Only Two Things Wrong with Our Schools

March 2, 2017 in Apologetics, Children, Ecclesiology, Education, Politics, Quotations

“There are only two things wrong with our schools: everything that our children don’t learn there and everything they do. The public schools, with their vast political and bureaucratic machinery, are beyond reform. That does not mean that persons of good will should not offer themselves up as missionaries of truth and goodness and beauty, to teach there, as in partibus furibundis. But we should be quite mad to send our children there. We send missionaries to cannibals. We do not serve the cannibals our boys and girls.”

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, p. 54.

What are we to teach our kids and why?

August 22, 2016 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Children, Education, Meditations, Tradition
Psalm 78:5-8 (NKJV)
5
For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; 8 And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The opening of Psalm 78 is a fitting text for Family Camp with its mention of multiple generations – fathers and children and grandchildren. The psalmist reminds us both what God has commanded fathers to teach their children and why He has commanded us to do so.
First, what are we to teach? The text answers, God established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, and it is this testimony, this law that fathers are to teach their children. As God commanded Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” The Word of God is to saturate our homes, permeate our lives, adorn our tables, and characterize our interaction.
So why are we to teach these things to our children? Why are we to teach them the stories of Scripture, the promises of Scripture, and the warnings of Scripture? The psalmist reminds us that our purpose is not merely to fill the minds of our children with facts. Knowing what Scripture teaches is important, but this knowledge is not an end in itself. By the grace of God, this knowledge is to move, touch, and transform our children. Notice what the psalmist declares:
[We teach] That the generation to come might know them [here is the knowledge level – but note it doesn’t stay here], The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments;

Notice that our instruction serves several purposes. So, kids, take note what you are supposed to be learning from your parents. First, you are to learn the importance of giving this information, this instruction, to your children. You are going to grow up. Most likely, you are going to have children yourself. God expects you to give your kids the same Word of God you have received.
Second, God is giving you this instruction so that you might put your hope in Him. The world wants to offer you various objects of hope. Put your hope in sexual liberation; put your hope in a great education; put your hope in diversity; put your hope in a change of government; put your hope in health care; put your hope in your ability to defend yourself. The Word teaches you to put your hope in God. He will not betray you; He will not desert You; all His promises will reach their fulfillment; He is entirely trustworthy.
Third, God is giving you this instruction so that you will keep His commandments. When we learn the stories of Scripture, one of the things we learn is the seriousness with which God takes His Word and the faithfulness with which He judges His people when they ignore it. Obeying God and keeping His commandments is not optional.
The psalmist reminds us to consider, therefore, both the content and purpose of our instruction. We are to teach the Word of God not just to fill the mind but to touch the heart, move the will, and shape the conscience. Parents, how are we doing? Is the Word of God at the center of your homes? Children, how are we doing? Are you not just learning the facts but letting the facts touch your heart, shape your hope, and transform your lives?

Reminded that the Word of God is to be at the center of our family culture, let us kneel and confess that we have often neglected it.

Educating the Heart

May 29, 2016 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Children, Ecclesiology, Education, Meditations, Politics
Psalm 78:5-8 (NKJV)
For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking at one graduation and in the mail this week we have received several graduation announcements. It is that time of year; a time when the education that we have given to our children reaches a significant milestone, a significant point of transition. In addition, many of us are reaching the end of the school year and looking forward to summer break.
In light of this time of year, I felt it worthwhile to remind us the nature of a truly Christian education. Psalm 78 reminds us that the function of all our instruction is not first and foremost to fill the minds of our children with facts. Knowing what Scripture teaches is important, but this knowledge is not intended simply to sit in our heads; rather, it is to move us, to touch us, to transform us by the grace of God.
So notice three things the psalmist teaches us about education. First, educating the next generation is a command. God commanded our fathers, That they should make [his statutes] known to their children. And, kids, God commanded your fathers to do this so that you would rise up and do it: That [their children] may arise and declare them to their children. You are to learn the importance of giving this heritage to your children. You are going to grow up. You are going to have children yourself, most likely. God is giving you this instruction now so that in turn you can give it to your children.
Second, the purpose of education is to teach us to put our hope in God. That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God… A godly education is to nurture faith – to nurture an implicit trust in God. He is reliable. The world wants to offer us all kinds of objects in which to put our hope. Put your hope in an ipad; put your hope in a great education; put your hope in diversity; put your hope in a change of government; put your hope in health care; put your hope in your ability to defend yourself. The Scriptures teach us to put our hope in God. He will not betray us; He will not desert us; all His promises will reach their fulfillment; He is entirely trustworthy. A godly education cultivate faith.
Finally, the psalmist insists that a true education teaches the necessity of obedience. When we have learned what God has done in the past, when we have learned that He is totally and absolutely trustworthy, we will then be reminded to keep His commandments. That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments… A godly education teaches us the seriousness with which God takes His Word and the faithfulness with which He judges His people when they ignore it. The pathway to generational blessing is obedience.
Let us consider, therefore, what the purpose of your education is – the purpose is not just to fill the mind but to touch the heart, to move the will, to shape the conscience. Parents, how are you doing molding and shaping not just the minds of your children but their character? Children, how are you doing learning not just the facts, not just the information that is being given, but the significance of this information for your own lives?

