Archive for the ‘Curricula’ Category

Harvard and Heaven: Prospering in the Secular University – Part II

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

The university, if it has any value, must be involved in the communication of immutable, metaphysical truth.   The American secular university is not about to accept such limits. It recognizes no citadel of orthodoxy, no limits to its knowledge.  But, like Jesus reminds Thomas in John 14, our hope lies not in what we know, but most assuredly whom we know.

Most secular universities have concluded that abstract concepts like grace, hope, and especially faith are indefinable, immeasurable, and above all unreasonable.  Not that God or the uniqueness of Jesus Christ can be proved, or disproved.  There are certain issues which the order of the intellect simply cannot address, so we must rise above that to the order of the heart.    Faith is our consent to receive the good that God would have for us.  Evangelicals believe that God can and does act in our world and in our lives.  Human needs are greater than this world can satisfy and therefore it is reasonable to look elsewhere.  The university has forgotten or ignores this fact.

That is all changing—and partly due to the popularity of the American home schooling movement.  In massive numbers the American home school movement—initially and presently primarily an evangelical Christian movement—is depositing some of the brightest, capable students in our country into the old, august institutions like Harvard.  And, what is more exciting, the flashpoint of cultural change is changing from Harvard, Princeton, Darmouth, and Stanford to Wheaton, Grove City, Calvin, and Liberty (all evangelical universities).  Before long the new wave of elite culture creators will be graduating from American secular universities and Christian universities and they shall be a great deal different from the elite of which I was a part in the middle 1970s.   I am not saying the secular university will change quickly—intellectual naturalistic reductionism makes that extremely difficult.  However, I do see the whole complexion of university graduates to change significantly in the next twenty years.  Never in the history of the world has such a thing happened.

Young people, make sure that you know who you are and who your God is.   “By faith, Moses, when he had grown up refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” (Hebs.  11:24) Theologian Walter Brueggemann calls American believers to “nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”

Refuse to be absorbed into the world but choose to be a part of God’s kingdom. There is no moderate position anymore in American society–either we are taking a stand for Christ in this inhospitable culture or we are not.

You are special and peculiar generation.  Much loved.  But you live among a people who do not know who they are.  A people without hope.   You need to know who you are—children of the Living God—and then you must live a hopeful life. Quoting C.S. Lewis, we “are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”

Take responsibility for your life. Moses accepted responsibility for his life.  “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” (Hebs. 11: 25)  If you don’t make decisions for your life, someone else will.

Get a cause worth dying for.  Moses accepted necessary suffering even unto death.  You need a cause worth dying for (as well as living for). “He [Moses] regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebs. 11: 26).  We are crucified with Christ, yet it is not we who live but Christ who lives in us (Gals 2:20).

Finally, never take your eyes off the goal.  “By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.” (Hebs. 11:27).  What is your threshold of obedience?

Young people, if you are part of this new evangelical elite, you have immense opportunities ahead of you.  A new Godly generation is arising.  You will be called to guide this nation into another unprecedented revival.  We shall see.

Harvard and Heaven: Prospering in the Secular University – Part I

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

I once heard a home school convention speaker ask, “Do you want Harvard or do you want Heaven?” The implication is that if we chose Harvard we were choosing Hell.  Well, I think that we can have Harvard and Heaven!

Who could imagine that a movement that began so quietly in the 19970s and 1980s would someday generate so vital and an anointed generation that is emerging at the beginning of this century?  It is a time to celebrate and to reflect.

In 2013 it is an uncontested fact:  home schoolers are dominating college admission test scores, and, it is growing more evident each day that they are highly qualified and successful college students when they are admitted.  When I was growing up, eons ago, elite prep schools dominated the college admission classes.  Today, the new “elite” are home schooled graduates.  They are the most highly recruited, most highly valued freshmen at secular and Christian schools alike.  I am privy to a Harvard University online chat room, and recently I saw this statement posted.  “If Harvard wants to be the best, the most relevant institution in the years ahead, it must recruit and admit home schoolers.”  Indeed.

And Harvard has reason to worry.  I spoke to a Yale recruiter and she told me that, while Yale wants home schoolers, home schoolers do not seem to want Yale.  They are not applying to Yale.  Likewise, I have two distance learning students who were heavily recruited by Ivy League schools.  They both chose local alternatives (a state school and a Christian school).

It is not the purpose of this article to lobby for any particular post-graduate choice, although I found my wife at Harvard—and Intervarsity Fellowship on Thursday night in Cambridge is larger than the entire student body at Gordon College (a Christian College) in South Hamilton. Mostly for fiscal reasons, the majority of Christian home schoolers go to secular colleges.  That is an uncontested fact.  We home schoolers, for whatever reason, usually attend secular colleges.

Therefore, this article is about the secular colleges we will attend—how they got to be the way they are and how we can prosper in such a place.

First, to most evangelical Christians, the modern, secular, university is a hostile place.  It was not always so.

In fact, the American university was built solidly on evangelical principles.   There were no so-called “official” “secular” colleges until the rise of the land grant colleges in the middle of the 19th century.  An early brochure, published in 1643, stated that the purpose of Harvard University (the oldest American university) was “To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches.”   Harvard’s motto for 300 years was “Christo et Ecclesiae.” In fact, most of the U. S. universities founded before the 20th century had a strongly religious, usually Protestant Evangelical Christian character.  Yale, Princeton, Chicago, Stanford, Duke, William and Mary, Boston University, Michigan, and the University of California had a decidedly evangelical Christian character in the early years of their existence but abandoned it by the 20th century. By 1920s, the American university had stepped completely back from its evangelical roots.  This was true of almost every American university founded in the first 200 years of our existence.

