Dr. Noe, Shot in the Back, Get It?

In response to David Noe’s recent pondering on whether it is all that accurate to speak of “Christian education,” Nelson Kloosterman thinks he’s being shot in the back.  That seems a little dramatic.

Others are enlisting Machen on the necessity of Christian schools.

In light of this, it might be good to break out some W.A. Strong Strange whose historical account of covenant children and education might correspond nicely with Noe’s linguistic argument. From Children in the Early Church:

The early Christians lived in a society whose values were inimical to them in many respects. The pagan society around them was underpinned by a religion which they considered false, if not demonic; it was characterized by moral values they could not share; and it was entered into by an education steeped in paganism. So we might expect the early Christians to try to protect their young by providing some alternative form of education which would keep them free from the temptations and snares of the pagan world in which they lived. They had, after all, the example of the Jewish synagogue schools. But, rather surprisingly, the Christians did not take that course for several centuries. There was no fiercer critic of paganism than Tertullian (c. 160-c.225), but even he accepted the necessity for young people to share in the education on offer at pagan schools. His chosen image to describe the Christian pupil’s situation as he read the pagan authors whose work formed the ancient syllabus, was that of someone offered poison to drink, but refusing to take it (On Idolatry 10).

The young Origen (born c.185 AD)…is said to have received extra instruction in the Scriptures from his father, Leonides, each day before he set out for his secular schooling (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.2.7f.)…Here was a devout Christian father, later to be martyred for the gospel, who was nonetheless willing for his son to attend school, and follow the normal curriculum of the pagan classics. Origen himself became an enthusiast for secular education as a preparation for Biblical study, and in later life urged it on those who came to him for instruction (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.18.4: NE 192).

We hear of no Christian schooling outside the home in the early centuries. A century after Clement had written to Corinthian fathers and husbands to ‘instruct the young in the fear of God,’ the same pattern of family responsibility can be seen in Origen’s Alexandria.Christian parents were still content for their children to share a common education with their pagan neighbors, and the church was slow to copy the synagogue in providing an alternative pattern of schooling. Even when John Chrysostom (c.347-407) wrote the first Christian treatise on the education of children (On the Vainglory of the World and on the Education of Children), he addressed himself to parents, and said nothing about sending children to specifically Christian schools. The first Christian schools seem to have been those founded by the monasteries from the fourth century onwards (Marrou 1965 472-84).

It is worth asking why Christians did not take the opportunity to create their own schools. If we take the comparison with the Jewish community, one reason must have been that there was no need for Christian children to learn a sacred language; their Jewish contemporaries had to learn Hebrew. Those who spoke Greek could read the New Testament in its original language, and the Old testament in Greek translation. And the New Testament Scriptures were rapidly translated into the various languages of the Mediterranean. Further, Christians did not see themselves as culturally distinct from their neighbours. An anonymous writer of the late second century expressed eloquently how Christians were in the world, but not of it:

For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by country, or by speech, or by dress. For they do not dwell in cities of their own, or use a different language, or practise a peculiar speech…But while they dwell in Greek or barbarian cities according as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the land in clothing and food, and other matters of daily life, yet the condition of citizenship which they exhibit is wonderful, and admittedly strange…Every foreign land is to them a fatherland, and every fatherland a foreign land.” (Epistle to Diognetus 6.1-5: NE 55).

To set up their own separate educational provision would have been to withdraw from the common life they shared with their pagan neighbours. And, while they recognized the dangers and allure of paganism, the early Christians saw no need to do that. They let their children ‘share in the instruction which is in Christ’ (1 Clement), and they allowed them access to education for the wider pagan society. They were not trying to create a Christian ghetto, but to be salt and light in their world. Their attitude to their children’s education was an expression of this open yet critical attitude.

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84 Responses to Dr. Noe, Shot in the Back, Get It?

  1. mikelmann says:

    In Dr. K’s defense, he did represent Noe well enough to make me say yes to Noe and no to K. Dr. Kloosterman describes Noe’s view as follows:

    As as adjective, the word “Christian” describes not a process or a product, but only a person. A Christian who wins the Tour de France has a cycling technique no different than that of a Muslim or a Buddhist cyclist. Generally speaking, outside of the church’s Christian worship, any Christian motivation, goal, or disposition makes no discernible difference at all in the activity that Christians do. He concludes,

    [T]he adjective ‘Christian’ is not meaningful with respect to the cultural artifact nor the process that an individual uses to produce it. Both the skills involved and the final product can always be the same for believers and non-believers alike . . . .

  2. John Hutson says:

    Someone mentioned in the comments on Dr. K’s post that the Tour de France ends on Sunday, and so you could distinguish a (Sabbatarian) Christian cyclist because he skipped the Tour (or at least the parts on Sunday, if that’s allowed). I don’t think that means we need Christian schools or bicycle leagues, but maybe Dr. Noe spoke a little too strongly when he said there won’t ever be an observable difference in the product of the Christians work.

  3. RubeRad says:

    But that is a characteristic which has nothing to do with the work. If a good tailor makes suits seven days a week, and then converts to Sabbatarianism and only makes suits six days a week, nobody would expect to see a change in the suits.

  4. RubeRad says:

    Special K’s question “But then is there such a thing as a Christian college?” brings to mind a few parallel questions. Is there such a thing as an American restaurant? Is a McDonald’s in France a sanctioned embassy of the United States government? No. But is it an “American Restaurant” in an associative sense? Of course. On the other hand, is there such a thing as a National Cathedral? Or how about a Christian Nation? I think even the most R- or W- or even Z-2K advocate would agree there is at least some sense that those word-pairings are meaningful, and even the Kuyperianest would have to agree that those word-pairings are not as fully legitimate as “Christian Church”.

  5. John Hutson says:

    Certainly there’d be fewer suits made, and fewer suits sold, less practice in suit-making leading to poorer quality suits, and angry customers who want to buy suits on Sunday (just think of Chick-Fil-A). I suppose he could also make the same quantity of lower quality suits. And in the cycling example, if the work product is winning the Tour, then certainly the product is changed, because he’ll lose. Also, I think elite cyclists train every day, so he’ll be at a disadvantage for races on the common days.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Christian cyclists should transform the world of cycling for Christ, or that Christian tailors should write Bible verses on their suits. I just think it’s important to recognize when making these kinds of arguments that obeying the moral law has real, sometimes visible consequences. I didn’t think that was controversial.

  6. Zrim says:

    Rube, what I could admit is that there is such a thing as shorthand (e.g. Christian nation, schools, and cycling). So I can take “Christian fill-in-the-blank” as a way of saying “Christians doing fill-in-the-blank.” But I’m still with Noe that it’s hardly obvious how Christian adjectives have the kind of directly meaningful bearing on their nouns many seem to assume. I do understand wanting it to be so, but I tend to think that more religious fantasizing.

  7. Zrim says:

    So, John, I’m not sure making less suits means worse suits. It almost seems to me that there is a “bigger is better” assumption there. Indeed, is there really more quality in fast and mass-produced goods, or are the hand-made and slower cooked products typically of better quality? And winning isn’t everything—certainly it’s true that better players can lose and lesser players can win on any given day.

