Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Redeeming Education
Notes and Concerns from Dan Hillman to Dr. Marcus Newsome

Preface: These were the notes that I used as a guide when I met with Dr. Marcus Newsome on August 17, 2005 to discuss the need for the proclamation of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Newport News Public Schools. I gave Dr. Newsome a copy of these notes and a copy of The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson. Dr. Newsome confesses to believe in Christ. I believe there is definately a certain degree of genuine faith in his heart. However, as we are all aware, he obviously does not openly and outspokenly declare the gospel in the public schools. The ACLU and the Supreme Court would not allow it. I, on the other hand, demand it. And I believe that I have God's authority.

First: Respect needs to be established. I intend to be direct in this meeting. Due to my overwhelming concern for children, I do not intend to mince words. Let it be established from the start that my tough words are being spoken with the children in mind. Let it not be forgotten that I am committed, man to man, to treating you with Christian kindness and charity, as God Himself gives me grace and strength to do so. I offer you my friendship – even though I may or may not offer support to that which you are trying to accomplish.

Aristotle has said, "The fate of empires depends on the education of youth." Abraham Lincoln has said, "The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next."

As a teacher, these truths cause me to tremble. Before going further, are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Also, do you believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative word of God? After being convicted and sentenced to death for corrupting the youth of Athens, Socrates spoke these words to those who voted for his acquittal:

When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing, - then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, both I and my sons will have received justice at your hands. (Apology)

Recognizing how powerful the medium of education is in molding our society, I define classical Christian education (which I am arguing is the only education worth obtaining): The cultivation of wisdom and virtue, nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty, by means of the Liberal Arts, so that, in Christ, the students are equipped with the tools of learning and are better able to glorify God. If education is to have any value whatsoever, it can only have value if teachers are teaching that which God would have them teach, in the manner in which God would have them teach it, with the grace God gives to teach it, and with the authority that God gives to teach it – in humble submission to Christ. Indeed, anything of value that is ever taught and/or learned is done so by the grace of God. Learning to appreciate God should be the central mission of education.

Let us discuss the above definition and claim. What do you think?

Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

Common sense (which is given to us by God since we have been created in His image – so we could call it "God-sense") says that one of the ideals of education is to cultivate wisdom.

In the 2nd chapter of Proverbs, we are told how to acquire wisdom:

Accepting Solomon’s words (i.e. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and surely all the other teachings of the Torah that Solomon certainly would have taught)
Storing up commands (i.e. 10 Commandments, Proverbs)
Applying heart to understanding
Calling out for insight
Crying aloud for understanding
Looking for it as for silver
Searching for it as for hidden treasure

To those who do this, it is promised that they gain the following:

Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom
A sort of salvation from wicked men
A sort of salvation from the adulteress
Life in the land

(Note that this sort of salvation is not necessarily eternal salvation.)

There are many problems and obstacles preventing this from happening in the public school systems - including Supreme Court rulings, the ACLU, the ideology of the power players on the far left, traditionalists (who are trying to compromise with the left - but refusing to assert God's Word), parents who do not care, Eminem encouraging kids to rebel, adults who defend Eminem, ideas that morals are relative, ideas the homosexuality is to be accepted and celebrated, etc. We must understand the situation for what it is. Education (and, indeed, every aspect of our lives) is fundamentally a religious experience.

First of all, we are created in the image of God in a universe that has been created by God. That God of Nature has ordered that things be done according to a certain order – which of course reflects the nature and character of himself. We see beauty, order, and creativity in Creation, and the thinking person who has had knowledge revealed to him concludes that God is a God of beauty, order, and creativity. But education is a religious experience. As in everything else in life, someone or something is being worshipped. There are spiritual strongholds in high places that are insisting on being worshipped. Creeds are being taught to kids. The question is, "Which ones?" Kids are being taught to dedicate their lives to some ideas. The question is, "Which ideas?" The notion that a school is neutral when it comes to morality, religion, politics, and ideas is absolutely ludicrous.

The good news is that more and more, the everyday people are beginning to see that. I am convinced that those in control already know that. But they keep on spreading the lie of neutrality – so that they can remain in control. There is no neutral ground. A spiritual war is waging. God has given cultural mandates throughout the Bible for which believers must contend. Either Christian dogma will be proclaimed and we will live in submission to Christ and education will be brought under His rule and authority, or we will live in rebellion against Christ, and by doing so, we will teach children in word and deed, to live in rebellion against Christ. People will not call it "rebellion against Christ." They will deceive themselves and others with the lie of neutrality.

