CHALLENGES FACING CHRISTIANS: The Progressive Movement: Progressivism in Education

by Kevin Maxey

Synopsis: Progressive leaders are using education to create their vision of a godless society. However, such utopian dreams always crumble into a dystopian nightmare. How must Christians respond?


The battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom—John Dunphy, Humanist.

Influenced by postmodernism, atheism, and humanism, modern progressive leaders utilize public education as a vehicle for transforming our nation into their view of a perfect godless society. Progress means, “to move forward.” There is nothing wrong with moving forward, as long as you are moving in a good direction. In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis sounded alarms about early forms of progressivism:

We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man (28-29).

Our core concern emerges in one question: “Who defines progress?” Man or God? The signers of the Humanist Manifesto or the manifested Son of God (1 Tim. 3:16; Col. 2:9)? Christians must choose between these two authorities. Both claim authority, asserting a way forward, and seeking to control you—body, mind, and soul.

The Dangers of Progressive Education

Removes God

“There is no God and no soul,” professed John Dewey, father of progressive education and signer of the Humanist Manifesto. The godless worldview of this manifesto undergirds every goal of progressive education, with the chief aspiration of educating successive generations without God. Not content merely to offer a competing viewpoint, proponents of godless worldview assert that religion is dangerous. According to Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, Christians are more dangerous than terrorists:

The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face (American Prospect).

Progressive organizations like the American Humanist Association (AHA) rail against teachers, coaches, and schools for displays of Christianity. The AHA recently vilified a Texas educator for encouraging students to pray during a moment of silence, protesting against this “appalling, unconstitutional act” of “indoctrinating kindergarteners” and “coercion” ( In Washington state, Bremerton High School fired football coach Joe Kennedy for his silent pre-game prayers on the football field. The message of progressives is clear: there is no place for God in public education.

It is impossible to remove God from true education. How can knowledge be taught apart from God, since “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and “the instruction of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7; 15:33)? Twenty-first century progressives boldly declare, “There is no God!” Yet, the Creator of the Universe responds, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no god’” (Ps. 14:1). Building on that unchangeable principle, the wisest man who ever lived measured the value of an education delivered by fools, concluding “the instruction of fools is folly” (Prov. 16:22).

Silences Dissension

Progressive educators aggressively silence voices who reject their godless worldview. Academia is not immune to the slashing ire of the current cancel culture sweeping the nation. Social reformers rename schools, fire teachers, ban books, destroy statutes, replace mascots, and rewrite history. As early as 1923, religious scholar J. Gresham Machen warned how government-sponsored school censorship empowers tyranny:

A public school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic, it is the most perfect instrument for tyranny which has yet been devised (Christianity and Liberalism).

Nevertheless, the tyranny of man inevitably fails. He cannot silence the message of God. There is a God. “His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). Outside classroom walls, the heavens still declare the glory of God, pouring out true knowledge and teaching the fear of the Lord.

Discredits Religion

“Every child who believes in God is mentally ill” (The Social Sciences, 1970). With this assertion, child psychologist, Dr. Paul F. Brandwein, laid the framework for educators’s interactions with students of faith. On this principle, progressive leaders actively instruct teachers to dismiss religion as misguided opinion. For example, consider California’s guidelines for teaching evolution in public schools:

Some students may insist that certain conclusions of science cannot be true because of certain religious or philosophical beliefs they hold. It is appropriate, if that happens, for the teacher to express the following: “I understand you may have personal reservations about accepting the scientific evidence, but it is scientific knowledge about which there is no reasonable doubt amongst scientists in their field, and it is my responsibility to teach it because it is part of our common intellectual heritage” (Science Framework for California Public Schools, 1990, p. 20).

Notice the blatant contrast of word descriptors: “conclusions, evidence, knowledge, no reasonable doubt, and intellectual heritage” versus “personal reservations and philosophical beliefs.” Secular science is heralded as the source of objective knowledge, while biblical revelation is discredited as the source of subjective feeling.

This tactic seeks to undermine the legitimacy of undeniable truth of a living God who is supreme to this creation and Creator of it. Jews accused Jesus, Son of God, of madness (John 10:20). Still, His words and His ways maintain power and influence in all the earth, even 2000 years later. Festus declared Paul, apostle of Christ, insane: “Much learning has driven you mad” (Acts 26:24). Yet, what lasting effect followed Festus? How about Paul? Uninformed, skeptical outsiders misunderstood the meaning and purpose of assembled Christians in the first century, and considered them crazy (1 Cor. 14:23). Little has changed since then. Declaring belief in God as a symptom of mental illness is nothing new. Yet, God reigns. His people fear Him and love Him and love His way. Believers still rise and declare the wonderful works of God to the next generation. In every generation, the beauty and peace of godly lives testify to the wisdom of God’s ways, despite accusations of insanity from those who are willfully ignorant of God’s message.

