A Message from our Synodical Fathers

The ELS web site has a growing number of resources from past times. One of these is the collection of convention essays delivered over the years. Keeping in mind that our synod’s rebirth in 1918 was a humble event, and insignificant in worldly eyes, it’s not hard to imagine that the fledgeling “Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church” had a lot of work to do. Yet very early in our history, the topic chosen for a 1921 convention essay was “Christian Day Schools.” In this essay, Pastor Torgerson identifies the need for our churches to teach the faith, and considers several options. It is worth our time to listen to his message. You can find it here.

Concrete Lessons

by Bob Gove

High in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, the Skagit River starts its journey to the sea. Down through a couple dams, past the little towns of Marblemount and Rockport – – – then by the unique town of Concrete .

A fascinating phenomenon existed in that little town sixty years ago – maybe it is still the same today; I haven’t had opportunity to re-visit.

A cement manufacturing plant was the main reason for the town’s existence (hence the town’s name – “Concrete”). Its presence was obvious as one entered the town, for everything was encased in cement. Over the years dust emitted from the cement plant had settled on the roofs and fences and everything else that wasn’t moved frequently. When rain fell, it combined with this cement dust, encasing everything in a rock-like coat. It hung heavily from the power and telephone wires all over town. Some wires had become as thick as a baseball bat, with long rows of cement “ice cycles” hanging from them.

In the years since being there, I have often wondered if the inhabitants suffered ill effects from breathing air so full of cement dust.

And some spiritual lessons came into focus too. For instance — consider how the influence of the world effects you. Unless you thoroughly bathe your mind frequently with the cleansing Word of God, the “dust” of the world’s attitudes will cling and harden around your heart, closing off any compassion you might otherwise express to a hurting soul. “ –but you were washed , you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Another reason for such frequent cleansing is to rid ourselves of the self-defense mechanism many of us resort to; that of erecting a hard shell of isolation against the cruel words and actions of those we must contact every day.

God put us here to be “salt and light” in this sick and sin darkened place. Let’s forget the defensive tactics; “The best defense is a good offense”. Our acquaintances and co-workers are not the enemy — recognize the real enemy; see the havoc Satan has caused in their lives, and wash it away with the all powerful Word. They need Jesus just like we do.

“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4: 12

Announcing a Major Change in Our Parish Work: Two Pastors!

The congregations of Bethany and Concordia decided on February 28 to extend two pastoral calls. One of the calls is to replace the call of Pastor Jacobsen, who has been serving as the sole pastor of the two churches since 2006. The replacement call was extended to Pastor Jacobsen to serve as senior pastor, but to focus his work on being the principal of Columbia Lutheran School and teaching the upper grades. A second call is also extended by the two churches for a new pastor to serve their pastoral needs full-time. The decision was to request a pastoral candidate from Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota. That’s the seminary of our Evangelical Lutheran Synod, from which Pastor Jacobsen graduated in 1998.

Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

After prayerfully considering it for two weeks, Pastor Jacobsen decided to accept the new call extended to him. He is now preparing to teach full-time in the upper-grades classroom, and managing the school’s transition to serving students from kindergarten through 8th grade.

Columbia Lutheran School was started in 2014 with Mr. Doug Radliff (a Concordia member with his wife, Lilly) as the kindergarten-4th grade teacher. He came to Columbia with many prior years of teaching, most recently the first and second grades at Covenant Christian Academy. Bethany has always had the long-range intention of operating a school with the usual “elementary” grades for a Lutheran parochial school, which extend to the 8th grade. After researching the start of Columbia Lutheran School, there is also an intention to open an early learning center for pre-kindergarten students.

Lutheran parochial education has a long tradition in the United States and elsewhere. Unlike a public school education, it includes biblical teaching as the foundation of every subject. The greatest benefit of literacy, for example, is to read and write the timeless truths of God’s Word. This helps us to grow in our faith, to glorify God, and to further the spread of the Gospel. Likewise, the study of mathematics and science is the study of God’s creation and its design.

Columbia is also distinguished in being a classical school. This is a return to the principles of learning used for many centuries, rooted in the foundations of western civilization: the Greek and Roman worlds of antiquity. A classical school teaches the history, languages, and literature from the classical period of time together with later times, but it also applies the teaching philosophy and methods developed from that time until now. Its purpose is to help our students grow into their full God-given potential as human beings redeemed by Christ, with dual citizenship in heaven and on Earth. Columbia’s mission is “To provide a quality classical Christian education for the families of the Mid-Columbia area, preparing students for their current and future God-given roles and supporting parents in their vocation to educate and nurture their children.”

