Monthly Archives: September 2014

Name-Calling as Litmus

Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.  -Jesus the Christ.

Here we go again, time to pull out the God card.  You know, when Jesus says something that seems strange or does something you don’t want to do because you are chicken, you just write it off to him being God.  ”Oh well he could do it, he was God.”  But if you do it you are evil and unloving.  Jesus just walked around with his future glasses on, looking in people’s hearts and knowing what they were going to do, then he played the part accordingly.  It was all a sort of perpetual déjà vu, or like the latest Tom Cruise action-movie version of Groundhog’s Day.  We do the same thing with the apostle’s interpretation of the Old Testament.  ”Oh well they could take verses out of context they had magical Holy Spirit powers”.  But if we do exegesis like that, we need to be branded with the scarlet letter ‘A’ for Allegorizer so we don’t hurt anyone.

Striking image album cover from KingsX.

Striking image album cover from KingsX.

But I think this undermines the humanity of Jesus.  We worked this out at Nicaea, seventeen hundred years ago, Jesus is fully man.  Hebrews 4:15 tells us: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Luke 2:52 tells us “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”  It’s the whole point, he didn’t cheat and maintain perfection by on his God powers, or his sinless sacrifice would have meant nothing.  He was a man he did man things.  He grew in wisdom and then he exercised his wisdom.  And we should seek to emulate him.

In this situation, and also with the rich young ruler which is the antithesis in many ways, we can’t just assume that Jesus  was reading everyone’s mind and heart and playing a game for our benefit.  Jesus had hundreds of these conversations.  The nature and fact that these events are recorded for us is for out benefit, but as the events happened there is no reason to assume any God card.  Jesus was often surprised by peoples belief or unbelief (Mark 6:6, Matthew 8:5-10).  Proverbs contains much wisdom, which was available to Jesus as it is to us.  In beautiful parallelism:

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning

And so you see these both played out in the conversations with the rich young ruler and the Syrophoenician woman, respectively.  These aren’t just catch phrases, you need both halves.  Jesus’ correction reveals their character– to these people, to the apostles and to us.  There is no magic here, we can do the same today.  I know we don’t like conflict these days, we take any conflict as a sign that we are acting in sin.  But conflict is inevitable when people are at war with God.  Bringing that to light is not sin, it can be a valuable tool, in evaluating people.  It can be valuable in revealing people’s character to themselves.  We are told to bring people into shalom, peace, with God not to make shalom with everyone at every cost.

I think this fear comes from overreacting to the ‘vengance is mine’ verse (Romans 12:19).  We think any act of judgement is reserved for God in the end.  But value judgements are not vengance, they are wise.  And Matthew 18:18 makes it clear, judgements we make on earth are binding in heaven.  It is good to set things aright on earth, even though it is not the final righting that will take place in heaven.  In reality we have veered into shirking our duty because we are too cowardly to step up and make the difficult call.  But we can and should, Jesus shows us how, Proverbs gives us the tools.  This is our job, his will on earth as it is in heaven.

A good teacher is one who doesn’t do for his students what they can do for themselves.  He puts truth one step away from his pupils and then gives them the choice to take that step or not.  This is the purpose of the parable, the truth is there for the taking.  There is no guarantee (oh how the Socialists hate that!), the outcome is only as good as the person’s choice.  This is the purpose of Jesus calling this woman a dog. When Jesus pokes you, some women pushed back, and some men walked away.  The same applies today.  There is a sense in which every situation we find ourselves in is of this nature.  Our circumstances are given to us to build and reveal character.  He disciplines those whom he loves he tests men like he tested Job.  He wants us to succeed so he can show us off.  And the wise man knows how to play this game as well.  Like Solomon’s call to divide the baby, we don’t need divine knowledge of people’s hearts we just need to know how to reveal those hearts.

And oh how beautiful the humble heart.  She turns the phrase back to him “yes Lord I am a dog, a dog who just wants some crumbs.”  She passed the test.

Organic Virtue

“Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him”  Mark 7:14

I’m sure I have said this before but by agreeing with the Pharisees on the purpose of the Old Testament, we can and do easily fall into the same sin they were guilty of.  The Old Testament was grace not a magic formula for making God happy.

Yeah so there :p

Yeah so there :p !

Are the dietary laws of the Pharisees really all that strange?  I don’t think so.  Everywhere you look today someone is starting some new diet.  The literature and Facebook posts are a constant barrage of get-thin-quick schemes and exercise regimes.  People who dare to eat what has always been considered traditional food, like bread are social outcasts.  The culture of Organic-Natural-GMO-free is very similar to a cult. I think you are far more likely to be confronted by someone about your eating habits than your spiritual condition.  Or more likely in a gutless, ‘accepting’ society, you will be simply avoided and shunned.  I don’t think we have any leg to stand on in looking down on the religious leaders Jesus dealt with.

This shirt says " I am better than you because I run, and I like abusing scripture."

This shirt says ” I am better than you because I run, and I like abusing scripture.”

