Guess Who

From a discussion of secular schooling:

[Objection:] But participation in state schools is unwise for Christians. It aids and abets a movement toward greater state power, and hence toward a greater domination of unbelief in our society.

I respect this argument, but we must understand the true force of it. It is a strategic argument, recommending a particular tactic in the cultural warfare of our time. The argument is that we can do more good for society in general if we simply boycott the public schools than if we make use of them. That may be true, but in this instance I am not convinced.

Christians are often asked to boycott things in order to send a message to organizations and to society in general. Some years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention and other Christian organizations promoted a boycott of entertainment produced by the Disney Corporation. Certainly this recommendation does not have the status of biblical command. If it did, we would have to boycott any corporation that contributed in any way to immorality in society. On that basis, we would have to boycott nearly every business, withdrawing almost entirely from the world of commerce.

Scripture never takes that approach. The pagan food vendors at Corinth doubtless used their profits in all sorts of idolatrous and immoral ways. Certainly they promoted a kind of worship (often immoral) that did great harm to society. But Paul does not tell Christians to boycott them. On the contrary, they are to “eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience” (1 Cor. 10:25).

Nevertheless, if great numbers of Christians were to boycott Disney, the boycott would “send a message” that could do some good. The proposal deserves some serious consideration, but it is not the word of God. So boycott proposals are strategic suggestions, not biblical norms. Perhaps a Christian boycott of the entire public school system would send a useful message. But such a boycott is not likely to take place. And the first responsibility of Christians is to their own children, not someone’s broad strategy for social improvement. Christian parents should consider such boycott proposals seriously, but they are not obligated by God to participate in them, and it may be to their children’s advantage if they do not participate in them.

You know the rules: Google silently or guess honestly…

[Update: the answer, hinted at in the picture, is John Frame. I got it from Doctrine of the Christian Life, in the end of the “contemporary application” section on the 1st commandment (Secularism), but it appears the material is redundant with this article.  Now Z can tell us how what Frame has given us with the right hand (liberty to send our kids to public schools) he takes away with the left…]

This entry was posted in Authority, Christian life, Church and State, Church relations, Civil religion, Culture, Culture War, Education, Family, Legalism, Quotes, Reformed piety, Spirituality of the Church, Transformationism, Two-kingdoms, W2K, Who Said That. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Guess Who

  1. RubeRad says:

    They missed a great opportunity to cite 1 Cor 5:9– at the end of that middle paragraph…

  2. Zrim says:

    Nice hint hidden in plain sight.

  3. RubeRad says:

    Nice catch, did I make it too obvious? I’ll go ahead and award you the prize…

  4. Chris S says:

    It was Walt Disney?

  5. RubeRad says:

    Har dee har har

  6. todd says:


  7. RubeRad says:

    Finally an honest guess! But sadly incorrect.

  8. Rob H says:

    It was _________, but I cheated. Had theories, but none hit close to the mark so I had to give up.

    I sort of agree with the idea, but not totally. It’s impractical in our household, though we’d love to continue to HS our kids. We quit 2 years ago due to inability to keep it up. That having happened, we are public schoolers now, with a different view of it from before. I’ll sidle off-center from the topic, Rube, if I may.

    Yes, we are to guard our children. No, we cannot effectively guard them from everything. And I think in some cases, HS does too good a job of insulating kids from the world.

    Yes, it does sort of support the gov’s hold. If, however, we count the number of Christians in contrast to the number of pagans in the school population, I highly doubt we’ll make a dent in the numbers by departing. Though there would be an unmistakeable statement made by our boycott, I think it verges on intolerance and just what the Fundamentalists would love to have happen: denial of the world.

    But if there were no Biblical Christians in the public school network, there’d be no voice among the masses of children to represent Christ. As much as I hate to see my kids face evolution-mongers and atheistic teachers and peers, especially when they are ridiculed and persecuted, guess what? It’s legitimate. My kids are gonna see that in their adult lives. And the kids who don’t love Jesus, teachers too, should see Christian children bring Christ with them to school.

    Hurts, most of the time, to see what my kids bring home that influences them. Hurts when they bring home reports of ridicule and difficulties, especially when they’re sitting in classes on philosophy, sex-ed, evolution and everything people have developed over the millenia in defense of the anti-God of the fallen world.

    So my kids learn the hard way sometimes. So I have to wrestle with their unassigned homework. I’d say it’s overall better for them to fight with these issues now, under the authority of their parents, than suddenly face it all in, say college, alone and no longer looking to parents as they must right now.

  9. Rob H says:

    Um, additional:

    In Luke 22, based on the sermon today, can a connection be made between the rending of the veil and all the world-changing events centered on the Cross that bridges our relationship to the world? I mean, hasn’t the Israel – Gentile relationship undergone radical change in the New Covenant?