  8. John Hutson says:

    I just meant less time to work means either fewer suits or worse suits, and in the long run it probably means worse suits because less suit-practice means worse suit-making. Sabbatarian tailors aren’t necessarily better than non-Sabbatarian ones or vice-versa, and I’m not going to restrict myself to Sabbatarian tailors, but that doesn’t change the fact that the tailor is observably Sabbatarian. I do wish I could afford hand-tailored suits, but that’s kind of beside the point.

    All I’m saying is there’s sometimes an observable difference made by obeying the moral law in the public square. There’s a pretty big difference between elite Sabbatarian cyclists and non-Sabbatarian ones, even if winning isn’t everything. If Dr. Noe turns on the TV to watch the end of the Tour de France and asks which cyclists are (Sabbatarian) Christians, I’ll say none of them, and why are we watching TV on Sunday?

  9. David C. Noe says:

    Dr. Noe (No-ee, though I am stirred by the Bond joke, not shaken) realizes that because the Tour finishes on Sunday it may not have been the best example. Dr. Noe also thought, as does Bob Dole and everyone else in the 3rd person, that it would be obvious that anything that violates God’s law, which is mentioned at least once in the article, is not a good candidate for being considered “Christian” by anyone. So for the Tour substitute something like suit-making and you have the idea.

    And, though I want to keep my powder mostly dry in case there are multiple heated replies to OS and I get from the editor a chance to respond, I would note, contra some webetary, that Christian day schools are not at all discussed in the article. I think there are good reasons for Christian schools (schools run by and for Christians – I teach at two of them right now). My focus was on whether there would be observable differences in matters that did not relate directly to the content of special revelation. And even there, I expect there will be some differences, as I believe my argument allowed, but that these primarily concern our reasons for teaching and thus are known, for now, only to the Lord. Such differences are still important, cf. WCF XVI.

  10. RubeRad says:

    Thanks for dropping by the Outhouse, Dr. Noe! I would think the heat generated just by Kloosterman’s response (“shot in the back”? c’mon!) would justify a chance to respond. Maybe he’ll send a rebuttal to OS.

  11. RubeRad says:

    Yes, shorthand, that’s exactly what I meant.

  12. Zrim says:

    John, what I’d like to say is that if the point is observable differences then better to point to what believers do on the first day of the week than to what they may or may not do during the other six. After all, unbelievers can be found obeying the moral law in the public square along with believers, but they are less likely to be found attending Word and sacrament in church.

  13. jfhutson says:

    I agree completely. My purpose was to defend against those who would charge this kind of argument with antinomianism. The Sabbatarian sportsman abstaining from competitions on the Lord’s Day strikes me as precisely the right kind of “cultural engagement” as opposed to the transformationalist model. But I agree with your concern. In answer to the Evangelical cliche “if Christianity were illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I’d answer that I recited the creed on Sunday, not that I won’t be competing in the Tour de France.

    I appreciate Dr. Noe’s comments very much (who will remain in the third person out of respect for his wishes). I’d be very interested to hear his arguments for Christian schooling.

  14. Zrim says:

    John, Machen didn’t provide enough points for Christian day schooling? But compelling as those may be to the already convinced, I do honestly wonder what the advocates have to say to Strong’s points.

  15. John Hutson says:

    Where Machen argues for competition and school choice, fine and good. I loved my charter HS and we should have vouchers. I don’t get the character-building part. If my kid grows up without any conception of the baseline morality he can expect from pagans in the public square, he’s going to run into problems when dealing with pagans. It shouldn’t be hard to distinguish that from the morality expected of Christians that we learn in catechesis. As for the bearings, purpose, and meaning of truth, from my experiences in education Christian and non, this amounts to a lecture here and there. I think the cost of excluding all the brilliant pagan teachers often outweighs the benefit of these lectures. I often found the perspectives of my pagan teachers on their chief ends very helpful.

  16. Zrim says:

    John, thanks. For my part, I think the ideal might be to adopt the pedagogy of the ancient Greeks without at the same time any explicit religious commitment or antagonism a la so-called classical Christian academies.

    Ours have had some charter experience, but mostly public. While a large part of our own decision has to do with the virtues expressed in Strong’s last paragraph, we also have not been overly impressed with the actual experience, thus high school will be a charter college prep school (still public but a better education without having to pay extra to say God made the world and math). I’m with you on the character building stuff in charters (smacks of moralism). But on vouchers, I have to disagree. I don’t think it’s wise to allow citizens to be given the ability to individualize their taxes. If you let some take their educational taxes to build their own schools, what’s to keep others from taking their sewer taxes and maintain outhouses? Ba-dum-tssh.

  17. John Hutson says:

    The sewer is a natural monopoly. Schools themselves are excludable goods, even if we agree that universal provision for a baseline education is beneficial to society.

    I’ve been happy with my thoroughly modern education, though I too am sometimes enamored with classicism. I think what made my HS great was that my teachers were mostly Ph.Ds in their fields.

  18. John Hutson says:

    The book is by W.A. Strange, by the way, not Strong.

  19. Pingback: But then is there such a thing as a Christian college? (3) « Cosmic Eye

  20. Baus says:

    One major problem with Noe’s article is that it doesn’t begin to consider the arguments made in favor of Christian education, such as by Roy Clouser [ for example, here: http://sites.google.com/site/christianviewofeverything/ ].

    It would be worthwhile, to say the least, if those questioning the possibility of Christian education actually dealt with the arguments given in its favor.

  21. Zrim says:

    Baus, why do I get the feeling that until it is agreed that there can be a redemptive version of any creational task, points like Noe’s will be dismissed as non-engaging? But it’s hard to me to believe that Noe’s points are made without ever having previously considered those of hyper-neo-Calvinism. What you guys say about secularism I’d say about neo-Calvinism…it’s in the air we breath, so how can you say someone hasn’t even begun to consider it?

  22. Pingback: If there’s no Christian philosophy, then is there no Christian theology? | Pilgrim Philosopher

  23. Baus says:

    Zrim, you mean you think Noe shows consideration of the sort of arguments made in favor of Christian education such as Clouser’s? Can you give an example?

  24. Zrim says:

    Baus, what I mean is that I don’t know how someone could criticize language that assumes there is a redemptive version of a particular creational task (education) if he isn’t already quite aware of worldview that speaks of “A Christian View of Everything.” So even if Noe doesn’t explicitly address Clouser’s arguments, I don’t see how that means he isn’t implicitly aware of them–he has to be in order to make his points.

  25. Baus says:

    Zrim, you mean you think that one simply *must* be aware of arguments in favor of a given view (despite not interacting at all with such arguments or otherwise showing any awareness of them) in order to merely dismiss the view with a rhetorical question (e.g., “what would it be about the believer’s philosophizing that makes it uniquely Christian?”) ?

    Noe doesn’t even begin to implicitly address Clouser’s arguments because all Noe says about what Christian philosophy might mean is that he (Noe) doesn’t have a clue what it could mean. Sadly, you cannot point to one instance where an opposer of Christian education deals (even implicitly) with the actual neocalvinist arguments in its favor.

