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Machen: The Christian Reformed Church & Christian Education May 13, 2009

Posted by heldveld in Blog Spotting, Christian Education, Christian Parenting, J. Gresham Machen.
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Genva Redux posts some of Machen’s thoughts on the CRC from back in 1936. Unfortunately, much has changed in the denomination and its schools.  Yet there is much to consider from these characteristics. I was especially appreciative of the last section on Christian education:

They love God and love their children too much to allow Christian instruction to be tagged one day in seven as a kind of excrescence upon an education fundamentally non-Christian.  They have tried to make the education of their children Christian throughout.  God has wonderfully blessed them in that effort.

A good note of encouragement to a parent who has just decided to invest in Christian Education for his children.

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Bahnsen: Keeping Covenant With God in the Education of Our Children April 30, 2009

Posted by heldveld in Antithesis, Christian Education, Christian Parenting, Greg Bahnsen.
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I am still doing a lot of thinking regarding Christian education as I have to make a decision regarding my son’s education for next year.

In the process, I found a short but helpful article by Greg Bahnsen at the CRTA (Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics) site.  The article itself can be found here.

Genuine knowledge of any subject whatsoever begins with reverence and submission to God (Prov. 1:7), particularly the fundamentals and philosophy which adhere to the Lord Jesus Christ rather than the fallen world or human traditions (Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:20). It is the word of God which sets apart His people in the truth (John 17:17). Thus neutrality in education is not only impossible (Matt. 12:30), but immoral (Jas. 4:4). Accordingly, the aim of Christian parents must be to encourage their children to “bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5), “in whom are deposited all the treasures of wisdom and knoeledge” (Col. 2:3), Only if they are first disciples of Christ will they know the truth and enjoy real freedom (John 8:31-32).

Frame: Toward a Theology of the State April 17, 2009

Posted by heldveld in Antithesis, Christian Education, Christian Reconstruction, John Frame, Two Kingdoms.
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An interesting article by John Frame (Toward a Theology of the State) that traces the Biblical development of government and then explores the relationship of religion and the state.

The picture to this point, then, is that as Israel developed from nuclear family to extended family to clan to nation,  family authority became more elaborate and complicated. In time, God introduced new institutions. The heads of extended families were no longer exclusively responsible for prophetic and priestly ministries as were the patriarchs. Rather, God relieved them by assigning many religious duties exclusively to the priests, Levites, and prophets.

As the above quote shows Frame sees government developing out of family authority. Which leads him to draw the following conclusion:

I conclude, therefore, that state authority is essentially family authority, developed and extended somewhat by the demands of number and geography. Thus I believe we may eliminate from our consideration the views of the Lutherans and Meredith Kline, as well as others, who see the state as a distinct institution ordained by God, with powers and responsibilities different from those of the family.

I had never thought about government in this way (developing out of family authority) but Frame’s case makes sense and appears to do a good job of tracing the Biblical development of government.

Following his tracing of the development of the “state”, he then examines the relation of religion and the state. Among his insights:

God calls all human beings to repent of sin and to put their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those who have believed in Jesus are to do all things to his glory (1 Cor 10:31; cf. Rom 14:23; 2 Cor 10:5; Col 3:17, 24). Anything the believer does,
therefore, must be done according to God’s standards and out of a motive of love for him. This principle certainly bears on any human associations, whether for business, education, charity, worship, art, recreation, study, government, or whatever. The believer must press the royal claims of Christ in all areas of life. And to do that is, of course, to work toward Christian standards and practices in all those associations, so that there will be Christian businesses, Christian schools, Christian media, Christian charities, Christian churches, Christian art, Christian recreations, Christian scholarship, and, of course, Christian government. Why should government be any different from any other project in which the believer is involved? If we promote Christian schools because Christ is to be Lord of all of life, doesn’t the same argument apply to government? And once Christian standards become the norm in such institutions, why should that institution not formally recognize that commitment by confessing Christ?

He makes additional points on education and religious expression among others. I found the article helpful and encourage you to read it in it’s entirety.

Van Til & Berkhof: Foundations of Christian Education November 21, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Christian Education, Christian Parenting, Cornelius Van Til, Louis Berkhof.
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christian_edThis book is a collection of essays that were delivered as addresses to Christian Educators in the 1930’s. In the introduction Dennis Johnson, the editor, mentions that these essays deal mostly with the ‘why’ and not the ‘how’ of Christian education. I was a little disappointed, but truly that was what I expected. That being said I’m still looking for a good book on the ‘how’ of Christian education in an effort to evaluate Christians schools as a parent. If you know of one please comment. Yet despite this small disappointment regarding what was not found in the book the topics the authors do cover are informative and helpful in discerning the need for Christian education.

Since I have been doing a lot of thinking and research on this subject I hope to do a series of posts on the individual essays in this book. Therefore in this post I will not go into too much detail on the content of the essays.

In the first section two essays lay out the necessity for and uniqueness of the reformed education. Van Til writes on ‘Antithesis in Education’ and Berkhof contributes ‘Being Reformed in Our Attitude Toward the Christian School’. These were probably the most important essays in the collection as they form the foundation for the rest of the book. Johnson comments in the introduction that this was his reason for including them first as opposed to at the end as they appeared in the first edition.