Reminded that the function of education is to shape and mold our character and not just our minds, let us kneel and confess that we have often neglected the condition of our heart in the course of our education.

The End of Education

May 22, 2016 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Ecclesiology, Education, Work

This was a commencement address for the graduations of some students at our Trinity Home Educators Cooperative. What a privilege to be invited to speak! May the Lord’s blessings rest on these youth! (The thoughts here are similar to those in my exhortation at Christ Church for Kenton Spratt’s installation. And the central image of the two stonecutters was borrowed from James K.A. Smith’s thought provoking book You Are What You Love.)

———-

Isaiah 61:4 (NKJV)
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Once upon a time there were two skilled stonecutters working diligently at their craft. A young man walked by admiring their skill and industry. The care they took with the stone, the intricacy of their work, and the nature of their tools enchanted him. But most he was struck by their intensity; they were absorbed in their task. The young man couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the first stonecutter. “What are you doing there?”The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a quizzical look. “Well, lad, as you can see I’m cutting stone.” And with that, the man went back to his work, chisel and mallet in hand, focused and intent.
The young man moved on to the second stonecutter. He watched the stonecutter for a few minutes; noted the calluses on his hands; the dust and dirt on his apron; the blood trickling down the knuckle that he had just caught on a piece of stone. “Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the second stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a smile. “Well, lad, I’m building a cathedral.” And with that, the man pointed behind him to the plot of ground that had been cleared for the new church.
Today is a momentous day. Today is a day of transition; a day of new beginnings; a day when the old things have passed away and, behold, new things have come! You are graduating, entering into a new phase of your life. As you make this transition, I would like you to think about what you have been doing thus far and what you will be doing in the future.
Many young people are directionless and listless. They think that the purpose of education is to enable them to get a job; accomplish a task; fulfill a chore. But the education you have received and the tasks you shall yet pursue – whether that is further education or vocational training – is about far more than a job. It is about a vocation – a calling, a summons from God to use your gifts and talents for the glory of His Name and the growth of His Kingdom.
John Milton, the great Puritan author of Paradise Lost, wrote in an essay on education: “The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.”Milton reminds us that education isn’t just about the transfer of information but the process of formation – changing not just our thoughts but also our habits, our loves, our desires, our goals. Rooting out the ruins we’ve inherited from our father Adam and that we’ve created ourselves. The Spirit of God has been poured out upon us to shape us into men and women of virtue – which, when it is joined with faith in the Triune God, makes up the highest perfection, the summit of achievement, the end of education.
And the goal of being men and women of faith and virtue is that we might be instruments in God’s hands to advance the Kingdom of God in the world. God repairs the ruins of our own selves that we might be instruments in repairing the ruins of the world. Listen to Isaiah’s vision for you: And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Isaiah reminds us that the work to which God has called you is not merely cutting stone, not merely getting a degree, not merely doing a job. The work to which God has called you is to rebuild the old ruins, and raise up the former desolations. Your task is glorious – it is to reverse the effects of the Fall by laboring for the expansion of God’s kingdom; to repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. This is what you have been doing and what you are yet called to do. Not merely cutting stones, but building cathedrals.

Do you see that? When someone asks you in days to come – be you plumber, nurse, teacher, homemaker, soldier, administrator – when someone asks you, “Excuse me, Sir,” or, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what are you doing there,” how will you respond? Will you say, “Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” or will you remember the end of your labor, the purpose of your labor, the goal of your labor, and declare with joy, “I’m building a cathedral! I’m laboring that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!” That is your calling. That is your vocation. That is the end of your education.

