1893 and all that

Not so long ago, out of the blue, and to my horror, someone asked about what kind of things act as markers of Free Presbyterian cultural identity.

I don’t know if I can explain why I find that such an incredibly difficult thing to talk about.

It’s not like there are none, but I don’t have a good feeling of which ones FPs would (a) readily recognise as such or (b) submit to having pointed out in public. There are things that FPs do, in common with other conservative churches, because of believing they’re required in scripture, but if they’re scriptural, then they don’t really count as cultural. (Primary example: the Lord’s day. Primary example 2: exclusive psalmody.)

On the other hand, there are FP-ish things which aren’t unique to FPs but are generally characteristic of a traditional Highland way of life. Primary example: scones, porridge, tea, not in that order. Brose. Ew. Non-teuchie FPs can think of their own.

So, what then? Part of the problem is that FPs only exist as a distinct grouping because of 1893. So they share with the other post-Reformation presbyterian denominations a certain something that I can’t very well define but which basically means being as indistinguishable from the rest of society as possible except in the areas where a Christian as such can’t be involved. (Like the quaint local custom of drinking yourself stupid every weekend.) The repudiation of monasticism at the Reformation (they weren’t really into refudiation in those days) continues to mean for the Scottish descendants of the Reformation that the most spiritual and holy lives are lived in just normal surroundings. Scottish presbyterians persistently fail to be enthusiastic about homeschooling their children, for one thing, and have largely succeeded in avoiding creating a mini “Christian” sub-culture – it’s not just FPs who find it a bit embarrassing to try and express your Christian identity through evangelistic t-shirts.

The other problem though is that FPs are rarely rewarded for existing as a distinct group within the Scottish church scene, and nothing puts an FP on the defensive like mentioning the fact of their distinctness. For this to make sense, we need to talk about 1893. But 1893 is horribly confusing as it relies on a fair amount of prior knowledge of the relationships between such terms as Church, State, Free Church, Disruption, Establishment, Free Presbyterian, and Confession, and one thing that FPs can’t do is dumb down matters of such tremendously serious moment. They just can’t. (But see here, if  you insist.)

Still, it perhaps wasn’t so much the principles under dispute in the 1893 controversy that cause the problem, as the emotional or attitudinal context. To their surprise and undying disappointment, the FP founding fathers did not in fact find themselves supported by people who had virtually guaranteed to join them, and some unkind comments injudiciously published about them by the leading lights of the liberalising Free Church evidently cut very, very deep. Ever since, there has been among FPs the perception of a need to continually justify themselves, in the full expectation that a lot of flak will need to be taken in the process, even from their closest denominational cousins. FP contra mundi, they might have said, except they didn’t think of themselves as particularly heroic, just deeply conscientious. So asking FPs to name their unique characteristics is a bit like asking turkeys to vote for, erm, that pagan festival we don’t celebrate.

Cautiously then I could suggest things that most FPs would recognise even if they’re not unique markers of FPism, like hospitality on a large scale, involving lots of home baking, often but not exclusively around communion seasons, not usually being teetotal but having a great deal of reservation about drinking, with special worry reserved for drinking in pubs, failure to watch pretty much anything on tv other than the news and the weather, being deeply mortified by all that is superficial or ostentatious, especially in religious matters, pessimism in most things church-related except when talking about the millennium, calling ministers Mr not Rev but expecting them not to appear without wearing a dog collar, saying DV or one of its homely equivalents after every reference to future time, grace sitting down before and after meals, family worship morning and evening, and a grapevine of such efficiency that everyone knows everything that’s happening in your life practically before you know it yourself.

In all of which, it is important to add, the main thing is the commitment to the historic confessions, whether Westminster or the comparable creeds of the continental churches – something that is shared, thankfully, with many other denominations now and in the past. The rest is all more or less peripheral.

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170 thoughts on “1893 and all that

  1. How EXCITING!!!! (I hope that didn’t make you to nervous.) I do like the bit about hospitality and home baking. What about the hats? I am sure there must be something about hats. I mean, they are hats and not shawls or lacy bits or fascinators, right?

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  2. Ah. Then you presumably belong to the “no such thing as too much digestive biscuit in a traybake” school of thought, for whom traybakes are not, despite the name, baked.

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  3. Thing is, how do you know McVities aren’t baking their biscuits to idols? Better to avoid any kind of cake-like thing altogether.

    It’s why oatcakes are so popular in God-fearing Scotland, did you not know?

    :)

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  4. 4 oz margarine
    6oz sugar
    1 small tin condensed milk
    2 tblsp syrup
    8 oz digestive biscuits (avoid McVities)
    1 tblsp cocoa
    5 oz chocolate, melted

    1. Melt marg, sugar, condensed milk, & syrup over low heat
    2. Add dry ingredients and press mixture into a swiss roll tin
    3. Cover with melted chocolate and cut into slices when cold

    => Traybake

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  5. There is no “baking” involved with your “traybakes”. You have made a “fudge square”. (It’s really only mixing, not baking.)

    Anything that involves breaking up a perfectly good packet of biscuits is the product of a deeply decadent society.

    Fire up the coal range, test the heat with a square of paper and get cracking on the proper thing, lass.

    Cheers

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  6. We call those “no bakes.” I personally think it violates the spirit of the thing to use crumbled baked goods. We use oats as the grain/support system. It’s rather a scandal that Scots are using crumbs instead of oats in their betraycakes.

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  7. Betraycakes … ouch. A sad sign of declension & degeneracy indeed, although true, it must be said, to the letter of the Free Church Cookbook, whence the recipe came. The definitive source of no-cook goodness for all loyal Free Presbyterians.

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  8. I enjoyed this post, and thanks for writing it. I’ve linked to it from my blog; hope you don’t mind. :)

    I would consider the FP “dress code” (women in skirts only) to be a marker of FP cultural identity. Or perhaps you could call it a cultural application of a Scriptural principle? But it’s still cultural, at least in part.

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  9. The only assembling that ought to be done on the Sabbath is in church!!

    Traybakes don’t pass the Works of Necessity and Mercy test, i would expect. Other cooking might though, e.g., the boiling of veg, for otherwise how could a family have their roast. Don’t believe every rumour you hear about the austerities of the Scottish sabbath.

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  10. Come on chickie, write something, or I shall have to write a scurrilous piece showing how FPs are increasingly turning from expensive automated devices for boiling vegetables, programming lifts and switching on lights, to paying slave wages to muslim illegal immigrants to do it for them.

    “Fatima peels potatoes much better than the Sabbath-o-Matic ever did” says Isobel McKay, 43, a Lewis-born Londoner. “And it’s a great way for otherwise isolated immigrants to integrate with the community”. FPs who have turned to Muslim immigrants to help overcome the difficulties they face in observing their medieval sect’s strict ban on doing any kind of work on a Sunday say it’s in line with their belief in helping the poor to help themselves. …

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  11. Makes for a generally amusing read … Not quite getting the link between home-education and monasticism though. Any thoughts?

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  12. If Sharon will forgive me for plagiarising my comment on her blog …
    Monasticism – just the idea that the everyday life gets too difficult for our spirituality, and so we must retreat into safer-feeling spaces of our own making. Lack of interest in/ effort towards relationships outside of the religious community.

    I don’t have hugely strong feelings about homeschooling btw. Not really in favour, but not madly anti, so feel free to come back on it

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    • Monasticism was inspired by everday life being too easy! Do Protestants know anything about Christianity before the early modern period?

      That’s a rhetorical question expressing my utter astonishment.

      Boeciana did. rofl.

      :) (friendly smile to show I don’t mean this at all nastily!)

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  13. A good article! I would like to reiterate – after reading your definition of monasticism – the question where is the link between home-schooling and monasticism? Because home-schooling is definitely not the feeling that every day life is too difficult, it’s simply being aware of the devil’s devices, and avoiding dropping our children, unprotected, into a peer-pressured, largely unsupervised arena of study and play. At least this comes from an American FP point of view..indeed, most strict American FPs. There’s no feeling of “every day life is too difficult”, it’s just that the worth of the education of a child is less than a grain of dust compared to the worth of the untainted saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Just my two-cents. :)

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  14. Oh, and we aren’t to trust in ourselves. Our spirituality is nothing. Our spirituality can’t stand up to everyday life, much less the devil’s devices… Anyway, we are to be absolutely wary of the devil’s devices, and counter them to the best of our ability.

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  15. Sam, how does “feeling that everyday life is too difficult” not describe “avoiding dropping our children, unprotected, into a peer-pressured, largely unsupervised arena of study and play” ?

    The rationale must surely be that you think the devil’s devices are easier to deal with in the homeschool environment than in an alternative school environment. No?

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  16. Maybe “feeling that everyday life is to difficult” could be augmented to “difficult and/or dangerous”. Either way, I think it’s pretty obvious how “retreat into safer-feeling spaces of our own making. Lack of interest in/effort towards relationships outside of the religious community” describe homeschooling.

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  17. I don’t consider state schooling to be an essential part of “everyday life.” Therefore, “everyday life” is something that homeschoolers are living, not avoiding.

    Also, I haven’t seen a “lack of interest in/effort towards relationships outside of the religious community” amongst homeschoolers. (As if state schools are the only place one can form relationships!)

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  18. Well it’s only stating the obvious to say that the life you live every day is everyday life to you … :-) In the sense of participating on a daily basis with the rest of your community, homeschooling doesn’t exactly fit the bill. Like if you were to suddenly decide to go on a gluten-free diet – it’s sufficiently different from what everyone else is doing that you wouldn’t do it without a reason. Or if that sounds insufficiently morally significant, an analogous case would be: everyone agrees drunkenness is a sin: some people go teetotal: some people drink in moderation. Either option is valid, but it would be a terrible mistake to assume that you become immune to the devil’s devices by opting for the more extreme alternative.

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  19. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that one becomes immune to the devil’s devices by homeschooling. But surely it’s fairly obvious that certain of the devil’s devices are present in the schools but not in our homes.

    An example: most public/state schools these days teach (directly or indirectly) moral relativism. I would assume that you would agree that relativism is a device of the devil. Relativism is not taught in this home. And I could list many other of the devil’s devices that are present in Scottish schools (I’ve done my research) but presumably not in FP homes.

    It’s quite different to be taught *about* relativism by a Christian teacher.

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  20. I wouldn’t be coming back so quickly or with so much to say, if I didn’t know you personally, Doctor Dickie (:]), or if I had not seen this position from you many times before. :) Quoting you…”Well it’s only stating the obvious to say that the life you live every day is everyday life to you … :-)” I wondered, is the smile a bit too pleasant, maybe?

    Sharon said what I was going to say almost verbatim, and that is “I don’t consider state schooling to be an essential part of “everyday life.” Therefore, “everyday life” is something that homeschoolers are living, not avoiding.”

    I believe she said it for a reason. That reason would be because you implied that home-schooling was not part of everyday life. Correct? You made the following statement: “How does “feeling that everyday life is too difficult” NOT describe “avoiding dropping our children, unprotected, into a peer-pressured, largely unsupervised arena of study and play?”. By that statement, you actually say in so many words that public schooling is everyday life, and homeschooling is not everyday life. Well, I had a daily life…i was home-schooled, too. So how does schooling have to do with daily life? Isn’t daily life quite variable? I believe one must be responsible for one’s own position, and either stand by one’s argument or admit to a faulty argument, instead of trying to brush it aside with an “Of course.”

    I really hate arguing about home-schooling, especially with people in my own church. Because there has never been any agreement between the two differently-minded groups, and especially because while there is respect for public-schoolers among the home-schoolers, there is not one iota of respect that I have ever seen coming from the public-schooling advocates to the home-schoolers. I don’t see why it’s hard to respect someone (a lot!) for endeavoring to take on the great honor and responsibility of educating one’s children by themselves. Ya know, individual children rarely affect a group as a whole. Societal history dictates that on the whole (usually..) the group moderates the individual. It’s called peer pressure. So, I don’t understand why it’s such an evil thing to simply have a belief that a child may be influenced from his peers in a morally negative way. If you claim to be so open-minded, as I know you do, Cath, (Please don’t take this personally…I’m not trying to be rude at all!!!) then why can’t you smile it off, instead of making harsh statements comparing home-schooling to monasticism? Can’t you sincerely respect parents’ decision to take the command to “bring [our children] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” to the next level in education? It’s simply a private belief which does not cross any scripture whatsoever! (The belief that you are taking your light out of the world holds no water, because then we should go to strip clubs, so we can show everybody how we are so spiritually strong that we can close our eyes!!)

    I find it odd that when one collection of FPs calls certain practices in another group’s life to question, they are called narrow-minded, but those same people who called the first group narrow-minded have ABSOLUTELY NO toleration for any form of schooling but that run by a secular state. My parents risked being incarcerated by the state for home-schooling. They believed that they *COULD* lose their children’s SOULS to hell-fire forever because of the public schooling system. Call it what you want to, but I have some serious respect for that. As far as us (our home-schooled family of seven sons) being uneducated…Every single one of us has been to college. Three have bachelor degrees, one is working on one of the hardest engineering degrees available, and he is in the honors, and I am working my way towards a job as an FBI agent. I don’t think anyone hurt from my parents’ decision to home-school. “Well think of how much good you could have done! Maybe you could have saved a child from the good example your kids would have shown!” Yeah, sure. But there’s one problem. My oldest brothers did not come home talking about the latest prayer they organized at the school recess. They came home singing rock songs that Mom and Dad did NOT approve of.

    One apology, and I promise I won’t flood your blog with posts anymore. I dislike being so strong on the issue. In my heart, I’m not that strong about it! I don’t hate public-schooling! I love public schooling, if only I could believe that it is right for us at this period of time. I dislike arguments, I dislike hate. I like unity, I like friendliness. However you were putting homeschooling down, unprovoked, I believe, in a public manner. I take that personally, because I know you are speaking primarily (note I said primarily, not totally) about my congregation, and that actually filters down to be a direct point against my Mom and Dad, whether you intended it so personally or no, because they were the anchors of home-schooling in this congregation. I simply feel obligated to get up here and defend their position. I think I did it well enough, and I only hope I didn’t say anything too harsh. All I ask for is some respect for out Bible-based decisions.

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  21. Sam, in the original post, the point was that FPs, in common with all the Scottish presbyterian churches, are unenthusiastic about homeschooling as part of a worldview which values being as integrated into and as indistinguishable from the rest of society as possible. It is generally a trait of the Scottish Reformed tradition that we do not set much store by creating mini “Christian” sub-cultures. We do not lightly withdraw ourselves from participating in any facet of normal society’s life. ‘Neighbour’ and ‘colleague’ are supposed to be every bit as meaningful relationships as ‘sibling’ and ‘fellow communicant’, for example. Homeschooling, in our context, simply doesn’t square with this kind of worldview. The everyday life of a homeschooling family is markedly different from the everyday life of the majority of other families in our communities. To make yourself so different from everyone else is something that requires justiifcation. That is all.

    It is quite right to say that homeschooling which does not contradict scripture. Equally, non-homeschooling does not contradict scripture. Homeschooling, like teetotalism, is a logical extension from a biblical principle, but neither the decision to homeschool, nor the decision to be teetotal, is demanded or required by scripture. It is immoral to be drunk, but in the choice between teetotalism and moderation, neither is intrinscally a morally better choice. The situation is the same with homeschooling. We all agree that children need to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but in the choice between homeschooling and non-homeschooling, neither is intrinsically a morally better choice.
    This is worth pointing out because, in your posts here, you have made strongly worded allegations or insinuations that those who don’t homeschool are unaware of the devil’s devices, that they drop their children unprotected into dangerous environments, and that saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus is either not possible or is tainted by not homeschooling. In saying things like this, you are going far beyond anything that has been said against homeschooling either by me here or by anyone else that I’ve ever heard in the FPs, in terms of the morality of the decision about which type of education is best for a child. Whereas we all agree that children should be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, your rhetoric implies that you think that the only moral way of doing this is by homeschooling, or that non-homeschooling is a morally inferior choice. This is as unnecessary and as scripturally unwarranted as those who say that drinking in moderation is morally inferior to being teetotal (for example).