  26. Zrim says:

    Baus, just to be clear: I don’t think anybody’s is opposing Christian education. The point seems to be about speaking a little more carefully. It’s not too unlike the point about the language of “living the gospel.” The gospel isn’t lived, it’s believed and lived in light of. Both may seem like overly pedantic, even negligible points to worldviewers with something to cultural lose, but I think they’re actually pretty important to those who see clear differences between law and gospel and creation and redemption.

  27. dgwired says:

    Baus, believe it or not, Clouser’s piece is not the slam dunk you think it is. I’ve read and it didn’t convince me that neo-Calvinism is correct.

    As for the arguments in favor of a Christian education, how about giving us more than inspiration or philosophy? How should a Christian teach Shakespeare? How does a Christian teach Shakespeare?

  28. David C. Noe says:

    I read Clouser and have read many similar things. Clouser’s argument has several vulnerabilitites. But even if it were wholly sound, it’s not entirely germane to my point. I understand full well, I believe, that 1+1=2, when we get down to brass tacks, means something quite different to the believer than to the non-believer. For the believer this is true because the Triune God of the Holy Word as unmade maker is the absolute ground for all reality and for our understanding of it. For the unbeliever, it’s true only because of his own logical inconsistency. This inconsistency, though personally vicious and culpable, is arguably part of God’s common grace, i.e. to use even the inconsistency of wicked and reprobate men to allow them to know, albeit in a vitiated way, true things about the world. I’m with Van Til 100% in his explanation of such matters.

    What neither Clouser nor anyone else has yet articulated to my satisfcation is how such knowledge alters the way we educate, changes the way that 1+1=2 is explained and communicated to students and others, beyond adding the crucial caveats “and this would not be so were it not for God’s sustaining hand, and to Him be the glory for every aspect of any knowledge we have.” There is a difference between how and what we understand, and how and whether this changes the way we communicate such things that we do understand. The focus of the essay in question was on the latter.

    How does a “Christian VIEW of everything” affect how we teach the things we view? That is the question I was asking. If adding the adjective ‘Christian’ does not observably/measurably/temporally change the method of instruction or the result (though in an ultimate sense it does, as I tried to make clear), why add it? Of course a Christian will be careful in his instruction to point out to his students the caveats mentioned above.

  29. Pilgrim says:

    Hi Dr. Noe,

    What neither Clouser nor anyone else has yet articulated to my satisfcation is how such knowledge alters the way we educate, changes the way that 1+1=2 is explained and communicated to students and others

    There’s a worry that you’re attacking a straw man. Why think that what you say here about “Christian view of math” or “Christian education” is what your interlocutor means? You seem to be focusing on knowledge and teaching as ability, i.e., do Christians make other people *able* to do calculations in a uniquely “Christian” way? In other words, do Christians have a unique way to get the sum of 1+1? Is there, perhaps, a trick or shortcut discerned only in Romans?

    But no one thinks this. Rather, it seems to me, what is meant by a “Christian” view of math are more meta-level considerations. And here it’s rather more sophisticated than: “and this would not be so were it not for God’s sustaining hand, and to Him be the glory for every aspect of any knowledge we have.”

    For discussions on this, may I direct you to some resources:

    “Theism and Mathematics” in *Theology and Science,* v.9(1) 2011 27-33
    by Alvin Plantinga

    “Theism and Mathematical Realism,” *Proceedings of the Association of Christians
    in the Mathematical Sciences,* Grand Rapids, 2001: 33-48
    by John Byl

    “A Biblical View of Mathematics,” in *Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective,* edited by Gary North. Vallecito: Ross House Books, 1976.
    by Vern Poythress

    *Mathematics in a Postmodern Age: A Christian Perspective* (Wm. B Eerdmans, 2001)
    by Howell and Bradley

    That’s a sampling.

    I also critiqued an aspect of your argument against “Christian philosophy” here, for what it’s worth.


  30. Baus says:

    Dr. Noe, is it your conviction that no ‘beliefs about the world’ as such are possibly effected by belief in God? In other words, do you believe that views about the world (whether accurate views or not) are themselves neutral with respect to belief in God?
    If not, why couldn’t that effect how such things are taught and learned?

    I wonder what you have read similar to Clouser. Of course I’ve read views similar to yours, though your article is less substantial than say, Wolterstorff’s opposition to “religious totalism” in his 1989 essay “On Christian Learning,” but equally unpersuasive (and based on a similar argument from ignorance, viz. “what could Christian philosophy mean?”).

    What you say you don’t find in Clouser (ie, how knowledge of God in Christ *can* effect how we understand what things mean, and thus how we account for things and how we teach and learn such things beyond “God makes it so”) he takes pains to explain. So, let me try to summarize his point.

    It is not inevitable that when a Christian theorizes he will be doing it Christianly. What *is* inevitable is that a belief in some “non-dependent reality” or other will function as a presupposition for ones general view of reality which in turn ‘materially’ influences how we understand particular things. See here for a fuller presentation: http://www.allofliferedeemed.co.uk/Clouser/Facets%20of%20faith%20and%20Science%20ch%203.PDF

    Now, you may disagree, but you haven’t even taken cognizance of what Clouser is arguing for, let alone how he argues for it. All you have said, to use Clouser’s analogy, is that unbelievers can just as aptly “pass the salt” (or add 1 and 1 to make 2, or teach something) as Christians, and so you can’t see how Christian belief might make any difference to understanding or teaching beyond “God made salt (and numbers and teaching/learning)”.

    You are right that the (albeit accurate) belief “God made numbers” doesn’t make one more or less able to add them successfully (or to teach or learn how to do so). But, as others have pointed out, that isn’t the claim of (Reformed) Christian philosophy & education. Our claim is that philosophy and education are not merely about teaching and learning how to add or about teaching and learning that “God makes it so,” but rather also about teaching and learning the difference belief that God made numbers has on how we understand what numbers mean.

    I realize many Christians have not received educations where they actually learn what difference it makes, and I suspect this is why so many are incredulous that it *could* make a difference. But ignoring (or being ignorant of) the arguments and examples of that difference won’t make them go away. For instance, in his book “The Myth of Religious Neutrality” Clouser presents concrete examples of how various divinity beliefs effect math, physics, and psychology, and how Christian belief can effect a view of reality and society.

    To teach a Christian view of things is, in part, what Christian education should do and what makes such education Christian. So, why is Clouser (and Dooyeweerd) wrong?

  31. RubeRad says:

    Our claim is that philosophy and education are not merely about teaching and learning how to add or about teaching and learning that “God makes it so,” but rather also about teaching and learning the difference belief that God made numbers has on how we understand what numbers mean.

    So what difference does belief in God make on our understanding of what numbers mean? I believe in God, and I don’t think I have a different understanding of numbers than anybody else. But then again, I had only a deficient public school education. Where are all these Christian-educated number-understanders that can teach me the secret knowledge about numbers?

  32. Baus says:

    RubeRad, consult Clouser’s “The Myth Of Religious Neutrality” and get back to me:
    The truth is out there.
    If you’re particularly interested in Mathematics, see also here:
    But there are such resources in every field.

  33. Zrim says:

    Baus, instead of tossing more Clouser around, how about you help some smaller minds out by explaining in your own words what this philosophy looks like in real life? I understand it sounds good in theory to the already thoroughly convinced, but some of us live by sight and not by faith on this one.

