Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
As is my habit when I come across a book, I read the publishers blurb, the table of contents, the index, and dipped in here and there to see if this was a book worthy of serious interaction. I don't know yet what I will think of the whole thing, but I came across something in chapter 5, entitled "Education," that made me think that Dreher gets some important points.
When Schumacher said that education is useless unless it teaches metaphysics, he was saying that it cannot be separated from teaching not only morals, but more deeply, the nature and purpose of reality. When people say they want prayer returned to the public schools, I think what they're grasping to articulate is not a wish for sectarian piety, but an anxious desire for public schooling to provide their children with a basic metaphysical framework to help them live meaningful lives with a sense of purpose. Those days are over, and they're not coming back anytime soon. But the official neutrality of public schools is not neutrality at all, nor can it be. As one homeschooling mother in Manhattan told me, "The fact is, all education is directed to some end, and if parents don't make conscious decisions on what that end is, they are simply abdicating their role in setting the direction" of their children's lives.
There is a whole lot we could discuss here, but the point I want to draw attention to is that Dreher realizes the impossibility of neutrality in education. Education is either for God or against him. The homeschool mother Dreher quotes has more wisdom than a whole lot of Christians do these day, I'm afraid.
Dreher made one other point that was sterling. He writes, "Homeschooling tests a husband and wife's commitment to the idea of family as mission. That is, do you think of your family as something that exists for no discernible purpose, or do you conceive of it as serving a larger mission?"
Christians like to talk about husbands being leaders. The question is, Leaders to where? What's the point? Why be a family? Unless we can answer those questions, we are not much different from the society around us. Long before we had escalating divorce rates, feminism, single parenting, and homosexual "marriage" in America, we lost the point of marriage. It became merely "companionate." But if we intend to be relentlessly biblical, then we had better remember and put into practice the first principles that God gave to mankind in Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:18-25. Families, what is your mission?
I'll be reading this book. I'm sure I may do a little back and forth with Dreher over the course of reading it, but when it comes to some of the basics about family and education, I'd just like to say he gets it.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Truth speaking is far less common in the world than, at first sight, we are disposed to think. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is a golden rule which many would do well to bear in mind. Lying and prevarication are old sins. The devil was the father of them; he deceived Eve by a bold lie; and ever since the fall it is a sin against which all the children of Eve have need to be on their guard.
Only think how much falsehood and deceit there are in the world! How much exaggeration! How many additions are made to a simple story! How many things left out, if it does not serve the speaker’s interest to tell them! How few there are about us of whom we can say, we put unhesitating trust in their word! Verily the ancient Persians were wise in their generation; it was a leading point with them, in educating their children, that they should learn to speak the truth. What an awful proof it is of man’s natural sinfulness, that it should be needful to name such a point at all!
Reader, I would have you remark how often God is spoken of in the Old Testament as the God of truth. Truth seems to be especially set before us as a leading feature in the character of him with whom we have to do. He never swerves from the straight line. He abhors lying and hypocrisy. Try to keep this continually before your children’s minds. Press upon them at all times, that less than the truth is a lie; that evasion, excuse-making, and exaggeration are all half-way houses toward what is false and ought to be avoided. Encourage them in any circumstance to be straightforward, and whatever it may cost them, to speak the truth.
I press this subject on your attention, not merely for the sake of your children’s character in the world, though I might dwell much on this – I urge it rather for your own comfort and assistance in all your dealings with them. You will find it a mighty help, indeed, to be able always to trust their word. It will go far to prevent that habit of concealment, which so unhappily prevails sometimes among children. Openness and straightforwardness depend much upon a parent’s treatment of this matter in the days of our infancy.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
1.9 It is an infallible rule that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture, that is to say, one part by another. Hence any dispute as to the true, full and evident meaning of a particular passage must be determined in the light of clearer, comparable passages. Acts 15:15-16; 2Pet 1:20-21.
1.10 All religious controversies are to be settled by Scripture, and by Scripture alone. All decrees of Councils, opinions of ancient writers, and doctrines of men collectively or individually, are similarly to be accepted or rejected according to the verdict of the Scripture given to us by the Holy Spirit. In that verdict faith finds its final rest. Mat 22:29,31-32; Acts 28:23; Eph 2:20.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Thursday, March 22, 2007
IX. Train them to a habit of obedience.
This is an object which it is worth any labor to attain. No habit, I suspect, has such an influence over our lives as this. Parents, determine to make your children obey you, though it may cost you much trouble, and cost them many tears. Let there be no questioning, and reasoning, and disputing, and delaying, and answering again. When you give them a command, let them see plainly that you will have it done.
Obedience is the only reality. It is faith visible, faith acting, and faith incarnate. It is the test of real discipleship among the Lord’s people. “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Where, indeed, is the honor which the fifth commandment enjoins, if fathers and mothers are not obeyed cheerfully, willingly, and at once?
Early obedience has all Scripture on its side. It is said in Abraham’s praise, not merely he will train his family, but “he will command his children, and his household after him” (Gen 18:19). It is said of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, that when “he was young he was subject to Mary and Joseph” (Luke 2:51). Observe how implicitly Joseph obeye the order of his father Jacob (Gen 37:13). See how Isaiah speaks of it as an evil thing when “the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient” (Isa 3:5). Mark how the apostle Paul names disobedience to parents as one of the bad signs of the latter days (2 Tim 3:2). Mark how he singles out this grace as one that should adorn a Christian minister – “A bishop must be one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (1 Tim 3:4, 12) And again, an elder must be one “having faithful children, not accused of riot or unruly” (Tit 1:6).
