Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's a Big, Big World - Shrink it!

If you know anything about me, you know I love the internet! I love the around-the-clock access to worldwide events, happenings and knowledge - the scientific papers, the public opinion, the latest news, everything. Having the world at our fingertips is a "privilege" that none others have had before in history. People relied on local gossip and newspapers to find out what was going on in their community. Then came radio and movies to provide news of what was going on in the world. Now we have instantaneous reports on the latest celebrity death, political gaffe and natural disaster. We are bombarded with photos of war, statistics of crime and tragic death toll counts. The internet has opened up the world to us and created a global community where our neighbor can live 4,000 miles away from us. Though this has its benefits, it can also make us feel very small and very helpless. How does one make any difference in the world when one cannot stave off the spectacular devastation going on around the world? What can one do when it comes to the thousands upon thousands of orphans in Africa due to the AIDS epidemic? The millions of starving mouths to feed in [choose any location around the world]? The untold number of Christians persecuted for their faith? The tragedy visited upon us by Mother Nature? The abuses done by man upon their children, spouses, family, friends, animals and earth?

Sometimes the bigger the picture, the less equipped we feel. Though it is proven that one person can impact the entire world by their actions and efforts, it always begins simply by taking one step. It requires a singular focus, not on saving the entire world, but on saving just one someone or something. If we were to mentally shrink our world back down to what's just beyond our doorstep, we would essentially be opening our eyes and seeing things we've never noticed before - that homeless man who sleeps on your city's sidewalk, the dog chained up across the street without food or water, the single mom next door who just had another baby, the neighbor who needs some help fixing their car, the elderly woman who never leaves her house... There is always someone in our own little world that needs us - maybe not us so much but needs the love of Christ inside of us showered upon them. As parents, there is no denying we have our very own mission field within our own home. But take a look outside your window every once in awhile and see how that mission field expands beyond our home as well. There are great teachings about how loving our neighbor isn't necessarily confined to your next door neighbor - our neighbors can be in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, China and North Korea. But it also means loving your next door neighbor or your neighbor two streets down or one town over. We will naturally be able to have the most impact on those within our own community and especially on our own street. Don't discredit that daily witness on those around you!

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-33

Shrink your world and see with new eyes your own community. We may never have a worldwide impact by our actions, but we can significantly impact someone else's world.

Nickelback - "If Everyone Cared" Video

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Covenantal Homeschooling?

"...we're more interested in raising godly children than smart children." ~R.C. Sproul

Every once in awhile I come across a blog posting that makes me question certain beliefs or assumptions I've held. My need for community becomes so important as I seek varying points of view on the specified topic to help my jumbled thoughts become more organized and "debate" my way to a clearer point of view. This is one such instance. I came across a blog about homeschooling. Up to this point, I have always believed in the ideal of homeschool over public school, but those who choose otherwise could do so without nary a judgment call from me. I've read my share of homeschool books and blogs where many hold an "extremist" viewpoint, e.g. as a Christian, if you're not homeschooling, you're not fully embracing your parental rights and duties to bring your children up in the admonition of the Lord and essentially you're throwing your children to the wolves of society (my words, not theirs). I tend to initially scoff at or ignore anything that shouts extremism and rejects balance. I don't like the idea of the harsh judgments behind some of their statements and beliefs, and I feel parents can pray about their educational choice for their children and come to different conclusions.

And then I read Top Five Reasons Not to Send your Kids Back to Government School1 by Voddie Bauchman. I have no idea who Voddie Bauchman is or what his doctrinal position is or anything about him. I just know he made some interesting and compelling (possibly even sometimes inflammatory) arguments against public school. Two of his bigger points are:


“I am as sure as I am of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.” -A.A. Hodge

Jesus made it quite clear when he said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30 ESV) I am amazed at how many Christians refuse to acknowledge this fact as it relates to the government school system. Our education is either based on biblical truth, or some other truth. There is no such thing as neutrality in this regard. All education is religious in nature.2 Since it is illegal for students in our government schools to be taught from a Christian perspective, then it follows that they must be taught from a non (or anti) Christian perspective.



“This whole process of education is to be religious, and not only religious, but Christian…. And as Christianity is the only true religion, and God in Christ the only true God, the only possible means of profitable education is the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” -Charles Hodge

I recognize that educational antinomianism* is the norm in the modern American church. According to the common refrain, “It doesn’t matter what educational choice you make... you just have to pray about it and do what the Lord leads your family to do.” However, I must confess I find this concept disturbing on a number of fronts. First, this kind of thinking denies the sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible speaks either directly, or principally to every aspect of life. There are no grey areas. Sure, there are things that are difficult to discern, but education is not one of them. Though you won’t find the word ‘education’ in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, there are a number of passages that speak directly to the issue of training ourselves and our children intellectually, spiritually, philosophically and morally (See Deut. 6:6,7; Prov. 1:7; Eph. 6:4, etc). We also have numerous warnings against allowing others to influence us intellectually, spiritually, philosophically, and morally (Psalm 1; Rom. 12:1,2; 2 Cor. 6:14ff; Col. 2:8, etc.).

