Russell and Duenes

Archive for October 2013

They’ll Teach You the Inner Meaning of History

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There is an inner meaning to history which informs and underlies everything else about it, and this inner meaning can only be taught through an explicitly Christian education. For only the Christian gospel teaches us what history is and where it is going. Three Scriptures come to mind:

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35)

This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 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, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31)

These Scriptures prove up one of the great glories that comes with the Church providing her children with an explicitly Christian education. They mean that the Christian teacher of history will inculcate in his or her student the gracious reality that the Triune God rules over the history of the whole universe, including every nation of men and every ruler who ever ruled or will rule. These Scriptures also mean that God has a great and glorious plan that He is working out in history, and that plan is much larger than our little plans, and will very often derail them. Thus, we learn to be humble, and to see that we, like all men, are “as nothing before Him.” Finally, these Scriptures teach that history has a purpose and end point, namely, that the saving gospel of Jesus Christ be proclaimed and believed upon in every tribe, tongue, people and nation. And that God will bring all things historical to judgment on the day He has appointed, and will raise everyone either to everlasting life or to everlasting punishment. This inner meaning of history has the power to change the course of student’s lives.

It is another inestimable benefit that comes with an explicitly Christian education.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 28, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Duenes, Education

The Sexual Revolution and the Ruthlessness It Justifies

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In The Rage Against God, Peter Hitchens writes:

The delusion of revolutionary progress, and the ruthlessness it justifies, survives any amount of experience. This suggests that terror and slaughter are inherent in utopian materialist revolutionary movements. There will be another of these episodes along soon. What, then, do we gain by rejecting God and worshiping ourselves instead?

Discernment requires that we learn to see how this over here relates to that over there. Hitchen’s words made me think of one “revolution” in particular, and how its progress justifies a kind of “ruthlessness, terror and slaughter.” The revolution is the sexual one, and the slaughter is the millions of unborn, human persons who have been ripped limb-from-limb to keep the revolution going. This goes with that.

Supreme Court Justices O’Connor, Kennedy and Souter have told us that “for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.” See Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This is revolutionary language dressed up as social discourse. Our sexual freedom utterly relies on dead babies. The ruthless slaughter is the warp and woof of our sexual licentiousness. Further, says the Court, “the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Because we have contraception, we must have abortion. We must have radical, sexual autonomy, and so we must have children out of the way. And we must have this, according to the Court, because “[t]he Constitution serves human values.” Only, some humans must not be allowed to get in the way of those “values.”

The “ruthlessness, terror and slaughter” that the sexual revolution has justified is our continued war against unborn, human persons; a war being waged by those who hold all the weapons against those who are most defenseless. And the war continues in new ways now that we’re providing our girls as young as 12 years old with total access to “morning after” pills that will “take care of everything” should they get pregnant. Only such revolutionaries can boldly praise a woman like Wendy Davis as some kind of heroic figure who ostensibly champions the cause of women by waging a battle in favor of legalized infanticide.

This relates to that. This episode of utopian revolution is not “along soon,” as Hitchens says. It has been in full flower for decades.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 19, 2013 at 6:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Jesus Prefers Godless Secularism

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One of my friends has said that he can “roll off a list of young adults who walked away from the ‘faith’ they learned as children and a longer list of people who weren’t taught faith as children but came to faith with a hunger and openness I rarely see in America.” Further, he has intimated that there is an “idolatry of religion” that pervades the lives of many Americans, and I assume he would see their upbringing in the faith to be integrally connected to this in many cases. In other words, somehow the Christian upbringing inoculated them against a faith that is “hungry for and open” to Christ.

