Friday, December 20, 2013

What A&E should have said about Phil Robertson's comments

A&E made this statement concerning Phil Robertson's comments:

"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in 'GQ,' which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty.' His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

Here's what they should have written:

"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in 'GQ,' which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty.' His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. But because of A+E's commitment to diversity and inclusion of all viewpoints—even those with which we strongly disagree—we have decided to continue filming and production of 'Duck Dynasty' as scheduled. A+E Networks recognizes that Mr. Robertson's personal views may be offensive to some, but A+E Networks welcomes all viewpoints in an environment of inclusion. We hope Mr. Robertson retracts his statements, but we stand by our pledge and commitment to diversity."







Wednesday, December 18, 2013

High-rise with high stakes

This was adapted from a post at bryantlaw.net

Jury awards alt="Jury awards $1.7 million to residents in Ashby case - Prime Property" .7 million to residents in Ashby case - Prime Property

Yesterday a Harris County jury determined that the Ashby high-rise project “was the wrong project at the wrong site,” awarding several plaintiffs just over $1.7 million in damages—if the project is built.

This case comes at an interesting time in Houston—which lacks any cohesive zoning ordinance—when developers commonly pit their interests against those of the community. As Houston continues its rapid growth, the city will need to find some way to appease the demand for development with the desire of residential areas to keep their distinctive aesthetic. And it’s not going to be easy. This latest trial only highlights the disparity between interests.

But some people are saying that the neighbors can’t have it both ways—advocating for a robust free market in Houston while simultaneously trying to curtail the lawful development of property through judicial means. Whatever happens with this case, the problem is not going away immediately. Unless —and until—we have a comprehensive zoning law, keep your eyes open for similar lawsuits in the near future.
What I find interesting, though, is the philosophy behind this sort of "NIMBY-ism." People are all for growth and development, until it happens in their own backyard—their own little kingdom. It's no secret that Houston is exploding in population, and that includes areas inside the Loop. People are moving here, and there's not a lot we can do to stop them. And if we are going to welcome them and be excited about the city's growth, it is going to take some compromise and sacrifice—especially on the part of people who live in the urban core. Gone are the days of 6600 square foot lots just a couple miles from downtown; the population growth won't support it. So when we come to those who extol Houston's growth out of one side of their mouth, but snarl at the growth in their backyard out of the other, what are we to make of it? 
I think that people—and I am guilty of this, too—want growth and development as long as it comes at no cost to them. We want to become a premiere urban environment, but only if we don't have to drive on crowded streets, or give up our sense of sprawling space (or our parking space). We want the ideal without the toil and trade-offs it takes to get there. Because we are kings within ourselves, and the people around us are our subjects. No one will admit it, but I believe that's the real issue. 
Maybe zoning will fix these problems. Maybe not. I can imagine the political circus that would accompany changing Houston from zoning-free to a comprehensive zoned plan. And still the root remains. We need to realize is that sometimes it's ok to "suffer" through a little crowdiness here and there if it means more people can enjoy our great city. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The FDA May Cause Blindness

A few days ago, we learned that the ever-wise FDA banned trans-fats from existing. They will be phased out from restaurants, processed foods, and wherever else they may be used. This is all for our protection, mind you. Trans-fats cause people to get fat. And fat people are bad because they increase healthcare costs due to our Obamacare system of taxing healthy people to pay for unhealthy people. So it goes.

I think the regulations are ridiculous, and I want to draw attention to the worldview that underlies the whole operation. Doug Wilson gave an astute observation of how food regulations should work in a free society here, but I want to dig a little deeper. I understand that trans fats are probably bad for me. Side effects of over-consumption may include obesity. Ok, I get it. But should we be ok with supporting the onerous regulations that will require businesses to substantially change their operations? This may help people eat healthier, but it certainly won't make food cheaper or more available for lower income families. And why can't I choose to eat healthy under the freedom of my own conscience? But that's just the economic side of things.

The real mindset is an issue of worship. The government is saying "We know what's best for you, you don't. We will provide for your needs, so you better get with the program." People who idolize the State are on board with this, of course. The State knows best, because the State is god. But people who understand that we are a nation run by fallen and sinful men will look on with a more dubious gaze. By what standards does the FDA promulgate these dietary restrictions? Why saturated fats? On what authority do they presume to control our diet? What about people who want to eat trans-fats anyways? Who negotiates what the regulations will regulate? (Hint: lobbyists hired by big corporations). As Wilson once quipped, "'regulations' to 'reform everything' get us crony capitalism."

A better question is this: what are you not willing to allow the government to control about your lifestyle? Why? What if the FDA says that car emissions pose a serious threat to national health? Would you willingly allow the government to prohibit you from driving a car? What about exercise? Would you gladly submit and support state-mandated exercise regimes three times a week? All of these may be good things, but we should be allowed to do them in the freedom of our own conscience. I can think of some areas of life where the government should exercise some control over our decisions, but that's based on the Bible's authority. I'm not sure what the FDA is basing their authority on. The sanctity of life? Please...

A government hungry for people to worship it as almighty will do anything within (or without) its power to keep the people distracted from what's going on. All in the name of "daddy knows best." And people blind to the god of this age will take the bait and think that they are being taken care of by a faithful legislator. The true God says not to worry about the suffering that is to come, but to entrust our souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. The god of this age tells us not to pay attention to the oppression, but to entrust our souls to a faithful legislator while eating good.

Of course, the greatest irony in all of this is that we are talking about dietary restrictions, the very thing that the intoleristas point to in the Bible for evidence of its oppressive and archaic nature. As the kids say, I'm ROFL. CAN YOU NOT SEE?

I think this whole thing is (subliminally) intended to remind us that we should serve and worship the state (and man), not God. Because when we truly worship God, reformation happens. That's a threat to the god of this age. As long as we wallow in blindness, there will be no reformation. But we worship a God who has the power to remove blindness wholesale. And I am thankful for that. May he start with me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Astro-doomed?



Yesterday Harris County voters rejected a bond proposal that would have turned the now-defunct "8th Wonder of the World" into an exhibition hall. Essentially we were voting to "save the Dome." But we didn't, and now the Dome may be doomed.

It's interesting how the situation played out over the past few months. First, Harris County citizens were told that the Dome cost millions of dollars per month in maintenance just to keep it from being condemned by the city. Then they said demolishing the stadium would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, which we obviously did not have laying around in the petty cash drawer.


So the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp set out to elicit some ideas of what to do with the Dome. Could we save it? Could we profit from it? Is it still relevant? The HCSCC actually held a contest in which they solicited ideas about what to do with the Dome. Ostensibly, the best idea would win the contest, and that's what they would do with the Astrodome. Except that's not what happened. Instead, the HCSCC decided to go its own way and put the decision on the ballot.


In my own opinion, it looks like the HCSCC merely issued the request for proposals in order to save face among a nostalgic and expectant public. In their minds, however, they knew that there would be no selection from among the public's ideas; HCSCC would have its cake and eat it too.


But all that depended on the ballot measure passing yesterday. Which—to many peoples' surprise—failed by a healthy margin. So now the prevailing talking point is that the Astrodome is Astro-doomed to destruction. However, there is a silver lining that we may be overlooking: the imminent failure and demolition of the Dome may drive down the purchase price for any potential investor/developer looking to turn the Dome into the magical place it could be (and without raising taxes to do it). I think it's the best of both worlds. The HCSCC will have a strong incentive to cut a big discount for any developer wishing to buy the Astrodome (instead of facing demolition and associated fess), and the whole process is given to private industry where it belongs. It's a win/win/win (if the Dome stays alive). Imagine the possibilities.


In the end, the HCSCC will reap what it sowed. They held a "contest" without the possibility of a winner. None of the redevelopment ideas were "acceptable," but the criteria for acceptability were unreasonable from the start. They had an end game in mind, and they put all their eggs in one basket—passing the $217 million bond package to renovate the Dome. Because that plan didn't hatch, it looks like HCSCC's plan has backfired. Big time. But HCSCC could mitigate the loss by passing the Dome on to an innovative and interested developer. I'd like to see what we could create without all the bureaucratic red tape—or at least less of it.


