Sunday, March 29, 2009

CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part II--"For Such a Time as This -- The 1000-Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation"

#2 in an ongoing series on Christian Home Educators of Colorado 2009 "Men's Leadership Summit" (otherwise known as the "The Vision of the Leadership Summit") held in Indianapolis, Indiana, at one of the hotels owned by Bill Gothard's group over the weekend of March 5-7, 2009. Previous (and first) post in this series: 2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) "Men's Leadership Summit," Part I.

I should note that, in my last post on this theme, I was quoting from my informant's summary notes about the CHEC 2009 Men's Leadership Summit held at the Indianapolis Training Center of Bill Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles.

I decided, if I was going to report any more, I had better listen to the recordings from the meeting and convey very accurately the specific messages of those who spoke at the convention.

This post comes from the opening speech Kevin Swanson made to the convention on Thursday evening, March 5, 2009 and is available in full, audio form from


After some introductory comments about his family and his father-in-law's deathbed conversion from anti-Christian zealot to believer, Swanson transitioned to the primary subject of his speech, "The 1000 Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation."

He began with an expression of thanks:
Let's thank God for the men and women who went before us--the R.J. Rushdoonys, the Gordon Clarks, the Cornelius Van Tils--who created the materials that we are using today. I've also read some great materials written by Gregg Harris and Chris Klicka and Mike Farris. These guys were writing things in the 1980s that we are saying today. . . .

We here, today, stand on the shoulders of guys who went before us 20 and 30 years ago who started The Reformation of the 20th Century [the homeschool/home discipleship movement].

Let us also thank God for the many Deborahs and Esthers--the many, many women who were faithfully teaching their children in the '80s, '90s and 2000s. . . .

But if men don’t step up to the plate today, this Reformation will not move on. . . . We have been raised up for such a time as this.
And with that, he was off and running, first with a littany of societal failures.

Key points:
  • "Manhood has virtually become extinct. Men are not being men." Evidence for this claim:
    • 70% of young men, according to Newsweek magazine, are not grown up by 30 years of age. ("That's up from 35% in the 1970s.")
    • They don’t have steady jobs.
    • They are making less money than their parents did in the 1970s and less than women their same age.
    • They live at home with their parents.
    • More girls are in college and involved in student government than are young men. (57% of the people in college today are women; 43% men. "In our local public high school, where our church meets for worship, there are pictures for all the members of student council: 18 are women; three are little boys.")
    "I believe you're seeing, here, a picture of the future of this nation if men are not men."
By contrast,
  • 1 Samuel 23 shows us mighty men of God, the mighty men of David, men who, for a span of 40 years, had the opportunity to advance the kingdom of God. They were men of vision and courage. And we need such men today to discern the real dragons and take them on.

    "I believe, with the 480 men here, today, we can see some significant positive change in hundreds and hundreds of churches and families across America."
What are the dragons Swanson believes these men must slay?
  • "We need to engage in the battle of Ideas--the most dangerous battle today. We need to take down everything/every thought that puts itself above Christ."
  • "We need to engage in this conflict together."

    "People are engaged in vision-casting, but not involved in a battle for unity."

    Swanson noted that in Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul says, "I want you to strive [Swanson: "like a gladiator, fighting for your very life"] to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
  • We need to "destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God," and "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). But at the same time, we need to engage in the battle of love.
  • We need to give our lives.

    "I want men willing to die, to shed their blood for the Christ who shed His blood for us. Oh, would that God would make us willing to bleed for the Kingdom, to bleed for the truth, and to bleed for the love of the brothers!"

    Therefore, "Don't you dare bring your vision to the dinner table where you are slicing differences between brothers. No. You engage in vision-casting as you bring brothers together at the same time.
And with those principles in mind, then, Swanson noted, "I have been working with many of you on a Homeschool Manifesto. But I'm not bringing the Homeschool Manifesto out to split the homeschool movement. No! I'm bringing a vision, a manifesto, that we can agree upon. . . . "

At this point, then, he inserted a side note about the Manifesto many of the men who attended the Summit expected they were going to be working on:
By the way, we are going to put off the publishing of the Manifesto. We're not doing it this week, because we don't think we have cultivated it enough. We're going to give you an outline, a preview of that Manifesto. And we're going to beg for your wisdom, for your vision, as we continue to mold this vision of a Christian education manifesto for the 21st century.

