This FHC letter is a collection of essays written in recent weeks.
Christian home educators often wrestle against the entertainment gods of our day. This leads to important considerations of what forms of fiction, drama, and music are legitimate means of communicating the gospel and edifying one another and which are pure time wasters or worse, idolatry. Over the years, we have become cautious of fiction, because while it can be used to illustrate a moral lesson or period of history, it can have snares:
Before we dismiss fiction entirely, we must consider the parables of Jesus which were used very effectively to teach valuable lessons. As we consider the parables versus common forms of fiction such as novels or movies, we find some key differences:
Christian home educators often are on the fore-front of considering Biblical lifestyles in many areas because they have broken one major stronghold of tradition - the institutional school. One challenge for home educators along with many active Christians is finding themselves in a rat race of activities, all seemingly important and Godly. One phenomena we see happen is that Christians attempt to maintain just as many non-church activities as those in the world including children's activities, spectator sports, TV sports, community festivals, amusement parks, and home maintenance. The problem comes when Christians add church activities. In some cases, the non-Christian is more likely to gain a day of rest each week than the Biblical Christian!
We suggest two approaches to this problem:
For both cases, we suggest the radical step of writing down activities on paper and then ranking the priority of each. Sometimes, just seeing the list will make clear that time is being spent in areas which are not very fruitful.
We believe that we easily underestimate the value of integrity. We will mention this later in our article on political action. However, some general comments on integrity are in order first. Integrity is different from policy. Integrity is a Biblical absolute - a moral requirement of God. Policy is something we can debate. We will give two illustrations of integrity.
In Exodus 18, Moses receives advice from his father-in-law about how to structure the judgement of disputes (courts in modern language). Jethro felt Moses needed to distribute the load. When we consider the advice given to Moses, our modern eye tends to see an "appeals" court system where the loser in the lower court can appeal to a higher court. But let us look at how this system is actually described,
20. I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people's representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God,
21. then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.
22. "Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.
23. "Let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.
In verses 18 and 19, we see the first principle of God's approach to disputes, which in New Covenant terms is expressed as His writing His laws on our hearts,
17. "This is the covenant that I will make with them After those days, says I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them,"
This is the first place where integrity exalts a nation.
In verse 21, we read the requirements for judges if the system is to (1) Fear God, (2) man of truth, and (3) hate dishonest gain. This verse raises a very high standard of integrity
Finally, in verse 22, we see, not an appeals court system in which the prosecutor or defendant escalates the case, but one in which the lower judges are of such integrity that they will recognize when a dispute is too difficult for them and escalate towards Moses who will consult God. Thus the lower judges must have not only integrity but the humility to recognize that they are not the ones to decide some cases.
An example of the difference between policy and integrity in political life comes from the life of William Jennings Bryan, a man of Christian integrity. Many of us would disagree with his populist policies. He was, unfortunately, helpful in expanding the power of government. Yet, integrity still mattered. When the 16th amendment (allowing direct taxes i.e. the income tax) to the constitution was being considered, Knox was Secretary of State and based upon published research, declared the amendment approved by 3/4 of the states when this was simply not true! Some states did not vote at all ("passed it over", not "passed the resolution"), some voted no, and some voted to change the wording. Later Bryan was Secretary of State. When the 17th amendment was being ratified, one state approved it but with different wording. Bryan, who supported the amendment, nonetheless wrote back to the governor saying that the state legislature had to vote yes or no, there was no constitutional provision for changes. This example shows that a man of integrity places integrity above momentary convenience and personal opinion.
We are instructed to resist evil:
14. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
8. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
This thoroughly Scriptural concept is often applied to young children in public schools. Young children, we are told, can resist evil and thus be witnesses for Christ. This sounds good. However, there are several problems, both in logic and experience, with this approach.
