HOME EDUCATION: FAMILY COVENANT

[E]ducation is not simply delivery of information, it is a lifestyle; and a lifestyle that places the child outside of the family – even if it is a formally Christian school – is a compromise that must be made in only the rarest of circumstances. We don’t give the children money to just go to McDonalds and have dinner there; there is spiritual and emotional significance in having dinner together, as a family. Sending our kids to institutional school to “get education” is the same as sending them to McDonalds to get a burger for dinner; the material is there but the spirit of education is lacking. Parents that seek every excuse to kick the children out of the house and hand them over to strangers to teach them are only destroying the souls of their own children. A child needs a father and a mother, not a “professional educator” and a pack of other children.[1]

            Marinov’s strong words of conviction will not sway someone who does not want to be swayed. Arguments can be and have been made against the wisdom of parents’ teaching their children themselves, and real challenges and obstacles do exist. After recognizing the advantages of home education, Thoburn says, “Home schooling also has its limitations. Especially as children get older, they need the benefits that come from division of labor.”[2]

Others might cite unrepresentative examples of neglect or abuse by parents, or the ever-present socialization argument. Never mind that for any of these “unfit” parents, there are hundreds, and now thousands of adults who are proof that a couple of exceptions do not invalidate a rule. As Swanson writes,

[S]omething must have worked with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Henry, Robert E. Lee, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Douglas MacArthur, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Charles Dickens. Each was homeschooled in his early years by father, mother, or both.[3]

The discussion on the merits of home education can be lengthy and become emotional very quickly. But just as a more site-based government must be more efficient and accountable to those it serves, so does home schooling provide the most immediate covenantal context. The more excellent way is not a pragmatic “what will work”; it is a covenantal “what is right.” Asking the right questions goes a long way toward getting the right answers.

Who is in charge?

The Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant (Mal. 2:14).

Sutton writes, “The Bible defines the family as a covenant, the same Hebrew word (berith) being used in Malachi that is used elsewhere for the God-to-man covenant” (Gen. 6:18).[4] [Emphasis Sutton’s] If the same God who established His covenant with Adam and all of mankind also called the marriage relationship a covenant, and if He is the creator and sustainer of all things including that marriage, then whatever man and woman build from that marriage is ordered and sanctioned by God. He is in charge, and the family from that marriage must live in terms of His word; that is the only way to build on a true foundation.

The family that teaches its own children can spend all the time needed to inculcate in them that God is in control of everything in the universe and yet can live in their hearts; He determines what is right and wrong, and He has conveyed His ethics through His Commandments. It can teach them that they were created in His image but that because of Adam, they are now naturally more prone to sin. It can also help them hear their calling and discover God’s particular purpose for their lives. All of this can be done without the artificial before-, during-, or after-school hours distinction, or without the rush because the bell is about to ring. As Swanson puts it vividly in elaborating on Deuteronomy 6:6-9,

God’s Word is to be, literally, in their faces. [Emphasis Swanson’s] The truth of God’s revealed Word must be instantly accessible. It is to be as close to them as something tied to their wrist, as if it were hanging in front of their eyes all the time. They should bump into [It] constantly, on the doors and posts of their house. Children should see the Word of God as completely integrated into their life experience. They should never get the impression that the Word is something they run into in some religious ritual on Sunday while the rest of their education, entertainment, family time, and so forth is completely void of the Word or even opposed to it.[5]

Swanson also provides some concrete recommendations for parents wanting to build on the right foundation.

  1. Know your worldview. The reader may wish to refer to the publications of Cornerstone Curriculum Project, Dr. David Noebel, Francis Schaeffer, or R.J. Rushdoony for more grounding in this area of worldview.
  2. Teach your children the Word of God. If our children are better versed in their Saxon Math and their Shakespeare than they are in the book of Proverbs, the Psalms, and Genesis, then we have given our children a sub-standard education.
  3. Teach them the Christian classics first. Before [your child] listens to the ideas of a humanist, a deist, a transcendentalist, or a Greek thinker, you had better be sure that he is well-versed in a biblical worldview.
  4. Think integration. Is there some subject of study to which they see no connection to God’s Word? Is their entertainment an opportunity to escape accountability to the standards of the Ten Commandments?
  5. Employ the principles of protection and wise progression….[6] [Emphases Swanson’s] (more on these principles below)

The issue of worldview is crucial in impressing the sovereignty of God upon children, for there is no wisdom except that which sees life from God’s point of view. As Marinov warns, “The very process of education must be in harmony with the content of education. The methodology must proceed from the very same worldview, and from the very same Biblical religious and moral presuppositions that control the philosophy of the education.”[7]

To whom should the child report?

             A reading through the book of Proverbs shows how involved the father should be in the life of his child. “The father instructs his son throughout…; but he also pleads, warns, observes, charges, implores, rebukes, and exhorts. The teaching is rooted in an organic relationship. It is intimate, caring, and fatherly…personal and parental.”[8]

This familiar environment also lends itself to closer relationships between siblings. Normally home schooled youth not only engage older friends and acquaintances—even the elderly—without reservation, but they are also able to minister to and befriend little children as worthy of their attention and affection. The older brother of the prodigal son apparently had not been close to his brother, for Luke 15:29 portrays him as being angry that their father had never killed an animal for him and his “friends,” implying that the younger brother was not one of them. That is one pitfall that close-knit family relationships can avoid. The larger the family, the more friends a child can have and grow up with.

Secondly, with authority comes responsibility. As parents are to represent God’s government to their children, they are also responsible to care and protect them from evil. It takes mature, well-grounded and nurtured young adults to confront and change a fallen world. Those unprepared and unable to overcome can be easily conformed to it (Roman 12:1-2). A renewed mind and body sacrificed to God can best be produced in a sheltered home environment. Such a setting can help prevent what John Van Dyk calls “a major problem in our Christian schools: the contradictory character of so much of our teaching…We confess that each one of our students is a unique image bearer of God, yet we continue to structure our schools and classrooms for stifling conformity…”[9]

Involved parents prepare their children “physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually for life and eternity.”[10] Swanson provides helpful advice for young parents: the training should consist of at least three components: truth, self-awareness, and testing.[11] The first was discussed previously as foundational. The knowledge of oneself comes as the child gains knowledge and understanding of God. And the testing comes as the parents monitor the child’s development and see when he is capable of having success, or shows evidence of preparation adequate to confront the test. “The tests given will challenge [the child] emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.”[12] Parents, however, must be aware of and involved as much as possible; for feedback is essential after each test. This parental involvement includes monitoring what the child is exposed to as well as what comes out of him. To that end, here are some practical tips:

  1. Use the catechetical device…The free flow of questions and answers is the best way to get to the heart and mind of your child.
  2. Always explain a concept in words and illustrations that you know are familiar to the student.
  3. When explaining a particularly difficult concept…try several different methods, and then hone in on the method that works best.
  4. Make sure the student is fully engaged…Eye contact, touch (where appropriate), and calling the student by name are powerful ways to accomplish this.
  5. When…introducing a new concept…, be sure you are well-prepared and…have sufficient time….Fresh material hits the brain like a footprint on fast-drying concrete.
  6. Make full use of motivating language, affirmation, and genuine enthusiasm.
  7. Do not give away the answer in every case, especially if you think the student can get the answer himself.
  8. If you give an answer away, make sure the student works on similar problems himself. Then recheck his work for accuracy.
  9. Work into yourself the character traits of a good tutor. These include perceptive ears and eyes, patience, gentleness, and love.
  10. Send in the reserve tutor [when needed]![13]

The main idea in training and preparing a child for his future is that parents are doing their part in the work ordained by the Holy Spirit, and in how He uses them to build character in their child. And having a child’s character transformed is the foremost objective in his comprehensive development.

Is education a simple intellectual exercise, or is it moral training of character? The question…determines the very environment in which education must take place. If it is only an intellectual exercise, then a child can be “educated” by just being locked in a room with a computer and internet connection, using distant learning, without any contact with other people; a school these days is an unnecessary waste of money. But if it is moral training of character – as the Bible defines education – then the learning of that information must happen within a specific context of personal relationships, institutional settings, and underlying worldview that supports both the setting and the material learned. Education then becomes a holistic task, a unified whole where the parts – moral training, academic training, philosophical training, practical skills, etc. – can not be separated from each other without destroying the whole.[14]

Character training begins the day the child is born, and is ongoing day by day. Along with all the other lessons he learns, he must be learning character. Parents must be always alert and particular about emphasizing and praising their child when he exhibits godly traits. Instead of a flattering “you have beautiful eyes” or “you are so handsome, son,” parents should concentrate on things their children can control, things that reveal a quality, like “I appreciate your honesty, son” or “your humility…” or “your helpfulness, patience,” and so on. Of course, as with any lessons, the child will know what is really important to his parents every time he sees them practicing those character qualities. And when the child is around his parents many hours throughout the day, he knows exactly what they expect and consider important. No other school but the home can offer such opportunities for a nurturing, one-to-one, relational way of life.

What are the rules?

            The ability of parents to tune in to their child’s individual needs, gifts, and talents makes it easier for the child to learn at his own pace and in a way that is comfortable and conducive to healthy development. Given the obvious differences in learning styles and rates, it is amazing that a given student is forced to work at the same grade level in all subjects; that is, a fourth grader would study fourth grade math, fourth grade science, fourth grade reading, and writing, and geography, and history, and so on. Yet almost all schools—public or private—fall into this mode. In contrast, the Swanson school is able to use common sense and flexibility:

When my children are asked their grade level, they usually respond with their age. My twelve-year old son is studying second year algebra, ninth grade vocabulary and spelling, eighth grade reading, and seventh grade grammar. My ten-year old daughter is studying eighth grade vocabulary, ninth grade reading, and fifth grade math. We have always ignored the grade levels on the spines of the books they use, except to determine the sequence of study.[15]

The parent teachers, who are the most qualified people in the world to determine the level at which their children are learning, can begin with the basics and return to them as needed any time they see the need. They do not have a bureaucracy or supervisory team that must approve either remedial or accelerated course work. Now, to ensure the basics, here are some ideas.

  1. Read aloud as much as possible. Parents may read to children or the children may read to each other.
  2. Always choose the best literature you can find…The two books…reprinted more than any other books are the Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress.
  3. Do not waste any significant time doing anything but the basics.
  4. Do not multiply course requirements upon the student. One…successful curriculum approach…requires reading a classic book of literature, writing an essay, and completing a mathematics assignment.
  5. Children should memorize portions of the highest quality literature, poetry, drama, and prose (see Deut. 31:19-22; Ps. 119:11).
  6. Children learn to write best when they copy the most excellent literature of all (Deut. 6:9; 17:18).
  7. As children become more advanced in their ability to read their own language, it is advantageous to teach them to read the source languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
  8. Never advance a student to the next level of learning until he has thoroughly mastered the basics…Never advance a student beyond the first level of reading in the English language before he has thoroughly learned the seventy phonograms (letters or combination of letters) and forty phonemes (phonetic sounds).
  9. Basic learning requires disciplined repetition….The most basic character lesson is obedience. It is a lesson that is taught thousands of times in the first two years of a child’s life and it continues to a lesser extent for the rest of his life.
  10. Teach the ancient Scriptures, the most basic textbook of all (see Deut. 6:6-9; 11:18-21; 27:1-8). If you only have thirty minutes each day to invest in your children’s education spend that time teaching them the Bible.[16]

Without a need (or desire) for standardized practices and assessment of individual students, home school parents are in a position to train and disciple their child according to God’s rules: His commandments as revealed in His Book. They are able to place him and adjust their teaching as the child masters his respective levels. Swanson identifies three areas, which can be seen as stages, of learning: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.[17]

  • Stage 1: “My people, hear my instruction; listen to what I say. I will declare wise sayings: I will speak mysteries from the past—things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us. We must not hide them from their children, but must tell a future generation the praises of the LORD, His might, and the wonderful works He has performed” (Ps. 78:1-4).
  • Stage 2: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14).
  • Stage 3: “But set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15-16).[18]

Stage 1 deals mostly with the basic rules of a subject. Stage 2 “connects the principles and relates principles to the facts.”[19] Stage 3 is the level when the student can apply the principles to situations in life.[20] This taxonomy, one of many ways to categorize student learning, can be applied to any subject matter. The key is that parents are the responsible party in deciding when and how their child is taught.

What is in it for the child (and the parents)?

This lifestyle provides blessings that, sadly, are almost unimaginable for most families at this time. A grateful father writes:

            One evening last year, as we were preparing for bed, my wife was lamenting that our daughter Emily did not complete her English grammar assignments that day. After pursuing the issue a little further, we discovered that she had been working hard on a lengthy and detailed e-mail communication to her grandparents. It was right then that we determined we had become far too rigid in our academic program, and we needed to integrate more of real life into it. After all, when you grow up to manage a home or a business in real life, what are you doing all day? Are you busy working on English grammar assignments? Of course not. Your life is filled with things like writing notes and letters to family and friends, recording life events in diaries, preparing business letters, and maybe writing an occasional work of fiction.

            In recent years, I have increasingly involved my thirteen-year old son in my life. He is with me at least six days every week. He has studied his algebra, Latin, and English composition in my office downtown, in conference rooms, restaurants, the state capitol, the car, and, on rare occasions, a classroom. While the environment changes, it is always real life. His education is much more than a textbook. He hears business negotiations in the boardroom, cell phone conversations, the hiring of subcontractors for a building project, sales calls, and an occasional high-stress conflict situation.

