How can educators engage and expose children/youths to the Christian Hope in a secular setting?

Hi Cameron,

How can educators engage and expose children/youths to the Christian Hope in a secular setting? What are some early seeds which we can ‘plant’ during our interactions?

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Thanks for the question. Though secularism is the default in many educational institutions, it tends to take a whole lot for granted, so I find it helpful to examine the basis of some of its bedrock assumptions. Let me list a few of the major ones: 1) the comprehensibility of the physical universe 2) the dependability of human reasoning faculties 3) some kind of objective morality that structures society 4) the existence of human rights.

On secularism, all of these assumptions are problematic. If everything is the result of a vast cosmic accident, then why is the universe comprehensible? The ancient Greeks believed that behind the veneer of civilization all was chaos. Consequently, the natural sciences made little progress because there was no expectation that the universe was sensible. It was under the patronage of the church that the hard sciences first began to flourish. This is why Einstein famously declared that the most incompressible thing about the universe is that it’s comprehensible. Following close on the heels of this assumption, many non-Christians simply take our reasoning capacities for granted. Why? Again, if our brains are a byproduct of random unguided forces, how or why are they reliable? Moreover, if the only driving force behind human endeavors is the law of natural selection, why would this drive necessarily align with the truth? If its primary telos or aim is survival, wouldn’t that come before truth? Alvin Plantinga explores this at great length in his book, Where the Conflict Really Lies. Given their humanistic goals and political commitments, many people of a secular persuasion (especially the popular spokesmen) are card-carrying supporters of liberal democracy. That is, their political commitments reveal a deep faith in morality. Most of their “oughts” surround the endeavor of securing human freedoms. But, again, if everything is a byproduct of random unguided forces, the possibility of objective morality becomes increasingly remote. Indeed, evil itself becomes a suspect category—we can say that we find something offensive or distasteful, but anything more runs the risk of getting us into metaphysical territory. Finally, how do you ground human rights if there’s no intrinsic human value.

I think planting seeds often begins with asking fruitful questions. Secularism frequently proceeds with a false confidence because it doesn’t recognize that its core assumptions are on borrowed credit from the church. I think it might be helpful to begin here with students.

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