  34. Pilgrim says:

    Zrim, (a) you could start by reading those books above. (b) I’ve seen you mention “Christian theology,” but if you endorse Dr. Noe’s argument, you can’t make use of such a designation. The argument you ostensibly endorse entails a conclusion you think is false; hence, you can’t endorse the argument. You might endorse the conclusion, but without an argument for the conclusion, it’s simply a blind-faith assertion, which doesn’t square with your claim that you’re about sight and not faith on this one.

  35. Baus says:

    Darryl, see my reply to Noe below.
    I have yet to see you respond to Clouser’s arguments with anything other than empty dismissals and more argument from ignorance.

  36. David C. Noe says:

    Baus, I don’t understand the focus on Clouser. He’s representative of a certain type of thinking, fair enough. Regarding what I’ve read or not, if we’re going to talk about the things I haven’t read we’re going to be here a very long time. I could give you a very long list of what I haven’t read. The goal of what I wrote, whatever it’s merit, was not to assume one had read Dooyeweerd, Van Til, Kuyper, etc., but simply stimulate people’s thinking by examining what seem to be ill-supported assumptions and generalizations. If only I had read Clouser before I wrote the essay I could have written something more to your point. I am also not surprised that my article was found to be less substantive than something by Wolterstorff. I have never to my knowledge been mentioned in the same breath as St. Nick and likely never will be again.

    You say “What *is* inevitable is that a belief in some “non-dependent reality” or other will function as a presupposition for ones [sic] general view of reality which in turn ‘materially’ influences how we understand particular things.”

    This seems to me like an assertion, not a demonstration, particularly not a demonstration of how having a different understanding of reality changes the way we teach certain topics like Classics, mathematics, etc., beyond reminding people that the goal of knowledge’s acquistion and dissemination is God’s glory, and that all reality is dependent on Him. If a student refuses to accept those truths from special revelation, remarkably they still are able to learn from me if they choose many true things about, for example, Greco-Roman literature. How do we explain that? How do unbelievers even function in this complex world since their epistemology is so flawed? I know Van Til’s answer and find it largely persuasive. The alleged implications of his views, however, are not persuasive to me.

    Since it is the case that those in rebellion against God can function amazingly well, learning, teaching, and understanding many things better than believers who are not so epistemically impaired, the extent to which the differences in the believer’s and unbeliever’s respective views of “non-dependent reality” effect teaching and learning is clearly limited.

  37. David C. Noe says:

    Please explain more, Pilgrim, about what this supposed straw man looks like. I don’t want to be attacking him. I did read your critique at your site and am thinking about your main question.

  38. Baus says:

    Dr. Noe, so again, you’re saying that because believers and unbelievers both can “pass the salt,” one’s religious beliefs just *can’t* really make much of a difference in understanding what things mean? I’m not sure simply repeating this will move the conversation along.

    Your right, when I summarized Clouser’s point, I was not giving examples; so I also recommended the examples he presents in his book.

  39. Pilgrim says:

    Dr. Noe, it seems as if your presentation of “Christian education” deals main, if not exclusively, with the teaching of rote, mechanical processes. In other words, when teaching how to *do* multiplication, you might say that it’s repeated addition. So, 1 * 2 = 1 + 1. Or, when teaching how to craft sentences, you might some popular or trustworthy *method* of sentence construction as a means to get to the end: a nicely crafted sentence. Of course, adherents of all religions and worldviews could follow these mechanical *procedures*. One might say that the mechanical procedures qua procedures, are worldview-neutral. Or perhaps locally-neutral. However, at the *global* or *meta* level (and this concerns matters metaphysical, epistemological, axiological, ethical, and other *normative* considerations), the neutrality or worldview-independence vanishes. And I take it that something like *that* is what advocates of “Christian-X” mean.

    I saw your positive reference to Van Til above, and perhaps the best expression of what I’m getting at was expressed by him when he wrote that “Unbelievers can count, they just can’t account for their counting.”

  40. Zrim says:

    Pilgrim, CVT also says:

    “Non-Christians believe that the personality of the child can develop best if it is not placed face to face with God. Christian believe that the child’s personality cannot develop at all unless it is placed face to face with God. Non-Christian education puts the child in a vacuum. In this vacuum the child is expected to grow. The result is that the child dies. Christian education alone really nurtures personality because it alone gives the child air and food.”

    “Non-Christians believe that authority hurts the growth of the child. Christians believe that without authority a child cannot live at all.”

    “No educational content that cannot be set into a definitely Christian-theistic pattern and be conducive to the development of covenant personality has any right to appear in our schools.”

    “What sense is there in spending money for teaching arithmetic in a Christian school rather than in a so-called neutral school unless you are basically convinced that no space-time fact can be talked about taught unless seen in its relationship to God? When speaking thus of the absolute antithesis that underlies the education policies of our schools, it is not too much to say that if any subject could be taught elsewhere than in a Christian school, there would be no reason for having Christian schools.”

    “The only reason why we are justified in having Christian schools is that we are convinced that outside of a Christian-theistic atmosphere there can be no more than an empty process of one abstraction teaching abstractness to other abstractions.”

    “No teaching of any sort is possible except in Christian schools.”

    There’s antithesis, and then there’s antithesis on steroids.

  41. David C. Noe says:

    Good quote, Zrim. As with Ron Paul’s supporters, who to my mind give better defenses of his positions than Paul himself, so I find that CVT’s supporters often give better defenses of how to apply his ideas than CVT himself. I find it difficult to square these quotes from Van Til with Pilgrim’s claim above that “One might say that the mechanical procedures qua procedures, are worldview-neutral.”

  42. Pilgrim says:

    Zrim, I’m not sure how those CVT quotes undermine *anything* I said above. I simply marshaled one quote from him in support of one claim that explained one specific nuance I made in response to Dr. Noe. You see, it is possible to think that CVT said *some* right things and *some* not-so-right things. Immature thinkers either accept everything a person says or nothing. Since you are are NOT an immature thinker, I am sure you agree with me that CVT said *some* true things and *some* false things. Granting that you agree with my plausible claim, how do you see your quotes as at all undermining what I said? Indeed, my quote from CVT isn’t representative of “antithesis on steroids.” In fact, CVT said succinctly what many of those I cited above, many who are not Van Tillian, or Reformed for that matter, have said.

    As far as Dr. Noe’s comment, one must ask whether CVT meant “mechanical procedures” in Zrim’s quotes. It would seem not, especially given *my* quote from CVT, i.e., “unbelievers can count, they just can’t account for their counting.” I’m befuddled as to how Dr. Noe can think CVT’s quotes undermine my point about local neutrality. Indeed, since my argument is that there are locally neutral subsets of what is broadly called “teaching” or “education,” then these can clearly be “carried over” into Christian schools, per CVT’s constraints.