            One afternoon last winter I received a phone call from a representative of an important publishing company. He was interested in a book I was writing and wanted to meet with me in a nearby city. I knew this would be a key meeting in the development of my own career, and I was tempted to leave my son at home. When he found out about the meeting, however, he asked me if he could attend. For nearly fifteen minutes I wrestled with the decision. Should I integrate my son into this and risk losing an important contract? What would the executive say if I brought my son with me into the interview? Would my son say something that would affect my chances of developing a good relationship with this key publisher? After all, one never knows what a thirteen-year old boy might say! As I vacillated on the decision, another series of questions rushed into my mind—important questions, life-changing questions: “Exactly what am I trying to accomplish here? Am I trying to publish a book or raise a son? What am I doing in life? [Emphasis Swanson’s]What better opportunity could I find in which my son could learn something about real life, real negotiations, and real business?” With clarity and certainty I knew that my purpose was to raise a son. There was no reason for him to stay home, yet there was every reason in the world for him to be there. The boy could watch his dad squirm for two hours while trying to sell himself in a high-stakes interview. So he came with me that day and watched and listened. On the way home, he commended me on several aspects of my presentation and suggested several areas that might have been improved.

            By the time he is eighteen…I hope…my son will have the wisdom I have learned in my twenties, thirties, and forties because he traveled with me and watched me. He will learn the most valuable lessons I have learned in the same way I have learned them—through real-life experiences.

             Home schooling gives families freedom to serve and follow God in every area of their lives, not just in church activities and good works. Actually, there are no better works for parents than sowing into their children’s upbringing. The entire family is edified from learning together and seeing lessons everywhere. Besides the parents’ choice of bookwork, they go shopping, go out to lunch, make payments, visit relatives, and go on fieldtrips and vacations. Their life is the curriculum and the world is their laboratory. These are just some of the blessings of learning at home—or anywhere.

What is the future?

            The inheritance enjoyed by young people who are home schooled is not just a grateful heart and love of God, but a genuine love and appreciation for learning. Man does not need to know everything under heaven; in fact, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). And Christians know that God the Holy Spirit reveals His truth to those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:10).

God gives men the ability to discover things that were previously hidden. He makes them useful and gives them purpose in life. He gives them identity so that they may know who they are regardless of what anyone else thinks they are (Revelation 2:17). He gives them a future in His presence here on earth now and in the life to come forever. This is the succession available to all Christians, but those who choose to prepare their children for life themselves, who wish to be good and faithful servants in every area of their lives, get to enjoy the benefits every day of the week.

[1]Bojidar Marinov, “Homeschooling vs. the Idolatry of Eduational Expertise,” http://americanvision.org/5071/homeschooling-vs-the-idolatry-of-educational-expertise/#sthash.ZYBJvqaF.dpbs, Downloaded March 24, 2014.

       [2] Robert Thoburn, The Children Trap: Biblical Principles for Education (Fort Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1986), 43.

       [3] Kevin Swanson, Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child (Parker, Colorado: Generations with Vision, 2010), 21.

       [4] Sutton, That You May Prosper, 138.

       [5] Swanson, 146.

       [6] Ibid, 153-155.

       [7] Marinov, http://americanvision.org/5071/homeschooling-vs-the-idolatry-of-educational-expertise/#sthash.ZYBJvqaF.dpbs, Downloaded March 24, 2014.

       [8] Swanson, 77.

       [9] John Van Dyk, The Craft of Christian Teaching: A Classroom Journey (Sioux Center, Iowa: Dordt Press, 2000), 108.

       [10] Swanson, 46.

       [11] Ibid, 49-50.

       [12] Ibid, 50.

       [13] Ibid, 40-42.

       [14] Marinov, http://americanvision.org/5071/homeschooling-vs-the-idolatry-of-educational-expertise/#sthash.ZYBJvqaF.dpbs, Downloaded March 24, 2014.

       [15] Swanson, 61.

       [16] Ibid, 102.

       [17] Ibid, 158.

       [18] Ibid, 157-158.

       [19] Ibid, 158.

       [20] Ibid, 159.

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Christian Schools: Necessary and Viable

I believe that the Christian Schools will triumph and will educate all America in terms of God’s word and requirement. I believe that we shall see a steady stepping-up of the teaching, so that, in due time, the content will be increased, and the time-span of education shortened. I believe that, in due time, the Christian School will teach more than is now taught in kindergarten through high school in seven or at most nine grades, so that students will enter colleges, universities, and vocational schools in their very early teens, and enter the world of work by the time they are twenty. The Christian School movement is the Quiet Revolution of our time, and the great and enduring one. [Emphasis Rushdoony’s]

            I am grateful that I have had my small part in that revolution.[1]

R. J. Rushdoony wrote these words over three decades ago, before the home schooling movement had gained much momentum and as Christian schools fought for survival. Since then, the civil government has tightened its grip on control of public education in the United States; and this country now stands in dire need of reform. The future will not be won by political decree; it will ultimately be won by God’s remnant who will have the answers to the distress in America as opportunities arise.

It is possible that God might extend mercy on this nation after all. Americans could elect a statesman who will prove himself an effective leader against the encroachment of an overgrown civil government. He might implement a judicious fiscal policy with shrinking deficits, no bailouts, and no subservience to bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Reserve. He might defend the Constitution and strive to effect a return to the principles of the Declaration of Independence. He might work with Congress to reduce the function of both branches to the protection of every individual’s life, liberty, and property. And yet he would still be governing the same people who allowed the current conditions to become a reality. Barring another Great Awakening, after four years, or eight, Americans will be the same idolatrous nation they were before the election of a new “change” agent. Governments and their laws only reflect the character of the majority of the voters.

But given such an awakening, many souls will be impacted. This is an essential step in the preliminary work before conversion; it is necessary and should be greatly welcome. It would also be a Pax Americana that facilitates the spreading of the Gospel.

And where must that gospel be spread? Everywhere, of course. Right now it is being preached in too few churches. The gospel preached by the Holy Spirit to Abraham and by Jesus to sinners has been replaced by a humanistic, schizophrenic, anti-Christian message. The solution? President Obama has rightly stated it: “education.” Of course, what he means by education is indoctrination and conditioning in the public system.

When the grandparents of Ron Paul and Herman Cain were young, America’s schools began to be converted into homes for the socialization of the child. Instead of the traditional Christian teaching of children to honor God with their knowledge and skills, the system called for the training of good citizens, men and women who would grow to serve their state before their God.

The Answer: the Tithe

Here is some good news: it will not take a majority to reform this nation. It never has taken a majority to turn the world upside down. What is needed is a committed, well-equipped minority. Christians must begin with the education of the core group. Rather than sending covenant children to be trained in schools where they are taught humanism for all of life, followers of Christ must obey God’s injunction and bring their children to the feet of Jesus, who said “Let the little children come to me,” (Luke 18:16) not send them to the Roman schools.

Many Christian parents are afraid to take the leap and teach their children at home (more on this in the next section). Some would love to send them to a Christian school but cannot afford to pay double tuition (in property taxes to the state whether they send their children there or not, and to a Christian school). Many excellent articles and books have been written encouraging and challenging parents to obey the biblical mandate; the objective here is to show that Christian schools can be viable and affordable.

The answer is the tithe. If every Christian tithed, America would be filled with Christian schools from sea to sea. Without delving into the specifics of the three tithes commanded in the Bible, for the sake of this discussion the reader should accept that God the Father calls non-tithers robbers (Malachi 3), and that God the Son told his listeners to tithe (Matthew 23).

Here is a look at some pertinent numbers. Consider a church of 100 tithers with an average income of $40,000, around the national average. That is $4,000,000, and the tithe would be $400,000, without even counting offerings. Budget annually $40,000 for pastoral pay and another $20,000 for any other labor for the church. From the remaining $340,000, subtract $120,000 for physical plant (especially since many churches owe on their buildings). From the remaining $220,000, subtract another $100,000 for maintenance and other expenses. The $120,000 left over could go to Christian education. With $95,000, a small staff can be paid:

One Headmaster/Lead Teacher:         $20,000

Five Teachers @ $15,000 each:          $75,000

Preferably the school master would pay teachers (and if he is not the owner, his boss(es) would pay him) what each one is worth based on quality of teaching and parent satisfaction. The idea is that the school would be in covenant with the family, since parents are entrusting that institution with responsibilities that God has given the parents themselves. The other $25,000 can be used for materials, supplies, furniture, and miscellaneous expenses.

This is not much of a budget compared to the public school market, but it would be a starting point. Or instead of hiring six teachers, a school could begin by hiring three and paying them twice as much. Though admittedly simplistic and possibly naïve, it is a fiscal blueprint that can work.

Now, many American churches do not have 100 members, let alone tithers. First, with half the membership, they could probably afford to offer half of the educational program. Families belonging to small churches might appreciate an intimate, personal school setting for their children. Second, one school per congregation is not necessary; what is needed is a catholic spirit of believers willing to work inter-congregationally. Granted, jealousies do exist on the part of some pastors who do not want their families involved with a school housed in or associated with another congregation, fearing that the relationship could tempt the family to consider the church at which the school is located, and maybe leave their present church. Those pastors should consider getting their own church involved in Christian education.

Faithfulness in tithing would make free or drastically reduced tuition possible for the children of covenant keepers. Parents, and even church members with no children, would know that part of their tithe is funding most of the education available to church children. Tithers are responsible for being informed about how their tithes are being spent.

However, a strong argument can be made that church members should not be forced to fund the education of other people’s children, a point well taken. A family might not have any children or might disagree with the church’s stance or support of a particular school. Robert Thoburn offers a biblical solution:

Let the churches raise money for needy students [with all whose family can afford it paying their own tuition] through voluntary, tax-deductible donations to a church-operated scholarship fund. Then let the parents decide which Christian school to send their children to. The church should support parents directly and schools indirectly, not schools directly and parents indirectly. This maintains the Biblical principle of parental responsibility for education, with the church as a defender of families, not educators.[2] [Emphasis Thoburn’s]

American churches would do well to follow Thoburn’s advice, for it would make for healthier and better educated families, producing in turn healthier and better educated congregations.

Potential Alternative: A Case Study

Another place for possible solutions is south of the border. Nestled among the volcanoes of central Mexico, some 28 miles east of the active Popocatépetl, American missionaries Roger Oliver and his wife Marcy direct the Seminario Bíblico de Puebla (SBP) Learning Center, “a type of home school cooperative,”[3] according to Oliver, who began the work in 2011. He identifies the center as a hybrid between Christian school and home school. It “provides a place for families who want to homeschool but are afraid to do it at home or who cannot because mom works” or because of other reasons. Besides the typical course work of any learning institution, the Learning Center features aspects that most Christian schools do not offer.

The first noteworthy characteristic is the personnel involved. The full time workers are eight mothers of the students. “We scholarship their kids and give them a donation to help out at home. It totals up to an average of $5,000 pesos per month, a significant help to these moms,” Oliver said. In México’s troubled economy, an opportunity to teach their own children, help other families, and earn money is an economic blessing that is not coincidental. “Since we became ‘reconstructionist, theonomic’ missionaries, we have generated work for 12 or 13 women,” he said.

Leery of anti-biblical teacher training programs, Oliver says that he not only does not look for certified personnel, he actually shuns it. “We do not have ‘teachers,’” he said. “I resist help from anyone ‘trained’ in the modern system of state schools. They just don’t get it.”

The other parents are urged to volunteer as many hours as possible. “[They] come and teach subjects that are difficult and tutor students in subjects that may be difficult for mom and dad to teach at home,” Oliver said. “It is also a place to provide services and activities not easily available to families within their resource limitations.”

Oliver does not want to become a surrogate parent, though. “We do hold parents responsible for the education of their children,” he said. “We have an ‘escuela de padres’ (school for parents) about every six weeks to train them in their responsibilities.” With messages like parental responsibility for obeying Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 not very popular in Mexican churches, most parents are hearing these ideas for the first time, but “the escuela para padres is well received and attendance is growing.”

That organic parental participation is a major component of the Learning Center, which “is not a place to drop off your kids and let others be responsible for [their] children’s education,” said Oliver. “I tell them that at the last judgment Jesus is not going to hold me accountable for their children’s education but he will hold them accountable.”

In fact, Oliver sees the home as the best place for the education of the children. “We also encourage parents to consider homeschool,” he said. “And we allow families to send their kids one or two days a week and charge them fifty pesos a day.” Parents are reminded that the center is not a school, and that they are the responsible party. The option offered by the center is a hub for a free association of parents educating their children, “asociación libre de padres educadores.” As such it complies with the Mexican Constitution and its Office of Public Education (Secretaría de Educación Pública).

Another beneficial aspect of the center is its relationship with the host seminary. Though not free, rent is an affordable arrangement that seems to benefit both parties. “We pay an offering of $15,000 pesos per month but it is not a contracted rent, it’s what we feel we can pay,” Oliver said. “Turns out to be at least half of what the seminary receives in donations from the U.S. We also pay our own electricity and maintenance. Electricity probably averages $1000 to $1200 every two months.”

The Learning Center is characterized by a friendly Christian climate that permeates its classrooms. The place, however, is not for everyone. Families must “show some evidence of being part of the remnant. This is not a school for non-Christians. I tell parents this has to be a calling,” said Oliver. “When they ask what about later when they may need to go back to the public education system, I tell them that once they put their hand to the plow to be responsible to God for their children’s education, there is no turning back.”

