We know that the Bible directs men to be overseers in their own families. One very practical way for men to exercise oversight is in the choice of curriculum, books, and music being brought into the home and in the activities, sports, and classes being attended by wives and children. Remember that Eve was deceived, "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (II Cor 11 :3). Husbands and wives are given to each other to act as one flesh and be of one mind, agreeing in prayer.
Women can be tricked into thinking (or saying) "My husband doesn't look like other so-called men of God (i.e. public speaker) so he isn't spiritual enough to provide this oversight of home education materials and activities." We encourage wives to remember that there are varieties of ministries, gifts, and callings of God. Pastor is only ONE possible call of God, not the only one. This can be a serious deception for women (and men) who see only the public life of such "men of God", not how they themselves deal with their wives and children in every day life. When we see only the polished public ministry, we see a man at his best. Likewise, many men are seen by co-workers only at their best as they perform in the work environment away from the demands the Lord places on them to train their children and lead their wives.
Finally, women must believe I Peter 3 - that their spiritual strength will draw their husbands into his place of true belief and spiritual authority.
The "Great Novels"
The "Great Novels"
The novel has been a powerful tool in man's history for the establishment and propagation of ideas. God's history, however, is devoid of novels. This article examines a number of novels which address subjects important to Christian home educators. For a more complete discussion of the many forms of fiction, contrasting them to parables, the communications method chosen by Jesus, see the FHC booklet, Man, Myth, and the Master
Novels differ from true stories (called testimonies in Christian terminology) in that fictional events can turn out however the author chooses and the people can behave and respond however the author chooses.
To examine the relationship of novels to the truth, we will consider a number of novels. Some of these have been taught in American schools, and thus many parents will be familiar with them. This is NOT an endorsement of these books or a suggestion that we or our children should read them!!
Before considering these novels, we want to study a word in the Scripture. The English word "literature" is used twice in the Bible (depending on translation), Daniel 1 :4 and Daniel 1 :17. The word used in Daniel is the Hebrew word "sepher" (Strong's word 5612) which is most often translated "book". It carries the idea of "writings". The word is sometimes used of ordinary commercial record books. Its first use in the Bible is in Genesis 5,
2. This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
Thus the word translated "literature" used in Daniel does NOT imply fiction as does the common use of the word "literature" in modern American education. Daniel was taught the "literature and language" of the Chaldeans which means he was probably taught a wide variety of "writings" which may have included law, history, and religious myths so that he could accurately communicate in the Chaldean language which was not his native tongue. This is the same humanistic method used in most colleges and universities to learn a second language. This approach is also used often in learning our native language, which is unnecessary and time consuming (compared to learning the native language beginning with the truth of its structure and using the language to learn the Truth which is revealed in the Bible).
The Nature of Man
With that introduction, we will consider a number of specific novels which claim to address fundamental matters of the nature of man and how to train children based upon that understanding.
Emile by Jacques Rousseau published 1762.
This novel is the centerpiece of the theories of Rousseau who saw man as a "noble savage". He believed that if children were left to their own devices, they would turn out well. He saw the teacher as a facilitator, not an authority. By communicating via a novel, he was able to bring power to his theories without confronting the reality of sin which would be necessary when dealing with real, not fictional (i.e. made up), children. The influence of this story, the product of one man's imagination, is with us to this day in evey level of education.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding published 1954.
This novel attempts to teach, in a graphic manner, the depravity of man through a man-made story. In the novel, a number of school boys are alone on an island. The society which evolves is brutal, savage, and totally selfish. Christians have said that this untrue story illustrates the sin nature of man. But it does not. Golding's school boys are just as fictionalized as Rousseau's Emile. While Rousseau ignores sin, Golding ignores the intervention of the Holy Spirit speaking to men and the true power of the cross to redeem, transform, and cause the new birth.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley published 1932.
Huxley believed that man is evolving to be better with each generation. He further believed that man would improve most if freed from the chains of religion. By giving his ideas power in a futuristic novel (fortune telling which the Bible identifies as a spirit of divination), he was able to have his characters act according to his theories, not according to the truth concerning unbelief and the need for redemption by Jesus Christ. In Huxley's utopia, every aspect of life, from birth to death, is carefully orchestrated by "enlightened" men who claim superiority and rulership over fellow human beings.
1984 by George Orwell published 1949.
This novel is often taught as the antidote to Brave New World. This futuristic novel portrays a world in which a totalitarian government has redefined truth, suppressed freedom of speech, and attempted to control every aspect of life. The term "big brother" comes from this novel. In the novel, a group of people struggle to preserve truth. Many Christians would see in this novel an accurate portrayal of what is happening in our nation. However, the novel still suffers from being a fictitious story. There is no room for the real life intervention of the living God. The oppressed are not real people requiring real prayer which allows the reader to comfortably treat real suffering in the world with the same indifference he/she can have toward the fictional characters in the novel.
We contrast reading this novel with learning about real people. For example, some months after most of our family members read the true life story of Alexander Noble, a Cuban imprisoned for over 20 years for his faith in Jesus Chist, we had the opportunity to hear him speak and meet him in person. Our children were touched by meeting this humble man of God knowing the suffering he had endured and overcome. The experience has lead to more specific Spirit-led prayer in our home for persecuted Christians and for our own steadfastness in our culture.
Animal Farm by George Orwell published 1945.
This novel is an allegory of communist takeover. The allegory tells the story of a farmyard in which the animals take on the roles of the various players in a communist movement. While the story illustrates the true operation of communism, it fails to lead the reader to the Christian way to deal with the real people of the world who are being oppressed by communist regimes. If we read about real people, we can pray, write letters, and perhaps intervene on their behalf.
The Harrad Experiment by Robert Rimmer published 1967.
This novel comes out of the modern philosophy of behaviorism, the idea that if we construct the environment correctly, man will turn out wonderfully. Behaviorists refuse to believe the Garden of Eden existed in a time-space world and was perfect. In this novel, a fictional college, Harrad, experiments with so called "free love". Because the author, like all writers of novels, is free to have his characters behave as he chooses, all relationships turn out sweet and charitable, being enhanced by their total sexual impurity. This 1960's novel was very popular among a generation breaking away from God's truths about marriage and sexual purity, and its seeds ave blossomed into evil fruit at all levels of our culture.
Sixteen years have passed since the prophecies of the book, 1984 were supposed to be fulfilled.We are thankful to see that the Gospel of Christ has survived the USSR's communism, China's totalitarianism, and the materialism and hedonism of the USA. To God be all the glory.
History via the Novel
We will now consider some examples of learning history from novels and illustrate the difficulties which come from using fictional people to communicate true events.
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852.
This novel, first published in a magazine in installments, it is often credited with being instrumental in bringing down slavery in America. The novel tells the fictionalized accounts, sometimes loosely based on true stories, of the travails of slaves. While the novel served to wake up many to the horrors of slavery, it still suffered from being fiction rather than true testimonies.. Because the characters were not real, the reader might be aroused to evil passion (and hatred of slave owners), but could neither pray for or intervene on behalf of those in the book since it is fiction. We recall reading the words of the Methodist circuit rider and evangelist, Peter Cartwright, who in his autobiography published in 1856, was very concerned that the passions of the abolitionists combined with the stubbornness of the slave owners would lead to a war. He saw both as equally wrong. He personally had success in bringing slave and slave owner alike to a relationship with Jesus Christ with the subsequent change in living conditions and emancipation of slaves.
The Covenant by James Mitchener published 1980.
This novel describes the plight of blacks in South Africa in the days of apartheid. While describing a situation in desperate need of the redemption of Christ, the book is a novel. We witnessed a break in Christian fellowship which we believe might have been avoided if Christian teaching and true testimony had been used instead of this novel. When we lived in Australia, we attended a meeting at a small Christian camp owned by friends. The preacher, a sincere man of God, had recently visited South Africa. He shared that on his trip there he had chosen to educate himself on the country by reading this novel. He then read to us a particular incident out of the novel. This was a novel, with people not only not known to him, but also who did not exist. Thus his reading could arose the passions but could not include testimony or prayer. A couple attending the meetings, who were from South Africa, stood up and told the preacher that there was a lot he did not understand and walked out. We believe that God would have wanted to use this meeting for reconciliation and teaching us all how to pray Spirit-led prayers. Instead, the use of the novel simply aroused passions on both sides of a question which opened the door for division, a favorite tool of the devil.
Hawaii by James Mitchener published 1969.
While on a second honeymoon in Hawaii, we toured the home and buildings where the first Christian missionaries based their operations in Hawaii. The first stop on the tour was a plaque and an explanation by the tour guide informing those who entered the building with the truth about the missionaries. James Mitchener and his novel, Hawaii , were both cited and mentioned as being a biased, inaccurate, and untruthful account of the missionaries who gave their very lives as an expression of God's love in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with native Hawaiians.
God is truth. Novels are not the truth. They are inventions of the human mind. We encourage Christian home educators to forsake reading novels and actively concentrate on true stories which can lead to prayer and direct involvement in the work of the great commission. In writing, we encourage Christian home educators to write true testimonies and to ask God to give them parables that they can share with others to teach truths just as Jesus did. For help in this area, read, Man, Myth, and The Master which gives a brief history of the allegory, novel, and other literary forms, and explains the Biblical foundation of the parable.
12. "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, ...
Diane, trained as an English teacher, stopped reading secular fiction in 1975, but still felt academic pressure (spirit of pride) to include some Christian fiction in our home school curriculum. Earl, like Adam, did not discern the lie. However, we have been blessed in our own lives with the gift of repentance. As we have both studied the form which Jesus used, the parable, and have removed "Christian" fiction from our lives, God has opened our eyes to see and write parables based on every day experiences. This has freed our two youngest sons to be able to successfully fulfill God's requirements concerning composition skills. Letter writing is the easiest way to begin teaching practical composition skills, but the jump from letter writing to persuasive essays and research papers is a big one for some students. Our repentance concerning fiction brought freedom to Diane and our two youngest boys as they learned this Biblical approach to composition. All have now written parables from true experience, and we have seen how the same shared experience can result in 3 different parables. This has shown us that diversity can be found in Truth and it allows for anticipation, expectancy and excitement rather than boredom or frustration. Earl is delighted with the discovery of a new Biblical method of education in our house and has been edified by parables inspired by the Holy Spirit rather than the vain imaginations of man.
Finally, we commend the testimony of the apostle Peter to our readers,
II Peter 1:16
17. For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
One result of our culture's immersion into fiction is a sudden increase in the number of novels, radio programs, and movies about the "end times." We believe that God warns us strongly how to treat such matters. End time prophecy is not to be an excuse for "blood and guts" movies or thriller novels. There are two Biblical warnings which apply:
(1). We are told to demand accurate prophecy of the future. When novels are used to interpret Revelation and other end time prophecies, they become a means to prophecy presumptuously while hiding from Biblical responsibility by claiming "fiction".
21. 'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'
22. "You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?'
23. "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
(2) The following verses in Revelation have been applied to the Bible as a whole. However, the clear text concerns the prophecy of this book (i.e. Revelation)! What more clear example of adding to and taking away from Revelation is there than a novel or movie which develops fictional scenarios and characters!
19. ¶ I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
20. and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
Is it God's Plan?
Earl & Diane Rodd 6044 Pine Creek Street N.W. North Canton, OH 44720-5526 (330)-305-9318
Attached is an article I am submitting to CHEO Companion if it fits well. It came from some notes I starting making while listening to Rob Shearer's excellent talk Saturday morning at the 1999 convention.
In Christ, our only hope,
I have entered the data from the surveys I have and written the computer programs to tabulate the data. However, I want to try to get more survey data before writing up results. I hope to do that by winter and I can provide the results early in 2000. The preliminary results are that the only factors which correlate with students who want to go back to school are attendance at youth group and having been home schooled for less years. The later does not really make sense, in that had we asked the question several years ago, the students who now have been home schooled for more years would have themselves been homeschooled a smaller number of years. What it may indicate is that students who want to go back to school do not remain home-schooled for many years and thus do not respond to my survey which was distributed only to home schoolers.
We have heard a lament that today's college students are there to "get a better job," rather than to gain a broad education. This is seen clearly by the large number of students who select business as a major, a major which did not exist at most universities 30 years ago. Is this lament correct? Is college simply a place to gain job skills?
American education has long held the ideal to be what is called a "liberal arts" education. This ideal is so firmly rooted into our culture that we seldom realize that there are alternatives or take the time to evaluate why we choose a liberal arts education.
A liberal arts education means an education in which all students learn a wide variety of subjects from math to philosophy. The intent is to produce "well rounded" students. The ideal is manifested in nearly all college curriculums in the United States in the requirements for students to take courses in history, philosophy, psychology, fine arts, science, math, literature, and possibly ethics and religion. The ideal is also manifested in lower levels of education in the way we seek to teach such a wide variety of subjects in elementary school and high school.
Note that this approach to college level education is not universal in the world. In Australia, for example, students complete the equivalent of a B.A. degree in 3 years and take courses only in their major and necessary pre-requisite and co-requisite areas. In that system, students do not "go to college" and then determine what their major will be. Rather, students apply for and are enrolled in math or history etc.
We propose two questions for Christian home educators:
First, the Bible tells us what knowledge we are to seek first. Note verse 10:
10. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
11. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Jesus also teaches us that the way to prosperity is through seeking Him.
34. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
We conclude therefore that, yes, education is about more than "getting a better job." It does, however, include preparing to do what work God calls us to do with excellence as unto the Lord.
We believe that the ideal of the liberal arts education has both Godly and ungodly roots. Christian home educators have focused on incorporating the Bible and its truths into every aspect of life and study, from science to government. We have also worked to make the vibrant work of the church, from foreign missions to local service, a regular part of the lives of ourselves and our children. Perhaps another word for "liberal arts" is "worldview development."
In reality, many Christian home educated children whose parents have sought God as to how He would have them develop God's worldview, have already received a thorough "liberal arts" education by the time they finish high school years at home. The liberal arts education provided by most colleges is usually a very poor match with the worldview preparation of Christian home educated students in two ways:
We believe that the liberal arts education seen in modern American colleges is the devil's counterfeit of a Godly education. It has similar goals, to incorporate an educated view into every area of life. The problem is that the underlying philosophy is humanistic. The liberal arts have been hijacked for humanism.
Yes, there should be concern when most college students are merely looking "for a better job." However, even business majors learn practical Marxism via the liberal arts. In the 5/13/99 edition of The Wall St. Journal Marianne Jennings, professor of legal and ethical studies in the College of Business at Arizona State University, comments, "Alas, my M.B.A students arrive already trained in fashionable academic socialism. 'Capitalism is the source of all poverty,' wrote one student." She also comments that, "Today's college students, trained as moral relativists, are perplexed at best by universal rules."
We would also note that the contemporary business major reflects a further tragedy of education and family life. In many ways, a business major is learning everything a child should have learned at home. Children raised on entertainment know so little of the productive world around them that a college major is required to function in the everyday world of business. In our experience, many home educated children, through practical experience, first hand training, and development of integrity, are better prepared for business than those completing the typical B.A. program majoring in business.
Now, what alternatives exist for Christian home educated students? We suggest the following and encourage readers to freely share their own experiences and ideas via articles in this publication, sharing in support groups, and one to one sharing.
In summary, we believe that most Christian home educators, by the nature of their call in God to train their children as disciples of Jesus Christ, are fulfilling the Godly ideals of a so-called "liberal arts" education. We would propose using the simple term Biblical education which allows us to expand our education in what is good and discard that which, while traditionally taught, is unGodly and unnecessary.
Calvin Coolidgeby J. Rodd
J. Rodd 6044 Pine Creek St. NW North Canton, OH 44720-5526 phone (330) 305-9318
The 30th President of the United States (1923-1929), Calvin Coolidge was the first President to give his inaugural address over the radio. In that address, he said, "Because of what America is and what America has done, a firmer courage, a higher hope, aspires the heart of all humanity.... We cannot continue these brilliant successes in the future unless we continue to learn from the past." No less is true today, and Coolidge's autobiography is a "masterpiece of pithy sincerity" containing many subtle points of instruction to the aspiring youth as well as the political analyst.
Coolidge's story begins with his mother. "It seems impossible that any man could adequately describe his mother," he says, demonstrating his lifelong pattern of respect for others. "I can not describe mine." Victoria Josephine Coolidge was "practically an invalid" from his earliest memory, but, he says, she "used what strength she had in lavish care upon me and my sister, who was three years younger. There was a touch of mysticism and poetry in her nature which made her love to gaze at the purple sunsets and watch the evening stars.... It seemed as though the rich green tints of the foliage and the blossoms of the flowers came for her in the springtime, and in the autumn it was for her that the mountain sides were struck with crimson and with gold." We can believe, then, that when she passed away when he was twelve, life was indeed "never to seem the same again." Perhaps this experience of that which is truest and grandest - the love of kind parents - allowed him to keep in perspective the lofty positions he later held.
At the age of fourteen Coolidge attended an academy, which prepared him for Amherst college. It was at Amherst where the transition from immaturity to maturity came about, he says, noting that "It was not accidental, but the result of hard work. If I had permitted my failures, or what seemed to me at the time a lack of success, to discourage me I cannot see any way in which I would ever have made progress." These years were formative, and he notes in particular a professor of philosophy, Charles E. Garman, who "was one of the most remarkable men with whom I ever came in contact." Coolidge says he and his classmates viewed him as "a man who walked with God." His philosophy course was to leave a permanent impression of "the complete dependence of all the universe on [the personal God] as the Creator and Father...." This philosophy course, taught by a man who was "a disciple of the Cross," overshadowed the rest of his college experience.
While Coolidge's rise to become Governor of Massachusetts is interesting, the following quotes reveal his perspective on government after he rose to national politics, and reveal his insight and humility.
Of the Senate, for which he had the highest respect, he says matter-of-factly, "The country is safe in its hands." He elaborates: "Nothing is more dangerous to good government than great power in improper hands. If the Senate has any weakness it is because the people have sent to that body men lacking the necessary ability and character to perform the proper functions. But this is not the fault of the Senate.... The fault lies back in the citizenship of the state."
"Surprisingly few men are lacking in capacity, but they fail because they are lacking in application. Either they never learn how to work, or, having learned, they are too indolent to apply themselves with the seriousness and the attention that is necessary to solve important problems. Any reward that is worth having only comes to the industrious."
"While I felt qualified to serve [as President], I was also well aware that there were many others who were better qualified. It would be my province to get the benefit of their opinions and advice. It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions." It is important to note that Coolidge refused to serve as President until he felt qualified and later refused to run for a second full term. His actions bear out his words.
Commenting on Jefferson's egalitarian but disorganized "seat yourself" protocol at White House dinners, Coolidge pithily notes, "In spite of all his greatness, any one who had as many ideas as Jefferson was "But this does not detract from the wisdom of his faith in the people and his constant insistence that they be left to manage their own affairs." He supports Jefferson's "opposition to bureaucracy," commenting "the trouble with us is that we talk about Jefferson but do not follow him. In his theory that the people should manage their government, and not be managed by it, he was everlastingly right."
Coolidge's approach to party politics was interesting: "If a party is to endure as a serviceable instrument of government for the country, it must possess and display a healthy spirit of party loyalty. Such a manifestation in the Congress would do more than anything else to rehabilitate it in the esteem and confidence of the country." To believe this is to believe that Christians in America need a new party to carry out their reforms, as it's impossible to be a Christian and support the continuing decline of America perpetuated by the two ruling parties.
"Even after passing through the Presidental office it still remains a great mystery. Why one person is selected for it and many others are rejected can not be told. Why people respond as they do its influence seems beyond inquiry. Any man who has been placed in the White House cannot feel that it is the result of his own exertions or his own merit. Some power outside and beyond him becomes manifest through him. As he contemplates the workings of his office, he comes to realize with an increasing sense of humility that he is but an instrument in the hands of God."
Addressing the question of why he chose not to run again, Coolidge reveals: "It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant."
He assures us, however, that "While I had a desire to be relieved of the pretensions and delusions of public life, it was not because of any attraction of pleasure or idleness." He goes on to once more advocate hard work. "There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means."
The life of Calvin Coolidge proves that every education is an important one and that there is no lesson so important as honor toward God and humility towards fellow man. Coolidge himself attributes many of his character qualities to growing up in the plain, unpretentious country village of Plymouth Notch, Vermont. The 250-page book can be obtained by writing to the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. Plymouth, Vermont 05056. This is a private foundation dedicated to "accurate information about Coolidge and Plymouth."
When we were in school, the period known as the "dark ages" was the subject of ridicule. We were taught to take great pride as we laughed at religious superstitions and feudal governmental forms. In that time period, religious superstition permeated the Christian church with the sale of indulgences and the belief in the power of relics. Superstition depended heavily on the ignorance of the people. There were probably enough pieces of wood "from the cross" sold to make a forest of crosses. Politically, the lower classes were kept in ignorance and illiteracy, stuck in poverty with no way out no matter how capable they were.
In both religion and politics, ignorance was used as a tool to control people.
Today, we are suffering again from a "dumbing down" process, both politically and in the church. Politically, a populace who know little of the concept of constitutional government and virtually nothing of the roots of liberty and freedom, but who are given an increasing array of bread (government entitlements) and circuses (sports/movies) are easily controlled with mindless political campaign methods such as 30 second TV ads and TV "news". Too much of the church has reduced the richness of the Gospel to a teaching of "be a nice boy or girl or God won't love you." Such dumbed down teaching has only one purpose, to make people easy to control.
With the dumbing down of the people, we see a rise in recent years in apparently secular superstitions such as horoscopes. Also, we believe that some of the folklore which has arisen surrounding herbal remedies and foods becomes more superstition than wisdom. Yes, we must be wise in considering the wisdom God gives regarding foods, but faith for our life and health must ultimately be in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Replacing a dependence on men (doctors) with a dependence on herbs and special foods still keeps us from the cross of Christ. Consider what the Scripture says concerning what strengthens the heart,
10. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
How were the "dark ages" enlightened? By courageous men and women who were first enlightened and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Only the power of the Gospel brought the political and economic liberties we enjoy today. Christian home educators may be called to take the position of those called to live and teach the breadth and width and height and depth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!