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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

26 August 2005

Religion in Education

Q1: I’m a French woman attending a university in England and have four questions about religion in education for a paper I’m doing for a class. First, some people say religion is declining; what do you think about that?

A1: Christianity, especially, is in serious decline in many places, including your home country and where you are studying. The same is true in much of the western world, including (to a much lesser degree) the United States. Yet in much of the world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is expanding. Meanwhile, many non-Christian religions are quite strong and gaining converts among portions of the population.

Q2: Second, do you think that morality can be distinguished from religion or is it part of it?

A2: I think that “civil righteousness” can be somewhat part of even an atheist’s life. Yet the truly deep questions will always be grounded in one’s religious beliefs, even if the “religion” is actually trust and confidence in science, random chance, or anything else. I would argue that even the atheist is religious, since he also places confidence in some person, idea, or object to give meaning to life and bring protection, etc.

Q3: Third, do you think religion is opposed to science?

A3: Not true religion and true science. Both, however, can be overrun with fanatics who misinterpret and misinform. For instance, I happen to believe that evolution is both bad science and bad theology. And quite often, especially in days gone by, the Christian Church encouraged and even financially supported scientific exploration.

Q4: Finally, according to you, what place should religion have in education, given the changes it is going through?

A4: Again, I think that everyone has some type of value or belief system that is based on assumptions that have a religious flavor. And even if religion — specifically Christianity — is in decline, then the time is even more proper for it to be involved in education. Even in secular schools, children cannot properly understand the motives of others in this day and especially in prior days if they don’t have a working knowledge of various religious beliefs and practices and the thinking that grows out of them.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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