    Out in the world, like Christ, among tax-collectors and prostitutes, rather than behind veil and sanctum-sanctorium, don’t we now have the mission bringing the Kingdom Message out there? Not saying all people and their children must public-school or seek the dirtiest of occupations, but isn’t there sometimes, or even often, a calling to go there?

    Maybe you 2k geniuses can figure this out.

  10. Bruce Settergren says:

    Faith comes by hearing Christ, which is a promise and is ordained to take place in Church on the Lord’s day. This is true whether one’s kids go to pubic school [church] five days a week or not. Now, if you’re hearing Moses in church you could have a problem.

  11. Bruce Settergren says:

    BTW, I have no idea whose quote this is, and the blatant hint purportedly found smack in the middle had to be joke to get me to read it twice. Thanks.

  12. todd says:

    I shouldn’t have googled for the answer. Sigh

  13. RubeRad says:

    The blatant hint is not smack in the middle, more towards the top.

  14. RubeRad says:

    Rob, I had a big ol’ comment typed out, and somehow it got lost. Grrr.

    Anyways, wrt. insular homeschooling, see the long comment-thread here to learn what happens when you make a connection between homeschooling and monasticism.

  15. todd says:

    Actually there are two hints – the picture and the word “norm”

  16. Zrim says:

    Rob, I do like most of where you’re going (get out there). But at the same time I am wary of this idea that vocation is evangelistic. I consider schooling to be a child’s vocation. And vocation is as much about meeting the needs of the vocationee as the vocation is about serving others. Which is to say that how a child is schooled really should be about the created needs and interests of a student, not the spiritual needs of others. I don’t see my secular vocation as an adult in evangelistic terms, so why should my kids think they inhabit secular schools in order to bring the kingdom message? Besides, it smacks of every member ministry.

  17. cath says:

    I’m intrigued by the assumption of the Objection – “greater state power, and hence toward a greater domination of unbelief in our society”

    Just thinking aloud, as I’m by no means committed to this position and US politics really isn’t my forte, I wonder if the relative lack of popularity for homeschooling in the UK is connected to being generally relatively relaxed about the size of the state.

    I’m not even especially familiar with pro-homeschooling arguments, but it has struck me sometimes that the mere fact that a service is provided by the state sometimes seems to function among Christian homeschoolers as an automatic reason to be scared of that service.

    That’s not to say that British Christians are unconcerned about the size and reach of the state (there are real difficulties, and we’re not always great at confronting them), but for things like education and health services to be state funded doesn’t in itself raise many people’s hackles too much.

    Then again (still thinking aloud), education in Scotland has traditionally been seen as one of the most obvious places where Church and State can beneficially cooperate, on the principled basis of ‘coordinate jurisdiction with mutual subordination’ (which is admittedly not very 2K but decidedly not theonomic either). So that even if the State fails to live up to its side of the deal, eg by pushing a dogmatic secular agenda, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Church has to pull out and just leave them to it.

  18. Bruce Settergren says:

    Norm Shepherd: based on the shepherd’s crook that is disguised as a question mark.

  19. Zrim says:

    That may be, Cath. But then if American homseschoolers are concerned about the size of government and public education’s contribution to its inflation then why do they employ government bookstores–er, I mean local libraries? And fire fighters and police and roads? And I suppose I’m puzzled over how greater state power leads to greater domination of unbelief in society. I tend to think that has more to do with playing on some sort of spiritual fear to make a civil point.

  20. RubeRad says:

    You’re getting closer, but you need to step back a tad, and see not the tree, but the forest that it’s in…

  21. RubeRad says:

    for things like education and health services to be state funded

    Well, if I can broach the dreaded N-word, I think all but the most hardened theonomists see road-building and public sewage and utilities as “neutral” things that the state can do without being accused of the Devil’s work, but education and healthcare are certainly viewed as critial battlegrounds, because what are you going to teach about human origins, and how are you going to handle abortions? (among other issues)

    ‘coordinate jurisdiction with mutual subordination’

    That is a phrase I’ve never heard before. It sounds good to me, but it also sounds like something that would not go down well over here.

  22. Chris S says:

    [comment pasted here at the request of Chris S]

    Not quite sure how this fits into the conversation here, but in our backwoods rural community there were quite a few non-Christian home schoolers. Many of them were friends of our kids. I recall one bright young teenager who decided to take time off from her schooling and go the the local high school for a year. Obviously their reasoning for home schooling was not a morality issue (or was it?)- rather it was academic excellence that they were pursuing. Most of these families were and are politically active- on the liberal “progressive” end of the spectrum.

    Our original reason for homeschooling was our distrust of the government school system, both morally and academically and that based upon our own experience in it. Looking back, I think we could have suffered the morality aspect of it without any compromising. By morality, I mean both the fallen worldly aspect and the education industrial complex aspect. The latter perhaps being the worse of the two.