    For the record, I don’t remember ever discussing homeschooling with you, or even with anyone in your family up till now.

    It’s also quite wrong to say that there is no respect towards homeschoolers from non-homeschoolers. Non-homeschoolers are not convinced by the pro-homeschoolers’ case, but that is quite distinct from not respecting them personally and also quite distinct from not respecting their decision to homeschool.

    Similarly, putting the case against homeschooling is not automatically “putting homeschooling down”. If you choose to take the case against homeschooling as a personal slight against your parents, that is a slight which you have construed for yourself, and unequivocally not something that has been intended, implied, or necessitated by anything that has ever been said by myself or by anyone else I’ve heard in the FPs. You might also like to consider how offended many of us could have been, if we were over-sensitive and inclined to reply in kind, by the insults you have by implication thrown at our parents, whether you intended it so personally or not, with your talk of devil’s devices and whatnot and suchlike and so forth. It is entirely unnecessary to personalise any discussion of principles or even of lifestyle choices by reacting like that.

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  22. “Homeschooling, in our context, simply doesn’t square with this kind of worldview. The everyday life of a homeschooling family is markedly different from the everyday life of the majority of other families in our communities.” So, doesn’t that mean homeschooling is a possibly better way to go? How does your world view as you have described it fit in with “Come ye out…” and “Be ye separate…”?

    “‘Neighbour’ and ‘colleague’ are supposed to be every bit as meaningful relationships as ‘sibling’ and ‘fellow communicant’, for example.” Does this not directly contradict scripture? Why do you think the Hebrews weren’t allowed to have fellowship with pagans? While it is not commanded to have such strict regulations, yet the principle remains the same. Indeed, fellow-Christians are certainly to have more importance, and much more meaning than ANY relationship with men outside of Christ. Again, reading your statement, and then putting this “…Do good unto all [men], especially unto them who are of the household of faith…” next to it seems to be rather ironic, paradoxical, and/or contradictory.

    “…Non-homeschooling does not contradict scripture.” I can certainly agree with that. I have never suggested that home-schooling was/is the only scriptural way to go.

    ” Homeschooling, like teetotalism, is a logical extension from a biblical principle, but neither the decision to home school, nor the decision to be teetotal, is demanded or required by scripture.” I can almost agree, but you see there is much more in the Bible to support an argument for home schooling than there is to support teetotalism. So equating the two doesn’t quite fit. We are commanded only not to be drunk. But wine is advocated, sometimes. There is, in fact, no biblical basis for teetotalism, whereas there is a huge foundation for the idea of home schooling, in the Bible.

    “But in the choice between homeschooling and non-homeschooling, neither is intrinsically a morally better choice.” How can you be so sure, Catherine? Seriously…how on earth can you be so certain that the two options are totally, unequivocally, and certainly equal?? There is a reason why home schoolers home school, and there is no way one can say that it is because it is the easier way to go, because it is in fact a very challenging path to follow. However, there is a possibility that one can get the feeling that public schoolers public school for the easiness of the option. I am not saying that I believe that, I am simply stating that while there are multiple reasons for public schooling, none of which being for the spiritual benefit of the children, there is one main reason for home schooling, and that is for the children’s spiritual benefit. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I ask you to think about this from an objective viewpoint.

    As I have said before, I have nothing to lose in this discussion. I am not that strongly for home schooling as it pertains to my life, necessarily. However, when one presents a strong statement that puts a certain faction of a church down, someone that grew up in that faction is going to defend that faction, so that interested outsiders will not be turned away from the church because of a possibly biased statement on a blog.

    “…in your posts here, you have made strongly worded allegations or insinuations that those who don’t homeschool are unaware of the devil’s devices, that they drop their children unprotected into dangerous environments, and that saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus is either not possible or is tainted by not homeschooling.” Firstly, the phrase “strongly worded” is certainly relative, and most assuredly debatable. I have not implied that public schoolers are unaware of the Devil’s devices. That is a ridiculous statement, and I believe you understand that that statement or anything implying it was never placed on the table by me. No, the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ isn’t impossible or certainly tainted from not homeschooling. Yes, the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot but be tainted by attending public schools. I don’t see where the question is there. An FP minister who public schools his children stated to me that if he was not converted before he went into high school, he would have been swept away. So how are we not tainted by attending largely secular, primarily irreligious schools where swearing, lying, stealing, cheating, and other immoralities are given free run?

    “In saying things like this, you are going far beyond anything that has been said against homeschooling either by me here or by anyone else that I’ve ever heard in the FPs…” I dare to strongly, positively, and wholeheartedly disagree. I have no regrets for coming on strongly, because equating and/or similarly comparing home schooling with monasticism is a low blow indeed. I feel it deserved an equally strong rebuttal.

    “For the record, I don’t remember ever discussing homeschooling with you, or even with anyone in your family up till now.” Right. i wasn’t saying I had discussed it with you. But I had previous knowledge of your views on home schooling, and I believe it was from posts I have read, but it could have actually just been from statements I have heard. Forgive my misguided statements.

    “Non-homeschoolers are not convinced by the pro-homeschoolers’ case, but that is quite distinct from not respecting them personally and also quite distinct from not respecting their decision to homeschool.” Are you trying to say that public schoolers respect home schoolers’ decision to home school? I have met very few such respectful public schoolers, indeed. I don’t wish to get very particular, but a very senior member of the clergy gave a personal verbal attack to me on my and my parents’ home schooling views and decisions. On numerous other occasions, I have personally encountered deep-rooted disdain for home schoolers from FP public schoolers in Scotland. I am also aware of the current continued vitriolic despising of home schooled families in the UK. I know these are strong words, But I was really, truly verbally accosted in a way I will never forget.

    “You might also like to consider how offended many of us could have been, if we were over-sensitive and inclined to reply in kind, by the insults you have by implication thrown at our parents, whether you intended it so personally or not, with your talk of devil’s devices and whatnot and suchlike and so forth. It is entirely unnecessary to personalise any discussion of principles or even of lifestyle choices by reacting like that.” Did you just say I am over-sensitive? While it is certainly true to a certain extent in my life that i can be over-sensitive (aren’t we all, sometimes?), I believe that that is quite the personalization of discussions/principles that you are arguing against.

    I must say again that I do not mean anything personally. I do not mean to put anyone down for personal decisions. I do not firmly believe that home schooling children is the only way to go! I simply saw a statement that really worried me, and when I understood the nature of the statement, I decided to take up for my family, and for that home schooled faction, as I have ties to that faction. My regrets are that some of my statements were not worded as well as they could have been, and that i may not have represented home schoolers as well as I could have. I do apologize for any untoward words.

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  23. Samuel,
    While on the whole I try to steer clear of debating on blog spots… There are a few points in this discussion that I would just like to respond to…

    You are right to say that the Bible is not silent on the issue of home education. I agree with Cath when she says that home education is not forbidden in the Bible – and I would think it is an area that allows for a degree of liberty of conscience.

    Yet, the original comment that likened Home Schooling to Monasticism seems fair… it is an extension of the same arguments (and if you listen to David Calhoun – a fellow American – on the rise of Monaticism in those early centuries then I am sure you would see those parallels).

    Equally, claiming that tee-totalism has no Biblical support and is therefore an invalid parallel – is again being a little blind to wider arguments – I would recommend that you look at books like that of Peter Masters on should Christians drink… and it might make you rethink some of the ease with which you dismissed the parallel.

    I was surprised by your charge that Public (State) schoolers think that Home Education is an invalid choice. On the whole my experience has been the polar opposite… it is the vast majority of Home Educators that think Home Education is the only biblical alternative and that public schoolers are being somehow irreligious (or neglecting lawful duties) when they dont share their desire to home educate. Many Public schoolers disagree with Home Education on the basis that it does not have a firm biblical command and that practically it often does not work, but most of them accept the right of families to exercise that choice.

    Regards,
    Andrew

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  24. I am indeed right to say that the Bible is not silent on home education. That’s why I said it.. >.>

    I still do not see any parallels between monasticism and home-schooling. I can certainly see why you like to say that, but there is no logical excuse for saying that home-schooling in any way is connected to monasticism. Seriously..i mean do you realize how many secular people in America would be offended with you for saying that?

    Just really quickly…forgive me if all of my thoughts aren’t entirely gathered..if I say something that doesn’t make sense..I’m supposed to be studying right now.

    I haven’t read a whole lot of arguments for tea totalism…but from my experience growing up in a Christian home, reading the Bible every day, and debating in m any forums on many issues (in other words, scouring the Bible), I have never run across anything that seems to say we shouldn’t drink alcohol…I mean I don’t much like alcohol myself, but I just don’t see anything against it.

    As far as dismissing the parallel with “ease”…how else am I supposed to do it??

    Did you read anything about why I believe public schoolers don’t believe home-schooling is a proper way to go? I re-state…a preacher that is held in high esteem by everyone in my church and many others besides embarrassed and humiliated me in a sitting room, telling me that my parents made a biblically sinful decision in home-schooling us. I and other home-schoolers in the church have met with similar opposition..in one case, the exact same opposition.

    I do think that public-schooling today is a morally (and academically) inferior decision. Why do you think I would home-school my children? Would I home-school them if I thought it would hurt them spiritually? Soo…while I believe public schooling is morally inferior (as a matter of course, as i am for home-schooling..!), yet I do not like to push it over on people at all. I don’t like telling people what i think they should do.

    Remember, my whole point in coming on to this blog was to DEFEND. My family and all who agree with my family were indirectly accused of monasticism, and I felt an urge to defend ourselves. (Not that i gave the best representation, but whatever.)

    Now I have to go to a meeting early in the morning, so I must cut it off here. Sorry if I offended, sorry if I was unclear. Running off very little sleep here.

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  25. I haven’t read a whole lot of arguments for tea totalism

    Hee hee — that’s the position that you should drink only tea, right? If I had to choose just one drink to dedicate myself to totally, I’d have to go with chocolate milk…

    do you realize how many secular people in America would be offended with you for saying that?

    I can’t imagine any secular person being offended by an assertion that home-schooling has parallels with monasticism.

    a preacher that is held in high esteem … embarrassed and humiliated me in a sitting room, telling me that my parents made a biblically sinful decision in home-schooling us. I and other home-schoolers in the church have met with similar opposition…

    Wow; I’m sorry that happened to you, and I find it strange that your experience is exactly opposite to mine, where it is home-school-advocates that accuse public-schoolers of sin.

    while I believe public schooling is morally inferior … yet I do not like to push it over on people at all

    But shouldn’t you? All over the LC’s exposition of the 2nd table of the moral law there are admonitions to strive on behalf of “you and your neighbor”. If public-schooling is morally wrong, then you should be against it more strongly. If it is merely “inferior”, but not “wrong”, then you should stop using the word “morally”.

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  26. Hmm…I don’t think i get the joke..maybe it’s on me, I don’t know..but the position actually holds that one cannot drink alcohol. I don’t believe it limits liquid consumption to tea.

    “I can’t imagine any secular person being offended by an assertion that home-schooling has parallels with monasticism.” Are you kidding, or are you serious..? I can’t tell. Why would they not be offended? There are many secular people (meaning non-religious) that home-school their children that (I repeat) WOULD be offended by someone essentially calling them monks. No?

    “Wow; I’m sorry that happened to you, and I find it strange that your experience is exactly opposite to mine, where it is home-school-advocates that accuse public-schoolers of sin.” Not really sure who you are exactly…Don’t know what experiences you’ve had..don’t know if you belong to the same church as I do. However, when I went to Scotland, I met with considerable opposition before I was able to introduce myself, in some cases. I was accused of being a chauvinist. I was accused of narrow-mindedness, etc. For the record, I didn’t argue or debate once while I lived in Scotland, except for the main incident in a sitting room. I don’t like fights, I don’t like confrontations, and I dislike hate. I wasn’t looking for any fights, and I never mentioned home-schooling, but at times I was positively opposed. As for your apology…what is that supposed to mean? I’m not asking for an apology, I’m stating a fact that supports my argument. You should take it and think about it, instead of being sarcastic.

    “But shouldn’t you? All over the LC’s exposition of the 2nd table of the moral law there are admonitions to strive on behalf of “you and your neighbor”. If public-schooling is morally wrong, then you should be against it more strongly…” Well, should I? I don’t like confrontation..but if you think it’s my duty to force it on other people, I can try…

    “If it is merely “inferior”, but not “wrong”, then you should stop using the word “morally”.”

    ?? That doesn’t make any sense. In a moral sense, doesn’t inferior equal wrong!?

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  27. Samuel,
    Thanks for your response.. I appreciate what it is like to be busy and you will not be offended if I cant continue this debate for much longer (not because of a lack of desire or because an absence of importance in the issues) because of simple absence of time in my own life.

    I was encouraging you to read and study some of the arguments behind monasticism that were used in the early church… and as I said, many of the tones and lines that you are using – were being used by those individuals. The comment was not meant to be offensive, it was intended to get you to think a little more deeply about the arguments that you were using.

    Again, the comments on teetotalism that you had made were rather dismissive of the argument that is being levelled by honest and good Christians in favour of that approach… I am not saying that I agree with them but I would not do them the disservice of lightly dismissing what they had to say without even thinking about it.

    As for how you tackle arguments – I would suggest ‘ease’ is not a good word to use in relation to your approach… I think the more Biblical approach might require care, caution, thought, reflection etc…

    In regard to the minister (who you rightly dont mention) that offended you… I wonder the vigour with which you might have been making the case before hand for homeschooling in order to elicit that response… nearly everyone I have ever spoken to (or interviewed) on the topic has defended the right to homeschool – just disagreed with its necessity… or its practicality… or its effects….

    With regard to your ‘defence’ of homeschooling – I would suggest that you should always seek in debate to be honest about positions with which you disagree… In one part of the exchange you characterised public (or state) schools as : irreligious and places where ‘swearing, lying, stealing, cheating, and other immoralities are given free run?’

    I would demur from that opinion, and I would base that on having worked in those institutions for over 13 years on a daily basis and having conducted research in a range of those institutions about the very topics you are talking about. I find, even in schools that have no converted evangelical staff, that the teaching professionals would always challenge pupils who were swearing, lying, stealing, cheating etc… (who knows what you were suggesting under the sweeping other immoralities)… if you are saying that in a collection of kids drawn from all walks of life that some have occasionally used inappropriate language and it has been missed by a teacher… then fine.. but that is because the teacher is not infallible and would not catch every inappropriate remark.. but even the ‘irreligious’ staff that I know would seek to uphold what we would both viewed as a broad Christian standard of open morality.

    As for the ‘irreligious’ character of education – I would suggest that all education is based on Christian presuppositions and that these manifest themselves in a variety of ways throughout both the legal and formal curricula of schools (particularly in the uk). UK schools have the legal obligation to conduct a daily act of religious worship (difficult for some schools where there are not many Christians who see teaching as a vocation). RE is a compulsory area of the UK curriculum. I could go on… but, Christians built the educational system of both the USA and the UK and I for one am not prepared to give up the Christian heritage of my fathers and hand it across to those who are ‘irreligious’.

    Finally, thanks for the link to the Puritan Mind site – I think you are misreading those paragraphs based on a lack of understanding of the socio-economic context in the England during the Puritan era and the prevalence of schools based on a general absence of available education… the Puritans believed in education… as did the Scots Reformers… they were not Romanists who sought blind faith from their devotees. You must not confuse this with a modern doctrinaire homeschooling mindset. I would suggest that from my own continued reading in this area that the true roots of modern homeschooling (as I recently posted on the Texan Rose blog) are not to be found in Scottish Calvinism or the thinking of the English Puritans… but are more directly influenced by Dutch thinking..

    The second reference to a monastic approach in the later post is again intriguing. I think you are still missing the point and the argument – Christians dont tend to have a concern for solely their own family but want to influence their community. A christianity that pushes for home schools that are exclusive to its own – is by definition monastic in a degree. Whereas, a christianity that seeks to home school and opens its doors to other non-believing kids in the community – is one that I find more concordant with Bible teaching – and is the basis of the Christian school movement. This approach suffers from the same critique that you have levelled at public (state) schools – ie. that it will contain sinners who sin. The Reformed Church has followed this latter approach but, it has questioned ‘under the establishment principle’ about whether education is the province of the church or the province of the state… hence, the Free Church support for the 1872 education act which moved the Scottish Schools they had built into the province of the current school boards…

    I appreciate that some of this might feel personal… but please dont take debate in that fashion… it lowers it and tends to make it emotional – which in turn tends to render more heat than light!

