Dear Pastor — Ask The Pastor

This response to my recent post analyzing the problems of alternate schooling comes from a young man who is alternately insightful and muddled in his thinking. I thought I would turn it into a post in order to continue to tease out different understandings that contend for the privilege of being called ‘Reformed.’


Having strong (W2K, viral, I know!) views on education myself, I can’t help but wonder if at the base of your frustrations are a couple of things: 1) the over-realization of the purpose and function of education, and 2) the necessarily low view or under-realization of the institution of the family.

Steve, allow me to deal with these in reverse order. My conviction is that schooling should not be shipped out and should be done in the family setting. I believe that when we ship our children out to strangers we have a necessarily low view of the institution of the family. I believe therefore this would include you as, as I recall, you farm out your children to be educated by strangers. My conviction on the family is that it should be the primary building block for the Church, the realm that should make modern schools obsolete, and the first Republic. I don’t know how anybody could have a higher view of the family than myself.

As to your suggestion that I have an over-realization of the purpose and function of education I would only reply by saying that I’m sure that would seem to be the case to somebody who suffers from an under-realization of the purpose and function of education. This disagreement stems from our different eschatologies. You are forever going to be accusing me of a over-realized eschatology and I am going to forever be rightly discerning your problem of a under-realized eschatology. This push-me, pull-you on eschatology between us is going to affect every issue and every discipline.

While there is most assuredly an intellectual aspect to it (that is unashamedly undermined in both cult and culture as both take their cues from a modernism that has rendered an epistemological choice between reason and experience), the end result to these presuppositions seems to be an equally aberrant intellectualization of Christian belief. Is the answer to the de-intellectualization of the Christian religion even as it becomes exchanged for the experientialism of revivalism really to indulge the notion that Christian belief is to be farmed out to the classroom instead of the home and church?

Well, I should emphasize for readers that we have a couple points of agreement here.

1.) We agree that our educational models are suffering intellectually.

2.) We agree that there is a danger to the Christian faith both from an unbliblical experientialism and a unbiblical rationalism.

Moving on, I hope in my first paragraph above I have squelched any idea that ‘Christian belief should be farmed out to the classroom instead of the home and church.’ My conviction is that the classroom, and home, and church while decidedly distinct are interdependent and all share the responsibility to be shapers of faith. Education, being a distinctly religious undertaking, Christian parents should be slow to farm out their children to classrooms governed by people who are not epistemologically self conscious regarding their Christianity.

You seemingly fault me for heading in a direction that you fear will result in a aberrant intellectualization of the Christian faith. We should say that Christianity is eminently, though not exclusively, rational and as such the intellectual aspect of Christianity should be pursued with vigor. Indeed, I would contend, that this is supported by the teaching of Jesus when he said that eternal life is to know the only true God and the Christ that He sent. The only way to know God is through the intellect. This is a truism that is accepted by all save the mystics. Now, to qualify, I understand that there exists such a thing as arid rationalism that is to be hated but the pursuit of rationality need not end in arid rationalism.

In my experience with the Dutch Reformed community (the CRC) that places such a high premium on Xian education there seems to be this notion that what the home should be doing—nurturing faith—can be co-opted by the school. I find that completely, well, sub-Christian. The project of education is primarily intellectual, not affective. It is the role of the home to be primarily affective. My wife and I nurture Christian belief in our kids, not Mr. or Mrs. VanVanderVandeMeer.

Speaking from what I have seen after 13 years of affiliation with the CRC, I would agree that there existed a idea that the school and the catechism at Church should do what should have been going on in the home. I agree that such a notion is sub-Christian. But allow me to suggest that one reason this failed is that the schools and the Churches became co-opted by the larger culture. Consequently, the nurturing of Christian faith, was not be accomplished anywhere, though the nurturing of the faith of modernism was happening in the church and in the school.

I would take issue with you in your third sentence above. You seem to desire to separate the intellectual from the affective. This is not possible. If the education is successful in its project of the intellect it will also have been successful in the work of the affective. Similarly, if the home is successful in its affective work it will only be due to the fact that it has been successful, in doing intellectual work. Steve, you can not separate these two the way that you seem to be doing. Certainly the two are distinct but they are not un-related. Where ever you send your children to be educated you can be sure that they are learning the affective, and are being nurtured in some faith system.

This disagreement between us stems from our disagreement on the Lordship of Jesus and how that is exercised. You, of course, are wrong.