I think it's about time we had such a manifesto because, number one, education is falling apart in America. Our culture is falling apart. And the culture, the social system, is a derivative of the educational system. And the political system is a derivative of the social system. And it's all falling apart. Is that clear to anybody who has picked up the Wall Street Journal lately . . . or any newspaper? Our world is falling apart! I mean, the character of this nation is in free-fall. [He then recapitulated the statistics he quoted already plus a lot, lot more--a very grim report about Western culture and how it is destroying everything it touches.] . . .

Call it what you will, existentialistic, humanistic, materialistic, whatever it is, it is enveloping our culture, our academic system, our universities, our economic system. It is raging. And if our little children even get one little toe in that river, it will suck them through and [make] them join the millions upon millions of Christian children who have been taken into this river.
It's against this bleak backdrop of a virtually irredeemable culture that Swanson then builds his case for a new model, a new vision for education--not education; not homeschooling, but discipleship and nurture.

He begins with a little intellectual history lesson and a statement of how he, himself, would prefer we teach world history--the history of what he calls the City of God and the City of Man.

What is the source of all the cultural decay he summarized for us?
I think we're coming to the end of an about 1000-year project of building the City of Man.

The City of Man is built by the Cains of this world, the humanists, those that refuse to fear and love and worship the living God. It is their project. And this project has been worked on for the last 1000 years. . . .

[W]hat we see over the last 1000 years is the slow growth of the modern empires, beginning with the Holy Roman Empire, moving on to the Spanish Empire, then the French Empire, then the English Empire, and, finally, the American Empire. . . .
"We need to teach our children the history" of these empires, says Swanson. "About 30 seconds for the City of Man."

What is the City of Man?
  • Egypt. It builds its towers, then they fall down.

  • Assyria does the same.

  • Then Persia.

  • Then Greece.

  • Then the Romans.

  • Then the Spaniards.

  • The French.

  • The English.

  • The Americans.
They all fall down.

That's the history of the City of Man. And that's all our children need to know. About 30 seconds.

THEN we need to take about four years to teach them about the City of God--church history, what God is doing around the world. We should take about four years to teach about the City of God, the Kingdom that will never die. "We want to give our children a radically different education than what they will get in the City of Man."

"Schaeffer said that the City of Man always builds its towers so high that they all fall down. They start with optimism, but they end in pessimism." That's why these empires begin with tremendous literature, and then they stop writing. "It all ends in pessimism . . . because they are not focused on the eternal, the Kingdom that will last forever."

  • Swanson mentioned several examples of optimistic literature with which various (modern European) empires began and then contrasted those to Nietsche, Schopenhauer, Jean Paul Sartre, the Existentialists, and so forth.

  • In terms of popular culture:

    • "The '80s most popular hit was 'My grandfather's clock' ("My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf, so it stood 90 years on the floor . . ."). --Yes, the '80s. The 1880s."

    Contrast that to

    • The most popular album two years ago which included a song that referred to the singer's mother as a female dog. Or

    • The #1 song last year--it spent 8 weeks as #1 on the charts--was by Katy Perry, a pastor's daughter . . . "and it encourages girls to be lesbians!" [Well, not quite. Though it definitely comes close. The song is titled "I Kissed a Girl (and I liked it)." --JAH]
"How do we get to the culture we have today? From a fairly Christian Europe to a thoroughly secular culture we have today?"

Swanson suggests,
It all started back about 1000 years ago when Aquinas said [Summa, Part I, Question 1, Article 1--"Whether, besides philosophy, any further doctrine is required?"--JAH], "Theology, included in sacred doctrine, differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy." What he says is, "You've got your Christian theology over here. You've got yourself about the trinity, about the redemption, about the atonement, about the incarnation. You've got all that over here. And then we've got our philosophy over here and that's the stuff the Greeks gave us. That's science, that's physics, and that's chemistry. And never the twain shall meet. They don't have contact with one another. They are not a division of one another. They are just separate forms of learning."

Moreover he says [Summa, Part I, Question 1, Article 2--"Whether sacred doctrine is a science?"--JAH], "[J]ust as the musician accepts on authority the principles taught him by the mathematician, so sacred science is established on principles revealed by God."

