In this letter, we have written a major article on Biblical education. We are conscious that many home educators are not aware of the excitement, challenge, and conviction of the early days of modern Christian home education. In those days, there was a great emphasis on Biblical methods and content. This article seeks to continue with that work. :note. Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1988, The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
... looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11 :10
One great joy in the contemporary Christian home education movement has been and continues to be the delight of breaking free of unGodly methods and unGodly materials traditionally used in educating children in our day and replacing them with Biblical methods and materials. Much work has been done and much more remains to be done. This ongoing searching and discovery as the Holy Spirit illuminates the Gospel is truly exciting.
Even though we have learned many methods which have produced sound results in Christian discipleship and academic learning, we continually seek to do better. In this seeking, we must be cautious that we do not fall into the ways of the world and leave our first love, Jesus and His Kingdom. We believe that it is useful for Christian home educating parents to have some understanding of major philosophies of education in order to have God's wisdom in making specific curriculum choices consistent with fundamental Christian beliefs.
In this article, we will examine aspects of a centuries' old debate in Christian education between those favoring a classical education versus those who favor a Biblical education. The term Biblical here is the one used in much literature on education for the educational philosophy of starting with the Bible AND forsaking commonly used non-Christian materials. This does not imply that everyone proposing a "classical" education does not also accept the Bible as the written Word of God.
We believe classical education is a distraction from following the will of God and will discuss our reasons in this article. This article is offered in the spirit of "speaking the truth in love." As Proverbs says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Even though we strongly believe in what we will be presenting, we don't look down upon those dissenting as inferior Christians. We believe that American Christians need to learn to speak to and listen to each other in love so as to grow and mature in the faith. We help each other when we are able to discern the Spirit and the flesh. Even men of courage, faith in the Lord, and integrity can disagree on strategies while seeking the unity of the Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas divided sharply for a season over the strategy of taking John Mark with them on the second missionary journey.
In this article, we are focusing on the basics of education which apply to all Christian families. Each of us has a particular call. Some may be called to evangelize bars and some may be called to be scholars which may include the study of works of pagans and anti-Christians, but this is a particular call, not something we include in basic education. We also remind parents that when we read of men and women in history, such as Jonathan Edwards or Martin Luther or John Calvin, we must remember that they were men with a particular call on their lives - men particularly gifted by God for that call. When we look to them as examples, we need to focus on their life hidden in Christ and not their accomplishments in the natural. God did not make everyone to be an intellectual giant. In I Corinthians 12 :12-31, the Bible makes it very clear that every believer is equally important in the Body of Christ. Are we aware of other men of God whose obedience to the call of God also has impacted history, such as Menno Simmons, Christopher Dock, David Zeisburger, Peter Cartwright, William Carey or Wiliam Booth? We do well to perform the work God calls us to and not carry the destructive burden of comparing ourselves with the call of another.
We begin by describing the philosophy of a Biblical education. We believe in using the Bible as our first source for knowledge and wisdom for both subject matter and educational methods. Clearly, the Bible does not contain information on details of some subjects such as English grammar or algebra. However, we seek to find Biblical wisdom first before going elsewhere. In some subject areas, these foundations totally dominate all that we learn. Such subjects include theory of government, knowing God, the nature of family life, and our relationship to the material world (money and material goods). In other subject areas, the Bible provides our primary principles, such as in the sciences where the reality of God as Creator and accuracy of Genesis undergird all further study. In some cases, Biblical truth precludes further study. For example, the clear Biblical exhortations to avoid idols and idolatry preclude the Christian from learning how to practice witchcraft or learning the practices of idol worship. To be wise in avoiding idolatry, we should include a e.g. "Where did the entertainment media of art, theatre, or fictional literature originate?" "Where did the physicians of the Pharohs get their medical knowledge?"
One aspect of Biblical education is the search for Biblical methods. We have had the joy of learning methods, using them in our family, and sharing them with others - methods we have described in booklets such as copying God's Law, a list of ways to teach the Fear of the Lord, methods to know God, Biblical phonics, and the progression of hearing, speaking, reading, writing. Our booklets have much more to say about Biblical Education and Biblical methods.
