Saturday, June 7, 2014

Is Your Church a "Third Way Church?"

If you have not heard this phrase yet, it has become the new nomenclature for "churches" that have refused to be either gay affirming nor gay denying, but instead have discovered a third way in which neither of these positions is adopted.   If that sounds problematic from the beginning, you are thinking rationally.  Only by embracing multiple instances of double speak can one walk away after hearing this position thinking it is anything but completely absurd.  This is yet another sign that both post-modernism and the "new tolerance"have made a mockery of rationality and Christian ethics.  Recently Ken Wilson of the Ann Arbor Vineyard has embraced this ludicrous model in his blog found here.  The problem with this position, other the the clear Biblical calls to repentance and holiness, is that it is intellectually dishonest.  Which is the nice way of saying that pastors who embrace this position are liars and are seeking to make merchandise of the sheep.  They are the ones who Paul warned us about in Acts 20:29-30 "...after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them."
The fact of the matter is that there cannot be a third way.  It defies all logic.  The basic claim borrows on a principle that if carried to it's end would deny it's existence. It says that "we don't have to be gay affirming(so that we don't offend real Christians), nor do we have to be gay denying(so that we don't offend the world)."  It seeks to create an atmosphere of radical non-confrontational non-judgmentalism. Yet, ironically, in doing so it is judging the two other positions as being incorrect, which violates it's own principle. If it were sane in any possible world to embrace a third-way philosophy, then it would also be sane to embrace a fourth-way philosophy which would claim that it is "...neither gay denying(way 1) nor gay affirming(way 2) nor is it gay denying nor gay affirming(way 3), BUT instead it is a church that is gay denying and gay affirming." But then of course there could be the fifth way which adopts the archaic "don't ask don't tell" policy that was dumped by the military.  Or for that matter the 6th way where gender is completely denied as an ontological reality.
It is sad that such an argument against third way even has to be made.  Any non-judgemental stance towards sin is an endorsement and acceptance of the sin.  This is unavoidable.  When Eli of old tried to embrace a third-way with his two sons Hophni and Phinehas, God dismantled his family (cf. 1 Samuel 2:27ff).  This type of theology is the epitome of man-centered absurdity.  Even the radical liberal Tony Jones who is wrong on probably 95% of his theology agrees that no third way is possible.
My wish is this, that churches(and by that I mean the small hand full of men that are on the leadership team) would simply show their cards.  If they are going to embrace the culture's deviant lifestyle as a viable path to holiness, then let them be men and do so.  They who walk the fence on this issue are cowards.  If you are under a leadership team that is unwilling to declare their position because they are in "process,"you can be certain that they are just waiting for the wind of culture to show them the way they should go.  Those type of men are not leaders, nor are they interested in the glory of God; they are  are pawns of Satan, and are deceiving others in order to pad their bank account.
"If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain." 1 Tim. 6:3-5

Friday, June 6, 2014

What Are The Real Subjects In Education?

Now once our proper end in education is determined, this informs what the real and proper subjects are.  So what are the real subjects in education?   Reading, writing, arithmetic?  Or perhaps history, philosophy, science, the languages, civics, and the fine arts?  Actually no.  Those subjects simply provide the occasion to study the real subjects.  Those are the shadows. The real substance of education lies behind them.  The real subject of education is God.  He is the chief thing that we are studying.  So in each particular subject, what we are actually studying is one or more of His attributes.  This shouldn’t at all surprise us.  Psalm 145:10 says “All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!”   This is not just referring to speaking creatures such as human beings and angels.  It is speaking about every thing God has made, visible and invisible.  All of God’s works will praise Him.  The only way this can be accomplished with a non-speaking thing is by how it reflects God, in the way that it was made.  In other words, the subjects act as mirrors reflecting God’s attributes to the cosmos. A clear example of this is the subject of astronomy. Psalm 19:1-4 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”  The heavens speak.  How do they speak?  Non-verbally.  What do they speak about?  The glory of God.  How do they do that?  By reflecting His attributes.  What attributes do astronomy show?  Astronomy shows the wisdom of God in His arrangement of the galaxies.  Astronomy also shows the self-sufficiency of God in the life-span that He gave stars.  Astronomy shows the infinity of God, in the seemingly endless nature of the universe.  In all these things and numberless more Astronomy’s chief speech is about God.  Now this is true of all of God’s works, including every other subject in school.  Because every other subject is a shadowy reflection of God’s attributes.  Let’s take a look at another syllogism, with the subject of math. 

