How Atheistic Educators Teach Theology in Spite of Themselves


Every day in every school, millions of schoolchildren are learning about God. In every subject.

Don’t think so?


If there were no Bibles, we’d know a lot about God. For starters, we could just look around. If God created the world—and he did—then it’s a piece of art. And art tells us a lot about the artist. Just a glance at Picasso’s work tells us that he distorted the female form. Hmmm. I wonder if he had issues with women. Turns out he did.

So when we study the cosmos, the created universe, we’re studying the work of God—and we’re consequently studying him. In school we call that science. And for some reason we’ve gotten the idea that science and religion are in conflict.

Nope. It’s all about him.

What can be known about God is plain to [mankind], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, 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 1.19-20)

But there’s more. When God created the universe, he used a design language—a coding language, if you will. There are relationships between the parts of the universe. In school we call that language math.

Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures. (Galileo)

I would suggest that math is the most intimate look we get at the mind of God outside the Bible. It’s theology writ large. And we didn’t invent it; God did. He was counting before there were any humans around (Gen 1.5).

Even more. When God created humans, he made them, as Scripture puts it, “in his image” (Gen 1.26-27). That means that when we study mankind—when we study the humanities—we’re studying God too. Language. Literature. The fine arts—music, speech, art. It all reflects the creative impulses of mankind, and in so doing it reflects the creative God who created us. It’s theology.

And the sourcing doesn’t end with creation. Theologians call creation God’s first work, but they recognize another one as well. Since day 1, God has been directing in the affairs of men, telling a story that he has written from eternity past.

He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place. (Acts 17.26)

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings. (Dan 2.21)

And what do we call that in school?

Theologians call it providence, or more specifically, government. Schoolteachers call it history.

Every school subject is about God. Science, math, language, literature, fine arts, history. All of it.

And no surprise, because it all comes from him.

It’s a shame more schools don’t recognize that. And it’s ironic—downright comical—that thousands of educators are teaching about the God they deny without even realizing it.

He who sits in the heavens laughs.

And I like to chuckle right along with him.

Dan Olinger Bio

Dr. Dan Olinger has taught at Bob Jones University since 2000, following 19 years as a writer, editor, and supervisor at BJU Press. He teaches courses in theology, New Testament, and Old Testament, with special interests in ecclesiology and the Pauline Epistles.