There are two basic principles in the modern push within home education for classical education which we believe are in error. These then lead to practices which are symptoms of the problem. The two principles we believe are in error are:
1. Many who propose a classical education seek to be educated like the American founders were educated. It is true that most American founders received a classical education, being trained in Greek and Latin and studying Greek and Roman writers and philosophers as well as a variety of other writers and philosophers, Christian and non-Christian.
We believe that the classical education of the founders was their weakness , not their strength. While many were men of strong Christian character and practice, their classical education caused them to use a mixture of the philosophies of men and the Bible as their starting point in designing our system of government. When institutional education finally replaced parental discipleship in the 1800s, the dominant education was classical, not Biblical. The institutions continued teaching the classical while the Biblical, which previously had roots in some homes, fell by the wayside. As a result, the nation lost the essential ingredient necessary for our form of people with Godly wisdom, knowledge, and integrity and the power of the Holy Spirit to govern themselves.
2. One classicist defined classical writings as those which have received continued acclaim through the ages, like a canon of essential reading. The assumption was made that writings (fiction, plays, non-fiction), art, and philosophies which survive the ages meet the Biblical exhortation to dwell on things which are "true, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise." We dispute the assumption that "culture" which receives continued acclaim meets these qualifications. Sinful men often continue to acclaim what feeds the lusts of the flesh and allows them to continue to close their hearts and minds to the claims of Christ. If we consider what receives continued acclaim in our century, it becomes obvious that sinful men persistently give acclaim to what is far from Biblically pure and lovely.
This assumption leads to such errors such as accepting pornography as legitimate art because it has received acclaim through the years (e.g. the paintings of Renoir). In literature, we see the example of writings such as Edgar Allen Poe, which would be correctly rejected today as unGodly.
We must be willing to see that the BEST is not always that which gains the ACCEPTANCE and approval of men!! We can witness this phenomena by looking around us and seeing the excellent thinking, writing, music etc. which is NOT the most widely accepted!
One common practice in classical education tends to lead the student further from God. In a classical education, Latin is emphasized. While we believe that English speakers can gain from a study of Latin grammar and root words because this study accelerates skill in reading and writing English, we believe it is an error to promote the study of Latin literature and Roman culture (other than perhaps among those few called by God as scholars to specialize in an area of learning). When Latin is emphasized, then students are encouraged in the reading of writings by pagans which celebrated the works of men (emperor worship) and doctrines of demons (mythology) rather than the Creator and His works. We tend to forget the Jews were in every nation to reveal God as Creator. If an ancient language is to be studied, we believe it should be Hebrew and/or Greek and then first of all for the purpose of reading the Bible in original languages, not to read other writings.
Some proponents of a classical education then add French as a modern language to study. This is consistent with the education of the American founders. The American fascination with all things French was part of the falling away from our nation's Christian Biblical roots lanted by the Pilgrims. In modern America, French seems an odd choice unless one lives close to Quebec. In modern America, Spanish seems more logical for practical reasons although many families will want to pursue other languages in order to follow the call of God on their lives. For example, in some families, many members of an extended family speak a language other than English as a first or second language in which case fluency in this language should be a priority. Sadly, we have seen one mother who speaks fluent German trying to teach her daughter French while forsaking German which is spoken by her extended family!
Those proposing classical education generally include a great deal of fiction, predominantly, old non-Christian fiction. We believe that reading fiction is often confused with education. Fiction is generally written to entertain. While reading fiction may help develop reading skill and vocabulary, it is NOT the same as reading what is true. In the end, fiction DID NOT HAPPEN. Some people relax and rest while reading fiction just like some relax and rest watching a ball game or watching a video. We believe it is an error to claim that reading large amounts of fiction is an essential part of a Biblical education.
While a classical education can sound appealing because of its historical roots, we believe that it always leaves us short of God's BEST. As an example, we noted the following in an overall scope and sequence of history instruction in the materials from an explicitly Christian publisher, but one who believes in classical education. The sequence goes:
In conclusion, note Peter's warning,
II Peter 2:20
21. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
22. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.
23. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."
We know that we can never read all that there is to read. Solomon warned, "the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body." When we train our children, we cannot expose them to every culture and every language in the few years we have them at home. We therefore seek to read the Bible, read a few of the best of other books, study the best materials, and use our time as the Holy Spirit directs. In personal reading and in home education, we sometimes must forsake even good things in favor of the best. We want something better than a repeat of the past. We want to press on towards the high calling set before us!
A classical education will teach logic and rhetoric - and often does so by putting emphasis on the Greeks rather than the Hebrews. Even though we do believe Gentiles cannot become Jews, a "classical" education that gives more emphasis to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle or Shakespeare rather than stressing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Job fails to understand how God views education. To understand the logic of the Sermon on the Mount by the Master Teacher, Jesus, we have to submit to the Holy Spirit as our present Teacher, as Jesus taught us to do.
For example, Stephen's "martyr sermon" is far above Hamlet's soliloquy. Paul's sermon on Mars Hill is perfect persuasive rhetoric and a better speech to memorize than Shakespear's words put into the mouth of Mark Anthony. The book of Romans is the model of logic because the Holy Spirit inspired and initiated these words their sequence. Do we follow men and their flesh and doctrines inspired by demons or do we follow Christ and obey the Holy Spirit? The mixture we see infiltrating home education is deadly.
The history of the church is full of examples of educational movements and institutions which began with Spirit-led vision and distinctly Christian purposes and then compromised in the use of classical curriculum and slowly lost their entire Christian orientation. Strong Christian thinkers may be able to digest classical material as scholars without compromising their faith, but history shows that classical learning soon dominates. Some modern Christian colleges began as strong Bible based training centers for missionaries and Christian workers, but as they have sought and gained academic "respectability", they have become virtual clones of non-Christian institutions in much of their teaching and practice.
In most Christian colleges today, we find that students must read Aristotle in philosophy and Freud in psychology. They do not have systematic studies in Biblical philosophies or Biblical psychology. The Bible is relegated to a separate course, somehow independent of academia. For example, education majors do not have to read Christopher Dock who wrote the first teacher's manual on American soil. Economics majors use secular texts but classes fail to include Clarence Carson or Gary North. History students read the works of Marx or read about Marx and other pagans. They are saturated in the theories of Keynes. However, they are NOT required to read the stories of men and women of faith whose prayers and actions have truly changed the history of civilization (e.g. Rees Howells). What has been acclaimed by man over the years has missed much of God's best. In spite of good intentions, this is the result of classical education. In our wicked age, we need to resist every temptation to be of the world. We need to remember, the Bible is always the best.
Our goal is to continue to cultivate a listening ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus to guide us into all truth. By God's grace, we shall continue to seek out Biblical educational methods and readings which testify to God's works in order to build our children and ourselves in our total belief in God's Word. Yes, there is a place for scholarship, but we are convicted when Paul, a man of great learning, continually emphasizes the power of God over words of fleshly wisdom! We personally have received much in depth Christian instruction from a man who was a trained classical scholar in philosophy and logic who met Jesus in 1942. He has since devoted 50+ years to knowing God and sharing Biblical truth all over the world, while counting his academic pagan education as rubbish - just like Paul.
It may seem good to read writers who, even though wrong about nearly everything (e.g. Aristotle), were excellent writers. It may sound appealing to join great men in history in learning the Greek and Roman cultures, cultures which have influenced history but have not proven to be true! "Will God be displeased if a generation grows up who do not know the names of the idols of Greece and Rome? Will God be displeased if a generation grows up knowing the Bible while ignorant of pagan thinkers?" If these cultures of antiquity were destroyed in their idolatry, why do we want to mimic their unbelieving practices? The Roman Coliseum stands as a gruesome testimony to the battle of Christ for men's souls - a sporting event that enthusiastically killed Christians!