P1.  All subjects are reflections of God’s attributes
P2.  Math is a subject
C.  Math is a reflection of God’s attributes

What does math speak about God?  One recent blogger, Joe Carter, tackled this question in a piece entitled What Does 1 + 1 = 2 Mean?Why Christianity Matters For Math(and Everything Else).  In it he provided different perspectives weighing in on this simple math problem. First he provided atheistic philosopher John Stuart Mill’s answer.  Mill “...believed that all that we can know to exist are our own sensations -- what we can see, taste, hear, and smell....Mill claims that 1 and 2 and + stand for sensations, not abstract numbers or logical classes. Because they are merely sensations, 1 + 1 has the potential to equal 5, 345, or even 1,596. Such outcomes may be unlikely but, according to Mill, they are not impossible.”

Next he gave John Dewey’s answer, the father of the modern education. Dewey believed  “...that the signs 1 + 1 = 2 do not really stand for anything but are merely useful tools that we invent to do certain types of work. Asking whether 1 + 1 = 2 is true would be as nonsensical as asking if a hammer is true. Tools are neither true nor false; they simply do some jobs and not others. What exists is the physical world and humans (biological entities) that are capable of inventing and using such mathematical tools.”
  This is why I said at the beginning that the modern educational system only produces workers, not thinkers.  In other words it’s aim is to produce slaves, utilitarian tools useful only for the advance of the state.  And this is seen in their philosophy of 1 + 1. 
The right view was put on the lips of Leibniz, who was one of the inventors (discoverers) of calculus.  When [he] was asked by one of his students, "Why is one and one always two, and how do we know this?" Leibniz replied, "One and one equals two is an eternal, immutable truth that would be so whether or not there were things to count or people to count them."
Those are God’s attributes.  Eternal. Immutable. Truth.  Like God, the answer to 1 +1 is an eternal answer.  Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  Like God, the answer to 1 + 1 is an immutable answer. It will never change.  Malachi 3:6 “I the LORD do not change...”  Like God, the answer to 1 +1 is a true truth, even if all the world decided it be something else.  Romans 3:4  “Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,”  Any other view is not only lying about math but more importantly it is lying about God.   
I’m not saying that atheists or non-Christian religions can’t believe in 1 + 1.  I’m just saying that they can’t believe in consistently.  Their worldview doesn’t justify the truth of 1 + 1.  And if left to themselves they will eventually unravel.   And if left in charge, they will unravel others.  Case in point is the Common Core.  Teachers have now been instructed to give their students at least partial credit even when they get their math problems wrong, as long as they show their work.  In other words, as long as they are sincere it getting it wrong, they can be partially right!  Sincerity, rather than truth is the new currency of modern education.  The only problem is, that sincerity means nothing without truth.  If the meaning of sincerity is not an eternal, immutable truth, then it is nothing at all.  What might be sincere to you, could be totally different than my definition.  And so what we are left with is complete relativism. This is the fall of western civilization.  The only antidote to this inescapable reality is to teach the subjects from a Biblical worldview.  This means that we need to give our children a christian classical education.  In other words, we need to disciple them the way the Scripture informs us.  We need to educate in such a way where we demonstrate that God speaks to all the subjects and all the subjects speak back Him.   

