Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cursory Thoughts about "A Christian Education Manifesto"

Recently a commenter on this blog asked if I would evaluate Israel Wayne's A Christian Education Manifesto (here).

Instead of a thorough evaluation of this document (which would include an in-depth examination of the author's other works), I decided to mostly take it at face value: after all, is that not the intent of manifestos? To summarize to the world what one deems important.

At the outset, it ought to be noted that the manifesto is helpful in certain ways. Presumably he is writing against the many lazy parents in Christian households. The copious proof-texting (in both a good and bad sense) could help many of these families get their acts together. It also heavily critiques the secular public school system.

1. Upon a short examination of the writer's credentials, it is striking that a man with no known theological training and examination thought he could write such a broad-sweeping manifesto single-handedly. In the council of many there is wisdom.

2. Where is the church? With such a conspicuous absence of such an important institution in the lives of all family members the manifesto ought to be re-titled: A Christian Family Education Manifesto.

3. Although claiming a Biblical worldview background, it is not at all clear that listing Bible verses with minimal commentary suffices as a manifesto let alone something part of a worldview. In what ways are these unique (?) elements of a Christian worldview?

4. Unfortunately, this spartan commentary lends itself to absolutist language, e.g., "Instruction of the young is given to parents and grandparents."--only, mostly, what?

5. Exodus 20:12 section clearly speaks to the modernistic mentality in education but seems to impugn all "government" education (however vaguely defined). A knowledge of Christian history will demonstrate otherwise.

6. The same section essentially calls the early church, Medieval church and Reformation churches well into the late 1700s 'socialists'. This seems to be a more modernistic Libertarian viewpoint that bypasses any historical dialogue. I may be in favor of localism in education but I would hesitate to label all of Christian education history as 'socialistic'.

7. 2 Chronicles 17:7-10 clearly ties the kingship with the priest and lay-leader's educational efforts to good effect. At the least, one should cautiously evaluate such Biblical evidence before announcing broad-sweeping declamations.

8. The Deut. 6:7 comment is brief and thus vague: what is a "24/7/365 discipleship paradigm"? In some homeschooling circles such language and proof-texting leads to a "homeschooling-is-commanded-by-God" doctrine (or at least it is the best educational option [and who wouldn't want the best for God?]).

9. Common grace is a concept that appears to be decidedly missing in this document. "A Christian parent must not turn the leading of their child over to someone who is spiritually blind." So an unbelieving piano teacher cannot instruct my daughter? A better question is to ask what is the Biblical basis of this assertion.

10. I am glad that the revisionist approach to history is renounced. Unfortunately, in most Christian circles such revisionism still exists in the form of a Deistic interpretation of history that downplays any theological distinctions in Christendom (hint: how many know that America was substantially founded by Calvinism?).

11. What was suspect earlier (that only parents may instruct their own children) is now made explicit: "It is assumed that the father and mother are doing the teaching. No one else is mentioned in Scripture as having that role." No one else...not even ministers? godly deacons? what about catechizing children?

12. This leads to a point about equivocation: what is the definition of education? nurture? etc.? Either no one can educate other people's children (contrary to the Bible) or the author is using more than one definition without informing the reader.

13. Apparently the OT plays a selective role, hence the absence of Deut. 30:9ff: "So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel...gather the people together, men and women and little ones...that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess." The Great Commission comes to mind as well.

14. There is curious logic here as well. Proverbs 9:10 is argued thusly: "Government schools lack the fear of the LORD,therefore cannot properly transmit wisdom, knowledge,and understanding." Just fill in ignorant or unfaithful parents in place of government schools and similar reasoning can be invoked.

15. Such family-centric emphasis makes good Reformed and Presbyterian (and old-fashioned Reformed Baptists) wonder about the educational, modeling and instructional role of the whole community of God? Does not Titus 2 encourage the older women (no mention of mother here) to instruct the younger women. By commonality of principle (LCQ 99) the same would hold for men and boys.

16. A misunderstanding of statistics is a common problem in America. In this case the 65-88% number does not include the actual training accomplished (or not accomplished) at home and at church. If the families and churches are weak, then sending the child to college is a dangerous thing indeed.

17. The point about leaders leading by example with the training of their children is much needed. However, too many Christians ignore such leaders anyway, seeking out popular leaders or (inexperienced) young men with young children.

18. "Education must be predicated on the foundation of Christ, not on humanistic thought." AMEN.

19. Unfortunately, since this manifesto is not clearly Reformed, it is not clearly "predicated on the foundation of Christ." Calvinistic education is different than the run-of-the-mill education.

20. In fact, this manifesto supplements the author's more explicit teaching in Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview. One glaring problem in that book is a dangerous dance with legalism: "If parents focus on giving their children a Biblical worldview, I can assure you, their children will excel in everything they do. It's that natural cause and effect of the blessing of God. When we obey, we are blessed; we we don't, we are cursed" (p. 150, cp. 43, 13).

This is the moral summary of the author's approach--implicit in this document but explicit in his book.

The explicit Gospel message that we cannot obey and are cursed already is missing. Christians are sinners saved by grace so that even when we 'obey' we do not 'obey' enough to cause any blessing (Rom. 7:12ff.). If such a message is not the cornerstone of Christian education then Christian children will either grow up hypocrites or renounce the faith in anger as too many already do.

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