Parents, do you wish to see your children happy? Take care, then, that you train them to obey when they are spoken to – to do as they are bid. Believe me, we are not made for entire independence; we are not fit for it. Even Christ’s freemen have a yoke to wear – they “serve the Lord Christ” (Col 3:24). Children can not learn too soon that this is a word in which we are not intended to rule, and that we are never in our right place until we know how to obey. Teach them to obey while young, or else they will be fretting against God all their lives long, and wear themselves out with the vain idea of being independent of His control.
Reader, this hint is only too much needed. You will see many in this day who allow their children to choose and think for themselves long before they are able, and even make excuses for their disobedience, as if it were a thing not to be blamed. To my eyes, a parent always yielding, and a child always having its way, are a most painful sight; painful, because I see God’s appointed order of things inverted and turned upside down; painful, because I feel sure the consequence to that child’s character in the end will be self-will, pride, and self-conceit. You must not wonder that men refuse to obey their Father which is in heaven, if you allow them, when children, to disobey their father who is upon earth.
Parents, if you love your children, let obedience be a motto and a watchword continually before their eyes.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
1.6 The sum total of God's revelation concerning all things essential to His own glory, and to the salvation and faith and life of men, is either explicitly set down or implicitly contained in the Holy Scripture. Nothing, whether a supposed revelation of the Spirit or man's traditions, is ever to be added to Scripture.
At the same time, however, we acknowledge that inward enlightenment from the Spirit of God is necessary for the right understanding of what Scripture reveals. We also accept that certain aspects of the worship of God and of church government, which are matters of common usage, are to be determined by the light of nature and Christian common sense, in line with the general rules of God's Word from which there must be no departure. [John 6:45; 1Cor 2:9-12, 11:13-14, 14:26,40; Gal 1:8-9; 2Tim 3:15-17.]
1.7 The contents of the Scripture vary in their degree of clarity, and some men have a better understanding of them than others. Yet those things which are essential to man's salvation and which must be known, believed and obeyed, are so clearly propounded and explained in one place or another, that men educated or uneducated may attain to a sufficient understanding of them if they but use the ordinary means. [Pss 19:7, 119:130; 2Pet 3:16.]
Elizabeth Prentiss, best known today as the author of "More Love to Thee," wrote several children's stories about a little girl named Susy. Here is an excerpt from one of them.
... Susy went to church with her papa and mamma in the morning. She was generally a very good girl at church. She was even better than usual at this time, and when they got home her papa told her a beautiful story from the Bible, and he kissed her and said, "What a comfort it is to have a child who tried to be good!" ...
While [her little brother Robbie] was asleep, Susy sat in her mamma's lap, and as she was tired of hearing stories and of singing, they had a little talk together.
"Susy, you were a very good girl at church this morning."
"How could I be naughty, mamma?"
"Oh, in a great many ways. One child could disturb fifty people."
"What could it do?"
"It could keep getting up and down on its seat. It could keep asking if service was almost done. It could turn over the leaves of the hymn book and rattle them. It could gape and yawn and fidget. It could try to make some other child laugh. Or it might turn round and look right into other people's faces in a rude way."
Susy had seen children do all these things. Mr. Ought [the story's name for conscience] whispered that she had done some of them herself.
"Mamma," said she, "it is hard to sit still."
"I know that it is, and that is one reason why it is good for you to go to church. You know you must sit still, and you try to learn to do it. And it is well to learn to do hard things."
"What for do little children go to church?" asked Susy. "They don't know what the minister says."
"No, I know they don't understand much. But there are a good many reasons why they should to to church, even then. I can not explain them all to such a little girl as you are. But one reason is this. If they always go when they are children, they will be likely to go when they are grown up. Besides, nobody goes there just to hear what the minister says. We go to worship God. Even little Susy can please and honor Him by just sitting still in His house, and making no noise. And some of the blessings he has for the grown-up people, he showers down on the little ones who are brought there to get it."
Susy smiled. "I'll sit still, and maybe he'll shower some on me," said she.
"You needn't say maybe," said Faith. "You may say, He certainly will."
"The Bible tells us that 'God created man in his own image.' Until recently skeptics titillated us by reversing the metaphor. 'If God made us in his own image,' observed Voltaire, 'we have certainly returned the compliment.' Dostoyevsky said, more profoundly, that it was the devil that man had created in his own likeness. But the God of the American Founding Fathers, whatever other qualities he might have had, was a constitutional monarch. He ruled by laws which he was not free to change at his whim. He had not yet become a chairman of the board, ruling under a policy-directive approved by and in the interest of the citizen-stockholders.
"'The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God' governed an orderly universe. For neither God nor man was the world wholly plastic....
"In nineteenth-century America the most extreme modernism held that man was made by his enviroment. In twentieth-century America, without abandoning belief that we are made by our environment, we also believe our environment can be made almost wholly by us. This is the appealing contradiction at the heart of our passion for pseudo-events: for made news, synthetic heroes, prefabricated tourist attractions, homogenized interchangeable forms of art and literature.... We believe we can fill our experience with new-fangled content. Al ost everything we see and hear and do persuades us that this power is ours. The life in America which I have described is a spectator sport in which we ourselves made the props and are the sole performers.