That caring yet no-nonsense approach has served the center well as it nears completion of its third year. It opened its doors to 47 junior high school students the first year, followed by 47 elementary through high school students the second, and peaking at 96 this year after adding a preschool.[4] When asked who had been the center’s founder, Oliver answered simply: “God.” Then as if to make sure one understood his seriousness about the covenant’s authority structure,” he added, “Seriously, we stumbled into this, but the representative humans are Roger and Marcy Oliver.”

Oliver seems to have put into action what many pedagogues have failed to do: apply God’s Word consistently to every area of life, in this case the education of the children of Puebla, Mexico.

The results have been impressive. [There are] many stories that encourage us to believe we are on the right track. Not all the stories are success stories. The Learning Center is a spiritual battlefield. The kids come to us loaded with humanistic baggage.

The Learning Center is a mustard seed project to build the future Chris­tian civilization in Mexico from the bottom up. It’s exhausting but reward­ing work. Never did we expect to be working with children, especially since we are at retirement age.[5]

The solutions to America’s problems, though difficult, are not overly complex; and they should come from the visible church, whether from México, South Texas, or any other corner. As Christians live and teach their children to live according to God’s covenantal ways, the world will know that the church is a nation blessed like no other. A review of that covenantal model is in order here.

The Means: Covenant Pedagogy

Children must be taught first and foremost that God is the only sovereign being. Without beginning and without end, he works through His Spirit and His people, who are beings with a beginning and no end. God made a couple of offers to Adam, who sinned but whose wife received a great promise. God then made a pact with Noah, then Abram, then Moses, then David. He also made personal covenants with many individuals throughout history. Finally, He gave the New Deal to all of mankind, the New and Everlasting Covenant through Jesus Messiah.

The deal is simple: trust and obey. God is in complete control. He appointed the Church as His representative on Earth, with an oral and written rule of ethics to serve as His standard. If people abide by His explicit terms, they are blessed; if they do not abide in and by them, they are already condemned. God is faithful to punish the guilty for a few generations while blessing the faithful for a thousand.

As long as the church of Christ preaches only the blessings part, however, America’s education looks to Jesus only for mercy and compassion but wants no part of His justice. As long as it preaches that man does not have to obey God’s laws, its education rejects the existence of hell and eternal separation from God. As long as it preaches that God used to save people differently in the Old Testament, its education becomes escapist and takes things out of context. Teaching the covenant will confront the child with his sinfulness and make the humble aware of the grace available to him.

Men and women who are willing to follow God’s plan must accept His transcendency and immanence (God is everywhere over all, and yet here with His own); structure of hierarchy (God has his Church as His mouthpiece and representative); rules for man (God gave us the Bible); sanctions (God executes judgment on people as they respond to His ethical standard); and sustaining principles (God promises a future, here on earth in history and in eternity…with or without Him). Living by and in covenant will help a person become less humanistic and either more awakened or more sanctified.

The church’s lack of leadership has resulted in a secular schizophrenia, as R. J. Rushdoony calls it.[6] The humanist mind is sometimes full of optimism and excitement, believing that man can do all things through him who strengthens himself. “Sí se puede” (“you can do whatever you set your mind to,”), and so on. On the other hand, the world (and the church with its own version) has adopted a worldview that wonders if man is going to be able to survive the evil in the world, implying that man probably will not make it…unless, as well-meaning Christian escapists warn in their attempts to scare sinners into converting, Jesus comes back soon and raptures those who have said the sinner’s prayer. This anti-covenantal paradigm is anti-Christian; it used to be un-American, too. It presupposes and self-fulfills an antinomian way of life.

Children must also learn well the Puritan refrain that “in Adam’s fall we sinned all.” Since Adam’s sin, man has been prone to wander from God’s commands to man’s own will and desires. Man wants to make and be his own law (autonomy) by which to live. The Bible teaches that man should live by every word/law that proceeds from the mouth of God. Though no preacher would say that men should break the Ten Commandments, many would say that those same laws do not apply either to non-Christians or to anyone today. But since every law imposes someone’s morality, the question is simple: by whose morality should man live? All educational institutions must understand what Rushdoony meant by asking, By What Standard? (men should live). Greg Bahnsen answered the question with his own book: By This Standard,[7] meaning God’s written code of ethics, The Bible.

Conclusion

Church families should want to train and teach their own children as much as possible, in obedience to Moses’ command to teach their little ones at all times of the day all the things that God wants them to know (Deuteronomy 6). Where these families exist, the church should be disposed to assist them in the training of those children.

But what about all those families who do not home school? Does their unwillingness or inability excuse the church from its responsibility? On the contrary, this situation only magnifies the role of the church. Its leaders must create opportunities to teach children and youth beyond the Sunday school, Children’s Church, and Catechism classes. One to three hours a week of biblical indoctrination cannot compete with 40 hours a week of anti-biblical conditioning. If American churches do not adjust their priorities and place Christian education at the top, Christians should not be surprised when their children leave the church as soon as they have the liberty to do so; and America will not survive if it continues in its direction away from God and His Law/Word. The way to turn this around is through training and preparing the next generation; to accomplish this task, family, school, and church must work together.

John Calvin did not see much separation between church and school in terms of ministry. Neither did he make a distinction between the sacred and the secular, for all things belong to God and there is no truth that is not His, regardless of the sphere or social context. As Kienel writes, “Calvin’s position…becomes not only an important philosophical principle but a valid legal precedent in today’s world.”[8]

Another Great Awakening can take place in America if Christian families and churches answer their calling to train and teach their children in the fear and admonition of God. Without knowing good and evil, these little ones can learn languages, sciences, and history. They will have understanding of the times and know what Christians ought to do. They will become citizens of godly impact on their communities, not for the sake of their country but for the sake of their God.

 

     [1] Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, Unnumbered pages, Foreword.

       [2] Robert Thoburn, The Children Trap, xix.

       [3] Unless footnoted, all information regarding the Learning Center comes from Director Roger Oliver through private correspondence.

       [4] Roger Oliver. “Mexico: What’s a Missionary to Do?” Faith for All of Life. March/April, 2014. 17.

       [5] Ibid.

       [6] Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia.

       [7] Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985).

       [8] Kienel, A History of Christian School Education: Vol I, 222.

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PUBLIC SCHOOLS: THE CHEAP BUT COSTLY WAY

After more than a hundred years of universal public education, we can say that it nowhere resembles the Utopian vision that drove its proponents to create it. It has not produced the morally improved human being the Unitarians insisted it would, nor has it changed human nature in the way the Owenites predicted…It has turned education into a quagmire of conflicting interests, ideologies, and purposes, and created a bureaucracy that permits virtually no real learning to take place. Nonsectarian education has become secular humanist indoctrination, as biased in its worldview against religion as Calvinism was in its favor. The Roman Catholics were aware enough to see what it would all lead to and bolted the public school rather than accept the destruction of their faith. As for the Normal Schools, they have blossomed into state teachers’ colleges that cannot produce competent instructors in basic academic skills. The whole experiment has been a colossal failure.

            As for Hegelian statism, which was to prove how good and just man could be once liberated from the restraints of outmoded religion, it has, instead, produced statist tyrannies and rivalries the likes of which the human race has never seen and brought humanity to the brink of its own self-annihilation.

            The only bright spot in the whole picture is the technological wonder that capitalism has brought to mankind through the very individual, competitive system that [socialist Robert] Owen railed against….Neither liberal altruism, nor universal public education, nor socialism lifted the poor from their lower depths. Calvinism did.[1]

There was a time in this country when most parents and local communities either taught their children directly or paid for it themselves. Dr. Joel McDurmon says

that during the founding of America from the Pilgrims all the way up until the middle of the nineteenth century, education was a private affair. In fact, as late as 1860, throughout all the states, there were only about 300 public schools….there were over 6,000 private institutions, but the vast majority of educational “institutions” were at home.[2]

 America has come a long way since then, sadly in the wrong direction. A God-fearing people who believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit gradually became a proud and self-absorbed people not unlike the inhabitants of Babel. Its educational system became the Tower of America.

This new source of national pride, American public schools have been touted as a necessary institution for the success of the nation. And a great majority of Americans have either actively supported or at least condoned massive spending, especially in the twentieth century and beyond, supposedly to ensure that the United States maintain its place as the international leader in education, a place arguably lost a couple of decades ago.[3] But money cannot buy some things, especially when what is sought is of questionable virtue. The Tower has been falling slowly but surely.

Blumenfeld’s Is Public Education Necessary? is a trenchant historical survey of American education; however, the real issue is not economic but ethical. The question should be whether publicly-supported schools are legitimate. They have been called the great equalizers of society, ostensibly local institutions without which America’s future cannot survive. These assertions are erroneous.

The Great Equalizers

While apparently cheap if not completely free, public education is costly to millions of individuals, thousands of families, and ultimately hundreds of communities around the country. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were almost 99,000 elementary and secondary public schools in America during the 2009-2010 school year.[4] For that same period, these schools spent $638 billion, or almost $12,800 per student.[5]

The financial cost is staggering, but it is the damage to the soul that destroys a nation long before its final economic collapse. The idea that civil government can rightly create equality and as the American president said before getting elected, “spread the wealth,” is an affront to the God who said, “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty.” (Leviticus 19:15)  In no way does that imply that the poor should go without help or care, for the same God also said, “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.” (Proverbs 21:13)

The difference is that the Bible tells people, individual persons, to help one another. It says nothing good about the magistrate’s engaging in family affairs that do not violate others’ rights to life, liberty, or property. When one person helps another, he is able to determine more easily whether that person deserves the help. No, not everyone deserves enabling. For example, one who does not work should not eat either (2 Thessalonians 3:10). And “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” (Proverbs 13:4) And “The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer.” (Proverbs 30:25) These people are not poor; they are sluggards.

Those who should be helped are the oppressed. Those are the poor the Bible refers to in Leviticus 19:10: “And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” And Moses repeats the idea in 23:22, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” These poor were willing to work by picking the grapes or crops left for them by the owners of the fields; they did not expect anyone to feed them. Finally, there are “the fatherless and the oppressed.” Men are told to treat them justly (Psalm 10:18). Again, the Bible does not call for any bureaucracy or king to help the poor; it holds neighbors and family members accountable for caring and helping them.

All this means that parents are responsible for their own children; they ought to feed, clothe, and shelter them. If incapable or otherwise unable, they may hire someone to teach them. If they cannot afford to, their church should help. If they have no church and do not wish to join, they should approach a Christian ministry for help. It is the mission of the church not the magistrate to help families with the training of their children, unless the teaching is for military or civil law enforcement purposes (see previous section).

Some small churches might not possess the assets to offer educational services, and some bigger churches might not have the vision or understanding of the role of the church in this area (see following section on Christian schools). But if parents are not willing or able, then the church has not taught them to be. If Christians are to judge the world (1 Corinthians 6:2), will the church not need literate, informed members who know and can apply God’s law, who are full of wisdom and understanding, in other words, who are well educated? Indeed, the local church must be about the business of teaching. It was not in vain that Paul emphasized to Timothy that church leaders must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2).

State and Federal, not Local, Accountability

Today the school has become the church for most Americans. Children are taught in this institution what and how they should believe, what they should learn, what type of rest and relaxation they should enjoy, whom they should obey, how they should treat others, and what they should desire and aspire to…in short how to obey all of man’s commandments while despising God’s. Supposedly, “the neighborhood school with its cadre of dedicated teachers and administrators belongs to the community and is answerable to it through an elected school board.”[6] As Blumenfeld says, this is a myth.

Consider schools in the state of Texas, home for the development of this synthesis. According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), there were 4,933,617 students[7] enrolled in the state’s 8,526 public schools in 2010-2011, for an average of almost 600 students per campus. One should keep in mind that with the diversity of landscapes and demographics in Texas, for every small school of 100 students, there is a school of about 1,100. Of the 8,526 campuses, 496 (or 5.8%) were rated academically unacceptable in 2011 by the TEA.[8]

To assist local districts and “serve school communities in enhancing student success and school efficiency by providing quality services,” Texas has 20 education service centers located around the state.[9] Region I serves the southern tip of Texas from its headquarters in Edinburg.

The Region One Education Service Center is part of a state-wide system…created by the 59th Texas Legislature to assist school districts across the state. Originally slated to work with school districts as a media center, the role of the education service center has expanded to work alongside school districts to carry out the three main objectives as stipulated in the TEC §8.002: to assist school districts in improving student performance in each region of the system; enable school districts to operate more efficiently and economically; and implement initiatives assigned by the legislature of commissioner. Located in South Texas on the United States/Mexico border, Region One ESC serves 37 school districts and 10 charter school systems in the seven county areas of Cameron County, Hidalgo County, Jim Hogg County, Starr County, Webb County, Willacy County, and Zapata County.[10]  [Emphasis Region I's]

 Notice the expansion in scope of this service center from its original design, as well as its vast latitude of involvement in assisting educational entities.

Each independent or consolidated district served by Region I is governed by an elected school board and administered by a superintendent who in most cases has a central office team that supports and further trains and supervises campus administrators, who are directly responsible for the day-to-day operations of their respective campuses. The school district is the biggest employer in almost every small community.

Each district has access to and in many cases has contractual relations with legal counsel, who advise the board and administrative leaders on the legality of their decision making. In the last twenty years, as state and federal requirements and encroachment have become increasingly rigorous and aggressive, and as the public has become more demanding, attorneys’ offices have seen their public school clientele grow accordingly.

