Truth and Life

Religion is on the mind of many people around the world. It has always been. Religious problems are connected with practical problems like terrorism, stewardship of natural resources, and the role of government.

Religious belief forms the core of who we are. Some think they are doing fine without religion, but it always turns out that they still believe and trust in certain things. Those things may be reason, progress, humanity, science, or something else. Martin Luther observed, “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the whole heart.” Even an atheist trusts in something, or else why does he look both ways before crossing the street? He may not call it “God,” but even by any other name, it still gives meaning and order to his daily life. In effect, it’s his god. That’s the meaning behind the remark, “God does not believe in atheists.”

Religion and history are intertwined with one another, but there are many people who don’t have time to think about either one. For a few, the daily necessities like food, shelter, and clothing take all of their attention. But is that so for most people? We do some things by our own choice and make them a convenient excuse for not thinking about religion and history. Why would we do that? Do those topics make you uncomfortable? Inadequate? Angry? Depressed? Afraid? The best way to deal with that is to learn more.

All religions are historical in some sense, but that usually doesn’t make them compelling enough to give them your time. Most are historical in the sense that people at some point in history have believed them and accomplished things in their name. Most are also historical in that a prophet or teacher founded the religion at a certain time. These things are usually easy to check up on, but they don’t help us to see which religions may be true and which may be false.

Religions also claim things that can’t be verified, because no witnesses or testimony exists about them. Reincarnation is one example. Another is a prophecy of some event still in our future. If these kinds of things are all you know about the many religions of the world, it’s no wonder if you’d rather not give them your precious time.

But there is one religion that is historical in a different sense. This one depends on history. It depends on a thoroughly-witnessed event that took place at a certain place in a certain time. If that highly unusual event could be disproven, this religion would die instantly. But if it really happened, then it will influence everyone, forever.

Each of the four Gospels in the New Testament describes the death of Jesus in detail, and each also describes his resurrection. For an event taking place thousands of years ago, the evidence is excellent, mostly written within a generation of the event itself. It has also found support in archaeology and writings outside the Bible. By the standards used in a present-day court of law, the most reasonable conclusion is that Jesus not only lived and died, but also rose to life again. This is the event that the whole Christian faith relies upon. Without it, there is no Christianity.

It’s easy to claim that Jesus did not rise, but the evidence shows that He did. There are “Bible experts” who love to contradict it, but when the New Testament is considered alongside similar ancient writings, the question becomes a matter you can see for yourself. Did Julius Caesar and Cicero exist? The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is even better. If you haven’t considered it, you should. Then, you need to ask yourself what difference it makes to you. If you accept the evidence, you’ll need to consider many other things in light of it. There are churches and Christians who take these things seriously, ready to help you with that.

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.

What’s Wrong with Gay Marriage?

This is not a rhetorical question, though you, dear reader, may have thought it was when you first saw the title. For anyone who needs a reminder, a rhetorical question doesn’t expect an answer. It’s a question stated for the purpose of making a point. This question deserves an answer. And there is an answer. Whether or not the answer is popular has no bearing upon whether or not it is true.

It amazes me that this question must be answered at all, because only a decade ago the answer seemed to be obvious. But one of the long trends in contemporary western civilization has been postmodernism, based on the belief that any question like this doesn’t have a single right answer. Instead, every individual person’s opinion is supposed to be equally valid and right. If that were true, civilization would be doomed to a brief existence.

What is it anyway?

We must begin with a clear understanding of the term “gay marriage.” It’s not an easy thing to define, since many passionate contributors want to help their own side win the political debate by framing it with their own vocabulary. I will try to be fair, but in the interest of full disclosure: my worldview is based upon what the Bible actually says, from beginning to end.

“Gay marriage” is shorthand among some for a legal blessing upon civilly-sanctioned domestic relationships between two people of the same sex, which give them the same legal rights that so-called “traditional marriage” gives to couples of complementary sex.