Proponents of classical education defend the study of mythology (which is really the study of false gods, idols or demons) by saying that the myths are an integral part of our western literary heritage. They reason that the "great" literature uses symbols and images from the myths. When we seek a Biblical education, we seek to redeem the time spent reading so-called "great" literature and use it for the study and activity we find from obeying the written & living Word of God. If we read the Bible as our one authority, and do not know about the western "tradition", would we study idols? Or are we driven by a desire to compromise with our culture? Thus, in a Biblical education, we not only redeem the time spent studying myths, but also the time spent reading fiction which requires us to think about false gods, idols, and demons. In the modern age, the same argument would lead us to include watching R-rated movies, TV programming with constant profanity and sexual impurity, and reading trash novels because the language and images of these entertainment forms are a part of contemporary literary heritage - and are likely to form the basis of the enduring heritage of our day. At the extreme, the agreement of learning the myths because they are prevalent is similar to a false argument which says that one must be an adulterer in order to minister to one caught in that sin. We do not claim to have become perfect in redeeming the time; however, the cry of our heart is that we not settle into man made traditions but press on towards the fullness of what Jesus has purchased for us. We know that if we settle for the traditions of the world, we will not have the resources to pursue the kingdom of God. For example, we believe that Job is a perfect way to teach drama because it is TRUE!. Every Christian home educator can study drama using Job. Furthermore, by God's grace, a true disciple will develop both a performed play and a guide for a study.
In conclusion, consider the Bible itself. Jesus spoke many times using examples and parables from everyday life and the culture of His day. Yet He never mentions Aristotle, Plato, the Greek myths (stories of idols), or Greek or Roman plays. Paul, even when writing to Greeks, consistently appeals to the Old Testament Scriptures in his arguments, never mentioning Aristotle, Plato or others. Like Jesus, he never names Greek or Roman idols by name. Some of Paul's letters deal with prevailing non-Biblical philosophies, but always by emphasizing the truth, never by teaching the opposing philosophy. Can we imitate Paul as he imitates Christ? Can we receive the vision of the fullness of the New Covenant?
Education is a fascinating area of public policy. In recent years, public education has suffered from declining quality which has resulted in calls by industry, government leaders, and the public for so called "reform." We stand amazed as community groups, business leaders, legislators and governors continue to turn to professional educators for solutions to the problems. All these leaders are turning to the very people who have built the current troubled educational system to ask how to fix it! Please note that the problem is not unique to government. In IBM, chairman Lou Gerstner is a leader in pushing for education "reform." He has hired a man named Stanly Litow to spearhead IBM's efforts. Mr. Litow is himself from the educational establishment. In this case, it seems strange that Mr. Gerstner did not turn to the many educational experts within IBM who have developed many innovative, successful techniques for delivering education in the commercial world where poor results translated into ineffective employee edcuation is not rewarded or tolerated.
We have thought about what other examples exist of this phenomena of turning to those who have created a problem to find its solution. One could answer "government", but that is not a proper analogy because when individuals or businesses turn to government to solve a problem caused by government, they really mean they want a change in the people in the government. As we pondered this question, we arrived at one other instance of similar behavior. That instance is the witch doctor! In cultures characterized by fear of evil spirits and who have a witch doctor (by some name), people are terrorized by the evil things the witch doctor does. For example, in some tribes, the witch doctor would demand child sacrifices from time to time to appease the war gods. Yet, in these cultures, people continue to turn to the witch doctor for spiritual solutions when they are ill or there is drought or enemies are attacking. We believe the analogy is interesting because both the witch doctor phenomena and humanistic education share a common thread - a religious devotion than binds people to fear, futility and failure.
AT&T has received much bad press in Christian circles for sponsoring classes designed to promote homosexuality as protected behavior. While this bad press is well deserved, the problem is far from unique to AT&T. Many of the Christians who boycott AT&T merrily go on purchasing and extolling Microsoft products. Yet, we read that Bill Gates is a strong financial supporter of so-called "population control" efforts! Consistent with those morals are many of the corporate marketing ethics of Microsoft. As is common in bastions of sin, true invention has been rare with a preference for marketing power to squash competition. However, we must return to the main point of this article, "diversity" training.