In the same way that theonomic thoughts ends up politicizing true religion, I strongly detect on your part this same assumption that results in an intellectualizing of Christian belief. Instead of seeing that Christianity in the business of making believers you seem to see it as a project of making students.

Look, Steve, you’ll have to take this problem up with Jesus. It was Jesus who called us to be disciples. Hard to be a disciple without being a student Steve. Further, it was Jesus who said that we were to teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.’ If I am teaching people to observe all things and they are learning to observe all things doesn’t that make them ….students?

Steve, this culture, is designed to keep people ignorant and stupid. Dumb people are easier to control. Legion are the names of the books that have made this point. In light of this reality the accusation that you level against me of wanting to seeking to make students is, shall we say, ‘odd.’

Finally, nobody need to worry about any lack of affections or emotions on my part. They work just fine.

Your hunch that Xian schools are just glorified government schools is correct, at least around here. (I also see it as very much a carried over effort in the effort to maintain a particularly ethnic project, to keep the Dutch migratory culture sufficiently cohered; this against the fact that cultural assimilation has been finalized and renders the effort quite irrelevant. The only thing left to lean on to justify Xian education is that mistake which leads people to believe that Xians doing education is the same thing as Xian education.) But, unlike you, I only see that as a problem because I see no value in paying for a glorified public school education. And I am not compelled to to go on the wild goose-chase to find real Xian education since it doesn’t exist.

Well, we agree completely in this paragraph until your last sentence. I wouldn’t pay a thin dime for my children to attend Dutch ‘Christian’ schools. Indeed, I would pay good money in order for my children not to go to them. I even agree that you shouldn’t go on a wild goose chase, because I seriously doubt there is any real Christian education in your area. Where we disagree is when you utter complete tripe by saying that there is not such a thing as genuine Christian education. That is just a stupid statement.

But I understand your ‘theology’ forces you to that conclusion.

Thanks for the letter. I honestly believe you to be, in many regards, a sharp fellow. But like so many in your school you sharpness in one statement is immediately negated by your dullness in a succeeding statement.

Take care. I continue to pray for your Church that it might find a godly pastor.

Do Alternate School Settings Fix All That Is Broken?

Most people think because I am anti-government schooling that automatically makes me pro-homeschooling or pro private school. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My experience with most (not all) alternate schooling is that it is even more dangerous because it hires teachers trained in Colleges who use a curriculum that is humanistic. This
means that, unless the prospective teachers have done the extraordinarily hard work of reinterpreting their humanistic training through a Biblical grid, they remain government school teachers even though they are working for a ‘Christian school.’ This results in alternate schools, that are supposed to be teaching a uniquely Christian and World life view to give its imprimatur upon a teacher who is teaching out of a humanist world and life view. Hence, what I am seeing in most the alternate schooling settings that I am exposed to are teachers who, like their government school counterparts, are not epistemologically self-conscious about their Christian faith. The consequence of this is that though they affirm the Christian faith they are still thinking and teaching as those who share many of the premises of the culture they are part of and so they do not have the ability to think, and thus teach in a theo-centric fashion. Christian school administrators hire these people because they likewise don’t know what it means to think with a Christian World and life view.

Another problem with non-government alternate schooling is that the curriculum that is used isn’t particularly ‘Christian.’ After 20 years of homeschooling I can tell you that a great deal of curriculum out there that is advertising itself as Christian isn’t. In many private schools the curriculum that is used is not much better then what might be found in government schools. As a result what happens in many educational venues is that you have people teaching who have not reinterpreted their academic discipline through a Christian grid teaching a curriculum that is not written from a Christian grid. This eventuates in students who are nice (because they are attending a place with a Christian ethos) but who are as captive to the presuppositions of the culture they are part of as their friends who go to government schools.

A third problem with non-government alternate schooling is that the parents, like the teachers mentioned earlier, don’t know what it means to think in a distinctly Christian fashion. This means that they don’t have the ability to hold the feet of rogue teachers and administrators to the fire. Sadly, my experience has been that many parents who home school don’t want to know themselves or don’t see the need for their children to know what it means to think as a Christian. This was brought home to me recently when a parent of one of the students I teach was queried by some of her evangelical friends about why she bothered to send her daughter to my Worldview class to read ‘those books that your daughter will never use.’ (We were reading Schlossberg’s “Idols For Destruction” at the time.) They thought the class didn’t have any practical value and they gave these parents a bit of a hard time. It was brought home again when a major metropolitan area near to me held Worldview conferences for 15-20 year olds for a week during the summers but could only garner 50 or so students every year. This community was well known for it’s Reformed presence but despite bringing in well known quality people to speak at these conferences there was not enough interest to keep the conferences going past a few summers.