    But since we’re on a CVT quote kick:

    “The first objection that suggests itself may be expressed in the rhetorical questions ‘Do you mean to assert that non-Christians do not discover truth by the methods they employ?’ The reply is that we mean nothing so absurd as that. The implication of the method here advocated is simply that non-Christians are never able and therefore never do employ their own methods consistently.”
    (The Defense of the Faith, p. 103)

    We are well aware of the fact that non-Christian have a great deal of knowledge about this world which is true as far as it goes. That is, there is a sense in which we can and must allow for the value of knowledge of non-Christians.
    (Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 26)

    “[The issue of the unbeliever’s knowledge] has always been a difficult point” such that “we cannot give any wholly satisfactory answer to the situation [of the unbeliever’s knowledge] as it actually obtains” — a situation that is “always a mixture of truth with error” (Introduction to Systematic Theology, pp. 26-27).

    And these seem to make it clear the CVT is a tad more nuanced that some folks want to make him. The above quotes support my distinction. The above quotes support my claim that what is at issue here are global or meta-level claims.

  43. Zrim says:

    And I’m not sure what the problem is with unbelievers not being able to account for their accounting. That may well be true, but if they give me correct change, does epistemological self-consciousness really matter? Real world living beats worldview thinking.

  44. Pilgrim says:

    I’m surprised Zrim call this:

    “Non-Christians believe that the personality of the child can develop best if it is not placed face to face with God. Christian believe that the child’s personality cannot develop at all unless it is placed face to face with God.” — CVT

    “Antithesis on steroids.”

    What of Calvin:

    1.Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God

    Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain. Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty. In particular, the miserable ruin into which the revolt of the first man has plunged us, compels us to turn our eyes upwards; not only that while hungry and famishing we may thence ask what we want, but being aroused by fear may learn humility. For as there exists in man something like a world of misery, and ever since we were stript of the divine attire our naked shame discloses an immense series of disgraceful properties every man, being stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness, in this way necessarily obtains at least some knowledge of God. Thus, our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us, (see Calvin on John 4: 10,) that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.

    2.Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self

    On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also – He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. Nay, the bodily sense may furnish a still stronger illustration of the extent to which we are deluded in estimating the powers of the mind. If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.

  45. Zrim says:

    Pilgrim, yes, I agree he said some good things and some befuddling things (like the quotes I provided).

  46. Pilgrim says:

    You’re changing the subject, first off. Second, if you concerned yourself with the literature and the discussions that go on in various journals, you’d understand what the problem is. Unbelievers sure seem to care about it. Your claim strikes me as anti-intellectual and obscurantist. At any event, if their not being able to account for it stems from their rejection of the Christian worldview, i.e., is symptomatic of the noetic effects of sin, then this can be made into a gospel issue. This is why Van Til called this “the intellectual challenge of the gospel.”

  47. Pilgrim says:

    Zrim, good, which leaves *my* quote, and everything *I’ve* said, in-tact. So in effect, you threw out a red herring. As my uncle from Texas would say, “That dog won’t hunt.”

  48. Zrim says:

    Pilgrim, the steriodical element of that one is to presume that unbelievers aren’t religiously inclined. Ever heard of Muslims or Mormons? They want children placed in the face of God. They just get the wrong God.

  49. Pilgrim says:

    Zrim, but *I* never assumed any such thing. Moreover, you are simply unfamiliar or very confused if you think CVT thought unbelievers weren’t religiously inclined. Indeed, that was one of his major premises. (By the way, by “God” CVT meant “the true God.”)

  50. Zrim says:

    So, Pilgrim, as long as you’re channeling CVT, if “non-Christians believe that authority hurts the growth of the child and Christians believe that without authority a child cannot live at all,” how do you explain plenty of unbelievers demonstrating the precise opposite? My Hindi neighbors instill obedience in their children in ways that make my neo-Calvinist neighbors look like, well, pagans. I hope you don’t say something about borrowed capital, because everyone has equal access to common goods, and when we suggest that someone who takes what was given to him is stealing, well, it just seems unbecoming.

    And what could you possibly mean that “No teaching of any sort is possible except in Christian schools.” I’ve seen lots of teaching and learning happening in pagan schools. And did you read Strange’s account of the early church? How do your epistemological conclusions square with such historical accounts? The early church sure didn’t seem to behave as if no teaching of any sort is possible except in Christian schools, nor as if the antithesis had the sort of direct and obvious bearing on common tasks such as education as you do.

  51. Pilgrim says:

    So Zrim, I didn’t first bring up CVT. I simply quoted one sentence from him that succinctly expressed the point I was making. That sentence can be true regardless of anything else CVT said. Now I’m regretting causing an off-topic tangent to break out. In any case, it’s a stretch to act as if I’m channeling CVT. You are, if anyone is.

    To your first question, we’d of course need to get more specific. First, we need to respect the time and context and audience CVT wrote in and to. Second, ‘authority’ is a two place relation, i.e., x is in authority over y. So we can’t speak of ‘authority’ in the abstract. Indeed, it’s rather uncharitable for you to act as if CVT believed that unbelievers didn’t invoke or laud authority *in all senses*. Rather, CVT talks here, as he does in many other places, of *Jehovah’s* authority.

    Next, you ask, “And what could you possibly mean that “No teaching of any sort is possible except in Christian schools.” I’ve seen lots of teaching and learning happening in pagan schools.” But, um, I didn’t say this, so I don’t know what you mean by what *I* could possibly mean. However, it seems clear to me that in order for your charge to land, you’d have to be using ‘teaching’ in *the same sense* as Van Til is. Are you? I’ve pointed out here that it seems both you and Dr. Noe are using terms like ‘teaching’ and ‘education,’ in ways your interlocutors aren’t.

    This may help: When dealing with really smart people, don’t interpret them as meaning something clearly absurd, so absurd that merely looking outside your window refutes it. Moreover, the quotes I gave from CVT clearly indicate that you’re pouring your own meaning into CVT’s words. CVT would no doubt ask what you mean by ‘teaching.’ When you then reply with your minimalist definition, he’d say, “Of course, I agree with you there; in fact, my own works imply that I do. But that’s not what *I* mean by teaching.

    So, please try to be more charitable.

  52. Zrim says:

    Pilgrim Van Til, it sounds like you’re saying plain reading is out when it comes to smart writers. But how are dim people like me supposed to understand their words? And so it’s uncharitable to take a writer’s words to mean what they say? It’s hard being dumb. Pray for me.

  53. Pilgrim says:

    I’m not sure what “Pilgrim Van Til” means. Is it intended to get a rise? You clearly know that I only cited one sentence from him, and that because it was *Dr. Noe* who expressed such great appreciation for the man. So I quoted him to succinctly state a position I put forth—a position that’s not being addressed, but rather some weird, red herring, tangent has erupted.

    Anyway: I only stated a common sense rule of interpretation: the author’s terms should be understood in the sense he uses them. CVT laid forth what he meant by ‘education’ and ‘teaching,’ and it isn’t the minimalist sense you imported to it in a proof text. You’re just being stubborn and arrogant now. Who has issue with the idea that we use terms how authors mean them.

    If you can’t get this, perhaps this will help: The Bible frequently uses the term ‘all.’ The Arminian and 4-pointer tell us that this rules out certain Reformed views. They argue that “the plain meaning” of “all” is, well, all. But the Reformed sometimes seem to mean <some when the Bible says all. I could give examples like this ’til the cows come home.

    Lastly, here’s what I said: “Are you using the terms the same way?” So, here’s your dilemma: Either (1) you are or (2) you’re not. You’re free to argue for (1); but if you can’t, your sophistic point above only detracts and distracts from point I made. For if (2) is *in fact* correct, then your *argument* has been defeated, and *that’s* what you should care about more than some non-sequitur that a guy who defined what he meant and was writing over 50 years ago should be using a term in the way you want it to be used for your argument to go through.

    So if you’re not using the terms in the same way, your argument is over before it starts.

  54. Pilgrim says:

    Renowned hermeneut, Robert Stein:

    “In the 1930s, however, a movement arose called the New Criticism. This movement became the dominant approach toward literature in the universities until the 1970s. This approach no longer sought meaning in what the author intended to convey, but in the text itself as an independent entity. Texts were interpreted as independent units in total isolation from their authors and the historical situation in which they were written. In fact, if, using the example given above, Paul entered into our presence and explained to us what he meant by what he wrote, this view would respond, “That is interesting but quite irrelevant, for after you wrote your text, you lost control of it. It is no longer a form of communication but a form of art. It has become ‘literature,’ and as a result it possesses semantic autonomy and has its own meaning or meanings.” According to this view, in handing the text over to the reader, the author lost his or her authority over the text and its meaning.”

    “The Benefits of an Author-Oriented Approach to Hermeneutics,” Robert H. Stein* Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 44.3 (2001): 451-466.

    You asked for prayer. I prayed. God answered.

  55. Zrim says:

    Pilgrim, so when CVT says “teaching, education” he doesn’t mean curriculum as in the three Rs? My understanding from Muether’s recent bio was that he was very frustrated with the state of Christian schools because they weren’t putting into practice certain epistemological claims and were little more than glorified secular schools. Which makes me think that when he talked about Christian education he more or less meant what you’re calling a minimalist definition (e.g. the three Rs). And my own sense is that he was frustrated because nobody really knew what he was talking about, because education is education no matter who’s doing it.

    And so the question comes back on CVT the way it comes back on our friend Baus in DGH’s question above (which also seems to be Noe’s question): does a class on Shakespeare look any different in a Christian school than it does a non-Christian school? It seems that CVT/Clouser/Baus say it does. But some of us don’t see how. Or to make it even more simple, is a third grade Xian class drilling the times tables distinguishable from a non-Xian one? The answer seems to be, It’s supposed to. Well, how? The more the educational Van Tillians speak the more it just sounds like you guys have something in mind that never becomes obvious, high minded notions that don’t have any feet. Which is why I am saying it’s antithesis on steroids. Yes, believers aren’t unbelievers by definition, but how that means each does something common vastly different is befuddling. It would be much easier for me if Christian education advocates would simply say that they want the education of their children to come at the hands of fellow believers because it makes them feel safer, instead of saying something very different is happening on that Xian third grade classroom than it is in a pagan one. To my mind, the latter is a form of religious fantasy.

    However, something very different is happening in a Reformed communion every Lord’s Day, as opposed to a non-Reformed one. And that’s because the worship of God is not a common activity. There is a right and a wrong way to worship God. Antithesis is actually best demonstrated over how to worship God than how to learn 2+2=4. Reformed theology has direct and obvious bearing on religious life, not common life.

  56. Pilgrim says:

    Zrim, right, he doesn’t mean “the three R’s,” considered by themselves, as that is insufficient to *educate*. He’s following thousands of years of wisdom here, where the education and instruction of children is more than cramming facts in the head and learning how to be a monkey with symbols. The older view concerned *the whole person*, and education was more that disjointed facts slapped together for the purpose of getting a diploma and then a job. As Machen once said, “That great aim of education – that personal, free, truly human aspect of education – can never have justice done to it under federal control.” CVT stood in this tradition. But according to your way of refuting, you’d tell Machen to look out of his window and see how kids from public schools can add, read, and write sentences—and so clearly Machen is out to lunch!

    For the life of me, I can’t see how you pulled that CVT was interested mainly in the three R’s from the statements you made regarding Muether’s bio! Indeed, as you quote him: “What sense is there in spending money for teaching arithmetic in a Christian school rather than in a so-called neutral school unless you are basically convinced that no space-time fact can be talked about taught unless seen in its relationship to God?” It thus seems crystal clear that the three R’s were not what stoked his ire. He’s saying, if it’s all about the three R’s, it doesn’t matter. But, it matters; so it’s not about the three R’s (considered qua rote, methodological symbol manipulating), thus it matters.

    At any event, I think this has run its course. You are passive aggressive (calling yourself “dumb” when you really think you have a strong point and it’s hard to refute it), and I’ve answered you plenty enough on your tangent. You will recall I came here to make one specific argument, and it hasn’t been touched (i.e., given Noe’s argument, there’s no Christian theology, or atheistic physics, philosophy, etc). Rather, it seems you saw an opening to move the discussion to a favorite whipping boy, where you had all your quotes, jargon, and witticisms on had at your disposal. But like I said above about my uncle from Texas: “That dog won’t hunt.” Play king of the sandbox with someone else.

  57. John Hutson says:

    Dr. Noe,

    Skipping over all the back and forth with Pilgim, were the “crucial caveats” (that God made everything, etc.) the extent of your defense of Christian schools? Is that really worth the price of admission? By price I don’t just mean $, but the cost of excluding all the brilliant pagans in the world from our classrooms and isolating our children from their neighbors. It seems to me that it would be much more efficient and perhaps preferable for fathers and Sunday School teachers to provide the caveats, unless you think it’s essential to get them from teacher or the caveats take more time and/or expertise than I think they would.

    Would you equate these caveats with baptizing reductionist explanations for reality, as described in the Clouser article?

  58. Zrim says:

    Pilgrim, I’m not sure the older tradition really saw education having as much to do with soul craft as you seem to be attributing to it. On the contrary, I think the older tradition was skeptical of the modern educational progressivists who did. I think the older tradition saw the home and church (but mainly the home) as the institutions which made human beings and instilled worldview. I think the older tradition goes back to something we see from the early church which didn’t seem to think academia was all that essential to the crafting of souls, not what we may see in more modern proponents who seem to over-realize the role of academia.

    Which raises the point about this post. I’m the author of it and I’m pointing to an account of the early church in relation to education, which so far hasn’t really been engaged to my satisfaction. You complain that your point hasn’t been engaged and call mine a tangent. What I’m actually trying to do is get it a little more on track. I don’t mind tangents, but it’s odd for a commenter who creates one to call mine one.

    But to indulge your tangential point, you say this: “You will recall I came here to make one specific argument, and it hasn’t been touched (i.e., given Noe’s argument, there’s no Christian theology, or atheistic physics, philosophy, etc).”

    Did you miss this from Noe:

    …arguably we can extend the adjective to apply to those things closely and uniquely connected to Christ. For example, “Christian worship” is a designation that does not seem to admit of any real ambiguity. It helps us distinguish the worship of Christ from that of Allah, for example. There are certainly important differences in Christian worship, between, for example those who follow the regulative as opposed to the normative principle. But clearly the phrase has reference only to the worship of Christ’s person performed by his followers. Likewise, the adjective Christian seems to me to apply well to the noun “religion,” as that also names one and one thing only, the many differences notwithstanding.