But there is a hint of reason in our quest for the perfect diet.  We understand that eating properly is a good, it is not the good but it is good.  There are benefits to putting the right things in your body.  The God of the universe obviously understands this.  He created the world, he knows it contains many perils to man.  In the beginning he put us in a safe place, the garden.  But we grasped for more than we could handle as we grasped for the fruit.  Even then God blessed his people by giving them rules on what is safe to eat, rules about cleanliness.  Seriously we are going to mock ancient Jews for believing that demons are present on your hands if you don’t wash them?  Can you think of another way to express the nature of harmful germs to an ancient people?  And so the Old Testament ceremonial laws on cleanliness also double as good rules of hygiene.  There is real external defilement.  Not washing your hands can kill you, eating shellfish can kill you, eating pork can kill you, this is a dangerous world.  The Old Testament wasn’t an arbitrary system of rules to prove how spiritual you were it was a gift from God to people without microscopes, antibiotics, refrigeration and plumbing.  We do follow most of these practices, certainly in spirit.  We go to the bathroom outside the camp (Deuteronomy 23:12,13), we wash our hands, we cook our meat properly.  But modern methods have allowed us to use pipes to take care of waste, soap instead of ceremonial water, and many ways of making meat safe while it still has the blood in it (Genesis 9:4).

il_fullxfull.614108115_g7ynThe Pharisees thought the point was to prove who had the cleanest hands, when really the point was that the God of the Universe came down to bless them.  There he was standing in front of them and they are trying to prove their hands are cleaner.  What fools.  But we follow right on their footsteps by agreeing with them that the Old Testament was a bunch of rules or formulas.  Then we pride ourselves on ‘seeing’ this and look down on people who do not.  We think Jesus just brought a better set of rules and “look at me I know Jesus better than you”.  No doubt we would criticize Jesus if he stood before us today, for his strict adherence to the rules of morality, “you legalist” or for his free spirit, a “little too free don’t you think?”.  Just like the critics of Jesus day;

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon. ’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! ’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Matthew 11:18,19

And so the words of Jesus are a parable.  Those with the Spirit of understanding can understand and those without will simply be lost in darkness.  The point, Jesus says, is about the source of the defilement, the evil.  It is within not without.  It’s a wonderful parallelism, which would have been beautiful poetry on the lips of our Lord.  The contrast of in and out.  It’s not that evil contained within is ok, so don’t let it out.  The point is that evil is within, it doesn’t happen by eating non-organic GMOs.

We come from a rich tradition of people who understood Jesus’ parables.  The Puritan Protestant tradition was one that chased moral purity rather than external purity.  They had a wonderful concept of virtue as a muscle that must be constantly trained and exercised.  Think about physical training and exercise today, only with your moral faculties.  It’s not just something that happens, it comes by work.  There is a sense in which what you put into your mind can contaminate you, Jesus also said ““The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness” Matthew 6:22.  So be careful what ideas you put into your mind, even more careful than you are with your calorie-counting diet.  Put his words in your heart, before the Natural News blogs or whatever other food cult publication.  God is so gracious he knows that the physical is easier for us to understand, so he uses it constantly as a metaphor for the spiritual realities.  We know about physical danger from food, or laziness, the same things apply to laziness of the soul.  We can develop a taste for junk food that makes us sick, just like we can develop a taste for sin, a tastes for bad music, bad ideas, evil movies.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Ephesians 5:6-12

So be careful about what you put into your mind, because if you think obesity is bad, you haven’t seen obesity of the heart.

 

Map from 1960's edition of Puritan author John Bunyan's, Pilgrim's Progress.  Spiral reminiscent of Dante.   Life is about the journey to virtue, or death.

Map from 1960′s edition of Puritan author John Bunyan’s, Pilgrim’s Progress. Spiral reminiscent of Dante. Life is about the journey to virtue, or death.

Define: Hypocrisy

 Dante and Virgil walk amongst the hypocrites, from Canto XXIII of 'Inferno' from 'The Divine Comedy'   Amos Nattini

Dante and Virgil walk amongst the hypocrites, from Canto XXIII of ‘Inferno’ from ‘The Divine Comedy’, Amos Nattini

I have my doubts about the modern use of the word ‘hypocrisy’, “I do not think it means what you think it means”.  Jesus calls people hypocrites quite a few times, like everything he said if we want to follow his example and his wisdom we need to understand what he meant by it.  Of course we can use the word however we want but we can’t pretend to have his authority behind our use if we make up our own meaning.

I think this is a good verse to clarify the meaning a little: “So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”  Matthew 23:28.   Hypocrisy and lawlessness are two different things.  Neither is good but in different ways.  Breaking God’s rules is not hypocrisy, it is lawless evil but not hypocrisy.  Trying to meet a high standard is not hypocrisy, Philippians 2:15 tells us our goal is to be blameless. Even trying to meet a higher standard of morality than you are able, is not hypocrisy.  We see Paul wrestling with this reality in Romans 7

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am!