    We never intended to shelter our children from reality, rather we saw a strictly peer based environment as an unhealthy unreality.

  23. Paul says:

    “Norm Shepherd: based on the shepherd’s crook that is disguised as a question mark.”

    “You’re getting close.”

    Now that’s just cold.

  24. Bruce Settergren says:

    John Frame.

  25. RubeRad says:

    Ha! Like we’re calling Shepherd a crook? Somebody should photoshop a Shepherd/Nixon mashup “I am not a wolf!”

  26. RubeRad says:

    Finally! The Frame that dare not say his Name. Was my clue that hard?

    Post updated with source info.

  27. cath says:

    Sorry, yes, that’s what puzzled me too. I don’t think that greater state power leads to greater unbelief in society. Your analysis is spot-on – the size of the state is entirely irrelevant to the flourishing, or not, of unbelief in society.

  28. Rob H says:


    I am leaning ever closer to a position that agrees with what you said. I don’t think my girls need to provide for spiritual needs of others or to find spiritual support themselves in the context of school (or work, when they grow up). I begin to think, specially after listening to that DVD guy on “Office Hours” this week, that Church is the dispensary for Christianity. I just don’t have categories to say this without sounding ascetic about the whole thing.

    Vocation? Exactly how I see it. Not evangelistic.

  29. Rob H says:

    Already there, Rube. Shudder.

  30. Chris S says:

    The hardest things to find are right under our noses.

  31. cath says:

    Otherwise known as the establishment principle – the Church’s jurisdiction is spiritual and ecclesiastical, the State’s jurisdiction is earthly and civil, and while neither has the right to interfere in the other’s sphere, they are both obliged to be mutually supportive.

    Hugely controversial throughout the C19th, and in fact the majority of the currently existing presbyterian denominations are offshoots of the split which ensued when civil courts started contradicting the decisions of ecclesiastical courts (eg insisting on Undesirable Minister X being inducted to Parish Y, or overturning Presbytery A’s excommunication of Dodgy Minister B).

    The main alternatives under discussion were Romanism (State is subordinate to Church, not so much discussed as rejected out of hand), Erastianism (Church is subordinate to State), and Establishment (neither is subordinate to the other, but they are mutually supportive).
    The view that the state should be purely secular and have nothing at all to do with religion was called Voluntaryism, so as far as I can make out, that’s where 2K would fit in, as far as I understand it.

  32. RubeRad says:

    Interesting. We colonial rebels would bristle at such a notion, precisely because of our disestablishment constitutional clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Do you think what we have (call it “Separation”) is a 4th way not considered in the British Isles?

    As for civil & ecclesiastical being mutually supportive, it seems pretty hard to define the terms of that support without risking the double-edged sword; either side getting more support than they really want.

  33. Zrim says:

    I don’t know about the right-left hand giving-taking thing, but it sure seems like Reformed talk about education the way Baptists talk about beer. The category is Christian liberty, something the hard legalists completely miss. And the soft legalists try to use the category of wisdom but always seem to suggest something moral.

  34. Rob H says:

    Ouch. Good analogy.

  35. Rob H says:

    I’m getting dragged into this 2k thing. Practicing my hand-signs right now. I was gonna give up on it, but too many themes the last week or two have kept bringing me back to the issue. Grr. Listening to DVD didn’t help much either.

  36. Paul says:

    No, that you were calling Frame close to Shepherd.

  37. RubeRad says:

    Well I don’t know about that; honestly I was just saying “Finally, somebody’s looking for the hint in the picture.”

  38. cath says:

    Most of the C19th was absorbed with disputing whether the civil magistrate had any obligations towards the church at all – the good guys said yes (it was a principal, if not the first, duty of the civil magistrate to identify the true religion and support it), and the rascals who believed in “what has not unjustly been described as National Atheism!” said no.

    Until the civil courts started interfering in ecclesiastical decisions, say the 1830s, it had worked pretty well in practice since the Reformation. The state gave the church financial support (buildings, ministers’ stipends) and the church, in return, prayed for the state … they did each other various other favours too but these seem to have been the most salient ones.

    When ‘Voluntaryism’ began to be popular in the C19th, which is I think your separation, it wasn’t so much the church they feared for as the state – they seemed to treat it as a high honour for the state to be able to ‘pay homage’ to the Kingship of Christ, and the tone of the controversy is often that was disgraceful and degrading for church leaders/thinkers to argue for a position which would deprive the state of this privilege.

    All of which I’m feeling slightly guilty for raising, as it was just a random talking point and not for the purposes of converting anybody, yet it’s dawning on me as I write that it may in fact be quite dramatically controversial, oops, when the mix of religion and politics in the States is something I’m not remotely well enough informed to comment on.

  39. RubeRad says:

    No offense taken here. I appreciate your un-American (or should I just say European?) historical perspective.

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