What would you do if your daughter came home from school and told you that her teacher had said that God was not real?
That's what Texas 7th grader Jordan Wooley told her local school board (more or less).
A while ago, I came across a video news story on FoxNews "Teacher tells student to deny God or fail." The title of this story is a bit more dramatic than the actual details. A couple of Google searches uncovered several other news articles about this situation. Apparently, this seventh grade class was given an assignment the goal of which was "Identifying Factual Claims, Commonplace Assertions, and Opinions." Among the statements the students were to judge as factual, commonplace assertion, or opinion were, "The fastest land dwelling creature is the Cheetah", "America is the most free country on earth", "Michael Jordan has a career average of 30.4 points per game", and "There is a God."
This last question (which was second on the list according to a Twitter post from the student's father) is what was apparently troubling. One source says that the student “said her friend put God as ‘fact’ on the assignment, and the teacher crossed it out several times and told her it was ‘completely wrong’.” The girl stated that her teacher said that “anyone who said fact or opinion [regarding the God question] was wrong and God was only a myth.” The FoxNews video shows Jordan Wooley testifying before the local school board about her experience. In the video, the seventh grader said that in attempt to justify her choosing God as “fact” she “tried to reference things such as the Bible and stories that I’ve read before from people that have died and went to heaven but have come back and told their stories and she [the teacher] told me that both were just things that people were doing to get attention.”
I have two problems with this news story.
First, if the testimony of Jordan Wooley is to be believed (and I have no reason to doubt it), I have concerns with the teacher’s statements of God’s so-called mythical status and that selecting “fact” for the statement of God’s existence was “wrong.” I’m curious where the “answer key” for this particular assignment was developed. Was this a worksheet the teacher created on her own? Or did she use this worksheet from official curriculum acquired by the school district? Is this seventh grade teacher an authority on the theological and philosophical arguments for God’s existence? Is she familiar with the scientific evidence that points to a transcendent, timeless, spaceless, immaterial creator of the universe? Has she really studied the evidence and formed an opinion, or is she just emoting?
Second, as I listened to Jordan Wooley’s testimony before the school board, I wondered what my own daughter would say. I do admire Jordan for her honesty. Yet I was thinking, “We as (Christian) parents need to do a better job in giving our children good answers!”
Jordan cited her belief in the Bible as one of her reasons for believing in God. While the Bible does provide some warrant for the existence of God, the charge of “circular reasoning” is often made: How do you know God is real? Because the Bible says he is real? Well, how do you know the Bible is true? Because it is God’s word! If this is the rationale one holds for the Bible showing God is real, this is clearly circular reasoning. That being said, there are many reasons we can trust the Bible is historically accurate. These reasons can provide sufficient warrant for a belief in God.
This young lady also mentioned stories of near-death experiences (NDEs) as a reason for her belief in God. There are many popular-level books on NDEs. The movie, “Heaven is Real” is the account of (at the time) three-year-old Colton Burpo’s NDE. This very popular book and movie has been both celebrated and highly criticized. While the skeptic may discount these popular, entertainment-driven accounts entirely, there are many books and articles written on the topic of NDEs by more authoritative sources, such as doctors, neurosurgeons, and others. A quick search of scholarly journal articles on the topic of “near death experience” returned scores of results from publications such as the British Journal of Hospital Medicine, Journal of the American Nephrology Nurses' Association, Review of General Psychology, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and several others. These scholarly publications cannot be so easily dismissed as the account of a three year old. While NDEs may provide compelling evidence for an afterlife, they cannot necessarily provide evidence for the Judeo-Christian theistic God.
Here’s the point: As parents we must do a better job of arming our kids with the facts that show the truth of God’s existence. There really is very strong, compelling evidence for God! Jordan Wooley was courageous in standing up for her beliefs. My hope and prayer is her parents will help show her even better reasons for the hope that she has in Jesus Christ.