Outstanding success always brings attacks. In just over two years, a groundbreaking new textbook, “The Bible and Its Influence,” has become the most widely lauded Bible curriculum for public schools – used in 38 states, approved by the Alabama State Board of Education and praised in a Time magazine cover story as a “model” for public school Bible courses.
The Bible Literacy Project, publisher of the textbook, has achieved this success by bringing people together – evangelicals, Jews, Catholics, educators, scholars and parents who want our young people to learn about the Bible in public schools. However, a small set of critics supporting another public school Bible curriculum furiously assail our course with the hope of promoting their own, unwittingly aiding those who would eliminate all mention of the Bible from public life.
Recently, WorldNetDaily published an attack by Alabama Sen. Scott Beason, who serves on the advisory board of the other Bible curriculum publisher. Sadly, these attacks are deeply misinformed and contain falsehoods and misleading, out-of-context statements.
Criticisms misguided, untrue
Despite Beason’s insistence, “The Bible and Its Influence” has never been supported or endorsed by the ACLU or People for the American Way. This statement is absolutely wrong. Yet our course has never suffered a legal challenge, because it is widely acknowledged that it is both respectful of the Bible as a sacred text and completely First-Amendment-safe for public schools.
Beason also argues that attacks on our textbook are justified because the Tennessee Legislature may mandate its use in Bible elective courses. This claim is also untrue. The bill only asks the Department of Education to create standards and evaluate course offerings from multiple publishers. (Note: The Bible Literacy Project was uninvolved with the introduction of this bill.)
Several passages Beason criticizes were removed from the textbook over a year ago. He has obsessively combed our textbook for any turn of phrase that can be distorted to confuse people about our intentions and our work.
For example, Beason argues that a reference to renowned Christian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” is irrefutable evidence of the Bible Literacy Project’s promotion of communism. But the textbook, which explains the influence of the Bible on Western literature, history and culture, actually points out the murderous legacy of communism (page 65).
Broad conservative and evangelical support
Supporters of our work include Chuck Colson, Vonette Bright, Rev. Leith Anderson (president, National Association of Evangelicals), Rev. Peter Lillback (president, Westminster Theological Seminary), Rev. Joe Stowell (president, Cornerstone University), and leaders from the American Jewish Congress and Catholic Biblical Association.
“The Bible and Its Influence” respects “our Christian faith, the Bible, and its moral values,” says Finn Laursen of Christian Educators Association International.
WORLD Magazine’s review of our textbook, by now-Patrick Henry College Dean Gene Veith, Ph.D., notes that the chapter on Genesis “depicts God as transcendent, but personal, and the universe as ordered and good. The unit draws out the important worldview elements of Western thought from the creation account: the dignity of human beings, the order of nature, the stewardship of creation and the importance of human relationships. … Abundantly illustrated, it is both appealing and educationally rigorous. Even secularist critics should admit that … there is no cultural literacy without biblical literacy.”
Reviewed by 40 teachers, biblical faith leaders and scholars
Our critics overstate the involvement of Charles Haynes, who was one of 40 reviewers of our textbook. Bible Literacy Project does not endorse Haynes’ personal views, nor those of the other 39 reviewers who were consulted. A glance at those reviewers shows evangelical scholars from Wheaton College, Gordon College, Baylor University, Westmont College and Westminster Seminary, and Catholic, mainline Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish scholars.
Reviewer Rev. Peter Lillback has written, “The informational content, accuracy, exposition, illustrations and tone are all extremely well done – I congratulate you on a highly accurate and readable presentation.”
Bringing Bible literacy to all students
The Bible Literacy Project promotes academic courses on the Bible in public schools. We have changed the national mindset to favor these courses by documenting the need for basic Bible knowledge and the crisis of biblical illiteracy among teens. Only 8 percent of the nation’s public high schools offer Bible electives; our goal is to increase that level to 80 percent.
Hundreds of U.S. public schools offer Bible electives without controversy or complaint. They teach from “The Bible and Its Influence,” the first and only student textbook created for public high school literature or social studies electives about the Bible. The course allows students to encounter the words of the Bible for themselves and acknowledges the respect the Bible deserves as sacred text for faith traditions. It does not promote or disparage religious views.
Public school teacher Barbara Blinn said, “When someone first proposed this course, I voted it down because I didn’t want to support what I thought might be a watered-down presentation of the Bible. But when I saw the textbook itself, I was thrilled. ‘The Bible and Its Influence’ is exactly what it needs to be – respectful of the sacred text, instructive, visually exciting and engaging. My students have absolutely loved this course. By the second semester, we had a waiting list for the course.”
Our goal is to give students access to a foundational text in American history and culture, not to squabble with others working toward the same goal. We have not maligned other publishers or recruited anyone else to do so. Turning the other cheek sometimes allows falsehoods to linger, but we are confident that the truth will always triumph.
After only two years of availability, our course is used in 181 schools in 38 states and four foreign countries. “The Bible and Its Influence” offers a safe, trusted, legal and scholarly way to fill a major void in American public education. For more information, visit the Bible Literacy Project website.
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Cullen Schippe is general editor of the Bible Literacy Project.