He’s certainly not alone in this opinion. I don’t know what percentage of Christians hold to it, but I’m guessing it’s on the increase. Yet there seems to be a hidden premise – or maybe not so hidden – lurking within this view, namely, that somehow scores of people might be better off if they were not taught the Christian faith as a child, and left to themselves to come to faith as adults, for then their faith might be more genuine. Now I know that my friend is not raising his children that way, and he might well disavow this premise of mine, which I should be glad if he did. But if he does so, then I wonder what his point is in noting that he can roll his list of people who walked away from the faith they learned as a child. Is his point that raising one’s child diligently and faithfully in the Christian faith has little correlation to whether one’s child believes faithfully and genuinely as an adult? Indeed, the Christian upbringing might be a hindrance to faith. In other words, whether a person becomes an actual vibrant and faithful Christian is a crap shoot? Or is his point that Jesus has no opinion one way or the other about the kind of culture we live in, and indeed, might prefer a secular, godless, religiously pluralistic culture to a “Christian” culture because, as we know too well, “Christian” cultures only produce hypocrites, tepid Christians, and idolatry of religion?

I don’t know the answer. Only my friend can answer (and perhaps he might). But I’m wary of what seem to be the implications of his statement above. One implication being that somehow, too much Christendom in a culture leads to hypocrisy and lukewarm faith, almost by definition. The further implication being that, therefore, Jesus largely intends his gospel to stop at individualistic salvation, rather than working so thoroughly in and through His children that it works itself like leaven into the whole of a culture, wholly transforming it. I think we can see that some kind of teaching is going to work itself thoroughly into a culture and give overwhelming shape to people’s lives. We saw this with the Soviet Union, even if many people came to Christ nonetheless, and we have seen it in America, where our form of government and the lasting freedoms we have enjoyed  were the fruit of a largely Christian culture. There is a good reason why constitutional republics have not taken root in the Muslim Middle East, and why they could, and likely would take root, if there were a large movement of the gospel in people’s lives, as there has been elsewhere throughout history.

I would be willing to bet that the lukewarmness among Christians in America had little to do with the lukewarm being raised in a home where the Christian faith was consistently taught and practiced, or with being sent to a private Christian school or homeschool, and more to do with the overweening secular, materialistic, scientistic, and statist idolatry which we have been afforded over numerous decades by our Christian culture. In other words, the Christian capital given to us by our forebears is what has allowed us (and Europeans) to enjoy freedom and prosperity, thinking that we can continue to have it without Christ. The capital is running out, and the checks are bouncing.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Technocratic Skill Behind the Obamacare Rollout

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It’s been hard not to pay attention to the Obamacare roll out over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been hearing a lot about “glitches,” followed closely by reassurances that it’ll all be smooth sailing before too long. One of the apologists for the online Obamacare system said: “The work they’re doing is amazing. . . It’s incredible what can happen when you give a team of talented developers and managers and let them go.” This kind of euphoric sentiment is emblematic of our virtually unbounded faith in technocratic skill. In other words, if we can just get “tech-savvy” people who know how to manipulate all of the gadgets and gizmos together with the politically administrative whiz-kids, we can implement a smooth running, enlightened, and benevolent state that will handle all of our essential needs. Information Technology is where it’s at. Someone of my acquaintance sang the praises of Michael Bloomberg along these lines. Bloomberg was ostensibly the ideal politician because he had so much technocratic skill which he could benevolently bring to bear upon New York City. Such experts know how to jigger with the variables in our world with such competence that we’d best leave governance of our lives to them. They’re the “experts,” and all we need to do is give them the authority and “let them go.” This faith takes various and often subtle forms, but in my view, it is deeply held, and difficult to dislodge, even when its abject failures overtly confront us.

But where do people get such unbounded faith in our reigning technocrats? Where have we learned to afford such authority to the “experts,” who can apparently manipulate the created order to form the more perfect society, regardless of their personal character and worldview? I don’t think it has come from a humble sense that previous generations have much to teach us, from reading Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, the Greek classics, the Bible, the Patristic writings, the Reformers and the western philosophical and literary canon in general. It hasn’t come from studying and imbibing the great artists and musicians over the last 2,000 years. It hasn’t come from a wonderment, awe and reverence for complexity and beauty of the natural world around us, from a desire to think God’s thoughts after Him.

God says that His “wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech.” Indeed, God asks: “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?” And the reply is: “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. You who are simply, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say…Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.” As with many things, this turns my thoughts to education.