This is the very idea of conscience, we know we should do something yet we don’t do it, and as a result we feel bad.  We might blush, or get queasy, this is the speaking of the conscience.  This is the reality of the war with sin, but it’s not hypocrisy.  I think a lot of people work this backwards today.  If you feel shame in anyway, it can’t be legitimate, it must be bullying by those religious types forcing their narrow theism on us.  ”Judging us!”  ”Hypocrites!”  ”Just like the kind Jesus warned us about!”  Ah, not so fast. Oh how easy it is to twist truth into a lie.  A good conscience is proof of the work of God in your heart, Acts 24:16, Romans 2:15 and we are warned against harming the conscience of others I Corinthians 8:12.

Chesterton said “but the man who treats every human inconsistency as a hypocrisy is himself a hypocrite about his own inconsistencies.”  And so this is the place of the modern man.  Many try to look consistent by trying to throw out every standard of right and wrong; who are they to judge?  But they just undercut their argument because they do judge the Christian.  They hold the Christian to an impossible standard.  This is in fact real hypocrisy, that is, holding someone else to a different standard that you hold yourself.  They think they can justify it because they don’t ever judge anyone and they are just holding the Christian to their own standard, really they are just boring old hypocrites.

Look at the one situation in Mark where Jesus called the religious leaders hypocrites.  In chapter 7 the religious leaders come down from Jerusalem to judge.  What a contrast to the God of heaven to who came down to earth to die.  Anyway they come up and criticize Jesus and his disciples for not following the hand washing procedure correctly.  Now there is nothing wrong with the ceremonial cleansing laws in the Old Testament.  Many of the things that qualified you for ceremonial cleanness, also made for good hygiene, which was not as well understood as it is today.  It was a blessing by God to his people who didn’t have microscopes.  He made the world and he gave his people rules so that they could prosper.  There is also nothing wrong with making up rituals, or even making up rituals to help you avoid sin.  Jesus tells us sin is serious and “if your hand causes you to masturbate, cut it off”(Mark 9:43).  Jesus then accuses them of leaving the commands of men to follow the commands of God.  This is a sin, this is lawlessness as mentioned above, but it is not hypocrisy.  The hypocrisy is that these men come to question Jesus about his following of the law while they don’t even try to follow the law.  The hypocrisy is not about the relationship between the religious leaders and the Law or God.  The hypocrisy is about their relationship with their fellow Jews and Jesus.  As in Matthew 6:2, 6:5, 6:16, the hypocrite does everything in the sight of others so that he can look down on them, it is a form of ridicule for not following God’s law but really they are the ones not following the law.  Exhibiting fake adherence to the commands while accusing others for their adherence is hypocrisy.

I think getting this right is very important.  Because the world tries to throw our standards back in our face as proof of our hypocrisy, when really it is only proof of theirs.  Our failures are actually proof of the truth of our faith.  We can’t do it on our own, we need the grace of God, it is not we who do the work of the Church but Christ who works in us.  They reject the Law as a burden, a mere system of rules, because the do not see the grace in it to guide man into proper living.  God is no hypocrite, he held his son to the same standard he holds every man to.  When he judges he understands the real temptation of sin.

So, don’t let the world redefine the Gospel for us.  They don’t know what hypocrisy is because they are blind.  It is our job to show them the light.

Jesus Likes to Party

I think it is unfortunate that a reading of Jesus’ first miracle evokes a conversation about the evils of drinking.  I have heard all of these excuses before.  Of course it was alcoholic wine and I’m sure people got drunk.  It was a party what do people do at parties?  They don’t drink grape juice unless they are modern prudes who still manage to miss the point of this event.  And who cares if they got drunk?  Every grape anyone has ever gotten drunk on  was a gift from the father above, so why not the grapes in this new creation?  I am not condoning drunkenness just this drunken hermeneutic.  I hope someday for a world where every sermon on the miracles of Jesus feeding the five thousand will be about gluttony.

There is so much more in the passage.  John starts out “in the beginning”  does this remind you of anything?  In case you missed it, keep going.  He continues the story vs. 29 “the next day”, vs. 35 ”the next day”, vs. 43 ”the next day”, 2:1 “On the third day”.  Wait a minute, seven days? And, the seventh day is the third day?  Does this remind you of anything?  It should.  Jesus is recreating the world and on the seventh day he goes to a party.  But it’s not just any party it’s a marriage feast, on the third day.  In fact there were seven feasts in the Jewish calendar. After the work on the cross is done Jesus rose the third day to be joined to his bride the church.  Jesus spoke of himself as being anointed for burial (Mark 14:8) and the bridegroom celebrating (Matthew 9:15) with his friends.  The actions of Jesus were not just random they had rich deliberate purpose.  Interesting these connected in my mind and apparently this passage mirrors Mary’s anointing of Jesus in the chiasm of the book of John, according to Peter Leithart.  Jesus turns the funeral into a wedding.