  1. God speaks to history, and history speaks about God.  Acts 17:26 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place...”
  2. God speaks to civics and civics speak about God.  Romans 13:1, 3-4  “...there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
  3. God speaks to the languages, and language speaks about God. In Scripture, Jesus is called Word of God.  John 1:1  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 
  4. God speaks to philosophy, and philosophy speaks about God.  Colossians  2:3 tells us that in Christ “...are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  

And the same thing can be said about every other subject under the sun.  God commands every subject to reflect His attributes, so that every subject speaks about Him. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”  Romans 11:36  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Ends and Means of Education

When we are speaking about ends and means, we are speaking about the goals and the processes by which it takes to achieve those goals. Mortimer Adler in his book Reforming Education: The Opening of the American Mind says this about approaching any particular thing that we set our hand to do:

“In the solution of every practical problem, the basic terms are ends and means.  The end of medicine is health; the means are the various procedures of prevention and therapy.  We solve a practical problem, so far as thinking goes, by determining the ends to be achieved and the most efficient means for achieving them....Now since the means are to be chosen and used for the sake of the ends to be reached, the ends are the first things we must think about in the order of practical thinking, even though they are the last things we reach in the order of action itself.”  [Mortimer Adler Reforming Education: The Opening of the American Mind  Ed. Geraldine Van Doren (New York, NY: MacMillan Publishing, 1977]

That last part is critical!  The means can only, and should only be determined by the ends.  The means exist for the sake of the ends, and not for the sake of themselves.   In other words, we start with the end in mind in order to determine our starting point.  Once we determine those things, our path to proceed, or our means are illuminated.   So we need to ask:  What is the proper end of education?  What is the end of this accumulation of knowledge?  Is it just so that our children can gain a good career?  So that they can be producers in society? So that they can take care of their future families?  Those may seem like high ends, but they are in fact circular.  ‘We educate in order to perpetuate society, in order to raise the next generation in order to educate them, so that they can in turn do the same.’ That is circular.  This is to confuse subordinate ends with the ultimate end.  Subordinate ends are those things we aim at in order to get to a higher and more ultimate end.  Take the cross of Christ for instance.  What would you say is the ultimate end of the gospel? It is not Jesus hanging on the cross. That is subordinate to the ultimate end which is to bring us into perfect fellowship with Him.
Education is no different.  We do want our children to have good careers and to help perpetuate society and to raise up the next generation.  But those are not ultimate ends, they are subordinate.  What is the ultimate end in education?  Many answers have been given.  Unfortunately some have even come out of the modern classical movement that have not been good.  One book that has been touted as an apologia for classical education is Climbing Parnassus by Tracy Lee Simmons.  Mr. Simmons gives his answer for the proper end of education in this manner:  

“Knowledge is to be sought for its own sake, irrespective of immediate and material gain.  Any other attitude to knowledge betrays the servile mind...“Such is the constitution of the human mind that any kind of knowledge, if it be really such, is its own reward.”  For only “liberal knowledge...stands on its own pretensions, is independent of sequel, expects no complement, refuses to be any end,” [Tracy Lee Simmons Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia For Greek and Latin (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2nd Paperback Edition 2012), pg. 35]

       That is a sad view. ‘Knowledge is to be sought for it’s own sake, and refuses to be informed by any end.’  That view of knowledges makes it god. It specifically makes our knowledge god.  Not only is this view of education entirely too small,  it is blasphemous.  (Consider how Paul refuted this view to the secular philosophers in Acts 17:16-34)
The only proper end of knowledge or education, is simply this:  praise.  Praise is the ultimate end of knowledge. We put knowledge into our minds in order to fuel our hearts for worship.  Knowledge finds it’s end, it’s ultimate end, in praise.
       The founding verse for our academy is Psalm 111:3 “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.”  We acquire knowledge on every subject under the sun because they display the works of God.  In studying the works of God, we find ourselves studying Him.  And when we study Him and delight in what we see, this brings Him glory.  So we could say that the proper end of education is for the glory of God.  Consider this syllogism.

P1.  All things were created for God’s Glory (Rev. 4:11)
P2.  Education is a thing.
C.  Education was created for God’s Glory.

If God’s glory is the proper end of education, then it must inform our means.  God’s glory must be the chief determining factor in how we choose what subjects to teach, how we determine curriculum, and how we integrate it all together.  If the glory of God is the proper end of education, then it must control every aspect of how we do our education.  We must resist the temptation to be informed by any other end.  Whether that end is smuggled in by the culture, or whether  by our own anxieties that seek to dominate our hearts. There is no other ultimate end in education,  than the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.