A Critique of Modern Education (3)

Necessity for Christian Education

R.J. Rushdoony

The churchman has a different ultimate concern for every sphere of life, and all are usually humanistic. No God overall and governing all by His law Word is posited. Thus, in politics, humanistic and pragmatic concerns govern churchmen and humanists alike. Scripture is not seen as governing what politics and the state should be. At best, the role of the church is seen as that of a chapel and on the sidelines; improving moral and providing comfort, not declaring categorically: “Thus saith the Lord.” Our today is very religious and radically humanistic. It is an expression of man’s feelings and not the glorification of the triune God. Science begins and ends without God. Its radical premise is the non-created being of the world around us and the autonomy of man’s mind and of science. This is a strong affirmation of humanism and not science.

The worlds of capital and labor similarly work in autonomy from God; human considerations are the governing factors. In formal education salvation is seen as attainable by knowledge and the school is for many, man’s true and saving church. Of course, they don’t know what they are saving man from or what they are saving him for. But, they do believe in education as salvation. A concept of crime has replaced the doctrine of sin and in the church the sins taken seriously are sins affecting people. Most evangelical and reformed churches still regard murder, theft and adultery as sins. Well and good, as indeed they are. But these are sins which affect men most of all. Sins directly against God are not taken seriously. God tells us how seriously He views the failure to tithe God. It is “robbing God” Malachi tells us, and God resents it and promises judgment. Yet tithers are few. Sin is largely man-centered in the modern perspective.

A character in Boccaccio declared of sexual sins: “A sin that is hidden is half-forgiven.” Most sins against God are hidden, and if God is not given priority in any and every sphere of life and thought and if His Word does not govern us everywhere then He is not our God in that sphere, and we are polytheists. We have other gods before Him in our mind; usually ourselves, the state or some like entity. We sin against God when we reduce Him from Lord over all to be merely our fire-and-life insurance agent and many see salvation as meaning no more than an insurance policy against Hell. This is polytheism, not Christianity! Our faith is a root-and-branch faith. It means the total Lordship of Christ over every sphere of life and thought: “All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.” We are commanded by our Lord: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” or justice, and we are also told: “except a man be born of water and the spirit He cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” BF Westcott said of this verse, John 3:5:

“As before He had insisted on the fact of the new birth, He now reveals the nature of the bith. This involves an outward and an inward element which are placed side-by-side.”

This is very true but it is not all. Just as it is heresy, the Colbrugian heresy, to limit the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to the moment of conversion so it is false to limit the outward witness before men to the moment of baptism. A continuous outward manifestation of the inward faith and of the working of the Holy Spirit is necessary. This means dominion; Godly rule in terms of God’s law-Word in every sphere of life and thought, and this is what Christian education must have as its goal. Our starting point must be the confession in Isaiah:

“O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.”

“…by thee only will we make mention of thy name.” can be rendered more clearly perhaps: “henceforth thee thy Name only will we celebrate, we will have God as the Lord over every sphere of our being.” It should be clear by now that Christian education is the province at a minimum, of the pulpit, the family, the Christian school, and the homeschool. The Lord’s requirement in all things is this: “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.” And the prohibited other gods include ourselves, the church, the state and all things else.

A polytheistic people cannot manifest the power of God. We must never forget the blood and hard promise of God through Peter:

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

To forget that God is the Lord in any and every sphere of life is to invite His remembrance in the form of judgment. The American poet, Robert Lowell, in a poem on Waking Early Sunday Morning, expressed pain at the apparent separation of the Christian God from the scene, and then pain at the political violence occupying the empty space that remains. For Lowell, in this poem, there is no alternate moral force. Nothing now that exists counter what he calls: “the darkness of the human spirit” as it reveals itself all around us and through us. Moreover, for Lowell, the religious meaning of history now is this: “Willful estrangement from God.” “Willful estrangement from God!” This is a telling witness from a non-Christian. Lowell’s awareness was clearer than that of many churchmen who were of themselves a part of this “willful estrangement from God.” They have banished God from most spheres of life, and are untouched by their evil. The necessity for Christian education is to restore the sovereignty of the Triune God over all things.

If Jesus Christ is indeed what He declares Himself to be when He says:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”

Then if we deny that He is the truth, or that His enscriptured Word is the governing Word over every sphere; over education, politics, economics, the sciences, the arts or anything else, then we deny His Lordship and His absolute jurisdiction as the truth about all things and over all things. In every sphere, as the Westminster Standards declare: “Truth is in order to goodness,” which means that no good can come out of anything man does unless it begins with the truth, Jesus Christ. This must be the central premise for all Christian education; from the pulpit, in the family, the school and everywhere. “Truth is in order to goodness.”

An attempt by man and nations to obtain the good life apart from the truth, Jesus Christ, leads only to judgment and darkness. There is an interesting sentence in English history which I encountered recently in studying a work on The Title-Deeds of the Church of England to her Parochial Endowments. It is with respect to the insistence that all Church of England properties are not church owned but state owned. Now, whether we agree with that or not is not my present concern, but the legal premise that was laid down generations ago was this; “The state may resume what the state originally gave.” A sound legal premise if it is indeed the state that gave these things. But, we must apply this same premise to all things. God may resume what God originally gave. God requires us as His dominion-men to reclaim all things for Christ and if we do not He will reclaim all things and us by His judgments.

We have thus a mandate to reclaim all things for our Lord. Reclamation is not negation, it is constructive action. We must not forget that Calvin strongly opposed iconoclasm, violence and street demonstrations. He regarded as wrong the attacks on the saints and the Virgin Mary. The common people had no such authority or moral right, he held. We have the same problem today. Many seem to believe that the measure of their faith is determined by the vehemence of their denunciations, demonstrations and negations. No man becomes virtuous by denouncing prostitution and fornication, but only by his moral behavior. I had someone write to me; in fact it was someone from England, insisting that my credentials as truly Reformed could not be established until I denounced a series of things beginning with the pope, and a series of groups and people. And my response to him as to others was: “I have never converted someone by spitting in their face.”

Stauffer called attention to an important aspect of Calvin’s Institutes. Instead of treating of God’s providence separately, Calvin linked it to predestination and creation. The link to predestination is an obvious one, the tie to creation tells us why true Calvinism has been and is powerful. In Stauffer’s words and I quote:

“Because, for Calvin, providence is nothing else but the continuation of the creation. After having created the world, God did not abandon it to its own devices. He preserves it, He sustains it, He directs it, He governs it at every moment, and His will is manifested, not only in very small events, but also (which faith alone makes acceptable) in the cruelest calamities.”

The implications of this are very, very serious and very far reaching. If God’s predestination absolutely governs all things and determines their glorious end in terms of His purpose. And if the elect of God are creaturely and secondary causes in that purpose then it follows we are His instruments in the continuation of creation or in the recreation of all things. We see now the further meaning of Christ’s Great Commission. We are called to convert and disciple the nation in terms of God’s every Word. Christian education in every sphere has a magnificent purpose, to school us and our children’s children, to become a royal priesthood in Christ. We work towards that great consummation and the glorious proclamation:

“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever, Amen.”

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books. Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting:

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