    So, no, given Noe’s argument, there is such a thing as Christian theology, because the adjective applies to those things closely and uniquely connected to Christ. Jesus didn’t philosophize—he theologized. He also worshipped, but he didn’t educate anyone. So if he didn’t teach the 3Rs then why do so many of his followers think Christianity has at least as much to do with education as it does worship?

  59. RubeRad says:

    OK, thanks for the links. Don’t hold your breath though. (And I don’t mean that sarcastically, I mean I don’t even have time right now to read all the comments on this page, much less other sources, so these links are at the back of an ever-growing queue)

  60. David C. Noe says:

    Pilgrim, if you’re interested I’m still thinking about your question (which seems a very good one) regarding whether the same criticisim of Christian education can apply to “Christian theology.” Zrim’s answer below pretty much captures it but I intend to address it more later.

  61. Pilgrim says:

    Zrim (and Dr. Noe) the problem is that your defense of Dr. Noe only admits of inconsistency, for the conclusion I drew from his argument was entailed by other premises of Dr. Noe’s argument. This means that: either the conclusion of his argument, or the premise that allowed me to draw the unsavory conclusion (the one about Christian theology—and I made some other points too, that will need to be dealt with), will need to be denied.

    So Zrim, you have not yet grasped the nature of the argument. It is not enough for you to simply deny that there is no thing as Christian theology ***without denying anything else***. For the conclusion you want to deny was entailed by a premise you want to accept. Therefore, you cannot, logically, have it both ways.

    In other words:

    If X entails Y, and you believe ¬Y, then you can’t say “No, I don’t hold to Y, but I also agree with X.”

    You both will recall that I said I was not arguing for the existence of Christian philosophy (I sketched how *that* argument would go, and I stand by that, thus there’s an argument for Christian philosophy that has not been rebutted), or against any and all arguments that could be given against Christian philosophy. I was rejecting to *one* argument that there was no such thing as Christian philosophy, and that argument was one that *entailed* that there was no Christian theology.

    Here’s the upshot, Zrim: I was banking on you not wanting to deny the existence of Christian theology. So if you affirm that category, you must reject an argument that *entails* there is no such category.

  62. David C. Noe says:

    Excellent questions, John.

    I think there are two additional good reasons for Christian day-schools, expansions of the caveats maybe

    1.) protection of one’s children from adverse moral influences; in the same way that I do not let my children watch certain movies, read certain books, if a parent wants an environment that is morally more regular and in accord with one’s catechesis then Christian schools are a good choice. I have met many Christian parents who send their children to Christian schools for this reason. I have no problem with that myself and think it is an admirable choice. Whether they are getting a uniquely Christian education in process or result, apart from the caveats, is what I’m skeptical about.

    2.) daily exposure to special revelation; this is more like the alternation or integration of faith and learning (it seems to me that the areas of content remain, try as some might, separable); at one time you are teaching math, at another Bible memorization and hymn-singing; whether this justifies the price of admission seems to me a matter of Christian freedom for parents to decide. I do not doubt that an equal level, to the extent that such things are measurable, of Christian education (instruction in the things of our sacred faith), can be achieved through regular attendance on worship, fathers reading the Scriptures and instructing their children therein as well as teaching catechism. This is, where Machen learned most of his Christian educaton (cf. the Stonehouse bio.) Biblical arguments for the priority of this model fall flat to me. I don’t know whether this leads to isolation of one’s children from neighbors but the ‘evangelism’ reasons for public schooling don’t seem sound either. It is my conviction that the church should take priority in all matters of education that relate to our faith. If some parents want to supplement that during the week that’s great.

    I don’t know all the implications of ‘baptizing reductionist explanations for reality’ as Clouser describes it so I’m reluctant to agree with that before thinking it through.

    What are your thoughts?

  63. Pilgrim says:

    Dr. Noe, you can reply at my place if you’d like. You will see by my response to Zrim below that his answer is simply *logically* insufficient to rebut my argument. The argument is a dilemma. That is: either no Christian theology or the premise of the argument you used to reach the conclusion that there is no Christian philosophy fails. You affirm Christian theology. Therefore, the argument you used to reach the conclusion that there is no Christian theology fails. Formally:

    P or Q
    Therefore Q.

  64. Pilgrim says:


    Pilgrim, I’m not sure the older tradition really saw education having as much to do with soul craft as you seem to be attributing to it.”

    That’s just false. See:

    Chambliss, J. J. “Aristotle’s Conception of Children and the Poliscraft.” Educational Studies 13 (1982), 33–43.


    “Although Aristotle is deeply indebted to Plato’s moral philosophy, particularly Plato’s central insight that moral thinking must be integrated with our emotions and appetites, and that the preparation for such unity of character should begin with childhood education,”

    Then I simply invoke the name: Cicero.

    It is simply an unquestionable fact that the oldest and most long-standing view of Childhood education is not minimalist, but deals with broader, worldview themes, as well as the training and instruction of the whole person for purposes of the right ordering of the affections.

  65. John Hutson says:

    Thanks for your response.

    I think number one is the primary reason most parents choose Christian schools, and I think it’s a legitimate one. It’s very subjective and dependent on the schools available, the child, the parents, and the church. I lived in the City of Philadelphia at one time, and in those public schools there were legitimate safety concerns as well as a completely morally bankrupt culture. It should be pointed out that this doesn’t necessitate Christians doing the teaching and learning. If a private or charter school board is committed to certain moral standards, they can still hire and admit pagans and hold them to those standards. There are even ways for parents to affect change in public schools, though I know that’s an uphill battle.

    For number two, I think this is another legitimate factor, although I think it will only work in a church-connected or very theologically committed school. I don’t think it should have much weight for a father already committed to catechesis in the home and faithful church attendance with good preaching, though like you said, there’s no problem with adding to it at school. Once again, there’s no necessity that all the teachers be Christians.

    When I said it might not be good to isolate our kid’s from their neighbors, I wasn’t just thinking about evangelism. I was thinking about the quote in the blog post this discussion is supposedly based off of. I think there are real detriments to ghettoizing ourselves. Much of education is about socialization, and I think kids need to know how to deal with, love, and serve pagans (albeit in a safe environment) unless they’re going to be pastors or Christian school teachers. Sometimes we think of interaction with pagans as a necessary evil for the sake of evangelism, but the doctrine of vocation teaches that for most of us our work is serving our neighbors, who are probably not Christians.

    I’ll leave you to your logically impossible task of refuting Pilgrim.

  66. Zrim says:

    Pilgrim, on your first point, I’m content to let the logicians sort out the precise logic. I’m sticking with simple language and reasoning, though. I don’t know what Christian philosophy and education are because it seems like putting a religious adjective in front of a common noun; but I do know what Christians doing philosophy and education is because religious people can do common things. Christian theology makes sense because both terms are religious and it seems to make sense to speak of Christian theology as opposed to Islamic theology.

    On your second point, so does that mean sending Christian kids to non-Christian schools really is spiritual child neglect and abuse and impious? You’re the logician here, and it seems to me that strict logic entails having to conclude that if education really is more affective than it is intellectual then use of secular education is tantamount to sending Reformed kids to Catholic catechism. But the way I see it, these are two entirely different things, and that’s because the soul is different from the mind.