A strange phenomenon has developed in South Texas, which is one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the state. Beautiful massive campuses have been constructed, especially in the Rio Grande Valley where the influx of new students has flooded the schools, some from families escaping violent conditions across the Mexican border and some from families moving into the rapidly growing international market. What has made attractive the idea of such building projects is that in most cases around 83% of the cost is paid from state coffers:

Chapter 41 of the Texas Education Code makes provisions for certain school districts to share their local tax revenue with other school districts. For the purposes of the school finance system in Texas, districts are designated as either property wealthy or property poor. The relative wealth of the school district is measured in terms of the taxable value of property that lies within the school district borders divided by the number of students in weighted average daily attendance (WADA). Chapter 41′s provisions are sometimes referred to as the “share the wealth” or “Robin Hood” plan because districts that are deemed to be property wealthy are required to share their wealth with property-poor school districts. The funds that are distributed by the property-wealthy districts are “recaptured” by the school finance system to assist with financing of public education in school districts that are property poor.[11]

This admission of its “Robin Hood” plan comes from the state government agency in charge of education, the TEA.

The idea of local autonomy and accountability of schools shows a serious lack of understanding. The accountability is limited mostly to who gets elected to the school board and can preside over decisions like building a new high school gym or stadium, or maybe offering another sport or two and approving purchases of vans or buses for the district, or not to be underestimated, hiring the right people to work for the district. The important decisions are made in Austin—and Washington, D.C. There legislators and congressmen decide who is in charge, who can teach, what is taught, what students should learn, and how long they have to be in school.

Though there is no Constitutional warrant for federal involvement in education, Congress now appropriates billions of dollars each year for public schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Through the U.S. Department of Education, the federal government provides more than $40 billion a year on primary and secondary education programs. The two biggest programs are No Child Left Behind Title I Grants to local school districts ($13.7 billion in fiscal year 2013) and IDEA Special Education State Grants ($11.0 billion in fiscal year 2013).[12]

 Other sources of federal funding come from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Labor.[13] Of all the districts in the Rio Grande Valley, not a single one could survive without federal funds.

With more centralized funding come more legislative strings attached. School districts are bombarded with legal requirements that make simple teaching and learning activities complicated and expensive. Teachers and administrators—not to mention students—are pressured continuously by state and federal decrees, with the students suffering the consequences by being held in an institution increasingly concerned about its own survival.

Parents complain that their schools don’t provide all the activities their children need, or that they don’t have the facilities or college preparatory programs of the school down the road, or that their child is not being recognized. Teachers complain about having to spend an inordinate amount of time on standardized test preparation and other bureaucracy or trivia. They also complain about not making enough money and having too many students, though most usually say they went into teaching because of the students and not the money. (By the way, in the Rio Grande Valley, most fully certified beginning teachers earn at least $40,000 a year for nine months of work.) Administrators (who make between $65,000 and $150,000 depending on their office) complain about legislation, parents, teachers, and students. Legislators complain that the previous legislature or state or federal administration left the state in terrible shape financially and educationally. Everyone complains about a system that has become more and more confusing and schizophrenic. It sounds like Babel indeed. And the victims are the souls of students, a sacrifice that no state or federal funding can justify.

Wrong for American Survival

The answer to Blumenfeld’s rhetorical question is no. Not only are public schools not necessary or essential, they are not legitimate—at least not as they are known today. Besides the clear New and Old Testament injunctions to parents regarding the training of their children, the biblical pattern shows that the magistrate is not God’s minister for teaching.

While Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22), that preparation was not for the Hebrew slaves. Pharaoh thought he was preparing his adoptive grandson to follow in his footsteps, that is, to be a military and political leader. Moses grew up as a member of the elite, educated by the best teachers that Pharaoh could buy. Providentially, however, Moses had received home schooling from his natural mother who served as his nurse until he was brought to Pharaoh’s daughter. Hebrew teaching was for the glory of Jehovah and prosperity of His people; Pharaoh’s was for Pharaoh and Egypt.

Later, when Samuel was old and named his depraved sons as judges, the elders demanded a king to rule over them (1 Samuel 8). God told Samuel not to take it personally, for they were rejecting God not him. However, God did tell him to prophesy to the Israelites:

This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day. (1 Samuel 8:11-18)

As it was then and there, so it is here and now in America. The centralization and overreach of power have created maybe not a king but certainly a government that is anti-God and His revealed Word. And this is the god to which American parents send their children today, not unlike those parents who would bring theirs to Moloch to be sacrificed. Rushdoony says, “Since Moloch represented kingship and power, sacrifices to Moloch represented the purchase, at the very least, of immunity or insurance and protection, and, at its highest claim, power.”[14] The powerless and unprotected Israelites were not immune from suffering under their kings, and neither are today’s Americans.

Eventually God gave Israel a king after His own heart, but David’s grandson lost the kingdom and it was split in two. Then about 600 years before Christ, the Babylonians took captive young Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These young men had been taught God’s law and Hebrew faith before going into captivity. Their faithfulness was such that they refused the king’s delicacies (Daniel 1); as a result, they were blessed and delivered in their upcoming trials. In fact, “As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” (1:17) They prospered as they exercised their faith and giftedness, even getting promoted, Daniel to sit at the gate and his friends to be in charge of the province of Babylon (Ch. 2). Later, the three friends were thrown into the fiery furnace (Ch. 3) and Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den (Ch. 6); but the lions did not harm Daniel and the fire did not burn Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Some Christians may use the story of Daniel and his friends to argue that God protects his children even in the midst of a government school system. But that is presumption, for throughout history God has also used many martyrs to accomplish His ultimate purpose, as well as selling His people to evil nations and using them as His rod of correction. Regardless of whether God delivers or chooses to allow His people to perish, the fact that He means for good what men mean for evil does not excuse parents who sacrifice their children to foreign gods. He did not and does not excuse Baal or Moloch worship.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul was tutored by Gamaliel. Paul’s disciple Timothy was home-schooled by his mother and grandmother. What the two had in common was that they knew the Scriptures well (of course, that meant the Old Testament Scriptures, the foundation of which was God’s law). They also received one-to-one instruction and developed godly character, education which God used to write a major part of His revealed Word to mankind. What allowed Paul and Timothy, and all other first century Christian believers, to receive such an education was that the pagan Roman Empire allowed parents to have control over the teaching of their children.[15] America is further down the road of government control than the Romans were, and their republic was dead within four centuries.

Before the Hebrews entered the Promised Land, Moses exhorted them not to forget what God had done for them (Deuteronomy 4). Included in His deeds was His giving of the Ten Commandments, which Israel was to observe in order that it may prosper. Moses warned them about becoming idolatrous, and gave them this command:

Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, “Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.” (4:9-10)

 Living by God’s commands was to make Israel a prosperous, free nation, the envy of the world. Nation here is defined by the faith of a people, not only their political citizenship. The nation of the United States of America is far from living by God’s statutes, for many of its inhabitants are not free from governmental bondage in, among many areas, the way they may teach their children.

In the beginning it was not so, for even 100 years after the Pilgrims and Puritans, the magistrate still did not control the teaching of children; and this freedom produced some of the most important leaders in history:

[T]he men who founded the United States were educated under the freest conditions possible. George Washington was educated by his father and half-brother. Benjamin Franklin was taught to read by his father and attended a private school for writing and arithmetic. Thomas Jefferson studied Latin and Greek under a tutor. Of the 117 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution, one out of three had had only a few months of formal schooling, and only one in four had gone to college.[16]

 The education of a free people helped to make America a great nation. It was freedom of government and from government. Control by civil government not only is not needed; it is doomed to bring bondage to the people and death to a culture. McDurmon concludes the matter succinctly: “Education in a free society means exclusively “private” education. We are never free as long as we are subjected to compulsory government education shored up by threats, penalties, fines, and taxes—to any degree or at any level.”[17] [Emphasis McDurmon’s]


       [1] Samuel L. Blumenfeld, Is Public Education Necessary? 213.

       [2] Joel McDurmon, Restoring America One County at a Time, 15.

       [3] Christine Lagorio, “US Education Slips in Rankings,” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-education-slips-in-rankings/, Downloaded March 18, 2014.

       [4] http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84, Downloaded March 18, 2014.

       [5] http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=66, Downloaded March 18, 2014.

       [6] Blumenfeld, Is Public Education Necessary? 1.

       [7] “Enrollment in Texas Public Schools, 2011,” TEA, ix.

       [9] http://www.esc1.net/Page/6, Downloaded March 19, 2014.

       [10] http://www.esc1.net/domain/3, Downloaded March 19, 2014.

       [11] “Chapter 41: Wealth Equalization,” TEA: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=6796, Downloaded March 19, 2014.

       [12] “Federal Funding,” http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/school-finance, Downloaded March 19, 2014.

       [13] Ibid.

       [14] Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 32-33.

       [15] Kienel, Vol I, 26.

       [16] Blumenfeld, Is Public Education Necessary? 18.

       [17] McDurmon, 9.

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Rushdoony and the Covenant in Education Part 5 (Succession)

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, [they actually landed on what today is Plymouth, Massachusetts] do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.[1]

William Bradford, William Brewster, Miles Standish, and 38 other men accepted the terms of God’s covenant and entered into this holy compact with the Almighty in November 1620 while still aboard The Mayflower. These were the Pilgrims.

Ten years later aboard The Arbella, Puritan leader John Winthrop preached to his congregation of soon-to-be Americans:

…for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the way of God and all professors for God’s sake; we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into Curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whether we are going….[2]

 Danger of Disinheritance

The Pilgrims and Puritans understood the implications of covenant-keeping and covenant-breaking. They embraced the concept of the maledictory oath for not fulfilling the terms to which they had agreed; that is, to live according to the Law-Word of the God of the Bible. They also understood that satisfying the terms of the covenant brings blessings and continuity to a people. Then as today, Americans (and all human beings in their respective nations) succeed and fail to the degree that they confirm the deal entered into by the covenanters of their land. Ray Sutton has helpful insight into the reasons for failure and therefore negative sanctions:

Discontinuity or disinheritance results if the covenant is not confirmed. The covenant is dissoluble. It can be broken. And it can be killed. There are three aspects of discontinuity. First, covenant denial: the covenant can be denied and consequently the inheritance will be forfeited. Second, due to disobedience, the inheritance can be lost through defeat. Finally, permissiveness: lack of discipleship results in disinheritance. The wicked end up providing their wealth for the righteous (Prov. 13:22b).[3]

Has America denied and forfeited the covenant? Every preacher who says that the Law of Moses has been abolished is denying the covenant. Of course the law does not qualify anyone to go to heaven after he dies; Rushdoony clarifies this: “What Paul says is that ‘the law worketh wrath,’ [Romans 4:15] i.e., judgment and condemnation, to transgressors…but he does not deny that it has promises for covenant-keepers. The observance of the law cannot save, but it does sanctify the saved.”[4] To say that Christians are under law not grace is to say that they should obey what Jesus taught and not what Moses taught, ignoring that Jesus said “[I]f you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47) Was Jehovah unjust, and Jesus opposed to the Law? If Jesus was God, He was the author of Moses’ Law and the one who gave it to Moses.

Today’s American public education system (to which most children belong, including those from Christian homes) does not recognize the sovereignty and authority of Christ, let alone Moses. Schools want to

repeal…the past in an evolving and “open” universe by means of education, and the creation of a future which is beyond good and evil and beyond law. Man makes his future, his world and his laws. [Emphasis Rushdoony’s] There can be no effective critique of contemporary education until this presupposition is recognized and challenged. And it cannot be challenged by those who hold to the presuppositions of the Enlightenment and modern man.[5]

Another example of denying the past and American covenantal commitment to it is given by Dr. Ivan Bierly regarding the Harvard University shield, which originally read “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae“:

Initially in John Harvard’s own words when he wrote the charter, it referred to the communication of divine truth; later this was transposed to mean the communication of human truth in the Greek sense, and finally to the search for truth [“Veritas”] in the sense that divine knowledge is only mystical, times are different so we can apply little from the past, and so all things are relative to him who searches today.[6]

Secondly, with antinomianism so prevalent in modern churches, it should not be surprising that rampant disobedience is evident, thereby as Sutton would say, losing the covenant in defeat. Again one need not look any further than the church and its leaders’ teachings. As missionary Bojidar Marinov points out, many pastors major on relationships, to the exclusion of purpose and conquering.[7] Consequently, churches are full of congregants who are interested mostly in interpersonal relations (resulting in churches of mostly women of all ages) with few if any young men to be found. What is there for young men to achieve or accomplish if the preaching deals only with being a better son, husband, or father…and not with the purpose of the relationships, such as having many children, teaching them in the Lord, providing for them and showing them that the biblical welfare agency is the family? Pastors should preach and teach how the family is to raise a godly generation that will build a Christian culture in all spheres of life, starting with self-government, then family, church, vocation, and lastly, but not most importantly, civil government.

It is no wonder then that, according to the Barna Group, seventy percent of young people raised in the church leave it when they become young adults. Research team leader David Kinnaman points out that they actually become disconnected well before college age. “The problem arises from the inadequacy of preparing young Christians for life beyond youth group,” he said. “[O]nly a small minority of young Christians has been taught to think about matters of faith, calling, and culture. Fewer than one out of five have any idea how the Bible ought to inform their scholastic and professional interests…”[8] These youth are not leaving their faith; they are being consistent with the faith imparted to them—one of cheap grace based on a mythical religion that does not demand obedience. Seeing nothing worthy to inherit, they go looking elsewhere.

