Previously, we explored the notion that amidst the current profusion of homeschool curricula, we have a very important task as parents. The content of any curriculum cannot be divorced from the author’s (or publisher’s) guiding presuppositions. There is no neutral ground in foundations of thought. In the last article we explored a few examples. Additional insight was brought to me on one of those examples and I have included a correction in the footnote below.[i]
As parents, the all-important task is this: we must be intentional about subjecting every discipline in our chosen curriculum to the right set of prior commitments. The question is, what are these commitments? What foundational “first things” should we have in mind? Is it not good enough to say we are a Christian and leave it at that? No. Why not? Stick with me.
I purposefully lay this out in an outline fashion. I do this so that it might be easier for you to climb aboard and follow my train of thought. If you feel the urge to step off of the train at any point, you must ask yourself why. Each train station represents a crucial waypoint along the route to transforming society around us.
So many Christians today grumble over the current state of our culture. Yet, they gloss over one or more of these points. It won’t do. This is a package deal. To disembark at any point takes the church off the train and straps it to the train track. This is currently where we sit. That whistle blowing is not the sound of the second coming. It is God’s judgment. It is the secular culture screaming toward us, threatening to run us over and snuff out our light.
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5 ESV)
The church is the center of culture. There is another way to say this. As the church goes, so goes the society. Churches are comprised of individuals and families. These families have a responsibility to “teach their children in the way they should go”. Both churches and families are covenant institutions. Thus, self-consciously and intentionally grounding your child’s chosen curriculum along the following lines is essential.
- First, what is a covenant? It is a legal arrangement, bound by oath, that establishes a defined relationship. It has five components that answer the following five questions:
- Who is the ultimate authority in the relationship?
- What is the hierarchy of authority or who are the functional subordinates and to whom do they submit?
- What are the laws or terms governing the relationship?
- What are the sanctions for keeping or breaking the terms?
- How is the authority carried into the future?
- God has ordained three covenant institutions. These are the family, the church and the state. Each institution has heads that represent God to the institution and the institution to God.
- Of the institutions named above, only the church extends into eternity. The church is set apart in history through God’s Covenant of Grace. This is his peace treaty extended to rebellious man. Those that through the work of His Spirit accept the terms, and submit themselves to God’s church.
- All of life is covenantal. God relates to his people through this framework. He designed it this way. We cannot escape it. We are either under the authority of God or we are under the authority of Satan. We are covenantally bound to one of two masters.
- The covenantal framework has everything to do with culture around us. What a society believes about God, man, ethics, causation, and the future determines the course of that society. It shapes everything in it.
- Most of the Christian curricula today leaves the student ill-equipped on each of the above components. The development of most if not all of the current curricula offered today was governed by the following implicit principles.[ii]
- God is not absolutely sovereign
- Satan currently rules this world
- Natural law is universal
- Politics should not be religious or denominational
- There can never be a Christian society in time prior to Christ’s return
- Allow me to state it again. What a society believes about God, man, ethics, causation, and the future determines the course of that society. It shapes everything in it. Therefore…
- Explicitly tethering the education of our children to the following five components becomes essential to transforming society and subduing it to the rule of Christ.
- God is completely sovereign.
- Christians are called to carry out His sovereign rule in every area through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Biblical law must be the ethical standard with which we do this.
- God blesses covenant keepers and curses covenant breakers in history.
- God’s kingdom will be extended on earth through evangelism and covenant faithfulness.
All of this may seem a bit deep when, as a parent, I am most interested in simply getting my child through Saxon Math this year. But what we are talking about does not have to be difficult. It may be as simple as alongside your math curriculum, demonstrating to your child that without the God of the Bible, mathematics does not exist. In a random universe, all equations become illegitimate and unreliable. God is indeed sovereign. His sovereignty not only legitimizes, but also provides meaning and purpose to a student’s math curriculum.
It may be just maintaining an awareness that my McGuffey Readers are implicitly Unitarian. I can then explicitly include instruction and application along the five points above to drive home Biblical ethics and an optimistic view of the future.
Countless examples could be put forth, but the point is this. As parents, we have an obligation to immerse ourselves in Scripture. We are to be faithful to our Church vows. We should also take full responsibility for the education of our children. If we do each of these with an increased awareness and consistent application of the Biblical covenant framework discussed above, we will find that our communities will begin to flourish. Over time culture becomes transformed. Over generations, the earth is subdued. We need to take this aspect of our child’s education seriously.
[i] One of my examples in the previous article mischaracterized Charlotte Mason’s second point in her Educational philosophy. In an article entitled, “Why Did She Have to Say That?”, Karen Glass provides correctional insight. In addition to providing some cultural context of that time she states,
“When we read Charlotte Mason’s statement that children are not born “either good or bad”, it is easy to imagine that she is making a theological statement. But, in fact, she is not addressing the sin nature or spiritual condition of the child. She is addressing the subject of his character–his moral behavior and conduct–something which can, in fact, be affected by education and training. It is an unfortunate fact that a true Christian may yet have a poor character, and an unbeliever an excellent one, although their conduct will not determine their eternal destiny. It is also true that “tendencies” of character, such as a quick temper, seem to be passed on from parent to child.”
I believe the other examples I used stand as good illustrations of my point in the article.
[ii] This was taken from a lecture in 2006 entitled The Right Homeschool Curriculum by Gary North. It was delivered at a worldview conference put on by American Vision.