I don't want to see the Astrodome become a pile of mangled steel and rubble. But I balk at saddling taxpayers with this kind of obligation after the way HCSCC handled the situation.



Monday, October 14, 2013

What We All Want, Too

A couple of weeks ago our venerable Pastor Dods Pengra delivered an excellent sermon in which he mentioned the launch of an Atheistic Church in London. The local atheists—called the Sunday Assembly—meet in a "deconsecrated" church in London's East Side each Sunday morning for tea, cookies, and fellowship. They hear a sermon, sing some songs, and enjoy fellowship with one another. But I am not concerned with what they are doing; it's the why that speaks volumes about them—about people in general.

This is what the author said:
I don’t think religion should have a monopoly on community. I like the idea of a secular temple, where atheists can enjoy the benefits of an idealized, traditional church—a sense of community, a thought-provoking sermon, a scheduled period of respite, easy access to community service opportunities, group singing, an ethos of self-improvement, free food—without the stinging imposition of God Almighty. Evidently, I was not alone.
Without the stinging imposition of God Almighty. That phrase is telling of what's really going on here. They want the benefits of traditional Christian community without the imposition of a holy God and his righteousness. It's the same upside-down desire system that has plagued us since the Fall.

When God created us, he created us with certain desires that mimic his character and attributes. One of those desires is the desire for community. God exists in community (as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and so we were created to be in community with God and with one another. Our communion with God overflows into our communion with one another. God designed us to want to be together and live life together. But sin, being sin and all, distorts these desires. The town of Babel is a great example—and particularly germane to the Sunday Assembly.

The people of Babel had a word from God: be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. But the people of Babel had other plans. They wanted to build a tower that displayed man's prowess and reach to the heavens. They wanted to build a name for themselves—and make God irrelevant in the process. They wanted the benefits of God-given desires without the imposition of God. They wanted to be their own god. But God will not be mocked; he dispersed the Babel builders and confused their language. And it came to pass that the tower of Babel became the tower of Babble.

The same mindset lies deep behind the Sunday Assembly. The assemblers want a strong sense of community, which is God-given, but they do not want the imposition of the God who gave them those desires. They want the gifts, but they want to despise the giver. This is nothing new; it's been going on since the beginning. The human heart has not changed: we want it our way, on our terms.

Instead, the gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to cast aside our idol of self and all its manifestations. The condition of craving-the-gift-but-despising-the-giver is not limited to Atheist Church start-ups. It affects every one of us at the core. In many different ways, we place our desires in front of God's desires. We want the cultural benefits of God's grace without having to submit to the God that purchased that grace. This is idolatry, and it affects the real Church too.

The reality is that the Sunday Assembly will not last. Without a unifying vision (and really, without Jesus Christ), the voices of the Assembly will begin to drown one another out. It will become its own version of the Tower of Babel. But it is interesting to see a singular idol affect all of mankind throughout history. Through the story of Babel, we can see our own story. And when we really see, it is a kindness of God that we do. May it lead us to repentance.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rights and Obligations

The other day I read an interesting story in the Houston Chronicle about a local family with an autistic son. The family had tried for years to educate their son in the public school system, with terrible results. The boy was not learning, not socializing, and acted out violently towards his peers. So the parents pulled him from public school and placed him in a private school designed for children with extraordinary educational needs. The boy received close instruction, one-on-one attention and interaction, and other instructional changes that helped him grow and learn. Soon the boy was learning, interacting, and functioning on a much higher level. His grades improved and the parents were happy with the results. Only one problem, though: this private instruction was expensive. They had no choice but to send their child back to public school, where he soon floundered. But the parents felt they had an inherent right to the best education methods available for their son.

So, they sued the local school district, claiming that the school district failed to provide competent accommodations for their son and his disability. The parents claimed that the school district had a duty to either provide competent, specialized care for their son or to reimburse the parents for their private school costs. The school opted for the former option, but there was a slight problem: after several attempts at trying to hire a specialized instructor for their son, the school district ran out of options. No one wanted the job. No one applied. So the parents are back in court, claiming that they have a right to have a specialized instructor—or to pay for the private schooling.

Truly this will be an interesting "battle of rights."What we have run into is the logical conclusion of rights run amok. When someone has a right, it means that someone else has a corresponding duty. If you have a right to life, it means that someone has a duty to not kill you. If you have a right to liberty, it means that someone has a duty not to restrain you. If you have a right to your property, it means the someone has a duty to not steal your property. These all make sense when we discuss libertarian rights—meaning the right to do or to say or to believe certain things. These rights come with corresponding duties of omission; they merely require that others refrain from doing certain actions that would impede those rights. So far so good—these rights generally correspond with a truly free society.

But what about "rights" that entitle us to receive certain things, like abortions, education, and health care? Those rights require others to perform certain functions and provide certain goods or services (and they do not flow from a free society). In this case, the child's right to an equivalent, competent education provided by the state means that someone has the affirmative duty to teach that child. But what if no one wants to teach him? What if no one is able to teach him successfully? What if no one applies for the job? What if the private school teacher who originally had success decides to quit? What then? When push comes to shove, which right wins: the right of the child to have a competent education or the right of a free person not to teach?

We have to be careful to remember that rights come from God, not a government. That's why the Declaration of Independence says we are "endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights." Rights exist independent of our government. Therefore, we must look to scripture—God's word—to know what our rights are as human beings. And—spoiler alert—free, public education is not one of them. In fact, parents have a duty to raise (literally, inculcate, or create a culture for) their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." So I guess you could say that children of Christian parents have a right to a Christian education. But I digress...

I think everyone agrees that people have certain rights, but where those rights come from is hotly contested. And its the where that determines the what. It's like two builders who are building houses with similar materials and blueprints, but with completely different foundations. The wise man builds his house upon the rock of Scripture, but the foolish man builds his house upon the sands (or post-modern goo). And when the rains of "tolerance" come, the house built on sand washes away. What you're left with is chaos in trying to determine which way is up.

Another issue here is freedom and the nature of a free society. If we live in a country where—theoretically—someone could be forced to teach an autistic child against their will, do we really live in a free society? A biblical understanding of rights tells us that true rights do not require compulsory service from someone else. That is not freedom. True rights create freedom in that they free us to serve others with a willing conscience. Sorta like how free grace makes us free to obey and delight in God. See the similarities? That house was built on the rock.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Neighborliness is next to Godliness

The Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second greatest commandment is like the first: love your neighbor as yourself.

It is like the first. They go hand in hand. They are similar. Neighborliness is next to Godliness. And neighborliness is cemented by covenant.

The Lord gave us these commands because our obedience displays His holiness and character. But how does God display these attributes? By the way He relates to (and loves) Isreal, and consequently the Church. By making an everlasting covenant with us, where we shall be His people, and He shall be our God. And by drawing us near to him through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

What are the implications of these attributes of God's character?

First, because God is perfect we know that He loves Himself with all of His being. This is good news. Second, because God is perfect we know that He loves His neighbor as Himself. This is great news! Because God has drawn us near to Him through the blood of His son Jesus and the promised Holy Spirit, we are now God's neighbors. We are a part of that divine love. And because we are God's neighbors, He promises to love us as He loves Himself. And because He loves Himself with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength, in the same way He will love us with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength.

So be encouraged: if you are in Christ, God loves you as He loves Himself, no matter what. Nothing will change that reality.





Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Freedom and Not Freedom

Obamacare has 8 times as many pages as the Bible (the Gutenberg Bible, a lengthy edition). That's just one bill among one sector of society.

Stack up all the laws in the United States—just the federal ones—next to the Bible. Now which one offers more freedom? Which system is a system of liberty? You say the Bible is the one that tries to control and manipulate our freedoms? Give me a break. Biblical principles are at the very foundation of a society that prizes liberty.




Friday, July 19, 2013

Thinking About Right and Wrong


Someone once told me that we shouldn’t tell others what is right and wrong for them. I see, but why do you get to tell me that saying so is wrong? Who put you in charge? Let’s talk about that for a while.
While not as popular as in previous generations, people have lines that they won’t cross—and they tell others they shouldn’t cross them either. Take marriage, for instance. A a couple of generations ago, interracial marriage was the en vogue fight. There was serious debate about the moral consequences if two people (a man and woman, mind you) of different races could marry. A majority of people in certain states felt like it was morally opprobrious to allow interracial unions (still, between a man and woman). The Supreme Court stepped in, however, and declared that no state could declare interracial marriage unlawful. In other words, the Court gave its stamp of moral approval to the mixed unions. And the decision was later hailed as a breakthrough in civil rights. A moral victory, as it turns out. It was good.
But, at the time, if you asked anyone whether they thought gay marriage was ok, it would (almost certainly) be out of the question. And it stayed that way for a long time. The Supreme Court only recently put its moral stamp of approval on homosexual behavior in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas.
Now, however, gay marriage is accepted as the norm, at least among most of society’s professional, educated crowd. How did we get there? I don’t mean socially—anyone can trace the societal narrative of normalizing homosexual marriage. But how did we move from saying “wrong” two generations ago to “right” in this generation? And how do we know the old generation is wrong and we are right? Who decides these things?
It can’t be the majority, because the will of the majority changes constantly. And if our morality is constantly changing, then we have no basis to say that people who thought interracial marriage was immoral are wrong. That was just their morality. We also would have no basis to say that what Hitler did to the Jews was wrong. Yes, I went there; but seriously, the majority thought it was ok. Yet if you ask any sane person whether Hitler’s monstrosities were right, they would clearly say no. That’s why we call him a monster. So our morality cannot be determined by the majority. That’s why we fight for minority rights.Those rights have to come from somewhere other than the majority, or else we wouldn’t be fighting them in the first place.
Does the Supreme Court determine what is right and what is wrong? They often hand down decisions that tell us what our constitutional “rights” are. Well, great, but where did those rights come from? [hint: it’s not the Constitution]. Who gave these guys so much moral authority? And don’t they keep changing their mind (Dred Scott, anyone)?
All this to say that things change. Our conceptions of right and wrong evolve. But they are only conceptions—I want to know what is reallyright and wrong. There are certain things that every society for all of history have thought were wrong. Lying, cheating, cheating on your spouse (even if you have more than one), cold-blooded murder. No one debates whether these things are wrong—we just know that they are. But how do we know that? Who says they are wrong? And who gavethem authority to say it? We need to be asking these questions; we need to get this right.
Go and punch someone in the face and see what they say. If they say something like “you shouldn’t have done that!” just ask “why not?” That’s a moral standard they are holding you to. Every society, whether secular or religious, imposes moral standards on the members of that society. And those standards have to come from somewhere. I just want us to acknowledge where ours come from. And if we say “from within,” then I want to know why one person’s “within” wins against another’s.
These are important questions, and they need answers, especially when you pass laws telling people what they can and can’t do with their bodies. You better have a darn good reason why.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Zimmerman Trial and the Nature of Justice


On Saturday night, a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of all charges against him related to the death of Trayvon Martin. Immediately following the verdict—as was expected—commentators, pundits, and activists took to the tweets in protest. Some people praised the verdict as Zimmerman’s vindication against a liberal-media-run circus. Others labeled the verdict as nothing more than a “modern day lynching.” Few, however, respected the verdict as just, precisely because it was a verdict rendered within a just system.
Too often we lament the failures of the justice system when it reaches decisions that we do not agree with. I think we do this because we have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of a societal justice system. More than that, we have a fundamental mistrust (or, unbelief) in the justice of a good and sovereign God. And underlying both of these misconceptions is a dark desire to protect our self-idolatry from attack.
From its inception the jury trial has never been about justice for the victim. It is always about justice for the accused. So when Nancy Grace wonders if we will get “Justice for Caylee,” she’s got it all wrong. If the trial were about justice for the victim, we would demand a conviction in every trial. But we don’t—because the justice system seeks to impose justice on the accused. Thus, if the accused is innocent, justice demands they be set free. If the accused is guilty, justice demands a punishment. This concept is crucial if we are to understand justice correctly. It’s the system that provides justice for the accused, not a decision providing justice for the victim.
If we operate on the assumption that the system itself is designed to render justice, then a decision reached by a jury in a fair trial isnecessarily a just decision. If we don’t trust the justice system, then, well, why are we wasting money on it? Let’s just go with our gut every time and hope for the best.
So don’t be carried away by people who say that there’s no justice for Trayvon; that’s not what the trial was about. Trayvon is dead—tragically, for sure—but a conviction of George Zimmerman would not have brought him justice. That is why, in order to keep sane, we must trust in the justice and goodness of a sovereign God who will deliver justice in the end.
If you do not believe in the goodness and sovereignty of God, a jury trial will always frustrate your sense of justice, because there’s always a chance the accused will be acquitted. A trial becomes your last chance for justice—for both parties. But for those who trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God, we can be satisfied with a trial’s result because the accused got a fair shake and we know that the victim will ultimately see justice done—as we all will.
The attitudes we see in social media, however, bely our true hearts. We act like we care about justice, but what we really care about is our side, our agenda. And if our side doesn’t win, it’s a miscarriage of justice. If we really cared about justice, we would show deference to a system carefully designed to pursue justice. Now, we should be sad about the tragic cirucmstances surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death—I am not suggesting otherwise. His death was tragic, without a doubt. But what I want to challenge is the rhetoric that the trial’s result necessarily implies injustice or some sort of conspiracy. I think such talk betrays true justice.
Caring about justice—in its true sense—requires us to submit to an authority higher than ourself. It requires us to admit that we do not know everything and defer our judgment to a system designed to discover the truth and render judgment accordingly. This necessarily requires submission and humility—not characteristics that are highly valued in our self-autonomous society. So when a decision doesn’t go the way we think is right, our own sovereignty comes under attack. And to those who worship at the altar of self, this arrangement will not do. We will do whatever it takes to maintain the sovereignty of our agenda. That’s why we see such an outcry in high-profile murder cases, regardless of verdict. Someone wins and someone loses. And the justice system always gets disrespected.
The Bible, however, calls us to love justice, not an agenda.
So for those who call this trial a “modern day lynching,” I hesitate to think that the outrage stems from a close relationship to Trayvon and his family. The more likely scenario is that this result hurts the progress of their agenda—whatever that may be. Or the outrage is justified because the outrage itself promotes the progress of their agenda. Whichever it is, justice is not the concern—the agenda is. Andthat is an injustice.
The only person who really knows what happened that tragic night is George Zimmerman. No one else knows. So how can we confidently say that his trial was a miscarriage of justice? We can’t. We operate within a system that was designed to render a just result, and we have to trust it. And we can only trust the system if we have a right view of justice and a right view of a just God.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Enemies of the Human Race

It would be an understatement to say that I have been frustrated the past couple of days. But this usually happens at the end of every June, when the Supreme Court hands down its most important cases. Legal thought, in a pure sense, has been on the decline since the 1940s. In prior days, the judiciary was separate from the political/policy machine; now it is its most powerful member. I'll write more on how we got to that point at a later time.

For now, I want to mention the DOMA case and how Christians are slowly becoming enemies of the human race. Although not as contentious as other pressing issues on the national scene, the DOMA case caused much consternation. Not because of so-called gay marriage, per se—although I do believe in and support the biblical definition of marriage. But when socially sensitive issues reach the Supreme Court, the nation's highest court of law, it's a rare occasion that law rules the day.  That's what sends me over the edge: disregard for law and a tenacious commitment to results-based jurisprudence. And results-based jurisprudence exists because we idolize self above all else. Let me explain where I'm going with all of this.

In the DOMA decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that there is no rational basis to oppose same-sex marriage in our society, especially because it has gained such wide-spread acceptance among the intellectuals and educated persons. Anyone who disagrees with the Court's acceptance of same-sex marriage is irrational. He also suggested that those who oppose same-sex marriage condemn, demean, and humiliate people who identify with that lifestyle. It's a severe pronouncement, and it couches disagreement with the issue in such a way that one side is right, the other side is hateful. This is, of course, incorrect, as Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out in his dissent:
But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority's judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to "dis- parage," "injure," "degrade," "demean," and "humiliate" our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence— indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.
His suspicions have been immediately confirmed, many times over. For example, TIME journalist Adam Cohen writes that "a good indication of just how completely the court's majority embraced the equal rights of gay people is how bitter Justice Antonin Scalia was in his odd and meandering dissent." Scalia's dissent, written from the basis of a constitutional, legal argument, is now used as a poster for how bitter conservatives are that gay people now have their human rights recognized. (Cohen called the opinion "self-pitying."). There is no place for reasoned disagreement, especially about sensitive social issues. Cohen described it this way: "Yes, shed a tear for the poor people who want to discriminate against and demean gay people—they are being treated so cruelly." There is no mention of legal principles or arguments, or even the possibility that reasonable people may disagree over the issue—just a straight pronouncement that any disagreement is unreasonable. And this coming from a law professor.

My point is that the time is now over where we can disagree and not be seen as judgmental, demeaning, and discriminatory. Any disagreement at all is de facto judgmentalism. This will present a serious challenge to Christians who wish to stand for truth and engage the culture around them, which grows increasingly hostile to biblical standards—even when presented in a loving, winsome way. We are coming to a place where all dissenting voices will be silenced and dismissed as hateful. We will be called enemies of the human race by our nation's highest court. That old tolerance buzzsaw. 

Of course the source of the problem is always the same: self idolatry. When you are your own god, results-based jurisprudence is the only kind of jurisprudence that matters. Anything else requires you to submit to an authority outside of yourself, a concept blasphemous to the god of self. So, Christians who submit and call upon the authority of God's law will be labeled as blasphemers and cast aside to the margins of social conversation.

But here's the encouraging news for Christians willing to stand for truth in the middle of this maelstrom: Christ still reigns, and God will still accomplish His purposes through us, His church. As long as we keep preaching repentance and faith, and telling that old gospel story, God will be at work, no matter the storm around us. So take heart, God is with us, He will use us, and no power or principality will stop Him. He will make all things new, with or without society's approval.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Where did the time go?

Have you ever wondered how time just slips away,
Unnoticed, it slyly meshes day to day?
Or do we say that time has a tendency to fade,
Until we see things and wonder if they were memories once made?

What is it about the relationship between time and the mind,
that makes it speed up or come to a grind?
Why in moments of joy does time seem to whirl past,
but when bored or alone even a blink will last?

Even though we distort its timely perception,
time marches on without tarry or deception.
Until one day when time will cease moving forward,
where we will be taken to our eternal reward.

And then we will know what we've felt all along;
some things are timeless, and this time we won't be wrong.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Societally imputed righteousness

Over at his blog, Doug Wilson makes a great point about societally imputed righteousness. He says that
Every society has a group within it that is justified — righteousness is imputed to it. And every society has a group that is unjustified — a group that can be dumped on with impunity. Righteousness and unrighteousness are categories we cannot do without — we must have bad guys and good guys.
This is an astute observation, and I want to address it more specifically. First of all, if you're still wondering, we should go ahead and label the justified and the unjustified; it's not hard to miss. The unjustified group are the Christians—or anyone proclaiming biblical sexual ethics as the holy and right design of the Living God. And the justified group—I'll call them the intelligentsia and their progeny, whoever they may be.

Now, because we (Christians) are in the unjustified class, we will be dumped on with impunity. We will, make no mistake. But why?

In 1 John 3:13, we see an answer. John encourages Christians that they should "not be surprised . . . that the world hates you." But there is a reason that the world will hate us: righteousness. It's ironic, isn't it? The people who have societally imputed righteousness will hate those who display actual righteousness—whether in word or in deed. See what John says just prior to verse 13: "We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous."  It's telling, and belies the true motives of those who would hate you. This inversion has been going on since the beginning. 

So, it's important to know what is really going on when Christians are hated and labeled as "bigots" in our society. It's nothing less than the same thing that penetrated Cain's heart when he murdered his brother: hatred of righteousness. Hearts that are enslaved to Satan hate righteousness, and they will endeavor to bring it down in any way possible. 

But do not let all of this discourage you. Rather, we should give thanks. We should give thanks for the persecution (Matt. 5:11). But most importantly, we should give thanks that our hearts have been transformed to love righteousness, especially the righteousness that is ours in Christ. Because without it, we would be counted among the murderers as well. Only by God's grace are we not. 


Friday, May 24, 2013

Loneliness and Creation

I will hazard a guess that most people are aware of the deleterious effects of being a "Lone Ranger" Christian. In other words, you can't "do Christianity" on your own and expect to succeed. You need others. But did you know that living a life of relational isolation may be severely detrimental to your physical health?

In the latest edition of The New Republic, essayist Judith Shulevitz discusses "The Lethality of Loneliness" and documents the extensive research into the science of loneliness. The results may or may not be surprising, depending on how you view the world. Her thesis is that loneliness—or, a lack of relational intimacy—is very dangerous for your health. Among the research, Shulevitz noted that "emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking." That, as they say, is serious business. But when you stop and think about it, the conclusion makes sense.

As always, we can trace the idea's genesis to, well, Genesis. One of the first things God says after delivering the creation mandate to Adam is that "[i]t is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18). And so he formed the woman out of the man, so that they could again become one flesh.

You need people—formed in the image of God—who know you intimately. When God put Adam and Eve together, "they were both naked and were not ashamed" (Gen. 2:25). God created us to commune intimately with him and with others. This means we were created for close community. So it is not surprising that loneliness—a rebellion against the created order—comes with serious side effects, both spiritual and physical.

But sin, in all its wily ways, has distorted this reality. We are prone to ardent individualism in our culture, and we try to justify our attempts to distance ourselves from true community. Thankfully, we have a perfect example of one who knows us intimately and loves us all the same. Taking the example of Christ, we can see others "naked," as it were, and still love them. We can be "naked" in front of others and unashamed, thanks to the covering of the blood of Christ. Most importantly, though, we can be naked in front of God and be assured that he loves us just as he loves his son.

I am not surprised that this study rings true, given what we see in scripture. That's usually how it goes. God has created us for community, and he has created our bodies to respond to its absence—just like we respond to an absence of food or water. It hastens our demise. So, drink to your health—with others.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Because I read about it in a book

A while back I mentioned that, when you worship yourself as god, any talk of the possibility of failure amounts to blasphemy.

This isn't a cancer that is going away on its own. When you understand how pervasive self-idolatry is, the world makes much more sense.

It explains the Benghazi cover-up. It explains why some Benghazi whistleblowers are being demoted out of Washington altogether. It also explains the why the IRS targeted conservative groups for "enhanced scrutiny" and why the White House acted like it had nothing to do with the whole scheme.

We are a nation of worshipers, but we've misplaced the object of our worship. We have been raising our children for over a generation to believe that the most important person in the world is "me." And this indoctrination goes all the way to the top. It's our national religion. What this means is that we now live in the kind of place where, if you don't bow down to the golden statue of Obamachudnezzar, you will be thrown into the fiery furnace of IRS audits and eery cover-ups. As an astute observer once asked, "So when is the maker of that YouTube video that didn't have anything to do with anything going to be released?" Exactly. This isn't about truth; it's about making sure our gods remain infallible.

So don't be surprised when crazy shenanigans are the norm (on both sides of the aisle). And don't be surprised when blasphemers are punished for their indiscretions. It's the natural outworking of an ideology we've been developing for some time. We are just now realizing that the seeds our fathers planted in the "good ol' days" weren't seeds of godliness. The leaven works through the loaf slowly, remember?

What we are dealing with in the public arena (and in our pews; it goes all the way down, too) is the third temptation of Christ: pride. When Jesus was fasting in the desert, Satan took Jesus to the top of a mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory. Satan promised Jesus all of these if he would just bow his knee and worship Satan.

Jesus refused, pointing out that God's word says you shall "worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve." But why did Jesus not give in to temptation? He had seen this very temptation before, with a serpent and a woman. That time, Satan had delivered a similar promise: "'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'" (Gen. 3:4–5). You will be like God. That is the lynchpin of this whole shebang. Every lie from Satan promises us god-like status because that is what our sinful hearts want. We don't want to submit ourselves completely to God.

So here is what Obamachudnezzar, Benghazi, and Satan have to do with you and me: by God's grace, we have been given the beginning and ending of the Story in his Word, in The Word. We would be fools not to look around at our world and think that it reminds us of something we read in a book once. It's true. God has given us the stories in his Word so that we can understand what is going on today, whether at the White House or in our house. Just like Christ in the desert, we can see Satan's lies for what they truly are because we have seen them play out in Scripture as just that: lies. So when we are tempted to sell Christ down river in order to increase our kingdom and our glory, remember: "worship the Lord your God and him only...." Anything else is a lie. A damned lie.


Friday, April 26, 2013

With no reference to time

How do we talk about eternity, a timeless thing, without reference to time? I don't think we can. We do not have the capacity to think that way. But we feel it. We can feel the longings of eternity in our souls. Time is always running out on us, sneaking up on us, or just plain flying past us. This earth is measured in time. But the new Earth will not be measured in such a way. In A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken shows how impossible it is to think about eternity now without reference to time. His prose is beautiful, and the following passage illustrates how foreign (and yet so natural) eternity will be:

It is a heavenly afternoon. Davy and I have just had a timeless luncheon (I am assuming that God will not waste so joyous an invention as taste). I then say to her that I shall wander down to sit beneath the beech tree and contemplate the valley for awhile, but I shall be back soon. I do so. I contemplate the valley for some hours or some years—the words are meaningless here where foreverness is in the air. At all events, I contemplate it just as long as I feel like doing. Then I get up and start back, but I meet someone, C.S. Lewis, perhaps, and we sit on a bench and maybe have a pint of bitter and talk for an hour or several hoursuntil we have said all we have to say for now. And then I go gladly back to Davy. She, meanwhile, has played the celestial organ, an organ on which perhaps every note of a song can be heard at the same time: that is, the song is not played in time with half of it gone and half yet to be heard. She has played the organ for a few minutes and is just turning to greet me when I come in. Whether I was away for an hour or a hundred years, whether she has played ten minutes or thirty, neither of us has waited or could wait for the other. For there simply is no time, no hours, no minutes, no sense of time passing. The ticking has stopped. It is eternity. (A Severe Mercy, 203-204). 
 It's good to think about these things every once in awhile.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It will not last forever

It has been a strange week. Tragedy after tragedy, it seems, has rocked some portion of the country. Evil acts of terrorism have emerged. Assassination plots that would make for great Western movies have become reality. In the past seven days, here is a glimpse of what has gone on, state and nationwide:

This is all in the past seven days. How do we think about all this? How do we reconcile our knowledge of the goodness and sovereignty of God with the carnage all around us? These are tough things to think about, but Christians should keep one truth close to heart: our highest good will not happen here. Not on this earth. Our highest good and greatest blessing has been reserved for eternity, where it will never perish. All people perish on Earth—and some tragically—but the good we have waiting for us cannot be taken away, thanks to our blood-bought inheritance through Christ. Let that be an anchor for your soul. 

So, God will reveal fully his goodness and sovereignty in the end, when we are finally saved. That is where we take comfort, and that is how we glorify God here. We look at the evil and destruction around us and say "God is my refuge and strength. A mighty fortress in times of trouble." And we know that when we see Him, all will be most well. 

In thinking about these things, we should also be amazed that we even have the ability to know these things in real-time. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the rest provide us with instant access and footage of major events as they happen. This is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because we can contact loved ones, know how to pray, and be informed in the case of emergencies or national crises. A curse because many people rush to be the first one to offer opinion and commentary on those events—often without waiting until all the facts are in. 

Technology aside, however, this has been a tough week emotionally for many people. And for those of us watching at home, we share in the emotional turmoil—in bits and pieces—of all of these events. Through photos, raw video, and Twitter feeds we get to see and share things as they are, on the ground.  And we get to experience, partially, all of these events. Some we feel more strongly than others, but we feel them all. 

This morning, I found myself quietly crying at my desk, tears trickling down my cheeks, as I listened to a little girl scream for her daddy after she saw the explosion at West, Texas. "Dad, I can't hear! I can't hear! Get out of here. Please, get out of here. Dad!" I resonate with her plea. Yes, Father, take us out of here. It's all so broken

In the end, though, we know that the brokenness will not last forever. So be burdened, be sad, and mourn what is happening. But do so knowing that it is only temporary. One day there will be no need for such tears. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

We really do hold life cheaply

I cannot understand it. There are positions that people-of-a-certain-worldview take that are morally irreconcilable in my mind. Unless you hold life cheaply, that is. And never has it been more clear than now that our society holds life cheaply.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist, is on trial for the murder of 7 babies and one woman. I will spare you the gory details—they are horrific and barbaric—but they are far worse than anyone originally imagined.

What throws me for a loop is the national media's obvious silence on reporting this case, America's Nuremberg if there ever was one. Several conservative and religious bloggers have lamented this fact—and even one pro-choice supporter has called the media to account for this abhorrence. You can read them here, here, and here (for the pro-choice scathing rebuke).

In a world where morality is objective, the actions of the mainstream media are morally irreconcilable. But we don't live in such a world—well, we do live in such a world, but it is not perceived as such.

I will admit that I am outraged over this. And rightfully so, I believe. It is a grave injustice that this happened in the first place. But it is even more illuminating of our culture that the very people who profess to give a voice to the powerless are absolutely silent now.

Why? Jesus, Why?

Why do we hold life so cheaply? Aren't we made in the image of God?

People will do unimaginable things for that which they worship. For those who worship the triune God, they will do unimaginably good, sacrificial, and wondrous deeds for Christ. For those that worship self, the same applies, but to a disastrous end. This is because we were never meant to be worshiped. The idol of self, working its way like leaven through the loaf, leads to the horrific end of slaughtering countless innocent lives. Worship of God, however, leads to the beginning of life.

Where did we go wrong? We believed Satan's lie in the Garden of Eden, and we've been believing it ever since. We need to repent. Now.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

With a straight face

It really is true that we reap what we sow. So for the discerning mind, what we are seeing now in our culture is clearly a reaping of what we sowed a generation ago (and much farther back). Bad fruit doesn't grow overnight.

Enter Planned Parenthood, that organization that provides all of those "other services" that are necessary to women's health. Abortion services—or whatever euphemism they gave it—count for such a small percentage of their overall health care services that we shouldn't even bother attacking them because it would be offensive to women who need those services. Right? I guess that's why they sent a lobbyist to argue in favor of a mother being able to kill her baby after a botched abortion. That's one of those "other services."

In a recent Florida legislative session, Planned Parenthood sent Alisa LaPoit Snow to testify in opposition to a proposal that would require a doctor to provide care to an infant whom an abortion failed to kill. Honestly, it's hard believe that this is a real situation. The madness of it all—I guess a human life has enough dignity to live if it survives an abortion attempt. Planned Parenthood opposes even that, if your finite brain can fathom such a concept. The testimony of Ms. Snow speaks for itself:
Rep. Jim Boyd: "So, it's just really hard for me to even ask you this question because I'm almost in disbelief. If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child who is struggling for life?"
Snow: "We believe that any decision that's made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician."   
I missed the day in school in which they taught the mental gymnastics that makes this all seem rational. Really, it's something. Now all of this is quite horrifying, but it's not very surprising. Since the Garden of Eden, people have been telling God what they should and shouldn't be able to do to their bodies—it's their body, remember?—while at the same time believing Satan's lies about what would be best for their bodies. It's a familiar story. So I am not surprised that women are now saying they ought to be allowed to say what happens to other peoples' bodies. It's funny how idolatry works that way—it's never satisfied because it can't be satisfied, apart from Christ.

Self-idolatry is the oldest trick in the book, and it doesn't take long for the autonomy and control of self-idolatry to extend to the control and autonomy of others. And it's not a feminism thing, either; just a different manifestation of the same disease. Macho chauvinists would do the same thing to women over whom they could exert control. Then the feminist movement (rightly so) figured out how to escape such oppression. But, seeing as they had also been sowing the seeds of self-idolatry in their heart, they fell into the same pattern. Only this time the people they subjected and controlled were even more helpless and vulnerable than they were.

The cycle continues; it's not hard to detect, if you look closely. It's ironic when you think about it for a bit—the similarities between the two situations are striking, and they run deep. At one point, some of the men in society viewed women as sub-human, property over which they had control. To them, women were to be subservient to men because they were not created equal; they did not possess the same dignity of personhood as men. The exact same mindset plagues the philosophy behind abortion. Fetuses are sub-human; they have no dignity. This is no accident—it is all related to what we have been sowing since the Fall. And only repentance has ever brought anyone out of that situation.

If you think that abortion is a horrific sin of our society, you do well. But don't stop there. Abortion is a judgment by God for the evils that have already been sown. We take pro-choice to the extreme because, at the end of the day, we do not submit our choices to God. We abuse our power over the powerless because our hearts are hungry for the power that only God has.

So that's how someone can get up in front of a legislative body and with a straight face say that a woman ought to be able to kill a living, breathing baby right in front of her. And the only way to get rid of this fruit forever is to take the axe to the root—self idolatry. We can only do this, though, through repentance and faith in Christ. We must have a new root, a different root. The Root of David. So please, come to Christ.
 

Monday, March 25, 2013

There is only one "Next Best Thing"

Lately I have come across several people—whether online or in reality—who have a severe "travel bug." Blogs about travel and travel experiences are innumerable. Young, single people dream about traveling the world, gaining invaluable experiences in the process. There's always somewhere they want to be going; there's always another place they need to explore. They thrive on cultural and experiential diversity. On the surface it may look innocent. But, as someone once said: "Wherever you go, there you are."

I have a sneaking suspicion that underlying all of these desires to "see the world" is a deep discontentment with the ordinary, mundane things in life. It's just like the person looking for the stronger high, the better orgasm, or whatever next best thing lies around the corner. But here's the truth: there is only one next best thing, and it is Christ and His Kingdom. Everything else will leave you wanting more. But the Kingdom of Christ promises an eternity of pleasure to those who find their life hidden in His.

Know that you will not be satisfied with your travels, even if you visit every continent and explore all that God's creation has to offer. Wherever you go, you will take with you that deep longing for something greater. Your only satisfaction will come through Christ. And he offers it to us even in the mundane, ordinary aspects of everyday life.

So don't look for a savior in your experiences. As this guy once said, "Cool experiences are cool, but they are a terrible God."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Vision for Education

Disclaimer: many of the ideas in this vision came from this book and this essay. I encourage you to read both.

It is no secret that public education as a whole is on the precipice of disaster. Many school districts in urban centers are failure factories. The schools in mostly middle-class suburbs, while churning out (somewhat) college-ready students, are perilously close to abdicating objective standards and criteria altogether. After that, there is no turning back. While I am happy that the system will likely topple, it leaves us with a potentially gargantuan mess to clean up and the need for different blueprints with which to start over.

What we need is a fundamental change, from the very foundation. And like all truly good foundations, this one must begin with repentance and faith. We must repent (as a community and as individuals) of believing the lies we have been taught since childhood: that education will save you. While we may say, as Christians, that Jesus saves us spiritually, there's no denying that many of us have believed that a good education will save us physically. And so we pursue education as a means of saving ourselves. This is a lie, and we must recognize it as such.

But recognizing the lie is only the first step in repentance and faith. We must have something upon which we can build when the public education system lies in ruins. Even if public education stays around for the entirety of our lives, a new vision for Christ-centered education wouldn't hurt. In fact, I believe it would prove immensely powerful in fulfilling the Great Commission.

What follows, then, is my vision for education—specifically an education that is rooted in Christ and formed around the Classical method.

The Purpose of Education

Earlier in this blog, I hinted at the true purpose of education. The goal of true education is ultimately true worship. And we cannot worship that which we know nothing about. Therefore, we should want our children to love to think and learn as a means of teaching them to worship. But we need to teach them how to think and learn properly. Believe it or not, everything in life is connected; it is all part of the grand narrative of Scripture. And it is all subject to the Lordship of Christ. This includes the education of our children. So, in our educational pursuits, we ought to endeavor to show how trigonometry and Shakespeare are related under the umbrella of Christ. That is just an example, but the point is made: If the universe is upheld by Christ's word of power, then we ought to learn about both the universe and about Christ. And they ought to be done together, under one roof. We need to raise our children in the paideia (worldview) of God (Eph. 6:4).

The Purpose of All Pursuits

The purpose of a classical Christian education follows closely with Scripture. Throughout the Psalms and Proverbs, we are encouraged to get knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. We are told to love God's law—to meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1). Surely, the man who delights in God's law becomes a blessing to those around him. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, a blessing to all who come into contact with him.

The Bible commands us to do everything unto the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). So, the purpose of all human pursuits, whether eating, drinking, or learning, is to glorify God. Education is a tool to help us know, understand, and appreciate the world in which we live. And we should aim to appreciate God because of the world we know so much about.

Classical education focuses on a student's ability to learn, not merely learn subjects. So, its purpose is to train children how to learn and think properly. What good would it do to have your child memorize "Clair de Lune" when you could teach them to read music instead? Classical education teaches students the "art of learning." Christian classical education teaches students the art of learning in a Christ-centered universe.

Purpose in Threes

So, with the mandate to get knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, we can examine how the mandate applies to a Christian pedagogy. When looked at closely, these commands fall perfectly in line with the classical model of education. The path of classical education follows three stages, which we will discuss later. But the stages themselves follow Scripture's admonition to get knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. This threefold path has both a scientific and aesthetic component that correspond to our purposes. The scientific component seeks to gain knowledge, understanding, and ultimately wisdom. The complimentary aesthetic components are truth, goodness, and beauty. These dual sets of three line up nicely with the progression of the classical Trivium syllabus (discussed in the next section):

Grammar =Knowledge / Truth
Logic =Understanding / Goodness
Rhetoric =Wisdom / Beauty

When done with the Scriptures as the foundation, this progression teaches students to recognize and appreciate the unity of all knowledge under Christ. It aims their sights past the mere accumulation of knowledge—it goes on to teach students to apply that knowledge in a way consistent with the Bible's great commands: to love God and love our neighbors.

All of this ends with a singular purpose: the purpose of education is to teach children principles of right learning and right thinking that will ultimately cultivate right living, for the glory of God and the good of society.

The Plan of Education

With our purposes established, let us discuss what the "art of learning" actually means. The plan of education follows the Medieval Classical model laid out in Sayers' essay "The Lost Tools of Learning." But before we talk about the solution, we should identify the problem with modern education. Dorothy Sayers summarized the issue well in her 1947 essay: "[A]lthough we often succeed in teaching our pupils 'subjects,' we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning." The problem is even more pronounced in our current school system. Standardized tests and "teaching to the test" are the norms under which we operate. I believe this does a severe disservice to the student's mind and natural intellectual development. 


The classical model, on the other hand, follows closely a child's natural development stages. When kids are mental sponges, soaking up everything around them, we teach them facts, facts, and more facts. We cram their heads full of information because it is more likely to stay there. Later on, when older children are learning that they like to challenge authority and argue, we teach them what authority means and how to argue well. When teenagers are trying to find meaning and significance in their lives, we teach them the root of their identity and show them that life flows from it in a beautiful, cohesive manner. So, let's look at a basic outline of the classical model of education. 