Another important element is the jars.  They were not just random jars.  They were jars for the Jewish rights of purification.  He takes the ritual water and turns it into wine.  You know this had to make the Pharisees mad.  And Jesus is smirking to himself as he turns their dead ritual into an implement for the celebration.  And this use was more sacred than what they were going to use it for.  This is the God of the Universe come to earth and taking joy in a wedding feast, that had come to the end of it’s merriment.  So he keeps the feast going.  They are content with their ritual and he is trying to show them something better.  As C. S. Lewis said;

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The disciples got it, well after his death they got it.  Right before he held up the wine at another feast, for passover.  Again he resets the rules as he recreates the world.  From now on when you have a feast when you have bread and wine, remember me, remember my body and my blood.  Soon after you see people getting drunk at this feast( I Corinthians 11:21).  They seem to have taken it a little too far.  But the connection is made, this was a feast a celebration, not a boring dry ritual.  And the wine was real, not some grape juice concentrate, paste, whatever.  It was wine it really did “gladden the heart of man” “and bread to strengthen man’s heart” Psalm 104:15.

 

My brother getting in on the wedding feast at Cana.  Paolo Veronese, c. 1563,

My brother getting in on the wedding feast at Cana. Paolo Veronese, c. 1563,

Stop! Don’t Do It!

I am becoming increasingly concerned about the growing obsession with getting your children into some sort of an institution as soon as possible.  They call these institutions, day care, or preschool, or head-start.  But I believe them to be quite sinister.  I am at a bit of a disadvantage here, I am not a parent and so the most common sentiment these days that you must “walk a mile in someones’ shoes” in order to speak to someone is wholly ineffectual in my case.  That other great modern motivator, statistics, is also something I could care less for.  In fact that type of systematizing is part of, if not the main problem.  Is your child a statistic? The institution thinks so. My aversion to this practice is not based on these but on my love for the successes of the past.  A past I know perhaps better than the present in some respects.  A knowledge which makes new problems appear more stark, than to those who find them common.  Perhaps then,  my distance from the situation is a bit of an advantage.  I spend my time reading rather than changing diapers, though I am not unfamiliar with their changing nor afraid.  I have plenty of experience borrowing the children of others, as well as thorough memories of my own childhood.  I have spent a great deal of this time in the study of education, in the footsteps of my parents.  I am actually the impetus for the creation of Petra Academy.  I was there the first day, I worked hard to keep it alive and I was there on the last.  Oh sure the corpse still walks about, reinvigorated by the Frankenstein of capitalist interests, but the heart and humanity are gone.  Which is an apt description of modern education.

I think there are two main reasons people are so eager to sign up little Johnny for some sort of ’school’, as soon as they can.  First of all raising children is difficult, and relentless, a job is quantifiable and finite.  That is to say they do it for convenience, although there might be an element of fear in it, that element is also present in the second reason, a real desire to do what is best for Johnny.  I don’t really think the first needs much rebuff.  It should be obvious that if your only motive is to dump your children off on someone else so you can be free to make and spend money, you are a bad lazy parent.  But, I’m sure there are a lot of parents like this.  People these days are all too happy to have someone else do everything for them.  They want to live in dormitories(condos) so they have no responsibility to the land.  They want other people to pay all their bills and do all their thinking for them.  So of course they want someone else to raise their children.  They are all to happy to take advantage of before and after school programs, and weekend and summer programs and food stamps and welfare and unemployment and on and on.  The statistics as well as the anecdotes on this one are clear.  In short they want to be slaves, but more on this later.

The second group of people truly want what is best for their child.  I didn’t really believe this was that big of a group until recently.  Many of my friends began expressing this frantic attempt to sort out where little Johnny would go to preschool at age 3 or 4.  I thought I still  had a year or two to weigh in on the conversation with my two cents.  But then it hit, all too real.

Jesus and Paul both refer to sin as slavery (John 8:34, Romans 7).  We are not free to make the correct decisions because we are bound by sin to always make the wrong one.  The light of God’s word in our lives frees us up to be able to choose the good.  I hope that my words here can do the same.  Because the situation is very similar; we have all been educated in a system, and getting beyond it and choosing something different is difficult.  Being able to go beyond the default is freedom.  I don’t want you to do things my way, I want you to be able to do them your way.

The main motivator for people who want the best for their child is peer pressure.  It’s in all the movies; the stunning rich and famous characters portrayed on the silver screen always get their kids into the best preschools.  And those actors in real life do the same thing.   All the hip psychology books and magazines tell parents they have to get their kids into school ASAP.  They often do it by ridiculously negative stereotypes of the sinister homeschooler.  You know the characterization, the only thing thicker than his glasses is his obnoxiously awkward personality.  Her frumpy clothes are designed to express no personality while still setting her off enough to be ridiculed by all.  The greatest sin of the parent is inadequate socialization, socialization, socialization!!!  And so parents flee to the nearest government certified program to cure Johnny of all that ails him.  But this has been the trend now for the last hundred years.  First we added Kindergarten and then we kept adding more sub-grades.  How has this been working out for us?  I actually have seen plenty of statistics on this.  Not only do most Americans think the school system is bad, but they have thought so for decades.  All these reforms geared towards earlier and earlier education have only made things worse.  Test scores, continue to fall as the rest of the world passes us by.  So we extend education on the other end, many people now go to college for seven to ten years.  All this has done is prolong adolescense into the mid thirties.  It seems to me that instead of starting education sooner, we need to end it earlier.  Children growing up in these institutions never know a time without the herd.  They become less able to act or think independently.  They never develop individual skills or individual character, apart from the mass.  And so, they are actually less socially adjusted, well depending on the society.  They are perfect for despotism, that is slavery.  So I think it is clear this isn’t working, why should we keep trusting these people?