So you've got the authority of the scientists and the mathematicians over here, and you've got the authority of God over here. And he has this radical separation in mind.

And why is this important? Because this is the beginning of the secular university. This produces the intellectual apology for Christians to engage in building the City of Man.

See, Christians wouldn't have been involved in these things--Christians wouldn't have gotten into these horrific systems that leave God out--if they weren’t taught a thousand years ago that you can have your theology over here and your philosophy over here, and these things are separate things.
[I am sorely tempted to comment on what he says at this point, but I would like to let him finish his "argument," and then I will say a few things. So let us continue. --JAH]

Illustrations of this radical separation:

  • In seminary: "I never had a seminary professor ask me about my personal walk with God. If you have seminary professors teaching theology without getting involved in nurturing and discipling, you've got a problem."

  • A 13-year-old girl from his church was babysitting a three-year-old girl who, the babysitter knew, went with her parents to a certain mega-church in the area. At one point in the evening, something happened so that the 13-year-old said to the 3-year-old, "We need to praise God for this." And the 3-year-old replied, "No we don't! We only do that on Sunday!"

  • I do not understand how 35% of evangelical young people could vote for Barack Obama.

  • Book in Barnes & Noble called Galaxy. "'The heavens declare the glory of God . . . '--but that verse was never mentioned in the book. God is nowhere mentioned in the book."

"Guys," says Swanson, "if you teach science, if you teach chemistry, . . . don't you dare to do it without stopping from time to time and saying, '. . . Children, let's worship [the God who made these things]. Get down on your knees and worship the God who made these things.'"
Universities haven't taught that way in hundreds of years. I'll tell you, that's what's ruining chemistry and biology and science in our modern age. It's a scary thing what's happening. You teach science without the fear of God for a hundred years, I fear what they will do to that science. They'll destroy it.
As an example of what he expects dads to do, he tells of a science class his family held centered on the dissection of a road-kill raccoon his wife picked up one day on her way home from the store. Apparently, they invited a number of other families to join in the lesson. There were "about 25 kids and moms" all ready to begin when, Swanson says,
I said, "Let's lift our hands and praise the God Who made this animal. Let's worship God in this. . . . Have you made a raccoon like this lately? . . . Let's worship God." So we worshiped God together. We lifted our hands and we worshiped God who made this beautiful raccoon. . . . I know that's weird because we're a thousand years away from doing that kind of stuff. But we've got to restore "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge" in all of these various areas of life.

I believe that the reformation of the modern era began in the 1960s . . . with Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb who said, "There is a God who made these things."

I know that evolutionism and deism and Unitarianism has distanced us from God over 200 years of our history. And we have been learning these things in laboratories that have not been teaching the fear of God and the worship of God. There has been nobody trembling before this God as they wonder at His universe. And, by the way, this is one reason why science is so dull. Because you take a book like Galaxy, and you gut God from that book, and you start saying, "Hey, it was chance that put it together. There is no purpose, no meaning in any of that. It's just a random event that create-- . . . I'm sorry. It just happened. . . ." --When they complete their explanation of the metaphysic, we're all wondering why we should stand in wonder about all these things. . . .

If you can't fear a personal God Who is behind it, Who made all this, then you have no reason to be interested or engaged or in amazement in any chemistry class or astronomy class or biology class.

May God help us to restore these things.
Another point:

If you had the choice to subject your children either to four hours a day of study under a public school teacher or four hours a day of interaction with their peers--one or the other but not both: which would you choose? I think, with the average child, I would go with the teacher. Why is that? . . . Because, it turns out, the people who do the most to discipleship, the most education, the most training in terms of a child's education, academics, attitude, perspectives, etc., etc., are not so much the teacher as Hollywood. The Hannah Montanas, the Eminems and the Nicholas Cages and the Katy Perrys of the world that have a tremendous amount of influence upon the attitudes, the perspectives, the dress, the language of our children--far more than the average teacher. And this is why we are concerned. [Not sure who, exactly, the "we" is in this sentence. But that is the word Swanson used. "We are concerned." --JAH]

We see a raging river that is sucking our children into an alternate worldview, an alternate perspective, an alternate culture, an alternate social system. And we think that's extremely dangerous, and therefore, brothers, I'm telling you, where we are today is desperate times. And desperate times call for desperate measures. And this, I believe, is why you are here today. And this is why about 95% of our Christian friends out there don't understand what we are doing. They think we are pretty whacked. They think we are the radical right fringe of the Christian movement. That's because they believe there is a tiny little dent on the fender of their social system and that's about it, and there isn't something principally wrong with the way we've been educating in our private schools, even--our Christian schools as well as our public schools.