Another aspect of false gospel teaching is that which Rushdoony calls moralism. The problem is not morality, which deals with right and wrong; the problem is moralism, which teaches that one has “to be good to be a Christian.”[9] Especially present in many Sunday school programs, this doctrine is “a menace…that teaches precisely that faith which the pulpit is called upon to wage war against.”[10] This salvation-by-works religious education is an often inconspicuous but always insidious danger to American confirmation of the covenant. It is a product of Horace Mann’s messianic vision of public education, which he claimed “would result in such moral improvement that vice and crime would be eradicated.”[11] Mann’s system of schools as well as American church-taught morality have both failed to save souls but have succeeded in producing rebellion and misery in millions of lives.

Mann’s promise was a logical conclusion of Hegel’s claim that God Himself is manifested in the state. That same philosophy led to John Dewey and his own promise of the Great Community, another messianic attempt to save man through education. These were all humanistic efforts to make the collective man autonomous and sovereign. Hegel, Mann, and Dewey were an unholy trinity that established a new American religion, with teachers as priests and their bible an evolving scientific textbook that changes as new discoveries are made and new data collected. Its sacraments are abortion and sexual perversion, with services held Monday through Friday from eight to four. No Saturday or Sunday school programs or catechism classes are needed, as the national and regional televised sports programing serves the purpose of the Sabbath rest.

That leads to Sutton’s third reason for disinheritance: permissiveness or lack of discipleship. America has been slipping down a godless slope for well over a hundred years. Once upon a time, some Americans dared to deny God and His commands; then more and more began consciously disobeying those commands and losing ground to Satan; and now it is common to hear family and church leaders teaching and showing the youth to deny parts of the Bible and thereby disobey God. As Pastor Kevin Swanson has written:

There is a reason why the divorce rate is twice what it was forty years ago…[and] why the single-parent rate is five times what it was forty years ago. There is a reason why children from certain minority groups have only a 5-percent chance of growing up with both mother and father. There is a reason behind the 500-percent increase in violent crime in this country over the last forty years. There is a reason why children kill other children in bloody rampages in high schools across the country. These heart-wrenching social consequences are not some causeless happenstances in a random universe. These are real consequences, and they are caused by the promulgation of real ideas. The fragmented family, the moral decline of our age, and the social disintegration of the last forty years grow out of the dominant ideas promoted by both school and media over the last several generations.[12]

Poor to no discipling is the norm today. Too many parents do not inculcate in their children the need to be transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Barna says that in a recent study,

most self-identified Christians in the U.S. [51%] are characterized by having the attitudes and actions researchers identified as Pharisaical…characterized by self-righteousness.

            On the other end of the spectrum, 14% of today’s self-identified Christians—just one out of every seven…–seem to represent the actions and attitudes Barna researchers found to be consistent with those of Jesus.

            In the middle are those who have some mix of action and attitude. About one-fifth of Christians are Christ-like in attitude, but often represent Pharisaical actions (21%). Another 14% of respondents tend to be defined as Christ-like in action, but seem to be motivated by self-righteous or hypocritical attitudes.[13]

According to Swanson, the great majority of the struggles faced by families in their efforts to educate their children spring from poor character. “Too many parents are woefully ignorant in this area and too many teachers seem to think that there is a dichotomy between packing facts into a student’s brain and the development of character.”[14] [More on character will appear in a later section.]

Another responsibility of parents is to shelter their children. This is not just putting a roof over their head and clothes on their backs; this means protecting them against attacks in the world for which they might not be prepared. Jesus warned in Matthew 18:6 (and Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2) that anyone who led children astray deserved worse than to have a millstone hung around his neck and be thrown into the sea. And the argument that Christian children are missionaries to the public schools presumes that their little light and salt are strong enough to withstand the humanistic stomping and windstorms that will be hurled at them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me (Luke 18:16),” not “Let the little children go to synagogues of Caesar so they can win the culture for me.” Missionaries are not sent out until they have been trained and prepared for their missionary field. Swanson says about sending Christian children into the public schools, “Is this really what God calls seven-year-old children to do? Should we pack their bags and send them off to cannibals in the jungles of New Guinea to preach the gospel?”[15]

However, it is exceedingly difficult to rear godly children, to disciple and nurture them, when parents try to build on the wrong foundation; for if God does not build the house, they labor in vain who labor there (Psalm 127:1). Many of the ills in American culture have come about because many Americans have believed a lie. First, they doubted then denied that the God of the Bible is the true God. That meant that if God is not God, someone else must be; the creation again chose to worship itself or other creatures rather than their creator. And that meant that man could do what he wanted in life, or what his conveniently subservient god would have him do. In any case, there really would not be anything actually right or wrong; for all morality would depend on what man needed or wanted, whatever worked for him at any given time.

But doing what is right in one’s own eyes (Judges 21:25) invariably brings God’s judgment. Since nations and cultures have no life after this one, God’s wrath will come upon them before they die. Such a judgment has visited the United States of America. Unless God’s people repent of ignoring, denying, and disobeying God’s commands, and failing to disciple the next generation in His ways, God’s compact with the Pilgrims and Puritans could be terminated. To God the nations are but a drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15); He can establish a new covenant with a people who will produce godly fruit (Matthew 21:43).

A Future and a Hope

Besides attempting to build without a tried cornerstone (Psalm 118:22), parents have been blindly building their families without the blueprint laid out by God’s Word. If the Bible has the answer for eternal life, if what it says about heaven and hell is true and trustworthy, then so is what it says about living in the here and now. It promises that if we have a good attitude and treat others rightly,

Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In. (Isaiah 58:12)

Two verses later it gives another promise, this time for remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy:

Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father… (Isaiah 58:14)

This passage from Isaiah makes clear the connection between being a faithful rebuilder and receiving the inheritance of the covenant. Such is the privilege and opportunity to rebuild that God has given to His people.

Americans can try to reconstruct their country the way France did from 1789 to 1795, when they suffered through their infamous revolution.

By the end of the 1790s, Napoleon Bonaparte, a ruthless military dictator, had come to power. He marched France into military victories, and then defeat. French political life was disrupted by the Revolution, and it has never fully recovered. Political instability coupled with stagnant bureaucracy have been the marks of French life for almost two centuries.[16]

Or Americans can follow the example of England during the 1780s, when that nation faced the same cultural crises as France did a decade later and the United States is facing two centuries later.

England recaptured its Christian heritage through the great preaching of George Whitfield and John Wesley. Wesley’s preaching literally sobered up hundreds of thousands of the English working class. It made them thrifty, future-oriented people. His message of eternal salvation and earthly responsibility laid the groundwork of the Industrial Revolution….[17]

Ray Sutton gives some basic and concrete recommendations on what God’s different institutions can do to be part of the reconstruction process. First, the Christian family must belong to a local church, but not just any church. It must be a church that teaches the whole Word of God, including the Old Testament and all applicable unpleasant passages. Sutton offers a list of eleven specific questions (basically accepted Christian orthodoxy) to ask pastors and officers before joining a church. Additionally, the church should be actively involved in practicing what its people say they believe. Do any church families have their children in Christian or home school? Are church leaders vocally opposed to abortion? Do they join members in picketing against abortion?[18] Are they strong men who lead the church by example? Belonging to the right church will go a long way in maintaining or returning the authority of the family in or to its rightful trustees.

Secondly, the family’s view and practice regarding the teaching of its children are crucial. Sutton argues that three main ideas should be addressed uncompromisingly:

  1. Creationism must be taught unrelentingly. There is no place in a Christian home for evolutionary thought, which will eventually lead to paganism. As discussed earlier, believing a lie will sooner or later incur the wrath of God (Romans 1).
  2. Christian education will maximize opportunities for a moral environment in which to teach and learn. Proverbs 1 and Psalm 1 both emphasize the importance of children’s engaging the right friends and company.
  3. Christian education will show children and others that the parents are not hypocritical about what they say they believe. They pay property taxes to the civil authorities and still sacrifice to teach their family in a      Christian environment.[19]
  4. Parents are challenging the humanistic civilization. “Parents, not the State, have the responsibility of choosing what method of education they’ll use.”[20]      [Emphasis Sutton’s]

Thirdly, Christian families should be activists (not revolutionary, but actively engaged in the cultural war. “A Christian activist acts within the law: he writes his congressman, pays his taxes while opposing taxation that is more than the tithe to God’s house, pickets abortion clinics, works in Christian school efforts, etc.”[21] Prayer has never been enough for the Christian, for God makes it clear that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

Needless to say, children should also be taught to be active servants. Instead of youth volleyball games, movies, and parties, young people should be shown how to care for the poor, the orphans, the widows, and most intimately, their own elderly friends and relatives.

To assist the family in its task of discipling and teaching their children, God has instituted the church for its own legitimate function. Sutton summarizes his advice for how the church can effect changes in the culture:

I called for true prophetic preaching, the kind that challenges society. It’s the kind of preaching that proclaims and calls down the judgment of God…I pointed out that faithful “weekly communion” would keep the Church from being condemned by the world. And, if the world gets off the Church’s back, freedom comes to the family, especially the families in the Church…I said that Church discipline distances the State from the Church. It’s only when the Church fails to discipline its own members that the State can gain access. God says the Church will “judge the world,” that is, if it disciplines its members.[22]

Finally, the civil magistrate has his place in God’s economy, for he also is subject to the law of God. In fact, according to Romans 13, the civil officer is a minister of God to do good and execute the wrath of God. Only the civil government has a biblical right to carry out the death penalty for certain crimes considered by God to be worthy of capital punishment; thus, in a real sense, the magistrate is a defender of family and church.

What then should the family do with relation to the civil government? For one thing, it must not wash its hands and withdraw from its responsibility to participate in this ministry. According to the Pew Forum for Religious and Public Life, there were almost 247 million Christians in the United States, or 79.5% of the population, in 2010.[23] If enough of those believers began to practice what the Bible teaches about the roles of the family, church, and state, this country would become overnight the city on a hill envisioned by the Puritans.

But though the government legislates morality and coerces obedience, people will do what they believe in their hearts. A national awakening can come about only from the bottom up, or more accurately, from the inside out.

Christian reconstruction begins with personal conversion to Christ and self-government under God’s principles, then spreads to others through revival, and only later brings comprehensive changes in civil law, when the vast majority of voters voluntarily agree to live under Biblical blueprints.

Let’s get this straight: Christian reconstruction depends on majority rule. Of course, the leaders of the Christian reconstructionist movement expect a majority eventually to accept Christ as savior. If this doesn’t happen, then Christians must be content with only partial reconsctruction, and only partial blessings from God. It isn’t possible to ramrod God’s blessings from the top down, unless you’re God.[24]

Sutton gives more specific advice on Christian involvement in the public governmental arena:

  1.  Register to vote.
  2. Pick a party to work with.
  3. Get involved in your local precinct.
  4. Work for your local party and gain influence.
  5. Never vote “yes” on a school bond proposal.
  6. Never vote for long-term debt, which is against the Bible (Deteronomy 15).
  7. If you can’t get elected [on a platform to create an orderly transition to exclusively private education], then become the candidate who wants to reduce waste.[25]

So what is the biblical role of the civil magistrate in education? Pastor and educator Robert Thoburn provides a clear answer:

to provide instruction for military officers. The government can legitimately fund military academies. It may also choose to fund and operate specialized schools that train people for government service, but only in those areas specified by the Bible as legitimate functions of the civil government. In short, it may buy a product—educational services—related directly to the enforcement of its God-given assignments.[26]

And that is all. No legislation for student attendance to any school, no taxation for educating children, and no involvement in pedagogical issues are valid. God expects parents to be responsible for bringing up their own children and teaching them His deeds, commands, and ways at every teachable moment (Deuteronomy 6). Since the state has no children, it has no legitimate business enforcing Deuteronomy 6, or any other part of the Bible that does not give it specific authority and responsibility to carry out.

Conclusion

Though American culture in the 21st century is in the clutches of God-haters, a new age is dawning. Christian men and women are awakening to the authority they have in Christ and as members of His bride. The true wife is about her husband’s business, and one of her responsibilities is to raise godly offspring; that is what God seeks from His families (Malachi 2:15). As Jesus did, that seed will grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). It will take time, but time is the Christian’s friend.

When R.J. Rushdoony founded the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965, he wrote this in his first report to supporters:

The major and minor foundations have been extensively captured by the forces of humanism and statism, and a new age of terror is developing all around us. Scholarship, arts, and literature are being subsidized to serve the purposes of humanism and statism, and our schools and colleges have been largely captured by these forces, as have been most publishers and periodicals.

This movement has been a long time in developing: it cannot be defeated overnight. It cannot be defeated by short-sighted people who want victory today or tomorrow, and are unwilling to support long-term battle. The future must be won, and shall be won, by a renewal and development of our historic Christian liberty, by an emphasis on the fact: the basic government is the self-government of the Christian man, and by a recognition that an informed faith is the mainspring of victory. History has never been dominated by majorities, but only by dedicated minorities who stand unconditionally on their faith.[27] [Emphases Rushdoony’s]

 May the Puritan and Pilgrim covenant be confirmed, and may God’s remnant in America receive the blessings of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians (1:17-21):

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.


       [1] The Mayflower Compact, http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/mayflower_compact_text.htm, Dowloaded March 11, 2014.

       [2] Sermon text taken from https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/winthrop.htm, Downloaded March 12, 2014.

       [3] Sutton, That You May Prosper, 118.

       [4] Rushdoony, Romans & Galatians, (Vallecito, California: Ross House Books, 1997), 66.