Continue reading

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?

The Five God-given Purposes of Marriage

  1. To establish a household of faith
  2. To provide a way for a man and a woman to love each other
  3. To provide a legitimate and God-pleasing outlet for sexual desire
  4. To provide for the procreation and nurturing of children
  5. To provide for the mutual care of husband and wife in the commonwealth of goods

These are fleshed out in many different places. A good reference is the Small Catechism and Explanation. As listed above, these items are found in an excellent booklet we have at church called Second Thoughts about Living Together. This booklet provides a deeper explanation about marriage, and as its title says, a number of considerations for Christians against a practice in our culture that undermines this glorious gift from God.

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.

Some Thoughts on the Creation Debate

On Tuesday of this week, we had a group of people here at Bethany to watch the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye about whether biblical creation is a valid scientific model of origins. Here are some thoughts about what we saw:

  • Both Ken Ham and Bill Nye ended the debate with the same position in which they started the debate. Ham is a creationist and Nye is an evolutionist.

  • Ken Ham is willing to call both evolutionists and creationists “scientists” in the same sense, but Bill Nye is reluctant to call creationists “scientists,” convinced by his own reason that anyone who believes in creation is incapable of scientific research or engineering, and that unless children learn to be evolutionists, America will fall behind other nations in scientific development.

  • Ken Ham notes a distinction between observational science and a historic kind of science. In observational science, it is possible to apply the scientific method, make predictions, test hypotheses, and make practical applications. Anyone can participate equally in observational science, whether they are creationists or evolutionists. When looking at pre-historic origins, however, everyone is limited to formulating theoretical models from the same evidence, but no conclusive tests can be made to verify whether one model is more likely true than another. The only source of better information would be the witness of someone who was actually present through that prehistoric time. Ken Ham therefore relies upon the information provided by God in the Bible.

  • Bill Nye denies the distinction made by Ken Ham, and denies that the Bible is credible, on the basis of what his own reason tells him. For example, “Miracles are impossible. The Bible describes miracles, therefore the Bible is false.” Bill Nye’s worldview supporting his use of reason is known as naturalism or materialism, and is believed by many people.

  • There are things in Bill Nye’s model of origins that he does not understand or know, like “What existed before the Big Bang?” Ken Ham knows some of those things from the revelation of God (who has always existed) in the Bible.

  • From his description and use of it, Bill Nye does not seem to know much about the Bible, its origin, its transmission, or its contents. His view of science and his naturalistic worldview would dissuade him from learning about it. On the other hand, Ken Ham knows a lot about the scientific theories at the heart of Bill Nye’s worldview. The creationist scientists mentioned by Ken Ham are also highly accomplished in their scientific fields.

  • Bill Nye repeatedly referred to the time of the Flood as 4,000 years ago, but that only seems accurate on his usual scale of millions of years. Abraham (Genesis 12) lived 4,000 years ago, and that was several long generations after the Flood. Furthermore, Ken Ham referred to adding up the lifespans of the generations before the Flood to arrive at the total age of the Earth, but the chapters describing those lifespans are not necessarily written for the purpose of giving a mathematical sum. While the numbers of years are certainly correct there, we know that other writers of biblical genealogies have skipped generations, in order to fulfil another purpose. For example, see Matthew 1:17. The purpose of the pre-Flood genealogy of Noah was to record the names of those faithful patriarchs who passed their faith on to future generations within their own family. So the numbers thrown around during the debate as a supposed biblical age of the Earth, or the time since the Flood, were not necessarily accurate. However, the error in those numbers would be in thousands of years, not millions.