Schools can be the Very Gates of Hell

January 21, 2016 in Children, Church History, Education, Politics, Quotations, Reformation

Among a series of great quotations on Scripture from Martin Luther (found here) was this stirring one on education:

“I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labour in explaining the Holy Scriptures, and engraving them on the hearts of youth. I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution in which men and women are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must be corrupt.”

Prayer for the Churches of America

May 2, 2014 in Augustine, Church History, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Creeds, Education, John Calvin, Politics, Postmillennialism, Prayer, Word of God, Worship

May 1st was the National Day of Prayer. I joined a number of other pastors and Christians at the Coeur d’Alene City Hall to pray for our nation and our local community. I was charged to pray for the churches of America. Below is the prayer I wrote – it is patterned after Psalm 80. May the Lord have mercy on the church in America – we are compromised and corrupt and in need of God’s grace.

I was reminded as we were praying of an anecdote about Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer was asked by a young man who was zealous for the Lord, “Dr. Schaeffer, do you think we’ll witness a revival in our day?” Schaeffer responded, “I hope not.” When the young man expressed surprise at his answer, Schaeffer explained. “You young people are so shallow doctrinally and biblically, that were the fires of revival to fall on the church today it would be like lighting a pile of kindling. The fire would burn real hot and then die out in a short time. Start reading old books; start reading Calvin and Augustine and Luther and Athanasius. Develop some doctrinal and biblical substance so that were God to send revival the fires would have something to burn.” As much as I appreciated the zeal of the prayer event, Schaeffer’s comments ring true and express our deep need for more theological and biblical wisdom. May God make us like tamarack logs that will burn hot and long.

National Day of Prayer
May 1, 2014

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV)
Jesus said, “…I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

Almighty and Everlasting God
Hear our pleading and our cry for help
As we pray for your church,
The church for which Jesus died and rose again;
The church which Jesus is building even now;
The church which we believe shall triumph over her foes
In accordance with Jesus’ promise.

Hear our prayer, O Lord,
For you are our Shepherd,
And we are the sheep of your pasture;
You lead us forth like a flock.
Shine forth! You who dwell between the cherubim;
Rise up in strength and come to save us.
Restore us, O God;
Cause your face to shine upon us,
And we shall be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
Our churches often 
compromise your truth;
fail to proclaim your Name;
shrink back in fear from the taunts of your enemies;
fight one with another;
So we have become a reproach to our enemies;
We have become full of wickedness and deceit;
Our shepherds have failed to lead;
Our sheep have refused to follow
Wild goats have entered the sheepfold
And wolves have torn the flock.

Have mercy on us, O Lord;
Restore us once again;
Cause your face to shine upon us,
And we shall be saved.
For this is your Church, O Lord,
The vine that you have planted;
You are the One who prospered us here in this land.
Who caused us to take deep root
And fill the land.

So return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this your vine.
Grant us grace that we might
Fully embrace your truth;
Joyfully proclaim your Name;
Fearlessly stand against wickedness and deceit;
And love one another,
So that the nations might know
that you are the Lord and
that we are your people.

In the Name of Christ our Lord,
Amen.

The Flamingo Moral

September 26, 2013 in Coeur d'Alene Issues, Creation, Education, Evolution, Fabulosities, Politics
Well my cynical side got the better of me when I read the article in the Coeur d’Alene Press today (see hereabout bullying alongside the announcement that former president H.W. Bush had witnessed a faux marriage of two women in Maine. So I penned an unsubmitted letter to the editor on the “bullying” issue that is all the rage in our media right now:

In Praise of Bullies
It seems the Coeur d’Alene School District is concerned about the presence of bullying in the schools. But I’ve been thinking that we should be more sympathetic toward bullies – that perhaps we should even praise them.
Now lest you dismiss me as a kook, just consider my argument for a moment. Last night my children and I watched an astounding documentary on the types and habits of eagles. We watched with amazement as a fish eagle swooped down on a flamingo, bore it to the ground, stood on its neck and killed it. Survival of the fittest on display. But then an interesting thing happened – a pair of much larger and stronger golden eagles swooped in and drove off the fish eagle, stealing his kill. It seems the golden eagles hadn’t attended the workshops on bullying offered by the school district.
So here we were watching this documentary on eagles when suddenly the thought struck me – hey, I’m just a distant cousin of the eagle! According to the official curriculum of our government educational system, as a human being I am not fundamentally different than an eagle. I too have evolved from that first bit of protoplasm by random processes and natural selection. I’ve gotten to where I am by natural selection and the survival of the fittest. So why shouldn’t stronger humans simply use their strength to take what weaker humans have obtained? Why not imitate the golden eagles?
After all, consider those golden eagles. Big, majestic, strong: they are clearly the evolutionary superiors of the fish eagles; no fish eagle measures up. And with bullies – maybe it’s the same. They’re usually bigger and stronger – okay maybe the majestic part is missing. But, hey, you can’t have everything in one package.
But if it’s true, as the schools teach our kids, that human beings are simply very sophisticated animals, then why not imitate the golden eagles? After all, the macro-evolutionary myth is used to reinforce various other morals. We’re supposed to care for the planet because she’s given us birth. We’re supposed to treat animals nice because they and we are cut of the same cloth. So why choose just these morals? Why not the “bully moral” as well? Bullying is okay because golden eagles push fish eagles out of the way and eat their flamingos. Perhaps we could call it the flamingo moral to avoid the “b” word. After all, if there is no moral standard that stands over and above our eco-system, then it seems that we should be willing to speak in praise of bullies.

Not be like their fathers

February 7, 2011 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Children, Ecclesiology, Education, Meditations

Psalm 78:5-8 (NKJV)
5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; 8 And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Two weeks ago we considered this passage and its exhortation to fathers – fathers are to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord. Our task is to teach our children that they might put their hope in God, trust Him, love Him, serve Him, delight in Him.

This morning as we return to this text, I would like you to notice that the task of instruction is not only positive, it is negative. Not only are we to teach our children that they may set their hoe in God and keep His commandments – this is imperative and the central message that must be coming across – but we must also warn them of the dangers they will face in following Christ. Notice our text emphasizes that we are to teach our children so that they “may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” The task of fathers is to point out the folly of their fathers and exhort the current generation to remain faithful to God, to – as the psalmist remarks – set its heart aright.

So what will this involve? Quite clearly this will involve a regular study of the Old Testament. The Word of God gives us numerous examples of the way that “our fathers” were not faithful to God but turned away from Him to serve other gods. Whether it is the worship of the golden calf, the defeat of God’s people at the city of Ai because of Achan’s sin, the apostasy of God’s people at the time of Elijah, the destruction of Jerusalem because of our fathers’ unfaithfulness, or the ongoing sin that threatened our fathers in Nehemiah’s day – all these stories should be objects of discussion and instruction. Look at our fathers, look how they were unfaithful to God, look how they went after other gods and worshiped them, look at the dangers they faced and the way in which God was faithful again and again to enforce His Word.

But not only must we talk about the way in which our fathers failed to serve the Lord faithfully in the Scriptures – the Scriptures, after all, are meant to be applied to our generation, meant to instruct us about the dangers we are facing. So as fathers our task is not only to read the Bible but to help our children see the way in which the rebellious spirit that our fathers’ manifested in their day is being manifest in our own. Fathers, your task is to identify the idols of our day and help your children see them and flee from them. We are in the midst of a time of cultural rebellion and apostasy – our children need to know this and be equipped to recognize the signs of it. So, fathers, rise to the occasion.

And not only must our fathers rise to the occasion, but so too must you children. Your calling is to listen to your fathers as they apply the Word of God to our current generation. Your calling is not first and foremost to imbibe the wisdom of the world offered in the form of movies, music, and literature – your calling is first and foremost to set your heart aright before God and have a spirit that is faithful to Him. And this type of heart, this type of spirit, will necessarily get you in trouble with our broader culture. Just last night our family read of the murder of John the Baptist – a man whose heart was set aright before God and whose spirit was faithful to Him. This is the challenge set before you – to be that kind of man, that kind of woman.

Reminded of our calling to learn from the errors of our fathers – both those in Scripture and those in our own society – let us confess our sins to God. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.