The Trivium

The Trivium was a central part of the Syllabus of Medieval Classical Schools. It consisted of three parts: Grammar, Logic (or Dialectic), and Rhetoric, in that order. These are not so much "subjects" as they are methods of dealing with subjects. In other words, they represent methods of learning. The purpose of the Trivium is to give the student the proper tools of learning before they attempt to apply them to different subjects (the Quadrivium). With that background, let us look at the nature of each stage in the Trivium. (Note: this section borrows heavily from Dorothy Sayers's essay).

Grammar (Knowledge, Truth)

Grammar, in its essential terms, is the study of things as they are. In modern expression, grammar students will learn facts, figures, names, places, events, and so on. They will also learn "grammar" as it is colloquially known—English and Latin grammar. Principally, students will be taught Latin grammar as a foundation of the rest of their education. Latin, although a "dead" language, is indispensable to a liberal arts education. Latin proficiency, some say, cuts down the effort required to learn other subjects by at least fifty percent.  

In this stage of learning, children's brains are sponges waiting to soak up knowledge. We must make use of this proclivity as much as possible. The principal method of learning in this stage will be the child's memory. Their heads should be filled with scripture, stories, myths, geography, multiplication tables, and anything else we can cram into them. 

In the study of English, verse and prose should be memorized by heart. It should be through recitation and memory exercises. Classical stories and masterpieces of all kinds should be included in the curriculum. All in all, the student should be taught to love to read, memorize, and learn about stories. After all, we are a part of a story ourselves. 

The grammar of history should consist of dates, events, anecdotes, and personalities. A set of dates that form a timeline of history in the student's brain will serve him well in obtaining a proper perspective of history. Western history should be emphasized, particularly because it is so closely intertwined with the history of the Church. And of course, dates and names should be accompanied by pictures, drawings, buildings, and so on, so that any date will trigger a litany of images from the entire period.

Geography should be presented factually, with emphasis on maps, natural features, and visualizations of geographic flora, fauna, and cultural customs. Old school memorization of countries and their capitals wouldn't hurt, either. 

Science, in the grammar stage, structures itself around natural philosophy. The identification and naming of species, plants, constellations, clouds, and so on should dominate the curriculum. Learning these scientific facts—oftentimes forgotten by adults—gives children an immense sense of satisfaction, not to mention practical value (if, say, they know which indigenous snakes are poisonous or not).

The grammar of mathematics should start with the multiplication tables, which should be learned as early as possible; other study should include geometric shapes and groupings of numbers.

Lastly, the grammar of theology ties everything else together. In this stage, students should be well acquainted with the storyline of creation-fall-redemption-restoration. Heavy emphasis is also placed on creeds, catechisms, and the Ten Commandments. Students should memorize Scripture regularly. The important thing is that these truths are remembered—full comprehension of their meaning and relation will come in due time.

So far, this type of curriculum looks fairly similar to the current systems of education (with the exception of theology). But the prevailing difference shows up in the attitude of the teachers. The teachers should view these exercises not as subjects in and of themselves, but as information-gathering for later use. In order to invent things, your mind has to have an inventory. This is the stage where children enlarge their mental inventory, so that they can invent things later on.

Logic (Understanding, Goodness)

The logic stage should be begun as soon as the child shows signs of pertness and interminable argument. In other words, when the child becomes predisposed to argue and challenge authority at every turn, it is time to focus that energy on arguing and challenging correctly. Logic, in its simplest terms, is the art of arguing correctly. We introduce children to the syllogism and teach them how to detect logical fallacies. The practical utility of these teachings lies not in the ability to arrive at a positive conclusion but in being able to detect a false inference. This skill will be immensely useful to students as adults. Coincidentally, the logic stage is where the classical model of education takes its largest departure from the modern method. 

In the study of language, an emphasis will be placed on the logical construction of speech in order to understand how we convey ideas to one another. Reading should be focused on essays, argument, and criticism, and the student should be taught to write in these forms as well. 

Mathematics will be focused on algebra, geometry, and other forms of higher arithmetic. Math will be taught, not as a separate "subject," but as a sub-department of logic. It is the rule of the syllogism applied to numbers and measurement. Math is neither a dark mystery nor a special revelation.

History will be aided by a system of ethics derived from the grammar of theology, which should provide much material suitable for discussion on specific events in history. Discussion should often take the form of a debate. Questions about history will inevitably arise: Was this behavior justified? What was the effect of this law? What is the best form of government? And so on. Inevitably this will lead to the study of constitutional history, a subject of much interest to students who are learning to debate.

The principles of logic will transcend any one subject and spill over into the student's every day life. "Subjects, " as Sayers opined, merely provide the grist for the mental mill to work upon. Children are natural born casuists, and this inclination should be developed and trained in order to bring into focus the events of the adult world. Material for such training is abundant throughout life's normal circumstances.

Rhetoric (Wisdom, Beauty)

Just as the Logic stage showed us that all branches of learning to be inter-related, Rhetoric shows us that all knowledge is unified. At this stage, students will discover that logic and reason only take the mind so far; they will crave more material for their minds to chew on. With a solid foundation of the tools of learning (Grammar and Logic), the storehouses of knowledge may now be opened up to the students for them to browse at will. 

The syllabus of the rhetoric stage will be more difficult to map out than in prior stages. Appreciation should be emphasized over criticism. Students should be allowed to explore subjects that interest them or engage a realized aptitude. Because grammar and logic provided and sharpened the tools for learning, the rhetoric stage should be used to appreciate learning. Students who wish to specialize in one or two subject should be allowed to pursue those subjects more ardently. Latin, having been taught thoroughly, should be dropped for more modern languages should the student so choose. 

Practically speaking, the rhetoric stage can be completed in two years and corresponds to the beginning years of high school. Once completed, the student can continue on to the Quadrivium, where the tools of learning are applied to various specialized subjects. A student's education does not end with rhetoric; instead, the student is now well-equipped for a lifetime of learning. 

Although the rhetoric stage allows for much flexibility, it also equips the student to tackle any subject he chooses with relative ease. In a Christian School setting, rhetoric should point to the unity of all things under Christ. Students should by now come to a full understanding of a comprehensive biblical worldview and be ready to defend it persuasively. The goal of Christian rhetoric should be wisdom—knowledge applied. So far, students have amassed a large body of facts (grammar) and sorted those facts into good, bad, right and wrong (logic). Now, the object of education is to teach the students how all of those things are interrelated. We want the students to be able to apply all of their knowledge to a given scenario (or subject), and to do it well. This is the essence of wisdom.

The final goal of the rhetoric stage is wisdom and beauty. Rhetoric teaches students how to use wisdom and how to convey beauty. And it teaches them how to do so with a backbone.

The Quadrivium

Historically, the Quadrivium consisted of four elements—arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. The quadrivium was originally taught as the study of numbers: pure numbers (arithmetic), numbers in space (geometry), numbers in motion (astronomy), and numbers in time (music). In modern usage, however, the quadrivium refers to the body of knowledge to which the trivium is applied. Together they (trivium and quadrivium) form the "seven liberal arts" of classical education.

In a Christian School setting, the quadrivium will provide material upon which the students will use their tools of learning. Students will apply the principles of the trivium to each of the specialized subjects. Students should also be allowed to explore their interests more widely—those who wish to attend college will continue to develop their mastery of advanced courses, whereas students who wish to enter into a trade can "rest on their oars" and develop the necessary trade skills.

Above all else, the quadrivium will give students a chance to encounter and apply a unified worldview to life's various aspects. Armed with a biblical worldview and a robust understanding of the world and how it works, students will be prepared to enter the public square and advocate for the faith with wisdom, beauty, and clarity.

More resources on establishing a Classical Christian curriculum can be found here.