We saw an excellent illustration of Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Ken Ham knows this, but only because he believes what the Bible says. Bill Nye cannot know this, because he rejects what the Bible says. Jesus described a similar problem when He explained to His disciples why He was teaching in parables (Luke 8:10), “that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.'” St. Paul also described this in Romans 1:20-21, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Christians cannot convince someone like Bill Nye that the Bible is true by simply making an argument or debate with him. That was not Ken Ham’s purpose. Rather, the only way someone can know the true origin of the world is to believe what God says. This faith is completely a gift of God, which He provides through the message of the Gospel. Now, all of us who care about Bill Nye and the truth have the task of praying that God would use the Gospel message to work a conversion in his heart. Ken Ham spoke that message more than once during the debate, and it’s also available to Bill Nye in many other places. God intervened in the life of Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the Church terribly, turning him into the man we know as St. Paul. God can also convert Bill Nye, or any other non-Christian evolutionist.

We should also pray that God would correct and strengthen the faith of those Christians who are tempted to disbelieve the Bible because of the worldly pressure exerted by people like Bill Nye. There are Christian evolutionists in the world, but their Christian faith is constantly under attack within their own hearts by the naturalistic, materialistic worldview of evolution.

Finally, we should imitate our merciful God as we show love to our neighbors, many of whom are confused and misled by teachings like evolution. Since the public school system is unable to allow creationism equal footing with evolution, it would be a good thing for us to teach as many children as possible to understand the world in a biblical way. That’s one of the strong reasons why it would be a wonderful thing if God were to bless Bethany with a Christian day school.

Marriage

Marriage has been much on the minds of many in the last decade, and increasingly so. As the divorce rate and the rate of cohabitation without marriage keep climbing, there is also a desire among some homosexuals to have the state recognize their perverted union by calling it “marriage.” What a strange world! The apple has fallen far, far from the tree.

Government has been trying in various ways to tweak the definition or practice of marriage. Most recently, the Supreme Court of the United States has handed down a ruling that cancels a portion of the “Defense of Marriage Act” from about a decade ago. That act itself was an attempt to retain the traditional definition of marriage as found in American culture over against the continuing attempts of certain homosexuals to force a new view of marriage upon the entire nation. All of these attempts to define marriage are doomed to fail. All of them.

Practically everyone has accepted the false notion that the institution of marriage is 100% culturally determined. While there is a lot of cultural window dressing on the institution, its essence comes from an authority even above that of Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court combined. That authority is our Designer and Creator. He invented humanity (along with every other creature), and gave us gender, which dovetails with His design for marriage. No social movement, government, or even majority vote can unmake the institution that God has provided.

By design, marriage provides the best context for the most intimate human companionship, though friends who are not married may also be very close companions. By design, marriage provides the best context for protecting and raising children, though children can adapt to many other environments. By design, marriage provides for the basic unit of society to which individuals may belong: the family household. Intimate companionship, children, and a household may be established in a way that bypasses marriage, but they will be weaker because of it. Marriage is part of God’s design for our world.

Marriages are not perfect because our world is not perfect, and we are not perfect. But the abuse or misuse of something does not destroy its proper use. Despite the problems we have brought into the institution of marriage, it still stands as God’s design, and a blessing for those who seek to use it according to that design.

Christian congregations have an interest in performing the ceremony of holy matrimony, because the family built strongly upon God’s design will also listen to Him. Besides that, Christian congregations such as ours are among the last places in our society where God’s design for marriage is still remembered and taught. It forms an important part of what God has revealed in holy scripture.

The land’s government also has an interest in recognizing and promoting marriage, because children are the future of our country, and because family households are the stable building block of a healthy society. But it has recently come to my attention that a major shift has taken place in the thinking of American society. Where the nation was originally founded upon the notion that every individual has been given natural liberty over against the encroachment of others, and that this gift came from “nature’s god,” most people now believe that our liberty and rights come from the government, or at best, from the Constitution. So in terms of marriage, our society has shifted from believing that government recognizes marriage to thinking that government defines or blesses marriage. This is an error, even if everyone believed it.