The second section is on the Doctrinal Foundations of Christian Education. Van Til has essays in this section titled ‘Creation: The Education of Man – A Divinely Ordained Need’, ‘Faith: Faith and Our Program’, and ‘Eternal Life: The Full-orbed Life’. The eternal life essay is a great reminder of where our priorities need to be even in education.  Berkhof’s essays cover ‘Covenant: The Covenant of Grace and Its Significance for Christian Education’ (my favorite), and ‘Authority: The Christian School and Authority.

Overall I enjoyed Berkhof’s essays more than Van Til’s. That may be because I’m a bit ‘Van Tiled’ out, after just finishing Bahnsen’s Vantil’s apologetic so Berkhof’s information may have seemed that much fresher. Those familiar with Van Til’s apologetic arguments will find what he says here familiar. This means Van Til’s arguements are tied very closely to his philosopy, which I beleive to be Biblical, but it was helpful to have Berkhof argueing more directly from the text.

This book is unfortunately no longer in print. I obtained by copy on eBay from the seller ‘grape-soda’ who has a good selection of Christian books and provided excellent service. It is a helpful resource to those in favor of Christian education as well as providing many thinking points for those who may be undecided or against the idea.

Beeke: Puritan Child-Rearing (Part 2) October 27, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Christian Education, Christian Parenting, Joel Beeke, Puritans.
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The second part of Dr. Beeke’s Puritan Child Rearing teaching series has been posted.

Listen Here

As with the first, it is packed with thought provoking and challenging information for today’s families. It is interesting how different from today’s views of the family were those of the Puritans. There is so much we can learn from them as we navigate modern society.

Here are a few of the points that I really appreciated:

  1. Salvation and Godliness were the main purpose of education.
  2. The father was expected to lead family worship and catechize his children.
  3. Discipline was to be balanced and designed to break the will but not the spirit.

Machen: Education, Christianity and the State September 11, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Book Reviews, Christian Education, Christian Parenting, J. Gresham Machen.
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This book is a collection of articles and addresses by Machen on various topics of education, the state and how Christianity relates. They are all quite interesting even though there is some repetition due to the fact that he spoke on the same subject (the establishment of a Federal Department of Education) to different audiences. Despite the fact that the book is composed of separate compositions it flows well and keeps you interested in mining more of his thoughts on the subjects addressed.

The first essay ‘Faith and Knowledge’ lays the premise for the rest of the book- that Christianity is not anti-intellectual and the separation of knowledge and faith has been disastrous.  After all as he points out how can you have faith in something or someone that you know little to nothing about? The Christian religion is based on facts not feelings or philosophies. Since knowledge is crucial to the Christian faith education and, by default of our society, government’s involvement in educating our children are issues the Christian should address.

‘The Importance of Christian Scholarship’, which follows, was probably my favorite address in the book.  It discusses the importance of scholarship in three areas; evangelism, defense of the faith and building up the church. It again builds the case for why Christians should be concerned about education.

The third chapter is a brief discussion of ‘Christianity and Culture’.  Machen here calls for integration of faith and culture not a withdrawal.  Here is a great quote laying out the main point

“Instead of destroying the arts and sciences or being indifferent to them, let us cultivate them with all the enthusiasm of the veriest humanist, but at the same time consecrate then to the service of God.”

What better environment for cultivating this enthusiasm while consecrating these endeavors to God than a Christian school?  While I appreciated his analysis of situations in the book I was really hoping for a bit more of a blueprint for how Machen envisioned Christian education occurring.  Obviously Westminster served to address his vision of seminary education, but what should we expect for our young children?

Here’s another interesting quote from the chapter (I just like it because Machen really sounds like a reconstructionalist here):

“The Christian cannot be satisfied so long as any human activity is either opposed to or out of all connection with Christianity.  Christianity must pervade not merely all nations, but also all of human thought”

In other chapters Machen explains the need for the Christian school as a way to preserve liberty and propagate the faith.  One of the essays is even titled ‘The Christian School: The Hope for America’. Some may find it interesting that Machen does not want prayer or Bible teaching in the public school as he believes that the truth would be distorted.  He also does not want the public schools to teach morality as he sees that morality can only be based on God’s truth.  He has some good points there.

As mentioned earlier quite a few chapters deal with his opposition the establishment of a Federal Department of Education.  It is particularly interesting to read the actual transcript of his testimony before the House and Senate.  He sees this department as a threat to our liberties and also fears that the standardization of education will be disastrous.

In the final address Machen lays out his purpose and plan for Westminster Seminary.

This is a great book for exploring Reformed thought on the social issue of education. This is the first book by Machen I have read but will definitely put his classic ‘Christianity and Liberalism’ on my to read list.

It is available from Reformation Heritage Books.