"But to what end? How surprising if men who make their environment and fill experience with whatever they please could not also make their God! God himself becomes a pseudo-event with all the familiar characteristics. He is not spontaneous or self-created. He has been planned or planted-primarily for the desirable effects of having him reported and believed in. He is to be viewed like a television show only at our convenience. His power can be measured by how widely he is reported, how often he is spoken about. His relation to underlying reality is ambiguous. As with other pseudo-events, about God, too, the most interesting question for us in not what he does but whether he exists. We worry over his prestige. By creating him we intend him to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. He is the Celebrity-Author of the World's Best Seller. We have made God into the biggest celebrity of all, to contain our own emptiness. He is The Greatest of 'the greatest.' What preoccupies us, then, is not God as a fact of nature, but as a fabrication useful for a God-fearing society. God himself becomes not a power but an image."
Daniel Boorstin published these insightful words in 1961 in The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. Althought I do not believe he quite understands a biblical view of God, he still saw clearly what men do with God. They insistently replace him with an idol of their own making (Rom 1:18-23). Therefore (contra Boorstin) this activity is not unique to our generation. It has been around since the Fall.
Yet Boorstin is particularly perceptive about the way we do this in our generation. We craft images with our technology (advertising, celebrities, "news," art, etc.) and invest them with the status of reality, and then we ask these images to make us happy. We try to conform our lives to the image of happiness we have created. We try to live according to our dream of reality, rather than reality as God has created it. This, too, is part of our attempt to play God. Even in doing this, we may keep God around, but only as an image, never as he is in himself. God becomes a television show.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
- We have turned to "para church" ministries to reach the culture, rather than to the churches, and that has resulted in us becoming like the culture.
- We have turned to the language of therapy to deal with these issues.
He went on to say that the issue of gender roles is not one on which we can agree to disagree. It is deeply connected to the gospel. "The gospel itself is patriarchal." The whole trajectory of the Bible is patriarchal. Therefore, this issue is just as important as open theism. [Open theism is a heresy which teaches that God does not and cannot know the future because he has given human beings "freedom."]
How do we confront feminism?
- Counter the rape culture. This is not a contest between patriarchy and matriarchy. Matriarchy never exists. In our society we have a contest of patriarchies - a self-sacrificial, Christ-like headship vs. an evil, Darwinian, Freudian patriarchy that plows through women. We must counter all ideas of women as simply objects of a man's desire. We need to present a vision of female dignity as beauty that comes from a heart that follows the Lord.
- Recover male headship, which means defining self-sacrificial leadership. Jesus exercises leadership by making decisions. Teach and train men to make decisions. Headship means sacrificing self to provide for the family. We must deal with specific issues like daycare or divorce. (Hint: You have to listen to his illustration here!)
- Recover the gospel itself. The reason we can't figure out the gender issue is because we can't figure out the gospel.
- Create a counter-culture in our churches that is not craving to be cool.
Listen to the message here.
Monday, March 19, 2007
For years elite opinion has maintained that women are happier in marriages that represent a union of equals and where spouses share identical responsibilities in the workplace and at home. Even as very few couples actually live this way, a study by two noted University of Virginia sociologists debunks the feminist spin, finding that women - even those who espouse egalitarian ideals - are far happier in marriages that have a traditional division of labor.
Looking at a subsample of 5,000 couples drawn from the second wave (1992-94) of the National Survey of Families and Households, Bradford Wilcox and Steven Nock measured women's marital happiness, women's satisfaction with the emotional attention they receive from their husbands, and the time husbands spend with their wives against a number of independent variables associated with various theories of marriage.
Their findings reveal that the more traditional the woman and the more traditional the marriage, the happier the woman. Women are happiest when they tend to hearth and home and their husbands bring home the bacon (earning at least 68 percent of family income). This did not surprise the researchers because they also found that men who were married to homemakers are more likely to spend "quality time" with their wives. These traditional wives also expressed greater satisfaction with their husbands' emotional interaction with them. In contrast, women who aspire to having "companionate" marriages, thinking "equality" will deliver what they really desire - the emotional engagement of their husbands - actually end up spending less time with husbands than their traditional peers. And these wives are less satisfied with the understanding they receive from their husbands.
Also contributing to women's marital happiness is a dynamic generally missing from egalitarian marriages: a shared commitment to marriage as a social and normative institution, where each spouse views matrimony as a binding commitment that "should never be ended except under extreme circumstances." Wives also reported higher satisfaction with their husbands' affection and understanding when couples share high levels of church attendance.
The consistency of these findings across their statistical models led the researchers to suggest that cultural shifts in the last generation, from declines in church attendance to acceptance of divorce and premarital sex, have taken a toll on women's happiness. Yet they point to rising expectations of women for marital equality as especially problematic: "Our findings suggest that increased departures from a male-bread winning/female-homemaking model may also account for declines in marital quality, insofar as men and women continue to tacitly value gendered patterns of behavior in marriage."
(Source: W. Bradford Wilcox and Steven L. Nock, "What's Love Got to Do With It? Equality, Equity, Commitment, and Women's Marital Equality," Social Forces 84 [March 2006]: pages forthcoming.)