A fourth problem with non-government alternate schooling is that for those who are trying to be epistemologically self-conscious about their teaching the support networks are limited. My personal experience over the years was that when I attended what was supposed to be support networks I left more frustrated by what I was hearing in relation to the education going on in homes then I was before I arrived. I quit attending these functions early on because I figured I didn’t need to go looking for frustration when I could find it everywhere around me.

A fifth problem is that there are very few Churches that are willing to stress the importance of decidedly Christian thinking. Parents who do not hear from the pulpit the importance and necessity of being able to think, in concrete terms, as a Christian aren’t likely to see its importance. Parishioners who are not taught in Sunday School or in mid-week settings what Christian History, or Christian Economics, or Christian theory of Law looks like aren’t going to see the issue as that important, and so aren’t going to desire it for their children.

A sixth problem is that most evangelicals really don’t believe in the absolute and exhaustive sovereignty of God. Without that foundational conviction, teaching Christian thinking is really not possible. All of Christian thinking begins and ends with the sovereign God, who because of His omnipotence, all facts find their meaning in Him. Similarly, the failure to see Christ as the risen epistemological Prophet-King, who, because of His work as High Priest, teaches us to think in Redeemed ways leads to a lackluster approach in educational efforts. For to many evangelicals Christ remains the Redeemer of souls but not minds.

Most of my (admittedly anecdotal) experience with the alternate schooling community in the broader evangelical world over the last 20 years has caused me to conclude that most of what is going on in alternate school settings is just another variant of government schooling. I have seen students and parents who don’t care, don’t know, and don’t want to know. I have met very few parents who provide alternate schooling for their children who realize how much work it takes for student and teacher alike to teach their children to become epistemologically self conscious so that they develop the ability to see the culture in which they are living. Even in families that pursue alternate schooling the assumption seems to be that it is not important to think Worldviewishly.

In closing I should add that most of the parents and students I have spoken of above who pursue alternate schooling are swell people. As long as one doesn’t talk about anything important they are delightful conversation partners. Many of them would give you the shirt off their backs to help you. Over the years I have been humbled many times by their kindnesses and support to me and my family. The challenge I have offered here does not speak to their overall niceness but rather to the urgency for them and their children to take every thought to make it captive to Christ.

So you see, the problem that we have in terms of seeing Reformation in our Churches and in our culture is not a problem that is only located in Government schools. The problem includes most of what happens in alternate school settings.

Baxter’s Mission Trip w/ Transylvania Global Reformed Mission Board

Entry I

Baxter had always wanted to go on a short term mission trip. Indeed his desire to do so was so intense that when the Mission sending agency he was going with insisted that he had to change his e-mail address, “” due to concerns that such an e-mail might give possible contributors the wrong idea about Baxter’s view on race issues, he willingly complied by creating another e-mail account, “,” for his Mission correspondence. Baxter figured that it was highly unlikely that anybody connected with the Mission agency did enough of either Latin and History to accuse him of sneaky insubordination.

He was right.

By avoiding this one inconvenience Baxter had made it through the first hoop of being accepted to the Mission agencies short term mission program. The next hoop, after filling out the requisite paperwork, was to go for an interview with the Mission representatives.

On the appointed day Baxter, dressed in order to impress, showed up at the Transylvania Reformed Church’s headquarters in Two Floods, Colorado.

Baxter was greeted by a half Mongolian, half Choctaw Indian receptionist. He wouldn’t have known that except that in the interview process the Mission representatives went out of their way to point out the diversity of their staff, including the receptionist. The Mongotaw receptionist pointed him to a machine that spat out a neat little name tag. Baxter went to the waiting area.

Eventually the receptionist called out,

“Baxter Root”

“Here,” Baxter replied.

“Ms. Luse and Dr. Reel-Blanding will now see you.”

Baxter headed into the office space. He noticed a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King and a photograph of Mahatma Ghandi on the walls.

Ms. Luse and Dr. Reel-Blanding greeted Baxter with smiles that looked like they were permanently and artificially affixed on their faces. Baxter, seeing those smiles, remembered the time that somebody glued their eyes open in College so that they could sleep without the professor noticing. He wondered if these smiles were preforming the same kind of con.

