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.
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. [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,” 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 [their] 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. 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.
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. 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, meaning God’s written code of ethics, The Bible.
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.”
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.