Pastor Tim Bayly of Clearnote Church recently stirred up some controversy (what’s new) with some posts on Fatherhood and education. You can find the the first in the series of blogs here. What caused the pot he was stirring to boil over was his criticisms of homeschooling and his apparent love, l-o-v-e, for the public school system. In reality, Pastor Bayly was challenging several tendencies in the reformed church about education that he believes to be harmful.
One of those tendencies is the inability to be self-critical. That is, the reformed church and its homeschool families tends to be only critical of what is out there in the sinful culture while forgetting that we harbor within our flesh all the wickedness needed to destroy ourselves and our families. If you want proof of this tendency, notice how us homeschoolers respond to any criticism of homeschool. A while back I posted this short quote from Doug Wilson on my Facebook page and you would have thought I asked all homeschoolers to vaccinate their children. I kid. But seriously, the response to this quote was over the top. Now I get that homeschoolers often feel like the redheaded step-child. We have to defend our school choices often. Yet I couched this quote with the fact that I am a homeschool parent and that I am opposed to public schools. The response was still atrocious. We have to be able to have some self-awareness. We Christians, especially of the reformed kind, know that we are born with a sinful nature and even when we are saved we wrestle with that flesh our whole life. That means we will have blind spots that we need others to help us see. Furthermore, it means we have to learn to question our own motives and our own wisdom. When a pastor who has been in the game for quite a while comes along with some criticisms and suggestions, we should at least be humble enough to consider them.
The second tendency that Tim Bayly rightfully pointed out was our tendency to look for salvation anywhere else other than our Lord Jesus Christ. We want a process, a magic button, that will put the power to save our children in our hands rather than the Lord. Therefore, we have a tendency to make education to be a plan of salvation for our children. “We won’t be like the 90% of professing Christians who send their children to public school and lose many of them to the world, instead we will homeschool our children and guarantee they will be believers. We got the golden ticket to heaven.” Now I know most of us won’t ever articulate anything close to that with our words and yet in our hearts and in our actions, we too often act as if this is true. R.J. Rushdoony wrote a book called “The Messianic Character of American Education” in which he documented how the secular humanists have made public education their plan for salvation. Education to these humanists is the answer to what ills humanity. We too must be on guard that we do not make a Messiah out of homeschooling or any other method of education for that matter.
None of what is said above, removes the responsibility of parents, fathers especially, to educate their children in the Lord. Education is discipleship and we must disciple our children according to the commands of God. But that will take fathers being fathers. It will take men who take responsibility with each of their children, submitting themselves and their families to godly authority, leading their wives and children in obedience, and being open to criticism.
Now in the course of Pastor Bayly’s posts he did leave open public school as an option for fathers to send their children to be educated. I don’t think this was meant to be an endorsement of the public school system but rather I believe his way to drive home the seriousness of the problems that can occur in homeschool or private schooling. I take his point to be that the problems and challenges that can occur in homeschooling and private schooling are as serious as the problems and challenges that public school has. A parent with an uncritical view of the pitfalls, temptations, challenges, and problems that can and often do occur in homeschooling and/or Christian schooling is setting his children up for failure.
Pastor Bayly does, however, seem to allow public school as a viable option for a Christian parent. And this is where he and I would disagree. I can affirm wholeheartedly what I believe his concerns to be and yet cannot bring myself to affirm that the public school system is a viable option especially in its current form. Let me give an analogy which as with all analogies loses is analogous nature if taken too far.
In downtown Louisville Kentucky, there is a place called EMW Women’s Surgical Center. This place is an abortion mill (I won’t dignify it with the name clinic.). This place performs abortions Tuesdays through Saturdays slaughtering over 3000 babies a year. The vast majority of people who come to this place will pay to have their children murdered. However, rarely, the place will perform a D&E (a procedure to remove the miscarried baby) for someone who has already had a miscarriage. These procedures are mostly done at hospitals and other medical centers, but they may be cheaper at EMW. Now, I could never in good conscience recommend someone who had a miscarriage to darken the door of this wicked place. Nor could I recommend that someone go to a Planned Parenthood facility for a pregnancy test or any other legitimate type of health care. EMW and Planned Parenthood need to be abolished and do not need to be legitimized in anyway. Could someone go to these places and get a non-abortive procedure done? Yes but they would be helping to keep in place alters to Moloch.
In like manner, the public school system in the United States has been a tool for Satan to bring much harm to this country. Its pretension to neutrality while pushing sexual perversion, rebellion to parents, the denial of the Lordship of Christ over all things, and socialism has harmed multiple generations. It is not a neutral institution, but one built upon the false religion of secular humanism. Christians who would not consider sending their children to Islamic, Mormon, Hindu, or Buddhist schools far too often send their children to these secular humanist schools without a thought in the world.
Pastor Tim Bayly has more experience with homeschool and private Christian schools than I do but I do have experience with the public school system as a student and as a youth minister working with students. As a student in small town West Virginia where the teachers and principles go to church, I was introduced to pornography in the schools at a very young age. It was in public school that I was taught that all religions are basically the same. I can remember very clearly in 6th grade being taught in “social studies” that a socialist democracy was a much better system of government than what we had in our country. Our county would be better off if it adopted the socialistic systems of Europe. In High School, the male band director would make passes at me and others. I was pretty naïve at the time and just thought it was a joke until he was convicted of sexual abuse of minors just a year after he had been declared teacher of the year. I had Christian parents who worked hard to disciple me at home and that did make a difference but I have had to work hard to leave behind the unbiblical worldview I was trained in at school. Many of my fellow students did not have that same advantage. My experience as a student in public school is 20 years ago or more. Things have changed not for the better.
My experience as a youth minister working with students has bolstered my repulsion to the government school system. There was a night and day difference between the students that I ministered to who were public schooled and those who were not especially those who were homeschooled. I am not claiming that the homeschool students were perfect angels but when it came to issues of worldview and morality, there was a stark difference. Even the public school youth who had both parents who faithfully attended and served at church were more likely to accept homosexuality, socialism, and other perversions of the truth. They were also less likely to know their bibles and to be interested in spiritual things. My experience lines up with testing done by other groups such as the Nehemiah Institute. They surveyed over 110,000 participants during a 28-year period from 1987 through 2015. Their results have shown a vast difference between those who are public schooled and those who were educated at home or a Christian school with an intentional focus on a biblical worldview. In 2015, the test showed that 90 percent of students from Christian homes attending public schools score in a range that indicates that their views are firmly grounded in basic tenets of secularism. Hardly anyone would doubt that this would also be equally true if not worse for those not from Christian homes.
The point is that the public school system is a system based off of rebellion to God that has done much damage to this nation which is exactly what some of the great reformed theologians used to warn about. For example, A. A. Hodge wrote, “the United States system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of Atheism which the world has ever seen.” Again, Hodge wrote, “I am as sure as I am of the fact of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social, and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.” Who would dare argue that Hodge’s predictions have been off base?
Furthermore, the public school system is built upon the most egregious form of taxation in our nation, property taxes. Now I know that Pastor Bayly has poked at this argument by pointing out that there are many things we do that cause us to participate in the confiscation of wealth by the government. And it is true that for a modern American, it is very difficult to avoid participating in this system. Yet there is something especially egregious about private property taxes. A widow without children in the school system can have her property confiscated if she does not pay taxes to support the secular humanist education system. Remember that Jesus Christ has some scathing remarks when the widow was forced to give her last mite. He rebuked the scribes who devoured widows’ homes. We may not be able to avoid all the ways that our government has overreached with taxes but we can avoid participating in its fruits in this area.
It is on the basis that the public school system is built upon a form of taxation that is unjust and has been and is a tool to promote an anti-christian worldview that I argue that the public school system should be abolished. While a Christian father may send their child to these schools without fear that their own children may be corrupted, by doing so they are legitimizing an institution that should be abolished rather than propped up. Your children may scrape through without much harm but that will not be true for the vast majority of children that are sent there.