"Diversity" training (or brain-washing as the techniques were called in past years) is quite common in corporate America. Unfortunately, with merger after merger into larger and larger companies, we find that the prevailing moral principles become that of the least common denominator. Worse, in many companies, the men at the top are actively promoting the pro-homosexual agenda of demanding acceptance of their sin as "diversity" and demanding special treatment. One important way in which they promote this agenda is through required "diversity training". Earl had the "opportunity" to attend such a session at IBM. While the content of the course was anti-Christ, it served as an opportunity to witness to the truth and interact with workmates.
We want to review the techniques used because we can demonstrate how to think Biblically as a counter to the thinking of the world. Whether working in a large company or buying from or selling to them, it is important to understand the times. Home educating parents and their children must live and work in modern America.
In diversity training, the main thrust is to include homosexuality among what they call "primary" diversities. Primary diversities include gender, race, and ethnic background. Primary diversities are differences which in general, should not be the sole basis for hiring or promotion etc. First let us compare these "primary" diversities to Biblical truth. Clearly, God made us male and female; thus we have two genders.
28. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
The emphasis on "race", meaning skin color, seems designed to perpetuate demonic hatred. The Bible never mentions multiple races. God made only one race, the human race. We are ALL descended from one man and women who were made in God's image!
God did divide people into many nations or ethnic groups:
6. From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.
However, even with the diversity of nations, God has the same plan for all of them, that they seek God!
27. and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,
28. that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
Furthermore, we read how men from every tribe, tongue, people and nation were purchased by the same blood of the Lamb!
10. And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
In "diversity" training, secondary diversities were also defined such as education, work experience, or religion. These diversities are not "built in" to the person, but rather are the result of different choices and paths in each of our lives. The concept taught is that we should never make distinctions in the workplace based on "primary" diversities, but that "secondary" diversities are valid differences for making business decisions (such as hiring or promotion).
In Earl's opinion, most of the class was designed to plow the soil to make way for the real purpose which was to include homosexuality as a "primary" diversity. The facilitator sited flawed and incomplete research saying that homosexuality is somehow genetic. The FHC booklet, Diversity and Absolutes discusses the concept of diversity in detail; for now we will repeat the principle that while some people may be more tempted than others by a particular sin, all sin is sin ("all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God")!
In Earl's class, two key exercises are excellent examples of the sorts of techniques used.
In the first exercise, the class is shown pictures of a number of people and asked to pass judgements on them. Earl and many of his classmates refused to fall for this. Of course, the pictures were rigged. For example, there was a picture of several young men looking mean. One was dark skinned and without a shirt. This was designed to draw out assumptions of "gang" or worse.
The instructors then showed us more complete pictures and told us more about each person. The "gang" picture was a picture of several men finishing workouts at the gym. Of course, they were all responsible professionals. This exercise is really wicked in that it seeks to draw out unGodly responses of the flesh based on NO information!
The bias of the exercise with the pictures was revealed in the mix of people. It included two homosexuals (of course, in "committed" relationships), a "church" man who actively promotes the acceptance of homosexual sin, a man with ties to mid-east terrorists, a harlot (whose first picture was meant to appear businesslike), and a grandmotherly appearing lady with a record of arrests in "peace" protests. Missing were Christians, a person arrested for an abortion protest, homosexuals with the more typical promiscuous behavior, or political conservatives!
A second exercise was the most wicked of all. In this exercise, the instructors posted charts with names of groups like "blacks", "women", "native Americans", or "homosexuals". The class was asked to put sticky notes onto the charts of words or names they had associated with those groups at some point in their life. The instructors were trying to solicit evil, nasty words. After the sticky notes were posted, the instructors then read (some) of the notes in an effort to prove to us how bigoted we all were. It was interesting that the instructors would read only those items which fit their agenda. In another class, someone tested this theory by posting slang words demeaning to women - the instructors would not read these.
Earl refused to participate (taking about half the class with him) on the grounds that he has spent his life learning to think Godly thoughts about people and it is foolish (or demonic as he has since considered the matter) to dredge up hateful words and labels from the past.
How to Prepare
We would suggest the following ways to prepare to encounter diversity training:
If there is no opportunity to speak or discuss, then try to get out of the class.
During a class, some possible approaches are: