Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Being FP

I came across this article on Cath's blog about Free Presbyterian cultural identity.  I found it quite interesting and thought I would share here, though of course I must add the caveat that this is FP culture as seen through the eyes of one Scottish FP, and perhaps other FPs might differ with a few points.  For instance, FPs in the US and Canada--and a growing handful in Scotland--don't share the antipathy towards homeschooling, and find the association of homeschooling with monasticism to be particularly baffling (one can only assume that the Scots are not actually familiar with how homeschooling families usually operate).  But I digress.  Here is the link:

1893 and all that

Skip to the next-to-last paragraph if you're in a hurry. :)

While I'm linking, here is Cath's brief history of the FP church. 


Edit:  I'm tagging this post with "homeschooling" since that's the direction the comment discussion has taken. 


  1. Antipathy is too strong, i would think ... more of an eye-roll really, if that makes it any better :-)

    Monasticism - just the idea that the everyday life gets too difficult for our spirituality, and so we must retreat into safer-feeling spaces of our own making. Lack of interest in/ effort towards relationships outside of the religious community. (As measured by diversity as opposed to numerousness of social contacts.) Etc.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Cath, and sorry it took me so long to reply; our internet was crawling yesterday, and I could hardly get any pages to load!

    I would say more now but would like to take the time to reply thoughtfully, so I'll comment again later. :)

  3. I would add if one equates homeschool with monasticism, then they're doing homeschooling wrong.

  4. Agreed, Andrew. :)

    It's funny how differently homeschooling is perceived here...I just went to the post office with the boys. Elijah had his nose in a [thick] book as usual, and the clerk wanted to know "Can he really read that? How old is he?" etc. and when I told her he was five, her reaction was interesting: "Wow! So, are you gonna homeschool him?"

    Now it's not like I was wearing a long denim skirt (stereotypical homeschooler attire, for those of you unfamiliar with homeschoolers' inside jokes). So where did her question about homeschooling come from? Hmmm.

    Anyway, I said yes and she said "Oh, good, good," and we talked for a few minutes about schooling/education. (She is not a homeschooling mom herself.) Interesting conversation.

  5. Actually there was indeed a great deal of opposition and resistance initially to home-schooling on the part of the FP church, especially from some of the senior ministers. It was no secret, and we North American homeschoolers were forewarned before seeking membership.

    Fortunately though we also had allies, (some FP ministers, some elders and members), who interceded for us, both privately and at the Synod, when we sought preaching station status. To us, it was providence, and a fulfilling of the scripture:

    When Zion’s bondage God turned back, as men that dreamed were we,
    Then filled with laughter was our mouth, our tongue with melody.

    Something we had waited for - some of us - for over 20 years.

    Since that time, over ten years ago now, many FP’s, including ministers with young children, have seriously considered homeschool. (We’ve fielded many a question.) They know, sadly, that the days of godly schoolmasters, collective worship with other students, and catechism exercises are numbered. At least for now.

    They are appalled at the diminishing numbers of young members, and are realizing where the problem lies. Good news.

    (But they know and believe also in better days to come, and that the gates of hell will not prevail, and that ultimately God “shall cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all nations.”)

    When the Titanic was sinking, many were in disbelief that such a mighty ship could perish, and consistently refused lifeboats, choosing rather to cling to the mirage of safety afforded by the fateful ship that had carried them so far so comfortably, until it was too late, to their shock and horror.

  6. Sharon, I would be interested to hear your thoughts. (I've been away myself for a couple of days, so no worries about slow replies.)

    It's certainly no secret that the majority of F.P.s are not in favour of homeschooling for themselves (although I still think that antipathy is too strong a term). There are however real concerns about how it fits in the Establishment Principle framework, given Scotland's historical situation, and there are also real concerns about the "world flight" which it seems to embody.

    I amn't aware of anyone in the FP Church who thinks that homeschooling ought not to be available as an option for families who want to go ahead with it. However it also needs to be recognised that choosing not to homeschool is also a valid and respectable option for Christian parents to take. The rhetoric from many homeschoolers (not intending to refer to anyone in present company) can sometimes come across as rather over-insistent that homeschooling is uniquely God-honouring out of all the options, and by implication that parents who decide against homeschooling are acting in a less than Christian way and against the best interests of their children. This kind of rhetoric (and obviously any aspersions cast in the opposite direction) has a serious tendency to hamper calm discussion of the topic.

    (It might sound from Mr Smith's post that homeschooling was the obstacle which for 20 years prevented him and his family from joining the FP Church, btw, which I don't think can have been the case.)

  7. Oh dear, Cath, I would really like to reply to your comment right now, but I know that composing a reply could easily take me a while, and I really ought to be cleaning house and cooking. So I am afraid I will have to postpone response until early next week. :)

  8. I've been thinking that I'm not clear what the Establishment Principle has to do with sending your children to a state school. Perhaps you could clarify what you meant by that, Cath, before I attempt to interact with it on Monday?

    UK homeschoolers, how would you describe the attitudes towards homeschooling that you have encountered? I suspect that many homeschoolers in the UK would say that they have experienced reactions a lot stronger than eye-rolling. If any UK homeschoolers wish to chime in here, they are welcome to do so (I can assure you that this is a "safe" place to comment, in the sense that absolutely no derogatory comments towards homeschooling or homeschoolers will be published.)

  9. The Est.Princ. says that church and state are both divinely ordained institutions, and while they have their own distinct jurisdictions (which the other can't interfere with) there are areas of mutual interest/concern where Church and State can beneficially cooperate.

    In Scotland, there were perhaps 2 ways that this principle was put into practice, historically - one, the State "established" the Church (provided church buildings, manses, ministers' stipends, etc) and two, through the education system.

    Apart from national recognition of (the true) religion, the education system is the most obvious place where church and state have overlapping interests and where cooperation is most clearly called for. An educated population is good for the church and good for the state, and so it proved for a couple of hundred years.

    Historically, a state school did not automatically mean 'secular' or 'place where church has no role to play' or even 'place where national govt has much input into curriculum' (which is still largely true in Scotland). Saying now that church members should withdraw from the education system because the state is getting it so wrong, is a bit like (not exactly like, but a bit like) saying that the church should withdraw from social/charitable action because the welfare system is so trouble-ridden, ie, it doesn't follow. (Quite apart from the question of exactly *how* wrong it is, which is also debatable.)

    I mean that provision of education, and provision of welfare, *can* both be legitimately and beneficially done by the state *or* by the church, but they are both areas where the greatest benefit (according to the EP) comes from church and state acting in cooperation with each other. That might not sound feasible or even desirable to some US brethren, but it has been a reality and a success in Scotland's not terribly distant past.

    (Sorry again for the slow reply. I don't see a way of getting automatic notifications of new comments on your blog - fraid i rely quite heavily on notifications!)

  10. Thanks for your clarification, Cath.

    I agree that the church and state both benefit from an educated population. Perhaps that could be best achieved by church and state cooperation; but the reality is, today, the church and state are *not* "working together" to provide education. The church's influence in Scottish schools has dwindled greatly, and I don't think it's likely that the state and secular society will allow greater church involvement any time soon.

    I recognize that there are some districts where the church still has a greater influence, but I understand those to be exceptions.

    Of course the church ought to strive for greater influence in the state schools; and I would assume that conscientious FPs are already doing this. Meanwhile, however, in my opinion (which is shared by at least a few others, I might add), the church ought to participate in the education of its youth (and others') by providing schools of its own.

    This is not to say that homeschooling would no longer be necessary if the church provided schools. The Scriptures relating to the training of children are directed at parents. The ultimate responsibility for a child's education rests with the parents. Parents can choose to delegate portions of that education to others, of course, but parents who wish to provide the education themselves certainly ought to be welcome to do so, and should have the active support of the church.

    Regarding your earlier comments, Cath, about "monasticism" and "world flight": firstly I am a little perplexed because it seems to me that fleeing from worldly influences is surely a good idea; you know, "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate" and all that.

    But perhaps you are saying that homeschoolers are isolating themselves to such a degree that they are no longer able to be a light and a witness to the world. I would have to say that this is simply not the case with the majority of homeschooling families I know.

    There is much more I could say, but I'll try to restrain myself long enough to allow for response. :) Anyone with an opinion, feel free to jump in.

  11. To clarify my last post, there was opposition at the time towards some FP home-schoolers in Scotland, not we Americans seeking membership (that we knew of). And we heard about the opposition through the grapevine (it didn’t deter us though, we believed gospel bonds would trump education, and that turned out to be the case).

    We felt very welcome by the church, and were encouraged to pursue membership (through the Chesley congregation at the time), and it all went smoothly.

    And by “intercession” I meant there were those who had come to know us and could vouch for our walk, testimony, beliefs, etc. (very necessary of course). Guess I kind of scrambled things there in my previous comments. If there indeed was any intercession involving home-school we weren’t really aware of it (I would say though, looking back, that there probably was at least some).

    We were in the dark about the church for over ten years (providence), then it took another ten years or so to form a sufficient bond that would result in membership. The entire story is full of amazing providences, enough to make one’s head spin, in a good way. (Enough to write a book, which we’ve been encouraged to do!)

    We use to read about A. W. Pink and his adventures in a strange and faraway place called Stornoway. “Ah, that must be IT,” we thought. Just a day or so after having a ‘meeting of the minds’ w/ Mr. Watkins on his first visit over, I was in a fast-food place and heard these lyrics:

    “If only you believed like I believe, we’d get by. If only you believed in miracles, so would I.”

    And Catherine, do you remember your dad attending to Joseph on our first visit over there, when he was having a “heart-attack?” That was funny.

  12. Lots I could say here,many interesting issues. Out of time for now, but will pop back soon I hope.

    H: FP minister's daughter, one time FP elder's wife and pretty much the only "born and bred FP" who was home educating when we started.
    There are a few of us now, but not many (and in every case it is assumed that the "FP" who home educates is influenced by the "outsider" spouse).

    (My husband was not raised as a Presbyterian; tho he was an FP member before we married).

  13. Mr Smith, I don't think anyone was opposed to your joining - only the opposite, as far as I remember! I still remember your earliest visits to Stornoway and Scotland and you (plural) (yall) were and are so welcome.

    I need to say that personally I don't mind poeple choosing to homeschool if they feel that's what's right for their children. I also assume that this is the general attitude at the moment, although things may have been different a few years ago. (The first generation of UK homeschoolers is slightly younger than me, so I don't really know much about what the homeschool pioneers experienced.) It wouldn't be my preference, and I'm not particularly keen on it in general, but it seems to be the right thing for some families to do.

    The only thing that worries me is the "militant" homeschooling tendency that refuses to see any value in anything other than homeschooling. The FP church that you joined is, as Henrietta says, almost 100% educated in conventional schools. Ie: we've survived! For many of us, it's as beneficial, or not, an experience as anything else in our lives. If it can be conceded on the non-homeschooling side that for some people in some contexts homeschooling seems appropriate, then it only seems fair for the pro-homeschooling side to acknowledge the converse in return.

  14. Yes, Catherine (hope you don't mind me calling you Catherine), we did, and do, feel welcome, and thanks for the kind words. Thanks for everything actually. I know all my boys are fond of you. (Me three : )

    The home-school topic (yea and nay) tends to get pretty emotional. But it doesn't really matter what we mortals think, right(?), it's just "What saith the Lord." "What saith the scripture."

    I think that's what's lacking in some of the discussions I've seen on the topic, so maybe everybody: bring more scripture (and therefore light, to bear). Just my thoughts.

    And I will take a leave of absence for now, and let the younger folk talk.

  15. Of course! It's my name :-) At the risk of sounding like a mutual appreciation society, the feeling is actually mutual!

    More scripture ... can't argue with that.

  16. Sorry to interrupt the mutual appreciation-sharing :) but...Cath, it's interesting that you say "The FP church that you joined is...almost 100% educated in conventional schools. Ie: we've survived!" Because the reality is, the FP church that survived conventional schooling is smaller than it was a generation ago, is it not? Ie: many conventionally schooled youth did *not* survive, meaning that they left the church.

    "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." So if many FP youth are, in fact, departing from the way they should go, should we not reconsider our training methods, rather than raising the next generation in exactly the same way?

    The homeschoolers I know are happy to acknowledge that for some people in some contexts, the state schools seem appropriate. What we question is the way it's automatically assumed that the state schools are usually the appropriate choice.

  17. Interesting issue.

    I wouldn't single out the FPs though as being the only denomination that has shrunk in size over the past generation. This is a problem that is affecting basically all forms of organised religion in the West, including all stripes of Reformed denominations as well as liberal churches. I'd be inclined to see this as the outcome of several different factors, or perhaps it's better to say that this is a much bigger issue than just education. Ie, the ideologies/philosophies that have become dominant in the West have left us with a much more commercialised and secularised society in general, and the education system (to speak as if it was just one monolithic entity) is only one part of this.

    Second point - When I think of people my age, or my siblings' age, who were in the church (or a closely similar denomination) when i was at school, and who have now stopped going to church, I'm not sure that I'd see their parents as having failed to train them up properly. If the mark of success in training is that they still come to church, then training was a failure. But none of them that I can think of are leading grossly hedonistic or openly sinful lives - as far as I can think, they're pleasant people living upright lives, enjoying their jobs and often very successful in their jobs, well-liked and with happy marriages. Obviously, they are lacking the one thing needful. But that's not something that their parents could have given them anyway. As far as training can go, they are not departing from it. And that's after (or, if you like, in spite of) having been through the school system. Ie, if children are well brought up, then it is not automatically the case that the school system will make them immoral, lying, cheating, substance-abusing wrecks: their parents did what they could, and by and large they're living up to the standards that their parents instilled in them. In other words, there is a danger that homeschooling proponents might often over-estimate the horror of the school environment when they think of the risks that are involved, and under-estimate how much the influence of the home weighs with the child even if their school does not have an overtly Christian environment.

    Which leads to the 3rd point - that when I try to understand how I'm still in the church when so many of my peers are not, I can't attribute it to any human factor. I had lovely parents who brought me up well - so did my now-non-churchgoing peers. I went to Sabbath school and heard the gospel preached weekly - so did my now-non-churchoing peers. All the families in our kind of church are given more or less the same support network, the same framework of reference, the same warnings and instructions, and so on and so forth, and with some these things are successful and with some they're not. Supposing people have identical upbringings within the same family, even, it's the story of the ages - Jacob have I loved, and not Esau. Thus it has ever been. Obviously, it's not that we have a licence to place ourselves in risky situations on the assumption that whoever is going to be saved will be saved regardless. But on the other extreme, shielding and quarantining ourselves from external perceived evil influences, reacting with fear by complete withdrawal from circumstances/contexts which are not in themselves sinful, gives no licence for the opposite assumnption either.

    I am very thankful to hear you say that for some people in some contexts, state schools seem appropriate. Maybe we're reaching the happy state of mutual appreciation on the personal level, and at least some grudging acknowledgement for our respective lifestyle choices :-)

  18. PS just by way of excuse, the amount of free time i can foresee is shrinking dramatically in the near future so no guarantees about being able to keep up with things here. Altho i def appreciate being able to have this kind of discussion (my first ever on the topic..)

  19. Just quickly--the Santa Fe congregation (where homeschooling is the norm) is not declining, but growing. The same is true of many homeschooling-friendly churches and denominations here in the US (the RPCNA for example).

    Must run fix dinner. :)

  20. Re-reading your last comment, Cath, I am beginning to think that we speak different languages :) in the sense that our foundational assumptions and expectations are very, very different.

    My brother had some interesting things to say about education the other day, and I think he has inspired me to write another blog post about the subject sometime soon...or eventually, anyway. :)

  21. Dutch churches, where there are church or Christian schools, seem to retain far more of their young people than the FPC does. Both in the Netherlands and North America.

    Which suggests to me that being trained up in the world, by the world, for the world, does have consequences.

  22. Neil said...

    Re the diminishing of FP congregations in the UK and the growth of the congregation in Santa Fe, I have to say I think it is a fairly large leap of logic to link these things to the relative popularity of home schooling in these places.

    I am delighted to hear that the Santa Fe congregation is growing, and as I understand it mostly with young people, which is very encouraging - but surely many of these young people are not yet of an age where they can be said to have benefited (or otherwise) from having been home schooled (or not). So the growth in the congregation in Texas surely cannot be said to be a result of home schooling.

    More to the point, the diminishing numbers in the UK are, in general, definitely not attributable to sending children to school. To be perfectly honest, I cannot think of all that many young people close to my age who grew up as state schooled FPs who subsequently turned their backs on the church. On the other hand, I think it is fair to say that there are a number of my contemporaries who were home schooled and who no longer attend the FP church. Certainly in percentage terms more home schooled children no longer attend than state schooled children.

    Now I would not for a moment suggest that the reason they do not attend the church is because they were home schooled, I do not think that is the case at all, but it certainly shows that leaving the church is not a thing caused by attending state schools, and avoided by home schooling.

  23. Neil, thanks for your comment.

    Two points: firstly, it is not just the youngest generation of little ones in Santa Fe that have been homeschooled, but the previous generation as well, i.e. their parents. Off the top of my head, I would say that half (or more) of the adult communicant members here were themselves homeschooled. And of the adults who were homeschooled here as children, all are regular church attenders to this day. So we have been homeschooling long enough to see the fruits.

    Secondly, of the homeschooled youth in the UK who have left the FPs: I suspect that most of those are now attending church elsewhere. Would you say that I am correct?

    Neil, you seem quite certain that a secular education is not to blame for young people leaving the church. So what would you say is the reason for the diminishing numbers?

  24. Really, when you look more broadly at churches where homeschooling or Christian schools are encouraged, I think it's plain to see that those churches do a better job of retaining their youth than churches where public/state schooling is the norm.

  25. a worldly or irreligious life surely comes from having a wicked heart? neither home schooling nor state schooling can change the state of the human heart. "not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us".

  26. No, only God can change the heart, but an education (and worldly influences) can change the mind. And surely a changing of the mind can lead to a hardening of the heart; for instance, if one is taught and comes to believe that truth is relative, then surely the heart would be hardened against the truth of Scripture.

  27. Can I just add to Neil's comment to underline how pleased and thankful everyone is that the Santa Fe congregation is growing. It is also a great cause of thankfulness that other like-minded denominations are growing too, wherever they might be in the world.

    But the numbers game is still a dodgy route to go down. Partly because congregations can grow/are growing in contexts where homeschooling is not practiced (eg Edinburgh). Also because as far as I understand it, the numbers in the Santa Fe congregation have fluctuated over time while homeschooling has remained a constant factor. But thirdly also because homeschooling is not the only relevant factor - not speaking specifically of Santa Fe but of the general context of Reformed congregations where homeschooling is or is becoming popular, other relevant factors might include whether or not a congregation has a pastor, whether or not there is a supportive eldership, how well-informed the congregation is about the core doctrines of grace, how committed the officebearers are to sola scriptura, how seriously the congregation takes the means of grace, and so on (it's my impression, although no more than an impression, that many Reformed congregations in the US are experiencing strengthening of convictions as much as increase of numbers, and homeschooling might be one area where people rediscovering the essentials of the Reformed tradition/practice might also take a strong stance, even though as I'd see it they would be erring on the side of caution in their own practice by making homeschooling more of a priority than it needs to be). Point being that where a congregation or denomination is committed to the things that are truly mandated by Scripture, in terms of doctrine and church life especially, you can cautiously predict growth in numbers, but homeschooling does not come into the category of things that are mandated by Scripture. Homeschooling is one of several options which are consistent with what Scripture mandates, but it is not the only one (nor even the most obvious one), and it is therefore too simplistic, to put it no more strongly, to identify homeschooing as *the* key factor in whether numbers are rising or falling. (Staunch teetotallers, or people who have a zero-tolerance approach to watching TV, or people who believe that it's too worldly to play any musical instruments whatsoever, fall into the same category as homeschoolers, in terms of having any right to cite their particular practice as the article by which a church stands or falls.)

    (I'm getting warnings that this comment is too long, so I'll post my second half separately! apologies!)

  28. Part 2 ~

    I would also thoroughly endorse what Flora has said, which really goes right to the core of the problem. It seems to me that there is an over-reaction on the pro-homeschooling side on two or three fronts.
    One is to over-estimate the evils of non-homeschooling, as though school was a place where children are deliberately perverted into immoral monsters in a context of unremitting wickedness. Most schools are not quite like this.
    Another is to under-estimate the influence of the home on children who are not homeschooled, thus construing the choice not to homeschool as a matter of bringing children up "by the world, for the world", a rather low view, one might think, of how much Christian parents take an interest in and have an impact on the experiences of their children outside the home.
    A third is to over-estimate the virtues of homeschooling, as though children's hearts can be made less hard against the gospel through being warned against the perils of moral relativism and whathaveyou. It's all very well to *say* that only God can change the heart, while at the same time *acting* as though (i) not homeschooling automatically means the ruination of the soul and (ii) homescholing automatically makes children more eligible candidates for saving grace.
    By all three of these things, the pro-homeschooling Reformed are in danger of investing the practice of homeschooling with much more moral significance than it scripturally has: talking as if that one lifestyle choice, which is only one legitimate practice among several which respect the scriptural principle, is intrinsically better than the alternatives, and more likely to result in a child's salvation. Neither home schooling nor state schooling can change the state of the human heart.

  29. Cath, if you'll re-read my comments, you'll see that I did not say that homeschooling is the "key factor" which contributes to the growth of the church. I merely pointed out a (strong) correlation between Christian education and the growth of the church.

    You say "homeschooling might be one area where people rediscovering the essentials of the Reformed tradition/practice might also take a strong stance..." Yes, and you know why? Because the Reformers themselves believed in the importance of a wholly Christian education for their youth. I'd be happy to start quoting if you like. :)

    I think you're attacking a straw man with most of your second comment.

  30. Well, but how do you explain this correlation between "Christian education" and growth?

    And help me out here - what's the straw man?

  31. I wasn't attempting to explain it--I just pointed it out. But since you ask, I would say that youth educated from a Christian point of view are less likely to leave the church, and if the youth are staying in church, then the church is at the very least not shrinking (unless no one is having children, which would be a separate issue).

    I think this would be considered a fairly obvious point to those in conservative Reformed denominations in the US.

    Obviously, church growth also depends on a number of other factors, some of which you mentioned.

    By the "straw man" I was referring to your characterizations of homeschoolers' views...especially when you suggest that they think public schools are "a place where children are deliberately perverted into immoral monsters in a context of unremitting wickedness." Surely you're willing to acknowledge that this was an exaggeration. :)

  32. Not sure, really. Which bits exactly would you say were exaggerated? Someone recently commented on my blog that children’s souls are in danger of "being lost to hell-fire forever because of the public schooling system," being after all a place where "swearing, lying, stealing, cheating, and other immoralities are given free run," but I'd be delighted to be told that that point of view is unrepresentative.

    Earlier, you implied in question form that the way to stop FP children from leaving the church was to stop sending them to school. Perhaps this was an over-simplification of your own position.

  33. Andrew Middleton said..

    I would be very interested in someone doing further work into the theological roots of home schooling. As far as I can see, from the work that I have done in this area, Scottish Calvinism has always had a zeal to affect society and engage with the institutions of society (hence, the total commitment of the FP Church to the Establishment Principle - it is the first article on its deed of separation).. where modern home schooling caught fire in the English speaking world in the American Evangelical isolation of the mid-60s and has since come to Scotland... yet, the theological roots of the American Home School movement are primarily Dutch... and bear the hallmarks of Dutch theological thought... as far as I can see.... I would value any thoughts/research on these areas...

  34. Mr. Middleton,

    The homeschooling movement in the US began as an outgrowth of educational philosophies espoused by John Holt and others. I'm sure you know this.

    From there it caught on within the religious community as parents came to the conviction that their children ought to receive a Christian education (perhaps they reached this conclusion after reading the Reformers). Homeschooling is often the only way to provide that Christian education, local Christian schools often being non-existent, or too liberal, or too expensive, or academically inferior.

    Perhaps you would like to elaborate on the "theological roots" of homeschooling. I wasn't aware that homeschooling had traceable theological roots. :)

    Once again, homeschooling and isolationism are not the same thing. Homeschooling is perfectly compatible with a zeal to affect society and its institutions.

    I, too, would value any additional thoughts/research/articles/book recommendations on the subjects of Christian education and homeschooling. :)

  35. Dear Sharon,
    From my own readings I would disagree that Holt was a major factor in the Christian Homeschool movement. Holt was/and is still a standard text - I was encouraged to read his 'How children' pair of books at 18 and they are well written, yet he is just one of many in the field of educational researchers who have questionned the effectiveness of the 'factory model' of schooling.
    I was speaking about the modern phenomena of Christian home schooling that has spread across America (and is now slowly creeping into parts of the UK). This movement runs counter to those arguing for Christian schools (Weeks, Jay E. Adams etc.)... and those arguing from Christian involvement in State schools (David Stow, Thos Chalmers, Jas Begg - from a Scottish perspective)... it was an argument that has been popularised by writers like Rousas J. Rushdoony... and if you go back to its flaring in the 60s (public prayer debates, the school boycotts, the boards issues etc.) then a key proponent was the apologist Cornelius van Til.. and his strain of thinking is found throughout the Dutch into Dooyeweerd and beyond...
    The Scots Calvinistic tradition has always argued for engagement - Christianity belongs in the public square. It is a rather damning statistic that modern America has a population more religious than India and a academic and political elite more irreligious than Sweden.
    I would argue that often home schooling encourages a siege mentality in its proponents... you have to home school or that sinful educational institution will sweep away your kids (just look at some of Samuel's comments on the original blog)... but the Scottish Calvinism (and the Calvinism of the Reformers) has always argued that we ought to engage with the world - Christianity is not about a monastic me and mine mentality - it is about winning the whole world for Christ. This is his world and there is no part of it where one day he will not have dominion. I would argue that one of the most effective outlets for modern Christians to witness in the world is within schools. We ought to encourage our young people to go to school - as kids, as young adults and then as teachers - they can do a real service for the kingdom! Tomorrow when I do go into school, I will see a group of teenagers meeting at dinnertime as they usually do to talk about the Lord Jesus - to tell their contemporaries in simple terms about the message of salvation - and you know, the Lord blesses this type of outreach.

    Our English evangelicals like William Wilberforce were also instrumental in things like education and prison reform - as well as the abolition of African slavery. The Scottish Calvinistic and English Evangelical traditions are firmly in favour of Christians working with the state to change it for everyone.

    If you want any more references or pointers to some books then send me an email - I will happily point you to groups of ones that I have found and read all across the different viewpoints.

  36. I would have assumed that Christian home-ed in USA was largely influenced by Rushdoony. And apparently he was influenced in many matters by Van Til. Maybe that's what Andrew has in mind?

    I'd be interested to know where Rushdoony got his home-ed ideas from. This blog
    suggests he may have got *some* of his ideas from his Armenian roots (not Arminian, there is a difference, Highland presbyterians please note).

    Another interesting thread I noted was here:
    where ex-FP Matthew Winzer and RPI Theonomist Daniel Ritchie address some of the issues.

    I hold no particular brief for theonomy or Rushdoony-ism. Both my parents and Rachels' started homeschooling for practical reasons rather than because of any particular theory. But in my parents' case the possibility of doing so became apparent partly because of people who had had contact with USA (including Rushdoony) back in the 70s. My parents had previously been looking at Christian schools but this option had not been possible for us.

  37. Just to clarify, I didn't say that the Christian homeschool movement was started by Holt. I said that the homeschool movement was started by Holt (and others)--it began as a secular movement--and that Christians picked up on it from there, its benefits for Christian families being fairly obvious.

    Mr. Middleton, I see that you are still insisting on this false dichotomy between homeschooling and engagement with the world. Homeschoolers agree wholeheartedly that we ought to win the world for Christ! We just disagree with the idea that the winning should be done by our children, who are easily "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness..." Eph. 4:14

    If we want to have an effect on the state/public schools, we ought (as you suggested, in part) to encourage more of our young people to consider a career in teaching. My own experience in the public schools leads me to believe that a few Christian teachers will have a much stronger influence than a few children from Christian families. Those who know me could testify that I have promoted teaching as a career on many occasions. :)

    As I look at Sam's family, I don't see any signs of this so-called "siege mentality" or "monasticism." I see a family of seven well-educated sons who are very much engaged with the world around them. Might I remind you that one of Sam's homeschooled brothers is now a minister of the Gospel, surely the most effective way of all to "do a real service for the kingdom"!

  38. Andrew Middleton wrote..

    Dear Sharon,
    I think that the greatest challenges to my own Christian faith did not come at school but at University...

    At school it was embarrassing at times to raise a Christian witness but,it was easy to make the arguments against Evolution or whatever topic had risen its head... while at university I felt the challenge was much more significant and much more difficult to resist... I wonder whether the hot housed environment of a home school is always best placed to prepare the young for these more dangerous challenges...

    I am delighted to hear that you encourage Christians to see the right and proper duties of teaching within State schools...

    I really dont think I want to make further comment on Sam (or now his family) on a public blog - it is not the right forum.