Therefore while I recognize that there are some very difficult challenges that may face homeschoolers or private schoolers, I could not in good conscience send my children or recommend anyone else send their children to the public school system knowing that in doing so I am helping to prop up something that has done much harm to our country. I also believe that this would go against the call from scripture to educate our children in the Lord. I would no more suggest a secular humanist school than an Islamic school for a child.
With all of the above said, I would like to finish by laying out what I believe to be biblical principles for education that a father and a pastor should consider. At the foundation of this discussion must be principles that we can agree on to help us fathers as we seek to raise up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I submit the following principles for consideration when thinking about educating children. While I disagree with Pastor Bayly on the issue of public school as a potential option, his wisdom on the issue of education has been instrumental in the formation of some of these principles.
1. Christ is the beginning, middle, and end of education- That is the foundation of education should be Christ. The methodology of education should be Christian. The goal or purpose of education should be Christ.
2. There is no such thing as neutrality- One religion or another will be the guiding force in education. It will either be Christian or it will be anti- Christian.
3. Parents and in particular the Fathers are given the primary responsibility to train up children. - Parents can seek help but ultimately are responsible.
4. Every student when he is full grown will be like his teacher. - Children learn not just by instruction but by example.
5. Bad Company corrupts good morals.- The environment that children are placed in will have an impact on them.
6. Civil Government has been given the duty to punish evil and should not take on responsibilities not given to them by God.
7. The ownership of private property is a right given by God. - While the state has the right to collect taxes, taxation on private property is unjust.
8. Education is for individuals- People are created uniquely in the image of God, therefore there is no cookie-cutter mass marketing way of education. We need to tailor our methods to each individual to meet their strength and weaknesses. Furthermore, education must be tailored to meet the needs of each sex. Boys need to be discipled to be men. Girls need to be educated to be women.
9. Education is part of the discipleship process but it is not messianic. - Our Faith is in Christ Jesus to save our children therefor, we must not place our faith in a method, curriculum, or procedure. Homeschooling and private schooling, in an of themselves, are not automatic guarantees of faithfulness.
10. The Church plays an indispensable part in education. - While parents are the primarily disciple makers in the family, responsible parents will committed to the instruction and discipline of the church in their own lives and in the lives of their children. The local church therefore should hold parents and children accountable as well as encourage and help parents to provide a Christian education whether that be in homeschooling, co-ops, or Christian schools.
11. All people are born with sinful natures- It is important to realize that all people inherit from Adam a sinful nature and that will impact everything we do including education. Therefore, the education of children must take into account the sinfulness of the children, the sinfulness of the parents, and the sinfulness of anyone else. The gospel will be a daily necessity as will accountability as mentioned in number 10
There may be more principles that we can lay out for education that I have missed. There may be some that I have laid out that you disagree with or would word differently. I look forward to any arguments to be made that may sharpen our iron.
I would like to make one last observation from a pastoral standpoint. Sanctification is a process. As a Church, we will be meeting people where they are and encouraging them in their growth as a believer. We will be working alongside fathers and mother to disciple their families and to grow in holiness and wisdom. This means that addressing the issue of whether a new believer’s child is in public school or not is not the first level of work that we will be doing. We won’t be rejecting people from our church who are not where we are yet on public education. Our hope is to come alongside men and help them grow as fathers and help them make decisions to provide a biblical education to their children over the long haul. It is our desire to help instill the above principles in those we are discipling. We recognize this is a process. We also recognize that people may have some disagreements on the different principles. Our churchplant is in fellowship with Pastor Bayly’s church and in fact is under the the authority of Clearnote Fellowship. While we may have disagreements, we will respond to those disagreements with charity and mercy while attempting to make sound and biblical arguments for our positions. Lastly, I apologize in advance for any faulty arguments or grammatical errors above. I was public schooled after all.