There's a war being waged! It is not getting much press. But, the outcome of this war will have greater consequences than the outcome of the War on Terrorism that we hear about daily in the news. The war I am speaking about is a war written about by James Dobson and Gary Bauer (Children at Risk: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of our Kids): Nothing short of a Great Civil War...rages today throughout North America. Two sides with vastly differing and incompatible world-views are locked in a bitter conflict that permeates every level of society... Instead of fighting for territory or military conquest, the struggle is now for the hearts and minds of the people... Children are the prize to the winners of the second Great Civil War. Those who control what young people are taught and what they experience -- what they see, hear, think, and believe - will determine the future course for the nation.
This war is especially dangerous because the battle fields are in the minds of our young people and not in traditional territory where it is easy to observe and respond to a trespass. Josh McDowell is a watchman in this war; he gives the following warning to parents: Do not fear what your kids may do; fear rather what they are being taught. (Beyond Belief to Convictions, paraphrase, J. McDowell)
Are we sounding a false alarm?
Is a war really being waged? Even if we grant that there is a cultural conflict at present, is the outcome of this cultural conflict going to make any real discernable difference in the lives of our children and our children's children? In Joshua 24, now near the end of his life, Joshua spoke to the Israelites, like a father to his children. Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Whether it be the one true God revealed in the Bible and in Jesus Christ, or the false gods created by human beings -- gods which take the shape of materials idols or imaginations of the mind... the God we worship will determine our worldview, our lifestyle, our values, and more. Please consider the following chart.
||Life is created, life has meaning
||We and the world are an accident
||We are partnered with God
||We are a moment of mist
||God's Word, ordered world
||There is no absolute truth
||Sin is real, Jesus saves us from it
||There is no such thing as sin
||I am loved by God
||I am irrelevant beyond function
||All people are created in God's image
||Others are strangers, even burdens
||Our existence is a small part of eternity
||Each moment is all there is
Practically speaking, what difference does your worldview make? Your worldview, and your children's worldviews, depending on whether the worldview is Christian or secular, will determine, or at minimum affect, what you do for a living, for a life, and for afterlife. It will determine or affect how you face illness, struggles, and death. Your choice of a worldview will determine or affect if you marry, why you marry, whom you marry, and how long you marry. Your worldview, Christian or secular, will determine or affect your passions, values, morals, work ethic, and integrity. When Joshua says, Choose this day..., he means, Choose carefully. And, everybody does have a worldview. Ultimately, our worldview is our own choice. But, if we aren't intentional about choosing, or if we don't guide our children's choices, worldviews can not only be chosen, but they can also be imposed, taught, assumed, and imagined. And, that leads us right back to the cultural war -- the Great Second Civil War of our nation -- that is going on all around us.
How did this civil war start?
Certainly, the founding assumptions, immigrants, and documents of our nation all shared, if not an identical, a compatible and consistent worldview. As just one example, in 1647, the Massachusetts School Act required every town of 50 or more people to establish a school. For what purpose? To ensure that children would have a knowledge of Scripture. (The General Laws and Liberties of New Plymouth Colony) So central to education were the Scriptures to both the desired outcomes of our nation's public education and the means by which our nation educated that a series of books, written by a Christian pastor, called the McGuffey Readers was used by 80% of American school children for the majority of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. These McGuffey Readers did more than teach reading; they shaped values, revealed a worldview based on God's Word, and united a developing nation.
Challenges and threats to the uniqueness of our nation united around this common Christian worldview have always been present. In the mid 1800s, when the McGuffey Readers were fulfilling what seemed to be a divine purpose of educating a nation, Horace Mann came on the scene. Himself a product of the McGuffey Readers, Horace Mann, who later so championed public education that he to this day is known as the Father of Modern Public Education, pridefully separated Christianity from education. Intoxicated with false promises of what education could do, Horace Mann proclaimed, Education will empty our jails. (Kingdom Education, Glen Schulz) And, tragically, our nation began to get caught up in this delicious yet dangerous elixir which, as we have seen, does not deliver -- and yet the binge has not stopped. The operating assumption in our culture still assumes that human knowledge -- no matter how far separated from God's Truth -- will be our savior from all human difficulties, problems, illnesses, and injustices. This assumption, in itself, shows how far we have strayed from God's Word. John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, a 17th century English author, was more insightful about the purpose of education when he wrote, The end of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love Him, to imitate Him, to be like Him. (Of Education, J. Milton) As Christians, we know that no amount of human effort or progress can repair the ruins of sin that are at the heart of the human condition. God Himself knows, and Scripture testifies to this truth, that only Christ crucified can repair the ruins and redeem humanity and the world from its fallen state.
However, Horace Mann's secularizing influence continued to grow in our American school system. Fueled by blind optimism and the addictive success of a developing nation, curiously still developing on the strength of a shared Christian worldview that had been taught to 80% of the nation through the McGuffey Readers and the still predominant Christian worldview, the educational philosophy of our nation made a marked change of course in the mid-20th century. Commenting on this change of direction, Charles Clayton Morrison, then editor of The Christian Century, speaking to 10,000 public school teachers in 1940, said, The public school is confessedly and deliberately secular. I am bound therefore to lay on the doorstep of our educational system the primary responsibility for the decline of religion [Christianity] and the steady advance of secularism, another name for atheism, in American society. (A Study of the Religious Beliefs and Practices of Christian School Graduates, Glen Schultz)
We all know what occurred to education in our nation in the last half of the 20th century. We know it because it occurred on our watch. Prayer in school was banned; Christian songs were excised from school Christmas concerts; the words Christmas, Christian, and Jesus changed from being culturally formative to being politically incorrect. Efforts were made to remove the phrase, under God, from the Pledge of Allegiance so as not to offend a vocal minority even though consideration of such action offends both the silent majority and more significantly our grieving Sovereign Deity.