[But] we've got to reassess the way we are educating our children from the bottom up. "Desperate times call for desperate measures."
And so the solution? The "desperate measures"?
I think the solution we are talking about this weekend is . . . found in Deuteronomy 6:7.

[In] Deuteronomy 6:7 God says, "I want you to teach your children My Word as you sit in your house, as you walk by the way, as you rise up, as you lie down. I want it to be integrated and I want it to be like a frontlet between the eyes. Write it on the posts of your gates and on your house. Write it on the walls. Put it all over the place.

"I want your children to run into Me all the time, always confronted with the existence, the importance, the relevance, the fear and the reverence of Me. I don't want your children ever, ever, ever to get the impression they can go to Sunday school and learn their little God stuff on Sunday, but then Monday through Saturday they can enjoy their godless education, their godless art, their godless culture, their godless Eminem, their godless rape rap, or what have you. No! I want My Word to be integrated into every aspect of their lives. I want them to live in the atmosphere of the fear of God all the time. As the Proverbs say, ' . . . all the day long.'

"I don't want them ever to have the impression that they can pray on Sunday and do whatever they want the rest of the week."

Brothers, this begins by bringing the fear of God and passionate worship and the confession of our sins right into the algebra class.

I'm tired of segregating these things. And if I ever do any other kind of classes where I'm teaching anybody but my own children, I'm going to do the same thing I do with my own children: we are going to be on our knees worshiping God. We are going to be confessing our sins . . . as we study chemistry . . . because God says, "I want you to teach your children My truth as you sit in your house. You see, I want you to take the truth, the reality, the absolute truths, the ethics of God, the laws of God, the perspectives of God, and teach them My worldview, My truth, in the womb of relationship."

And I say we call that discipleship.

And that, brothers, is the Manifesto.

We are going to bring back the relevance of God. We're going to bring back worship, bring back confessions, bring back relationships in the education of our children.
Swanson describes some of the things he witnessed in the Christian school where, when he first started his church, he rented office space.
  • He says he saw a boy "[drop] his pants for a girl in the hallway."

  • And he heard a lot of "yelling and disrespectful language" and kids "taking God's name in vain." And in the midst of all this kind of behavior, a teacher stops the class and says, "Let's pray." Which they do. And then he has them open their "pagan textbooks which had no mention of God at all; God was irrelevant to these textbooks."
"Guys," says Swanson, "I think that's a travesty! If God made this world, I think He deserves a little more credit for it. And it bothers me when you've got these Aquinasites in these Christian schools that are saying, 'We'll have our little prayer over here, but, boy, that prayer, that relationship with God is sure not going to touch the way we do science. It's sure not going to touch the way we walk through the hallways. It's sure not going to touch the way we speak disrespectfully to the teachers in the classroom. . . .'"

A few moments later, Swanson makes a confession.
I taught in Christian schools myself and I tell you . . . I don't remember wading into some kid's life and discipling him. Now that is to my shame, but that is just what we did . . . at least in the early 90s when I was teaching in the Christian school movement.

As you read the Word of God what do you find? You don't find the word education. What do you find? You find words like discipleship, nurture, hearts ("My son, give me your heart." [Proverbs 23:26]). Can you remember a teacher say, "My student, give me your heart"? Did you ever have a college professor do that? "William, I'm concerned about you"? That's not taught in teaching colleges. They're not taught about hearts. They're not taught about relationships. They're not taught about discipleship and nurture and love. Maybe love. But I just don't think we've uncovered these things enough.

We need to call [Christians] to use words like discipleship and nurture. Stop talking schools with me. Don't talk about education with me. Let's not talk about home education and Christian education, Christian schools. Let's talk about discipleship. Let's talk about a focus on faith and character. Let's focus on the discipling of a child.
To make the distinction he's trying to make absolutely clear, Swanson notes that, if the public schools were ever to collapse . . . so that those who currently send their children to the public schools were to begin teaching their children at home, that wouldn't solve any of the great societal problems he mentioned.