The push by some homosexuals to impose a new definition of marriage by law, upon the whole nation, really stems from a wish that naturally follows from their twisted understanding of themselves. Since they wrongly believe that they were designed by God (or evolution) with homosexual desires, they think that God (or government) must also approve a kind of marriage that accomodates those desires. When they find it possible to love someone of the same gender, they think it validates their perverted version of things. To the point of denial, they overlook the fact that unmarried, unromantic friends may also love one another deeply, and the fact that the design of physical gender is complementary with the procreative and intimate purposes of marriage. Just as important, they overlook the fact that human desires are often habitually twisted into something that is neither in our best interest, nor in line with the will of our Creator. Homosexual desire is only one example among a great many.

Why do these homosexuals want to impose such a new definition of marriage? The answer is not hard. At bottom, they seek approval or blessing for their perverted behavior. While some churches (like ours) still deny that God will ever bless such unions, these homosexuals think they will find the blessing they seek elsewhere. It’s likely that at least some of them are experiencing guilt.

The now-dominant secular worldview considers marriage and other social institutions as developments of human evolution. Therefore, it would be possible to redefine them at the highest level of human authority. If such a thing were accomplished, then (it may be thought) the world would be forced to accept/bless the perversion of a homosexual lifestyle. Then those feelings of guilt might be assuaged. But not even that can remove the guilt, because man’s approval is not the same as God’s approval.

God calls us to live a life of purity before Him. That means a life of chastity. Chastity requires those who are not married to avoid sexually inappropriate thoughts and language, as well as any sexual behavior with others. We are to submit ourselves only to God as our Lord, not to the often addictive, impure sexual impulses that stem from the sinful flesh. That also means that until a couple has been married, they should not live together as though they were. Chastity requires those who are married to channel all sexual thoughts, words, and deeds through their spouse in an appropriate way. Again, God is our Lord, not the sinful flesh. Our purpose in life is not to be served by our neighbor, but to serve. That’s especially important in marriage, which is modeled upon the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church, which He redeemed with His own blood. As Jesus is always faithful to His Church, so husbands and wives should remain faithful to each other through their lives in this world.

I will speak for myself, and for the viewpoint of the Christian Church through the ages. Some individual Christians will have contradicted what I am about to say, but many have repented their contradiction, and for the rest, nobody has ever claimed that Christians can’t be wrong.

We do not hate homosexuals or any sinners, whether those who struggle with impure inner desires, or those who live out a twisted social lifestyle. We do not condemn them, not any more than we condemn thieves, murderers, or the other kinds of adulterers. Like every sinner, including ourselves, homosexuals are caught up in the wickedness of the sinful flesh that has been passed down to us from our forefathers. Like every sinner, including ourselves, homosexuals can be certain that all of their guilt was placed upon the Son of God, who suffered and died to make the atonement that guarantees our salvation. Like every sinner, homosexuals are called to repentance by God Himself, to resist the temptations of the flesh, and to receive God’s pronouncement of complete forgiveness. That’s why our church is here: to provide God’s forgiveness to penitent sinners. That’s why we come to church every Sunday. Every kind of sinner is welcome.

Marriage will always be what God made it to be. The best we can do is try to live according to His design, repenting of our sins, and casting ourselves upon the sure mercies of God in Jesus Christ, our Savior.

False Religion Pretending to be Science

In a time when there is supposedly a high wall separating church and state, government and religion, this article from American Thinker points out that it’s not true of every faith. In fact, this false religion of Scientism is already well connected with American civil religion, which is another serious matter for Christians in our society.

In other words, many of our politicians are surrendering themselves to scientism. Scientism is not science. It is an ideology that is often confused with science. It is, rather, an abuse of the scientific method and scientific authority.

Scientism can also be classified as a religion. It is a religion with many denominations: Darwinism, environmentalism, feminism, hedonism, humanism, Marxism, socialism, and so on. How many Americans now find their fulfillment and purpose in these movements? They celebrate Earth Day and Darwin Day. They boldly assert, “Science is my Savior.”

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