This post and the last are both examples of things Christians should already have known if we have a biblical worldview. The researchers would not necessarily attribute their findings to God, yet even common grace is sufficient for them to realize that God's plan for men, women, and children truly is best.
"Why does the United States send the mothers of infants and toddlers off to fight a foreign war?
Make no mistake: We are the exception here. In the whole sweep of human history, no other nation - not Soviet Russia, nor the Iraqi Baathists, nor the egalitarian Scandinavians - has intentionally placed young mothers in harm's way such as American military planners have done in Iraq.
The strong and normal human instinct is to protect infants, toddlers and their mothers. Indeed, their well-being and security form the central purposes of every healthy nation. From the smallest tribe to the greatest empire, the human rule has been that all others must sacrifice, and even die, to protect the mothers of the young, for they are a people's future.
...The costs of this great social experiment have yet to be counted. We can safely assume, though, that the children left behind will pay the largest price. Mothers play unique, irreplaceable roles for newborns and toddlers. Social science research shows that young children effectively abandoned by their mothers for lengthy periods are much more likely to suffer emotional and mental disorders, more likely in later life to be in trouble with the law and abuse drugs, and less likely to succeed in school than children with their mothers available. Grandparents, day-care centers and even fathers are second-best substitutes. "
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
VIII. Train them to a habit of faith.
I mean by this, you should train them up to believe what you say. You should try to make them feel confidence in your judgment, and respect your opinions, as better than their own. You should accustom them to think that, when you say thing is bad for them, it must be bad, and when you say it is good for them, it must be good; that your knowledge, in short, is better than their own, and that they may rely implicitly on your word. Teach them to feel that what they know not now they will probably know hereafter, and to be satisfied there is a reason and a needs-be for everything you require them to do.
Who indeed can describe the blessedness of a real spirit of faith? Or rather, who can tell the misery that unbelief has brought upon the world? Unbelief made Eve eat the forbidden fruit; she doubted the truth of God’s Word, “Ye shall surely die.” Unbelief made the old world reject Noah’s warning, and so perish in sin. Unbelief kept Israel in the wilderness – it was the bar that kept them from the promised land. Unbelief made the Jews crucify the Lord of glory – they believed not the voice of Moses and the Prophets, though read to them every day. And unbelief is the reigning sin of man’s heart down to this very hour – unbelief in God’s promises – unbelief in God’s threatenings – unbelief in our own sinfulness – unbelief in our own danger – unbelief in everything that runs counter to the pride and worldliness of our evil hearts. Reader, you train your children to little purpose if you do not train them to a habit of implicit faith – faith in their parents’ word, confidence that what their parents say must be right.
These words were written over 160 years ago. Ryle could not have foreseen the so-called post-modernism of our day. He also could not have committed a more heinous crime according to post-modern sensibilities than to write what we just read. According to post-modernists, we cannot really believe in anything (that is, except for what post-modernists say). All language is simply word-games masking a play for power (except, of course, the post-modernists, who are simply humble truth tellers…but wait, there is no such thing as truth to post-modernists, so…um, post-modernists are simply sincere language game players…in contrast to all those nasty preacher types who just manipulate people with words). But 160 years ago people did generally believe that we could speak truth. They also believed, and this may sound radical, that parents were generally wiser than their children. Therefore, parents could and should expect their children to believe what they say.
Now, here is where Ryle’s words were thought-provoking for me when I initially read this booklet. Ryle makes the connection between our children believing us and our children believing God. I believe this is a profoundly biblical connection, as passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Proverbs 1-9 demonstrate. But this connection has been largely forgotten even among Christians. Let’s return to Ryle’s instructions as he warns against wrong thinking in this regard.
I have heard it is said by some, that you should require nothing of children which they can not understand; that you should explain and give a reason for everything you desire them to do I warn you solemnly against such a notion. I tell you plainly, I think it an unsound and rotten principle. No doubt it is absurd to make a mystery of everything you do, and there are many things which it is well to explain to children, in order that they may see that they are reasonable and wise. But to bring them up with the idea that they must take nothing on trust – that they, with their weak and imperfect understandings, must have the “why” and “wherefore” made clear to them at every step they take – this is indeed a fearful mistake, and likely to have the worst effect on their minds.
Reason with your child if you are so disposed, at certain times, but never forget to keep him in mind (if you really love him) that he is but a child after all; that he thinks as a child, he understands as a child, and therefore must not expect to know that reason of everything at once.
Set before him the example of Isaac, in the day when Abraham took him to offer him on Mount Moriah (Gen 22). He asked his father that single question, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And he got no answer but this, “The Lord will provide himself a lamb.” How, or where, or whence, or in what manner, or by what means – all this Isaac was not told; but the answer was enough. He believed that it would be well, because his father said so, and he was content.
Tell your children, too, that we must all be learners in our beginnings – that there is an alphabet to be mastered in every kind of knowledge – that the best horse in the world had need once to be broken – that a day will come when they will see the wisdom of all of your training. But in the meantime, if you say a thing is right, it must be enough for them – they must believe you, and be content.
Brethren, if any point in training is important, it is this. I charge you by the affection you have to your children, use every means to train them up to a habit of faith.