  67. Zrim says:

    John, bingo on the evangelism/vocation point. I appreciate the points Dr. Noe makes in advocating for Christian day schools. But this is the point on which I can choke a little. If education is a child’s vocation then what are we telling him when we cordoned him off into a Christian sub-culture for most of it and then expect him to “be in the world (but not of it)” when that leg of vocation has ended? Again, I’m a Christian parent and I certainly understand the points about safety, etc. And I also think education is primarily an intellectual endeavor (not soul craft). So I want my kids well protected and well taught. But the doctrine of vocation is also at play here, and I worry about instilling a world-flight piety, something I hear very little of from Xian school advocates.

  68. John Hutson says:

    I think it’s hard when you have this curriculum=catechism rhetoric to ever justify parents sending covenant children to non-Reformed schools. Even many Reformed schools don’t require teachers to subscribe a confession or even be members of Reformed churches. It seems you have to assume that parents are going to reteach everything kids are taught in non-Reformed schools, otherwise you have to discipline parents for violating baptismal vows to catechize. But most people who make these kinds of claims aren’t willing to do that, and most parents when agreeing to baptismal vows don’t think they’re agreeing to “integrate faith and learning.”

  69. Zrim says:

    John, bingo again. It’s hard, too, when something like Article 14 of the URCNA Church Order says:

    The duties belonging to the office of elder consist of continuing in prayer and ruling the church of Christ according to the principles taught in Scripture, in order that purity of doctrine and holiness of life may be practiced. They shall see to it that their fellow-elders, the minister(s) and the deacons faithfully discharge their offices. They are to maintain the purity of the Word and Sacraments, assist in catechizing the youth, promote God-centered schooling, visit the members of the congregation according to their needs, engage in family visiting, exercise discipline in the congregation, actively promote the work of evangelism and missions, and insure that everything is done decently and in good order.

    Evidently, elders are to “promote God-centered schooling” the way they are to maintain the purity of the Word and sacraments and everything else biblical. It’s not too hard to see how curriculum gets confused with catechism. The PRC’s educational legalism didn’t just fall out of the clear blue.

    Contrast this with (gird thy Reformed loins) The Catechism of the Catholic Church 2229:

    As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.

  70. sean says:

    Zrim let me help you. Christian philosophy is pushing the religious antithetical of Augustine back one more step to the epistemological level, and declaring the pagan philosopher incapable of ‘real’ philosophical reasoning(borrowed capital charge), and then borrowing(not borrowed capital-somehow) from unrengenerate founded philosophical idealism to recreate philosophical reasoning based on the assumptions of unregenerate philosophical idealism, that had prior been rendered impossible/illegitimate because we’d already pushed the antithetical back to the epistemological. I really do wish you would start keeping up

  71. John Hutson says:

    Not just the PRC. Here’s RC Sr. talking about his son’s insistence that sending covenant children to public school is a sin: “That’’s not an issue that I crusade about. However, parents ultimately bear the responsibility to see to it that their children are educated in the fear of the Lord. Given the pagan nature of the public school system, I would think that any discerning parents would not place their children in such an environment. Knowingly to turn them over to such a pagan system would be sin. But it’s mostly a sin of ignorance. Most folks don’t know the true nature of the public schools. I agree with R.C., Jr.’s, basic assessment, that Christian parents have a responsibility not to send their kids into that environment.” http://www.presbyteriannews.org/volumes/v6/5/pr6-5.pdf#page=8.

  72. Zrim says:

    John, ever notice how Reformed talk about non-Christian education the way Baptists talk about beer?

  73. Zrim says:

    Sean, thanks. It’s hard keeping up with the epistemological Jones’.

  74. Zrim says:

    Baus, thanks for putting things into your own words.

    Though you conclude that the 2k distinction between the holy and common is erroneous, it’s at least good to see how you can understand that such an assumption would be cause to see the absurdity of the idea of doing common things redemptively.

    Despite the effort, I’m still not very clear on how anyone can do a common activity Christianly. Again, I know what a Christian doing education is, but I don’t know what Christian education could be, unless it’s short hand for the former. But I take neocals to be saying it’s much more than that, and much more than doing a common thing well or even to God’s glorification. I’m sure my small and commonly educated mind is getting in the way. It usually does.

  75. Do I say the distinction is erroneous? No.
    I clearly say that the distinction is a correct one.
    “…neocalvinism recognizes that the church is distinguished and set apart from other spheres by its own distinct character which indeed has a special holiness.”
    “So there is a structural distinction between that which is, in an official sense, holy and that which is, in an official sense, common.”
    “Culture as a sphere of activity is structurally common”

    Rather, it is the *denial* that “a Christian can do cultural activity in a Christian way” that is erroneous, and it is erroneously based on a (correct) distinction.

    Try again, and please read more carefully.

  76. Zrim says:

    Baus, ok, so it’s erroneous to be puzzled by the notion that a common task can be done holily. Sorry, but my mind hasn’t expanded in the last few hours, and I’m still given to the evidently erroneous premise that the only thing which can be described as Christian is a human being, that strictly speaking (not short hand) the word is a noun and not an adjective or an adverb. Again, I’m glad for your attempt here, and despite what you may think, I did read carefully and me still don’t gets it.

  77. Derek says:

    Is it possible for you to provide further citation for your large quote? Who wrote “Children in the Early Church” and on what page could I find this quotation?

  78. Zrim says:

    Derek, it’s by W.A. Strange. I used the quote from a post some years ago. Apparently there I did not cite the page numbers, and apparently have since misplaced the book itself.

  79. Derek says:

    Thank you.

  80. Zrim says:

    Baus, so as when the Darwinists say that humans evolved from fish and Christians don’t show enough faith that fish beget humans, we’re actually guilty of the logical fallacy known as personal incredulity, when the neos say that something other than human can also be called Christian and 2kers are similarly nonpulussed we are equally guilty. But what I’m seeing is an uneasy correspondence between Darwinists and neos, one saying we came from fish and the other suggesting Jesus lived and died for fish. And both call boo for others not showing enough faith in their suggestions–prosperity alert.

  81. Baus says:

    Zrim, you don’t believe in evolution? What? You think Christians have some kind of different view on science? Now you’re just talking out of both sides of your mouth.
    In any case, no, your incredulity *isn’t an argument* against evolution, and it’s not an argument against the possibility of Christians doing culture Christianly.
    Also, you’ll notice my definition of culture. It’s human action. So I don’t call “something other than human” Christian. Culture is human.

  82. Zrim says:

    Baus, my point was that Darwinians and neo-Calvinists seem to want to claim that when it is rejected that either fish beget humans or that culture is human because it doesn’t make any sense, the response seems to be we’re just being incredulous. Which sounds an awful lot like not having enough faith, which sounds an awful lot like what prosperity peddlers say.

    More to your last point, no, culture isn’t human. Only humans are human, not the stuff they make. This idea that what we create with our minds and hands is just as human as what we beget and raise with our loins seems to be the loophole neos use to drive big transforming trucks through. This is how we get notions of “Christian culture” and “Christian America.”

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