Which brings us to the next point, just who are these people?  Another motivator is the notion that education must be done by professionals.  Just what exactly are the qualifications for these professionals?  Most people probably know more about their babysitter than they do about the person who spends eight hours a day doing god knows what to their children.  All these certifications and degrees are handed out by the government, which most people distrust.  As Christians, we should pay a little more attention to scriptures like Psalm 1 that warn of sitting in the seat of the scoffer.  And these teaching degrees almost guarantee that your child’s teacher has sat under many scoffers.  You have probably been to college, you know what a godless evil place it is.  Even the best Christian schools get most of their curriculum from the world with a few Bible classes tacked on, that is the reality.  Education degrees didn’t exist 50 years ago.  Schools just made them up. They made up the whole ‘profession’.  They take a bunch of godless general education classes that used to mean something but everyone has long since forgotten what.  They add on some methods classes with big text books by social psychologist descended from the German ‘thinkers’ responsible for the holocaust.  Throw in a couple hundred thousand dollars and bang you are a teacher.  Seriously, your child is better off at home with you.  This notion of professionalism is sick anti-Christian evil.  This is simply the worship of science trying to take over the government of the family established by God.  All the worst Presidents we have had were the most ‘educated’.  Professional dictators tried to treat mankind like a science experiment time and again Hitler, Stalin, Mao and millions died every time.  As G. K. Chesterton said in his wonderful book Orthodoxy,

“In short, the orthodox faith is this: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves–the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state.  This is democracy; and in this I have always believed.”

You don’t need professionals.  I think the fact that a school like Petra now has a daycare also adds clout to the issue.  But perhaps if you considered the motives you would not be so romanced.  The purpose of a moral Godly school is to act ‘loco parentis’ that is the school is an extension of the parent.  Historically Classical education began somewhere between age six to nine.  This is how nearly all of the founding fathers were educated.  They carved the most advanced civilization the world has ever seen out of a wilderness.  At the time of the founding literacy was near universal, which included Latin.  Men like Peyton Randolph, John Jay, and John Adams will blow you away.  An institution cannot do what you can in the home, in those early formative years.  But Petra like many schools built a big expensive building, and they need to pay for it.  Some people have invested big money and they want a self sustaining business, which means screw loco parentis, screw the heart of Classical education.  Daycare means more money with limited expenses, no hundred dollar textbooks here.  Parents met with the demands of an oppressive government are all to happy to drop their four-year-old off with their six-year-old at school so they can go earn more money.  In addition the thinking is that if you get started at a younger age you will continue with the school K-12.  They bribe you with square footage and student to teacher ratios instead of the tried and true Classical education of Christendom. What noble motives.

sayers quote I would ask you well meaning parents who want to hurriedly get your child into an institution as soon as can be, what is the purpose of education?  I think the question reveals a lot.  It goes back to the slavery issue; Are we to be cogs in a social machine? Is the purpose of education to make good little worker bees?   Or, is there something more?  I think there is, the men of old thought so too.  Do we want our children to get a good job or have good character?  As C. S. Lewis says in Our English Syllabus

“Vocational training, on the other hand prepares the pupil not for leisure, but for work; it aims at making not a good man but a good banker, a good electrician a good scavenger, or a good surgeon.  You see at once that education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves.”

Education should liberate.  That is the whole idea of medieval classical liberal education.  Sure we still have some of the vestiges of that system left, but they are quickly fading.  You hear people complain all the time in college about “why do I have to take this class, I will never use it”.  Oh that evil word ‘use’ as if we were magicians conjuring so many spells, which is not far off from the modern ideas of science.  Those classes were there to give you a broad base to build on for a lifetime of learning.  A liberal education is one that equips us to tackle any obstacle.  It frees us to exercise our humanity in any number of outlets.  As Christians we should understand that the purpose of education is to build moral men.  As C. S. Lewis says in The Abolition of Man, ‘men with chests’.  That is men who can use their minds to govern their appetites.  The chest unites the head with the stomach, the seat of desire, to create complete men.  We don’t want men who are all brains and no action, or men who are all impulse.  But modern industrial men had other designs.  They wanted a populace just literate enough to work in their factories and buy all their wares like mindless drones.  So men like Henry Ford and John Dewey, set about changing education.  And they have all but succeeded.  This is the difficult part, because how are we to teach a liberty to our children that we don’t even know?  Giving your children to the government at a younger and younger age is not the answer.  Let your child have a few years of freedom to interact with the real world on his own, so that later he can remember a time before he was institutionalized.

