Friday, September 25, 2009

Cursory Thoughts about "A Christian Education Manifesto"

Recently a commenter on this blog asked if I would evaluate Israel Wayne's A Christian Education Manifesto (here).

Instead of a thorough evaluation of this document (which would include an in-depth examination of the author's other works), I decided to mostly take it at face value: after all, is that not the intent of manifestos? To summarize to the world what one deems important.

At the outset, it ought to be noted that the manifesto is helpful in certain ways. Presumably he is writing against the many lazy parents in Christian households. The copious proof-texting (in both a good and bad sense) could help many of these families get their acts together. It also heavily critiques the secular public school system.

1. Upon a short examination of the writer's credentials, it is striking that a man with no known theological training and examination thought he could write such a broad-sweeping manifesto single-handedly. In the council of many there is wisdom.

2. Where is the church? With such a conspicuous absence of such an important institution in the lives of all family members the manifesto ought to be re-titled: A Christian Family Education Manifesto.

3. Although claiming a Biblical worldview background, it is not at all clear that listing Bible verses with minimal commentary suffices as a manifesto let alone something part of a worldview. In what ways are these unique (?) elements of a Christian worldview?

4. Unfortunately, this spartan commentary lends itself to absolutist language, e.g., "Instruction of the young is given to parents and grandparents."--only, mostly, what?

5. Exodus 20:12 section clearly speaks to the modernistic mentality in education but seems to impugn all "government" education (however vaguely defined). A knowledge of Christian history will demonstrate otherwise.

6. The same section essentially calls the early church, Medieval church and Reformation churches well into the late 1700s 'socialists'. This seems to be a more modernistic Libertarian viewpoint that bypasses any historical dialogue. I may be in favor of localism in education but I would hesitate to label all of Christian education history as 'socialistic'.

7. 2 Chronicles 17:7-10 clearly ties the kingship with the priest and lay-leader's educational efforts to good effect. At the least, one should cautiously evaluate such Biblical evidence before announcing broad-sweeping declamations.

8. The Deut. 6:7 comment is brief and thus vague: what is a "24/7/365 discipleship paradigm"? In some homeschooling circles such language and proof-texting leads to a "homeschooling-is-commanded-by-God" doctrine (or at least it is the best educational option [and who wouldn't want the best for God?]).

9. Common grace is a concept that appears to be decidedly missing in this document. "A Christian parent must not turn the leading of their child over to someone who is spiritually blind." So an unbelieving piano teacher cannot instruct my daughter? A better question is to ask what is the Biblical basis of this assertion [see comments for clarification by the author].

10. I am glad that the revisionist approach to history is renounced. Unfortunately, in most Christian circles such revisionism still exists in the form of a Deistic interpretation of history that downplays any theological distinctions in Christendom (hint: how many know that America was substantially founded by Calvinism?).

11. What was suspect earlier (that only parents may instruct their own children) is now made explicit: "It is assumed that the father and mother are doing the teaching. No one else is mentioned in Scripture as having that role." No one else...not even ministers? godly deacons? what about catechizing children?

12. This leads to a point about equivocation: what is the definition of education? nurture? etc.? Either no one can educate other people's children (contrary to the Bible) or the author is using more than one definition without informing the reader.

13. Apparently the OT plays a selective role, hence the absence of Deut. 30:9ff: "So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel...gather the people together, men and women and little ones...that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess." The Great Commission comes to mind as well.

14. There is curious logic here as well. Proverbs 9:10 is argued thusly: "Government schools lack the fear of the LORD,therefore cannot properly transmit wisdom, knowledge,and understanding." Just fill in ignorant or unfaithful parents in place of government schools and similar reasoning can be invoked.

15. Such family-centric emphasis makes good Reformed and Presbyterian (and old-fashioned Reformed Baptists) wonder about the educational, modeling and instructional role of the whole community of God? Does not Titus 2 encourage the older women (no mention of mother here) to instruct the younger women. By commonality of principle (LCQ 99) the same would hold for men and boys.

16. A misunderstanding of statistics is a common problem in America. In this case the 65-88% number does not include the actual training accomplished (or not accomplished) at home and at church. If the families and churches are weak, then sending the child to college is a dangerous thing indeed.

17. The point about leaders leading by example with the training of their children is much needed. However, too many Christians ignore such leaders anyway, seeking out popular leaders or (inexperienced) young men with young children.