       [5] Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, 209-210.

       [6] Ibid, xii-xiii.

       [7] Bojidar Marinov, “Relationship vs. Purpose: How the Church Destroys the Christian Family,” http://americanvision.org/5555/relationship-vs-purpose-how-the-church-destroys-the-christian-family/#sthash.g1w0K5YG.dpbs, Downloaded March 12, 2014.

       [8] “Five Myths About Young Adult Church Dropouts,” https://www.barna.org/barna-update/teens-nextgen/534-five-myths-about-young-adult-church-dropouts#.UyEWATEo5lY, Downloaded March 12, 2014.

       [9] Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia, 126.

       [10] Ibid.

       [11] Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, 26.

       [12] K. Swanson, Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child (Parker, Colorado: Generations with Vision, 2010), 140.

       [13] “Christians: More Like Jesus or Pharisees?” https://www.barna.org/barna-update/faith-spirituality/611-christians-more-like-jesus-or-pharisees#.UyOelzEo5lY, Downloaded March 14, 2014.

       [14] Swanson, 33.

       [15] Ibid, 46.

       [16] Ray Sutton, Who Owns the Family? God or the State? (Fort Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1986), 128.

       [17] Ibid.

       [18] Ibid, 133.

       [19] Ibid, 134-138.

       [20] Ibid, 138.

       [21] Ibid, 138-139.

       [22] Ibid, 155.

       [23] “Christianity Today—General Statistics and Facts of Christianity,” http://christianity.about.com/od/denominations/p/christiantoday.htm, Downloaded March 15, 2014.

       [24] Gary North, “What Are Biblical Blueprints?” in George Grant, The Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action (Fort Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987), 195-196.

       [25] Sutton, Who Owns the Family? God or the State? 168-169.

       [26] Robert Thoburn, The Children Trap: Biblical Principles for Education (Fort Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1986), 122.

       [27] Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 545.

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Rushdoony and the Covenant in Education Part 4 (Sanctions)

Abraham was instructed to bring five different types of animals: a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. They were cut in half, and the halves being separated, were placed in front of Abraham. Normally, Abraham would have passed between the animals, and burned them with fire to seal the covenant. By this time, however, a day had gone by and the sun was about to set. God made Abraham fall asleep, and He passed between the animals, burning them with fire. He takes an oath, sanctioning Himself for Abraham’s benefit. Here are the ingredients of the next principle of covenantalism, the actual process of ratification. To cut a covenant, three elements are necessary: sanctions, oath, and witnesses.

All of these elements are present in the fourth section of Deuteronomy (27-30). Israel accepted the sanctions of blessing and cursing by dividing into two groups on Mt. Gerizim (blessing) and Mt. Ebal (cursing). They received the sanctions by sacred oath, saying “amen” to the curses of the covenant. Finally, the witnesses of “heaven and earth” verified the authenticity of the ceremony. This momentous occasion was the actual ratification of the covenant.[1] [Emphases Sutton’s]

 Ray Sutton summarizes the elements of biblical sanctions:

First, [they] are blessing and cursing. Blessing always has to do with the reception of inheritance (Gen. 48:1-22). This inheritance is personal and cultural, everything from holiness to financial and civilizational prosperity (Deut. 28:1-14)…

Second, the sanctions of blessing and cursing are actually promises. This promissory idea goes back to the garden. God promised the blessing of rest on the Sabbath Day (Gen. 2:1-3), and He promised the curse of death if the tree of knowledge of good and evil were eaten (Gen. 2:15-17). Because the sanctions were issued beforehand, they were promissory in character…

Third, the sanctions are judicial, involving a judgment before blessing…

Fourth, dual sanctions imply that there is one covenant with two sanctions of blessing and cursing. Both are applied, not just one. And because there are two sanctions, it is possible to break the covenant…[2]

 No grammatical arguments or rhetorical maneuvering of the Hebrew or Greek can change God’s cause-and-effect way of dealing with man.[3] The entire biblical pattern bears out that external obedience brings external blessing. This is why some non-Christians can be so prosperous without taking advantage of others; they simply live by the terms of God’s commandments. They are either on the road to salvation, or God has granted them sufficient common grace to live relatively well for the sake of His Kingdom.

Rushdoony explains the concept of sanctions this way: God “has established certain returns in the form of rewards and penalties in the very nature of the universe as well as in moral law (Exodus 20:5, 6; Judges 5:20). Thus, any attack on the idea of rewards and punishment is an attack on God’s order.”[4] No one can reasonably allegorize or disregard, for example, the blessings of Deuteronomy 28:3-6:

Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.

Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.

Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

Nor can any honest and consistent Bible student claim that the many curses in the same chapter do not apply to now, unless somehow he can show that God was unjust in Moses’ day and is in New Testament times willing to excuse man’s sin. Moses is clear in representing Jehovah’s malediction:

Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country.

Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

Cursed shall be the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.

Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. (Deuteronomy 28:16-19.

Our Heavenly Father would not be just if He only blessed; He would be some creation of many modern imaginations, a Santa Claus or doting American grandfather who sees no wrong. As Rushdoony writes, “[I]t is impossible to bless without cursing. To reward righteousness requires punishing evil. And the true God is the God of Scripture, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who blesses and curses.”[5]

Responsibilities, Blessings and Curses

A review of Rushdoony’s list of parental responsibilities as per the Fifth Commandment would be helpful at this time:  chastisement, a godly and practical education, responsibility, and family identity.

To highlight the importance of chastising children, Rushdoony quotes Derek Kidner and the book of Proverbs:

First, “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”; it will take more than words to dislodge it (22:15). Secondly, character (in which wisdom embodies itself) is a plant that grows more sturdily for some cutting back (cf. 15:32, 33; 5:11, 12; Heb. 12:11)—and this from early days (13:24b: “betimes”; cf. 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it”). In “a child left to himself” the only predictable product is shame (29:15).[6]

If parents teach their offspring diligently from Proverbs, the wise character of those children will grow as they grow in stature; of course, they also have to do what the book says. The blessing is wisdom, the curse is shame.

Secondly, as children are to obey their parents, the parents are to teach them the law and goodness of God. Hebrew children heard the entire law every seven years. Between the comprehensive readings, they were to receive thorough instruction by their parents and by the Levites. This was no set of abstract ideas; it was, as shown below in the twelve instances of specific curses, practical and useful. While to the Greeks learning was all ideas and to the Romans it was all doing, to the people of God it should be both. This includes a person’s learning to work with his hands, but it also includes being literate and able to engage the culture around him. As Rushdoony says, “A man who can barely read and write, and whose ability to organize and order his life is almost nil, becomes, when converted, a redeemed child of God, but a very ineffective one.”[7] The ability to use knowledge in a godly way is a blessing; ignorance is a curse.

But godly and responsible it must be. Parents should first be responsible to show how a husband, wife, father, and mother should conduct themselves. They should pray for and model a willingness and ability to overcome the tests of life. They must not send the children into the world “without a value structure.”[8] Unfortunately, the early part of the 20th century saw a massive familial escape from the education of children, trustingly turning them over to civil authorities:

In modern education, the state is the educator, and the state is held to be the responsible agency rather than man. Such a perspective works to destroy the pupil, whose basic lesson becomes a dependence on the state. The state, rather than the individual and the family, is looked to for moral decision and action, and the moral role of the individual is to assent to and bow down before the state. Statist education is at the very least implicitly anti-Biblical, even when and where it gives the Bible a place in the curriculum.[9]

The state, which should be a defender and a blessing to the church and family, has become the curse.

Finally, children should learn that they are part of a family and will one day be part of one which they will either lead or help to lead. This involves boys learning to be godly men and girls godly women. In the 21st century the attack on biblical sex roles has been almost overwhelming. Sodomy is not only tolerated but seen in a positive light in American schools. Seventeen states have already approved homosexual marriage, and court cases overturning other states’ legislation have become increasingly common.[10] As Romans 1 stipulates, homosexuality is the curse, not the cause of a curse. The litany of other modern curses is legion: births out of wedlock, divorce, absent fathers, rebellious children, criminal violence, adultery, fornication, and widespread theft to name a few.

One blessing, however, must be celebrated: the phenomenon of home education. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, between 250,000 and 340,000 children were home schooled in the United States in 2000-2001. These numbers include only students in grades 9-12. HSLDA President Dr. Brian Ray says that in the last two decades, home schooling has grown between seven and 15% annually.[11] All these figures are conservative estimates since many families do not report to or belong to any organized educational or support group. While the civil government has become a curse, home schooling has been a reformational blessing.

Case Laws and Curses

To illustrate the specific and concrete nature of God’s law, below is a review of twelve curses discussed by Rushdoony from Deuteronomy 27:15-26. The reader should remember that this book covers the end of Moses’ life, after he had led God’s people for forty years in the wilderness; it is the second giving of the law. It is a reminder of how the Hebrews were to live after entering the Promised Land. These laws called for curses

  1. against      secret breaches of the second commandment (Ex. 20:4), vs. 15;
  2. against      contempt of or lack of due respect of parents (Ex. 20:12), vs. 16;
  3. against      all who remove their neighbor’s landmarks (Deut. 19:14), vs. 17;
  4. against      men who lead the blind astray (Lev. 19:14), vs. 18;
  5. against      all who pervert the justice due to foreigners or widows, and orphans      (Deut. 24:17), vs. 19;
  6. against      incest with a stepmother (Deut. 23:1; Lev. 18:8), vs 20;
  7. against      bestiality (Lev. 18:23), 21;
  8. against      incest with a sister or half-sister (Lev. 18:9), vs. 22;
  9. against      incest with a mother-in-law (Lev. 18:8), vs. 23;
  10. against      murder (Ex. 20:13; Num. 35:17 ff.), vs. 24;
  11. against      anyone who accepts a bribe either to kill a man outright, or to bring      about his death by false witness (Ex. 23:7, 8), vs. 25;
  12. against      any man who fails to put the law into effect, who does not make the law      the model and standard of his life and conduct (Deut. 4:6), vs. 26.[12]

These were twelve curses for the twelve tribes of Jacob. They were promises as sure as those of blessings for obedience. They were clear and precise in nature, with nothing nebulous or abstract about them; they were the type of civic education that serves well as a foundation for life.

Universal Applicability of the Covenant

Some critics of theonomy argue that the law of God does not apply to those who are not of the Hebrew race, and some claim that it does not apply to non-Christians. However, Moses quotes God as saying to Noah after the flood:

This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. (Genesis 9:9-15)

For those who will not accept God’s original covenant with Adam, they should know that God began again with man through His servant Noah. The passage above does not give any living creature an excuse for rejecting God’s covenant, since every human being came from Noah’s loins more immediately than from Adam’s. In Moses’ time, God repeated the idea before leading His people into the land of Canaan: “I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the Lord our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today….” (Deuteronomy 29:14-15)

Yet still some will argue against applying the law of God to New Testament times, citing passages like Acts 15, where the apostles tell believers in Christ that they do not have to obey the law. The context was specifically referring to ceremonial laws, which of course the sacrifice of the Lamb of God has performed once for all. The Commandments are still in force. Consider the following passage from Ephesians 4 and 5:

4:25     Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.  This echoes the Ninth Commandment.

4:26     Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath…. This echoes the Sixth Commandment.

4:28     Let him who stole steal no longer….  This echoes the Eighth Commandment.

4:28b   but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.  This echoes the Fourth Commandment.

 4:29     Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. This echoes the Third Commandment.

 4:30     And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. This echoes the First and Second Commandments.

5:1       Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. This echoes the Fifth Commandment.

5:3            But fornication and all uncleanness….  This echoes the Seventh Commandment.

5:3b     or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints…. This echoes the Tenth Commandment.

Now, were these just suggestions born of Paul’s morality, or are they inspired commands of God’s Holy Spirit for men to obey? This apostolic interpretation and application of God’s laws can be found throughout the entire New Testament. Thankfully, God’s ways do not change.

Conclusion

As the Christian reawakening continues to open men’s eyes and hearts to the effectual nature of the law of God for all areas of life and all periods of human history, the enemies of God begin to scramble and search for their own answers. They begin to see the writing on the wall (Daniel 5), how they are being weighed and found wanting. As they push back, the righteous will stand firm. Though unruliness, war, financial collapses, skepticism, and misery abound in the world, a new age is dawning and time is the Christian’s friend. What Rushdoony wrote in 1961 is coming to pass:

[I]t is also an era of heightened challenge and creativity, and of intense vitality. And because of the intensification of issues, and their worldwide scope, never has an era faced a more demanding and exciting crisis. This then above all else is the great and glorious era to live in, a time of opportunity, one requiring fresh and vigorous thinking, indeed a glorious time to be alive.[13]


       [1] Sutton, That You May Prosper, 77-78.

       [2] Ibid, 78, 79.

       [3] Ibid, 80.

       [4] Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 536.

       [5] Rushdoony, Law & Liberty (Vallecito, California: Ross House Books, 1984), 127.

       [6] D. Kidner, Proverbs, An Introduction and Commentary (Chicago: Intervarsity Press, 1964), 51. Cited in Rushdoony, The Institute of Biblical Law, 182.

       [7] Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, 122.

       [8] Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 184.

       [9] Ibid.

       [10] Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement, “Support for same-sex marriage hits new high; half say Constitution guarantees right,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/support-for-same-sex-marriage-hits-new-high-half-say-constitution-guarantees-right/2014/03/04/f737e87e-a3e5-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html. March 4, 2014. Downloaded March 10, 2014.

