Kirk Cameron, the star from the movie Fireproof, asked this question in one of his lectures at the National Bible Bee in Nashville TN this last week.
I had the privilege to be an anonymous listener to Kirk’s message, one of the crowd of fathers and mothers who attended the event because one or more of their children were either contestants or volunteers. After speaking to about 20 conferences in the last 2 years, being just a listener was a welcome break from my schedule.
It was a spectacular event. Three hundred children in three age groups qualified for the nationals, out of more than 5,000 children who took part in the local competitions. The Shelby Kennedy Foundation did their job very well – both on a local level earlier this year, and at the nationals. The opening was breath-stopping: Each contestant was honored individually for their effort and commitment in a grand ceremony, completed with a musical program of old and new hymns, performed by a choir and an orchestra of volunteers from among the contestants and their siblings. During the contests which lasted for three days, the families of the contestants were not left with nothing to do: There were a number of family activities, as well as workshops with renowned speakers who taught on different topics. I was blessed to have the opportunity to listen to three of my favorite speakers: George Grant, Voddie Baucham, and Douglas Phillips, all teaching us about a Christianity that is not limited to getting our souls to heaven, but is culture-changing Christianity, committed to redeeming the world for Christ, according to His Law. And, of course, Kirk Cameron and his talk on the inevitable triumph of the Gospel in history.
Do we really live in a post-Christian culture?
Three hundred Christian homeschooled children were there, ages 9 through 17, competing against each other on their knowledge of the central book of their faith, the Bible. They had to memorize verses, study Greek words and Biblical concepts, know and understand cross-references. They had to commit a significant portion of their time to all this, in addition to their normal school hours. I know it from experience: my youngest was a contestant too, and she had to memorize 800 verses. The day started with scripture memorization; then there was the regular school time; then in the afternoon there was the Bible study. Her scripture cards were spread over the whole house. At our family Bible reading every day, she would recite the familiar passages together with my reading. It took a lot of determination and self-discipline and motivation to achieve it.
It took a lot of commitment from the families too. It took fathers and mothers who actively participated and encouraged their children. No child could have met the criteria to qualify for the nationals unless there is a family that is supportive and encouraging as a learning environment. Only in the home can this be achieved; government-schooled children will never be able to reach the levels of commitment and motivation required, and private schools won’t be a much better environment. This took families, Christian families that take seriously the Biblical mandate for the education of their children, families that do not leave their children to be educated, motivated, or organized by strangers but take that responsibility themselves. The same families whose children also achieve those superior results at SAT and ACT tests, and whose children excel academically, professionally, and as entrepreneurs way above their government-schooled and private-schooled peers.
A post-Christian culture?
As I was watching the opening and the celebration ceremonies, the contest rounds, as I was listening to the speakers, I was thinking what it would be if a non-Christian attended the event and understood what actually was going on. What would they think of it all? I tried to place myself in the skin of a complete stranger, an atheist, and assess the event. Would I really say, after watching it all, that we lived in a post-Christian world?
I remember when I first came to the United States, over 10 years ago. I traveled from coast to coast, visiting friends and churches. I attended church conferences. I listened to Christian radio stations while traveling. I talked to pastors and church members. I read Christian magazines and newspapers.
There was nothing of the sort at the time. The biggest conferences were for celebrity preachers, not homeschool conventions or bees. The majority of those celebrity preachers said nothing about redeeming the culture or returning America back to its Christian roots; they were all about the “imminent return of Christ” which would happen any day now. Christian radio stations followed suit; no talk about changing or challenging the culture, mostly apocalyptic warnings and the latest versions of newspaper exegesis on the news from the Middle East. Pro-life wasn’t even mentioned as a cause, whether political or social. Homeschool families or groups were few and far between; there were no large homeschool conventions to talk about. Talking to a homeschooling mother in upstate New York about homeschool curricula, her reply was that there were only a few available, and that making my own curriculum may prove to be the better option. Very few had heard of authors like R.J. Rushdoony, Gary North, or Greg Bahnsen; preachers like Voddie Baucham or Douglas Phillips were unknown. And there was no such thing as a National Bible Bee.
When I shared with a friend of mine my vision for Christian missions based on a comprehensive Biblical worldview, of redeeming cultures and changing history for Christ, he replied: “Do you realize that there are no more than 20,000 Christians in this country that would identify with such kind of message? Do you realize that there is no significant body of Christians who would even move their fingers to do anything beyond just waiting for Christ’s Second Coming and just let the world go to hell in a hand basket?”
This was a little over 10 years ago. A post-Christian culture?
So, what if I was an intelligent, informed atheist at the National Bible Bee, and I knew of the developments in this nation in the last 10 years, and I was witnessing the grand event where 300 children – out of 5,000 nationally – competed against each other on their knowledge of the Bible? What would I think?
The National Bible Bee was a demonstration of power, a flexing of the muscles of the growing Christian community in this nation.
It said, to an unbelieving world: “We are here, and we are strong, and we are growing even stronger. We have restored our commitment to the Word of God. And we have restored our commitment to teach our children in the Word of God. And our children are growing in the knowledge and fear of God. And your pagan and atheist propaganda won’t affect them anymore because they are learning from the Word, and they are intellectually and psychologically superior to your children who are dumbed down and drugged down in the public schools. We will have a next generation of children – many of them – who will walk, talk, learn, work, vote, plan as Christians, based on their knowledge of the Bible and their commitment to Jesus Christ as their Lord and King. And you have nothing to compare.”
Indeed, the world has nothing to compare. There is no religion or ideological persuasion that can muster 300 children – let alone over 5,000 – who ferociously compete against each other on their knowledge of their sacred book or foundational document. There is no religion or ideological persuasion that has so many fathers and mothers who self-consciously and self-sacrificially devote their lives to make sure their children grow and learn in the best environment God has created for children: the home. Neither is there religion or ideological persuasion that within 10 years makes such a sharp turn from an irrelevant nonsense about escaping the planet to a self-conscious commitment to redeem and change the society, and train their children to do it, long-term. There are no atheist or liberal fathers and mothers who can show the same commitment, and there are no atheist or liberal fathers and mothers that have a long-term vision for their children as active atheists and liberals who know the foundations of their atheist beliefs [!] inside out and are committed to spend their lives to apply them in practice. If anything, atheists and liberals prefer to not be fathers and mothers, killing their own offspring.
Christianity has no serious competitors in the battle for the future. That’s what an intelligent atheist would have gathered from the National Bible Bee. The rumors about the supposed cultural death of Christianity have been, to borrow Mark Twain’s phrase, a bit “premature.”
“Do we really live in a post-Christian world of declining Christianity and Christian influence; or is history the manifestation of the inevitable triumph of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?”
Kirk Cameron gave the right answer: There is no such thing as a declining Christianity in history. We have only seen a temporary down, while God is training His Church to build and conquer. America’s future is inevitably Christian; there are no pagan or atheist forces remaining on the scene that can claim the future. Today, only Christianity remains as the cultural force which has the resources and the determination to claim it. It is those homeschooled Christian kids, some of whom I saw this last week on the stage of the Convention Center in Nashville, that will see to it. And their children and grandchildren. America won’t go down the drain, contrary to the wailing of so many pastors and preachers. Its Christianity is returning, stronger and better educated than ever.
And the National Bible Bee was one of the signs of that return.