Pastor Jacobsen will be fully engaged in the work of the school, especially in his first year of full-time classroom teaching. The school is an outreach ministry of Bethany, and benefits from the generosity of many people at Bethany, others in our fellowship, and even nationwide. The prayers of many ELS members are with us in this endeavor. Until the new pastor is installed, Pastor Jacobsen will be able to serve our churches as a vacancy pastor. That means he will conduct services and help to meet basic ministerial needs, but most of his attention will be on the needs of the school. After the new pastor arrives, Pastor Jacobsen will continue to be involved in our services, but on a much more limited basis.

We will hear in the first half of May whether a seminary graduate is assigned to our parish. If there is one assigned, we can look forward to celebrating that with an ordination and installation service for both pastors over the summer months. If not, then the congregations will join together for another call meeting and extend the call for a second pastor to another qualified man.

Your prayers and generosity with your time, talents, and treasure are both appreciated and needed by your congregation, and by Columbia. Please continue to pray for God’s blessings upon the work of Pastor Jacobsen, because they will also run over into blessings upon your congregation and its other work in the Gorge. Just as importantly, please remember to speak well of the work that God is doing among us, so that your neighbors, friends, and coworkers are aware of it in a positive light. This opens a door for you to help in the spread of the Gospel, and the strengthening of our Lord’s Church.

Thanks be to God!

Let’s Try Sunday School 2.1

Sunday School is a real challenge for us at Bethany and Concordia. A big part of the challenge is that families with children need to bring them to church on Sunday morning. A second major part is that being a Sunday School teacher is a thankless task, and can be stressful at times. But the most unusual challenge for us is that there is no pastor who can carry out a plan for Sunday School. What? No pastor? I thought we had one of those! Yes, we do, but during Sunday School, he’s away serving the “other church.” It may be comparable to poor Jacob who found himself married to both Rachel and Leah. Jacob knew that a marriage is a lifelong commitment. In his case, there were two lifelong commitments. Not exactly God-pleasing, not the best example for us, but the demands that naturally ensued between Leah and Rachel for their husband’s scarce time might be comparable to our two congregations during their Sunday School hours. Neither one can be entirely satisfied.

So the Sunday School Manifesto previously posted here will be saved for another day. It’s too ambitious for the resources available at Bethany. We’re going to do something a bit different. Two groups: adults and children, with a short-term class of only 4-6 weeks. The first class will be about Creation, dinosaurs, the Flood, and so forth. There will be refreshments, and especially for the adults, a time for visiting. When this is finished, the next few weeks will be preparation for a Christmas program: singing, instrument playing, etc. Come on October 18th if you want to see it from the very beginning, or come on a later Sunday to join the class in progress.

We care deeply about the members of our churches, including their children. So the effort to overcome our challenges and bring us together for continued spiritual growth should be well worth the investment. In fact, why not bring a friend or two with you? 9:30 on Sunday morning for fellowship, 10 a.m. for the start of classes.

Another Approach to Sunday School at Bethany

The Bethany Sunday School Manifesto

With thanks to God and our long-time Sunday School teachers for great blessings over the years to this point, we are planning to try something new at Bethany starting in fall of 2015.

Our Objective

Our objective is that our congregation’s members and friends grow in their knowledge of Christ, and in the ability to teach it to the next generation.

Sunday School has functioned as a corrective for the major shortcoming of public education, namely, that any knowledge of a Christian nature, or from the Bible is actively excluded from public education. This dramatically handicaps public education in every practical way. It produces students ignorant of biblical truth and often hostile to the gospel.

Our Challenges

  1. The dual-parish schedule that requires the church members to handle Sunday School without the pastor’s presence during the program.

  2. The gradual overall loss of interest in Sunday School relative to other demands in the lives of our members. This has occurred among children as well as adults.

Our Perspective

Without an accurate knowledge of Jesus Christ as God’s Son, revealed only in holy Scripture, it’s impossible to have faith in Jesus. Without faith in Jesus, it’s impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), and a person faces God’s judgment. Most of the world does not accept what the Bible says about Jesus, including and especially the secular institutions of education in our community. They sometimes even teach against it.

Every member of our congregation is regarded as a member of the body of Christ, each with an important role or responsibility in connection with the Christian education of children. Parents bear that responsibility directly, and the rest of the Church has the duty to help them.

The best and most complete Christian education is found at a Christian school, where the Word of God forms and influences everything that is taught, and where Law and Gospel are properly divided. This may be a corporate school like Columbia Lutheran School, or a school in a home.

While any child may participate in Sunday School, it’s especially oriented around those children who don’t enjoy full-time Christian education. While only some of the adults have a direct responsibility for educating children, every Christian helps to bear the responsibility of the whole Church, that all children should be taught God’s Word and the biblical worldview.

Our Plan

  1. All congregation members available will meet weekly before the Divine Service, when the pastor is still unavailable, at 9:30 a.m.

  2. Promptly at 9:30, one of the men will begin reading the order of Matins without the parts having underlined labels. He may ask all in attendance to read everything together, or he may read only the parts of the liturgist. If possible, one of the youth or adults will accompany the group in the singing of a catechism hymn from the Hymnary, which will replace the Canticle.

    Hymn Number Catechism Part
    490/488 Ten Commandments
    38/37 Creed
    383 Lord’s Prayer
    248/247 Baptism
    417 Keys and Confession
    329/316-317 Sacrament of the Altar
  3. For up to 5 minutes: Small Catechism. The group practices reciting the Small Catechism snippet in the bulletin for the day.

  4. For up to 5 minutes, Large Catechism. Matins leader reads the excerpt of the day from the Large Catechism and asks a question about it. Anyone may discuss the question.

  5. Optional up to 5 minutes, Hymns: Sing more requested hymns.

  6. Split into two groups:

    1. Adults remain in the sanctuary with older youth to discuss things from the day’s lessons, and how they may be presented to children. Adults who served as teachers (see below) the prior week should have an opportunity to share their observations. Consider things like:

      1. What do children need to know first in order to understand this lesson?
      2. What existing knowledge or opinions might the children have, which needs to be corrected by this lesson?
      3. How can this lesson bring children to a fuller understanding of Christ, and a deeper faith?
      4. How does this lesson present or apply the law or the gospel?
      5. How does this lesson overlap or reinforce the teaching of the Small Catechism?
      6. How might this be illustrated or reinforced with examples, demonstrations, or hands-on activities?
    2. Children and younger youth accompany a designated pair of adults/older youth into the fellowship hall. Other adults may come to help, but the designated pair is in charge. They will be scheduled for this rotating responsibility at least a week in advance. Husband-wife teams are encouraged.

    If possible, the adults in charge should try to use what has been learned and discussed in the adult Sunday School discussion. Any appropriate learning activity is fine. When in doubt, you are encouraged to ask the Pastor ahead of time. Any questions that the teacher is unable to answer may be reserved for discussion in the adult Sunday School session, or may be addressed to the Pastor after the Divine Service.

Steps for Organizing

  1. Decide who will be expected to lead Matins. It should be men, ideally a group who can take turns. They will decide among themselves who will be up each Sunday. It would be wise for them to post that schedule on the bulletin board.

  2. Partway through every month, the adults/older youth will fill the next month’s schedule, deciding what pair of adults/youth will be teaching all the children each Sunday. Others may help, but the designated volunteers will be in charge. The schedule should be posted on the bulletin board. The church secretary can help with that.

  3. On the first Sunday of the school year, the schedule should be filled for the first month.

Why Christian Schools? (part 3)

This is the third part of a series by a Lutheran pastor and headmaster of a classical Lutheran school in Idaho. Here we see that a Christian school is a most important part of the congregation’s outreach and evangelism.

Why Christian Schools? (part 3)

By Rev. Sean L. Rippy

“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14 ESV)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20 ESV).

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation’” (Mark 16:15 ESV)

These passages, and others like them, make it pretty clear that we, as the church, need to be about the business of spreading the Gospel to whomever we can reach.

It should not need to be said that the world is full of the lost who need the forgiveness and love of Jesus. An evangelist once said that on average, one soul is lost per second. That’s a profound statistic, and it should awaken in us a desire to get the Gospel out as best we can. Indeed, as we love our neighbor, part of that love should be telling them about Jesus and the love He has for them.

Naturally, the Christian school fits in well with this Great Commission. The school is a wonderful mission opportunity. We currently have 36 students who have no church affiliation. The Lord has literally laid these children at our feet so that we can tell them about Jesus. What a great opportunity!

While this is a great opportunity, we must not lose sight of the Lord’s own Word and become tempted to water down the faith in order to appeal to a larger audience. It has happened in both churches and schools that people have compromised the teachings of Jesus in the name of evangelism. This must never be. Are we smarter than Jesus who lost more than 5,000 followers in one day because He would not compromise the Word of the Lord? (John 6:66). The only message we have is the one Jesus gave us. Heaven forbid that we change that message or leave out part of it, for then it is no longer Jesus’ message, but one of our own making. Let us be proud of the message Jesus has given us and teach it loudly from the roof tops!

Let us also not fall into the subtle trap of thinking that the school is the only mission work that a church should be doing or even that the school is THE mission branch of the church. God has commanded that Christians build Christian schools in order to teach the faith to the young (see our first two articles); as such it performs the absolutely vital and God commanded role of creating disciples of our children and protecting them from the devilish influence of the worldly schools. This places the school under the education branch of the church. However, as people who have never heard the Word of the Lord come to our school, the school also performs the function of evangelism simply by doing what God has commanded us to do for our own children. It is the same with the worship service. The divine service is for the members of the church to confess their sins and receive forgiveness since a nonbeliever cannot worship a God they do not know or do not have faith in. However, that doesn’t mean that a nonbeliever, upon hearing the Word of the Lord in the Divine Service can’t come to faith. In both cases, the primary purpose of God’s command for the sake of the believers also has a secondary and vital purpose of reaching out to a dying world. But let not mission work stop there. There are other things that the church can and should do to reach out to our neighbors with the love of Jesus.

So while the school should never be the only mission work a congregation does, we should never forget that Zion Christian School is an important way in which we can reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus. When God just dumps them in our laps, we have no excuse.

This concludes our three part look into the necessity of Christian Education. To sum up, we have looked at three reasons why it is vital that congregations provide a Christian school and why it is vital that Christian parents send their children to a Christian school: 1. Because God commands them (Article 1), 2. Because our children need them lest we lose even one (Article 2), & 3. Because the world needs to hear about the love of Jesus (Article 3). I pray that if you kept up with me to this point, you can see the passion I have not only for Christian education but the necessity of Christian education. I truly do believe the only thing that can stand in the way of the massive influence from our world is the Christian school. I truly do believe that the Christian school is on par with the Church as the most important thing anyone can do for their children. So I beg you, if you have found these articles to be convincing, please share them with fellow Christians who need to hear this message. If we won’t teach our children, who will?

Why Christian Schools? (part 2)

Here is a second article written by a Lutheran pastor and headmaster of a classical, Lutheran school in Idaho. It is posted here with his permission. Though He refers to the LCMS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), the church body of his church and school, our readers will still find his comments relevant.

Why Christian Schools? (part 2)

By Rev. Sean L. Rippy

There is an old Lutheran joke that goes something like this: Once upon a time, there was a Lutheran church that had problems with bats in the belfry. The trustees of that congregation tried everything they could think of to get rid of the pesky bats but nothing worked. At length, one of the trustees was complaining to the pastor of the congregation. “I’ll take care of it,” the pastor said confidently. The next week the bats were gone. When asked how the pastor got rid of the bats, the pastor responded, “Well, I just baptized and confirmed them, and I haven’t seen them since.” This joke is funny (and a little painful) because we can relate to it. We hear it and we nod our heads knowingly because we’ve seen it happen. It’s kind of sad, but when we look around at our churches, we see the same story repeated over and over again: we lose many of our children after confirmation. We lose even more after they go off to college.

In last month’s article, we saw how God commands parents and churches to provide a Christian education for their children. This command, however, begs the question what does God mean by a Christian education? For example, in the Lutheran church, we offer Sunday school from preschool to high school and Confirmation for 7th and 8th graders under the category of Christian education. Is that all that God means by providing a Christian education or does He also require Christian schools to be built? First of all, I don’t think it’s too radical to suggest that Christian Schools are the best way to teach children God’s Word. In fact, I think we have enough evidence to suggest that Sunday School and Confirmation do not provide nearly enough Christian education to either sufficiently understand the Word of the Lord or to combat the unchristian influences that seek to devour our defenseless and impressionable children.

The joke I opened with about confirmation confirms my own personal experiences as well as the recent history of the LCMS and thus it illustrates the point that Sunday School and Confirmation are simply not enough. Based on the number of children and college students leaving the church every year, it seems clear that we need to do a better job of providing our children with the spiritual defenses they need to combat sin, the devil and the world. This is one of the reasons I believe God gave us Christian schools.

Let’s look at confirmation for a moment. The average confirmation lesson is 1 hour. The average confirmation class meets weekly, usually on Wednesdays, for about 9 months (the length of a school year). Subtract 4-6 weeks for Advent and Christmas and 6 weeks for Lent and it comes to about 27 hours a year or 54 hours over the two year span of confirmation.

On average, Jewish boys and girls receive about 248 hours of religious instruction a year, and Roman Catholics average about 305 instruction hours a year. The average Protestant averages only 52 hours a year (weekly Sunday School). And due to tardiness, absences, poor lesson materials and surroundings, it is said that even those 52 hours of instruction actually only average about 17 hours a year. For Lutherans, you can add about 27 extra hours a year for confirmation in 7th and 8th grade.

In comparison, the average U.S. child will, by the age of 65, have spent 9 full years of 24-hour days sitting in front of a TV set. If that same child goes to Sunday School and Bible Study every Sunday during those same years plus 2 years of confirmation, he will have spent only a little over 4 months studying the Bible. That’s 9 years of 24-hours of education from the TV and 4 months of education from the Bible. This doesn’t even begin to include the years of antichristian teaching from music, movies, books, and the public school system. If we don’t teach them, the world will.

I think few today would disagree about the unchristian influence of the media, but what about public schools? Isn’t public education neutral, allowing any child to believe what they want? I know this is a touchy subject because there are many faithful Christian teachers who are trying to do their best in a public school system that tries to straightjacket them, and my sympathies truly are with them. However, I think we have plenty of evidence that public schools do lead our children away from the Christian faith. Some of these are overt attacks on the authority of God’s Word and the Christian worldview such as the teaching of evolution which is unavoidable in a public school today, and some of these are subtle attacks on Christianity such as the secular teaching of critical thinking apart from the Word of God. A Christian simply cannot learn critical thinking without first subjecting his/her reason to the scriptures. Any form of critical thinking apart from the Word of the Lord is a path to destruction. As Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10).

In one of my articles for the Zion Christian School newsletter, I summarized a report from 2006 that found that 40% of those who eventually left the Christian faith started doubting in a public Middle School with another 40% starting to doubt in a public High School. There can be no doubt that public schools do influence our children in a negative way.

However, unbelief is not the only way that public schools affect our children. The schools may not entirely crush faith, but their influence is such that they can warp what our Christian children believe until it is no longer Christianity.

Quoting a study by Josh McDowell from his book The Last Christian Generation 2006, Alan Pue wrote:

“McDowell then gives some startling facts about young people. For example, 63 percent don’t believe that Jesus is God’s one true Son, 58 percent believe that all faiths teach equally valid truths, 51 percent don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead, 65 percent don’t believe that Satan is a real entity, and 68 percent don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real entity. He then observes, ‘It’s not that they haven’t embraced a version of Christianity; it’s simply that the version they believe in is not built on the true foundation of what biblical Christianity is all about’ (2006, 15).” (Pue loc. 241)

“How can these startling finds be true? How can our kids be so wrong about such fundamental truths? How can they embrace God and spirituality and yet hold such profoundly wrong beliefs? In answer to that question, McDowell writes, ‘In the absence of foundational training, our young people have been influenced by a philosophy that permeates much of our society- government, schools, movies, television, and music- and guides much of their behaviors without them (or most of us) even being aware of it’ (2006, 43).” (Pue loc. 241).

“Reread that quotation. Then focus on the phrase ‘in the absence of foundational training.’ I would argue that the foundational training to which McDowell refers can best take place in Christian Schools. It’s not that I think the church unconcerned or even incapable. And I would not even argue that every Christian school does a good job of equipping our young people to think and act Christianly. I would make the case, however, that Christian schooling, properly done, does provide the best context for the kind of in-depth discipling demonstrated in the Scriptures.” (Pue loc. 241) Rethinking Sustainability: A Strategic Financial Model for Christian Schools 2012 Purposeful Design Publications, CO Loc. 241. I would agree. I also want to draw your attention to the phrase “our young people have been influenced by a philosophy that permeates much of our society- government, schools, movies, television, and music- and guides much of their behaviors without them (or most of us) even being aware of it.” That’s the subtlety of the devil’s conceit. An antichristian philosophy permeates our society. It’s in our governments, our movies, our tv shows our music and in our schools, and we don’t even realize its influence until it’s too late.

I think most people in the United States (including most Christians) believe that education is spiritually neutral. They believe that educational philosophies are only good or bad as they pertain to a child’s academic success and have little to nothing to do with a child’s spiritual development one way or the other. The problem is that this ignores the reality of worldviews. All ideas have worldviews. All philosophies are based on certain presuppositions. Insofar as those philosophies are based on Biblical presuppositions, they may be called Christian. Insofar as those philosophies oppose Biblical presuppositions, they may be called nonChristian.

To put it simply, we must divorce ourselves from the myth of neutrality. Nothing is neutral. It is not possible to have a neutral government- Government principles and laws either agree with God’s Word or they don’t. It’s not possible to have a neutral tv show- the show either promotes views that agree with God’s Word or it doesn’t. And there is no such thing as a neutral school- schools either teach subjects in such a way that they agree with the Word of the Lord or they don’t.

When we look at scripture passages like Eph. 6:4, “raise your children in the admonition and instruction of the Lord,” as well as the multitude of Bible passages that teach us to avoid those who do not teach according to the Word of the Lord (i.e. 2 Tim. 4:2-5; Titus 1:10-2:1-15; 1 Tim. 1:3-11; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Tim. 6:2-10 etc., etc., etc.), it seems clear that Christians are to avoid any school that does not teach according to the Word of God or that teaches in such a way that they contradict or undermine the authority of God’s Word. We are to teach Christian things in Christian ways.

To be clear, God does not require an academic education. In other words, while we are commanded and required by God to teach our children the teachings of God as He has given them to us in the Bible and give them a proper education enough to be able to read and understand the Bible, a person does not have to learn math or secular history or science or many of the topics taught in a public school or college in order to be saved. However, He also says that if we are going to teach our children those subjects, then they must be taught in a way that does not contradict the Bible. In essence, if we must have an academic education, then we are to provide our children a Christian academic education.

When pushed, someone will ask if Christian schooling is necessary for salvation? Of course not. One can go through the worst of public education and still come out a Christian. It is possible. I made it, though I can’t say I made it without some dangerous and costly detours along the way. I was essentially a humanist when I came out of High School with a high trust in human reason and a weak trust in the authority of the Bible. If I had to admit it, I’d say Seminary with its intense study of the Bible saved me. I have friends who were not as blessed, however, and quite frankly, public schools have even less Christian influence today than they did when I was a child. The question, however, isn’t, how much can we put our children through and hope they’re one of the lucky ones. It’s what does God want you to do with your children? The scriptures say “The devil prowls like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” And you can bet that anywhere where Christ does not reign as supreme is his feeding grounds. Why put our children in harm’s way and hope for the best?

No parent would expect their children to physically compete with a professional athlete on the athletic field. Yet that’s exactly what we ask our Christian youth to do in the world. During their formative, immature years we expect them to contend successfully with an antithetical academic and philosophical system manned by college trained professionals and jazzed up by the best in technological entertainment. We expect them to take this all in, at least 12 years of schooling and 4 years of college, with only a few hours of Bible to counteract it, and then we expect them to emerge at the end with their faith and their beliefs intact. As early as 1941 Walter Lippman said “Day after day young people are subjected to the bombardment of naturalism with all of its animosity to Christianity. In the formative years of their lives, or at least during the period of their education when their ideas are crystallizing, they must listen and absorb these ideas of man, the world and religion. With these facts before them, why do Protestants wonder that Christianity has so little influence over young people!” 1941 folks!

Towards the beginning of the Reformation in the year 1520, Martin Luther wrote, “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.” & “I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount.”