We are not fatalists, we are Christians who believe in the blood of the Lamb, repentance is possible.  And there are so many resources available.  Medieval man sorted out all of these problems before the darkness of modernity began throwing out everything traditional and Biblical.  Oh sure we have powerful cell phones in our pockets, but we are less able to choose the good than men were hundreds of years ago.  What does it profit a man if he gains power over all the integrated circuits but loses his own soul?  I would start with reading Dorothy Sayers Essay, click the quote above.

Then read The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis, it’s a little more difficult, but there are plenty of explanations available online.

Other Reading:

Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Douglas Wilson

The Well Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer

A Students’ Guide to Liberal Learning, James V. Schall

Association of Classical Christian Schools Lectures

Logos Press

Veritas Press

Now you have more tools, you have more freedom, go and give your children even more!

The Gospel Gets Converted

So Grace Bible took a turn for the better last week.  The policy of the church has always been all-I-need-is-my-Bible, gospel gospel gospel.  Which becomes narrower with each repetition. In it’s quest to ensure that nothing interferes with the Gospel they have advocated a Gospel that doesn’t interfere with much of anything.  It has become a private things that we talk about on Sunday but does’t really flesh out into much of our lives.  The practical outworking of this gospel is basically only seen in saving souls, getting butts in the seats I like to say.  And it’s not just one Church in the Gallatin Valley.  This has been the trend, this is American Evangelism, it’s in the title.  Ever since the masses were caught up in the Second Great Awakening and all the camp revivals, which emphasized the saving of souls in dramatic emotional performances, this has defined American Christianity.

It carries down to this day as Franklin Graham, takes over for his father in their well orchestrated mass alter calls.  Men like D. L. Moody set the tone in their Bible Bible Bible schools.  He tells the story of a man who died unsaved after listening to one of his sermons, or something.  Then he vows to never preach again without an invitation and or the gospel.  I may have this story completely wrong, but the point is this has been the trend.  But then the revival is over, the tents are folded up, sunday comes to a close.  We go back to real life none the different.  It’s that mile wide inch deep faith.  It finally fell apart in the 60′s.  A whole generation had been completely unequipped to handle the realities of life with a faith that didn’t answer any of life’s question.  ”Because I said so”  or “because the Bible says so” hardly made a dent in the growing humanist ideologies.  The faith of their parents seemed fake, so they started their own camp meetings, like Woodstock.  They had revival services at their universities complaining about war or their underwear, hell bent on destroying everything their parents had loved.  I think we can concluded that this was a disaster, yet the narrow butt-saving gospel kept being preached.

But as I said there was a turn.  Jesus spent a lot of his time just healing.  It’s right there in Mark 6.  It’s wasn’t conditional on hearing his gospel presentation, the gospel presentation was the healing.  He was remaking the earth, as far as the curse was found.  If there was something wrong, he was fixing it, this was his job, this is our job.  The gospel applies to everything, not just fire insurance, every area of life.  This is the Protestant dignity given back to work.  It’s not just the ‘holy’ professions like monk, priest, or cardinal that are doing the kingdom work, it is every profession.  The shoe maker and the blacksmith each bring heaven to this earth by doing their work to the glory of God.  By applying the gospel to their trades in the sight of all men.

I think we often misunderstand the “cup of water” statement of Jesus (Mark 9:41).  We take it as a call to worship the poor.  Really it’s saying that anyone who does any tiny thing for a Christian because he is a Christian, will not lose his reward.  But what about getting saved?

Or, I think of Jesus stopping to condemn a fig tree that is unfruitful (Mark 11).  Of course it is a rich metaphor, he is the gardener etc, but the fact is he stopped to kill a tree.  He is the gardner, and being a gardner and tending to a tree is part of the gospel, it is part of making earth like heaven, of reversing the curse.  No doubt the disciples want him to get on with the work of throwing off the Romans, and we want him to get on with saving some people.  But he is doing quite well fixing one tree.

And so the masses flocked to him, to have things made right.  Today the masses flock to America for healing of every kind.  This was the vision of those Protestants who wished to build a city on a hill, in the sight of the world.  And so they did, they sailed over on a ship to rule and subdue a new land.  They converted the savages that they could, and died by the thousands, from starvation, winter, invasion, and wild animals.  They established a land like the world has never seen, it wasn’t about saving people, in fact they had left millions of people who needed saving.  They simply applied the gospel to agriculture, ship building, trapping, government, military and education and the world has noticed.  Today they come to us for just a corner of the American Dream.  But we have lost our way in the main.  We forgot what the gospel was, we let the world redefine it for us, and they are all to happy with a private faith that has no place in the public sphere.

It’s interesting to note as we currently deal with an immigration problem, that Jesus didn’t heal everyone.  He often retreated to pray, or speak to his disciples.  Every entity person or government has limits.  We should know our limits or we become ineffectual to everyone.  Historically there were long periods where immigration was all but cut off in this country.  That was wise.  Water it down too much and it is no good to anyone.