Baxter on Education

November 25, 2010 in Education

Richard Baxter, the great Puritan theologian, writes some incredibly trenchant comments about education in The Reformed Pastor, pp. 56-59 in The Banner of Truth edition:

“…He is like to be but a heartless preacher, that hath not the Christ and grace that he preacheth, in his heart. O that all our students in our universities would well consider this! What a poor business is it to themselves, to spend their time in acquiring some little knowledge of the works of God, and of some of those names which the divided tongues of the nations have imposed on them, and not to know God himself, nor exalt Him in their hearts, nor to be acquainted with that one renewing work that should make them happy! They do but ‘walk in a vain show,’ and spend their lives like dreaming men, while they busy their wits and tongues about abundance of names and notions, and are strangers to God and the life of saints. If ever God awaken them by his saving grace, they will have cogitations and employments so much more serious than their unsanctified studies and disputations, that they will confess they did but dream before. A world of business they make themselves about nothing, while they are willful strangers to the primitive, independent, necessary Being, who is all in all. Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed are no better than nonsense. He who overlooketh him who is the ‘Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,’ and seeth not him in all who is the All of all, doth see nothing at all. All creatures, as such, are broken syllables; they signify nothing as separated from God. were they separated actually, they would cease to be, and the separation would be annihilation; and when we separate them in our fancies, we make nothing of them to ourselves. It is one thing to know the creatures of Aristotle, and another thin to know them as a Christian. None but a Christian can read one line of his Physics so as to understand it rightly. It is a high and excellent study, and of greater use than many apprehend; but it is the smallest part of it that Aristotle can teach us.

When man was made perfect, and placed in a perfect world, where all things were in perfect order, the whole creation was then man’s book, in which he was to read the nature and will of his great Creator. Every creature had the name of God so legibly engraven on it, that man might run and read it. he could not open his eyes, but he might see some image of God; but no where so fully and lively as in himself. It was, therefore, his work to study the whole volume of nature, but first and most to study himself. And if man had held on in this course, he would have continued and increased in the knowledge of God and himself; but when he would needs know and love the creature and himself in a way of separation from God, he lost the knowledge both of the creature and of the Creator, so far as it could beatify and was worth the name of knowledge; and instead of it, he hath got the unhappy knowledge which he affected, even the empty notions and fantastic knowledge of the creature and himself, as thus separated…; the duties which we owed to God as Creator have not ceased…. It is the work of Christ to bring us back to God, and to restore us to the perfection of holiness and obedience; and as he is the way to the Father, so faith in him is the way to our former employment and enjoyment of God. I hope you perceive what I am at in all this, namely, that to see God in his creatures, and to love him, and converse with him, was the employment of man in his upright state; that this is so far from ceasing to be our duty, that it is the work of Christ to bring us, by faith, back to it; and therefore the most holy men are the most excellent students of God’s works, and none but the holy can rightly study them or know them. ‘His works are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein;’ but not for themselves, but for him that made them. Your study of physics and other sciences is not worth a rush, if it be not God that you seek after in them. to see and admire, to reverence and adore, to love and delight in God, as exhibited in his works – this is the true and only philosophy; the contrary is mere foolery, and is so called again and again by God himself. This is the sanctification of your studies, when they are devoted to God, and when he is the end, the object, and the life of them all.

And, therefore, I shall presume to tell you, by the way, that it is a grand error, and of dangerous consequence in Christian academies, (pardon the censure from one so unfit to pass it, seeing the necessity of the case commandeth it,) that they study the creature before the Redeemer, and set themselves to physics, and metaphysics, and mathematics, before they set themselves to theology; whereas, no man that hath not the vitals of theology, is capable of going beyond a fool in philosophy. Theology must lay the foundation, and lead the way of all our studies. If God must be searched after, in our search of the creature, (and we must affect no separated knowledge of them) then tutors must read God to their pupils in all; and divinity must be the beginning, the middle, the end, the life, the all, of their studies. Our physics and metaphysics must be reduced to theology; and nature must be read as one of God’s books, which is purposely written for the revelation of himself. The Holy Scripture is the easier book: when you have first learned from it God, and his will, as to the most necessary things, address yourselves to the study of his works, and read every creature as a Christian and a divine. If you see not yourselves, and all things, as living, and moving, and having being in God, you see nothing, whatever you think you see. If you perceive not, in your study of the creatures, that God is all, and in all, and that ‘of him and through him, and to him, are all things,’ you may think, perhaps, that you ‘know something; but you know nothing as you ought to know.’ Think not so basely of your physics, and of the works of God, as that they are only preparatory studies for boys. It is a most high and noble part of holiness, to search after, behold admire, and love the great Creator in all his works. how much have the saints of God been employed in this high and holy exercise.”