Displaces Parents

Mary Jo Bane, former Assistant Secretary of Administration for Children and Families under the Clinton administration, said, “In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families and communally raise them” (Tulsa Sunday World). Progressive leaders aim to displace the guiding role of parents in matters of morality, sex education, birth control, pregnancy, abortion, sexual preference, hormone blockers, and gender identity. According to congressional representative Charles E. Bennett, “the teaching of ethics and moral values can no longer be left exclusively to the home and church. Those institutions today are no longer equipped to handle the job without help from our schools” (The Florida Times Union, 1976).

If this is not enough, some progressive leaders seek to remove parents’s rights to homeschool their own children. Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet believes homeschooling violates children’s rights, exposes them to increased abuse, and hinders their ability to contribute to a democratic society. “The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous” (Harvard Magazine, 2020). Senator Peter Hoagland declared, “Fundamental, Bible-believing people do not have the right to indoctrinate their children in their religious beliefs because we, the state, are preparing them for. . . a one-world global society” (

Government reacts to the destructions emerging from godless homes, filled with selfish, self-seeking people. The ugliness—of anger, hatred, bitterness, perversity, sexual promiscuity, and profound lack of self-control—spews forth into all corners of society. Educators witness this horrific degradation, as neglected, abused children are dropped on the government doorstep every day. So, they seek solutions, but appoint themselves as the authority, refusing to heed the wisdom and authority of God. Tragically, no godless solution will ever suffice because selfishness reigns, and the destruction continues.

The Biblical Response to Progressive Education

Educate Triumphantly

Instead of complaining about the darkness, be light (Matt. 5:16). Stop acting as if the gospel has lost its power to save (Rom. 1:16). Satan’s lies are strong, but gospel truth is stronger. Do not despair. The progressive agenda is nothing new. Satan has tempted humans to “progress” and “move ahead” of God from the beginning. This is called sin.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision (Ps. 2:1-4).

God will not lose this battle with progressivism. It is time, dear soldier of the cross, to “be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10).

Educate Intentionally

Satan understands the transforming power of education. He intentionally seeks souls to destroy. When Satan sees a student, he sees opportunity. What do you see? Every student in your neighborhood is an opportunity. “Lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35). Educate intentionally, saying, “Here I am! Send me” (Isa. 6:8).

Educate Scientifically

God and science are not diametrically opposed. For centuries, leading intellectuals attributed advances in science to a divine Creator. Faith in God inspired discoveries during the scientific revolution. Copernicus declared gravity is, “bestowed. . . by the Creator.” Johannes Kepler proclaimed, “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God.” Galileo asserted, “the laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.” Isaac Newton described God as a divine Engineer who is, “very well skilled in mechanics and geometry.” These great minds had no trouble harmonizing God with science (Ps. 19; Rom. 1:20).

Educate Theocentrically

In 1643, Massachusetts law established schools for the specific purpose of teaching children how to read the Bible. Early American educators founded colleges in order to promote knowledge of the Bible. Harvard’s 1646 “Rules and Precepts” directed every student to “lay Christ. . . as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” The motto of the University adopted in 1692 was “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae,” which translated from Latin means, “Truth for Christ and the Church.” In 1790, Samuel Adams charged Americans with the noble task of educating students “in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.” In his 1828 dictionary, Noah Webster proclaimed, “Education is useless without the Bible.”

Educate Domestically

Satan understands the power of godly domestic education, so much so that he is determined to destroy it. The best way to protect your children from progressive ideology is to bring them “up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Wherever your children learn, be it public school, private school, or home school, do not neglect to train your children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). This requires consistent Bible teaching in the home, in the car, and at the dinner table: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:7). Fathers, you are specifically responsible for your children’s education—not the state, the internet, the church, your parents, or Hollywood.

Educate Intelligently

Jesus did not shy away from intellectual discussion. He debated with and silenced the leading intellectuals of his day (Mark 12:34). Stephen’s audience “could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking” (Acts 6:10). Paul reasoned with the philosophical greats in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). Part of the greatest command is to love God with “all of your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Truth has no fear of investigation. Engage in the debate, silence error, and cast down Satan’s strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-5).


Nelson Mandela proclaimed, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” How true! God help us to educate our children for His glory. God help us all. Truth Symbol

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