“Pagan or Christian—Which?” American Sentinel 12, 30, pp. 465-467.

IN view of the facts of the every-day history of Greece and Rome, it is strange that anybody would ever think of giving the professed wisdom of these nations any place whatever in any system of education.

Yet, however such a thing may be excused in an education that is altogether of this world, and whose goal is only this world—education by the State—it is impossible to justify it in education that makes any claim whatever to being Christian.

Greece and Rome were absolutely pagan. Their education, their ideals, their literature, were essentially pagan. And what place can paganism ever properly have in Christian education? Pagan text-books in a Christian school! Pagan standards in a Christian education! The things are positively contradictory.

Christianity and paganism are at the most extreme opposites. Christianity came from heaven: paganism came from beneath. Christianity is of God. Paganism is of the devil. To give pagan literature preference over [466] Christian literature, is plainly to prefer paganism to Christianity. To give the pagan classics a more prominent place in any study than is given to the Bible, is certainly nothing else than to allow that the author of paganism is worthy to be believed and followed more than is the Author of Christianity.

In the Bible, God reveals himself as a teacher. “I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit.” “Who teacheth like Him?” “Learn of me.”

Shall it be for one moment allowed then, and of all people by those who profess to believe in the God of the Bible, that Socrates, or Plato, or Cicero, or any other pagan, or any other man, is a better teacher than God is?

In the Bible, God reveals himself as the Source of the highest and best, indeed of all true, wisdom. His word, the Bible, is the storehouse of this wisdom which he has given to the children of men.

Shall, then, the words of men, and of such men as were the authors of these classics, be given the preference over the word of God? Why should the words of these men, or of any other men, be given, or allowed, more prominence in any line of study, than is given to the word of God? and of all people by those who profess to believe the Bible to be the word of God?

Are the doubting queries of the proud ignorance of Socrates worthy of more consideration than are the certain truths of Him “that is perfect in knowledge”? Are the vain imaginings of Plato to be accepted and studied as philosophy in preference to the original ideas of Him who is very Wisdom itself? Shall the dark abominations of the mythology of Homer and Virgil and other Greek and Roman poets occupy the minds of the youth, rather than the pure glories of the heaven which has been opened to men through the moral perfection of Jesus Christ? What right to the name of Christian has any school, institution, or scheme of education, that does do the things here indicated?

Yet the truth is that that which professes to be Christian education, does do these very things all over this and other professedly Christian lands. One of the leading infidels of the United States was graduated from the theological department of a college which was “founded for the purpose of fitting young men for the ministry” of the gospel, and in which all the teachers had to be Christians. And of the instruction there given he has made the following extremely suggestive statement:—

“It struck me as rather curious that in a Christian college the main drift of all its teachings was to pagan literature. Hardly any attention was given to the Bible except in a formal way. That which really interested the students and professors was Greek and Latin. Homer, Zenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Livy, and Cesar, entirely superseded Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, and even Jesus. The spirit of the college corriculum [sic.] was non-Christian writings.”

In this statement, the students in nine tenths of the professed Christian, and even theological, institutions in our land will readily recognize their own experience. The result of such training cannot possibly be anything other than infidelity. True it may not in all cases be the positive, outspoken, and professed infidelity of the one from whom we have quoted the above passage. It may be the infidelity of the “higher criticism,” of the “Ethical … ture,” of the “scientific,” or of the “philosophical” school. Yet it will none the less be infidelity. It will be paganism as really as was that of the authors, in whose “learning” they have been trained.

It is a recognized fact that “first impression are most lasting.” It is a law of the mind that first impressions shall be the most lasting. In the study of a strange language, the student enters a world as entirely new as was the real world when he first became conscious that he was in it. The first thoughts and impressions that he gets in that language will be the most lasting and will inevitably color all that ever come after. Let the first thoughts that a student ever obtains in Greek, be pagan thoughts, then let him being the study of the Bible in Greek, and the pure and exalted thoughts of the works of the Lord will be over-shadowed and darkened by the pagan notions that have already pre-occupied the mind. This is the whole secret of the “Higher Criticism,” the so-called scientific study of the Bible. The first studies of these men in Greek, for instance, were in pagan Greek. All their thoughts in Greek were pagan thoughts. The whole mold and impress of their mind, in Greek, was pagan. Then when they come to read the Bible in Greek, instead of reading it with God’s thoughts in it they read it with pagan thoughts only. Thus God’s Greek was in their minds, dragged down and confused with the pagan Greek. And as they knew full well that the world has got far beyond the ideas of the Greeks, when God’s Greek is confused with pagan Greek, it is easy enough for them to “see” that the world has also got “far beyond” the Bible. Thus as it is perfectly proper and scientific to test pagan Greek by advanced views, and accept or reject its statements accordingly, so when God’s Greek is confused with pagan Greek it is equally proper and “scientific” to test the statements of the Lord in the same way.

Thus once more, and by precisely the same means, it has come to pass that what the Greeks new is sought after as wisdom, while what God has said is considered foolishness. And what God has said is considered foolishness just because of the fact that what the Greeks produced is accepted as wisdom. And the same result is fast coming to pass, that came before—by this very “wisdom”—the world does not know God.

At the first, when Greek thought prevailed, “the world by wisdom knew not God.” It was by means of that very Greek “wisdom” that the world was caused not to know God. This same result will surely follow to-day wherever Greek thought is allowed to prevail. And as it is indisputable that in the great mass of the educational institutions of the land—professed Christian as well as other—the whole educational system is corrupted with this same Greek and Roman “wisdom,” the result can [467] be nothing else than that the world will again be caused not to know God: and the end of it must be only that which came to Greece and Rome.

The sum of it all is, that in anything and everything that makes any claim to bring Christian education, the word of God—the Bible—must be given the leading place in every line of study that may be proposed or undertaken. And any would-be teacher who is not prepared to give to the Bible just this place in every line of study, it not fit to teach in any Christian school. Such teaching only is truly scientific as well as truly right. Only such a school can be truly called a Christian school.

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