Discipleship, however, "teaching to obey all things Jesus commanded us": that is transformative.
So, brothers, let's restore the concept of discipleship in our homes and in our families. Let's take the arms of those little children and say, "Let me lead you to Jesus. Let me teach you about Christ." Let's nurture them in these relationships. Let's nurture them in the algebra class. Let's disciple them in the chemistry class. Let's worship God in the physics class. And then we'll shock everybody when we begin confessing our sins in the geography class.

That's education!
Swanson closed with an appeal to teach a few deeply rather than the many in only the shallowest manner.
"See," he says, "what I see happening throughout Christian history, . . . is a trade-off between quality and quantity. . . .
[O]ver the last 200 years, thanks to the 19th-century missionary movement--and I praise God for it--we have had a massive increase in the quantity of the Christian faith in places like Africa and Asia. And I say, praise God for that. But at the same time, most of that Christianity went a mile wide and an inch deep. Now I think we need to make a very important, deliberate strategy change in the way that we do missions, evangelism, Kingdom work on Planet Earth and that is to apply ourselves to more of a quality effort in establishing the Kingdom of God.
And where will that quality effort come from?

First and foremost, from Christian families discipling their children--and in the case of the men who were listening to him speak, from the fathers discipling their sons in the way they should go.

John's Commentary

I want to begin my commentary by noting that I agree with much of Swanson's analysis, most of his attitudes, and, over-all, his revulsion at the way our culture--and most of the evangelical Christian subculture--has gone (and is still going).

I can't imagine responding in any different way. The stuff that is happening is truly horrifying.

I agree, too, with the majority of his prescription for solution. Let us "go deep." (Indeed, that is what my wife and I attempted with our own kids while they were living at home and we homeschooled them; it is what we continue to do even today as they are now young adults in their 20s and very early 30s. We continue to speak into their lives. Regularly. Not only--nor, necessarily, even, primarily, by words. But by deeds. How we live our lives.)

But then. Then. Then there is something--I have a hard time putting my finger on it, but there is something--I just can't quite go along with in what he says.

[ETA at 4:00 p.m. on 3/29/09] I can identify and fairly easily parse one piece that bothers me. From his conclusions surrounding the raccoon story.

He says he called his children and the other students to worship God. "So we worshiped God together. We lifted our hands and we worshiped God who made this beautiful raccoon."

I think that's beautiful.

And I appreciated his comment about the feelings such behavior tends to engender:
I know that's weird because we're a thousand years away from doing that kind of stuff. But we've got to restore "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge" in all of these various areas of life.
I know what he's talking about. I get some of the same feelings sometimes (though not much, anymore, since these have become such deeply engrained "habits of life" after years of practice; but . . . ). I get those feelings sometimes when I have to interrupt someone at the start of a business meeting at Sonlight: "Hold on a second! We start our meetings with prayer!" (Clearly, what is habitual and "normal" for us, who have led the company for several years, is not habitual for any of our external advisors nor most of our employees.) Or when our family goes to a restaurant and bows for prayer.

So I'm "all up with him" in this matter of worship.

But I have a harder time with his comment about "the reformation of the modern era began in the 1960s . . . with Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb who said, 'There is a God who made these things.'"

I'm sorry. Weren't any other evangelical Christians saying God had made--or created (even ex nihilo)--everything there is?

Even if they didn't advocate for a young-earth and/or instantaneous, God-spoke-it-and-poof-it-came-into-existence kind of scenario, is it legitimate to suggest that these, our spiritual forebears, didn't say, "There is a God who made these things"?

Having said what I just said, however, I find my heart beating in rhythm with what Swanson says about how "evolutionism and deism and Unitarianism has distanced us from God."

And it disturbs me every bit as much as it seems to disturb Swanson that--I dare say--very, very few Christians have been teaching "the fear of God and the worship of God" in the sciences in the last 100 years or more. Our advocacy for methodological naturalism comes far too close, far too often, to real ontological naturalism (as I discussed in my post on Seeking to distinguish "methodological" from "ontological" naturalism). Far too often, I'm afraid, we really do operate (as I confessed I operate too often) as "functional atheists."