18. "Education must be predicated on the foundation of Christ, not on humanistic thought." AMEN.

19. Unfortunately, since this manifesto is not clearly Reformed, it is not clearly "predicated on the foundation of Christ." Calvinistic education is different than the run-of-the-mill education.

20. In fact, this manifesto supplements the author's more explicit teaching in Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview. One glaring problem in that book is a dangerous dance with legalism: "If parents focus on giving their children a Biblical worldview, I can assure you, their children will excel in everything they do. It's that natural cause and effect of the blessing of God. When we obey, we are blessed; we we don't, we are cursed" (p. 150, cp. 43, 13).

This is the moral summary of the author's approach--implicit in this document but explicit in his book.

The explicit Gospel message that we cannot obey and are cursed already is missing. Christians are sinners saved by grace so that even when we 'obey' we do not 'obey' enough to cause any blessing (Rom. 7:12ff.). If such a message is not the cornerstone of Christian education then Christian children will either grow up hypocrites or renounce the faith in anger as too many already do.


Israel Wayne said...


Thank you for taking the time to critique my essay. There are many things I could say, but first of all, I thank you for reading and analyzing my article, as well as, it appears, my book, which I hope you have read in its entirety.

I don't want to do a rebuttal of your critique, as I see no need to, but I would like to point out a couple of things for clarity.

Please allow me to use your number system for ease:

1. I drew from the writings of a number of other similar works by many great scholars. In some ways I was trying to pull together in one place the collective work of a lot of great thinkers. For instance there is an excellent thesis published by Nehemiah Institute on Christian education, great works by J. Gresham Machen, Dr. Henry Morris, R.J. Rushdoony, Chris Klicka's book, "The Right Choice," and dozens of others.

2. The church. I've spoken about this at length at conferences. The church is vital, but it is a not to replace the parents, but to train and equip them to disciple their own children. If you can find a New Testament passage that tell the church to directly teach children (apart from a congregational setting where messages are directed to entire families), please feel free to share it.

5 & 6. My comments were directed here toward socialistic government schools which usurp parental authority, not towards private Christian schools (which are clearly not socialistic). I thought I was clear on that, I apologize if I was not.

9. I did not intend to imply that a Christian can never learn anything of value from a non-Christian. I am aware of General Revelation / Common Grace. I was talking about the entirety of a child's training and education, not learning auto-mechanics or piano lessons from a non-Christian. The point was to be cautious of potentially dangerous anti-Christian influences in general.

11. I'm speaking of Role and Responsibility in a macro sense. It is your role to teach your wife doctrine (see 1 Cor. 14:25), but that doesn't mean your wife couldn't learn something from the pastor's sermon (or an older woman in the you point out). It's the same with our children. It your job, and my job, to teach our children. That doesn't exclude them learning from other people, but it is no one else's primary responsibility and mandate. I think we probably agree on this point.

13. As a side thought, I think this passage argues in favor of integrated worship, don't you?

20. I was basing that statement on Psalm 1 which says we will be blessed. There is also Deut. 28 and the Beatitudes which also promise covenant blessings and those covenantal blessing are ALWAYS contingent on obedience to Christ's Lordship. Psalm 1:4 "The ungodly are not so." Regenerate Christians CAN, SHOULD and MUST obey God's Word (see Romans 6 & 8). This may just be an issue on which we disagree.

While your critique of my writing is not necessarily positive, I appreciate that you have approached this with an obvious professionalism and Christian courtesy which is rare in most Christian circles. I trust that the Lord will give you and I both increasing wisdom on these issues and help us to point people to God and His Truth on all matters.

For more of my views on Christian schools in particular, since that seems to be your primary objections to my writing, here is an essay I wrote on that topic to explain my view more completely:

God bless you and your ministry,

Israel Wayne

polymathis said...

Greeting Mr. Wayne,

I apologize for the late response. By God's Providence I have recovered from some sickness the past few days.

I must say I am duly impressed with your measured response. Most people do not take public reviews very well. In turn, I'd like to thank you for your response and effort to clarify questions.

As I am catching up with my work, I will reply, Lord willing, shortly.

I do think that this can be a rare opportunity to better understand differing positions on this important topic.

In Christ,


polymathis said...

Hello Wayne,

I cannot find your article, ""I Could Turn Your Children Into Communists" referenced in your Christian School vs. Homechooling


polymathis said...