The wisdom that Ryle is expounding has been known by many societies throughout history, but it has been largely forgotten in our society today. We tend to take affront at the very suggestion that somebody else might know more than we do and have the authority to tell us what to do and even what to think. We naturally transfer this into our parenting. Who are we to tell our children what they must believe? But our thinking at this point savors strongly of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
In reality, the very nature of God, the world he created and controls, and our status as creatures made in his image demands that we live by faith. We are morally obligated to believe God’s revelation. If we reject it and try to live by our own “wisdom,” we will be judged (Prov 14:12). We are not morally free to choose whichever way we want to live our lives. This myth of moral autonomy is preached daily in America, but as Christians we are bound to reject it. And this should show up in our parenting. We must teach our children what is true, and we should expect them to believe it, not because they always understand it all, but because it is right.
I have heard many a parent piously say, “We don’t tell our children what to do or what to believe. We teach them to think for themselves.” This sounds so wise to us these days. But compare this to the exhortations of Scripture in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:1-4. The Scripture gives no hint of this kind of reasoning. Also, what does the book of Proverbs say? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding…. Be not wise in your own eyes (3:5, 7).” Repeatedly throughout the first nine chapters of Proverbs we find statements like, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (1:8). If children think for themselves, they will think like sinners, for that is exactly what they are. They are the simple ones who need knowledge and discretion. True knowledge comes, not from thinking autonomously, but from submitting ourselves to the Lord (1:7). Only when they are taught to fear God will our children be able to reason rightly. As we strive to train our children in the way they should go, and as we live our own Christian lives, we must never forget this axiom of knowledge: “I believe in order to understand.”
So, to reiterate what Ryle said, let’s strive to teach our children the habit of faith by teaching them to believe what we say.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV).
To be "disqualified" means, in short, to go to hell. The apostle Paul understood well the logic of the gospel. It is not "I am saved by grace alone, therefore I need not do anything to get to heaven." It is "I am saved by grace alone, therefore I strive mightily to get to heaven." God's upward call in Christ is a call to enter the race which has its finish line in heaven. There is no other way to get there than to run the race. Now, the very grace which issued the call will discipline us for the race (e.g. Titus 2:11-14) and will ensure that we finish in glory (Rom 8:29-30). By faith, we must fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12), and run so that we may obtain!
1.4 The Scripture is self-authenticating. Its authority does not depend upon the testimony of any man or church, but entirely upon God, its author, who is truth itself. It is to be received because it is the Word of God. [1Thess 2:13; 2Tim 3:16; 2Pet 1:19-21; 1John 5:9]
1.5 The testimony of the church of God may influence and persuade us to hold the Scripture in the highest esteem. The heavenliness of its contents, the efficacy of its doctrine, the majesty of its style, the agreement between all its parts from first to last, the fact that throughout it gives all glory to God, the full revelation it gives of the only way of salvation-these, together with many other incomparably high qualities and full perfections, supply abundant evidence that it is the Word of God. At the same time, however, we recognize that our full persuasion and assurance of its infallible truth and divine authority is the outcome of the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts. [John 16:13-14; 1Cor 2:10-12; 1John 2:20,27]
On the other hand, churches have themselves to blame for this common practice. Three reasons come immediately to mind. First, churches have failed to uphold the meaning of church membership. When church membership is meaningless, it is no surprise when families treat it as such. Second, churches have so bought into the atomistic, individualistic views of our society that they have a hard time even imagining what a "ministry" could look like which works within organic family social structures. It is sad when families feel they have to get away from church activities in order to have family time. Third, churches have for many years been trying to imitate the world's idea of family time in order to get families to come to church. Instead, churches should have been pointing families' (and especially fathers) eyes to something transcendent - to God.
We must conform our family lives to God, the cause of Christ, and God's revelation in the Bible. The ultimate reason our families exist is to serve the Lord (Gen 1:26-28; 2:18, 24-25). When we realize this, there will be no conflict between family time and church time. Our families will delight in worshiping, serving, and honoring God together in all of life.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Hear the whole discussion here. Thoughts?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Here is a link to an article about church membership from the perspective of a lady who is just coming to understand what it means, thanks to the ministry of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. I think you will find it interesting.
VII. Train them to habits of diligence and regularity about public means of grace.
Tell them of the duty and privilege of going to the house of God, and joining in the prayers of the congregation. Tell them that wherever the Lord’s people are gathered together, there the Lord Jesus is present in an especial manner, and that those who absent themselves must expect, like the apostle Thomas, to miss a blessing. Tell them of the importance of hearing the Word preached, and that it is God’s ordinance for converting, sanctifying, and building up the souls of men. Tell them how the apostle Paul enjoins us not “to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Heb 10:25); but to exhort one another, to stir one another up to it, and so much the more as we see the day approaching….
Do not allow them to grow up with the habit of making vain excuses for not coming. Give them plainly to understand that so long as they are under your roof, it is the rule of your house for everyone in health to honor the Lord’s house upon the Lord’s day, and that you reckon the Sabbath-breaker to be a murderer of his own soul.
