THE Government is introducing Higher Still, a set of new syllabuses and examinations for all subjects in the later stages of secondary schools in Scotland. A set of course materials to support the teaching of Christianity for the new religious studies course has caused particular concern to those teachers, parents, and others who endeavour to teach children scriptural Christianity.
The Outer Isles Presbytery of our Church, through its clerk, the Rev. John MacLeod, has expressed its concern to Mrs Helen Liddell MP, Minister of State for Education. The substance of their letter is as follows:
“I write on behalf of the Outer Isles Presbytery of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland to express its concern over the contents of the document entitled: RMPS Sources for World Religions: Christianity Higher / Intermediate 2.
“While the Presbytery appreciates the fact that the syllabus covers a broad range of views it, nevertheless, finds this document patently imbalanced and biased. Since the middle of the Seventeenth Century the Westminster Confession of Faith has been the subordinate standard of Scottish Presbyterian Churches, including the present Church of Scotland (albeit qualified by declaratory articles); yet, this is not even mentioned. Indeed we find presented in this document a version of Christianity which is not only overwhelmingly liberal in tone but also condescending and derogatory to the conservative or orthodox viewpoint.
“The following passage is an instance of a distortion of our sincerely-held beliefs: ‘fundamentalist Protestant Christians . . . deny the theory of evolution, and take the Genesis story of creation and fall as literal history. The consequence of this is that the natural sciences are seen as deceptive and flawed in their methods’ (p. 8).
“No ‘fundamentalist’ source has been quoted for the statement that the natural sciences are seen as flawed. Those who share our beliefs and deny the theory of evolution believe that it is not the natural sciences that are flawed, but the presuppositions from which scientists (who are fallible human beings, like everyone else) draw their conclusions and formulate their theories.
“Since the doctrine of Creation, based on the opening chapters of Genesis, has not been explained in the document, the orthodox doctrine of the Fall cannot be understood by the student taking this course. Adam and Eve were historical figures, the first parents from whom the whole population of the earth descended, and the guilt and consequences of that sin of disobedience which they committed by eating the (literal) fruit of a (literal) tree in the (literal) Garden of Eden some time after their creation on the sixth of the (literal) 24-hour days of the creation week are transmitted, or imputed, to all their descendants that is, the whole human race.
“Without this being explained, how is the pupil to know what is the Biblical explanation for the condition of the human race? By all means, after the orthodox teaching is explained, a critique of it may be given, as objectively as critiques of all the other beliefs which the course examines should also be given. It is right and proper to encourage the skill of critical analysis (as we understand the Religious Studies course is designed to do), but if no material not even the sketchiest of outlines, as above is presented on behalf of the conservative viewpoint, then there is nothing for the student to analyse at all, critically or otherwise!
“It is not a fair presentation of orthodox Christian belief, for example, to talk about ministers trying ‘to terrorise congregations’ (p. 38). The Christian minister’s aim is to explain to his congregation that, firstly, they are sinners and are under God’s wrath, and, secondly, that God has provided a way of escape from deserved wrath by the imputation to the believer of the merit of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Is this what is meant by the sneering anecdote about a minister who is reputed to have said: ‘I canna possibly preach for less than forty minutes, for it takes me twenty minutes to get the congregation weel into hell, an’ far mair than twenty to get them weel oot o’ it.’ (p. 38)? “This is a shocking example of the mocking, jeering liberal, whose own dogma is so woolly and ill-defined that he has either to spend most of his time parodying and poking fun at conservatives for being serious about what they believe, or else has to resort to the use of jargon, such as having ‘at-oneness’ with God; ’empowerment’; suffering as a ‘historical consequence’ of our actions; or ‘loss of selfhood’.
“The tone of the whole document is offensive to orthodox Presbyterian Christians, not just passages like the one above. If there had been a thorough refutation of Westminster Confessional doctrines, then this might be understandable, but the document has obviously been written on liberal premises and it seems as though the conservative standpoint is not worth even stating, far less respecting, as a reasoned, consistent, worthwhile system of thought in its own right.
“In our view, there is much more contained in the document which could be criticised from a conservative standpoint, such as:
1. the use throughout of an inferior paraphrase of Scripture, rather than a reliable translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts;
2. the denial that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God, as shown by the assumption that the books of Jeremiah and Job conflict (p. 11), and that the Old and the New Testaments are developments of human philosophy, not one and the same gospel (p. 27);
3. the assumption that the theory of evolution is true (p. 8);
4. the irreverent treatment of the resurrection as ‘the empty tomb tradition’ and the disparaging remarks about the Apostles who believed in the literal physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead (p. 77);
5. and, vitally, the complete omission of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith despite its prominence in the Bible and the fact that it was its re-discovery by Martin Luther that brought about the Reformation.
“But, if these Support Materials are anything to go by, the new Higher Still course is obviously not the forum either for propounding or for analysing anything other than differing liberal opinions unsupported by the Scriptures.
“The Presbytery would express to you, Madam, its very grave concern over the prospect of Scotland’s children being taught in accordance with this kind of subjective, biased even bigoted curriculum, and it respectfully calls upon you to do all within your power to have it revised before it is implemented.”