And so I applaud Swanson when he seeks to indict us for failing to tremble before God as we wonder at His universe. Swanson is onto something when he says, "[Y]ou take a book like Galaxy, and you gut God from that book, and you start saying, 'Hey, it was chance that put it together. There is no purpose, no meaning in any of that. It's just a random event that create-- . . . I'm sorry. It just happened. . . .'" --You do that, and, I agree, there is good reason to ask "why we should stand in wonder about all these things. . . ."

And I join him in praying that God will help us to restore the fear of God as the recognized beginning of wisdom in our culture.

At the same time, however, I'm not convinced he and his friends "have it right" when they suggest the only proper, the only possible solution to the perceived purposelessness of our culture is to be found in a young-earth, poof-God-made-it-appear-in-an-instant "metaphysic."

He (and they) may be right. But, as I've been discussing here in John's Corner of the World, I sense the young-earther's philosophically-based opposition to the so-called "random chance" aspects of modern evolutionary theory not only fail to reply appropriately to the challenges raised by atheists when it comes to the modern theory of evolution, but it fails to respond properly to the philosophical problems in Christian theology associated with God's sovereignty over apparent randomness, chance, and chaos ("chaos theory") as these relate to everyday issues . . . whether the throw of the dice, the flipping of a coin, or any other apparently unpredictable event.

It doesn't help us understand--nor seem to show much confidence in--God's sovereign oversight of history. If God is acknowledged by Christians as only in control when He controls through obviously miraculous means, then it appears there is something wrong with the statements found in such passages as Proverbs 16:33 ("The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from [Jehovah]."); Proverbs 16:9 ("The mind of man plans his way, But [Jehovah] directs his steps."); Proverbs 21:31 ("The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to [Jehovah]."); and so forth. (See the section on "Historical Science" in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 2c - Evolution and Creation - Excursus 2: Science.)


Moving on.

Perhaps it is his own It's not quite as clear to me, but I think some of my discomfort with Swanson's speech comes from his extension of the bifurcation Aquinas noted in his Summa essays.

Swanson pulled two sentences--in fact, two pieces of sentences--from larger sections. And when I read those portions-of-sentences within context, I get a different sense, a different meaning, than what Swanson (and, potentially, many others) may have pulled from them.

For example, the first quote: "[T]heology included in sacred doctrine differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy." That is the final sentence in a longer (though only an 8-1/2" x 11" page long) article in which Aquinas notes that, in accordance with what we learn from 2 Timothy 3:16 (as well as other Scriptures), "It was necessary for man's salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason." Yet there are truths which God has granted us humans to learn by means other than the Scriptures. Thus, "the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round"--a conclusion learned not from Scripture but from these "philosophical sciences."

Yet Swanson seems bent on criticizing Aquinas for making that observation. Why? Is he trying to make points where none, rightly, ought to be made?

Then again, he says,
[W]hy [are these things that Aquinas says] important? Because this is the beginning of the secular university. This produces the intellectual apology for Christians to engage in building the City of Man.

See, Christians wouldn't have been involved in these things--Christians wouldn't have gotten into these horrific systems that leave God out--if they weren’t taught a thousand years ago that you can have your theology over here and your philosophy over here, and these things are separate things.
And I think, "What are you talking about? God's people have always been involved in culture-building, the same kinds of activities that Swanson identifies as "building the City of Man."

God has called His people to the responsibilities of fiduciaries, the responsibilities of stewards, the responsibilities of exercising dominion under His dominion. And responsibilities include--and have always included--food gathering or production; the building of houses; the caring for children; protection with lethal force, if necessary; trade. . . .

The question is not whether Christians are permitted to "engage in building the City of Man." The question is, "whom will we serve" while doing it (Joshua 24:15)?

Sadly, I have seen many Christians--even those who are outspokenly in line with the Swanson/Phillips/Baucham camp--engage in building their own "Cities of Man." Perhaps their empires are no larger than the influence they exert on their own families and the people and groups they directly touch outside their families.1 But the fact remains: the key question is and always will be--even moment by moment: "Whom will you serve . . . now?" And, "How will you serve?"

