An Outlandish Year
We have all been witnesses, up close and personal, of a pretty outlandish year. The tides have behaved the way they always do, and the sunsets continue to be glorious, and the meadowlarks carry on in accord with all their usual customs. But all over the world, in country after country, a very large number of people, the ones running everything, have simultaneously lost their grip.
The subject matter from issue to issue has varied some — from black lives mattering, to young people marching for socialism, to COVID lock downs — but the overarching and unifying theme is that everybody appears to have lost their minds. People know how to choose sides. And they know how to appeal to scientists who support whatever it is they think they know. And they knew how to repeat the current talking points. But what they don’t know how to do is think.
So take three instances at random. A young white college sophomore throws a Molotov cocktail that burns down a black-owned deli, and he does this because he wants to register his deep dissatisfaction with the police treatment of blacks in that city. Or another person, as timid as they come, is out for a walk on a bike path, two miles out of town, all by herself, and she is wearing a mask. Or someone else thinks that it can cost two dollars to get a gallon of milk to market, but also thinks that we can make the greedster grocer sell it for a buck fifty, and yet still have milk on the shelf. What do these, and countless other instances, have in common? What they all have in common is that these people received a lousy education.
As we watch this great parade of dunsical folly every night on the news, one thought should come back to haunt us with every fresh insult to right reason. And that thought should be “who educated these people?” And the follow-up question should be, “and why haven’t they been sacked?”
Who taught these people what being a normal human being is supposed to look like? Because they are not hitting it.
God Is Not Mocked
We have it on good authority that we cannot harvest figs from thorn bushes (Luke 6:44). The kind of seed you put in the ground has a great deal to do with what kind of crop comes up at you out of the ground (Gal. 6:7).
Rendering general by induction, we may infer that it is also not possible to gather pink grapefruit from your juniper bushes, or pine nuts from your tomato plants, or lemons from your box hedge. Pursuing the analogy relentlessly, we may also surmise that you cannot send your child to a culinary school and expect to get back a mechanical engineer. You cannot send them to art school, and wonder why your son never became a doctor like you wanted. You can’t pay for law school, and then be surprised when an attorney eventually shows up. We often act astonished when we have no right whatever to be surprised in any way. We say, wide-eyed with Aaron, that all we did was put in a bunch of gold, and “out came this calf” (Ex. 32:24). That has to rank as one of the lamest excuses in the Bible, and here we are, still using it.
All we did was put in hundreds of billions of dollars, and out came this misbegotten culture. How could this have happened? We are frankly at a loss.
And lest I be accused of being too oblique in the point I am seeking to make, you cannot send all the Christian kids off to be educated in a school system that is riddled with rank unbelief, shot through with relativism, and diseased with perverse sexual fantasies, and then wonder at the results you get. And why are you not allowed to wonder about it? Because God is not mocked.
Early Warning Indicators
Decades ago there were Christian writers warning about the consequences for those Christians who undertook the novel project of planting morning glory and going out months later to harvest the wheat into their barns. It is not as though we weren’t warned about this. I know that I have been writing about this problem for decades. And as Voddie Baucham recently put it, “We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.”
I do want to do this politely and graciously, but there is room in Scripture for the occasional “I told you so.”
“But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.”
Acts 27:21 (KJV)
But to compound the problem, the warnings actually began much earlier.
Back in the 19th century, writing against the public school system then, when that school system was still overtly Protestant and evangelical, R.L. Dabney said that “Christians must prepare themselves then for the following results: all Bibles, prayers and catechisms will ultimately be driven out of the schools.” We look at that and say, “There used to be catechisms in the schools?” I started school back in the fifties, and I can still remember praying in government schools, but I don’t remember any catechisms. They were exiled much earlier.
A.A. Hodge of Princeton, also in the 19th century, called the shot in this way.
It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding from the public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or agnostics may be. It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of Atheism which the world has ever seen.A.A. Hodge
And then in the middle of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis gave us these prescient words in his great tract on the necessary consequences of relativistic education.
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”The Abolition of Man
And so here we are, right on schedule. It turns out that, however you might wish otherwise, you eventually wind up wherever it was you were going. If you get on the plane to Chicago, and I would ask you to follow me closely here, you are going to land in Chicago. We are now arriving where a godless education must necessarily go. The public schools in America were not secular, they were godless. The public schools in America were not neutral, they were godless. The public schools in America were not even agnostic, they were godless. Lot moved to Sodom, apparently because his wife wanted to be near the malls, but he was then somehow vexed by the behavior of the Sodomites.
Again, the Mandate
God requires His people to bring up their covenant children in an environment dominated by the Word of God. When we walk along the road, when we lie down, when we rise up (Dt. 6:4-9). Christian fathers are instructed to bring their children up in the paideia of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). And if man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4), then it follows that boys and girls need to be instructed in every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. These things are not optional.
And neither do they happen all by themselves. The passage in Deuteronomy 6 contains the great Shema, Israel’s great statement of faith, a statement which leads directly into the greatest commandment in the entire Bible.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 (KJV)
These words are contained in the middle of a passage on the importance of bringing up your children under the Word of God. It is the beating heart of a passage that is all about Christian education. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk about them all the time (Deut. 6:7). This is no peripheral issue, and so where do great apostasies — like the one we are experiencing right now — come from? They come from not doing this. They arise from disobedience.
America has cancer bad, and what would be our disease-ridden lymph nodes? The answer to that question is pretty plain, at least for those willing to repent of the ongoing denial and look straight at the MRI. The answer is our godless educational system, K-12, which is then augmented and brought to a corrupt fruition by our Christless system of higher education. So if you want to get more of what you are getting, go ahead and keep on doing what you are doing.
But at least have the decency to stop complaining about what the harvesters keep bringing in from the fields. Who planted that crop in the first place?
No Christian Community Without Christian Education
Without a comprehensive system of Christian education, it is possible for sects to exist, and it is also possible, for a time, to maintain an anemic denominational presence. But in order to have a flourishing Christian community, it is necessary for the children of that community to have a shared experience of godly education.
This is one of the central reasons why we have been blessed with a functioning Christian community here in Moscow. Just within Christ Church, we have hundreds of school-aged children, and approximately 95% of them are receiving a thoroughly Christian education. And there are multiple education options for parents to choose from — from homeschooling, to Logos Online, to Kepler, to White Horse Hall, to Veritas Online, to Jubilee School, to Logos School, and so on. Not only is it the case that Christian kids in our town (overwhelmingly) are receiving a Christian education, but it is also the case that a significant percentage of all children in our entire town are receiving a Christian education. This is transformational. And because of growth and demand, the Logos School Board recently made the decision to build a school district.
An alternative culture must begin as a subculture, but that subculture must have a robust immune system. And if that growing alternative culture is to be Christian, there must be a dogged commitment to the centrality of true Christian education. Education is one of the central instruments given to us by God for the establishment and perpetuation of a culture. And if we want the culture to be believing, then the education that feeds into it must be believing.
And no, this does not leave out the gospel. We deny that education can be any kind of a savior. The secularists believe that their education has saving powers, but we do not. Education is no savior. But because we believe the gospel is a world-transforming gospel, we believe that education will be saved. Along with everything else we do, education can be transformed by the blood of Christ, and will be one of His instruments toward the sanctification of Christian culture.