At the beginning of the 21st century, spokespersons like Stephen Jay Gould (Harvard evolutionary biologist and secularist) continue to make bold claims regarding the separation of education from faith. For all this hubris, there is ironically a pervasive and growing, although unnamed, despair running rampant throughout our present culture. Our nation celebrates its diversity and at the same time experiences the futility of being unable to unite our country around the beliefs and principles which formed this republic. Our nation is unable to re-unite around those founding beliefs because of its continued addiction to the Babel-like promises and false-optimism of human reason. Our present condition suggests an even more frightening future as the run-away freight train of technology filled with unbridled inventors and free-market entrepreneurs continues to accelerate down a track to who knows where -- chasing ever faster after discoveries and abilities independent of values, independent of impact on humanity, and defiantly independent of God- revealed boundaries which God’s Word establishes for our own good. As this train of technology and new knowledge, some of which is good and beneficial, accelerates, the world revels not so much in the good, but pridefully in human ability and the accelerating speed of new discoveries and technologies, ignoring the wrecks, deaths, and problems this pursuit-without-conscience causes along the way. Too caught up in what can be done, the drivers of this run-away freight train of technology never consider asking what should be done ... let alone what God wants done.
Is it really that bad?
Consider this. At the beginning of this new century, George Barna claims that 80% of church members believe there is no such thing as ultimate truth. (How America's Faith Has Changed, George Barna)
Charles Colson, one of the most insightful commentators on Christianity and contemporary culture in our nation, claims that 68% of church members believe that faith has nothing to do with life outside of the church. (The Body, Colson) Horace Mann's contention, first advanced in the mid-1800s, that public schools should not teach faith or values, has become the predominant principle in education in our culture.
Dr. Frank Gaebelein, Harvard Professor and a former editor of The Christian Century in the latter half of the 20th century, lamented the fact that parents have abdicated the responsibility of raising their children: The fact is, as both home and church have lost grip on American youth, the people of this country have looked to [public] education to fill the gap. With a confidence that would be touching were it not based on evasion of responsibility, they have turned their youth -- body, mind, and soul -- over to the most extensive and highly organized system of education this world has ever known. (Christian Education in a Democracy)
Children are God’s Homework Assignment Given to Parents
The Bible gives us an assignment that couldn't be any clearer: Jesus said, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them... (Matt. 28:18-20)
The Christian Church in general and Christian parents in particular have one main assignment regarding our children: to raise our children to be disciples of Jesus and to teach them His Word. That’s our assignment. Therefore, children are our homework! It is our God-given responsibility that parents take the primary role in directly educating and nurturing, or partnering with other Christians, such as Christian schools, in directing the educating and nurturing of children to be disciples who learn, believe, and trust in God's Word. (Kingdom Education, Schultz)
Parents, remember: These homework assignments, our children, will be collected and we will be graded on our homework. Paul, in II Timothy, instructs young Timothy, not a biological son but a son in Christ, as he writes, All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. God's Word teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains. The Bible's teaching tells us what is right. The Bible's rebuking tells us what's wrong. The Bible's correcting tells us how to get right. The Bible's training instructs us how to stay right. (Kingdom Education, Schultz) To educate without reference to God's Word is to withhold or hide the greatest Truth which should undergird and guide all other education.
Education is more than learning how to make a living
Christian education has as its primary purpose the goal of guiding students to make an eternal life through Jesus Christ which begins in this world and finds fulfillment and final revelation in Heaven. Christians must educate in light of eternity.
As you consider your part in educating your children, and as we who are the Church of Jesus Christ consider God's homework assignment to us -- to make disciples and to teach, let us consider well the consequences of our decisions and commitments. Seek not what is good for your children, but what is best. Seek not what is important, but what is essential. Seek not glamour, but Godliness. Seek not a place that gives your children opportunities to socialize; seek first that which gives your children opportunities for servanthood. Seek not to increase their fun; seek to increase their faith. Seek not tools to make them rich; seek first to give them tools to make them righteous. Parents, seek not what makes your kids happy; seek first what makes your kids holy. (Kingdom Education, Schultz, quoting Lorin Bourguein, of Beaumont, TX, a mother of Christian school children)
If you choose to partner with a Christian school to raise children to become disciples of Jesus and to be taught according to the Bible, you will have the joy of knowing that your children will not only learn multiplication, they will learn about the One Who multiplied the loaves and fishes. Not only will they learn division, but they will learn about the One Who divided the Red Sea. They'll learn about the world and its creations, but they will also learn about their Creator. They'll learn language and the mechanics of words, but they will also learn about the One Who is the Word. (Bourguein)
Children are the homework of parents and the Christian Church. Larry Burkett, a Lutheran author, contends that if we, Church and parents, had been faithful in this one assignment -- that of evangelizing our youth -- our Church would be four times larger than it is today. (Financial Parenting, Larry Burkett) Four times larger doesn't mean much to any of us until we remember that we are not talking about earthly institutions, we are talking about the salvation and eternal lives of our children.
We've got homework to do
Let's do it together. We have a Heavenly Father Who will help us -- and He has already given us His answer book. Remember two things. One, homework matters to the Lord – our children are our homework. The assignment is to nurture them to become disciples of Jesus Christ and to teach them God’s Word. Two, it’s a war out there! According to James Dobson, it's our nation's second Great Civil War! And, children are the prize to the winners of this second Great Civil War. Let's take God’s assignment seriously. Let’s do our homework together. Let’s win our children for Christ.