Monday, December 24, 2007

A Response to the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Tim Challies is a well known and very good blogger. So, I hesitate to cross swords with this master, but he recently blogged something I felt compelled to debunk. It was a blog about Homeschooling as a self-fulfilling prophecy with regards to Public Schools. Mr. Challies was commenting on a new book by Al Mohler who calls for Christians to get an exit strategy from public schools, and then goes on to talk about how godless they are and give examples. Mr. Challies asks the question of whether or not withdrawing the godly from the schools will help with the problem of the schools being godless and wonders out loud if the homeschooling movement has helped create or at least worsen the problem they complain about.

Before I get going on this critique, I should just let you know where I stand on homeschooling. I am homeschooling my kids, but I don’t consider myself a rabid homeschooler. I agree wholeheartedly with a recent report my denomination did on the subject. The Bible clearly places the parents responsible and accountable for their kids education. However, we can go no further in binding consciences than that. The parents are responsible, and if they see fit to delegate the act of educating to others, then it is biblically allowable. It does not remove responsibility or accountability, but it is not anti-Christian to send kids to public school, or private school, or a Christian school. It is about each parent making what they think is the best choice for their kids. For me, I choose homeschooling. You may want to choose something else.

Now, Mr. Challies makes this biblical suggestion about leaving kids in the public school. After mentioning that Canadian schools are not as bad off as American schools and thinking that might be because homeschooling is not as big in Canada, he goes to the bible for support of his reasoning.

I wonder sometimes about a “Genesis 18” principle. In Genesis 18 we read of Abraham interceding for Sodom and for his people in that city. “Then Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?’” Abraham asks God, pesters God even, whether God will preserve the city for the sake of the righteous. Will God preserve the city because His people are in it? God answers in the affirmative. And is it possible, I wonder, that the Canadian system has been preserved more than its American counterpart because God’s people have remained there? Perhaps this is a long shot; perhaps I am abusing the text and the principle it teaches; but I can’t help but wonder. Would we not expect God to preserve an institution where His people are present and are attempting to make inroads for His glory?

It is this argument that I think needs to be discussed because I do believe Mr. Challies is wrong on this point. Very wrong, in fact.

First, I do think he is misusing the passage a little and making it say something that I do not believe it is saying. In Genesis 18 God does agree that for 10 righteous souls he will not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but alas 10 righteous cannot be found. This passage, however, does not say that 10 righteous souls would prevent Sodom from being so sinful in the first place. It seems to me the principle of Genesis 18 is that God will be generous with mercy for the sake of the righteous. It does not say that God will allow 10 righteous to influence a corrupt system for the good.

Second, I think the passage actually goes on to teach exactly the opposite of what Mr. Challies argues. If we look we find Lot’s family living in a place of degenerate sinfulness. Does the passage show Lot influencing the city for good or does the passage show Lot being influenced by the city. Well, we see Lot offer his daughter in place of the angel visiting him. A morally questionable motive. We see Lot’s wife look back with longing in her heart for the sinful life of Sodom. We see Lot’s daughter sleeping with him after Lot is drunk. It seems to me that one of the principles of Genesis 18 is exactly what many homeschoolers are stating, ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ One cannot be immersed in Sodom and remain unscathed.

What makes Canadian schools have less anti-christian rage than American public schools? I don’t know. It could be that Canada is farther along in removing Christian influence from the society at large (see hate speech laws and other such things). Maybe the churches there are not as active in politics, or maybe the educational elite do not want to create a mass exodus of the system and thus do not push their anti-christian worldview. Who knows? I am just fairly sure there is a better explanation than Christians in the schools creates a better influence. At the very least that argument runs counter to Genesis 18 and other similar examples found in Scripture.


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Andrea Powell said...

Good post, Lee. It has never been my impression that Lot was commended for pitching his tent among the Sodomites. In fact, when the Bible recounts Lot's decision to pitch his tents there, it makes a point of commenting on its wickedness. To add to your point, Lot's other daughters married the wicked men of the city and could not be persuaded to leave the city, disregarding the word of God. Mr. Challies may be proving more than he means to by bringing this passage into the discussion.

I feel a disclaimer is necessary: Matt and I agree with your sentiments about education being the parents' responsibility and therefore public, home, or private school choices are not of themselves ungodly or godly. I don't mean to say that sending a child to public school is tantamount to pitching your tents in Sodom.