Because Earl works with computer networks, we are sometimes asked an opinion on purchasing on-line access for use in home education. Briefly, we believe that the possible value from using on-line services (especially wide open Internet access) is far outweighed by the dangers of access to moral filth. The problem students (and adults) face today is not lack of information - it is lack of time, lack of ability to digest information, and the need for a fully developed Biblical worldview. Furthermore, online information tends towards the "sound-bite" variety. Books are often better educationally and are far easier to control! On-line information has great uses. E-mail provides communications with missionaries and friends in the far corners of the earth at low cost and with instant service. If there is a current need for E-mail, it can be provided by online services without wide open Internet access and at lower cost. However, excessive use of E-mail (and "chat-rooms") can become a detached time eater far away from the Christian realities of relationships with forgivingness, repentance, and love. When children grow up and need the research facilities of the Internet, then is the time to use them. Note that today, the direction of the Internet is towards an entertainment delivery mechanism On line access can easily grow to a $30/month+ addition to a family budget, enough for substantial books or visits to real live people and places.
The challenge for Christian home educators is to evaluate every potential resource for its value in terms of their goals and not in terms of how popular the resource or method is! There is a great deal of peer pressure on us to accept the hype about computers and schools. Such hype is full of errors. As an example, on February 15, Earl heard the following sentence in a speech by President Clinton speaking about a proposed federal initiative to spend billions of dollars to connect every classroom to (the quote is from memory off the radio so may not be perfectly accurate) The president proposed a program ...
so we can have a computer in every classroom - we can have every child eager to learn."
Note the clever connection of spending billions of dollars on computers with making children eager to learn! This may be clever speech writing, but it is very poor educational policy. The statement also fails to address the issue of just what ii is that children are eager to learn! . Many children are eager to learn about movies, rap music, and gang wars. Eagerness is something God puts in all of us. The question is whether our eagerness is molded by God or perverted by the devil.
In a world in which the "wheat and the tares" grow up together, we will never be able to be totally free of exposure to evil. When evil abounds, we have only two choices:
Consider what the Bible tells us about Lot who was living in Sodom where he could not escape evil,
II Peter 2:7
8. and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men
9. (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),
Lot was not de-sensitized to sin and evil. His soul was tormented. How can we be sure to keep away from evil? The Bible tells us,
7. By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.
32. So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.
The 101st Psalm continues to provide guidelines in dealing with the presence of evil in places where we need to walk,
4. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me.
5. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil.
Thus, we may be surrounded by evil in order to be "in the world" and continue to make a living and be in a place to influence others. However, we have strong guidelines in the Bible to avoid becoming "of the world" and becoming de-sensitized to sin and evil. We encourage Christian home educators to apply these principles to the Internet and other Information Age technology.
Christian home educators have been forced to consider legal issues and politics because it has been necessary to fight legal battles for the right to take full responsibility for the education of our children. Political efforts by Christian home educators have usually exhibited great unity, a gift of God and a testimony to many people desperately seeking His wisdom.
Various legal threats continue to arise each year because many strongly oppose Christian home education. Teacher unionists see it as a threat to their monopoly, power, and salaries. Administrators see it as a threat to their job security. Socialists see it as a threat to central planning in other areas of government. Anti-Christians see it as a way to perpetuate obsolete, harmful religious beliefs. Child's rights activists see it as a threat to free expression of children. Thus Christian home educators must remain diligently involved in many political areas which pose threatening hindrances to our Biblical mandate.
Another reason for increasing involvement is that Christian home educators, having studied government (e.g. U.S. Constitution and history) as part of training their children, see how far from American and Godly standards our government has fallen and become aware involved in the political arena.
In addition, many Christian home educators have become involved in the restoration and protection of constitutional freedoms because they see the necessity of working in the political arena as a part of a Christian life dedicated to good works. However, we often see one main New Testament command ignored in the Christian right rhetoric and activities. I Timothy 2 :1-10 makes the salvation of political leaders first priority.
We believe that God has given us principles to guide us in addressing the
political arena that can help us work in unity with brothers in Christ while
continuing to be as "Iron sharpening Iron" (Pro. 27
This article covers two topic areas:
When we work in the political arena, it is important to distinguish Biblical absolutes that define sin and righteousness, and Biblical diversity requiring God's wisdom to determine the right action in the situation. The FHC pamphlet, Diversity and Absolutes has an extensive discussion of this concept with application to personality and learning methods. In the political realm, we believe the spiritual forces of darkness at work to cause strife and division by confusing diversity and absolutes. We often hear political issues discussed with the words, "The Christian Viewpoint" as if there can be only one possible political view for Christians. We would recall that our founding fathers included many strong Christians who had extensive discussion and debate about the best way to approach matters of government.
We are tempted to pick up the humanistic concept of working by "consensus" which becomes a means of suppressing debate.
We believe that examples of absolutes include:
When the United States was founded, a unique feature was the attempt to have a nation without a king. Modern thought has tried to convert our president into a king. In our view, this change comes from the same root as the people wanting King Saul. They want a man to lead them, not God.
Furthermore, when we consider the welfare state and compare it to the examples of charity in the Bible and specifically in the ministry of Jesus, we find that in the Bible, such acts are all personal with respect to conviction and action. The acts of charity are never coerced. The "Robinhood" principle is not Biblical. Zacheus did not repent by going out and collecting even more taxes to help the poor. He made restitution out of his own funds. The good Samaritan gave of his own funds, not tax money he had extracted from citizens under threat of imprisonment or slavery.
God puts the emphasis on personal integrity and keeping our word more than the modern abstract "fairness" we hear so much about. The concept of fairness is grossly misused to manipulate us. We exhort readers to look to the Bible to measure any claims of "fairness" in the political realm. Consider the parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20 :1-16 in which the landowner paid each worker the agreed upon amount even though some had worked all day and others only an hour. Listen to the conclusion:
15. 'Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.
16. 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?'
Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this!
Perhaps the greatest temptation to compromise our absolutes comes when there is "good" to be achieved by doing so. For example, if we believe in limited government and retention of local choices and personal freedom, Christians are easily tempted to talk about what "Washington" can do to correct this or that social or moral problem. We want men of integrity in national politics who will say of many matters (e.g. education) that the issue is not a federal one at all!
We believe that examples of diversity in the political arena are:
One way we can use the concept of diversity and absolutes is to examine our long term goals which should derive from absolutes. Then we can begin discussion and debate about what short term strategies are best to further our long term goals. Of course, even short term strategies must pass the test of Godly morality.
Our goals may include freedom, knowing that political and religious freedom go together, limited government, sanctity of life with the government as a terror to evil doers, and no government enforced religion (which can imply no government schools).
Long terms goals are important; therefore we must state them so that they enter the minds of people all over the land. When we debate only minor strategic issues, then our long term goals continue to have the sound of radical, impossible ideas. Note that the forces of evil always articulated their true goals even when they seemed absurd! Earl noted that in every case of a domestic topic for high school debate in his school years, the proposal was eventually adopted even though the affirmative side may have had great difficulty winning debates. Topics of the 60s included Federal Aid to Education, Medicare, and Wage and Price Controls.
If we put our goals into the public debate, then they will come to be accepted as part of the debate. As long as the enemies of God put their true goals into public debate, and Christians merely propose minor changes, then the compromise continues to move towards the goals of the wicked. Hitler voiced action every action he ever took years before he did it. Yassar Arafat has continually declared that Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine. Is anyone listening?
When applying the principles above to education, we are first lead to look at long term goals and then a possible strategic scenario of how to get there. Of course, political strategies are only paper strategies until the Lord moves on the hearts of people - then the strategies may be modified by the clear direction of the Holy Spirit moving in many people.
Our long term goals for education include:
A scenario (not the scenario) which would enhance freedom and challenge Christians to creative solutions for a needy nation might look like: