Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Homeschoolers Need the Gospel

Why should it be presumed that orthodox doctrine is believed among homeschoolers?

If, say, discipline and nurture are emphasized in a context of presumed orthodoxy but the presumption is wrong, then what?

If a family nurtures their children into theological error then nurture has only hurt the children. If a family disciplines their children into the name-it-and-claim-it mentality then discipline has harmed the children. If a family prays together but prays to a 'god' who changes his mind then such prayer has damaged the children.

To assert the necessity of discipleship without taking into account the sorry spiritual state of most Evangelicals is as helpful as a soap commercial for cleaning a house full of spiritual babes--what baby can clean his or her own mess?

Are all Evangelicals, even homeschoolers, spiritually babes or even spiritually dead? I don't know that. But I can discern the times and the seasons through my own years of experience--and the experience of those older than me--and listen to the statistical evidence gathered over the last twenty years. And more importantly I can evaluate the creeds of these families and churches--if their creed believes that Christ sinned while on earth can I not safely assume that there is a spiritual crisis of vast proportions? That perhaps these people are fooling themselves? That radical surgery is required?

My experience as a Dispensational, Arminian, Charismatic of a decade of my life speaks volumes. My church was a mega-church before mega-churches became well-known. We had 2,000 members--well, attendees, church membership was not required.

I was confused; always in fear of losing my salvation. Sure I was saved by grace--but what kind of grace is it that cannot hold onto me in spite of my sins? What was grace? I had no doctrinal footing to stand upon. Did not creeds divide and love unite? Yet I was so full of 'love' that I sank in an ocean of chaotic emotions because I was not taught the teaching (doctrine) of swimming. Even though I was a good student, at church and school, and had an open relationship with my parents, I struggled with sin.

Such doctrinal confusion lead to my lack of assurance and spiritual stagnancy. The practical consequence of such spiritual ignorance was that I was trying to save myself. What if I sinned and died before I repented? Did I believe God enough? Was I obedient enough? The agony was unbearable until God's goodness brought me to sound doctrine which changed my faith from introspection to extrospection--seeing Christ and Him crucified.

Statistically, Barna has been polling American Christians since the mid-80s. Their frustration with the chronic ignorance of such Christians lead to the publication of UnChristian. It was there that I discovered that "out of ninety-five million Americans [aged 18-41]...about sixty million say they have already made a commitment to Jesus that is still important" but only three million (3%) of the total have a nominal Christian worldview (nominal because the very definition used by Barna is non-trinitarian!). Of those aged 42+ only 9% have a nominal Christian worldview. Whose to say that homeschoolers are immune to such doctrinal and therefore practical ignorance?

Barna certainly does not let homeschoolers off the hook. Their 2001 random survey (the best type) suggests that just over half (51%) are not classified as “born again”. Only 15% are (loosely) Evangelical. Half of the homeschoolers polled consider themselves somewhere between conservative and liberal. More importantly, the Barna Group numbers display a level of poor spirituality I had only guessed at from my own anecdotal experience: most homeschoolers deny that Satan exists and half believe that salvation is obtained through good works.

Doctrinally, the situation is worse. Experience and statistics can only go so far but what a person believes with their mouth will reveal their heart (Rom. 10.10). It is certainly true that actions do not always follow beliefs, but they should. And God is not pleased if someone confesses that God is all-sovereign yet frets about the future. At the same time it is wrong to confess that God is impotent among the sons of men and live accordingly.

Professor Horton's excellent book, Christless Christianity, sums the problem of conservative Evangelicalism--whatever their educational proclivities--as moralistic, therapeutic Deism: God created the world; God wants us to be good; God wants us to be happy; God will solve your problems on demand; good people go to heaven (p.41).

Deism is not Christianity. It is the belief that there is a distant Being who created everything and left it alone. Redemption is being good. And the chief end of man is to be happy.

Yet more specific doctrinal errors are frequent as well: God the Father did not choose His own people (that's our job); God the Son did not obey the law for us (that's our job); God the Spirit cannot raise the spiritual dead (that's our job); there is no original sin; infants are innocent; and man's depravity is a lack of information not will.

I know these dangerous errors exist because I have heard them with my own ears. I have examined many churches and their confessions. And I conclude that homeschoolers, as much as any Christian, still need the Gospel.

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