Teaching our children is the most important thing parents can do on this earth. It’s us versus the world. It’s Jesus versus Satan. It’s heaven versus hell and the prize is the souls of our children. It is not enough to merely cast the seeds about and hope that the garden tends itself. We must do everything we can to protect our precious children from the many antichristian philosophies and worldviews that our present society with its media, government, and schools are actively pushing on them.

After many years of being duped by the myth of neutrality and the separation of church and state, I am now firmly convinced that when God commands us to provide a Christian Education for our children, He means more than just taking our children to Sunday School and Confirmation. He means that we need to provide a Christian school for our children- a Christian school that both protects our children from unchristian influences and teaches Christian things in a Christian way.

For Christian parents, I believe that this command of God to train and teach their children means that not only should they diligently protect their child from unchristian influences at home, teach the Word of God to their children at home and take them to Sunday School and confirmation, but it also means that they should be willing to suffer and sacrifice all in order to safeguard their children from the devil and his ways by putting them in a faithful Christian school. For congregations, I believe that this command of God means that for the sake of our own little ones, we must not only provide the best Sunday School and Confirmation programs we can, but it also means that we must provide the best Christian school we can. To do anything less, I believe, would be to abandon our children to the devil and the world and hope they make it.

Why Christian Schools? (part 1)

Here is an article written by a Lutheran pastor and headmaster of a classical, Lutheran school in Idaho. It is posted here with his permission.

Why Christian Schools? (part 1)

By Rev. Sean L. Rippy

Remember that saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”? It means that sometimes we can get so caught up in our day to day activities that we lose sight of the whole picture. There’s a time and a place for putting your head down and plowing ahead, but like the logger who made record time cutting down the wrong forest, we need to make sure that we take the time to step back and ask foundational questions like, “Are we doing the right thing, and are we doing them in the right ways?” For Christians this is especially important as we believe that we must make sure that we do what God wants us to do (the right thing) in the way God wants us to do it (the right way).

When it comes to Christian education, we are beset by any number of daily hardships. Christian education is hard work, it’s time consuming… and it’s expensive. In light of this and how much of our taxes already go to public education, it is easy to ask the questions why should we, individually as parents, sacrifice the extra time and money to send our children to a Christian school, and why should we, corporately as a church, sacrifice our time and money to provide another form of education? Isn’t the public school system good enough? Aren’t there better things we can do with that money?

These are difficult but important questions to ask, and they ultimately point to the foundational questions: What does God want us to do in Christian education, and how does He want us to do it?

As Christians, our first instinct to questions like these must always be to look to the Holy Scriptures to see what God has to say to us, for there, and only there, has God revealed His divine will to us. So what does God say about Christian education?

The first thing we see in God’s Holy Writ concerning education is that God has commanded Christian parents to provide a Christian education for their children:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV)

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pedants for your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9 ESV)

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

Did you notice the emphasis Moses put on his exhortation to parents? “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9). Wow! Either Moses was on too much caffeine that day or he’s telling us that Godly education is really, really, really important.

It seems clear that God wants Christian parents to provide a Christian education for their children. God wants parents to teach their children the laws of God and the good news of the Gospel. God wants them to teach their children the Bible and morality. God wants parents to defend their children from the ravenous wolves who would try to wrest faith away from them and who would mislead them and turn them away from God and His Word and His ways. God wants parents to protect their children from the antichristian worldviews fed to our children through tv shows, movies, music, books, and even schools.

However, while the primary responsibility of raising children in the ways of the Lord falls on the parents, God has also graciously provided assistance in this endeavor in the form of the Church. The Christian Church on earth is also commanded by God to provide a Christian Education.

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matt. 28:18-20 ESV).

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’” (John 21:17 ESV). Shortly thereafter, our Lord will command Peter to feed His sheep, thus distinguishing lambs- the young, from the sheep- the adults.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11-14 ESV).

“And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: ‘Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be careful to observe them.’”(Deut. 5:1)

“’Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess.’” (Deut. 6:1)

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17 ESV).

Let’s be clear, God provides the church to assist parents in their God given responsibility to raise their children in the ways of the Lord, not to take that responsibility away from them. In fact, the church cannot raise a child in the ways he should go without the parents putting the teaching into practice at home. The child may learn good discipline and morality at a Christian school, but the parents must reinforce this at home, else all is lost. The same goes for teaching the Bible. The child will receive Biblical education at a Christian School, but God expects parents to continue teaching the Bible at home. In fact, the Small and Large Catechisms were written to be used by the parents to teach their children. Look at the heading of each chief part- “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.”

