Tuesday, September 08, 2015

On "The Evils of Public Education" (Part 3)

[continued from here and here]

Christians and trials

The antithesis is between Christianity on the one side and other philosophies and religions on the other. It is epistemological not ontological. Living in this valley of tears, Christians share many things in common with unbelievers, with struggles for meaning and provision being things we have in common.

It is here that we move on to Aaron Lim's fourth point, that Christian students face persecution in public schools but they need friends. Now, it is true to some extent Christians will struggle in this world. Yet persecution is one thing, how we should respond to it another. The fact of persecution does not necessarily mean we should avoid situations where persecution is present. After all, Jesus prayed for our protection not that we would not have persecution. Our Lord after all said that he is sending his followers as sheep among wolves (Mt. 10:16). We are not called to separate from the world, but to keep ourselves pure in the midst of the world.

Aaron shared his own personal struggle in his school years, but what relevance does that have? This writer also struggled with ostracism in his school years, but feelings are not a valid argument for anything. In fact, it is through struggles that we grow. Those who are too sheltered are severely disadvantaged when they are finally exposed to the perils of the world. An emerging butterfly will emerge weak and unable to do much if the struggle to get out of its cocoon is cut short by "help" given by someone snipping through the cocoon instead of letting the butterfly emerge naturally by itself. Pain and suffering is part and parcel of living in this cursed fallen world, and children need to learn that. Even God does not spare us from trials, but He disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:7-11). Trials in this life are given by God, who did not promise us the absence of trials, but that He will bring us through trials (1 Cor. 10:13; Jas. 1:2-4). Are we trying to argue that just because we struggle greatly in the past, so we want to make things easier for subsequent generations by eradicating the struggles we ourselves have to face? What exactly is growing up supposed to be for in this modern era, but for comfort and self-esteem even to the creation of "safe spaces"? Have we become so pampered and soft that we need to extend kindergarten into adult years?

Yes, children need friends. Christians friends do need to be made so we can encourage each other in the Lord (Heb. 10:25). But since friendship is a creational thing, so we can and should make friends with others regardless of religion and philosophy. After all, friendship is a good thing, and friendship can function as a portal for Gospel witness too. Now, I am not advocating for making friends with wicked people and joining them in sinning. But not all unregenerate people are sinful to that extent, and some of them might even be occasions for God to work in His people.

Living the antithesis IN the world

Christians are called to be pilgrims (Heb. 11:13). Pilgrims are those who are in the land and participate in the happenings in the land, yet do so as one who feels they belong to another. They are foreigners in the land, and as such they do not feel they belong. The archetypal pilgrim is Abraham, who sojourned in the promised land, and engaged in economic activity and made covenants with the locals, yet he knew his identity as being someone belonging to another country, the City of God. Abraham did not separate himself in doing only "Christian businesses," or eating only "Christian food" or engage in other such spiritualization of common realities. The difference between him and the unregenerate is spiritual, not on things of the common sphere which he shared with the unbelieving pagans around him.

Likewise, the early Christians lived the antithetical life without denying the legitimacy of the common sphere. As an early church writing describes,

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. [Ad Diognetus, 5]

The early Christians do not separate themselves from the common realm in things of "clothing, food and the rest of their ordinary conduct," or "customs which they observe." In common affairs, they participate as other peoples. The difference is spiritual, not with regards to the common creational things. The antithetical life is to live virtuously in the midst of a wicked generation, not to separate oneself to create Christian sub-cultures. That is the way God has ordained for us. We are to be leaven in the midst of a dying world (Mt. 13:33), and bear witness in this world of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not separate ourselves from it!

Aaron's fifth reason thus fall flat in light of this reality. Yes, in terms of purpose and goals, public education has contrary goals to that of Christian values. But that is irrelevant, for unless they are actually mandating indoctrination into SecularISM, one does not have to accept their principles. After all, what do you expect from unregenerate people: that they think and teach in a Christian manner? The responsibility for bringing children up in the faith belongs to the parents, and schools are educating in loco parentis (in the place of a parent). Parents are responsible for bringing children up in the faith, but why does that have to be done in schools (especially in Christian schools) instead of the home? In the exact manner of how parents are to bring their children up in the faith, the Bible only mandates the witnessing of the Gospel of salvation (Deut. 6:4-9, 20-25) and says nothing else more specific, so there should be Christian liberty where Scripture is silent. Some Christians might opt to do their duty by going through the public education system, while having catechisms and devotions in their family time, so who is to condemn them?


As I think I have proved, this attack on the "evils of public education" is utterly misguided and contrary to Scripture. No doubt there are bad public schools, but then they are bad Christians schools too. The fundamental issue is whether public education is in itself inherently evil, and to that I say NO. The PRCA's erroneous misconstruction and denial of "common grace," its radicalization of the Kuyperian doctrine of the antithesis, has led to a toxic stew of separatism and uncalled for over-the-top polemics against those who disagree with them on something we all should have Christian liberty over. Such actions such as separating from all public schools is contrary to the biblical view of being pilgrims in the land, and resembles the Anaaptists more than the Reformers.


Jenson Lim said...

Education of children is not as simple as some make it out to be. We homeschool our 5 children, for theological and practical reasons. We would love to send them to Christian schools, but unable to do so for financial reasons.

Every family have to make that type of decision, and to take a hardline approach shows a lack of understanding and care. Ironically, sometimes such brethren either have no children or have grown up children.

Just my 2p.

Daniel C said...


I agree about the "lack of understanding and care" part. And Aaron is still a seminarian and not currently married, although he might have a girlfriend.

Unknown said...

You are very mistaken in your understanding of the Protestant Reformed view of common grace and the antithesis.

Daniel C said...

Hi Aaron,

am I? Or is the PRC very much mistaken in their understanding of and caustic polemics against the doctrine of common grace? Why is it that everything I read PRC polemics on that issue, I cannot find anything there that I can recognize as what my seminary professors and I believe when we hold to the doctrine of common grace?