When I read this, my heart was warmed by the fire of truth as if I had just come in out of the cold culture around us. Ryle places the responsibility for church attendance squarely upon the shoulders of the parents. If our children do not attend church while under our roof, we are responsible. We are contributing to their spiritual demise, we are feeding their sinful propensities, and we are encouraging them to follow the devil. O that parents would realize how serious a matter this is! Ryle says that we must "reckon the Sabbath-breaker to be a murderer of his own soul." While I do not believe that Sunday is accurately called a “Sabbath,” I still heartily agree with Ryle here. A murderer…a murderer…a murderer…let that sink into your mind. Would you allow your child to take a gun and shoot himself? Would you allow your child to hang himself from the rafters of your garage? Would you allow your child to starve himself to death? The very thought is horrific. But those who do not make church attendance a top priority for themselves and their children are in effect doing this spiritually.
I recall reading a speech given by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in which he related how his grandparents insisted that he not miss school. They were convinced that if he were to succeed in life, he must faithfully attend school. Knowing the propensity of children to find excuses for missing school, his grandfather told him that even if he (Clarence) died, he would still take him to school for three days and sit by him just to make sure he wasn’t faking it. If this is true about school attendance, how much more is it true about church attendance.
I would like to give a special exhortation to fathers at this point. The business of public religion is not the sole domain of women. You are called to lead. Your children need to see that you are committed to church come hell or high water. You would not think of skipping a day on the job just because you felt like working on the house or the yard. Would you think of skipping something with even greater eternal weight – church attendance? Your children learn immensely from your example. Show them that God is the treasure of your heart, and make church attendance non-negotiable in your house.
Ryle continues: See to it, too, if it can be so arranged, that your children go with you to church, and sit near you when they are there. To go to church is one thing; but to behave well at church is quite another; and, believe me, there is no security for good behavior like that of having them under your own eye.
The minds of young people are easily drawn aside, and their attention lost; and every possible means should be used to counteract this. I do not like to see them coming to church by themselves; they often get into bad company by the way, and so learn more evil on the Lord’s day than in all the rest of the week. Neither do I like to see what I call “a young people’s corner” in a church. They often catch habits of inattention and irreverence there which it takes years to unlearn, if ever they are unlearned at all. What I like to see is a whole family sitting together, old and young, side by side – men, women, and children – serving God according to their households.
Ryle displays great wisdom here, and it accords with our practice as a church. We strongly encourage families to worship God together. [On this topic, please read "The Family: Together in God's Presence" by John and Noel Piper, and "A Call to Family Worship" by Ligon Duncan and Terry Johnson.] We intentionally do not have a “children’s church” during our worship time. Nowadays, this seems odd to many people because they are so used to doing things according to the ideology of our society and not according to the wisdom of Scripture. But Ryle has a word for these folks.
But there are some who say that it is useless to urge children to attend means of grace, because they cannot understand them. I would not have you listen to such reasoning. I find no such doctrine in the Old Testament. When Moses goes before Pharaoh (Ex 10:9) I observe he says, “We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord.” When Joshua read the law (Josh 8:35) I observe, “There was not a word which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.” … And when I turn to the New Testament, I find children mentioned there, as partaking in public acts of religion, as well as in the Old. When Paul was leaving the disciples at Tyre for the last time, I find it said (Acts 21:5), “They all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore and prayed.”
I would like to interrupt Ryle with an even stronger text supporting keeping children in the public worship of the church. Ephesians 6:1-3 gives direct instruction to children. Since this letter from the apostle was written to be read in the churches, P. T. O’Brien correctly comments: “It is obvious from these exhortations that the apostle thinks of local congregations as consisting of whole families who come together not only to praise God but also to hear his word addressed to them. As the household tables were read out, children too would learn of their own Christian duties as well as those of other family members.” We now return to Ryle.
Parents, comfort your minds with these examples. Be not cast down because your children see not the full value of the means of grace now. Only train them up to a habit of regular attendance. Set it before their minds as a high, holy, and solemn duty, and believe me, the day will very likely come when they will bless you for your deed.
AMEN. May it be so, Lord!
 Ryle here assumes that Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews. We do not know who the author was, but that is immaterial. Since it is part of inspired Scripture, it is authoritative.
 P. T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 440.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
1. It is important for the church to identify the ways the culture around us has misshaped or misunderstood how to live well in God's creation.
2. The church in its teaching and discipling of its members should encourage the convictions and practices that are necessary to restore wholeness to life.
3. Motivated by the need to love our neighbors and having demonstrated to the world the ways in which redeemed humanity is fulfilled humanity, it is the obligation of the church to announce to the world by word and deed the true character of the false gods under whose captivity people are suffering.
Under this last heading Myers made a good observation: "More frequently among influential evangelical leaders is a willing embrace of cultural disorder in order to show the world how up to date followers of Jesus can be, as if that would be a good thing. The world is asking for bread, and we are giving it a stone."
1.2 The Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, consists of the following books which together make up the Old and New Testaments: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiates, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation. All these books are given by the inspiration of God to be the rule or standard of faith and life. 2 Timothy 3:16.
1.3 The books commonly called the Apocrypha were not given by divine inspiration and are not part of the canon or rule of Scripture. Therefore they do not possess any authority in the church of God, and are to be regarded and used in the same way as other writings of men. Luke 24:27,44; Rom 3:2.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The two Alice books by Lewis Carroll are the finest literary fantasies ever written. They will last forever, and the Harry Potter books are going to wind up in the rubbish bin. The first six volumes have sold, I am told, 350 million copies. I know of no larger indictment of the world's descent into subliteracy.
(HT: Russell Moore)
- Knowing Christ means experiencing the power of his resurrection.
