises, Baptists come out of the dens and the caves of the earth, ”alive from the dead.” It is the Bible that turns on the light. This is the torch that has guided our feet in all ages. A buried Bible; then came the Dark Ages and the night of death. Only when a successful reformation emphasized our cry, ”Back to the Book,” did the tombs give up their dead to shout aloud Amen! The native note of the Baptists through all the ages must ever be, ”Turn on the light.”
Not our history alone, but our principles demand it. Away from the Scriptures, Baptists are an easy prey. They believe in the ”Faith once for all delivered.” And this is found only in the Book.
Our battle of scholarship has been fought for us, and the day is won. Now our fight is a practical one-how to bring the world to believe and obey the Christ of Scripture. This task can be accomplished only by an intelligent and consistent setting forth of Scripture teachings, not simply in books, but in life. Hence we see the supreme importance of having the Bible incorporated into the warp and woof of the growing manhood and womanhood of our people.
The Baptists have always stood for the individual. Even in the age when ”social forces” are so powerful, we can not recede. Soul development of the individual must always be the aim of Baptists. Our polity speaks of equality and individual responsibility. Without intelligent Bible culture, our church government may not only become a farce, but be positively dangerous. For the sake of safety, we must have intelligent Bible Christians, such as neither the Sunday school nor even the family has thus far given us.
Some one has summed up all education in the idea of ”adequate and masterly self-expression.” As Baptists, with our independence, we have the ”self-expression,” but what of the adequate and the masterly? Surely our species of church government demands an intelligent knowledge of God’s Word, the chart by which our ship must be forever steered. The same reasons which demand that a Republic should furnish her citizens reasonable schooling in history and the art of government, make it imperative that Baptists give the Bible its just place in education. He alone is free whom truth makes free. All the ’reasons, therefore, for giving the Bible a place in institutions of learning which apply to other religious bodies, apply with equal force to Baptists, and other reasons beside. By committing church government to all, let us not suppose that all problems are thereby solved. Practically we have but substituted denominational leadership for ecclesiastical or prelatical control. We need leaders, and always shall. Much depends on the Biblical intelligence of those who are called to lead and much more still on the Bible intelligence of those who choose them as leaders. Herein lies a strong argument for the Bible in our schools. A Baptist church without intelligent Bible-taught laymen has an aching if not a dangerous void. We conclude therefore that both our selfpreservation and (what is more important still) the fulfillment of our mission to the world, demand that the Bible have a place in our system of education.
The Baptists began, as did the Master, to lift up the world, by first getting under the nether stratum. But as by education we are continually reaching up, we shall find ourselves forever losing at the top, if we do not impart to the youth before he leaves our halls of learning a systematic and stable knowledge of the Bible, and an intelligent respect for its teachings. We have no right to be satisfied with a mission to a single class; much less to doom ourselves to denominational mediocrity by neglecting the Word of God as a potent factor in education.