       [11] “Home Schooling Research: Frequently Asked Questions,” https://www.hslda.org/research/faq.asp, Downloaded March 10, 2014.

       [12] Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 661.

       [13] Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia, 119-120.

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Rushdoony and the Covenant in Education Part 3 (Ethics)

David knew the authority in history that the revealed law of God offers to those who take it seriously and conform themselves to it. He announced his reliance on biblical law and the tremendous advantage it gave him: wisdom. The law of God is a tool of dominion, a means of spiritual advancement, and the foundation of progress: personal, spiritual, intellectual, and cultural. This is the message of the 119th psalm, the longest passage in the Bible, a psalm devoted to praising the law of God. By understanding the law of God and applying it in his life, a person advances the kingdom of God in history. So it was with David. He identified himself as one who had advanced beyond previous generations.[1]

 As Gary North’s passage above indicates, biblical law is an undeniable characteristic of Christian thought, reintroduced to Christendom in the 20th century by men known as Christian reconstructionists. In the same book, Gary DeMar lists the most commonly recognized distinctives of this doctrine:

  1. regarding regeneration: salvation by grace through faith;
  2. the continuing validity and applicability of the whole law of God [presented and enforced through covenant theology];
  3. a victorious view of the future progress of the kingdom of God prior to the return of Christ;
  4. presuppositional apologetics as opposed to evidentialism; and
  5. a decentralized social order where civil government is only one legitimate government among many other governments.[2]

Law deals with ethics, the study of right and wrong. The belief that the entire law of God is applicable today and should in fact be the blueprint for all civil law, actually in every sphere of life, is called theonomy. Therefore, reconstructionists are sometimes called theonomists. The ethical demands of any institution will determine its success and failure to the degree that its members obey and disobey the applicable laws. Biblically-based laws make for an objective standard for all people; God’s law, like Him, is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Consequently, “[l]aw is divisive always, and God’s sovereign law especially divisive, so that history is a process whereby epistemological self-consciousness brings a progressive division and discrimination to focus.”[3] In other words, as people live more and more according to their confessed beliefs, the differences in respective philosophy and practice are more stark and distinguishable.

That discrimination must be connected to or grounded to something stable, that is, some limiting boundaries on authority to exercise the law. Rushdoony put it this way:

God’s law, by reserving, in one area after another, the right of enforcement to God alone, severely limits the power of all human forms of government. Neither church, nor state, nor any other human agency, is empowered to play God. Moreover, we do not gain in holiness by becoming “stricter” than God: we gain only in presumptuous sin. God alone is God: He does not delegate His throne nor His sovereign law-making power to any human being or agency. To become “stricter” than God’s law, as one pastor boasted to me of being, is to imply a moral defect in God and is blasphemy.

God’s law thus allows man many areas of freedom to obey or disobey without man-imposed penalties. The result is a great freedom for man to sin or to obey than most man-made institutions believe is wise. Certainly, church and state have alike worked to limit the freedom God allows.

One critic of Biblical law has declared to me that any strict adherence in every realm to God’s order would be “disastrous,” first, because in a few areas God’s law is marked by an “undue severity,” as witness the death penalty for adultery. (The family being God’s basic institution, treason in the Bible is adultery; there is no treason with respect to the state.) Second, in most areas, Biblical law would produce “anarchy,” because no penalties can be enforced by man in any strict reading thereof.[4]

Critics or opponents of the law are called antinomian; they believe “that faith frees the Christian from the law, so that he is not outside the law but is rather dead to the law. There is no warrant whatsoever in Scripture for antinomianism.”[5] The law’s sentence of death against the believer has been paid by Christ, “but the believer is alive to the law as the righteousness of God.”[6] Rushdoony provides an analysis of biblical law:

  1. law is revelation. The Hebrew word for law is torah, which means instruction, authoritative direction.[7]
  2. it is a treaty or covenant;[8] and
  3. it constitutes a plan for dominion under God;[9]

Biblical law has several characteristics described by Rushdoony in the Institutes: 

  1. certain broad premises or principles are declared. These are declarations of basic law. The Ten Commandments give us such declarations;[10]
  2. the major portion of the law is case law, i.e., the illustration of the basic principle in terms of specific cases;[11] and
  3. the law has as its purpose and direction the restitution of God’s order;[12]

If God’s law is sovereign over man, then any education that does not include indoctrination in the nature and meaning of law is not true education. Children may acquire much knowledge and learn many skills; but unless it is God’s knowledge and wisdom, it is in vain. As Solomon said:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.  
(Ecclesiastes 12:12-14)

The way to walk safely and successfully in God’s world is to learn and live by covenant theology. This doctrine has addressed, since long before the founding of this nation, faith for all of life, not just a program for getting people to heaven but “a plan of conduct, and a philosophy of history as well as the foundation of education.”[13]

On this foundation must be built any rearing of children if it is to be in God’s will. And since God’s will is revealed in His law and His law is revealed in His Book, the Holy Scriptures must be the basis for all schooling, whether in the home or in any other context. To abandon biblical law is to invite an eventual cultural end that can be described as “a time of turmoil, war, economic catastrophe, cynicism, lawlessness, and distress.”[14]

Biblically-based Teaching

In The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, Rushdoony gives a detailed blueprint for ensuring that all learning be in accordance with God’s law (see Appendix B). Here are some excerpts related to morality and biblical ethics; the book is divided into five untitled parts:

Part I

Chapter 1:  “Religion, Culture, and Curriculum”

Only by reclaiming…the curriculum of Christian liberty…can education be…a liberating force, and man be delivered from the devastating and enslaving forces of amoral statism and anarchistic individualism.[15]

Chapter 2:  “Changing a Curriculum”

When China adopted a relativistic faith in change as ultimate, its education became static and unchanging, because no transcendental God and law remained to provide a critique of history or a principle of differentiation.           [16]

Chapter 3:  “Education and the Autonomy of Critical Thought”

As long as the educational curriculum functions…in terms of the autonomy of critical thought, the school remains, however evangelical its faculty, an implicitly anti-Christian institution.[17]   

Part II

Chapter 1:  “History versus Social Science”

       History is not a social science; it is a theological science, because it is an aspect of God’s creation.[18]

Chapter 2:  “Teaching Bible”

Bible classes are a failure unless the essentials of Biblical faith are applied to every course in the school.[19]

Chapter 3:  “Grammar”

       Language and grammar reflect the time-sense of a people, their religious faith concerning the meaning of time.[20]

Chapter 4:  “Teaching Composition”

       The teaching of language far more than the teaching of logic is the teaching of sound and logical thinking.[21]

Chapter 5:  “Mathematics”

The Christian metaphysics of mathematics is founded in the being of the triune God.[22]

Chapter 6:  “Teaching Civics, Government and Constitution”

       A faithless ministry in the state should be as important a concern to us as a faithless ministry in the church.[23]

Chapter 7:  “Science”

       We are…told that because the sciences are concerned with the physical world, they are concerned with reality, it being implied that Christianity is not concerned with reality but with vague spiritual assumptions.[24]  

Chapter 8:  “Science and Freedom”

It is basic to any teaching of science…that the idea of an impersonal realm of law and matter be discarded.[25]            

Chapter 10:  “The Experimental Method”

       Apart from [the Bible], we have the superstitions of modern humanistic education (e.g., spontaneous generation, evolution, etc.) and a growing moral decay and social disintegration.[26]

Chapter 11:  “Music”

       [Bach’s music] followed the standards, i.e., expressing religious emotion, joy, or in some other way manifesting a unity of mind and feeling.[27]                      

Chapter 12:  “Foreign Languages”

Christianity has fostered foreign language study because Christianity sees its necessary commission to all the world.[28]

       [O]ur faith…tells us of the origin of diverse languages in the curse of Babel… The Bible reshapes every language it is translated into, and it draws it closer thereby to all other languages.[29]           

Part III

Chapter 1:  “Education and the Fall:  Up or Down?”

[W]hereas once the reformed faith was a total world and life view, it is now only a theology, a fact which is compelling evidence of retreat.[30]

Chapter 2:  “The Covenant:  With God or Man?”

       Having declared himself to be god, autonomous man will allow no other gods before him and will be at total war with God, man, and meaning.[31]

Chapter 3:  “Education and the Death of Man”

The problem then is that man cannot know himself in a world without meaning, because there is no criterion for knowledge, discernment, or judgment…  [T]he logical conclusion of the Death of God idea is the death of man.[32]

 Chapter 4:  “Conflict and Resistance”

       The civil authority, where it regulates a building as a building per se, i.e., for sanitary facilities, fire protection, and the like, is to be obeyed…. However, where the state seeks to license, accredit, control, or in any way govern the Christian School as a school, it is then another question. It is a usurpation of power by the state, and it involves the control of one religion, Christianity, by another, Humanism.[33]

Part IV

Chapter 1:  “The Philosophy of Discipline”

       Parents need to be told that they are not paying the Christian School to take over the problems of education and discipline from their hands, but to assist the parent in that task.[34]  

Chapter 2:  “Student Problems”

The state schools are…incompetent in dealing with problems of delinquent behavior because they begin with false premises… The root problem in all delinquency at whatever age is always sin. In any case of unrepentant sin, the Bible gives…a clear-cut duty:  excommunication.[35]

Chapter 3:  “Humanism in the Classroom”

A man cannot be holy or moral outside of Jesus Christ, nor can a man have true knowledge apart from Him… A school course which is not systematically Biblical is a hidden enemy to the faith.[36]

Chapter 5:  “Sexual Differences in the Christian School”

       It is not a man’s world, nor a woman’s world. This is God’s world, and we are His creatures, called to serve Him. Our differences are God-given and are to complement one another in His service and to His praise and glory.[37] 

Chapter 7:  “Biblical Motivation for Teachers and Students”

In our day…sin is not seen as depravity but as deprivation.

       The Christian School must restore God’s requirements in order to get godly results. The sinners and the lazy need to be afraid, and the godly need to be encouraged and praised.[38]

Chapter 9:  “Education for Freedom”

       Christian education is…not the curriculum with the Bible added to it, but a curriculum in which the word of God governs and informs every subject.[39]

Part V

Chapter 1:  “Christianity versus Humanism”

       Christian schools are a necessity, or else we will have anti-Christian schools. For Christianity to by-pass education, to neglect Christian schools, is suicidal.[40]

Chapter 3:  “The Religious Goals of Humanism”

Dewey regarded his position as a religious one. For him, truth came, not by revelation nor from the supernatural; rather the “one sure road of access to truth” is “the road of patient, cooperative inquiry operating by means of observation, experiment, record, and controlled reflection.”

       For Dewey…the unity of mankind is an unquestioned and dogmatic faith… The goal of history for Dewey is a humanistic New Jerusalem and millennial regime he calls…“the great Community.”  There is grace in Dewey’s religious world, but it comes, not from God but from the human community…[41]

Life and Promise in the Midst of Apostasy

            The elements of covenant discussed so far, that is, the transcendence, authority structure, and ethical nature of God, are evident throughout Rushdoony’s book. Biblically-based teaching indoctrinates children and “brain” washes them with the ever-present Word of God.

The enemies of God, nevertheless, suppose they can create educational conditions that will keep out the Spirit of God, preventing Him from leading students into all truth (John 16:13). They employ a behaviorist approach that, more than indoctrinate, conditions the child.[42] In a sense, they are correct if an education devoid of discipline and chastisement is assumed; if God does not change hearts, then the old saying holds true: “What do you get when you educate a thief (or liar, or any other bad character)? Answer: An educated thief.” Students taught in a godless, humanistic system do not have to use reason or meditate on God’s commands and His definition of right and wrong; they need merely to react and respond based on the ingrained evolutionary, relativistic, Bible-excluding dogma of the public system.

This produces children and adults who question why it might not be wrong to have any other gods before Jehovah (though they might not say it in those terms). In their hearts they bow down to modern gods, usually of their own creation but based on the stimuli around them. They do not think there is any being whose name can actually be taken in vain. They either refuse to work or work to exhaustion, without an idea of proper work-rest relationship…since there is no day for them to remember and keep holy. They see their parents as equal, or in many cases as subordinate to them. They hate, lust, steal, lie, and covet. They are taught that these attitudes and actions are legitimate expressions of their individuality. They are being led to hell by their educational leaders, and many parents are complicit.

But real hope exists. Rushdoony talks about how the Pilgrims and Puritans in early 17th century America implemented the covenant’s development of its life and promises by educating their children.  Their education “did not function to sever home ties…but to confirm them, in that it worked to develop more fully man’s knowledge, righteousness, holiness and dominion in terms of every aspect of life.”[43] It was productive of able scholars and godly members of society; it looked to “the inheritance from the past and the promises of the future.”[44] By rejecting categorically the “indifference to good and evil, a proscription of character and merit in favor of wickedness and sloth,”[45] they influenced the Church and the politics of the time.

Puritans can still be found today. They are the parents and preachers who tell God and who preach

Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
(Psalm 119:97-98)

And they live and practice their faith wherever they go, in every sphere of life where they engage the predominant culture. They are also the children who are afraid to disappoint God and their parents. They watch what they say. They learn to work hard and to honor God by resting when they should. They grow not to hate, lust, steal, lie, and covet.

In short, biblical law is the tool for dominion in a person’s own life, in the family, church, job, civil government…everywhere. As Rushdoony quotes Calvin, “[T]he law is a silent magistrate….”[46] It behooves all men to listen, trust, and obey.


       [1] G. DeMar and G. North, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), xvii.