    Regards as ever,
    ARM

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  28. I don’t think i get the joke

    The word is “teetotal.” It doesn’t need the dash that Andrew inserted, and I’m not sure the form “teetotalism” is a valid word (but I’ll let the resident linguist rule on that one), but you changed the spelling to “tea totalism” which I thought was funny. (But a joke that has to be explained must not be that good)

    As for your apology…what is that supposed to mean?

    Not trying to be sarcastic or mean; just trying to honestly empathize. I think it’s terrible that you were subjected to that.

    Don’t know what experiences you’ve had..don’t know if you belong to the same church as I do

    I belong to a PCA in San Diego, and we have our fair share of homeschoolers, through which I am kind of hooked into the greater San Diego homeschooling community, all too many of which are all too ready to lecture on the biblical mandate to school in the home, and the evils of handing God’s children over to the devil’s schools. I’ve never heard before of any Christian reviling homeschooling.

    (Also, I don’t homeschool or public school, but private (Christian (Reformed)) school, and I went to excellent public schools myself)

    There are many secular people (meaning non-religious) that home-school their children that (I repeat) WOULD be offended by someone essentially calling them monks. No?

    I still don’t see it. I have heard rumors of a parallel crowd of liberal, non-Christian homeschoolers, but I imagine they would readily see the connection between homeschool and monasticism. Isn’t it largely about protecting your kids from what you judge to be negative influences in the outside world?

    In a moral sense, doesn’t inferior equal wrong!?

    That’s exactly my point. If you are correct, and public-schooling is “morally inferior”, then it is morally wrong, it is immoral, and it is your Christian duty to oppose it (or at least be opposed to it). Logically then, if it is not your Christian duty to oppose public schooling (as you seem to believe), then it is not morally wrong, but merely inferior, in a non-moral sense. Like if I buy my children’s clothes from Walmart instead of Sears, then I may well have made an inferior choice, but not an immoral choice.

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    • The rumors are true; there is indeed a large and growing number of secular homeschoolers. And no, they wouldn’t see the connection between homeschool and monasticism.

      A quick google search for “secular homeschooling” will reveal a thriving online community of secular homeschoolers.

      It also will pull up the following link, which addresses some of the points brought up here and on my blog. I am sure we homeschooling folk will find it amusing, at least. :)

      http://www.secular-homeschooling.com/001/bitter_homeschooler.html

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      • Nice, I like #15 best:

        Stop asking, “But what about the Prom?” Even if the idea that my kid might not be able to indulge in a night of over-hyped, over-priced revelry was enough to break my heart, plenty of kids who do go to school don’t get to go to the Prom. For all you know, I’m one of them. I might still be bitter about it. So go be shallow somewhere else.

        I very intentionally and happily avoided my own prom. And I just as intentionally and happily persist in avoiding reunions. I guess public school failed to properly socialize me…

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  29. To Cath and all,……..

    Just a thought on ‘Home Schooling’ / Tea

    Given the culture of atheistic – humanism abroad in the UK I can fully understand concerned parents going down this route.

    It is a matter of conscience and not for me to critisise.

    Reading the pros / cons I tought of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

    They were young men, educated in a totally alien environment and yet they spiritually prospered in it.

    I’m not pushing a line but I do wonder if retreatism is the proper route even though things are dire in the world of education.

    Now for my second cuppa of tar or should I say tea. Yes I like mine strong. Must be the influence of the FP’s on this site.

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  30. Rube, I quite know what the word is. And thanks for pointing out what you perceive to be a misspell, but I’m sorry to inform you that I intentionally separated the two. Tea-totalism is where the word teetotalism came from. Even if it was misspelled, it’s a true sign of a weak argument when one must resort to making humor out of an opponent’s spelling skills.

    “I still don’t see it. I have heard rumors of a parallel crowd of liberal, non-Christian homeschoolers, but I imagine they would readily see the connection between homeschool and monasticism. Isn’t it largely about protecting your kids from what you judge to be negative influences in the outside world?” Rube, if you still can’t see it, maybe there is a severe miscommunication. Something is seriously wrong. I know of many, many, MANY families that do not home school for religious reason, but rather for academical reasons!! If they were essentially accused of being monks, they would be horrified..! So…I hope you can see it now? It’s common sense, brother!

    I don’t understand why you, Mr. Middleton, and Catherine feel the urge to “approve” of me and my word/argument usage. I appreciate the concern, but really, I’m quite good enough. I’ve argued and debated in many political and secular and religious forums in my own time. This happens to be a blog, not a debate forum, so I haven’t put on my logic armor. I thought common sense might work, but I was wrong.

    “I would suggest that all education is based on Christian presuppositions…” And……you would be quite wrong to suggest that, as a matter of fact…like…so the Greek gods were Christian somehow? Greek philosophy was based on Christianity? Evolution is based on Christianity? I think that’s quite a broad and incorrect statement, Mr. Middleton.

    One more thing, Mr. Middleton. I suggest you read R. L. Dabney on the matter. And make sure you keep your mind a little open-minded, at least. Or maybe you should narrow it a bit, i don’t know. Dabney says, speaking about children, “Sometimes it is asked, “How are the degraded classes to be elevated if they are thus to be denied all association with those better than themselves? While we fully recognize the Christian duty of seeking the degraded and of drawing them up to purer associations, we beg leave to demur against employing our innocent and inexperienced children as the missionaries. The braving of this moral contagion is the proper work of mature men and women of virtue and these are to elevate their beneficiaries by holding to them the relation of benevolent superiors, not of comrades and equals in schoolroom and playground.”

    How can it be said any better? We use Dabney in our theological tutoring, as you know, so we can’t go far wrong with them, I don’t believe.

    You said, regarding morally inferior/wrong…that I should at least BE opposed to it, if it is morally inferior. I am opposed to sending children to state schools in this evil day and age. I am not opposed to a state school in a perfect world. Make sense now?

    Seceder…I hope you don’t refer to homeschooling as the whole part of retreatism? If you want retreatism, you must add many more isolationist views to your life than homeschooling, because (at least in America) homeschoolers socialize as much if not more than public schoolers, and therefore are not retreatists.

    Now, friends. I apologize for anything given that was too personal. I do not back down from any of my arguments. However, i got a few unwelcoming emails from the author of this blog, and i get the feeling that I am entirely not wanted on this forum. So i bid you all adieu. And one last thing. All it would have taken was an apology for drawing illogical parallels between homeschooling and monasticism, and we all could have avoided this time-wasting discussion, and we could have lived happily ever after, agreeing to disagree. The apology has not been given.

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    • Hi Sam.

      I have reached this far in reading these comments (currently numbering 139). I will give a quick (and probably disjointed) summation of my thoughts so far.

      *

      I’ve argued and debated in many political and secular and religious forums in my own time.

      Specific personalised attacks on individuals; nit-picking of minor comments and flaring up over perceived slights, as opposed to dispassionate arguing of your position, makes me suppose that your debates on the forums mentioned became more heated than necessary.

      *As a secular Scottish FP adherent I agree: I am aware of a general dislike of home-schooling. I am also aware that there is an extreme distaste for the hyper-sexualised, evolution-based curriculum in state schools even amongst non churchgoers.

      *When I have been in groups of young churchgoers, and the home-schooling comes up, there is an almost morbid fascination with the subject. Often the argument that sometimes home-schooled folk have poorer interpersonal skills is made. There are (in my experience) individual examples that disprove this idea, but also many that seem to bear it out. Now the duty of Christians to Evangelise could be seen to be damaged by this. Obviously there are many products of the state school system that are maladjusted and downright objectionable – see your rude minister, for example.

      I will contribute more another time, it’s 2am and I have to be up in 4 hours.

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  31. Just another thought on ‘Home-schooling.’

    In fact I had it while brewing my tea.

    Was not, Moses, ‘learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.’ Acts 7.22

    Again another example of a young person taught in an alien environment and yet going on well.

    Could it be that tea is improving my powers of recall??

    More tea I say !

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    • Yes, we (homeschoolers) have heard this one a few times. So God preserved Moses despite his heathen education, and even blessed him so that he prospered in it. Following which, Moses persuaded the Israelites to stay in Egypt so as to have a positive influence upon the Egyptians. Right? Oh wait, no, Moses led the Israelites *out* of Egypt.

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      • Yes, but we Christians are not supposed to go out of this world (1 cor 5:10). Thus Moses taking God’s people into their own separate promised land is not typology for us. We will not be separated from the Egypt amongst which we live (or Babylon, in Daniel’s case), until Christ returns at the last day to take us to our new Heavens and Earth, which we will populate exclusively, with absolutely no evil influences.

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  32. Well sks, you’re probably gone, but this:

    we beg leave to demur against employing our innocent and inexperienced children as the missionaries. The braving of this moral contagion…

    is yet another example of why homeschooling is like monasticism.

    I’m sorry our common sense doesn’t match your common sense. And I’m sorry you found me so antagonistic; I really wasn’t trying to be snarky. (And I don’t think ‘teetotal’ etymologically comes from “totally drink tea”; but if it does, then the joke’s on me!)

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  33. Wow. Were one to go on record disagreeing with the likes of Dabney, he or she ought at least avoid an issue so simple and practical in nature, that appeals so easily and readily and handily to plain common sense and natural light, (as the masses are not usually nor commonly blinded by prejudice in the simplest matters, i. e., that children under their parent’s wing and authority, their proper and God-given sphere, equals monasticism).

    The wise man says, “If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

    Fools rush in where angels dare to tread.

    “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifies.” There is a camp that makes religion a stalking horse, and a soapbox for intellectual grandstanding and self-pleasing, of which there is no profit “in this life, nor in the life to come.”

    The puritans hit the mark in that “They know themselves too well.”

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  34. The ‘typology’ concerning Moses and the children of Israel does indeed hold for Christians – in terms of DEGREE (and you could add ‘desire’). This is where you err. “All scripture is profitable …”

    Israel did not turn to the Lord (their undoing) with their WHOLE heart – there is degree.

    But ye [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light … Peter was paraphrasing Deuteronomy. There is obviously a degree of separation assumed here.

    “Gather not my soul with the wicked.” There is the desire for ultimate separation from the world, planted in the hearts of God’s people in time. This is a mark of grace.

    Remember Rutherford, so often, “Lord, Lord, take us home.”

    Total separation, of course, is not taught, for then we “must needs go out of the world.”

    But as John Newton said, “Do your business (with the world) as in the rain.”

    Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
    James 4:4

    We should, rather than ‘take exception’ with one another, bring the weight of scripture to bear … as I have suggested on another blog. More scriptures, thus more light. “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” “I would that ye all speak the same things, mind the same things.”

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  35. Hey,

    I like Dabney. Didn’t he save ‘Stonewall’ Jackson’s ammunition train at Port Republic, 9 June 1862, during the Valley Campaign ?

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  36. Dear Samuel/Ernie,

    I said in my previous post that I would draw my interactions on this board shortly to a close and I fear despite the temptation to continue… that this will be my last post… as simply I don’t have the time to keep it up….

    I will avoid all the ‘personalisation’ of the argument in Samuel’s post and focus on the substantive argument that appeared in it (and then in the additional comments of his father)…

    Samuel suggests that I should read the Southern Theologian R.L. Dabney on the issue (and then unhelpfully for many on the board, fails to provide a reference to the articles in Volume 4 of his discussions – which are not part of the standard Banner of Truth set). He quotes, “How are the degraded classes to be elevated if they are thus to be denied all association with those better than themselves? Etc..” He then adds the comment that Dabney is used as part of our theological training, so ‘we cant go far wrong with him’. In support of his son, Ernie then adds the comment, ‘Wow. Were one to go on record disagreeing with Dabney he or she ought to avoid an issue so simple… etc.’ Then adding a series of other comments, with wise men, fools, angels etc…

    On these issues I do disagree with Dabney.

    Dabney on theological issues is excellent, I have been to Austin to see the university buildings and up to Hampden Sydney to see his classrooms and the grave where he is buried in his confederate uniform.

    Dabney on social issues is decidedly wrong! He took his views out of a defence of the ‘South’ as he saw it! He opposed the ‘Ruffner plan’ (for public education) as he saw that it would expose Southern children to Northern thinking. He argued that members of the labouring classes were ‘incompetent to navigate’ the ocean of knowledge to which they would be exposed. He argued that public education would level society with its superiors and inferiors (not Christians and non-Christians). He objected to public education (rightly, for the first time) in America as the state did not recognise the establishment principle and therefore would fail in areas of moral training. He objected to public education for fears of racial mixing, he said it sprang from a philosophy that would ‘make the blacks equal socially and politically, to the most respectable whites’.

    Dabney on these types of issues was racist – there is no point trying to hide it to protect his reputation or to misquote him to try to defend home schools. He was even worse on the question of whether someone with black skin could hold ecclesiastical office. In the debates in the 1867 General Assembly you can see that Dabney viewed black people as degraded and dishonourable. I believe that in Christ’s Church there is no place for his racial pride or superiority complexes. He warned in those debates that race mixing in churches would lead to social amalgamation and miscegenation and that this was the goal of the Devil himself. He claimed that black people in ecclesiastical office would ‘taint the blood of the hallowed plains of Manassas with this sordid stream’. By admitting ‘Negroes’ onto sessions he was ‘you must have this negro of yours reviewing and censuring the records of white sessions, and sitting to judge appeals brought before you by white parties, possibly by white ladies!’. I could go on…. Dabney on these issues is wrong!

    I am pleased that I belong to a church that in 1989 had a black skinned minister as the moderator of its synod, in the face of one of the most crucial debates in its history. I am pleased that I belong to a church that was the first in the United Kingdom to have a black skinned minister hold its most senior office in its courts.

    Sam and Ernie – we belong to a church that has more black skinned Free Presbyterians than those with white skin. You are not being honest when you misquote Dabney’s racist social ideology in support of your form of modern doctrinaire homeschooling – he did not support it (he wanted his white gentlemans schools that retained the ‘old south’ of his youth). I also appreciate that some of the other readers of this blog will have only read the good parts of Dabney… and they are still excellent… and keep reading them… Dabney on theology is excellent… Dabney on social/race issues is wrong!

    Warm Regards to all,

    ARM

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  37. The (simple) issue here is what saith the scripture? To whom do the children belong? The following nuggets from Dabney (direct quotes, not misquotes) have nothing to do with race. Pay especially close attention to the second.

    “There can be, therefore, no true education without moral culture, and no true moral culture without Christianity. The very power of the teacher in the school-room is either moral or it is a degrading force. But he can show the child no other moral basis for it than the Bible. Hence my argument is as perfect as clear. The teacher must be Christian. But the American Commonwealth has promised to have no religious character. Then it cannot be teacher.”

    “It is the teaching of the Bible and of sound Political ethics that the education of children belongs to the sphere of the family and is the duty of the parents. The theory that the children of the Commonwealth are the charge of the Commonwealth is a pagan one, derived from heathen Sparta and Plato’s heathen republic, and connected by regular, logical sequence with legalized prostitution and the dissolution of the conjugal tie.”

    For most who have posted here, scripture is ultimate arbitrator, a “lamp unto their feet, a light unto their path.” One could cite numberless scripture quotations supporting the statement that “the education of children belongs to the family and is the duty of the parents.” Au contraire, the scriptures are silent on common schools for Christian youth.

    If this is incorrect, please supply the proof-text.

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  38. The very power of the teacher in the school-room is either moral or it is a degrading force. … The teacher must be Christian.

    So when my kid learns calculus from a non-Christian math teacher, or takes piano lessons from a non-Christian musician, or plays soccer under a non-Christian coach, that is necessarily morally degrading?

    It is the teaching of the Bible and of sound Political ethics

    Why is that second phrase included? Is it possible that natural revelation plays a role in this discussion? That the Bible alone does not give (nor intend to give) exhaustive instruction on every issue a Christian might face in their lives?

    the scriptures are silent on common schools for Christian youth.