Ms. Luse was the first to speak, “I trust you had a good trip into Two Floods Baxter.”

“Nothing out of the ordinary,” replied Baxter.

Pleasantries and small talk was exchanged for the next 15 minutes before Dr. Reel-Blanding got down to business.

“Baxter, we notice on your application that you grew up in a Christian home — indeed we see that your Father is a Pastor in the Transylvania Reformed Church.”

Baxter replied with an affirmative.

“Well, we feel that we need to let you know immediately that working on the Mission field is very different then living in a Pastor’s home.”

Baxter replied, “Well, I should think that working on the Mission field is very different then living in any number of homes in this country.”

“Yes, Baxter, that is true,” replied Dr. Reel-Blanding, “but the reason that I go out of my way with you to point this out is that we have noticed here at Transylvania Reformed Global Mission that Pastor’s children sometimes are raised to see things more black and white then most of the rest of our candidates and sometimes that can cause problems on the field.”

Baxter began to wonder what he had put on his application that could have raised this red flag.

Vera Luse continued, “Baxter, we want to be careful that our candidates are not too absolute in their convictions.”

She paused to see if Baxter would respond and after a few seconds of silence Baxter decided to probe a little bit.

“So, are you telling me that you’re looking for Christians who are flexible?”

“Precisely,” said Vera.

“I think I see what you’re getting at,” Baxter replied. “What you want is people who are absolutely convinced that absolutes can get in the way on the Mission Field.”

Dr. Reel-Blanding’s countenance brightened immediately. “Yes, that is exactly what we are trying to communicate Baxter.”

Baxter couldn’t believe that his sarcasm had been missed but he had delivered the line with such earnest equanimity that the comment flew right over the ladies heads.

“Well,” Baxter continued, “I think I can guarantee you that if I meet any cannibals that I won’t dare to find fault with their dietary supplements.”

Both the ladies found, what they took to be a disarming comment, to be charming and they offered up the obligatory polite laughter at Baxter’s ‘cute’ comment.

The rest of the interview was dreadfully uneventful, and it ended with the ladies welcoming him aboard.

Baxter left, reminding himself that this was only going to be a 7 week trip and that his purpose was to see if God was calling him to the mission field. He reminded himself at the same time that he didn’t believe God was calling him to save the Transylvania Reformed Global Mission agency.

“As if anybody could” thought Baxter before he slipped into the car to head back home to Charlottesville.

Dipped, Rolled, & Deep Fried

God’s word teaches us that we are to teach our children in the ways of the covenant. In Deuteronomy 6 the description of that teaching process clearly communicates that this teaching is to be intense, thorough, and deliberate. Clearly God understood that He made us in such a way that if we were to eventually be adults that loved Him and walked in His ways we would have to start as children who were taught to love Him and walk in His ways. Clearly God understood that covenant community survives by passing the tradition down to the children.

So what do most American Christians do? They do all they can to make sure that the covenant community survives by exposing God’s covenant seed to a teaching process that is intense, thorough, and deliberate. Most American Christians expend great energy to make sure that the covenant community survives by making sure the traditions and ways of the covenant community are passed down to their children. The problem, of course, is that the covenant community that American Christians are concerned with maintaining is not the covenant community of God’s people but rather the covenant community of an alien god. Christians send their children to government schools and what happens to those children at Government schools is precisely what is explained in Deuteronomy 6, with the minor exception that instead of being taught the ways of the God of the Bible our covenant seed is taught the ways of some molech god.

Step back and think about it. When we send our children to government schools we are effectively dipping and saturating them into an alien covenant that is dedicated to not allowing the mentioning of the name of the Lord of the true covenant. If you include transportation time we do this at the tune of 40 hours a week. If you add extra-curriculum school activity the hours go up proportionally. Now add the factors of how all that they are learning in the government schools is being reinforced by the culture swirling around them and how they are anchored into the false covenant through the roots of the friends that they make in the government schools — friends who share their training — and it is not a wonder that God’s covenant seed grow up pledging allegiance to a god who is not god.

So, we dip and saturate our children in an alien covenant by sending them to the schools of foreign gods. We never explain to them, because most don’t know themselves, the whole idea of Worldview and critical thinking. After dipping and saturating them in the covenant of an alien god we roll them in the breadcrumbs of a culture that is opposed to God and then we deep fry them into this god hating life and worldview by allowing their affections to be anchored in relationships with other believers of this faith we have forced them to embrace.