Dear Israel,

On one point I can see that it was unclear. Point 6 makes sense from the known history of education.

Historically, schools were paid through private donations (fees), taxes, church tithes/offerings or a combination thereof. Usually such taxes and fees were local. For instance, the families of Geneva (c.1559) all swore to maintain the city schools. And New England passed the Old Deluder Satan act (1647) requiring all towns of a certain size to maintain a school.

polymathis said...

Greetings Wayne,

With your further clarifications I hope to also clarify myself.

1a. My point here can be restated: if your article were titled "A Modest Proposal toward a Christian Education Manifesto" my concern would have disappeared.
1b. I suspected you had read much. What is of note is that Machen and Rushdoony were members of my denomination, the OPC. In fact, Machen is one of the fathers of the OPC. Both of them endorsed private Christian schools and would agree with my point 20.

2a. Your challenge to find a NT passage which tells us "to directly teach children" is misguided. As a classical Protestant in my hermeneutics such a requirement is not required for Christian liberty dictates that unless forbidden by the Word it is allowed by the Word. The Bible does not explicitly cover every and any situation.
2b. Further, I would be curious why a "congregational setting" is allowed when now NT passage I am aware of "directly" states that as an allowable exception--do you mean a worship service?

5&6. see previous comment.

9. I am glad you clarified this point about common grace. However, as your manifesto stands this is completely unclear at best.

11. "That doesn't exclude them learning from other people" Exactly, that is why I cannot understand your demand that I find a NT passage allowing this activity! I strongly suspect there is equivocal language here. When I state that the pastor, deacon or a family friend can teach my child I am not endorsing abdication of any sort. It's called delegation.

13. I am not sure what you mean by "integrated worship". If you are referring to children in public worship as a Presbyterian I agree and the classic Protestants have practiced that from day one.

20. This is an odd point. I suspect a confusion of language? Do you believe that Christian are sinners saved by grace? Then it must be admitted (Rom. 7) that Christians still sin and thus cannot claim fulfillment of God's law in any sufficient sense to merit blessings. Yes God blesses their feeble, imperfect effort but other times He does not (book of Job, Lk. 17:10). This is a longer discussion than can be accomplished here but I would recommend any good Reformed book on soteriology or the Westminster Confession of Faith (with proof texts).

It is a significant point as the Gospel of Christ is the foundation of any truly God-honoring education.

Kathy said...

Thank you for your thorough, measured critique of the manifesto--it is much appreciated.

Israel Wayne said...


It looks as though we shall have to solve the "Regulative Principle" question as it applies to education.

I tend to lean Regulative, and you seem to lean Normative. :-)

13. There is a modern "movement" called the "Family-Integrated Church" movement (see Vision Forum among other ministries who promote this view), but it holds to an older and more traditional ecclesiastical custom of children sitting in corporate worship as an integrated part of the church of God (a notion replaced in the late 20th century by a more Modernistic, age-segregationist approach to youth ministry...i.e. the Sunday School movement, etc.).

20. The meaning of Romans 7 is clearly understood when in the context of Romans 6 & 8. I'm not saying that Christians are incapable of sinning, but that is no longer their identity in Christ. I would suggest you read Watchman Nee's book "The Normal Christian Life" for a good treatment on Romans 5:12-Romans 8. This is, of course, not the focus of our discussion. I am familiar with Reformed Soteriology on this issue ("we sin every day in thought and deed"), but I do not believe it is Biblical.


polymathis said...

Dear Mr. Wayne,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

As for 'regulative' vs. 'normative' do you have any online resources explaining this principle (shall i dub it 'regulative principle of education'? :-)

13. I suspected you were referring to Family-integrated churches (FICs). Your recital of their view of educational history is correct. However, that version of age-segregated history is demonstratively incorrect. See my Very Short History of Christian Education currently being posted.

Theologically, from a Reformed perspective there is a difference between SS and public worship. The former is regulated by Christian liberty and general educational principles of the Word while the latter is regulated in a stricter fashion (called "Regulative Principle of Worship") requiring positive warrant for any given element (prayer,preaching, etc.)of worship (although common circumstances are not thus regulated, eg. sitting, standing, time of worship, etc.).

If possible, I am interested in your article, ""I Could Turn Your Children Into Communists" referenced in your Christian School vs. Homechooling.

This has been a helpful discussion thus far.

Thank you,