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Category: Musings

A Follow Up On “Salt and Light”

I recently linked to an article on the sensitive subject of how Christians ought to make educational choices for their children. Of course, this is a controversial area and it stirred some pushback to my basic stance that, generally speaking, sending a child to public school is not the best choice a Christian parent can make (in fairness I’d add: keep your kids out of most Christian schools as well. But that is a matter for a different article). Since my previous post was primarily a link to someone else’s thoughts I’d like to briefly summarize my own thoughts on the issue and also disclose my motives for choosing to publicly state them. Let’s start with motives.

First off, my goal is not to pass judgment on decisions made thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago by parents who now have older teens. My aim is to help parents who are currently making this choice to think through the implications of sending a child to public school as our culture and civilization continue their dramatic moral decline.  I realize that this still will cause disagreement, and maybe even offence (though I do not delight in giving offence and it is not my aim). However, given the magnitude of the question, this is not sufficient reason to remain silent.

And magnitude happens to be my second motive. This is a critical issue, because early influences shape children for the rest of their lives, and school is obviously one of the most significant influences in a child’s life.

Public schools, by and large, are a place where God, Scripture, absolute truth, absolute goodness, and absolute beauty are scorned and hated. Oh, to be sure, a child might hear the words ‘virtue,’ ‘truth,’ ‘good choices,’ and ‘kindness’ at school. But in a relativistic culture where each person’s ethical decisions are personal choices cut free from the cumbersome anchor of universal morality (and accountability to a Supreme Being), you can be sure that some of the ethics taught will vary from school to school and teacher to teacher, and too often will  contradict the God-designed universal standard. In our culture, good is evil and evil is good. Every man does what is right in his own eyes. And public schools might be more, but most are surely nothing less than culture inculcating, truth-hating, sanctification-destroying centers of illiberal closed-mindedness.

And this is precisely the point at which some parents might be tempted to shout, “That’s what I mean! The public schools need salt and light! How will we ever influence them for good if we don’t send our children there?”

Here are my top two objections to this thinking.

STOP TREATING YOUR UNBELIEVING CHILD LIKE A CHRISTIAN
It astounds me how many (Protestant! Dispensational!) Christian parents assume their child’s salvation and treat them like a believer. As if the very fact of having believing parents and being very cute qualifies a second grader to waltz into Mrs. McGillicuddy’s socialist classroom and hold a tent meeting. This is part of a much larger problem among Christian parents and churches (where unbelieving children of members regularly lead the sentimental congregants in worship simply because they are children – an error a faithful church would not allow for in any other age group), but the salt and light argument is one place it rears its head. If the Spirit of God does not dwell in your child, it is harmful to them and to others to pretend that it does. They do not possess the requisite salt or light necessary to validate the argument.

STOP EXPECTING THE IMPOSSIBLE FROM YOUR BELIEVING CHILD
Let’s say the first point does not apply to you. Your child has made a profession of faith that, in your best judgment, seems genuine and is bearing fruit. There is still a significant problem with the salt and light approach to educational choices. If we’re honest, we’d have to admit that even most Christian adults in our day would be ill-equipped to stand up against what children face in public school. So putting a child into a situation that would be a significant challenge for the average forty year-old Christian seems very unwise. Part of our incorrect thinking here stems from too light a view of sin (both its allurements and results), and our sentimental view of the unbeliever (both the children at your child’s school and the adults). So, before you make the decision to send your child to public school, please ask yourself, “How does God describe the unbelieving worldview my child will face at public school?” And then read Romans 1. Is your believing five, eight, thirteen, eighteen year old adequately prepared to face this? Are you?

It seems to me that using the salt and light approach to educational choices for a child is analogous to tossing that same child into the middle of the Atlantic to save a drowning sailor while the parents provide support from the life raft. We are asking children to do something God did not design them to do – to face mature and seething immorality, atheism, and secularism, and to turn that tide. It’s no wonder that so few children of Christians make it to adulthood still claiming the cross of Christ, for too many Christian parents, ill-equipped themselves, are unwittingly sowing the seeds of destruction before the child is remotely capable of weathering the storm.

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Thankfulness Series: Joshua Larsen

This post is part of a series on thankfulness. The first post explained the series purpose.

