Why the authentic Jesus probably won’t be a part of your religion class.
Why the authentic Jesus probably won’t be a part of your religion class.
Did you take a religion class at Alabama to fulfill a requirement? Or maybe out of curiosity? Or to build a stronger relationship with God?
Whatever the reason you may not be aware that religion classes taught at Alabama will probably not be teaching you about the authentic Jesus (the Jesus of the Bible who rose from dead, is alive & can save us). Why? Let’s look at the religion department’s statement of purpose:
Motto: “Studying Religion in Culture”
An explanation from their website:
“Contrary to this approach, to study religion in culture means one is not beginning with the assumption that these two distinct domains periodically bump into each other. Instead, the preposition “in” signifies that the area of human behavior known as “religion” is assumed, from the outset, to be an element within human cultural systems–systems which are themselves historical products. An assumption basic to this approach is that the objects of study for any scholar in any branch of the human sciences are assumed to be historical creations that had a beginning and that change over time. Whether these changes are random or governed by other factors–such as gender, economics, politics, cognition, or even geography and environmental features–is one of the areas that such scholars explore. To study religion in culture therefore means that ones object of study is a product of human belief, behavior and social systems.”
Their goal is to teach religion as purely a human construct and a product of culture. This is a far cry from the evangelical position on Jesus and the Bible you will hear at Bama Cru. Evangelical (in the sense we are using) means three things:
1. The Bible is God’s Word, thus inerrant (without error) & infallible (cannot fail).
2. Every person is sinful and must be born-again through Christ for salvation.
3. Those born-again (believers in Jesus) should tell others this Gospel of grace!
We believe this is how Jesus perceived Himself and the Bible; therefore this is how we believe and teach.
Jeff and I can testify to our experience in religion classes personally. Jeff had three religion classes while a student at University of Alabama all taught from humanist (all religion is man created and God is not real) point of view. One of my majors at University of Georgia was Religion and I took plethora of religion classes mostly taught from atheistic or humanistic or sometimes very liberal Christian position (denies inerrancy of Scripture or Jesus being the only way of salvation).
Why does the religion department teach from an atheist/humanist viewpoint?
1. Humanism is the ethic of our age that the point of life is man and solution to our problems are man’s effort. God is either not real or only helpful as a coping mechanism.
2. Liberal arts majors and departments generally have a respect for all opinions, whether they are wrong or not. Liberal arts, unlike science or business, deal with less concrete answers in attempts to address often complex needs, issues or skill sets in a society. This makes liberal arts education extremely valuable to develop our minds and problem solve in this world and engage in culture. However, “truth” is shifting depending on developing theories or new research or ages of philosophy (i.e. Modernism, Post-Modern).
3. Alabama is a public school, therefore there is an attempt to not infringe on people’s personal beliefs nor offer spirituality as devotional. However, this often results in a chastising and belittling of Christianity rather than an objective look at religion and culture. Secular teaching and having a separation of church and state is a good thing when it is promoting the freedom of everyone’s religion (yes!). However, this often turns into a belittling of the majority/cultural position or a complete sanitation of religious expression in the public sphere. In my experience, it led to lectures that were often one-sided trying to make the Bible seem ludicrous or sadly devolved into coarse jesting at not just Christianity, but also Islam and other religions. Just as a public school does not have to promote religious adherence, it must also be careful to respectful and fair regardless of the religion, Christian or not. The authentic Jesus claims to be truth itself (John 14:6), not merely one of many plausible truths of this world. Therefore, it is unlikely to hear about the authentic Jesus.
What’s this mean about your professor/ TA?
Your TA or professor is most likely not an evangelical. He or she is most likely an atheist, humanist, deist or a part of some other religion. They are not Christian religious authorities in your life, but rather instructors of academia, which supports humanism, not theism and certainly not teaching what we would call a faithful interpretation to the Bible. Academics are under a tremendous amount of pressure to keep ‘researching’ the next hidden message in the teaching of Jesus or the Bible, because they must publish new books and articles to succeed in their careers. Writing about the Bible meaning exactly what it says and that thousands of years of faithful interpretation is true doesn’t sell. The sensational and scandalous sells. The vanguard makes headlines. Does it have to be true or correct? No, just remotely plausible. Religion classes probably won’t bring you closer to God, they probably will feed you atheist or unbelieving opinions about a Bible that they don’t seriously respect or follow. This is nothing new; it’s the basic instinct of sinful man and woman. It is wonderful and ancient stroke of pride to believe you know better than your God, see Adam & Eve (Genesis 2).
Humanism is the belief that man is good and man should live mildly for each other’s good. The Bible has a radically different message that man can be good & bad but thoroughly sinful and in need of a Savior. Jesus is truly the only ‘good’ person & He dies for the villain (us) to bring us to Himself, transform to be like him & save us from punishment for our sin. Believers are to live a life of radical proclamation (declaring the Gospel) and sacrificial demonstration (living for others’ good to point suffering on ones’ own behalf). Now that’s good news for the believer and for the not-yet believer, there is a God who loves you, wishes to save you and his people are willing to suffer for your good as Christ died for God’s glory and both humanity’s salvation and good.
I want to offer three disclaimers:
1. There is a chance you have a believing professor/ TA who present arguments fairly, though it is not likely. I had a great professor at UGA while maybe not an evangelical; he certainly pushed us in class to know the God’s Word and generally taught fairly!
2. I would advise against taking religion classes if taken for spiritual growth. Only reason would be if preparing for full time ministry and therefore wanting to know liberal/ atheistic arguments to refute. Often students take for devotional reasons, when that is simply not what they advertise nor provide. Nor should they at a public institution.
3. Bottom-line is if your professor/TA loves and trust Jesus, is passionate evangelical and wanted to pursue scholarship, he or she would probably be at evangelical seminary. Teaching at a secular school probably indicates they do not wish to teach about the authentic Jesus nor know him themselves at the moment. So be careful, often we assume those in authority or teachers are unbiased and have our best at heart (knowing Christ), but often that is not the case in religion classes.
Thank you for you patience with the longer article and remember to not to be quarrelsome when in class or upset with teacher. Rather, respectfully respond to questions and explain what you believe (1 Peter 3:15). Let the fruit of spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) speak well of Christ and His reality in your life. Love well, but be aware of the circumstances.