It might be amusing to some (and disconcerting to others) to know what happens behind the scenes here on PS23. My Facebook messenger feed is virtually continuously buzzing from conversation, ranging from what’s new in theology, politics, current events, church life, and what my wife cooked for dinner. The latter inevitably morphs into a conversation about food, and the proper preparation thereof (especially as it relates to BBQ or coffee). Disagreement will exist, and then the expected “sticker war” (Who knew that language is de-evolutionizing to pictography? For that we might have our degrees revoked). But there’s more than just fun to our PS23 thread. We also challenge each other’s thinking, think through issues, and every now and then, “assign” a subject to, well… whoever gets stuck with it.
That’s not what happened this time.
I volunteered… not because I thought I’d do the best job, au contraire! I volunteered because this is a subject very dear and personal to me, and while I am confident that there are other contributors on our blog who could write more adequately on the subject, I simply wanted the opportunity to work through it.
I have beloved friends on both sides of the issue. I’ve had the unique opportunity to have worked in all three educational environments, public school, Christian school, and home-school. I know friends who were brought up under varying philosophies of education, but who hasn’t? That is hardly substantiation that I can speak authoritatively to the issue.
Where I can speak authoritatively, however, is when I rightly divide the Word of God. I take the reality that when we speak we “speak as those who speak God’s words” very seriously (1 Pet. 4:11). That means where God’s words, go, I go. Where His words stop, I stop. But many forsake the same consideration when they address the emotionally charged subject of homeschooling. In fact, the issue has divided many a church – to the point that an entire movement has been born to promote a specific philosophy of education over another (something R.C. Sproul warns against here).
It goes both ways.
I once heard of a now-pastor who assertively told his classmates a few years ago, “I personally don’t think you can be home-schooled and be a Christian.” I searched all over the place in the Bible for where it said that… and I finally found it – in My Opinion 3:16. Actually, that kind of attitude is rank legalism of the worst kind. There are so many problems with the ridiculousness of that kind of assertion that it’s not even worth going there.
But there is another form of legalism of late, more subtle, but equally condemning.
It’s poised in the question, “Do you home-school?”
Now, if that question is being asked out of sincere curiosity, I have no objection. I have no problem with home-schooling per se. As I said, I have very dear friends who home-school their children, and they’ve done an outstanding job. But I also have friends who home-school and they’ve done a terrible job, whether at actually educating (it gets harder when the kids’ get older), or fulfilling other God-mandated responsibilities (such as a husband’s responsibilities to his wife or a wife to her husband’s) or in serving the church (FYI, volunteering your time in your Christian co-op is not the same as serving your church, and having “church” with your family doesn’t amount to fellowship with the body of Christ either).
Where I have objection is when home-schooling is imposed on other parents as though it were a biblical mandate. In many situations, parents who home-school put pressure, even tremendous pressure on parents who don’t as though home-schooling is the final solution to their child’s sinful heart. Others generate a culture of fear… “If you don’t home-school, don’t you know what will happen to your children?” It’s even worse when it’s picked up from an overheard conversation. “Did you hear about so-and-so’s kid? Well, you know that would never have happened if they home-schooled.” It’s also bad… and I might even say really REALLY bad, when a child is experiencing bullying for maintaining his/her convictions and testimony in a public school environment, and the parents are told that they need to get their kid outta school pronto or said child might be permanently scarred for life.
Now, many home-school families with good theology cringe when they hear those sorts of objections, and rightly so! It’s indicative of HORRIFICALLY bad theology! And they hate getting lumped in the same group. I would too. However, such families are the exception to the rule. For instance, I remember attending a Christian home-school conference of about 2,000 or 3,000 people and the attitude was pervasive, so much so that when one of the keynote speakers (a big time advocate of homeschooling and the FIC movement himself) tried to confront some of these attitudes, parents literally stood up in infuriated objection that it was actually a problem.
I remember another discussion between a seasoned pastor and a lay-elder, holding a conversation much like the one presented above. “What did they think would happen when they sent their kid to public school!?” said the pastor. The irony was that the lay-elder sent all four of his children to public school and three of the four served in full-time vocational ministry while the other served as a lay-teacher in his church. And yet, the pastor home-schooled his children, but they walked away from the faith and three of them had children out of wed-lock. Is that indicative of a wide-spread problem? I think so, and I think that it exposes some of the nature of the problem, which is why home-schooling is just as dangerous as Christian or public school education.
Not only that, but in some instances, home-schooling is actually presented as a biblical mandate. Those kinds of conclusions are the consequence of an immature faith, and bad hermeneutic.
So, in the coming weeks, I wish to evaluate home-schooling from a biblical perspective – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to take a hard look at many of the verses used to promote home-schooling, and even the erroneous theology and presuppositions that are often present as well. I have two weeks ’til then, so I value your input and contributions on the subject in the meantime!