    Amen! So since we are not dealing with an issue of corporate worship, the Regulative Principle does not apply, and Christians have liberty to fulfill their duty to educate their children by any means which are not forbidden by scripture. So where is the biblical prohibition against public education?

    If this is incorrect, please supply the proof-text.

    As I noted above, the burden is on you to provide proof-texts forbidding public education, not on me to provide proof-texts allowing it. Even so, I would of course point to Daniel 1. The prospect of a Chaldean education is not presented there as an imposition, but as an opportunity.

    And notice how Daniel is able to separate the secular from the religious. In v8, where is Daniel’s concern about defilement — does he object to the education? No, Daniel is concerned only with food, which would defile him according to Jewish religious laws. If you and Dabney are correct, then certainly Daniel should have said “Screw you, pagan King, I will defile myself with neither your food NOR your ‘literature and language'”. But apparently Daniel didn’t think that being taught Chaldean literature (no doubt including Chaldean religious mythology), by a Chaldean teacher, was necessarily morally degrading.

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    • I don’t follow the Daniel analogy. Daniel was a captive in a heathen land. The reason he got a Chaldean education rather than a Hebrew education was that the Israelites were being punished by God for their idolatry. Surely Daniel, as a devout Jew, would rather have been back in Israel.

      No, being taught the Chaldean “learning and tongue” was not evil in and of itself, or presumably Daniel would have refused it. But that doesn’t mean that he would have chosen a Chaldean education if he’d had other options.

      Dabney is hardly alone amongst Reformed theologians in stating that the education of our children ought to be explicitly Christian.

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      • But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t *both* say that education ought-morally-ought to be explicitly Christian *and* say that when someone isn’t educated in an explicitly Christian manner it’s not morally evil after all.

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        • Hmm. Not sure about this. There aren’t any absolute positive moral imperatives, are there? One “ought” to give alms. But if doing so means your family suffers, then you oughtn’t.

          You “ought” to give your children an explicity Christian education (=, for the sake of this argument, schooling in an explicitly Christian environment). This precept, like all the others, is intended to order your behaviour to the salvation of souls and the greater glory of God. It may well be that in a particular case, providing schooling in an explicitly Christian environment would not serve this end as well as sending your kids to a local non-denom/Muslim/waddever school.

          So the only discussions that can be had are:

          1) drawing out what the various considerations are (e.g. risk of “monasticism” in whatever bizarre meaning Wee Tea Frees give it :) ) in any situation.

          2) the general pros and cons in a given country/area or hypothetical situation: e.g. dodgy areas of central belt cities, schools in rural areas, …

          3) the pros and cons of one particular family or child homeschooling or not.

          3) would not really be something to discuss on a blog, and therefore leaves only 1) or 2). Neither 1) nor 2) permits an absolute command or prohibition. All one can do is present the arguments for one or other option in a hypothetical situation, or one’s opinions on things observed.

          So most of this loooooong comment thread is pointless.

          Time for tea :)

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          • that began as a discussion of the possibility of saying one ought to do somehting, but not hold it morally evil not to do it, and ended up as something else :)

            I think I made that point, though. What I ddin’t say (and I can’t be bothered reading all this thread to find out if it’s already been said – sorry, Cath!) is that the “giving an explicitly Christian education” thing would also have to be defined for the argument to go anywhere :)

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      • Thanks cath!

        Yes, Daniel was captive in a heathen land; his situation is analagous to ours because he was an exile, and we are exiles (Heb 11:14, Jer 29:4ff, etc.)

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  39. “if he’d had other options”

    I suppose Daniel didn’t have an option. It is well that some Christian parent’s circumstances when it comes to education are such that they do have options.

    However I would say when it comes to the realm of education, most Christian parents do not have an option for a multitude of reasons.

    For those who cannot home educate I presume the recourse that such parents have when sending their children out into the world of education is prayer that the LORD might preserve them in their going out and in their coming in as per Psalm 121.8

    It is a matter of conscience. I can see pros and cons on both sides of the argument. I’m not saying anyone should not have an opinion or even a strong opinion on it.

    At the end of the day whatever our differences we ought to be forbearing one another in love. Eph 4.2

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    • “…when it comes to the realm of education, most Christian parents do not have an option for a multitude of reasons.”

      How sad!

      If Christian education is considered a priority by the church, then those Christian parents *will* have more options. Many Reformed churches here in the US have founded Christian schools and/or actively support homeschooling (often both at once).

      A great example of how a church can be supportive of homeschooling:

      http://www.sycamorerpc.org/sca/about_sca.html

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        • Quite.

          Many parents can’t because they are personally not educated enough to, cannot afford to financially give up the time to teach their kids and feed them, or, perish the thought, live in an area where there is no homeschool network or support them, no churches that provide schools, or churches that do provide schools but give substandard and/or theologically unsound teaching.

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          • All of the above obstacles except the lack of education were true for my parents (at least for the first decade), yet they homeschooled their five children anyway.

            I think that more parents could homeschool than think they could.

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            • By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place…obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

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              • For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him.

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                • “Note, [1.] All that take upon them a profession of religion undertake to build a tower, not as the tower of Babel, in opposition to Heaven, which therefore was left unfinished, but in obedience to Heaven, which therefore shall have its top-stone brought forth. Begin low, and lay the foundation deep, lay it on the rock, and make sure work, and then aim as high as heaven.

                  “[2.] Those that intend to build this tower must sit down and count the cost. Let them consider that it will cost them the mortifying of their sins, even the most beloved lusts; it will cost them a life of self-denial and watchfulness, and a constant course of holy duties; it may, perhaps, cost them their reputation among men, their estates and liberties, and all that is dear to them in this world, even life itself. And if it should cost us all this, what is it in comparison with what it cost Christ to purchase the advantages of religion for us, which come to us without money and without price?

                  “[3.] Many that begin to build this tower do not go on with it, nor persevere in it, and it is their folly; they have not courage and resolution, have not a rooted fixed principle, and so bring nothing to pass. It is true, we have none of us in ourselves sufficient to finish this tower, but Christ hath said, My grace is sufficient for thee, and that grace shall not be wanting to any of us, if we seek for it and make use of it.

                  “[4.] Nothing is more shameful than for those that have begun well in religion to break off; every one will justly mock him, as having lost all his labour hitherto for want of perseverance. We lose the things we have wrought (2 John 8), and all we have done and suffered is in vain, Gal. iii. 4.”

                  Matthew Henry on Luke 14:28

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                • (Can’t reply direct to Stephen, thread’s too long)

                  Well I suppose that goes to show that any quote dragged kicking and screaming from context can be used to prove ones own point of view; see ES’s post above.

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  40. “The prospect of a Chaldean education is not presented there (to Daniel in Babylon) as an imposition, but as an opportunity.”

    How we do we know THAT? I thought the whole point of the book of Daniel was illustrative of godless nations/societies ‘imposing’ on the boy. He twice very nearly had his head handed to him.

    There’s much teaching in the book of Daniel (for everyone), but nothing in the way of duties of parents and secular schools (well, maybe Hitler’s Youth Groups), and so on and so fourth. (Daniel was there against his will, and no parents were involved.)

    But regarding practical things (like education for example but besides that), since we’re on the exile analogy … what would be the ‘outworking of,’ or some illustrations, or examples, or instances, that would show, or indicate, that Christians are exiles in the world – again, strictly on a practical level. How are Christians exiles, on, like a day to day basis, in our everyday lives? What would make Christians different from others? What about, for example, in the way of entertainment?

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  41. How we do we know THAT?

    Dan 1:3-5; only the best and brightest were allowed this opportunity to learn and join the King’s court. This is the same as Joseph; was it oppression or opportunity that Joseph got to be Pharaoh’s right-hand man?

    nothing in the way of duties of parents and secular schools

    Again, agreed. Which is why parents have liberty to educate their children by many and various means. But although Daniel doesn’t address the duties of parents or secular schools, it does demonstrate that secular schools are permissible.

    How are Christians exiles, on, like a day to day basis, in our everyday lives?

    Well that’s a large question, and certainly can’t be addressed in this small space. I recommend you go read this guy’s whole blog.

    What about, for example, in the way of entertainment?

    The first thing that comes to mind is that we can tell the difference between entertainment and worship.

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  42. Having visited your page, I’m reminded of your statement concerning the scriptures not addressing every area of our life.

    I think there’s light enough in the Bible though to at least guide us in something so simple as what we, as professing Christians, name our weblogs.

    As for the suggested link, I’d hardly be interested in a theologian slash philosopher who “spent his missionary winters watching re-runs of Lonesome Dove.”

    Abstain from all ‘appearance’ of evil. It’s one thing to trip up in private, another to openly approve of certain things.

    Are you Positive, when you speak of ‘exile’ … you’re not thinking of “Exile on Main Street?”

    What is “we can tell the difference between entertainment and worship” code for?

    Farewell.

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    • light enough in the Bible though to at least guide us in something so simple as what we, as professing Christians, name our weblogs.

      Funny! You probably thought I was making a pun with the word diarrhea. Rather, I was making a pun with the lesser-known (but 1996 U.S. National Spelling-Bee-winning) word logorrhea — literally from the Greek, “word-flow”; or more generally, verbosity.

      when you speak of ‘exile’ … you’re not thinking of “Exile on Main Street?”

      I don’t know what that means. (What is that code for?)

      What is “we can tell the difference between entertainment and worship” code for?

      It’s code for the regulative principle; worshipping God as he has prescribed, rather than continually conforming worship to ever-changing “culturally-relevant” forms of entertainment.

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    • As for the suggested link, I’d hardly be interested

      I wasn’t thinking quickly enough. You’re probably already turned-off from Jason Stellman, but instead of the blog, I should have pointed you directly to his book Dual Citizens. You can “Look Inside” at Amazon (Table of Contents, etc.), but unfortunately, JJS’s penchant for pithy subtitles doesn’t really give away much of an idea of what the content might be like. The free preview, however, does include the entire Foreword, Preface, and Introduction — that’s gotta be worth a peek, right?

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  43. I don’t intend saying all that much on here – I don’t have time for a long argument, and plenty has been said already.
    However…
    I assume that all are agreed that we would prefer it if our children were educated by Christians; in a Christian manner and from a Christian perspective. There is more than a hint of a suggestion from the home-schooling advocates on this post that those who don’t agree with them think that that is unimportant. We all think it is the ideal and it’s what we aspire to in society. A good reason for more Christians to become public-school teachers!
    The question really is whether the perspective of the teacher or the circumstances of the education is more important. Since it is a parent’s duty to instil in their children a sense of morality and degree of biblical knowldege, there seems to be little reason why a properly raised child should be too concerned about the perspective of the teacher. We were sent to the public schools, but we learned more than enough in the home about scripture and morality to completely nullify the ideas of any of our atheistical teachers. I know that the vast majority of FP parents do a similarly excellent job of teaching their children. To pretend that the perspective of the teacher puts the student at greater risk seems to me to be an abdication of the very serious responsibility which lies with Christian parents to prepare their offspring for the outside world. Myself and my siblings learned how to cope with very many things which we would later have to face alone – but when we met them at school we had a loving and praying family to support us, so the lesson could be learned. Both mother and father took a keen interest in every aspect of our school lives and ensured that it was to their satisfaction.
    The circumstances of state education is more of a concern to me. Childen in state schools have very low moral standards. Their parents have equally low standards. When children are exposed to a lack of morality for long periods, it desensitizes and dulls the conscience. But, removing a child from any exposure to the reality of the immoral world is equally dangerous.
    1. It instils a sense of moral superiority which is at odds with biblical teaching on the depravity of man’s nature.
    2. It causes an unbiblical disconnect from worldly people around us, to whom we ought to provide light and Christian love.
    3. It ill prepares the child for the shock of what Satan and the world will throw their way when they have to face it alone as young adults.

    From my experience of home-schooled children, almost all of them suffer from the first problem. Most of them suffer from the second problem as well. Comparing home-schooled children with state-educated children suggests to me that both groups are equally likely to fail to cope with the pressures of worldliness when they have to face it alone. In other words, home-schooling doesn’t make a child more likely to remain in the church, and it certainly doesn’t make him more likely to be converted. But it does damage his usefulness to the cause of Christ.

    Unlike Cath, I am decidedly anti- home-schooling for that reason.

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    • I am homeschooling precisely because I believe that it will further my boys’ usefulness in the cause of Christ.

      I’m sorry to see that someone who knows little to nothing about me or my children has decided that, because we homeschool, my boys’ usefulness is in fact being damaged (and that they are being instilled with a sense of moral superiority, et cetera)

      I think I had best say “Good-bye” to this conversation, and may more charitable thoughts prevail in future. :)

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      • Do wish you dear folks would stop storming off like this. It isn’t personal. (Compare: We’re sorry to see people who know nothing about us deciding that because we don’t homeschool, we must be very worldly and not care about our children’s souls.) If it was possible to discuss the matter without people taking things personally, it would be very valuable, but you’re now the third pro-homeschooler on this thread to have disappeared citing personal reasons when no personal comment was directed against you.

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        • Catherine, I am stunned by your words. I saw Finlay’s comment, and I was assuring myself that you must be cringing for him, because of how strongly he came across. I told myself not to get angered by his absurdly sharp remarks. On the contrary, you wholeheartedly endorse his directly personal comments. (You know full well that he is speaking primarily about my family when he condemns homeschooling. I’ve been around for a little while…I am familiar with the old arguments and perceptions between my family and Finlay, among others.)

          Being that you wholeheartedly endorse Finlay’s comment, and say nothing about the personal insults (yet worded so perfectly so as to allow others to endeavor to perpetrate the argument that there was no personalization in the comment) he offered, I am at a loss for words. I would expect you, knowing what it means to profess to be a Christian, and professing to be a Christian, and indeed professing to be spiritually strong, and believing yourself able to educate others on many matters of spiritual importance, to be much more of a peaceful nature, to say the least. (I could go on, but what is the point? See my last paragraph.)

          Third homeschooler to leave, citing personal reasons? Don’t you get the point? You guys don’t listen to ANYTHING! When we bring Dabney up, “you guys” (To follow your lead, gathering us all together in one heap.) say that he’s a racist, and therefore can’t be trusted for his views on homeschooling (which has nothing to do with race), yet we trust him for much more important matters, I.e., theology!!!!!

          Why do you think we have just left, shaking our heads? And so what if we cite personal reasons?? Aren’t we mostly familiar with each other? So how is citing personal reasons unreasonable? Is this a debating forum? Are there rules? I didn’t see any. I have been complimented twice this very day, because I knew something more than the others in my class. When asked why, I simply stated “Oh, I was homeschooled, ya know…” And everyone was like (FINLAY) “Well, you proud, arrogant stuck-up good for nothing! Homeschoolers are so arrogant!” They said “Oh man, that would have been so cool! They’re all so smart!” You people don’t get it. Catherine, perhaps if you studied how to be the woman of Christianity more than if you buried yourself in the world’s academia, you might be able to come down to our lowly level and see the common sense which we use. I say nothing against education as a principle. I *do* say that education (across the board) as it stands today has a tendency to cloud one’s mind, preventing Christian perspectives from shining.

          I am finished clarifying all of my statements. You should know your Bible well enough to know where I come from. If you don’t, I’m sorry, but it’s not my fault that you don’t. I am tired of having to clarify every single word for what are supposed to be fellow-Christians! See, most (not all, solely because I am not infallible) of my arguments come straight out of or can be backed up with scripture. Unfortunately, you simply can’t say the same thing for yourself. ESPECIALLY when your own side of the argument starts saying that it’s better to rub shoulders with infidels than with Christians.

          You see, we’re not out of words to say. We think a lot, if you ever need some advice. For my part, it doesn’t boil down to backing away from the argument, as you suggest. You might remember that the Lord once said “…[don’t] cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet…” While I can’t say that I believe that this verse applies directly here, yet it follows the same line of reasoning. I have said reasonable statements that many people have looked at with great consideration, some eventually denying them, others accepting them…yet you don’t even look into them..you just walk right on top of them. Who, in their right mind, would come back and say anything more, knowing that they will just be trampled under again?

