Religious education not good enough

An article in NA today caught my eye. It seems the Mission School down the road, otherwise known as Örebro Theological College (ÖTH), is in trouble with the Department of Education. An investigation has revealed that some of its teachers are not good enough at teaching religions other than Christianity, a grave inadequacy for a college which educates teachers of religion. This means that the college may lose the right to examine theological candidates.

ÖTH is run by the Evangelical Free Church, Sweden’s biggest independent denomination, independent, that is, of the State. The college’s principal, when asked for comment, said simply, “We are not alone in the boat. Not only independent colleges but even several old universities who have had their theological education questioned,” according to the article. Over the last few decades the mission school has integrated itself into the general tertiary education system of Sweden. It is accountable now to the education department, which is, naturally, a secular department of a secular government. Education in religion means just that, and in a land that prides itself on equality, every religion should be taught with equal competence. But of course, Örebro Mission School is basically a Christian college with Christian teachers. It is hardly surprising that their knowledge of Christianity is greater than their knowledge of the multiple other religions that exist in our world.

No doubt the education department will soon require that the mission school invite imams to teach Islam to the aspiring young religion teachers, rabbis to teach Judaism, Hindu holy men to teach Hinduism, and so on. I wonder how many mosques would feel comfortable inviting Christian leaders to teach Christianity in their hallowed halls. Perhaps there would be some. But mosques generally don’t aspire to educate future teachers of religion. One wonders why a Christian college has decided to do so.

Perhaps the only way that all religions can receive equal treatment in a school for teachers of religion is if they are taught by people of no faith at all. But how can people who believe nothing be expected to teach about faith? Surely they would have even less understanding of religion, and therefore less competence to teach it, than a Christian teaching Islam or Judaism. But in a secular society it may come to that. The only people competent to teach religion may end up being the ones who don’t believe in it!

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