While living in Orlando, Florida—which Laurie and I did from 1981 – 1996—we were involved in planting a church—St. Paul's Presbyterian Church. The church began worship services in September, 1991. The first pastor, Mike Malone, made it his habit to celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of this church’s worship by preaching a sermon titled "Who loves the Church?"
I don't know if Rev. Malone continued this practice, but when you think about the title, you find that it is a profound question. Let me lay some background to explain why and also why such a discussion is relevant for you as a classical educator.
Scripture is quite clear that there are three significant and enduring institutions ordained by God—the Church, the civil government, and the family. It should also be clear that Scripture was given to the Church. (The idea of Scripture being given to the Church as opposed to the individual has great ramifications that will not be explored herein but are worth your consideration.)
The problem easily observed today is that the Church's role in society has been greatly diminished from the past. Medieval cathedrals dominated the landscape of their communities, clearly indicating their role in that society. Pastors were prominent members of society, highly respected, routinely interacting with kings and presidents. In fact, kings and presidents commonly submitted to them. Such would be unheard of in twenty-first-century America. Why is that?
Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman who wrote Democracy in America, commented that before 1800 virtually all education of children in America was Christian and private.
With the advent of government funded schooling in the mid-nineteenth century, we find a progressive decrease of Christian influence and content in the education of our children. Some of you might remember the day in 1962 that prayer and Bible reading were removed from the public schools—I do. Many think this was monumental. It was not. It was like a burp from a house cat that had just finished devouring a large mouse. The "eating of the mouse" had happened over the preceding 150 years.
Now I could continue a rant about the problems of public schools; the immorality of my neighbor being required to pay for the education of my children, the religion of secular humanism being taught unabashedly and the deplorable academic standards that typify American schools today. But in this venue that would be preaching to the choir.
What I am most concerned to deal with for the moment is the apathy toward Christian education within the churches in America. I serve on the national board of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS). We recently met for strategic planning purposes. Every single participant in the planning meeting expressed great lamentation over the fact that the churches in their communities were not generally supportive of their efforts to provide a Christian education to the children of these churches. One conservative Presbyterian church in our area even voted against studying the issue of Christian education. That same church is filled with parents who have raised unfaithful children, including numerous children of the elders.
The pastor I mentioned in the opening has been supportive of classical Christian education because he understands that a well educated parishioner is easier to preach to and easier to move toward righteousness. Where do leaders of churches think their members will come from in the next generation?
Why are many churches and their leaders so unwilling to take on this topic? Why are they unsupportive? There are many reasons, politics being at the center. Shortsightedness is right there with politics. We still have a long way to go to understand the connection between a biblical worldview and all of what education exposes us to and inculcates within us.
So, we come back to the question, the title, "Who loves the Church?" Do you love the Church? Do you see the Church as the Bride of Christ, or is it a gathering of individual Christians who have been individually redeemed and join together to provide support for their individual Christian pilgrimage?
Let me be clear. We at Veritas Press love the Church. We long, we pray for the day when the Church will once again take its revered and responsible place in society, declaring to all that Jesus Christ is Lord, whether our neighbor bows his knee or not. As we seek to assist your educational efforts, you should know that we hope it will lead you to be drawn further up and further in as an integral part of the body of Christ as expressed in the local church. It is through the Church of Jesus Christ that we can hope for cultural transformation. It is through the Church of Jesus Christ that we can see the Fourth Commandment wisely followed. It is through the Church of Jesus Christ that we can bear one another's burdens, holding one another accountable to the righteous Law of God.
The Church is God's appointed means to drive away the darkness. It is His tool for redeeming a fallen world. Education is a critical part of the process, especially the education of our covenant children. Learning of the mistakes and resolutions from the past provide us clear opportunity to not make the same mistakes. For example, knowing the backdrop to the Council of Nicea and resulting Nicene Creed helps us see clearly that the deity of Christ was clearly understood and embraced in response to those espousing otherwise. If you think your children are immune to such thinking without a Christian education, beware!
Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code, proposes in that book that Jesus was married, with children and a bloodline that exists today. The New York Daily News says of Brown: "His research is impeccable." Yeah, right. Such are the temptations and thoughts of the day. To the educated Christian they are laughable on the face. To the uneducated, the flaws apparently are not so obvious. Yet what has the Church done? What influence does it hold? We've a long way to recover to where the Bride of Christ is beautiful to the point of stopping the world in its tracks and saying in clear unambiguous terms, "My Husband is Lord and you"d better worship Him."
We should love the Church so much that we see it as God sees it and want for it what God wants for it. We should give serious consideration as to what means might bring it the glory it once had and will have.
So, I leave you with a challenge. Seek to have your church study this question: Should children of Christian parents be expected to receive a Christian education or is attending the government (public) schools an acceptable alternative?
Marlin Detweiler, Founder and President - Veritas Press