          I acknowledge that some of this may sound rude. I feel like you might actually listen if I give a literary slap in the face, however. This has nothing to do with arrogance per se..it has everything to do with being human.

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          • Samuel, Sharon, and others,
            I’m sorry I have to address you directly – I’d really rather leave names and individuals out of this, but you do rather force my hand.
            I have to point out a few things, most of them in response to you, Samuel.
            Firstly, while I have discussed many issues with your older brothers, I have never discussed home-schooling. So you know nothing of any preconceptions I may have.
            Secondly, I have close relatives who home-school. I love them dearly, but strongly disagree with their choice. None of my views impacts for a moment on how I feel about any individual home-schooler.
            Thirdly, you are on very dangerous ground when you accuse Cath, and by implication others, of being unchristian and ignorant in their approach. In fact, despite your protestations, you are guilty of fairly bewildering ignorance, arrogance and unchristian speech yourself. I think you have met Cath, and know a little about her – how dare you extrapolate from her failure to endorse homeschooling, to the conclusion that she is too academic to care about being a Christian?? Arrogance and rudeness are precisely what you are guilty of.
            Fourthly, caricaturing the arguments of those who disagree with you, and wrapping them in inflammatory language which wasn’t used in their statements, doesn’t help your arguments. Neither does the ad hominem approach you too frequently employ.
            Fifthly, arguing from the fact that (presumably publicly-educated) colleagues have complimented your general knowledge, to the conclusion that home-schooling produces more intelligent students is as absurd as it is unscienitific. I have yet to see a convincing set of data which demonstrates a significant difference between the outcomes achieved by home-schoolers versus the public education system, in any country. And I have looked! Don’t believe all the statistics you see. And don’t believe your own hype!
            Sixthly, and finally, lest anyone interpret my comments as an attack on your family or anyone else in particular, may I say that your brother Jett is proving to be an extremely useful and able preacher. The congregation who is favoured to have him as a pastor will be a blessed one.
            Regards,
            Finlay

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            • “…caricaturing the arguments of those who disagree with you, and wrapping them in inflammatory language which wasn’t used in their statements, doesn’t help your arguments. Neither does the ad hominem approach… ”

              Wholeheartedly agreed.

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            • Thanks, Finlay, for that gentlemanly response. With one thing and another I haven’t had the time to follow these comments very closely over the past several days. I would only add as a point of information that most of us know, perhaps not lots, but several other families who homeschool, both within and outwith the FP church, both in the UK and elsewhere. It is completely and utterly mistaken to think that any one family is being singled out when the topic of homeschooling comes up.

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          • I have to agree with cath and Finlay that the homeschoolers in this thread have exhibited “bewildering” level of touchiness. For example, the whole teetotalism/”tea totalism” thing was not an ad hominem attack meant to undermine your credibility, but rather some playful banter meant to defuse mounting tension. But because your siege-armor was up, you took affront.

            To use a CA-ism, you really need to chill. If you can’t take the heat (or rather, if you think this is heat — because in the blog world, this is tepid!), you probably should just stay away. The only possible result is that you get angry and offended, and we get confused that you are so angry and offended.

            And for the record, I am not against home-schooling. I was public-schooled myself (no regrets), I have home-schooled my kids, I am private-schooling my kids, and I may yet home-school and/or public-school my kids.

            I am not against home-schooling any more than I am against Psalmody. What I am against is the legalistic infringement on Christian liberty when exclusive- is prepended to either of those. Specifically, I am against implications that home-school is biblically mandated, or that public schooling is sinful (same thing, logically)

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        • As a relatively impartial but interested observer of the comments on the subject of homeschooling I note the following;

          I would have to agree with Cath, there is a bit too much of the paranoid and the petulant about some of the outbursts.

          I take it that all the contributers have reached the age of majority and have long since given up on throwing their teddies out of the pram.

          Now just before anyone jumps down my throat, I am not an FP member. I attend their services on a semi regular basis which I find to profit.

          Neither do I know peronally either the moderator of the forum or any of those on the anti or pro camps of homeschooling.

          Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another: if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. Col. 3.13

          “Let your speech be alway with grace” Col 4.6

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        • I’m sorry that I left the impression that I was storming off. I did not feel personally affronted by Finlay’s remarks; rather, I felt that there wasn’t much point in continuing to discuss homeschooling with people who are not personally aquainted with homeschoolers, yet insist upon portraying them in an uncharitable light. I framed my response in personal terms in an attempt to demonstrate the folly of making broad statements about homeschoolers without actually knowing much of anything about them. Now, reading Finlay’s further comments, I see that he is in fact personally acquainted with homeschoolers to a greater degree than I had realized; however, I still believe that he is in error–and uncharitable–to make negative statements about all homeschoolers based upon his experiences with a few.

          No one has actually said that because you don’t homeschool, you must be very worldly and not care about children’s souls. If something I said gave you the impression that I thought that, I apologize, because that’s not at all what I believe.

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          • Sharon,
            I didn’t make negative comments about all homeschoolers. I happen to know of at least one home-schooled family whose children are excellent adverts for the home-schooling idea. I only said what my experience has been, namely that the great majority of home-schooled children I know are not well served by it in terms of their social development and understanding of what it takes to ‘get on’ with worldly people in a way that is constructive, with a view to bringing them the gospel. I don’t think my original post was short on reasons for my opinions. There is nothing uncharitable about stating one’s point of view in a discussion.
            I’m quite happy for you to think I am ‘in error’. I might be. But both reason and experience suggest to me that I’m not, and that’s all I was saying…

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          • No one has actually said that because you don’t homeschool, you must be very worldly and not care about children’s souls.

            You may not have said that, but I hear it all the time. I’d guess half of the families in my church homeschool, and about half of them don’t seem to know that they’re called “public” schools, because all they ever say are “devil’s” schools.

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            • About half of them call them the devil’s schools. That is quite a lot of wrong people. I mean in the context of the number of your particular church attendees.

              But how do we know they’re wrong!? We just assume they are?

              What scriptures (or deducing from scripture) affirm that they are not the devil’s schools?

              I’m simply saying that there are many scriptures that would at least cause one to pause and ponder the possibility that they are not wrong, but what about scripture weight on the flip side?

              There is the “god of this world”…”the whole world lieth in wickedness”…”the children of disobedience,” and so on.

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  44. I assume that all are agreed that we would prefer it if our children were educated by Christians; in a Christian manner and from a Christian perspective.

    There are many (most) academic topics which are non-religious, which means that “Christian perspective” is a meaningless term. There are plenty of good teachers out there who are non-Christian, and there are plenty of non-Christians out there who don’t have an axe to grind against Christianity.

    Maybe you would want to say “all things being equal, wouldn’t you choose a Christian teacher over a non-Christian?”, but I think it’s equally valid to say “if all teaching-related things are really equal, isn’t it preferable to rub shoulders with a non-Christian and try to influence them with the gospel?’

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  45. Rube Rad,
    That is precisely my point – the religious viewpoint of the teacher actually makes very little difference most of the time.
    But I strongly disgaree with the way you have worded your last sentence. It isn’t preferable to rub shoulders with non-Christians. Christians ought to desire the company of other believers as much as possible. But that is not the same as saying that we should shun and avoid the company of unbelievers. We should definitely be seeking to brign the gospel to them, and for that reason, among others, we ought to teach our children to cope with living among them.

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  46. You seem to be implying that the only legitimate grounds for personal engagement with nonbelievers is to share the gospel. I don’t think that’s biblical. Can’t I just crack a beer with my neighbor and chat about our lives, marriages, kids, jobs, hobbies, etc? The gospel too, of course, as much as we can, but if they shut us down with a decisive, “Look, I’ve heard what you have to say about Christianity, I reject it, and I just don’t want to hear any more!” are we forced to tell them, “well I guess we just can’t be friends any more.”

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  47. Rube Rad,
    I’m not sure what it was, but I must have said something which has led you to think I’m against interaction with worldly people. I’m not. I frequently ‘crack a beer’ with my mates from work and talk about all the things you’ve mentioned. Often, it isn’t possible to talk about religion. That’s ok – I would like to think that, just occasionally, they can glimpse something in my lifestyle which signifies to them that Christ is the most important object of my attention. When I’m able to discuss religion, I try not to force it down their throats. As a public school teacher, I engage with non-Christians all day every day, and I hope I come across as personable and relatively free from the moral superiority which I think turns people off from Christianity.
    But if you ask me what company I prefer, I would always say “that of Christians”. I would far rather go round to the manse on the Friday of the communion than sit in a pub with workmates who are only interested in getting drunk. I’d much rather spend Saturday afternoon at the home of Christian friends than at the home of friends from work. But life is varied and balanced, and I can’t spend all my time with Christians. Neither should I expect to.

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  48. I’m not sure what it was, but I must have said something

    It was “that is not the same as saying that we should shun and avoid the company of unbelievers. We should definitely be seeking to brign the gospel to them”. I missed the shortly following “among other reasons”, and I’m glad you agree that Christians do not need to segregate themselves into a societal ghetto (dare I say “monastery”?), and can and should legitimately engage with all manner of people in all manner of ways other than just spreading the Gospel. This is a touchy subject for me, because although I believe this is true, I find in my life that I actually have pretty close to zero non-Christian friends, and no desire to make any. This I consider to be sinful; I fail to cherish the image of God in my neighbors, and that makes it quite difficult for me to love or serve them.

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  49. I think you’re right, but with one proviso: while all our interactions aren’t going to be aimed at spreading the gospel, we ought (not that we will ever achieve this the way we ought) always to be giving off a sort of ‘fragrance’ of Christ which makes Christianity appealing to those of the world with whom we engage.
    I’m also unsure (as in, I genuinely don’t know one way or the other) about the idea, implicit in your post, of actively seeking non-Christian friends when providence hasn’t placed these in our lives. The non-Christian friends I have probably wouldn’t be friends if they weren’t first of all colleagues and acquaintances. I don’t think I’d be sinning if I failed to go out and find non-Christian friends. But since my providence is to be found in their company a lot, and to have a number of them as good friends, I hadn’t really thought about it too much!
    Regards,
    F

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  50. Hi all, I was alerted to this fascinating discussion by a sister of mine who is in the privileged position of having experienced education in both the school and the home.

    Firstly, it appears from my observation that even with huge opposition from a godly home and strong church, decidedly ‘secular’ state education generally tends to raise decidedly ‘secular’ children, while education from a godly father and/or mother, or a good Christian school if necessary, tends to set children early on the road to the new birth. Exclusively Christian education (Deut. 6:4-7) is a large part of the means God has given for covenant children to be brought to Himself, according to the promise: ‘For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring’ (Isaiah 44:3).

    So, from the comparisons that I (and many others) have made between various groupings of children in various parts of the world, state educated children far more often become hardened in worldliness and sin (even if unwittingly), and at an earlier age than those reared by their fathers ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4).

    It is true that man is born in sin and, without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, remains totally depraved. However, the children of believers are under special covenant promises and so are counted not as unclean, but as holy (1 Cor. 7:14). Therefore they ought to be kept as much as possible in a clean environment. Common sense tells us that if we raise children in a filthy environment they will be sure to pick up more dirt, and they will not thank us in the long term. ‘Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners’ (1 Cor. 15:33).

    The old Scottish reformation principles were in favour of exclusively Christian education (the Scottish Presbyterian churches only relinquished control of schools in the late 19th century), and the great German reformer, well understanding the corruption of human nature, was of like mind:

    ‘Luther next proceeds to the universities and schools’, says Reformation historian J. H. Merle d’Aubigné: “I am much afraid that the universities will prove to be the great gates of hell, unless they diligently labour in explaining the Holy Scriptures, and engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.” Weighty words, upon which governments, learned men, and parents in every age should seriously meditate!’ (History of the Reformation in the 16th Century, p190).

    However, devilish secularism eventually gained control of the German education system as well – and the takeover was complete with the banning of homeschooling by Adolf Hitler.

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  51. Stephen,
    Much of what you write is an attack upon a straw man. Very few, if any, Free Presbyterians would argue with the idea that education delivered by Christians is preferable to education delivered by non-Christians, all else being equal. Similarly, we would none of us dispute that it is the responsibility of parents to instil a sense of morality, bible knowledge and wisdom in their children. Your reference to Deuteronomy 6 suggests that you define ‘education’ as teaching children about religious and moral matters. I think most of the rest of us are on a different page; by ‘education’ we mean knowledge and understanding of all the secular sciences and arts, and proficiency in their use. To say that Deuteronomy 6 delegates this task to parents seems to me to be a mis-reading of the passage.
    In better times in Scotland, the church was able to educate the people, and this was an ideal situation. That situation does not exist now, and the parent who is able to do the work of ten teachers is rare. Much rarer than the parent who thinks s/he can!
    Finally, I’m afraid your tit-for-tat allegation that Christian home-schooling produces more godly results than state education regardless of parental input, proves nothing. Apart from the fact that your perception is unlikely to be free from bias, it certainly doesn’t accord with what I’m aware of. And the issues I raised concerning social development, and therefore usefulness, remain.

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    • allegation that Christian home-schooling produces more godly results than state education regardless of parental input

      Mathematically speaking, such statistics are plagued by a heavy self-selection bias. It’s like saying that members of the Society for the Annihilation of Rhubarb consume 99% less rhubarb than the general population — it is not the group that causes the decrease in consumption; rather both membership in the group and decreased consumption are effects of a deeper, root cause, namely dislike for rhubarb.

      Same thing is happening here. If you look at the stereotypical homeschooling Christian family today, and wind back a generation to before the homeschooling revolution, when it was less known, more difficult, and there were fewer resources out there, that family would have public- or private-schooled, and their kids would have turned out fine. Why? Because they’re a Christian family that took seriously the religious education of their children; namely, they catechized them (in either the specific or general sense)

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    • Hi Finlay, I do understand that we are all together in believing education delivered by Christians to be preferable, but some of your main points have appeared to me to be arguments for educating children in a worldly environment – which a good number of Free Presbyterians believe to be exceedingly harmful.

      For example, you say that ‘the great majority of home-schooled children I know are not well served by it in terms of their social development and understanding of what it takes to “get on” with worldly people in a way that is constructive, with a view to bringing them the gospel.’ However, many of us believe that when left with worldy or heathen compeers from an early age, children (and this includes carelessly supervised homeschoolers by the way), are in great danger of ‘getting on’ with them all the way to eternal destruction. ‘My son, walk not thou in the way with [sinners]; refrain thy foot from their path’ (Proverbs 1:15).

      Besides, let’s face it, the curricula and most teachers in secular schools are anti-Christian in one way or another. Would any of us here willingly send any children to one of those madrasas in, say, London or Rotterdam, and expect to get back a little army of evangelists to the Muslims? Of course, God is very gracious, and miracles can happen – I have been blessed in knowing a number of godly children (sometimes even with an unbelieving parent or two) who struggled through the filth that is the current Australian (or UK) state education system (cf. Daniel 1) – but as Christians we are enjoined to use the means where possible (Matthew 4:6-7). Being ‘in the world but not of it’ implies that we should not imbibe the false teaching of the world. Children go to school to learn, and if skilfully taught they will usually imbibe their subjects – whether good, bad or positively disgusting. But, ‘I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil’ (Romans 16:19).

      Now, none of us here is, I trust, opposed to a broad education in the sciences and arts where at all possible, but I do consider it dangerous to distinguish these branches of learning as ‘secular’. Since everything we study is a result of God’s wise authorship, that concept surely cannot be considered Scriptural (cf. Psalm 19:1); and, as far as I know, no such distinction was made by godly scientists, historians or other learned men of the past. It seems that our forefathers in the faith insisted that children be educated either by the church or their parents – Thomas Manton in his Epistle to the Reader (Westminster Confession of Faith, Free Presbyterian Publications, pp9-12,) expects godly fathers and mothers to be the chief educators of their own children – and gave no countenance to the notion of a neutral, non-religious education system. Our Lord Jesus says, ‘He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad’ (Matthew 12:30).