Then, in order to speak good things to ourselves about what godly parents we are we force them to go to Church with us on Sunday where, in most cases, the message that they are receiving from the government schools and from the culture is again reinforced only this time with a shiny Jesus wax coating to cover it all. As the children get older they begin to wonder about the whole relevance of this ‘Church thing,’ and so 50-80% of them leave when they graduate from High School never to return. And many of the ones who stayed probably should have left with their compatriots.

People, all of this can’t be fixed or balanced by 20 minutes of family devotions around the table in the evening or even by an hour of Bible reading before bedtime. You don’t cleanse a fine cloth that has been dipped and saturated in oil for hours and hours by dipping it briefly in clean water only to put it back again into the oil solution.

Let me say it as plainly as I can. If you dip and saturate your children into the false covenant of an alien god they are going to grow up and be the adherents of that alien god. Sure, the God of the Bible does rescue some but to count on His rescuing some of our covenant seed when we raise them in plain disobedience by placing them into the hands of false priests (School teachers who are not epistemologically self-consciously Christian)is to ‘tempt the Lord thy God.’

And the real kicker is, is that some Christian parents after they have done all this to God’s seed are genuinely shocked and mortified when their little Suzy gets knocked up or when their Johnny gets busted for bumping off the corner gas station or when little Bobby couldn’t give a rat’s ass about Christianity or when little Dot goes on to college and comes home and approvingly tells her parents about her Lesbian suite mates, or when little Alex raises their grandchildren on Nightmare on Elm street movies and Brat dollies or when little Lydia spends her life trying to earn God’s favor.

We can wail all we want about this culture but until we start training and keeping our children it is all wailing into the void.

Postscript — I think one reason (there are many) that we have arrived at this point is because of revivalism. Revivalism communicated that God could do in one jolt what He commands us to do throughout the raising of our children. Revivalism, with one Holy Spirit jolt, could instantly make up for our failings as parents to raise our children in the way of the covenant. Revivalism disconnected in our thinking God’s cause and effect. Whereas God said, “Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it,” we said, “Let just anybody train up our children and trust God to give them a Holy Spirit revival jolt when they get older.” Through revivalism training was disconnected from conversion.

Touring The Blue Ribbon Community Center

The tour guide paused periodically to emphasize the virtue of the community center to the young ministerial graduates. She pointed out how the community center provided free dentistry for pregnant low income women. She beamed with satisfaction as she explained the free counseling opportunities and parenting classes.

The members of the tour group were cooing with compliments for all that the community service was accomplishing with its food and clothes bank, with its free child care, and with its Christian outreach to the community.

Suddenly one of the ministry graduates named Baxter who owned more courage then he did discretion asked,

“Who pays for all of this?”

The tour-guide answered with her irrepressible smile that there were many private donations and that the government gave a great deal of grants.

The intrepid Seminary Graduate asked again,

“Where does the Government get the money in order to give it to this community center?”

With this question the irrepressible smile of the tour-guide suddenly found itself beginning to be repressed. She responded with a voice that was a little more clipped then it previously had been that,

“Why naturally the Government gives us money from the funds they raise to help these inner city people.”

The eyes of the group were now cast suspiciously on the one in their group who was increasingly being seen as an ‘interloper.’

Un-fazed, the interloper summarized the conversation,

“So, you are showing us this beautiful community center with the hopes of impressing us but what you are seemingly trying to avoid is expressly saying that the monies that fund your job and this community center is stolen from other families who, if they had the money that is taken in order to make this community center go, might be able to more adequately provide for their own family and children?”

Finishing with a verbal pirouette the uppity Seminary interloper completed his inquiry by asking the tour-guide; “how, in light of the Scriptural prohibition against theft, can you support such governmental redistribution of wealth?”

Where the irrepressible smile had held sway there was now displayed a barely concealed snarl. With a voice that matched the snarl the tour-guide offered,

“I can see you have no love for the poor and downtrodden.”

Without missing a beat the courageous ministry graduate responded,

“I measure my love for the poor and downtrodden by how I spend my money on their behalf and not by how I spend somebody else’s money on their behalf.”

The tour-guide could see that this was going nowhere and so she hastily dismissed the students so that they could return to their afternoon practicum.

The bold Seminary student had accomplished making an enemy of the director of the community center and had insured that he would find no friends among those who had toured the center with him.

“Par for the course,” he thought as he left for the parking lot.