Suppose I determine to honor God through analyzing weather patterns (which analysis may contribute to the saving of human lives, the protection of crops, or all manner of other "City of Man" kinds of benefits). And suppose I engage in that kind of activity through the use of complex computer models created on supercomputers developed by God-hating atheists: Is all my work for naught, because, somehow, I am building the City of Man?

Listening to Swanson, I get the idea he thinks such work would, indeed, be defective for just such reasons.

But I don't think so.

On the other hand, perhaps I am missing his point.


There are a couple of final things I would like to note.

"It bothers me," he says, "when you've got these Aquinasites in these Christian schools that are saying, 'We'll have our little prayer over here, but, boy, that prayer, that relationship with God is sure not going to touch the way we do science. It's sure not going to touch the way we walk through the hallways. It's sure not going to touch the way we speak disrespectfully to the teachers in the classroom. . . .'"

I wonder who he means to be criticizing with these words.

It sounds as if he is criticizing the Christian school teacher himself for calling his class to prayer in the midst of all manner of coarse and God-dishonoring behavior. It sounds as if he is criticizing the school administrators and those who support such schools.

But isn't it the students (primarily) who ought to be called on the carpet for their failure to recognize God in their daily activities?

Oh, yes! The teachers (and, probably more, the parents), I have no doubt, need to call their children to account for their behavior. But the heart change is something that has to take place in the God-dishonoring students themselves.

Now, Swanson criticizes the Christian school for using a "pagan" textbook. And perhaps the criticism is deserved. I don't know what book they were using nor the alternatives available to them. I don't know to what degree the instructor may have wrestled with the text to note its deficiencies in the hearing of his students.

Perhaps his teaching was wholly inadequate, and he, himself, needs a major dose of education and discipleship so he begins to see God's hand at work in and through the very subject matter he is attempting to teach.

But I think I'd like to throw Swanson's comment a bit back in his lap. He obviously doesn't like that "little prayer" offered in the midst of a crowd of students who have, themselves, clearly not bought-in to a vibrant Christian faith.

But what should we say about the "little worship" (or even "big worship") Swanson wants to tack on to all his science, math, and "even" geography classes? Suppose his own children (or whoever is present for one of his lessons) happens not to believe in God or desire to serve God: is Swanson's worship, then, invalid? Or is it, for some reason, more valid or efficacious than the "little prayer" of the teacher he implicitly criticizes in the Christian school classroom?

I'd like to press the point one step further. What if a teacher in the Christian school (or public school) were to take Swanson's admonition to "nurture" and "disciple" to heart? What if such a teacher were to do the very thing Swanson says he never did when he was a teacher in the Christian school? Might that teacher have a profound impact on his or her students?

(I believe he or she would.)

Let me confess: My kids have been nurtured and discipled by a caring Christian teacher or two in the public high school where they attended. They received similar ministry from Christian professors at the universities and colleges where they attended. I was nurtured and discipled by some Navigator disciplers when I attended Michigan State back in the mid-1970s. I am very grateful for all these people's ministries.

I think it is fine for Swanson to call us to deeper and more effective ministry to our children and others--both children and adults. But I don't think it is necessary or right for him to suggest (or, at least, strongly imply) that only he and his group and those who follow him--and no one else--"does it right."


Finally: I really appreciate his call for us to seek the hearts of the next generation. May we do that very thing.

May it be said of us, or of our children after us:

"Thank you, teacher, for saying, 'Give me your heart.' Thank you, professor, for saying, '_________, I'm concerned about you.' --Your personal concern made a profound difference in my life."

1 4 April 2009, 11:59 AM emendation: This sentence originally featured a parenthetical clause that offered an example of such City-of-Man empire-building: "failing to pay legitimate bills, for example, while keeping funds for [one's own family]."

The clause included two links to a site that, when I wrote this article, gave documentary evidence for such behavior on the part of a modestly well-known "leader" in homeschool circles--someone who was present at the 2009 CHEC Men's Leadership Summit but did not speak.

Under threat of legal action for making such information known, the owner of the website I referenced has since removed the documentation.

Since I have no direct or personal knowledge of the situation; since I now lack the documentary evidence to back the example; and since I, myself, do not want to become embroiled in a lawsuit; I have decided to remove the reference.


This circumstance, however, has gotten me thinking about a new idea. I have posted a separate post to cover that idea.

Return to text.

Next post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part III - "The Battle for Faith and Family".
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