      I’m sorry if my comparisons looked like some ‘tit-for-tat’ allegation. On the other hand, your claims regarding social development appear somewhat arbitrary and not without a hint of bias. Besides, unlike the more ‘uniform’ results of state education (which, rightly or wrongly, has an obvious levelling effect), home education (rightly or wrongly) produces a wide variety of results, depending on the personalities of the children and the gifts or deficiencies of the parents.

      Having said that, if there is such a thing as the ‘average’ home educated child, I’m fairly confident that he doesn’t end up behind the best of the state educated children in terms of general civility, common sense, clear thinking, team spirit, relating with those of different age-groups or backgrounds, and respect for parents (or teachers). (Though there is always the risk, with the father at work all day, of homeschooled boys being spoilt). As for intelligence, that is inherited – it’s wisdom and learning that is acquired. ‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding’ (Proverbs 4:7).

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      • I do consider it dangerous to distinguish these branches of learning as ‘secular’. … as far as I know, no such distinction was made by godly scientists, historians or other learned men of the past.

        “The distinction is, that we have one kind of intelligence of earthly things, and another of heavenly things. By earthly things, I mean those which relate not to God and his kingdom, to true righteousness and future blessedness, but have some connection with the present life, and are in a manner confined within its boundaries. By heavenly things, I mean the pure knowledge of God, the method of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom. To the former belong matters of policy and economy, all mechanical arts and liberal studies. To the latter … belong the knowledge of God and of his will, and the means of framing the life in accordance with them.”

        “… In reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts, we insult the Giver. How, then, can we deny that truth must have beamed on those ancient lawgivers [pagan Greeks & Roman] who arranged civil order and discipline with so much equity?”

        John Calvin, Institutes I.2

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      • And here’s a mind-blowing quote from Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, showing how he viewed the distiction between “holy/religious” and “other” (i.e. secular):

        “As far as holy things are concerned, Israel is chosen, and is not only blessed above all nations, but stands among all nations, isolated. … But just in proportion as Israel shines forth from within the domain of Religion, so is it equally backward when you compare the development of its art, science, politics, commerce and trade to that of the surrounding nations. The building of the Temple required the coming of Hiram from a heathen country to Jerusalem; and Solomon, in whom, after all, was found the Wisdom of God, not only knows that Israel stands behind in architecture and needs help from without, but by his action he publicly shows that he, as king of the Jews, is in no way ashamed of Hiram’s coming, which he realizes as a natural ordinance of God. . . . if Israel was chosen for the sake of Religion, this in no way prevented a parallel election of the Greeks for the domain of philosophy and for the revelations of art, nor of the Romans for the classical development within the domain of the Law and of State.”

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      • Stephen,
        That is rather a caricature; as if I or anyone else is arguing in favour of education being carried out in a worldly environment.
        Free Presbyterians in general, and traditionally, don’t see state education as a problem – disengagement from the world around is decidely not what Free Presbyterianism is about. The trend among Free Presbyterians to home school has come from outside the church, and has a tendency to develop into dissatisfaction with other Christians. Many of the home schooling families in the church have ended up leaving it because the Christians around them were not good enough for them. That schismatic spirit is fed by the sort of moral superiority which is bred by home schooling.
        You portray those who send their children to state schools as ‘leaving their children’ with ‘anti-christian’ educators. The parents who treat their children’s education as solely the concern of the school, and take little interest in it, would certainly not do a good job of homeschooling them either. Any parent who does not take a minute interest in every aspect of what their child is learning and doing at school is failing in their duty. Parents wield a huge amount of power when it comes to their children, and pretending that a child who is properly taught the difference between right and wrong will be in greater danger than those who are shielded from the existence of wrong is just nonsense. The problem is not with the schools, which I am very familiar with, and which are not remotely comparable to madrassas (your argument is weakened here Stephen, when you draw a comparison between what most Christians consider to be a proper way of raising their children, and the way in which fundamentalist Muslims indoctrinate theirs!). The problem is that parents either don’t wield the power they have, or don’t take a sufficient interest. Schools and curricula are usually not ‘anti-christian’ at all. In general, they are obliged to pay a greater regard to Christianity than to any other religion, and most schools do this. While we don’t go in for the Christmas and Easter celebrations they usually put on, parents are certainly empowered to demand that anti-christian content is removed from the curriculum. If parents claim not to know what their children are being taught, they should be taking a greater level of interest in their child!
        By the way, I am biased. My experience of home schooled children inclines me to believe that home schooling produces highly undesirable results. I have no scientific method of proving this. That’s why I made it very clear that I was talking about my experience as opposed to any scientific study. My experience is fairly broad, and covers both sides of the argument.
        I’m afraid your objection to my use of the word ‘secular’ is another symptom of a strange and unbiblical failure among home schoolers to distinguish between religion and secularity. Sciences and the arts are not religious subjects. They are secular subjects. Children need to receive an education in these secular subjects. Your only quarrel appears to be with the meaning of the word secular.
        Manton is very obviously advocating sound moral and religious teaching in the family, and recommending the use of the Confession of Faith for that purpose; we all agree with him. He says nothing about where and how a child should receive an education on secular matters. The Confession of Faith will not improve one’s understanding of mathematics or physics.
        Home schooled children ‘end up’ considerably behind their state-educated peers on a number of fronts. Social development is not some arbitrary and undefined idea, it is the ability to function in society in a useful way. Removing children from society to a large degree (and worse, teaching them that society is evil – which, by the way, it isn’t!) damages their ability to relate to people properly. It damages their ability to relate to sinners in a loving way. Too many home schooled children grow up with a sense of moral superiority which, even if it is unspoken, views society as something to be avoided. As for the list of areas in which you suggest they match the best state-educated children, I cannot go along with you. Home schooled children don’t relate well to adults, in general. Usually, they find it difficult to understand the distinction between their peers and adults from outside the family. The result is that they talk to both adults and their peers in a condescending and patronising way. Respect for parents is certainly present in most cases, but it often takes the form of a cult-like defensive loyalty – which somewhat hampers their ability to think clearly about why they believe what they do.
        I don’t have time to write much more on this subject. I think I’ve stated my position; I feel strongly that home schooling is very damaging to the usefulness of Christians. It is damaging the usefulness of the Free Presbyterian Church. Monasticism (seperation from the world to focus entirely on spiritual and religious matters) is the logical conclusion of the home schooling ideology.

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        • Hi Finlay, I’m certainly not intending to make caricatures – that would defeat the whole purpose of constructive discussion between brothers in Christ – but if you haven’t been arguing for educating children in a worldly environment perhaps you could clarify your position. I think you were saying earlier that although children in state schools have very low moral standards, and though long exposure to such lack of morals dulls the conscience, it is dangerous to remove a child ‘from any exposure to the reality of the immoral world’, and that state schools attendance helps children to ‘get on with worldly people’.

          Homeschooling does pose its own set of problems, but in my opinion they are completely outdone by the destructive forces of our current secular system. Even where the curricula might be less obnoxious, the secular, state school environment is decidedly worldly. Just last week a lad was beaten senseless in a local high school here, and the aggressor’s family are defending him all the way.

          As for home educated individuals talking ‘to both adults and their peers in a condescending and patronising way’ – certainly this can happen, but having been well acquainted with homeschooled people from various parts of the world I can say that this is not their general behavioural pattern! Besides, isn’t it rather patronising and unloving in itself to bring out the perceived sins, quirks and abnormal ‘social development’ of a minority group in the church? I’d imagine that any homeschooler growing up with an acute knowledge of his own heart, and who takes your opinion seriously, would not fail to be deeply cut by your accusations. Really, all of us – both sides – need to take to heart the apostle’s exhortation: ‘Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:12).

          You also say that ‘pretending that a child who is properly taught the difference between right and wrong will be in greater danger than those who are shielded from the existence of wrong is just nonsense.’ I entirely agree. That is why children need to be told straight that ‘the whole world lieth in wickedness’, and that they must earnestly seek the salvation in Christ Jesus that will deliver them from it. But they are rather taught the opposite in secular schools, and they become desensitised to evil.

          ‘Sciences and the arts are not religious subjects.’ True, but that doesn’t mean they can be distinguished from religious subjects with the intention of leaving them to rationalistic teachers. That is the rationalist’s argument. To be thoroughly appreciated even these subjects must be ‘traced to the hand of God’, as Calvin says, and so I think an exclusively secular training in these subjects is an academically inferior one. And it goes without saying that the children studying these ‘earthly’ matters are themselves spiritual beings.

          It is true that Free Presbyterians, like all denominations I know of, traditionally don’t home school. The gradual move away from state schooling is occurring later in the FP Church precisely because the people traditionally have lived in areas isolated from much of the immorality of the wider world (so the arguments against the ‘monasticism’ of homeschoolers would apply here as well). Now that heathenism is engulfing the Scottish political, legal and educational systems we find even Scottish parents beginning to have second thoughts about state education.

          Best regards,

          Stephen

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          • Stephen,
            My position is that children should be educated in schools which are open to all. It is certainly not my view that the environment ought to be worldly. The fact that it is worldly is the reason why any discussion of home schooling arises – I fundamentally disagree with your position that the worldliness of the environment means Christians should remove their children from the system.
            You describe my criticism of the effects of home schooling as patronising and unloving; I’m afraid I find it necessary to be blunt about home schooling because most of the FP Church has been hijacked by the movement into silent disapproval. Some things reach a point where they have to be said, regardless of how harsh they may sound to those who disagree – I think home schooling is an issue of sufficient seriousness to demand this approach. But the aggressive and patronising condemnation by home schoolers of those who send their children to school, and by extension of school teachers like myself, is every bit as offensive.
            Your experience of home schooled individuals is very different to mine – I too have encountered many home schooled individuals from different parts of the world, and almost all of them have difficulty communicating properly with adults and peers.
            The environment in some state schools is worse than in others. The school I teach in is an inner-London mixed comprehensive, which means it has a very diverse intake – both ethnically and socially. Students who attend it are in no greater danger of being beaten senseless than myself and my brothers would have been when we were at school in Skye. People get beaten senseless on the street in our cities and towns – does this mean they should be shunned and avoided? The argument doesn’t hold any water in practical terms.
            I’m afraid your analysis of the Scottish cultural scene is based on another caricature. At school in Skye (a fairly ‘remote’ Scottish island, for those unaware), we were very aware of the immorality and sin in modern society and culture. It was absolutely condemned in the home, but we had to engage with that society and culture because that is part of being ‘in the world’. The suggestion that life in Scotland over the past 30 years has been in any way comparable to the monasticism of home schooling is based on ignorance of Scottish life. Home schooling arrived in the FP Church, not as a reaction against the prevailing culture, but as an innovation by people arriving from other churches. The fact that indigenous FPs have taken it on board only shows how aggrssively home schoolers have pushed their beliefs.
            I’m really at a loss to understand where your view of state education comes from. No-one at my school is taught ‘the opposite’ of biblical truth about sin. The presence and prevalence of evil in the world is thoroughly acknowledged and discussed. Children from Christian homes are encouraged to share their views in the RE classroom. Many of them take advantage of the opportunity. Their views are generally respected. Any teacher who criticised or belittled it would be in danger of being disciplined. But sound moral teaching should come from the home anyway.
            The same principle applies to all secular subjects. The majority of parents are simply incapable of teaching children properly in the full range of subjects. Highly intelligent parents, with highly intelligent children, may manage ok. Most parents aren’t able to do justice to more than a couple of subjects, even if they think they are. The parents’ responsibility is to ensure their children approach school with a proper moral and religious perspective, so that they recognise the glory of God in creation. You again seem to be caricaturing the position of those who state educate their children, as if they absolve themselves of all responsibility when they send their child to school.
            More generally, your argument that education is the responsibility of the church is unbiblical. The function of the church is to spread the gospel, not to teach maths, science and the arts. In the past, the church found it necessary to fill the gap left by the failure of society to educate the poor. Education was the only means by which the church could reach these ignorant people. I don’t believe state-run education is ideal either, by the way. I believe the state ought to facilitate the establishment of schools by charitable organisations and philanthropists. Ideally, the church would be involved in the religious side of it, but I can see nothing in scripture to suggest that the education of society in secular subjects is the function of the church.

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            • Hi Finlay, I think that the ‘secular’ nature of the current state education system necessarily produces a worldly environment, and accordingly worldly children (as a rule) – because this is the great aim of the secularists at the helm. I feel for those lovely Christian kids who complain to me of the tremendous pull of the world – Christianity is ‘not cool’, sin is ‘cool’ and all the rest of it – that they face all week in state schools. Charles Bridges, expounding Proverbs 22:6, says that ‘a child learns more by the eye than by the ear. Imitation is a far more powerful principle than memory’; and that ‘all training, save on the principles of the Bible, must be injurious. To expand, without soundly enlightening, the mind, is but to increase its power for evil. Far better to consign it to total ignorance, inasmuch as the uninstructed savage is less responsible, less dangerous, than the well-furnished infidel. . . Certainly, admitting the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, nothing can be more ruinous than to thrust them out of their place, as the sum and substance of educational principles’.

              That said, I would encourage any missionary-minded professional man to fight on in a heathen environment if he felt so inclined, and if he could do so without compromising the truth. This applies to any occupation not intrinsically immoral – the armed forces (Luke 3:14), politics, used car dealerships or whatever. Also, there is a grave difference between witnessing for Christ as a mature, battle-hardened Christian teacher, and sending unconverted five-year-olds to learn worldly principles from worldly teachers in a worldly environment. This is maybe one reason why many teachers are beginning to home educate their own children.

              ‘The fact that indigenous FPs have taken it on board only shows how aggressively home schoolers have pushed their beliefs.’ But these parents are not clueless – no doubt they have given careful thought to their children’s education. The fact is that most churches are experiencing an ever-increasing decline in numbers over the generations (and the FP church is absolutely not immune), and home education is clearly helping to arrest the decline. A compelling result, and one likely to move parents to consider their options.

              My analysis of the Scottish scene is based on a mixture of personal experience and the word of many informed observers. Even today, the western highlands and islands are known at least to be more ‘culturally Christian’ than most of the rest of Britain and Europe. For example, the schools in Lewis still organise their holidays in sync with communion seasons, and although things are changing rapidly, even within the past twenty years the local state schools in those regions have been clearly influenced by conservative Presbyterians – good ministers as well as headmasters and other teachers. Compare this with, say, the state schools and general environment of Amsterdam over the same period and you get an idea of some of the potential benefits for families living in relative isolation, accidental or otherwise. And yes, certain streets in Amsterdam – and London for that matter – are best avoided by unsupervised children if possible. However, ‘Children can play on island roads from dawn to dusk, without fear of molestation. That is the effect of the Gospel, even in 1996’ (John Macleod, Highlanders: A History of the Gaels, p226).

              Finally, the Reformers, Puritans and Scottish fathers established church schools because of the very principles outlined in Luther’s quotation above. The Scots in Australia also set up Presbyterian boys’ schools (public schools) as soon as practically possible. I believe that Bridges enunciates the old Reformed position well, refuting hyper-Calvinism in the mean time:

              ‘Education is utterly distinct from grace. But, when conducted in the spirit, and on the principles, of the Word of God, it is a means of imparting it. . . If then the promise is not fulfilled, it is because the duty is not performed. Never does God give a command, but he will give his sincere servant grace to obey it. . . Leave God to accomplish his own gracious will. If his Sovereignty reserves the time and means to himself, his faithfulness secures the promise to us, which is, and ever must be – “Yea, and Amen” – “I will be a God to thee, and to thy seed after thee. I will pour out my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” [2 Cor. 1:20; Gen. 17:7; Isa. 44:3-5]’ (Commentary on Proverbs, Banner of Truth Trust, pp404-405).

              Best regards,

              Stephen

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              • Children can play on island roads from dawn to dusk, without fear of molestation. That is the effect of the Gospel, even in 1996

                Hmm, a slightly romanticised version of the truth I fear. Now, then and throughout the history of Hebridean society there has been danger from peers and adults to children.

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  52. Above (quotations), the two writers are really doing little more than expanding on the principle “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s,” right?

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    • I think they might also be saying that Caesar “has” more than one might think. But the point was to show that the idea that the distinction between secular learning and sacred learning has a distinguished Reformed pedigree. (And those are just my two favorites. There’s plenty more where they came from)

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    • And sorry for the mangled sentence up there, but I think the point is broader than “Render unto Caesar”, which is about obedience. There is no (biblical/religious/Christian) requirement to learn philosophy from the Greeks, or politics from the Romans. But it is at best narrow-minded, and at worst Holy-Spirit-despising to reject knowledge or teachers just because they are non-Christian.

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  53. Hi RubeRad, thanks for those pertinent statements from John Calvin. But there is a crucial clarifying statement in the same paragraph: ‘But shall we deem anything to be noble and praiseworthy, without tracing it to the hand of God?’ (Institutes, I.2). Perhaps my statement was poorly guarded, but that is what I have in mind when I say we cannot dismiss any branch of learning as purely ‘secular’.

    Now, the question at hand is not regarding the usefulness of ‘earthly’ academic subjects, the differences between them and more overtly spiritual ones, or indeed the undoubted expertise, genius and industry of unbelieving men. Certainly, the Lord’s people have made good use of such things throughout history; David gladly made use of the Egyptian’s knowledge of the whereabouts of the Amalekite raiders (1 Samuel 30), and the children of Israel dwelt in the cities and ate of the produce of their vanquished enemies (Joshua 24:13) – but when were they instructed to send their offspring to the Amorites to spend the best part of childhood imbibing ‘secular’ wisdom? Nearer to our time, John Paton learned the languages of the New Hebrides from the unconverted cannibals themselves – but where do we hear of him daily sending off his little loved ones to tribal assemblies, to learn their bush crafts?

    The Scriptures are clear: ‘What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?…Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you’ (2 Corinthians 6:15-16,17).

    The Reformers and Puritans of course used the word ‘secular’ with reference to civil matters, but it is ridiculous to suggest that they therefore believed civil rulers should be ‘secular’ in their beliefs, or that schoolmasters should teach ‘earthly’ subjects from an unspiritual or heathen perspective – that would be a plain breach of the Establishment Principle. John Calvin says,

    ‘That [the duty of magistrates] extends to both tables of the law, did Scripture not teach, we might learn from profane writers; for no man has discoursed of the duty of magistrates, the enacting of laws, and the common weal, without beginning with religion and divine worship. Thus all have confessed that no polity can be successfully established unless piety be its first care, and that those laws are absurd which disregard the rights of God, and consult only for men. Seeing then that among philosophers religion holds the first place, and that the same thing has always been observed with the universal consent of the nations, Christian princes and magistrates may be ashamed of their heartlessness if they make it not their care’ (Institutes II.4).

    Further, when the Scottish Church first ordained ‘that every several church have a schoolmaster appointed, such a one as is able, at least, to teach grammar and the Latin tongue’, it was ‘for the virtuous education and godly upbringing of the youth of this realm’ – for ‘the advancement of Christ’s glory’ (The Necessity of Schools – The First Book of Discipline, 1560). The study of the arts and medicine was also promoted, alongside the rudiments of Christian religion, but those men did not allow knowledge from the ‘book’ of God’s creation and providence to be set on a less God-honouring level than knowledge from the Book of Scripture. The false distinction commonly made today between ‘secular’ subjects and those more directly concerned with the kingdom of God is dangerous because, since the churches gave up control of our schools, it has been used to justify the sending of covenant children to be equipped for life in the ‘secular’ system – i.e., institutions with an ‘earthly’, ‘profane’, Christ-denying ethos, and run by inveterate enemies of God.

    A child’s education should train him thoroughly in the most important things in life, and if we really believe that man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him in time and eternity (what a glorious thought!), we cannot deny the wisdom in Luther’s statement: ‘I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.’

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    • but when were they instructed to send their offspring to the Amorites to spend the best part of childhood imbibing ‘secular’ wisdom?

      Again, this is not a question of command, but of liberty. And again again, Daniel was not defiled by his pagan learning, nor was Moses or Joseph, or Paul (do you think he learned Greek poetry or Roman citizenship from the Rabbis?) And you can’t take Israel for a cultural example, as they were segregated in their own nation God had given them. Rather, you have to look at Israel as she lived among other nations (Jer 29), and as the church is depicted throughout the NT.

      What concord hath Christ with Belial?…

      Your citation of 2 Cor is incomplete if you don’t consider the almost identical sentiment in 1 Cor 10:14-22 (by the same author to the same readers), which is followed in 1 Cor 10:23-11:1 by ultimate conclusions that it is OK to eat potentially idolatrous meat with unbelievers.

      As for Calvin’s statement from Inst IV.20, I am well aware of it and I think he’s just wrong. As his historical citations demonstrate, he had never known a state that was not entangled with religion, so it’s not surprising he couldn’t conceive of such. All of his biblical examples come from the political nation that God forever destroyed, and he goes on to contradict himself anyways, and describe a purely nonreligious civil magistrate: “We say, therefore, that they are the ordained guardians and vindicators of public innocence, modesty, honour, and tranquillity, so that it should be their only study to provide for the common peace and safety.” But that’s getting pretty far afield from this discussion.

      A child’s education should train him thoroughly in the most important things in life

      That’s why I can delegate math and science and art and music and literature and history to the state, and reserve catechism for myself.

      Every institution in which men are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt

      Uh oh, I better find my boys a new piano teacher!

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  54. Hi RubeRad, I hear what you’re saying about Daniel, Moses and Joseph. However, every one of these individuals was compelled by external forces to live in idolatrous families, so this is no precedent for believers to send their own children to live with such. Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego survived the burning fiery furnace into which they were hurled, but of course it doesn’t follow that believers may throw their own children into the fires of Molech.

    Also, it appears that those educated in pagan homes were not always entirely untainted by their ways. We are told, for example, that Joseph swore ‘by the life of Pharoah’ (Genesis 42:15). Matthew Henry says that this ‘was more than yea, yea, and nay, nay, and therefore came of evil. Note, Bad words are soon learned by converse with those that use them, but not so soon unlearned.’

    Saul of Tarsus came from the strictest sect imaginable, and as the son of a Pharisee he was educated among his own people. His Roman citizenship was not earned; he was was ‘free born’ (Acts 22:28), and he was ‘brought up…at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers’ (22:3). These men did not even eat with Gentiles, let alone send their sons to heathen academies. ‘We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles’ (Galatians 2:15). As for Old Testament Israel, their separation was not merely cultural but ordained of God, and representative of the spiritual separation of the New Testament church from the world.

    From the context of Calvin’s comment it seems clear that he is merely opposing the notion that civil magistrates may multiply wives and riches to themselves while neglecting to uphold both tables of the law ‘for the common peace and safety’. He is not arguing (against the establishment principle) for complete separation of church and state, or a total schism between the secular and the religious.

    I think the same goes for his comments about ‘earthly’ learning. If an academic subject cannot be studied without ‘tracing it to the hand of God’, then it must not be irreligiously ‘secular’, nor can it be wholly and accurately expounded to undiscerning children by those who deny Him. And the raising of covenant children is especially of religious concern, hence my earlier reference to Deuteronomy 6, and hence (I suppose) the reason that the Scottish Reformers delegated the control of schools to the church rather than to the civil government.

    Obviously, unbelievers do accurately teach children many individual truths from that ‘book’ of creation and providence, but even there we increasingly see distortion and false premises all round, as society sinks back into false religion. I know a skilled musician who once imbibed from a tutor the poisonous notion that music may be used to gain access to God; and we all know how science and history are being misused in schools. There is plenty of religion in ‘secular’ biology textbooks these days, but it’s not Christianity.

    But the biggest problem, in my opinion, is the spiritual influence of ‘irreligious’ institutions that promote lies and sin while forcing the children of sincere Christians to spend the best part of their formative years indiscriminately mingling and fraternising with children from wicked families. (For an example of institutionalised wickedness, the Victorian state government here has just announced plans to use schools to combat ‘discrimination’ against sodomites.)

    Sorry, this has turned out really long again!

    Kind regards,

    Stephen

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  55. But surely the biggest spiritual influence and cause of false religion (if I can put it like that) is not from the daytime education of children and their contact with worldly neighbours in secular schools, but rather the lack of sound preaching from the pulpits and the lack of family worship in the homes?

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    • Generally speaking, yes, of course.

      But I thought that in this conversation, we were specifically discussing the education of FP youth, who (I assume) come from homes where family worship is practiced, and who hear sound preaching in church.

      When young people from good homes and under good preaching live more worldly lives than their parents and church would like to see, or even stop attending church at all, what is the cause?

      Those of us advocating for Christian education are saying that secular education is a factor.

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      • Sharon,
        You seem to imply that the practice of family worship and taking childen to hear sound preaching is what we mean by proper parenting. If this is the extent of a parent’s involvement in the education of their child, the blame lies with the parent, not with the school or education system.
        Unfortunately, a lack of interest or engagement is very often the problem. Other parents fail to see that they have the right to demand changes at school if they are unhappy. And many parents do a poor job of disciplining and correcting their children when necessary.
        I also think that your perception of what is worldly and what isn’t may be coloured by your perspective – which may not be shared by all the parents of the state educated children you are referring to.

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      • Sorry Sharon, I just re-read jbell’s post, and gathered from it why you focussed on these two issues. I suspect jbell was using them as code for a much more general and all-round Christian upbringing.

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    • Hi jbell! As Sharon suggests, I think the concern here is particularly for children in families who already hear sound preaching and practise family worship, but absolutely, the sound preaching of Christ and Him crucified, accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, is what will destroy the works of darkness! ‘And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven’ (Luke 10:18).

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  56. Cath. Yes.

    Finlay. Yes, but I didn’t mean to use code though!

    Stephen and Sharon. If you can excuse me for seeming a bit random, I’m starting to wonder if there are connections between the pro-homeschooling attempt at avoiding worldliness and the fairly common Dutch presbyterian views of avoiding worldliness. Because it sounds (to me) in practical terms like the same kinds of segregation are being called for?

    What do you think? Or am I completely out of step here?

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    • Jbell, You pose a very interesting question. It sounds like you’re fairly well acquainted with the current Dutch situation. I can’t tell why the scene is so polarised there, but I think the shocking state of many cities around the world is more likely a result of the Church’s failure to evangelise – probably due to a deadly mix of liberalism, hyper-Calvinism and general apathy – than the failure of Christians to stay in tune with society. Besides, entrenched social liberalism also exists in many other countries, like Sweden, that have not been much influenced by Dutch-style Calvinism, but (incidentally) who also persecute homeschoolers.

      The Reformation did not come about by compromise, and as you can see from the comments of Charles Bridges and others, an emphasis on the necessity of Christian education and separation from worldliness was once common to all the Reformed churches. You can see something of it in Bunyan’s description of the pilgrims travelling through Vanity Fair. That they failed to relate well with the locals was not due to any fault of their own, though their habits were indeed strange, and they spoke a foreign tongue, the language of Zion (cf. Psalm 114:1; 1 Corinthians 2:7,8).

      Charles Bridges was a 19th century Calvinist in the Church of England – a very ‘broad’ church – and yet he has some powerful statements about the need for a thoroughly Christian education. He says that ‘religious training must not be the border of the garment, which might easily be cut off’, and he describes ‘the reward of faith to those who make the salvation of the soul the primary object of education’. Then he warns against ‘leaving out the mighty question – the great end of life – “How this or that matter affects their soul”’, and thinking only, ‘“Must they not be like others, to make their way in the world?”’ Finally, he warns against fearlessly bringing children ‘into contact with the evil around them’, and against concentrating primarily ‘on matters in which the soul has no concern; accomplishments or scholarship, not godliness. . . Need we say, that this is an education without God, without his promise, without rest?’ (Commentary on Proverbs, Banner of Truth, p406).

      Oh, and while I don’t know a great deal about Abraham Kuyper, I should say I’m opposed to any unbiblical emphasis on ‘common grace’, and strongly opposed to the dangerous doctrines of baptismal regeneration and presumptive regeneration!

      Best regards,

      Stephen

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  57. Jordan,

    I’m not sure. What do you mean by connections? Are you asking if homeschoolers have been directly inspired by Dutch presbyterian thought? Or are you just suggesting that there are similarities?

    Also, what do you mean by segregation? Personally, it’s never occurred to me to associate homeschooling with segregation. Are you talking about the idea of separation from the world?

    While I’m happy to answer your questions if you don’t mind clarifying them, please keep in mind that I am just one homeschooler, and that homeschoolers are hardly a uniform group. Stephen might answer the same questions in very different ways.

    Sharon

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  58. Sharon. I take all your points there – quite right! I’ll try to clarify.

    Also I’d like to say that it’s great to have these kinds of discussions and I hope they are constructive and to the wider peace of brethren and not to the hurt of anyone. Also that I still don’t think I care which school a person has gone to in their youth, whether homeschool or the local comprehensive, or Eton, as I’m quite certain that it’s given to parents to make the decision as to where we go to school.

    I’m struggling to keep up with the common threads in all the many above contributions, but it seems to me that some of the issues being discussed are not so much about education as about the fraught subject of why it is that many children today are growing up in sound Christian homes, and yet by their late teens and adulthood are disappearing from the church in a haze of quiet unbelief.

    As a relative newcomer to the FP movement, I have found it to be quite an extraordinary feature of the church that there seem to be multitudes who have grown up in it, and yet for all sorts of reasons are now not there.

    This is a terrible issue, it is a fearful thing.

    The Dutch thing that I’m wondering about has to do with the very seperated situation of education in the Netherlands, which I cannot speak about with any authority, but can only offer my impressions and a random bit of hearsay.

    There is a very distinctive ‘Bible-belt’ running in a sort of curve from the south west to the north east across the middle of the country. A lot of the churches in the belt, have congregations on Sabbath of hundreds, if not thousands, and yet outwith the belt, there seems to be very little in the way of any sort of biblical restraint, if I can put it like that. As is well known, Amsterdam is a leading bad example and menace to the world in how far vice can be tolerated.

    As I understand it, Abraham Kuyper had quite a lot to do with bringing in state funding for religious schools about the turn of the 19th/20th century and had a fair part in bringing about this ‘pillarisation’ situaton in Dutch politics.

    This ‘pillarisation’ all seems to have to do with trying to get different people in one nation to live seperate from one another, but still in one nation. It’s different from the Establishment principle, in that you seem able to leave your neighbours at arms length and not have any connection with them except for language, and maybe a love for cycling and ice-skating.

    I’m stuggling to find a useful reference in English for Dutch education, but this one seems to offer a broad over view; http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/OP%20182.pdf

    Because here on this blog we seem to be talking about how far Christians should seperate their families from their unbelieving neighbours, I think it’s worth looking at what can happen when separated education occurs in a nation (i.e. does it encourage everybody to only mix with neighbours of their own denomination to the detriment of society at large?)

    I think for all Christians young and old, the situation is very much ‘sheep among wolves’ no matter wherever their lot is to work in the daytime. So I think the first concern is not avoidance of neighbours in legitimate work, but rather finding The Refuge.

    I hope I’m not offending Dutch folk, I trust they’ll put me right if I’m being ‘heel slecht’ about their homeland!

    JB

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  59. A lot of the churches in the belt, have congregations on Sabbath of hundreds, if not thousands, and yet outwith the belt…

    “outwith”? Is that a scottish thing? I’m used to the pairing within/without. This is the second time I’ve come across that word on this blog; the first time I figured it was just silliness.

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  60. Hi again Jordan!

    You said “…we seem to be talking about how far Christians should separate their families from their unbelieving neighbours”

    But my experience has been that homeschoolers are, generally, committed to reaching out to their unbelieving neighbors. [Here I attempted to tell some of the stories but realized it would take far too long.]

    The difference is that the majority of the time, we are interacting with them as a family unit. And we don’t send our five-and six-year-old children off alone to those unbelieving neighbors, to be under their authority and taught their worldview.

    As far as I can tell, the only connection between Christian homeschoolers and the Dutch is the shared belief in Christian education. If I had to guess why the situation in the Netherlands is as you describe, I would ascribe it, as Stephen did in part, to hypercalvinism. My experience with Dutch Reformed churches is limited, but the one that I am personally familiar with that is *not* hypercalvinist does reach out to the community around it through various ministries, and has had quite a broad impact there, “despite” its firm commitment to Christian schooling. (Referring to Rev. Joel Beeke’s congregation of the HNRC.)