    I trust that you will forgive me as I now retire from this particular discussion - and not think that I have been rude by doing so - it is simply due to the pressures on my own time. I could see a debate thread that I wanted to interact with... the problem is that I lack the time to continue the interaction. It is all I can do to keep the middletome site updated on a monthly basis.

    Perhaps, one day we will meet under a Texan sky and can have a fruitful and happy conversation about some of these (and hopeful other) topics..

    Warmest Regards,

  39. Was just thinking ... actually "Under a Texan Sky" would, in my opinion, be an excellent title for a blog post.

  40. Being Old Reformed and Mbuma supporting in The Netherlands, I would like to add a Dutch Reformed view on education and a Reformed sub-culture. Please do not think I am meaning to bite the FP’s head off or wanting to boast about the Dutch Reformed, but I would like to point out where in my view the British brethren went wrong.
    In bringing up children, three things are important. Family (most important), Church and school. These three should be on one line. It is devastating if a twofold seed is sowed on the hearts of our children. Therefore it is a severe and dangerous sin to send children to be educated by atheists. This is like putting lambs in care of wolves. When children in our Church are baptized the parents are asked three questions. The third is: ‘Whether you promise and intend to see these children, when come to the years of discretion, whereof you are parent, instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?’ Sending children to a non Reformed school is against this vow and should be reason for discipline.
    A difficult point is that in The Netherlands religious education is paid by the government, while a school is run by a society. This is a great blessing which is not there in other parts of the world. Last year I worked at a Reformed secondary school with 2.800 pupils, more numerous than in the UK. Christian education, whether at home or in a school, is a must.
    We should consider the history of Christian schools in The Netherlands and see that it was not always as easy as it is know. After the French, just after the French Revolution conquered The Netherlands, The Netherlands became a nation ruled by atheist principles and remained this after the restoration. The day after the secession in 1834, a Christian school was founded. So much aware were our fathers about the union of Church and school. These school were persecuted as sectarian, so there have been very hard times for Christian schools in The Netherlands. Later the school were allowed a own costs and later the government took the costs, but not after struggling for many years.
    Christian education remains a duty for parents. Education implies more than pumping in knowledge. First, schools should take part in religious upbringing by keeping and teaching Christian moral standards, telling children Bible stories, teaching the Catechism and Psalms etc. School is an environment in which children are formed, if this environment is unbiblical, they are on dangerous grounds. If one says that Christian education is raising up children in a hothouse, indeed it is, but children should be brought up in a hothouse, as they are weak children and be prepared to be taken out when they become adult and enter society. Education cannot change a heart, but neither a Christian home. We are to do are duty and pray to God for His blessing. I also find it strange that the FP has a mission school in Rhodesia, but takes less care for their own children in Scotland. DV (just as must a Dutch Reformed culture mark) I will try to write more. Any comments are welcome. I am willing to consider them.
    The Lord’s blessing.

  41. Thanks for the comment--it's nice to get a Dutch perspective! I will try to respond on Monday, D.V. :)

  42. Sorry for the delay. What a busy week!

    My question for our Dutch Reformed friend: some Scots argue that if we withdraw our children from the public schools, we lose a major opportunity to be a positive influence upon our society. How would you respond to this argument? Do you think that the Dutch Reformed influence on Dutch society has been harmed by Christian schooling?

  43. The Dutch Reformed friend wrote:

    Thank you for your question on a belated Monday. It is alright. There are more people with busy weeks. I understand the Scottish point of view, but find it not realistic. Seeing the amount of youngsters leaving the FP and other Reformed Churches in the UK, what has had the biggest influence. The Church on society or society on the Church? I fear that the world appeals more to our sinful hearts and are children should protected from it until they have a fit age to do so. I believe it is better that children should be educated in a Christian environment, prepared for a sadly ungodly society, and influence as such the society at the time they leave school. Why should not the outcome of a Christian education not a greater blessing for society.

    This is a better testimony for society then offering our children up for a few a little bit of influence. I believe that if we had send our children to secular public schools, our society would have been harmed even more. By God’s providence we have a Reformed political party which can bear testimony in our chambers. It is small, but there. Nobody in Parliament can say they have not known the Biblical way of government, as they are told.

    Our first concern should not be society, how important it is, but our children. If we send our children to have secular educated, we accept that they are indoctrinated by terrible notions: sodomy as OK, unmarried co-habitation normal, pop music, Harry Potter read to children, atheism, all religions are the same or God as a delusion, an immoral manner of sexual education. Sorry, I cannot go on. It is a horror. Many things happen at public schools which are not suitable. A parent would have to spend many hours correcting what is taught at school and often the damage is done irreversibly. Teachers are often people who have authority and children can become confused and in their teens find what ungodly teachers say more appealing than what godly parents say. What is then left of this positive influence on society?