An explicitly Christian education will heed the voice of true wisdom, calling from the heights of the city. This is one of the great benefits that Christian parents can give to their children. They are able to teach them that “technocratic skill” without wisdom leads not to human flourishing, but soul destruction. A Christian education will see the importance of inculcating biblical wisdom, and wisdom from ancient (and modern) sources outside the Bible that are consistent with it. A Christian education, properly given, will teach children how to operate in a technologically advanced society, but will also teach them that there is a statist, technocratic idolatry at work in our human hearts, an idolatry that tells us that if we can just get the technological “geniuses” in places of political authority, they can work their magic and administer the government’s overweening power for the greater good of us all.

God also tells us that “[t]he woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. ‘Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!’ But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.” Thus, Folly and Wisdom are both crying aloud, vying for our attention. And it is folly to keep trusting that there is a kind of utopian society waiting to be administered to us at the hands of benevolent technocrats. It is folly to think that giving each student in school her own personal iPad is going to improve her education. It is folly to equate the acquisition of technocratic skill and competence with acquiring a well-ordered soul and a well-ordered society and culture. It is folly to jettison the study of ancient languages, writing and wisdom as antiquated, irrelevant, and perhaps bigoted in favor of teaching children that the most important thing they can acquire is the ability to use a computer and other technologies toward the end of being able to control the variables in our world.

All of this folly can be exposed and moved against with a Christian education. Will it? That depends. Doubtless there are Christian schools that are neck deep in the technocratic trope, just as the public schools are. But with the Christian school, it need not be so. For the Christian school can teach what God says, and teach how to practice it, so that the students may gain hearts of wisdom.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

Posted in Duenes, Education

Your Teachers Tell You That God Created Everything

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“Worthy are you, O Lord our God, to receive glory, honor and power, for Your created all things, and by Your will they exist and are created.” (Rev. 4:11)

“All things were made through Him, and apart from Him, nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1)

It is a glorious thing to be taught that God is the Creator and Sustainer of everything, and that He upholds the universe by the Word of His power. And it is only possible with an explicitly Christian education. As with all human endeavors, a Christian education will have its faults and failings, yet this ought not cause us to abandon the project, for the up-side of Christian education is beyond estimation. It is this up-side that I wish to reflect upon in these series of posts.

My encouragement to Christian parents to provide for their children an explicitly Christian education – either at home or at a private Christian school – began with the simple observation that teacher and students get to pray to begin their studies in a Christian educational setting. I want to continue my encouragement by pointing out that teachers in a Christian school believe that God is the Creator of all things. They know not only that God created everything, but that He sustains everything, and that nothing exists apart from Him. Further, if they love God, they know a good bit about the implications of this doctrine, and they will impart these implications to their students.

Nothing like the doctrine of God’s creatorship can be taught in a public school. It is forbidden for a public school teacher to stand up in front of her students and say anything to the effect that “all things were made through Jesus Christ, and apart from Him nothing was made that has been made.” It is out-of-bounds to discuss any of the ramifications and consequences that follow from God’s creatorship.

Yet the fact that God is the creator is a glorious truth, and a foundational pillar of conforming our minds to the gospel of God. It is something that should be shot through every subject of study in school. It is certainly suffused throughout every teaching of the Scriptures. It’s not a throw-away, after-thought doctrine. The Bible begins with God as Creator and ends with God as Creator. Moreover, because God is our Creator, He has rights over us, and we stand under His authority and judgment. We are accountable to Him, and we were made for a purpose, namely, to honor Him by enjoying Him forever.

If a child learns to not associate God with the world and universe around him or her, then his education is cut off at the knees from the very start. This is true even if the child only comes to think of a natural world existing apart from God as something merely plausible. For it is not plausible. The teaching about Creation will buttress everything a child learns in a properly executed Christian education, and therefore, teachers teaching their students that God is the creator is a great reason for Christians to establish, support, foster, propagate and engage their children in a Christian education.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Duenes, Education