    Sharon

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  61. What an utterly depressing read – and what an appalling argument for home-schooling; the arrogance, intolerance and vituperation (with some of the most personal and offensive lines from a lad who, in the great scheme of things, is a teenage nothing; yet openly mocks a princess in Israel) only indicate a gulf of incomprehension and a laager-mentality utterly alien to the Scottish Presbyterian tradition and the vision of Luther, Calvin and Knox.

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  62. Just as long as it covers your head… We must keep up our standards, even if we are to be dragged out to a home-schooling future where we live in tarpaper shacks with a stash of automatic weapons and surrendered wives, root for Sarah Palin and lament the late Richard Nixon as a dangerous liberal. Just leave me my traybakes. I have two chins to keep.

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  63. Oh, don’t worry, this is just for glamming around the house.

    Don’t want to say too much on the topic right now, but your comments beautifully expose the two major sticking points for many people in the UK: i) that there is a perfectly good tradition of *not* viewing society as evil and corrupt, and something which we should shield ourselves from by abandoning it, and ii) that practical strategies for dealing with problems in society are culturally determined, so that something that arguably makes sense for one part of the world might be completely wrong for another.

    Homeschooling, as I may have mentioned once or twice already, falls into the category of things which can only be commended/rejected on cultural or pragmatic grounds, not as a matter of absolute right/wrong — as if it was something which ought to be undertaken in faith by all Christians regardless of other practical considerations.

    This remains unapologetically my opinion, regardless of how much I might sympathise with parents who feel they can’t conscientiously let their children go to a conventional school.

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  64. An eminently sensible point of view, Catherine. There are certainly contexts in America, especially, where home-schooling is an appropriate option (though most sensibly take advantage of various Internet distance-learning technologies.) In Britain it is associated, with some reason, with control-freak parents and most of the products I have encountered have been, um, difficult or odd people – if you lead perforce a socially isolated childhood with little or no interaction with your co-ages, I don’t think you can ever quite make up for that even in adult life – it’s as much a neurological thing (eg body-language skills) as an educational one.

    But of course we vehemently defend the right of anyone to home-school if they wish: what the Free Presbyterian Church rightly refuses to tolerate is its imposition on all believers as a term of communion – which is pretty well what some, alas, are arguing here.

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    • “But of course we vehemently defend…what the Free Presbyterian Church rightly refuses to tolerate…”

      In the interest of disclosure you are not, correct me if I’m wrong, a member of the FP Church.

      Also in the interest of reminder, there’s been three schoolteachers commenting in this discussion (and ‘where you stand is usually determined by where you sit’).

      Plus, there’s a bachelor and one bachelorette (no ‘skin in the game’ as the world is wont to say).

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  65. Hi Edward, I wasn’t trying to prove anything by quoting that particular scripture. I’m not really interested in debating the homeschool issue (I learned in marketing and sales a long time ago that people believe what they want to believe, when they want to believe it). And I’m guilty of the same thing of course. Besides, people are entitled to their own ridiculous opinion (kidding).

    In my younger days I wanted to be a star. A ‘record producer’ happened to be advertising here in Houston, claimed he was scouting local talent. I set up a meeting with him and played him some stuff I had written (it was bad!) He flattered me and told me to go home, think things over, then come back with a $900 check for a down payment to get me started on my career. Well I got a bit suspicious. So I went down the street to visit a neighbor DJ who was well-known in town, who had a bit of a following, and knew the record business (anybody remember records?) He explained to me very clearly that my record producer was a con artist. After listening patiently (seemed like it at the time) to the DJ, the very next day I went and cleaned out my bank account and straightaway handed over my $900.00. (A lot of money back then!) And to think that that was just the beginning of my sad story!

    On the faith of Abraham, I think the Spirit there (also in Romans 4), is simply exhorting, in general, the Lord’s people to trust to the promises of God, in their persevering to the end, in this (yes, wicked, see the whole course of scripture) ‘society,’ despite of and in, all difficulties and confusion and cross providences, and so on, and it can be applied, or be helpful, to/in many different situations.

    I was trying to give some bit of moral support, to some who might be reading here, who really are in a quandary, suggesting the option, and invitation really, given by the Lord to His people, to exercise faith and to ‘try’ Him (“Did ye never read what David did?”), and not be fearful but believing (easier said than done of course), when they are truly convicted (in their own consciences), that a particular thing is a duty, whatever that thing may be, but there’s a problem for them in making the logistical leap so to speak to do that duty, (and be able to trust in the Lord for a good outcome), due to real or perceived impediments, like the ones some of you all mentioned, about school. Again, “That which is duty is not so like to prove a snare.” Obviously, we’d have to be absolutely convinced (I would imagine) that the situation was indeed duty. Hope that makes sense.

    Of course I know some will say that I’m peddling ‘homeschooling,’ but that doesn’t bother me, I’ll take the flaming arrows if it helps any who are genuinely trying to work through a ‘case of conscience’ in what to do about their kids and the dismal conditions of the govt.schools.

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  66. We can try this.

    “Keep them as much as may be from ill company, especially of ungodly play-fellows. It is one of the greatest dangers for the undoing of children in the world; especially when they are sent to common schools: for there is scarce any of those schools so good, but hath many rude and ungodly ill-taught children in it; that will speak profanely, and filthily, and make their ribald and railing speeches a matter of boasting; besides fighting, and gaming and scorning, and neglecting their lessons; and they will make a scorn of him that will not do as they, if not beat and abuse him.

    “And there is such tinder in nature for these sparks to catch upon, that there are very few children, but when they hear others take God’s name in vain, or sing wanton songs, or talk filthy words, or call one another by reproachful names, do quickly imitate them: and when you have watched over them at home as narrowly as you can, they are infected abroad with such beastly vices, as they are hardly ever after cured of. Therefore let those that are able, either educate their children most at home, or in private and well ordered schools; and those that cannot do so, must be the more exceeding watchful over them…

    “…and when all is done, it is a great mercy of God, if they be not undone by the force of the contagion, notwithstanding all your antidotes. Those therefore that venture their children into the rudest schools and company, and after that to… learn the fashions and customs of the world, upon pretence, that else they will be ignorant of the course of the world, and ill-bred, and not like others of their rank, may think of…their own reasonings as well as they please: for my part, I had rather make a chimney-sweeper of my son, (if I had any,) than be guilty of doing so much to sell or betray him to the devil.

    “But to send young, raw, unsettled persons among…profane, licentious people, (though perhaps some sober person be in company with them,) and this only to see the counties and fashions of the world, is an action unbeseeming any christian that knoweth the pravity of human nature, and the mutability of young, unfurnished heads, and the subtlety of deceivers, and the contagiousness of sin and error, and the worth of a soul, and will not do as some conjurers or witches, even sell a soul to the devil, on condition he may see and know the fashions of the world; which alas, I can quickly know enough of to grieve my heart, without travelling so far to see them.

    “If another country have more of Christ, and be nearer heaven, the invitation is great; but if it have more of sin and hell, I had rather know hell, and the suburbs of it too, by the map of the word of God, than by going thither. And if such children return not the confirmed children of the devil, and prove riot the calamity of their country and the church, let them thank special grace, and not their parents or themselves. They overvalue that vanity which they call breeding, who will hazard the substance, (even heavenly wisdom, holiness, and salvation,) to go so far for so vain a shadow.

    But then maybe things have gotten better over the past 350 or so years since this was written? And men and women have become wiser than the puritans?

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  67. Hey,

    Let’s order loads and loads of bubble wrap and cotton wool to roll the children up in to insulate and isolate them from reality. Oh, so cosy and snug. Makes me want to sleep.

    I garden abit. If you grow a plant in a green house for too long and then suddenly introduce it to the outside world it often wilts, withers and dies.

    However if you take the same plant from the nice, warm, balmy environment and gradually by degrees introduce it to the outside it somehow does abit better.

    Even birds have to let their fledgling chicks, flutter and flap about as they leave the nest. Some nose dive first go but others after afew frantic futile flaps manage to fly.

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    • Of course, the above-quoted divine was not advocating the insulation of children from reality like fledgling chicks in a cage. I think he was rather advising against locking your chicks in with the ferrets!

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    • I’ve gardened a bit too, organically. I sold occasionally to vegetarian restaurants. What you’re talking about is ‘hardening off’ a plant (gradually introducing the seedling to the outside by degrees to ensure it ‘takes’). At least that’s what we called it (hardening off).

      But hothouses (we call ’em greenhouses) aren’t absolutely necessary, of course, nor even always desirable and/or productive enough. In fact, they’re actually not natural (but it does allow for a head-start in colder climates IF you have the time; and if you do have the time it’s usually called a hobby).

      Come to think of it, my deal was a just a hobby too, but it was supposed to be more.

      ‘Hothouses’ became possible when glass and then later plastic (which is made from a non-renewable resource) was ‘invented.’

      But, you can plant seed directly in the soil (as has been done for centuries). And if time and money allow, you can still help ensure the plant’s success by using plastic, and windbreaks and sun-shields and drip irrigation (well, skip the sun shields in Scotland) and so on.

      Planting directly in the soil is more analogous to what happens in home-based education, and, just like planting directly, more natural. Kids have a balance, they interact with adults, they interact with kids. They even interact with the Secret Service, yes, the Secret Service! But I cannot speak about it.

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  68. Oh dear, Ernie Smith, you really are an extraordinarily rude man. Your comment in reply to my post ignores the argument completely and goes for me personally. Yes, I am not (yet) a member in full communion with the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland: but I am a hearer and a contributor. (This congregation was vacant when I joined out and our present minister is not two years in place; it is expected that when one arrives with a disjunction-certificate you give the office-bearers and brethren time to know you.) But neither is your son Samuel a member in full communion, as far as I know.

    Yes, I am not married: but I was once, incredible as it may seem, a child who had to be schooled. (Nor is Samuel married.) And – yes – some people who have posted here are professional schoolteachers. Which, in a debate about education, grants us the perspective of trained professionals who actually know something about it.; as opposed to the unedifying sight of teenage adherents with a disturbing line in insolent attack on a professing Christian woman.

    We have a saying in Scotland: play the ball, not the man. Stick to the issues, please, rather than personally disparage, on grounds of quite opaque relevance, the people who have temerity to disagree with your view that all believers, as a matter of fixed principle, should home-school their children.

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    • I don’t know you, and have no interest in you personally, per se. The point simply was, you posit yourself as a representative of the FP Church, disproportionate to your present status or relationship to that church. Does that make sense?

      In other words, you are quite authoritative when you speak, so authoritative in fact that one (these posts go everywhere, as you know) might easily, in my opinion, get the impression that you are an office-bearer in the church. Do you understand what I am saying?

      And you are vehemently anti home ed. But home ed. is becoming more acceptable, even fashionable so to speak, in many places across the planet, because of the conditions of many of the state schools. Why scare people off? (Go back and see some of the things you wrote.)

      But you have now rightly cleared up the matter (that you do not speak authoritatively for the church).

      You act as if I’ve publicly attacked or questioned your profession of faith in Christ. I did not, and would not. Again, I don’t even know you.

      My email is smithwriting@yahoo.com if you would like to talk privately, otherwise, I have nothing to say to you (publicly), other than what I would tell myself, make your calling and election sure.

      Your comment(s) do not bother me, there is one that judges. I wish nothing but good things for you, the Lord knows my heart.

      “For who maketh you [me] to differ from another?”

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  69. I quote J C Philpot in response to Ernie quoting of a Puritan writer, who in his treatise seemed bent on securing children from ‘ill company, especially of ungodly play-fellows.’

    Laudable as that might appear at first, I ask, is it realistic or sensible?

    Philpot…

    “By early influence and example you can train up a child to be a little Patriot, a little Catholic, a little Calvinist, or a little Bolshevist. But no power on earth can make him a child of God..”

    However well intentioned homeschoolers may be in seeking to keep their children insulated from the influence of an ungodly world, did not the teaching of the Lord emphasize that the great problem of the human condition by nature is an internal one more so than an external one?

    For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Matt 15.19 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders. Mark 7.21.

    If the offspring of godly parents are unregenerate, there is enough propensity within themselves to destroy themselves, never mind the environment. The issue is surely more one of nature, than of nurture.

    I am not saying that environment cannot impinge on the natural man but it is not the primary problem.

    A child may be kept from the world for so long but what is to happen to it when it enters the workshop as an apprentice or the campus as a student?

    I am merely seeking to be thought provoking rather than provocative.

    Status: Just in case it is an issue. Married, FP adherent, no children and definitely not a school teacher.

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  70. Meta comment

    1) I am extremely concerned at how readily sections of this thread have flared up into personal comments. For the first time ever, I have turned comment moderation on. Personal comments about me are one thing, but it’s now spilling over to other people as well. Nobody should invite, and nobody should feel obliged either to provide or to defend, any personal information about their church connections, profession of faith, marital status, or anything else. Once and for all: people’s personality, personal circumstances, personality traits, and presumed motivations are entirely irrelevant to the topic under discussion. Feel free to continue discussing the issues. Do not feel free to continue talking about each other.

    2) As soon as I have a spare moment, I will be giving serious thought to editing and/or deleting the most objectionable comments from the preceding discussion. I’m increasingly convinced that it would be something of a disgrace for certain comments in this discussion to stay on record as an example of how people in professedly Christian circles talk to one another.

    3) I am tempted to extend my redacting zeal to comments which speak in offensive and insulting terms about other members of our society. For the time being, I will suppress this. Free use of terms like “moral contagion”, and comparisons of our neighbours’ children to vermin and pests, have in my view crossed a boundary into the gratuitously insulting. They may nevertheless truly reflect the commenters’ views. So I would only request that from now on, commenters should choose their words carefully enough that they will avoid letting readers come easily to the conclusion that the subtext of such comments is “Stand by thyself, for we are holier than thou.” If this proves difficult to do, then non-homeschoolers and the watching world will be able to draw their own conclusions about just how Christianlike the motivation for homeschooling really is.

    One is not amused.

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    • Good on ye for donning the iron fist and taking control of this rowdy bunch!

      I’ve been out of the discussion since the comment thread got to about 100; I try to avoid threads that head off towards infinitum. My suggestion is to close this thread to new comments, and if you want to continue the discussion, write a new post to refocus.

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  71. Agreed. I’m leaving it open a wee while in case anyone wants to make any final summing-up comments, but it’s reaching the unwieldy stage, and the low-calibre comments are doing a good job of distracting attention from the contributions that were thoughtfully engaging with the problem. I’ll close the comments on this post, and turn moderation back off again (moderation is such a nuisance) (and you can’t seem to moderate comments on a post-by-post basis, only for the blog as a whole, unless I’ve missed something).

    But it’s a v important issue and the level of interest that this thread has attracted makes me think it’s worth making another effort to open up a discussion. Ie on friendly terms and with ad hominem excluded from the outset. It’s unlikely to be any time soon though.

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  72. Hello Cath et al, just a friendly note of explanation and summation here.

    The ‘ferrets’ analogy was just that. It wasn’t a label. It was an extension of somebody else’s analogy involving fledgling chicks, so to respond with ravening wolves or roaring lions (cf. Zephaniah 3:3) would have been overkill. My intention was, of course, to remind us all that the Puritan in question was not suggesting children be wrapped in cotton wool. He was simply warning of the very real dangers present in the ‘common schools’ of his day, and echoing the apostle’s exhortation: ‘Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men’ (1 Corinthians 14:20).

    Puritanism was militantly evangelistic because it was realistic about the evils in and around us, and in my opinion it was the said Puritan himself who used the most robust and pointed language here in describing the ‘beastly vices’, the ‘contagiousness of sin and error’ and the possible beating and abusing of godly children by the ‘ungodly’ in certain schools. But none of this was out of place for that humble man who acknowledged that the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone, makes all the difference (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11).

    If any of my non-Christian friends and acquaintances are reading this, you know that I love you as fellow men with never-dying souls. All I desire is that you also might be partakers of the heavenly calling through Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Warm regards to all,

    Stephen

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