    I do not claim that Christian education is a guarantee for a child remaining under the means of grace or that sending a child to a secular school will automatically leave Church. But the outcome is that more young people remain at Dutch Reformed Churches and that many are growing, while the Churches of our brethren in the UK are declining. This is, I fear, a fact. For instance, GBS, the Dutch sister organization of TBS, had 2000 people attending last annual conference, while the AGM of TBS in London, I have often attended, would by happy with 200 attendants. Numbers do not say everything, but they do say something. We are a phenomenon in society, these ladies with long skirts, ect., which is a testimony in its self. Although sadly alcoholism is coming more and more up amongst our youth, a professor, an outsider, commented once that they were very few drug addicts in the Reformed Bible Belt, which does give a better testimony than that children of godly parents are influenced by friends they meet at school to experiment.

    If we hold that we send our children to public schools in order to have a positive influence on society, let us be consequent and join liberal Churches to bear a testimony there as well. Unto so far now. Later, DV, I will continue. I hope that I answered your question. The Dutch society would be even worse without Christian education. Again any comments are welcome.

    While on the spot, your Psalm singing is excellent. I like it very much. I read you complain about high petrol costs. Some Dutch advice: Use a bike. Which these American distances it will be excellent for your condition.

    Every blessing.

  44. Ida said....
    I just stumbled upon this thread and found it a very interesting topic. Although I didn't want to comment, because it is a very emotional subject and doesn't always do much good to the 'brotherly love'. After the last comments about the Dutch system and the mission school I feel that I should contribute a few of my thoughts. (i do agree with the Dutch anonymous) I also have grown up as a Dutch Reformed. That automatically involved going to a Christian school. Both my husband and I went to Christian schools up to our 18th. So did all the church youth. It is a fact that the Dutch churches retain a FAR larger amount of their young people. I don't think the reason is a particular doctrine, preacher, elder or whatsoever. Clearly, christian education is linked to keeping young people in the church. I don't say it's linked to saving grace. But at least they are being kept under the means of grace. We all know that saving sinners is Gods' work, but that doesn't mean we have no responsibility as a parent. As parents we are responsible for where our children go, what books they read, what friends they have and what education they get. I have seen some horrible secular textbooks they use in public schools. Not to mention the so called sexual education they get. Are we responsible for that? I would think so. No matter what we choose to do as parents (christian/home school-public school) we all have to give (personal) account to God. Isn't that a sobering thought. Considering education I always have to think about the Israelites who went to the Philistines to sharpen their axe. 1Sam.13:20.

    PS. I don't think the Israelites had much influence on the Philistine society.

    PS I don't think Scottish society is much better off then Dutch society. Children are not missionaries.

    PS Sorry for my not so polished english, but hope this post is of some help. Not meaning to divide even more, but I really hope and pray that the Scottish FP's will see the importance of home schooling and christian education.

  45. I must apologize to our Dutch Reformed friend for not posting your comment (comment before last above this one) sooner. Somehow your comment, and your attempts to re-post your comment, went to my spam folder instead of to the normal comment moderation folder. I did not even realize that I had a spam folder until just now, so did not see your comment at all! I am happy to see that you did in fact respond to my question.

    I agree with what you have said, that we can have a greater influence upon society by protecting our children from harmful influences until they are mature enough to discern between good and evil. Thank you for taking the time to write out your response to this common (in Scotland) objection to homeschooling.

    p.s. I wish that I could use a bike instead of my car! However, it is 12 miles to the nearest grocery store, 25 miles to church, etc. and I'm afraid many of the roads are not at all safe for biking.

  46. The Dutch Reformed friend again.

    The Witness, the magazine of the Free Church of Scotland (Cont.) has an interesting series of articles about Christian education.


  47. Thank you for the link! Can you tell me which months include the series on Christian education? I'd download them all to see, but that would probably put me over my download limit for the day.

    I have often thought it would be interesting to explore what all the conservative Reformed denominations have to say about the education of our youth. I'm pretty sure that most of them have gone on record as encouraging an explicitly Christian education.

  48. The articles about Christian education are to be found in the issues from July / August 2010 to February 2011. Of course we should maintain Christian education. Sadly in The Netherlands there are a lot of Christian schools by name, but in practice liberal. Other schools come near to are conservative Reformed education, but do not meet the standards. Other school began well, but I fear are slipping. It is not difficult to start a good Christian school, but it is more difficult to mainain Christian standards along the line. Our Dutch parlement just decided that all schools should teach their pupils about homosexuals. How long shall we be able to maintain are Christian schools and keep this liberal force outside.

    I while busy, I remember hearing about three gentlemen apointed the start a Reformed primary school in their village. Two of them were well educated and came to the officials with prognoses, plans, finances ect. But the officials refused their permission. One man moved away and two were left. The school became a burden for the lesser educated man and took this more and more in prayer. One day he and the other gentleman when to discuss the matter with officials in The Hague, where the highest administration resides. The lesser educated man pleaded and said: We have no right for a Christian school, as we deserve nothing, but it is our duty to educate and instruct our children according to God's law. At the end of the meeting an official promised the school would come. What these two educated gentlemen could not get, this simple man was instrumental for. Good to remember!

    Every blessing,

    Your Dutch Reformed friend


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