Vol.XIV No.VII Pg.6
September 1977

The Bible In The School

Robert F. Turner

From Memoirs of A. Campbell, by Robert Richardson (V. 2, p. 465-f), we give this background for secular schools operated by brethren. Without agreeing with Campbell's conclusion, we would like to invite an objective look at his thoughts, in his times and circumstances.

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It was at the period of the French Revolution, and on the evening of the day when the destruction of the Bastille had filled the palace with terror and the Assembly with surprise, that (Prince) Talleyrand was appointed one of eight members to draft a constitution. It was at this singular junction in human affairs, when popular frenzy, ns it were with volcanic power, upturned the very foundations of society, and amidst frightful desolations threw up from the depths of human nature many precious gems of original and unrecognized political and social truth, that the Constituent Assembly, considering that the best means of giving stability to its reforms was to cultivate the understanding of the people, committed to Talleyrand the most extraordinary task ever undertaken by an individual in charging him to produce a plan of public instruction which should prepare the coming generations for the lofty destiny supposed to await them.

Previously, education had been entirely in the hands of the clergy, but the author, breaking away at once from all conventionalities, established usages and narrow systems, proceeded boldly to consider the whole subject of education in its origin, its object, its organization and its methods. The subject was thus treated for the first time, with an immediate view to national ends. Education was contemplated as required not only for all ages, but as addressed to the understanding, the powers of which were to be developed; to the soul, whose moral instincts were to be awakened; and to the body, whose activities and strength were to be improved.


This magnificent scheme, which embraced the development of man's physical, intellectual and moral nature, and which even gave to moral culture a special prominence with a view to render all goad and useful citizens, was, nevertheless, strikingly defective in assigning to moral principle no other origin than the understanding and no other sanction than more utility. According to the spirit of the times, morality was based entirely on temporal motives, and no reference to any religious sentiment was admitted.

The system projected by Mr. Campbell, who depended entirely upon the resources of his own capacious mind and enlarged experience and observation, presented the same great objects and the same comprehensive classification, but it differed radically from all preceding measures in making the Bible the basis of all moral culture. (Emphasis mine, rft)


Quotation continued next month. We see here the "social gospel" aspect of the French plan; and as Campbell connected church and school, we must charge him with the same error. But note his intended use of the Bible.