But he healed indiscriminately? I know it seemed odd to our pastor and many others.  But is it really that hard to believe that Jesus would pour out blessings on even the unsaved?  It’s really just an encore of what he did in the first creation.  Every breath used to curse God was given to man by God himself.  Every fist raised to God in anger was given to him by God.  God crated a world where man can take the blessings of creation and use them against the creator.  This is the overflowing bounty of God, and Jesus repeated it when he walked this earth.  It’s not just a narrow pragmatic mission to get everyone saved, it’s a beautiful frivolous party hosted by the God of the Universe.  And the people too dumb to see it will get their wish and not be invited back.  But it shouldn’t be those in the church, we should be partying every day and gospeling everything.  Step one is admitting you have a problem, check.

Back to School Evil

It’s back to school time.  Which means big decisions, or non-decisions for parents.  How do I educate my child, or who is going to babysit them while I do more important things?  The reality is, if you don’t make the tough decision, someone else will.  On this planet the default position is evil.

My first day of Government Kindergarten.  Shortly to be followed by first curse words, first pornography and first punch in the face.

My first day of Government Kindergarten. Shortly to be followed by first curse words, first pornography and first punch in the face and constant lies about my Creator.

As a Christian in this world we are told that we war against principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:12), that is philosophies or ideas that are contrary to the Kingdom of Heaven.  It has been noted that there are two different ways of doing this.  You can reproduce yourself sexually by having children or by spreading Christianity through evangelism.  Initially there was a huge influx of Christians as evangelism spread through the Roman Empire. Later after the early stages were worked out, after Christendom defeated Rome with humble service, a respect for life, the poor and care of the helpless and elderly, Christendom realized the importance of reproducing yourself through large families.

Today this is not the case as birthrates in the west are barely at replacement.  But the principalities and powers have figured it out.  Muhammedan children are almost 100% Muhammedan, culturally, religiously and philosophically and they have a lot of kids.  They either directly or indirectly support those men you see on TV with the explosive vests.  They reproduce sexually and their easy, tribal, heaven-will-fulfill-all-your-lusts religion allows them to reproduce through evangelism.

In this country the rise of anti-Christian, Atheism or Agnosticism is unquestionable.  But these are the people who support abortion, homosexuality and unmarried promiscuity, so how are they reproducing?  If they do happen to have a kid they kill it before it is born, so how can they be growing?  It’s easy they convert your kids.  Christians seem all to happy oblige them.  They put in all those years of hard work and then just hand their children over to these people.  The three main handovers take place in Kindergarten, in 9th Grade, and in College.  Most Christian parents just go with the flow and hand over their children in Kintergarten.  Many parents believe that their children are fine after jr. high, a few less parents hold out until College.  But the statistics are clear, there are sharp spikes at each of these times of Children outright rejecting their faith.  This is not to mention the vast majority who do not, yet have taken in the religion of these principalities and powers in all but name.  And then Christian parents shrug and say “oh well”, “you never know”, “I did my best”.

It’s tragic, it pains me greatly every time I see pictures of sweet little children full of so much promise, full of the faith of their parents, sent off to be destroyed.  When will they first be exposed to the foul language?  When will they first be exposed to drugs?  When will they first be exposed to pornography?  Not to mention the physical violence and the mental violence of the lying ideologies of the world.  I can tell you the first time will be before they are ready, just like the Man and the Woman in the garden grasping for what they can’t handle instead of wisely waiting for God’s timetable.  Cursed above all men are you who allow it to happen! (Matthew 18:6)

This isn’t our best, this is being lazy.  I know education is expensive, I know the peer pressure from friends and family is difficult.  I know that humbly admitting that you didn’t turn out fine and that you want something better for your child is tough.  I know the boats, ATVs and vacations are appealing.  But what should be more appealing is a future where our Children can claim more of this Earth for the Kingdom.  Where, Christendom continues it’s march across the globe, curing disease, and hunger as far as the curse is found.   It’s that stanza from Joy to the World that we always leave out:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

It is astounding that this must be said, it seems so obvious.  It’s all in Psalm 1, or Jesus (Luke 6:40) a student is not unlike his teacher.  Every religious group throughout time has started schools to train up people in their faith.  The public schools in this country started as a response to the growing number of Catholic schools.  The majority of the country was Protestant so the public schools were Protestant Christian schools.  But of course they became watered down, it was no surprise.  There is no such thing as democratic schools, which honor the name of Jesus.  Men like R. L. Dabney predicted, in On a Secular Education: “All prayers, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools.” Today we don’t even know what catechisms are and Bibles and Prayer were gone long ago. The belief that education is neutral, and non-religious is nothing more than Agnosticism, that is the un-Christian belief that we can’t know anything about God.  Education is religious, how can it not be?  It matters to every subject if Jesus is Lord.  Science would not exist without the Christian understanding that God created this world and that it operates by his consistent faithfulness, ordered by the standard of his character.  History is the story of how he works mercifully on this earth.  Literature is the use of the Word, which John tells us is Jesus the Christ.  Math is the use of numbers to express the ordered world that God created.  Philosophers have often marveled at how it is possible that we can come up with formulas for this world and they actually work, as Einstein said “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