Christian Ethics and Reformed Education August 28, 2008

Posted by heldveld in Antithesis, Christian Education, Christian Parenting.
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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on Christian Education as my son will be attending a Pre-K program at our public school next year. We visited our local Christian schools and there is one we like but they do not have a Pre-K program. These visits and our eventual decision to enroll in the public school got me think about; What should I expect from a Christian School? What is a Chrisitian education? and How do I know they’re not just slapping the Christian label on the sign like so many churches, books and music?

In searching the web I found the transcript of a speech by a Rev. C. Stam, of the Canadian Reformed Church. It is titled ‘Christian Ethics and Reformed Education’. In his speech Rev. Stam concentrates mostly on ethics but his analysis has implications on other areas of education as well. He divides his analysis into 6 sections:

1. Ethics and Dogmatics

He starts out by explaining that ethics is a refection on morals, which are the customs adopted by a certain group. He then explains the function of Christian ethics, ‘(In) Christian ethics we subject such morals to the only norm of the Word of God!’ In addition he ties ethics into dogmatics explaining that ethics are part of dogmatics and ‘life and doctrine are not to be separated’. In order to illustrate this he explains that we must understand mans nature as taught in the Bible before we can apply morals to children.

This is important as I do not believe that ethics/morals can be appropriately taught in a public school environment and many subjects touch on issues where ethical implications will be discussed. Parents are to be the ultimate teacher of ethics to their children, so is a school education that supports what is being taught at home important?

2. Empathic-Critical

He then moves to describe a ‘Empathic-critical’ approach that should be used by Christian teachers. A teacher (or parent) must be empathetic as we understand behavioral difficulties in children, as we to struggle with sin in our own lives. The teacher should also be critical of the behavior and able to provide correction this extended quote summarizes this section well.

“For empathy should not be taken to mean: overlooking or shrugging oft wrong behavior. We are to be critical of the youth, in the sense that we must discern what is right or wrong, and the youth must be made to understand this as well. We cannot condone wrong behavior, no matter how much we understand its reasons. Being empathic to the person, we must be critical of his behavior.”

Here we begin to see additional development of the antithesis between Christian and secular education. Although there may be Christians involved in secular education, at a Christian school we can be reasonably assured that the teachers can empathize with our children as they grow in the faith and that their criticisms or corrections will be based on God’s word.

3. Positive-Covenantal

As Reformed believers we see our children as part of God’s covenant and should treat them as God treats his covenant people- ‘with great patience and compassion’. Being a part of God’s covenant is therefore a positive thing. The positive factor is best explained in this quotation:

“we should unceasingly approach the children as being in grafted into the covenant of grace, as heirs of the kingdom of God! That is, so to speak, their status and privilege. The binding factor of this covenant should be a joyful reality, not a gray prison.”

He cautions not to conclude that covenant children are converted, for that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

“We must unceasingly use the means – the Word – and let the Spirit of God bring this to fruition. We expect it positively from the power of the Word of God, also in the classroom – above any technique which we might employ. Failure to see the decisive work of the Holy Spirit also results in failure to see the prime place of the Word in the classroom!”

Again I see this as a reinforcement of what is being taught at home. An important key though is the fact that our children are not converted, therefore we should desire that they encounter ‘the Word’ as much as possible as it is the way through which the Holy Spirit works.

4. Church-Oriented

There should obviously be a connection between the Christian school and the church. Rev. Stam describes the proper relationship with the school as the tutor the church as the mother. As we see in the next section the school needs to point back to the parent (5th commandment). So to must the school point to the church. Children need to be taught the importance of the church and the value of being Reformed. Further we see how the school and church fill different functions in the Christian life. In all of this though the church is primary while the school supportive.

The public school will never be church oriented, nor should we desire it to be. In fact it may be openly hostile to the church. On the other hand we need to be careful of not letting the Christian school over take the church in level of importance.

5. Norm-Conscious

“We must confront the students not with our own opinions (no matter how noteworthy these may be), but with God’s revealed norms, His Law of love.

Rev. Stam points specifically to the 5th commandment (Honor your father and mother) and how the teacher must not try to replace the parents but help to develop their honor. The parents must also be aware of their need to impart Biblical values to their children.

In order to do develop Christian norms the Bible must be open in the classroom. If these norms are properly developed he shows how the antithesis is developed in Christian thought.

“Christians are not better than others, but they are certainly called to be different. We have a different motivation, for we know Christ, our Saviour. We “think” differently, namely, “spiritually.” We have a different outlook on life, different expectations, and, therefore, a different life-style. Only from inward renewal comes outward obedience which is pleasing to God.”

By learning the Biblical norms children will be able to react to different issues in life. It is more than do’s and don’ts, it is teaching children to think ‘Gods thoughts after him’. This was a great section with a lot of good insight, the article is worth reading for this part alone.

6. Maturity-Directed

This sections builds well on the development of norms in Christian thinking. Showing the result of Christians who can discern right and wrong in a Biblical way.

“Lead the students to a responsible discerning of what is right and wrong. You cannot live their lives; you must give them the tools to live their own lives.”

This is what every Christian parent should want of their children, that they are discerning on the basis of the Bible- in short that they are able to take their thoughts captive to Jesus Christ.