I have also heard others speak of their children being a witness to those around them in school. For our children to be "the salt and light of the earth" while in school at the impressionable age of x under the tutelage of a secular teacher in a secular school for how many hours a day makes no sense to me (at least, until they are at an age where they understand responsibility, can reason logically with others and have a firm foundation of God's Truth and a calling to evangelize to their fellow students in school - I'm thinking possibly high school or college). I am by no means discrediting the witness our precious, innocent children can have on others; rather I am most protective of it. R.C. Sproul writes about this in his book When You Rise Up, "Do I care about the lost? Of course I do. Do my children care about the lost? Enough that they can pray for them at school, out loud, every day. I am homeschooling precisely so my children will be able to know, recognize, and love the enemy, while not becoming the enemy. And just as their ability to love the enemy into the kingdom isn't contingent on their being trained by the enemy, in like manner their ability to love the enemy into the kingdom isn't contingent on their being in the enemy's schools." He goes on to say, "Never will I put my children under the authority of those who are enemies of the gospel, who despise the lordship of Christ such that his name cannot even be mentioned. That we must never negotiate." He finishes by saying, "May it never be said again of any of those who name the name of Christ that they rendered unto Caesar the things that are God's - His covenant children."4 Wow - pretty heavy. Does this sound a bit extreme to you? Militant even? To call our public schools the things of Caesar's and the enemies of God can be a bit strong, especially for those of us who attended public schools and may have had very good experiences there. No doubt there are some wonderful public school teachers, even Christian ones who see their career also as their life's mission. Should we expect our 6-year-olds to be missionaries though? Can public education be neutral?

The beautiful monastics throughout church history were cultural refugees; they ran to the desert not to flee from the world but to save the world from itself.3

Two of the biggest objections to homeschooling which I can completely understand and relate to is 1.) the lack of knowledge about it and 2.) the fear of the responsibility. As parents we don't feel qualified to teach our children what we feel they need to know to go out in the world and make a life. We somehow "taught" them to walk, talk, think, reason, count, get dressed, do chores, become more independent, love God, but we can't wrap our brains around trying to teach them to read, write, explore, discover and to actually and personally know God and His Word. In a sense, we've given up on the most important lessons and entrusted them to Sunday school teachers and schoolmasters. It is this fear of responsibility of teaching the most important of life's lessons that cripples our duties in carrying them out. Sproul calls it "a scary business."

"You can recognize the weight of training your children, of raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It is indeed a great responsibility. You can't, however, change your mind and decide not to so raise your children because it's too hard. They are your responsibility, and denying your responsibility won't change your situation."

"Everyone else on the entire planet, I believe, is better equipped than I am to raise a servant of the state. I'm not the guy to do that job. I am, however, equipped to raise servants of the King. I know that because the King keeps giving me servants to raise.

What does it take to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? The Bible, and the Holy Spirit to illumine the Bible. I have a Bible. I have several, in fact. And the Bible tells me that it equips me for every good work.

The above arguments put forth by Bauchman and Sproul are not necessarily and wholly my own yet, however they are stated so emphatically and with such spiritual conviction, it jars my sense of perspective and balance on acceptable educational choices for the Christian family (which is why I'd love to hear varying opinions from you). I'm not quite sure where these insights will lead me - ultimately I pray and hope agreement with the above points by anyone will not lead to judgment of others and the viewing of unhomeschooling Christians in a negative light. I do think it would be an easy ticket to an "I'm right because I'm homeschooling, and you're wrong because you're not" attitude. On the other hand, I do feel the argument put forth by these authors have helped to clarify my own purpose in homeschooling. What do you think?

“Let it be remembered, that I do not speak to the wild, giddy, thoughtless world, but to those that fear God. I ask, then, for what end do you send your children to school? “Why, that they may be fit to live in the world.” In which world do you mean, — this or the next? Perhaps you thought of this world only; and had forgot that there is a world to come; yea, and one that will last for ever! Pray take this into your account, and send them to such masters as will keep it always before their eyes. Otherwise, to send them to school (permit me to speak plainly) is little better than sending them to the devil. At all events, then, send your boys, if you have any concern for their souls, not to any of the large public schools, (for they are nurseries of all manner of wickedness,) but private school, kept by some pious man, who endeavours to instruct a small number of children in religion and learning together.” - John Wesley

1. All red text comes from the Voddie Bauchman Ministries blog: Top Five Reasons Not to Send Your Kids Back to Govt. School which I highly recommend reading the entire post.
2. Italics mine.

3. From Jesus for President by Shaun Claiborne and Chris Haw

4. All orange text comes from the book When You Rise Up, A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul

* Antinomianism:
  1. Theology The doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace.
  2. The belief that moral laws are relative in meaning and application as opposed to fixed or universal.
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