       [2] Ibid, 81-82.

       [3] Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, 211.

       [4] Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 12-13.

       [5] Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 2-3.

       [6] Ibid, 3.

       [7] Ibid, 6.

       [8] Ibid, 7.

       [9] Ibid, 8.

       [10] Ibid, 10.

       [11] Ibid, 11.

       [12] Ibid, 12.

       [13] Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia, 9.

       [14] Ibid, 119.

       [15] Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, 12.

       [16] Ibid, 13.

       [17] Ibid, 17.

       [18] Ibid, 40.

       [19] Ibid, 44.

       [20] Ibid, 49.

       [21] Ibid, 52.

       [22] Ibid, 58.

       [23] Ibid, 59.

       [24] Ibid, 65.

       [25] Ibid, 68.

       [26] Ibid, 78.

       [27] Ibid, 82.

       [28] Ibid, 87.

       [29] Ibid.

       [30] Ibid, 91.

       [31] Ibid, 100.

       [32] Ibid, 103.

       [33] Ibid, 107-108.

       [34] Ibid, 123.

       [35] Ibid, 125.

       [36] Ibid, 130, 131.

       [37] Ibid, 138.

       [38] Ibid, 147.

       [39] Ibid, 157.

       [40] Ibid, 174.

       [41] Ibid, 184, 185.

       [42] Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, 167.

       [43] Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia, 9.

       [44] Ibid.

       [45] Ibid.

       [46] Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction, 21.

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Rushdoony and the Covenant in Education Part 2 (Hierarchy)

Q. Would you tell the court what those responsibilities are [of the parents to the children concerning education]?

A. The parent is responsible to God to rear his child in the fear and admonition of the Lord, to cite the precept of Proverbs. According to the summary of the Old Testament made by the rabbis, a father who did not teach his children to read the Torah, in other words the basic skills, and a trade with his hands, taught his child to be a thief. As a result, going back, foreign to pre-Christian eras, Israel was the only nation in the world with literacy among the ordinary people. At the time of Christ the synagogue schools covered the land of Judea, Galilee and the diaspora. Wherever Jews were the synagogue schools prevailed. This was the pattern in the early church which was first known as a Christian synagogue, and according to patristic literature they began immediately to imitate the pattern even to the offices, the office of elder, the office of teacher and so on. This was revived very strongly by the Puritans especially in this country and set the pattern of parental responsibility, to teach the child the basic skills so that they could become fully literate and to teach them how to work. This is why we were unequaled among the nations of the world in the high rate of literacy long before there was a compulsory education law.[1]

Hierarchy deals with authority or representation. Man, and more specifically redeemed man, represents his Creator and Lord. Redeemed man is a member of God’s wife, that is, the Church of His Son. Therefore, the world reports to the Church for orders. Whether fallen man knows it or not, if he is not submitting to covenantal relationship with God, he is still living under a covenant; in other words, he implicitly or explicitly chooses to enter into covenant with the enemy of the Church, the Devil. In the area of education, the parents, representatives of God in the home, are entrusted with and responsible for training their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).

Parental Responsibilities

When parents have the boldness to act on their conviction to teach their children at all hours of the day, they are competing with the civil government’s claim to those would-be public school students; and some school districts take families to court for those students. This was done many times, especially in the 1980s. By the time Rushdoony began testifying in court cases as an expert witness, he had written extensively on the topic of education. His major literary work, The Institutes of Biblical Law, is a detailed commentary of the Ten Commandments. In discussing the Fifth Commandment (Honor your father and mother so that it may go well with you on earth and you will live a long life), he lays out the responsibility of parents: they are to instruct children who will

  1. receive chastisement as opposed to “a foolish pity”[2];
  2. receive a “godly education”;[3]
  3. receive an “intensely practical”[4] education;
  4. grow to be “responsible people”[5]      [emphasis Rushdoony’s];
  5. as per their calling, become members of a family;[6] and
  6. accomplish “godly learning.”[7]

As without the fear of God man cannot acquire true knowledge and wisdom, so without discipline the child will not grow in sanctification, and so without proper chastisement when needed the child cannot develop maturity. Rushdoony explains:

Chastisement is not the same as punishment, which is a matter of retribution. Chastisement is corrective and merciful in purpose. Its meaning is very clear in Hebrews 12:5-11. Chastening is there set forth as evidence of the Father’s love and concern for His sons and His correction of them.

            The word discipline is close to the word disciple. It means to make a disciple of someone, to drill and educate them, and to bring them into effective obedience to someone or something.

            Chastisement without discipline is ineffective. Too many parents think that, by beating their children or scolding them endlessly, they will thereby discipline them effectively. Unless someone is first of all disciplined, chastisement accomplishes nothing. All that remains for that person in punishment and judgment.[8] [Emphasis Rushdoony’s]

A child of any age must be chastised when he is being disobedient; excusing or defending him does not help him deal with God, man, or the world around him. “We sin if we do not confront sin as sin.[9] [Emphasis Rushdoony’s]

But humanistic man is concerned with the child’s needs, not his responsibilities. The child needs understanding and gentleness from those who teach him, goes the thinking; if he is repressed or corrected wrongly, he can become depressed or react negatively. However, this line of thinking invariably projects the child’s needs to society’s, and ultimately to the civil authority which must care for the nurturing of these social beings. The child’s needs eventually are replaced by the needs of the state, as in “Scientists are needed and engineers.”[10] In God’s eyes, the beloved child needs chastisement and discipline, and any parents who do not provide those do not love the way God says and does.

Secondly, parents owe their children an education of God. Just as children should obey their parents, the parents ought to obey the LORD’s commands to instruct them. To pass on that responsibility is to reject their position as representatives of the sovereign. “Education by the state will have statist ends. Education by the church will be geared to promoting the church.”[11] Whether parents turn their children over to a school for teachers to function in loco parentis (in the place of the parents) is a complex issue that will be addressed later, but parents must know that enrolling their child in a school, Christian or secular, does not excuse them of their responsibility before God.

A godly education does not mean only taking the children to church and having them participate in sacraments and church programs. Those can be parts of their learning, as can be catechism, prayer, Bible study, and psalms and spiritual songs. But the most essential element is the parents’ modeling of Christians who study to show themselves approved (II Timothy 2:15). The children will become what they see every day.

Parents must also avoid the snares of both the pseudo-intellectual modernistic scholasticism and the post-modern abstract, rudderless teaching. The scholastics of the Middle Ages believed that man can arrive at truth in many different ways, that it can come from many different sources. The post-modernists of the 19th and 20th centuries believed that man cannot arrive at truth regardless of the path, maybe one has his truth and another has his own; but absolute truth does not exist. Lest they fall in either trap, children must be taught from the beginning that truth is a person, and that all real truth is derived only from Him.

Understanding the concept of truth facilitates accomplishing Rushdoony’s third point on the responsibilities of parents. The Hebrews taught their children in no uncertain terms what truth was. They also taught them how to live. “The common opinion held that a man who did not teach his son the law and a trade, the ability to work, reared him to be a fool and a thief.”[12] Rushdoony emphasizes the importance of practicality: “Greek education veered from the severely practical to the abstract and theoretical…whereas Biblical law has a healthy relationship between principle and practice.”[13]

Strictly abstract teaching is not just impractical, it is irrelevant and leads to meaninglessness. The child can learn music, art, poetry, math and science well enough. However, modern education holds that music and art can be excellent without conventions; it can be all emotion and personal interpretation. And a poem need not have meaning or be written within technical parameters. Efforts have been made by progressive educators

to remedy this lack and give relationship to learning by relating it to everyday life. But the relationship is made at the wrong end. It is useless to try to relate arithmetic to savings and thrift, to interest and investment, if one does not consider life worth living to begin with, if the values of economy and investment have no significance.[14]

Fourth, as members of a family, parents and children work toward producing responsible adults. A young person who grows in responsibility learns from, expects to, and does care for his parents when they are old; for he has seen his own parents care for him when he needed care. He learns to work and leaves a legacy for his own children.[15] He has a purpose for his life beyond himself. But most of all, the child learns is that no one else, including church and civil government, is responsible for his family.  He learns to be a provider in the image of the God whose provision he sees throughout his life.

All educators would argue that they teach students responsibility; however, the meanings are different for this term depending on people’s beliefs and presuppositions.

Humanism sees two kinds of responsibility. First, man can be viewed as responsible to society, to his country, or to mankind as a whole. In this view, collective man replaces God as the agency to whom man is accountable. Second, man can be viewed as responsible to his existential self, called to rid himself of the accretions imposed by God, church, family, and society, and to realize himself as an existential man. Here, the individual replaces God. In both cases, freedom is from God to man.[16]

The Christian educator knows that man’s responsibility is “to God, and to man under God and according to the word of God.”[17] Man can be free only as he is freed from sin; otherwise, he is under bondage of his will and fallen nature to sin.

To speak of being free to do God’s will has real-life implications. Since institutions are composed of human beings, the human members of an institution will live according to the freedom they have or lack, causing in time a rise or fall in institutional authority. Rushdoony expounds on this idea: “Freedom becomes both the privilege and responsibility of authority, and a necessary condition to its operation. Freedom and authority have thus been closely linked, and the increase of authority in any one realm means a corresponding decline of freedom in another.”[18]

Fifth, the parents are responsible to produce responsible adults who grow to lead their own families. They are prepared to take dominion in other spheres of life when they have developed their own character and come to see the value that God places on the family structure and institution. Rushdoony says, “Since dominion is by God’s creative purpose a basic aspect of man, any education which diminishes man’s calling to exercise dominion also diminishes man to the same degree.”[19]

Children learn from their parents how to take dominion. The family is the first school, church, and government. If indoctrinated in the Christian life, they mature into parents, aunts, and uncles who will be capable of sharing with the next generation how their family lives the Christian life.

Finally, parents must teach. Of course, that teaching should be biblical; and it should produce responsible, practical, disciplined young adults. But the key here is that the child must be, as Moses exhorted the Hebrews in Deuteronomy 6, taught God’s ways at all times. The knowledge of God must be the priority in everything the child learns. Parents under God are the most equipped people to carry out this task.

Christian parents must understand and teach their children that the family is not the entirety of the Kingdom of God, and that neither is the Church. However, since everything belongs to Him, His kingdom encompasses everything. As a member of Christ’s Church, the Christian is to take the life of the Kingdom to all corners of the earth; after all, our LORD said that He had received all authority everywhere (Matthew 28:18). As parents represent God to their family, so do Christians represent God to the world:

The Kingdom of God on earth had an earthly and visible authority in which the sovereignty and manifestation of God and His Kingdom were revealed. Both the authentic authority and interpretation of that Kingdom came from that one “supreme power” which could “only be judged by God, not by man.”[20]

 Crisis and Awakening

Modern man, however, refuses to be judged by the Triune God of the Bible. When Horace Mann and his Unitarian cohorts of the 1800s established the modern version of public schools, their objective was “two-fold, first to secularize education, and second to make it the province of the state rather than the community and parents.”[21] They succeeded, and in the process “changed the function of education from ‘mere learning’ or religiously oriented education, to ‘social efficiency, civic virtue, and character.’”[22]

America’s condition at the outset of the 21st century is far from the biblical norm. A nation’s refusal of the sovereignty of God will inevitably bring a crisis, and “the crisis of modern civilization is in part the break-down of the concept of authority.”[23] That break-down in comprehending legitimate representation has produced the popular belief that the civil government’s responsibility “to promote the general welfare”[24] includes taking children that do not belong to it, housing them in government buildings, and bringing them up in the way government officials think they ought to go.

Against this tyranny Rushdoony wrote and spoke incessantly. His testimony in the Leeper case was typical of those efforts.

Q. Okay. So a student may overcome certain handicaps and learn in spite of that difficulty?

A. Yes

Q. But you would have to look at that situation, you?

A. Well, it depends on who you are and what rights to look at it or what concerns of yours it is, yes. Someone would –

Q. I mean, it bears looking at?

A. Yes.

Q. And I suppose that who gets to look at it is a question that should be decided by whom, the government?

A. Not necessarily. No one is more concerned about a child than the child’s parents under normal circumstances…[25]

The Leepers won the pivotal case, and thanks to victories like theirs, the state of Texas today respects the right of parents to educate their children. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, home schooling was legal in all fifty U. S. states by 1993.[26] An awakening is now taking place, for more and more Christian parents are daring to question the business of Caesar in raising their children.


       [1] Transcript from Leeper v. Arlington, 1987. http://rushdoony.sitewave.net/rushdoony-leeper-transcript-texas-homeschool-trial/. Downloaded March 1, 2014.

[2] Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973), 182.

       [3] Ibid.

       [4] Ibid, 183.

       [5] Ibid.

       [6] Ibid, 184.

       [7] Ibid, 185.

       [8] Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum, 121.

       [9] Ibid, 126.

       [10] Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia, 76.

       [11] Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 182.

       [12] Ibid, 183.

       [13] Ibid.

       [14] Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia, 35-36.

       [15] Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 184.

       [16] Rushdoony, Intellectual Schizophrenia, 157.

       [17] Ibid.

       [18] Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, 10.

       [19] Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 184.

       [20] Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education, 9.

       [21] Ibid, 27.

       [22] Ibid.

       [23] Ibid, 285.

       [24] Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, 1787.

       [25] Leeper Transcript.

       [26] S. W. Somerville, Esq., “The Politics of Survival: Home Schoolers and the Law,” http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/politicsofsurvival.asp Downloaded March 5, 2014.

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