- Knowing Christ means experiencing participation in his sufferings.
- Knowing Christ results in being conformed to his death.
- Knowing Christ results in attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Do the Next Thing
From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the doors the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: “DO THE NEXT THING.”
Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, and guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrows, child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus, do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all results, do the next thing.
Looking for Jesus, ever serener,
Working or suffering, be thy demeanor;
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing.
Then, as He beckons thee, do the next thing.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Contrary to Dr. Mohler, I do not believe that we will ever find a truly biological basis or ultimate causation for sinful behavior. Biology is a factor, but never the ultimate basis. The reason I can make this claim is that the Scripture has already told us the basis or causation behind sinful actions. Sin comes from the heart (Matt 12:34; 15:18-19), which is a non-biological entity.
We sin because we are sinners. Sin has to do with more than our biology.
Now, I do believe, because of the Fall and the resultant corruption of our bodies, that there will be biological correspondence or biological participation [perhaps I should use the term "concurrence"] in our sinfulness. This biological participation in our sinfulness is a “factor” in our sinful actions, but it is never the ultimate cause. This applies to many situations, like ADHD or depression. This should be taken into account in our discipleship. We should seek to remedy any physical or biological problems that may contribute to the sinful behavior. Sometimes, for example, medication may help a drug addict get to the point where he can rationally consider the truth of Scripture that can set him free. Yet we should never blame the sinful behavior on the biological problem (and Dr. Mohler is clear that he would not blame the sinful behavior on biology).
Point number 9 caught my attention. What is the relationship between moral responsibility and moral choice? I agree with Dr. Mohler that we can be responsible for things that we do not consciously choose. We are all born sinful, and thus we naturally choose things that are sinful. Our own sin nature can lead us to unconsciously choose things that are wrong. Romans 1 teaches that all of us know God innately, yet we suppress this truth by means of our unrighteousness. This establishes a baseline responsibility for every human being.
Romans 1 also teaches that because of this rejection of God, God gives men up to dishonorable passions. These dishonorable passions are the result of God’s judgment, not the cause. Those spoken of in Romans 1 did not choose their sexual orientation directly; however, they did choose it indirectly by not honoring God as God or giving thanks to him. For all we know, God may send judgment by giving people biological propensities toward certain sinful behavior. Dr. Mohler is correct that “we do not always (or even generally) choose our temptations.” Nevertheless, we can still be liable for our propensity toward certain temptations because we have ingrained certain patterns of thinking or judgment which make us susceptible to certain temptations.
Perhaps the issue of our emotions can function as an analogy here. Do we choose our emotions? We generally do not think so. They just seem to “happen” to us. They are “pre-reflective.” Yet when we look more carefully at emotions, we find that they are cognitive value judgments. We respond almost intuitively to what threatens or enhances what we value, and this response is an expression of our hearts. When we have any given emotion, we are making a value judgment about the situation we are in. Thus we are responsible for our emotional lives, even when we do not consciously choose a given emotion.
Our emotions also provide a good parallel with the biological questions in this case. Is our biology involved in our emotions? Absolutely. In fact, because we are embodied creatures, our emotions necessarily have a physical or biological aspect to them, and this greatly influences the nature and intensity of our emotions. Yet are our emotions biologically determined? No. There is much more to our emotions than mere biology. Our whole value system, our desires (i.e. our will), our knowledge (or lack thereof), etc., all play vital roles in shaping our emotions.
So it is in this discussion of dishonorable passions. Sodomites may not consciously choose these passions. Nevertheless, they may not excuse them as biologically determined. They also may not say that their choices have nothing to do with their passions. They most certainly do. Thus I do not agree with Dr. Mohler’s statement, “We sin against homosexuals by insisting that sexual temptation and attraction are predominately chosen.” Although not consciously chosen, these temptations are chosen in the sense that we all naturally chose to think, feel, and act in wrong ways.
One more point. The Bible does indicate that there are different levels of responsibility (e.g. Luke 12:47-48). Therefore, when I say that homosexuals are fully responsible for their sinful propensities, this does not mean that they are all equally liable to the same penalty. Biological factors may enter into the level of responsibility one bears, in this case. (At this point, I am not convinced that there are any verifiable biological factors in homosexuality. Nevertheless, assuming for the sake of argument that there may be some, I proceed.) They may affect the level of liability to punishment to the degree that they affect one’s ability or freedom to do otherwise.
Here is an example in a different area. A woman having PMS may struggle with depression. Modern science tells us that there are biological factors involved in this temptation to be depressed. So, we understand when a woman has this temptation. We also can take steps to help with the biological factors, even simple things like getting enough rest and eating a good diet. I would say her liability is decreased by her physical condition. Still, we do not excuse sin. Her liability is not eliminated. She will still answer to God for how she handles her situation. And, if she is capable of taking some steps to help her biological issues, but does not do them, then she is responsible for that decision as well.
Similarly, knowledge or lack thereof may enter into the level of liability to punishment (e.g. 1 Tim 1:13). So, for instance, if a young man grows up in an environment where homosexuality is not only allowed but encouraged as good (think some places in ancient Greece), then his liability to punishment would be decreased. It would not, however, be eliminated, for the reasons that Romans 1:18-32 and 2:15-16 state. He has natural revelation and he has a conscience; therefore, he should reject sodomy, even though he has grown up in an environment that encourages it.
