Alberta’s Attack on Truth in Education, And the Church’s Response

Last week, Albertans learned that their provincial Ministry of Education has demanded that Christian schools remove biblically-based language from their policies governing how they will create “safe and caring” environments. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms not only posted an article summarizing the government’s demands, but released copies of the correspondence sent by Alberta government officials to the schools—complete with colour-coded highlighting specifying how each statement fell afoul of Alberta Education policy.

The Alberta Government’s Objections to Basic Christian Beliefs

Even a cursory “skim” of the released correspondence is profoundly alarming. Four times, Alberta government bureaucrats highlighted the word “truth” and not its surrounding context, using a yellow colour that (in Alberta Education’s own words) means they “contain language which suggests alternative viewpoints are not equally legitimate, which is disrespectful of diversity and thus inconsistent with” the School Act.

For example, in one case, in the sentence “the educational philosophy of [the school] is based upon a God-centered view of man and truth as presented in the Bible,” only the words “and truth” are highlighted. In another case, in the sentence, “we are committed to promoting the truth of Scripture,” only the words “truth of” are highlighted. Besides the four times where the idea of “truth” was isolated and highlighted, one school’s stated belief in “the unchangeable and infallible truth” of God’s Word was similarly highlighted. Another school’s rather common-sense observation that “ensuring that all viewpoints are regarded as equally credible or worthy of belief would require a degree of disconnect from, and suppression of, the School’s own religious and/or value perspective that is incompatible with the school community’s freedom of religion” was also marked in yellow.

Besides these, educational officials used an orange highlighter (denoting “provisions which we consider unwelcoming, uncaring, and/or disrespectful to certain segments of the school body….and need to be removed from your Safe and Caring policy”) to mark out language such as: the Biblical distinction “between men and women”; the statement that “we believe that men and women were created by God in His own image (Gen. 1:27Genesis 9:6)”—yes, the prooftexts are in the original document, and yes, even they were marked orange!; the statement that “We believe that men and women were created in the image of God, after his likeness, and therefore have transcendent, inherent worth (Gen. 1:27); and, of course, the assertion that “The unjustified destruction of any human being from conception to natural death (e.g., through abortion, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, doctor-assisted suicide, etc.) is wrong.”

So, in short, Alberta’s ministry of education views even the mention of “truth,” and certainly “unchangeable and infallible truth,” to be “disrespectful of diversity” and wants to prohibit it. And Alberta government bureaucrats are demanding that Christian schools remove any mention of God’s creation of man and woman in his image—and even the idea that they have transcendent and inherent worth on that account—from their documents, even though this doctrine constitutes the very foundation of the Christian idea of the sanctity and value of human life.

Secular Irrationality And Hypocrisy on Display

Two observations simply have to be made at this point. Before I make them, though, I need to highlight one crucial fact as background: the officials making these demands are responsible for the oversight of basic K-12 education in Alberta. The government department arguing that these statements are unacceptable is the very same department which ensures Alberta’s children are given the intellectual tools necessary to live in the real world. Let that sink in for a moment, and then consider the two glaring problems with Alberta Education’s demands.

First, Alberta Education’s requirements of these Christian schools are incoherent, irrational, illogical, and self-refuting. They object to the mere mention of “truth” by a religious institution as “suggest[ing] alternative viewpoints are not equally legitimate”—well, yes, that’s exactly what “truth” means! Of course a religious institution is going to advance one viewpoint over and against others by arguing alternatives are not equally legitimate! But the problem is far deeper than just a (still, frankly, inexcusable) misunderstanding of the nature of religion.

After all, even Alberta Education’s assertion that, for instance, certain “language…is disrespectful of diversity” is itself a truth claim! Remember: these are schools, educational institutions, that are being told they aren’t allowed to suggest that all “alternative viewpoints are not equally legitimate.” Think about that for a minute. How is education possible without showing students how one viewpoint is more legitimate than others? Is the opinion that 2 + 2 = 5 now to be privileged equally with 2 + 2 = 4? Will an Alberta science teacher no longer be allowed to teach that the earth is round and not flat?

To be blunt, if “suggest[ing] alternative viewpoints are not equally legitimate” is a violation of the School Act, then education is now illegal in the province of Alberta.

Second, and what makes it even worse, Alberta Education’s demands of these schools is hypocritical and amounts to a case of special pleading. It’s rather revealing (of either the corporate culture in the Education ministry, or of the quality of education valued among its staff) that the individual who, while marking up these documents’ confession of “truth” and religious convictions as being allegedly “disrespectful of diversity” or “unwelcome [and] uncaring,” failed to realize how disrespectful of ideological and religious diversity these letters are. How is it anything but disrespectful for a government agency, which is supposed to represent and respect all Albertans, to tell a religious school what Bible verses they are allowed to cite as prooftexts?

It certainly looks as if the only people in Alberta who are permitted to be in any way intolerant of other perspectives are members and staffers of the Alberta government itself.

The Sinful Root of Irrationality in Secular Culture

Taken together, these letters illustrate the depths of the cultural—and more than that, theological—crisis that has captured Canadian society. Our educational elites have abandoned logic and reason in favour of the shifting sands of political correctness. Why? Because, like everyone else, they are sinners. Paul describes in chilling language one of the most profound effects of rejecting the Triune God: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking” (Rom. 1:21). I can’t think of a better illustration of “futile thinking” than telling a school that it must not suggest any viewpoint is illegitimate!

The secular and materialistic worldview that pervades Canadian culture as a whole and, evidently, Alberta education in particular, is a sobering example of sinners who, “claiming to be wise, they became fools” (v. 22). By rejecting the God of truth (Isa. 65:16) and his specially revealed Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), they have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom. 1:25).

What we are seeing in this action by Alberta Education is the pitiful folly of sinful human beings trying to live in light of that lie rather than the truth. Without submitting to the God who “cannot deny himself,” and lacking in their materialistic worldview any foundation for immaterial and universal realities like, for instance, the law of non-contradiction, Canadian culture simply cannot avoid such irrationality.

Respond with Compassion And the Gospel, Not Pride or Vitriolic Outrage

It would be very easy for Christian believers to recognize this folly and be tempted to pride. No, we need to remind ourselves of the truth the Apostle Paul declared: “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). What do we have—rationally and intellectually as well as in every other way—that we have not been given (1 Cor. 4:7)? The proper response to this flagrant display of sinful irrationality, then, must be grief and pity and compassion.

Politicians and bureaucrats are not faceless enemies, but fellow image-bearers of God (however offensive they may declare this truth to be!) who are desperately in need of new hearts and new minds. When we consider them, we, like Jesus, need to be filled with compassion on them because they are “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34) who, because they are “straying like sheep,” need nothing more than to return to “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25). They need the Gospel.

How, then, are we to respond? Consider that if you are planning to write to your MLA or to the Minister or Premier, your attitude should be that which we just described (grief and pity and compassion) rather than outrage. Yes, it is an outrage. But God promises that “vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Heb. 10:30). We don’t need to imitate the vitriolic politics of the world.

Instead, if you speak or write, or if you’re talking to unbelieving friends and neighbours, explain how self-contradictory and destructive to education and reason this government policy is—and then point them instead to the only “alternative viewpoint” which is ultimately and truly “legitimate” and invite them to love the God of Truth with all of their heart and soul and (yes!) mind (Matt. 22:37). Think of your letter-writing as evangelism!

The Ultimate Answer: Strive to Build Up the Church

As for Christians in Alberta and across Canada who recognize that logic and reason are rapidly fleeing our educational institutions, we cannot panic or despair. If we are not to trust in princes (Ps. 146:3) in the realm of legislation or jurisprudence, we shouldn’t put our trust there in the area of education, either. Rather, our most long-lasting and ultimately effective answer is to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12) by proclaiming the Gospel and persisting in our disciple-making and disciple-teaching mission. It is the responsibility of parents to raise children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4); it is the responsibility of churches to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:19); it is the responsibility of pastors to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12).

A Bible-preaching church, and every Christian family committed to membership in it, has everything necessary, in the complete and sufficient Word of God and the watchful undershepherds and godly parents who teach it, to prepare both children and adults to be “complete” and “equipped” (2 Tim. 3:17)—such that, “honor[ing] God in your hearts as holy” they are “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).

Parents, teach your children to be “acquainted with the sacred writings” (2 Tim. 3:15), for as they learn to interpret the Bible, they’re also learning to interpret a newspaper or college syllabus or assigned textbook. Churches, teach all ages how to “reason together” as God has commanded (Isa. 1:18), and you’ll equip them with the tools they need for life in both the church and in the world. Just as one example, I’m planning on discussing this very situation with our church’s young people this week as an exercise in critical reading and listening.

Jesus has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church (Matt. 16:18), and one reason why is that “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). That is a truth we can stand on.

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