The Practice of Education

Even if a school employs the best ideals and curriculum, it still must operate in some sort of context. It must serve some larger purpose than education for its own sake. How should a child's education take place? How will children use what they learn in schools in a missional context? What role does the local body of believers play in each child's education? These are reasonable questions for Christians who live in close community with one another. Raising and educating children is—like all of life—not supposed to be a solo act. It takes a village. 

The practice of education should function as a training ground for effective missional living in the context of a covenant community and in the public square. Education should be a community effort, driven by the desire to raise and train men and women to fulfill the Great Commission. Through knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, we ought to inculcate our children with a unified and biblical view of the world, which they proceed to take to the world. Because we know that education is not merely memorization of facts, figures, and formulas—but rather a robust training for the mind and heart—we ought to approach the practice of education differently than modern methods would dictate. 

Education in Christian Community

Much like the Christian life, Christian education flourishes in the confines of a loving community of faith. In this regard, the communal aspect of Christian education has two aims: (1) to train and educate men and women to be powerful witnesses for Christ, and (2) to teach children to grow in sanctification together. The principles that guide our missional communities should guide our schools as well. The only difference is that the schools will take on a slightly different vision and mission than those of the missional communities. In the school, there should be an emphasis on repentance, confession, and reconciliation with God and one another. The students wandering the halls are not doing so as random, independent people with nothing in common. Ideally, they are walking as a body—unified in the faith. So the biblical exhortations to the church at large will apply to the students as well. We must not only teach them academically; we must prepare them for life together. And as with any community of sinners, there will be conflict in schools. Therefore, the faculty, staff, and leadership of the school should lead by example in these areas. We must show that education is not a separate entity from the Christian life. The things that the children learn are all connected, as everything is to be brought under the Lordship of Christ. We should therefore not exclude the communal aspects of the Christian life from the classroom. 

Education and Mission

As strange as it may seem, education and mission are inextricably linked at the core. In today's society, the intelligentsia rule the cultural discussion. Christianity has been marginalized, partly because Christians are seen as ignorant, uninformed fairy-tale believers. Many people also believe that science and Christianity simply don't mix. You either believe one or the other. We know, from the Bible, that this isn't true. But we ought to be able to show how this isn't true. 

Gospel-centered mission requires some level of cultural engagement. We must be able to engage with ideas if we are to show that Christ is Lord over those ideas. We must understand the true human condition if we are going to offer the only true solution to that condition. Education is critical to these functions. The classroom is where students are trained to engage ideas and understand the human condition. So, the classroom serves as a training ground for the     

Objections to the Classical Christian Model and Methods

Several objections to Classical Christian education are reasonable and deserve a response, though mine will be brief. I will respond briefly to two major objections to this method. Further discussion will be warranted on these topics (and I would like the discussion to continue).

Shouldn't we send our kids to public schools to try and reach public school kids?

In other words, if we are training our kids to be missionaries, but simultaneously taking them out of the mission field, what good does that do? This is a reasonable objection, but we should learn to think carefully about why we take our kids out of public school in the first place. The issue is not that Classical Christian School abandons the kids' mission field for a "holy huddle." The issue is the mission field and where it lies. If we really believe that education is the training ground for mission, then a school will not be the mission field for kids. For teachers, maybe. But children must be trained as missionaries before they can be missionaries. You wouldn't send your soldiers into battle and plan on training them in battle tactics after the war ended. It would not work out well. In the same way, we shouldn't send our kids into the mission field as inexperienced converts when we could train them from their youth.

Instead, we should be leading our children in the mission field as a community. Mission isn't an isolated activity; it's a way of life. I believe the best way for children to live out this way of life is in the context of a covenant community, walking alongside the children as missionaries in their neighborhoods. Instead of sending our kids to public schools, hoping for the best as their young minds are filled with secular theology, we should train them in God's way—and then show them what it looks like to be a missionary in their neighborhood. You can't do that in public schools—your voice will be squelched.

Public schools are increasingly becoming "closed" to the gospel. While I heartily agree that our children should be the face and voice of Jesus to their peers, that voice is not getting a hearing in school. In fact, it is being snuffed out intentionally. And as schools continue to push for an increasingly anti-biblical curriculum and worldview, a fair exchange of ideas where the gospel can be heard will be a thing of the past.

But let me clarify, lest anyone mistake my position here. I do not think that Christian children should isolate themselves from their unbelieving peers. Christian students absolutely should engage their peers and bear witness to Christ in their lives. The question, though, is where should the children engage their peers? What I am saying is that it should not be in the classroom. Instead, it should be in the neighborhood and through outside community activities, such as sports leagues, music and/or art groups, etc. If we are honest, that is probably where most of the interaction would take place anyway, regardless of school choice.

Classical Christian School is too expensive for economically disadvantaged kids—who will reach them?

This concern is usually borne out of a heart for the lost in poor communities, and rightly so. A proverbial turning-up-of-the-nose at the poor and marginalized is anathema to the gospel. And private school tuition is by no means cheap. Thus, won't the poorer kids be left behind to drown in failing public schools where there is no witness for Christ?

First, we must remember that education is not our savior. A child's eternal security does not rise and fall with the quality of education that is available to him. Here we may need to reassess some of our longstanding assumptions about public school and its mission-critical nature.

Second—and this goes back to what I talked about in the previous objection—public school children would not be "left out." If we truly believe in the neighborhood parish model of mission, we would ideally reach the public school kids in our neighborhood regardless of where they attend school. I don't work with my neighbors, but I still form relationships with them and share the gospel with them. I think the same principle applies to our children: they may not go to school with the neighborhood kids, but they should still form relationships with them and tell them about Jesus. If mission is truly accomplished as a community, this takes the focus off of the school as the mission field and places it on the community. The children will be trained for robust faith and mission at school, and then they will out it into practice in their neighborhood, with the guidance of their parents and parish family. 

Third, classical Christian school doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. If we really view education as part of the mission of the church, then we will be committed to making it as available as possible to all who desire it. If we view school-planting like we view church planting, we will give generously and creatively to make it happen. I know people rarely like to talk about adding an "extra" giving item to their budget, but it is possible. We only have to incorporate it into our worldview and believe that it is something worth giving to. 

My kids will grow up to be weirdos

No, they won't. Not if we do this right. They will, by God's grace, grow up to be powerful witnesses for Christ in the public square. They will be able to hold their own and go toe-to-toe intellectually with the best the secular world has to offer. They will be able to give a reasoned and worthy defense of their faith. They will understand how God should inform our culture and creativity. And coupled with a biblical understanding of sin and how the world works, they will be a mighty force for good in society. If your kid grows up to be a weirdo, it will be your fault.


Adopting the Vision

I encourage you to consider this vision for education. If—after testing it with God's word and prayer—you find it compelling, adopt it as your own. I hope it becomes our vision together. I look forward to the day when we have the freedom and resources to educate our children to be warriors for Christ instead of spending our time backtracking the values they are fed in public schools. Our children should see a unified vision of the world through church and school. Once equipped, they can be sent to make disciples in all corners of the world. A well-trained mind coupled with a heart on fire for Christ is a powerful force for the gospel. If making disciples is our goal, why wouldn't we devote resources to training disciple-makers from birth? Think of it as an extended disciple-making residency program.

I realize that not everyone will agree with my vision for educating our children, and that's ok. But I do believe that this conversation stems from our desire to be faithful to God's word and the realization that education doesn't get a pass from the whole counsel of God. While the practical outworking of our convictions may look different, I am thankful that God has given us convictions in the first place. It is a testament to the grace of the Holy Spirit in our body.

As you consider this vision, keep in mind that we commit considerable resources to planting churches in communities that have little gospel presence. We plant churches so that the gospel would be non-ignorable in those communities. What would it look like if we took the same approach to education? What if we planted schools alongside churches, so that children would be trained to make the gospel non-ignorable in their communities? What kind of culture would we create? What kind of harvest would we see? My vision is to establish a Christ-centered education that teaches children to love God and their neighbors with their whole beings. I hope you will join me in this vision—for the glory of God and the good of our city.