Hebrews 1:1-3 declares, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." The emphasis is my own. But this is the Word of God. Christ is heir of all things and sustains all things by his powerful word. There is authority and power in the word of God. God spoke the creation into existence. God’s powerful word sustains all things. His word keeps families together – even through the hard times of life. There is life in His word. His word never returns void but accomplishes what it is set out to do.

Plato once said (and I paraphrase), "Let us find the sayings of the most wise, most intelligent people so that we could have guidance through life. But if ever in history, God has spoken, then all the wisdom of men falls silent."

The Enlightenment project is failing. It is time to humbly submit to the Word of God.

Consider this argument:

All people who teach or learn real knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, are people who fear the Lord. Contrapositive: People who do not fear the Lord do not teach nor learn real knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
A true education is one in which students learn real knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. i.e. true education = acquisition of real knowledge, understanding, and wisdom
Those who do not fear the Lord can not offer nor receive a true education.

I am assuming that you know the difference between validity and truth, but maybe I should not assume that. I did not understand the difference until last year – and I am a degreed engineer and an analytical Christian who has spent considerable time thinking about philosophy. All this to say that my above argument is valid – absolutely. (I even drew a Venn Diagram to make sure of its validity). If my conclusion is false, then it is due to a false premise. If this is the case, then I challenge you to expose my supposed false premise. I am fully aware that non-Christians can and do teach other non-Christians facts and calculus, etc. But, so what? Proverbs is telling us that there is a certain kind of knowledge that we can acquire if we fear the Lord. This is what I call real knowledge. Anything that is not taught in the context of the fear of the Lord is meaningless at best.

So, what does this mean in real life? In my mind, God might lead you into one of two directions:

1. He will lead you to quit.
2. He will lead you to begin buck the powers that be and contend for the faith (as you are commanded to do so in the Book of Jude). You will proclaim God’s Word and cast the vision for the Christian enculturation of youth.

This will stir up a hornet’s nest. And I am not quite sure what would happen if you truly followed the Lord on this. One, you might get fired, but not before stirring things up – Roy Moore style. Two, an entire people might repent and turn to Christ – and you will have the favor of God as you do the will of God.

But regardless of what happens, God’s will for your life is to be found in Colossians 3:17 – "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." This is a command of God, not merely a nice idea. God has commanded that we do justly. No where does God ever say to surrender justice to the will of the masses. I know this is fundamentally un-American to say, but it is certainly the Christian thing to say. Can we really pray, "Let your will be done" if we are not willing to submit all of our labor to the Lord? Can we pray this with integrity if we are not willing to educate youth for the purposes of Christ and in the name of the Lord?

Bottom Line – There is a spiritual battle waging for the hearts and souls of children. There are strongholds of idolatry exalted in high places in our culture. We must not lift up our souls to any idol. Our faith and trust must be in Christ – and we must partner together with fellow Christian believers, especially parents, to labor for the cultivation of truly Christian culture and together to proclaim God’s Word to a lost generation – cultivating growth in Christians and providing the knowledge of salvation for unbelievers. (Matthew 28:18-20)

To these ends we must be vigilant, but we must understand that this must be done in the strength of the Lord as we rest in Him. (Hebrews 4:9-11) As we abide in Him, we will produce much fruit. Apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15)

"Everything that is not of faith is sin." -Romans 14:23b

Suggested Reading List
The Holy Bible – especially Exodus, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Luke, Romans, Ephesians, and Hebrews to start. The Bible is the authoritative word of God on all matters of life. Everything that we do ought to be for a distinctively Biblical purpose and cause. We need to form a theology on education then, and these are great books to study as we begin that process.
The Case for Classical Christian Education – by Douglas Wilson
The Paideia of God – by Douglas Wilson
Mere Christianity – by C.S. Lewis (by the way, I don’t totally agree with all Lewis has to say. Still he was a great Christian thinker, and has made great contributions to the world.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – by C.S. Lewis This is a great children’s book, and a great analogy of the gospel. I recommend it precisely because it is a children’s book. We need to have child-like faith if we are going to truly please God.
"Enlightenment Anxieties and the Classical Christian Task" – an essay by Andrew Kern
"The Fingerprint of God" – an essay by Andrew Kern
Anything else by Andrew Kern – check out the Monthly Meditation at http://www.classicalteachertraining.org/newsletter.html


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