In summary, the Bible teaches that parents are to provide a Christian education for their children, and to aid in that department, God has commanded that the church provide education ministries.

Look for the continuation of this article in next month’s newsletter where we’ll discuss what kind of Christian education God wants us to provide for our children.

The Division and Order of the Ten Commandments

Here’s a question I’ve seen several times over the years, and it’s come up again recently more than once. It could be alarming or deeply troubling to some, so it’s probably worth a short explanation.

First, remember that Christian churches observe traditions of all kinds, and once a tradition is in place, it tends to stay. Traditions are a connection to the past. Those who consider the past to be important consider it important to retain traditions, too. For Lutherans, the only good reason to break with tradition is when the tradition somehow works against the gospel.

When Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism and Large Catechism in 1528-1529, the Ten Commandments were ordered according to a prevalent tradition tracing back to Bishop Augustine of Hippo, who lived about A.D. 400. He was one of the most influential church fathers in the western, Latin-speaking part of the Church. It was not the only way the Ten Commandments had been ordered, but it made sense, served the gospel, and was well known and accepted. That ordering runs like this (in my own summary form to avoid quibbling about the wording):

  1. Have no other gods.
  2. Use God’s name rightly.
  3. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
  4. Honor your parents.
  5. Honor the sanctity of life.
  6. Honor marriage.
  7. Honor the property of others.
  8. Uphold the reputation of others.
  9. Don’t covet another’s estate.
  10. Don’t covet another’s living human or animal associates.

Luther also included a conclusion in the Small Catechism, which he took from the biblical text that explains the first commandment: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”

The Lutheran Reformation was a conservative reformation. That is, Lutheran reformers sought to reform the faith and practice they had received from antiquity, retaining what was acceptable in the light of scripture, and changing only what was unacceptable. Subsequent reformers like Ulrich Zwingli followed a different approach. Generally, they were convinced that nothing in the papist Roman church was salvageable: neither any of the doctrine, nor any of the practice. Lutherans therefore refer to their work as the “radical reformation.” Their approach is reflected in the way they divided and numbered the Ten Commandments: whatever Rome was doing had to be changed. Here’s the division they used.

  1. Have no other gods.
  2. Don’t make graven images.
  3. Use God’s name rightly.
  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Honor your parents.
  6. Honor the sanctity of life.
  7. Honor marriage.
  8. Honor the property of others.
  9. Uphold the reputation of others.
  10. Don’t covet anything.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary (1897) says that the ordering used by the non-Lutheran Protestants comes from the Greek church father Origen, so it would represent a point of minor disagreement between Origen and Augustine, who was born 100 years after Origen died. (They were both Africans, but from different regions.) The Eastern Orthodox churches today (Greek Orthodox, etc.) seem to follow the same division of the commandments, which makes sense, since Origen had greater influence on eastern traditions.

Augustine explained his reasoning for his particular numbering scheme in a work called “Questions on Exodus,” where this was question number 71. I may be able to find an acceptable translation of it for inclusion in the comments of this post later on.

Which ordering is right? Which is wrong? Well, neither. They are both acceptable traditions, as long as they don’t change the substance of the commandments. In fact, Jewish numbering of the commandments begins with this one, Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Yet despite these differences, each tradition still numbers ten commandments, probably because of Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, and Deuteronomy 10:4.

Far more important than the division of these commandments is their content. That’s where the Small Catechism of Dr. Luther really shines. The Hebrew text of the commandments has no inspired numbering, and everyone is using it in one way or another. But Luther’s explanation makes the correct and best use of it: to prepare the student for receiving the eternal blessings of Jesus Christ through the forgiveness of sins. Meanwhile, the commandments also instruct the Christian in righteousness, but the main purpose is always Christ, as Galatians 3:24 says, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

By explaining each commandment with the words “We should fear and love God [so that we…],” Luther shows how the Ten Commandments are a summary of God’s moral law, which goes much deeper than most people realize. One might say that his explanation sees the Ten Commandments through the lens of the cross. They are included first in the Catechism because they prepare the student for hearing, understanding, and believing the Gospel, which is summarized in the very next part of the Catechism: the Apostles’ Creed.