When I started this website nearly three years ago, one of my stated purposes was to write an ongoing series expressing gratitude to many of the folks who have impacted my life spiritually in some way. Not in order of importance. Not in order of height or weight. Not even alphabetical. And certainly not exhaustive (which I could never do). After I wrote that introductory post linked above, the first person I wrote about was my Uncle Ron.

Unfortunately after those first couple of posts I let the series drop off. Until now.

If you read that post on Uncle Ron (which I hope you did), you remember the study Bible my parents bought me in March of 2008, and how several personal notes written within have served as a repeated source of encouragement over the years. One of those notes was from my cousin-in-law, Josh Larsen.

What is a cousin-in-law, you ask? It’s someone who marries your cousin, and in this case, cousin Katie. Since Katie was much like a sister to me growing up next door, Josh is kind of like a brother-in-law. An older, cooler, more athletic brother-in-law (thankfully, for a while longer I still have him bested when it comes to smoking brisket).

Now, I didn’t grow up with Josh because he came along once I was already in my later teen years. Even so, I’ve still known him for almost 20 years. And though we haven’t lived near each other for the last 15 years or so, I still occasionally see or hear from him. Which brings me back to the note.

Here’s what Josh had to say:

“‘God . . . in these last days has spoken to us in his Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory, and the exact representation of His nature . . . ‘ Hebrews 1:1-3

Jonathan, I pray you will see the risen Christ as He walks through these pages. I know you already know Him, but continually seeing His beauty and glory is our only hope of walking in the freedom He purchased. So as you read may you be changed (2 Cor. 3:18), and as you are changed may you want Him even more. I join Paul in praying that ‘you may know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:19).’ I’m glad to know you and to be a part of your family. Katie and I will continue praying for you and Steph, and we look forward to seeing you sometime in the future. In Christ, Josh”

The thing that has stood out to me as I’ve mulled this note over the years is that it is saturated with Scripture. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, it is only the Scripture that can accomplish the things that Josh desired for Christ to accomplish in my life. Banal cliches or shallow aphorisms may have sounded neat, but they simply wouldn’t get the job done. So Josh eschewed them for the meat of the Word. He gave me substance. Which is my second observation: Josh set an example by knowing the Word well enough to be able to offer it to me. If I don’t have hard-earned familiarity with God’s Word, I won’t have treasure to offer to others as Josh was able to do for me.

Each time I read Josh’s words, I am thankful for them. They are a part of a special collection of notes that have been important sources of encouragement for nearly a decade. I pray that I will prove to be such an encouragement to many others over the years of life and ministry that God gives me.

Thanks and Giving

Philippians 4:17 implies that when we support the work of the Lord in this age, we receive a share of the rewards for the things the Lord accomplishes through that work. (And by the way, 2 John teaches us the opposite principle: when we encourage false teachers in their work, we buy shares of that mutual fund. We need to guard our support and encouragement jealously.)

Here, Paul tells the Philippians regarding their recent generous financial gift to his ministry,

“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”

I believe the New Testament demonstrates that the work of the Lord in this age is centered in the local church. So my primary giving is in and to and through my local church. I think it’s also appropriate to give something additional to the work of the church universal – in other words, supporting ministries that make an impact on other local churches around the world besides my own.

A biblically faithful seminary is one kind of ministry that meets that criteria. The seminary that I attend, Central Seminary of Plymouth, Minnesota, has trained hundreds of pastors and ministry leaders for faithful New Testament local church ministry since the mid-20th century. Each year Central takes part in a fundraiser hosted by an organization called GiveMN. This year’s event, “Give to the MAX Day” is November 17.

As we are able, Steph and I try to give something to this fundraiser each year to show our gratitude for the ways in which the Lord is using Central Seminary and its staff and supporters to shape our ministry, and ultimately, our hearts. The vast majority of our giving goes to our local church, as it should. But a little bit above and beyond our usual giving goes to Central Seminary. We want to show gratitude, and we also want a share in the good work that Central is doing for the Lord around the globe.

If you do not already have a category of giving to support the increase and strengthening of local churches other than your own, I’d ask you to consider a gift to Central Seminary this year. Of course, you are not obligated to give. It is purely a matter of your own judgment and giving priorities.

And for what it’s worth, I give wholehearted approval to Central Seminary as a biblically faithful New Testament ministry that is worthy of the support of the Lord’s people for the building of His church.

Central Seminary “Give to the MAX Day” link

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