adams quoteTyrannies don’t take easily to being destroyed, whether it is the Roman Empire or the modern educational machine.  Educating your child yourself is expensive, we are essentially paying for it twice.  Once through the immoral confiscation of property taxes and a second time as you pay a private school or buy materials yourself.  But what is more expensive is the cost of throwing away civilization and the promise of tomorrow for the comforts of today.  There is big money in education.  The teachers unions are one of the biggest unions, they take in millions of dollars and hire tons of lobbyists to maintain their monopoly on education.  Ladder climbing, even at the local level, would make Wall Street fat-cats blush.  The Department of Education does not educate one person, it is government for the sake of government.  You might think that it’s ok because your child’s teacher or principal is a Christian.  With all this money comes strings, strings that bind the Christian in the system to act like a non-Christian.  I can tell you countless stories.  It’s a sinking ship, we need to flee, let it sink and force the world to come to us to do things right.  This is the way the world has always worked.

Changing things will be difficult.  It will take time.  It will take sacrifice.  Like all things good.  This is what the founders realized as the tyranny of George III began to come down on the Colonies.  Those men pledged their lives their fortunes and their sacred honor.  Today we don’t really need to go so far.  We might pledge our speed boats, tropical vacations and dream home, but it’s not really that bad.  The hardest part is the humility, going against the flow, repenting and going the other direction.  We still enjoy the benefits of their Christian labor, we have it very good.  But the future will not be so bright if we continue to hand our children over to the principalities and powers.

It’s easier than ever these days, there are so many good resources.

Still not Convinced?:

Excused Absence, Douglas Wilson

None Dare Call it Education, John Stormer

The Underground History of American Education, John Taylor Gatto

Curriculum:

Logos Press

Veritas Press

I wish I could recommend any local schools but I really can’t.  I hear there is a Classical Conversation co-op and other such things.  But the principalities and powers have won this one.

Beside Still Waters

The modern obsession with categorization and organization can be unfortunate when studying the Bible.  While chapter and verse notation is useful for quotation, it often emphasizes the separation of little pieces.  As if each verse were so many colored legos that we were free to arrange in any order we see fit.  We love those little headings because they help us contain the stories of scripture.  But we need to let the stories speak as stories.

Peter Walks on Water, Philipp Otto, c. 1806

Peter Walks on Water, Philipp Otto, c. 1806

My last post was  in response to a sermon on the ‘feeding of the five thousand’.  But it cut off the end of the story.  There was one line that was missing as Mark laid out the Messiah portrayed in Psalm 23.

“He leads me beside still waters. ”

And so Jesus did, eventually.  The disciples are caught in rough waters, and Jesus walks by and they fear him.  Jesus had just been demonstrating that he is the shepherd, the Messiah.  I get the idea that they were supposed to recognize him and follow him to still waters.  Peter seems to have gotten it, but even his faith faltered. but  These were his closest sheep, yet they did not recognize him. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27.  But they didn’t know him, instead they were terrified.  The last phrase of the story gives us the answer.  ”for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened”  Not only did they not understand or appreciate the symbolism of Jesus’ feeding the people, of his being the shepherd, but it made them mad.  ”The same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay,” as Spurgeon said.  And so the grace poured out on the people, hardened the disciples hearts.  Maybe they were tired, and wanted a break and then Jesus goes and starts up again with the feeding and healing.  It’s obvious that they were expecting a conquering messiah as most of the Jews were.  They thought they were going to be at the center of the action when Jesus began his plans to overthrow Rome, and they were, but they didn’t understand the way he would do it.  They were stuck passing out bread.

I think it’s easy to confuse the empirical nature of Jesus’ miracles to the contextual nature.  Today we see through the eyes of philosophers like Lock and Hume who emphasized knowledge that we gain through experience, this is the empirical, knowledge learned by what we receive from our five senses.  The Christian view of the world led to the advent of science, but then things got out of control as we began to worship science.  Sure we can benefit a lot by the ordered observation of this world, but there is other knowledge that comes by reasoning or straight from God as revealed in the Scripture.  Obviously the acts of Jesus were amazing.  They could dazzle all of the senses.  But what was more important was the way in which Jesus was connecting those actions with the text of the Old Testament.  The disciples didn’t get this. They thought they understood that text and thought they had observed the man who should fulfill those texts, but he wasn’t doing it the way they wanted and so their hearts were hardened.

Obviously this caused tension, which might be why Jesus sends them out in the boat alone, while he went up on a mountain to pray for them.  But he didn’t give up on them, he performed another shocking miracle to bring them back to reality.  He is the true shepherd, he led them when they strayed and gave them the sustaining truth that they needed.  Peter is the first to be reconciled and so he jumps out of the boat to meet his shepherd.

Jesus planned this out as our heavenly father plans out all of our lives.  Our circumstances are the teaching we need to hear.  By it we learn patience, humility, grace, love for our fellow man and many other things.  God has us always in a living metaphor, if only we have the faith to see it.