I say all this to indicate that I believe homosexuality, and even the tendency toward it, is a condition for which one is morally responsible. It is not based in biology. It comes from the heart. Even if there are biological factors involved, this will only vary the degree of liability to punishment, not the ultimate responsibility to God.
In closing, I would like to say that the ultimate resolution is found in Christ. Through his atonement, he saves all of his people from sin, whether it is homosexuality, pride, stealing, lying, laziness, dishonoring parents, fornication, or whatever. All of our ethical questions should drive us to the cross. That is where we find hope, deliverance, and true life.
 For a good discussion of this, see John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2002), ch. 8.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
VI. Train them to a habit of prayer.
Prayer is the very life breath of true religion. It is one of the first evidences that a man is born again. “Behold,” said the Lord of Saul, in the day he sent Ananias to him – “Behold he prayeth (Acts 9:11). He had begun to pray, and that was proof enough.
Prayer is the distinguishing mark of the Lord’s people in the day that there began to be a separation between them and the world. “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26).
Prayer is the peculiarity of all real Christians now. They pray – for they tell God their wants, their feelings, their desires, their fears. And mean what they say. The nominal Christian may repeat prayers, and good prayers, too, but he goes no further.
Prayer is the turning point in a man’s soul. Our ministry is unprofitable, and our labor is vain, till you are brought to your knees. Till then we have no hope about you.
Prayer is one great secret of spiritual prosperity. When there is much private communion with God, your soul will grow like the grass after rain – when there is little, all will be at a stand-still; you will barely keep your soul alive. Show me a growing Christian – a going forward Christian – a strong Christian – a flourishing Christian – and sure I am, he is one that speaks often with his Lord. He asks much, and he has much. He tells Jesus everything, and so he always knows how to act.
Prayer is the mightiest engine God has placed in our hands. It is the best weapon to use in every difficulty. And the surest remedy in every trouble. It is the key that unlocks the treasury of promises, and the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need. It is the silver trumpet God commands us to sound in all our necessity, and it is the cry he has promised always to attend to, even as a loving mother to the voice of her child.
Prayer is the simplest means that man can use in coming to God. It is within reach of all; the sick, the aged, the infirm, the paralytic, the blind, the poor, the unlearned – all can pray. It avails you nothing to plead want of memory, and want of learning, and want of books, and want of scholarship in this matter. So long as you have a tongue to tell your soul’s state, you may and ought to pray. Those words, “Ye have not because ye ask not” (Jas 4:2), will be a fearful condemnation to many in the day of judgment.
Are you convinced yet? God convicted my heart even as I was typing these words. If we measured the depth of our relationship with God by our prayer life, how shallow would we be? But I digress. Here is Ryle’s application of this to training our children. Please read it carefully and apply it diligently.
Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them up to a habit of prayer. Show them how to begin. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere. Remind them if they become careless and slack about it. Let it not be your fault, at any rate, if they never call on the name of the Lord.
This, remember, is the first step in religion which a child is able to take. Long before he can read, you can teach him to kneel by his mother’s side, and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise which she puts in his mouth. And as the first steps in any understanding are always the most important, so is the manner in which your children’s prayers are prayed a point which deserves your closest attention. Few seem to know how much depends on this. You must beware lest they get into a way of saying them in a hasty, careless, and irreverent manner. You must beware of giving up the oversight of this matter to servants and nurse [or, in our day, to teachers], or of trusting too much to your children doing it when left to themselves. I can not praise that mother who never looks after this most important part of her child’s daily life herself. [I would add here that the same is true of fathers (Eph 6:4).] Surely, if there be any habit which your own hand and eye should help in forming, it is the habit of prayer. Believe me, if you never hear your children pray yourself, you are much to blame. You are little wiser than the bird described in Job, “which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in the dust, and forgetteth that the foot may crush them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labor is in vain without fear” (Job 39:14-16).
Prayer is, of all habits, the one which we recollect the longest. Many a gray-headed man could tell you how his mother used to make him pray in the days of his childhood. Other things have passed away from his mind, perhaps. The church where he was taken to worship, the minister whom he heart preach, the companions who used to play with him – all these, it may be, have passed from his memory, and left no mark behind. But you will often find it is far different with his first prayers. He will often be able to tell you where he knelt, and what he was taught to say, and even how his mother looked all the while. It will come up as fresh before his mind’s eye as if it was but yesterday.
Reader, if you love your children, I charge you, do not let the seed-time of a prayerful habit pass away unimproved. If you train your children to anything, train them at least to a habit of prayer.
What tho' no flow'rs the fig tree clothe,
Tho' vines their fruit deny,
The labor of the olive fail,
And fields no meat supply?
Tho' from the fold, with sad surprise,
My flock cut off I see;
Tho' famine pine in empty stalls,
Where herds were wont to be?
Yet in the Lord will I be glad,
And glory in his love:
In him I'll joy, who will the God
Of my salvation prove.
He to my tardy feet shall lend
The swiftness of the roe;
Till, raised on high, I safely dwell
Beyond the reach of woe.
God is the treasure of my soul,
The source of lasting joy;
A joy which want shall not impair,
Nor death itself destroy.
I did a quick search online, and I was able to find this MIDI file of the tune (Wiltshire). Just click on the "click here to listen" button.