Readers would be surprised to see how evangelical, Christ-centered early universities were. They had pastors as presidents.  These men closely tied the identity of their university to a strong Christian world view.  The core curriculum included Bible courses and Christian theology.  These were mandatory Bible courses.  All American universities insisted on a doctrinally sound content for sensitive courses and often required that faculty be born again Christians!  Imagine this: the famous historian Frederick Jackson Turner was refused a professorship at Princeton because he was a Unitarian!   Chapel attendance was required at Harvard and Yale!  It is more than coincidental that the architects who designed early universities designed them to look like churches.  At the University of Pittsburgh, for instance, the most prominent building on campus is the Cathedral of Learning.

Universities were founded because early Americans earnestly believed that American society should be governed by evangelical Christian people.  They believed that American industry should be run by evangelical Christian entrepreneurs.  They believed that American culture should be created by evangelical artists.  The early American university was committed to making sure that that happened.

The marriage of spiritual maturity and elite education is a potent combination and to a large degree assured the success of the American experiment.  Its divorce may presage its demise.

Today the university is not even loosely a Christian institution.  Religion in the university and in public life is relegated to the private experience.  So-called “academic freedom” has become a sacrosanct concept and precludes anything that smacks of religiosity–especially orthodoxy that evangelicals so enthusiastically embrace.  Religion is represented on campus in sanitary denominational ministries and token chapel ministries (that were hardly more than counseling centers).

To a large degree, then, the American university abandoned the evangelical and the evangelical abandoned the American university.

This created a crisis in the American university and in the evangelical community.  The secular American university compromised its “soul” for naturalistic; evangelicalism compromised its epistemological hegemony for ontological supremacy.  In other words, the secular university became a sort of an academic hothouse for pompous rationalism.  Evangelicals abandoned the secular university, and, until recently, more or less compromised their academic base.  Evangelicals even founded their own universities but they were poor academic substitutes for secular offerings.  Even as I write article, this is changing.

New History

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I am excited about the new edition of my BRITISH HISTORY that will be available in July.  FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS will offer 8 different history choices:  American, British, World, Epoch I (Creation to the Middle Ages), Epoch II (The Middle Ages to French Revolution), Epoch III (French Revolution to Gilded Age), Epoch IV (Gilded Age to the Present).  The following is a section on “Druids,” in my British History:

A druid was a member of the priestly class active in Gaul (Northern Germany), and in Celtic Britain.  They were priest, judge, scholar, and teacher to their Briton communities. The core points of druidic religious beliefs included reincarnation and human sacrifice.

Druids were highly educated for their culture.  Yet, they wrote nothing.  Some Druids spent 20 years memorizing oral traditions of Druidic lore. The Druid priesthood was open only to males.  All instruction was communicated orally so there was no record of Druid ritual or theology.

Druids could punish members of Celtic society by a form of “excommunication”, preventing them from attending religious festivals.  Druids, then, had both priestly and political roles and were instrumental in maintaining order.

Druid religion included rituals performed at so called Druid temples, usually stone structures built into the side of a hill.  Stonehenge may be an exception.

Stonehenge is a place of pilgrimage for neo-druids, and for certain others following pagan or neo-pagan beliefs, but it was probably nothing more than a burial site.

One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It included several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.

Stonehenge was associated with burial from the earliest period of its existence. Stonehenge evolved in several construction phases spanning at least 1500 years. There is evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape’s time frame to 6500 years.

Scholars believe that Stonehenge once stood as a magnificent complete monument. This cannot be proved as around half of the stones that should be present are missing, and many of the assumed stone sockets have never been found.

One final personal message. If one asked this author, when I was an eight year old, what my favorite holiday was, he  would have enthusiastically proclaimed: Halloween!  Haunted houses, costumes, candy–it all captured his imagination.  But that was 1961 and this is today.

Halloween clearly is not a Christian holiday.  In fact it is anything but Christian.  In fact the origins and traditions of Halloween can be traced back thousands of years to the Druids.  The eve of October 31 marked the transition from summer into the darkness of winter.  On this night, the spirits of the dead rose up.  Demons, fairies, and ghouls roamed about the town.  They destroyed crops, killed cattle, soured milk, and generally made life miserable . . . unless an appropriate appeasement was offered.  Namely, a human sacrifice.  So, anticipating these goblins, Druid towns annually, on October, chose young maidens and sacrificed them in honor of the pagan gods.   This is not the same as having a Christmas tree, or believing in the Easter Bunny–Halloween is a celebration of death, destruction, and hell.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is hope and mercy and love–not death, destruction, and murder.  There are alternative celebrations you know.  Some parents hold costume parties and have the kids dress as Bible heroes (no trick or treat though!).  Other groups hold hayrides and harvest celebrations. Halloween is a time to rejoice in the fact that “the Son of God appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)!”  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light . . . and do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them (Eph. 5:8,11).

Classical Education Guidelines

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I. Teaching is important in classical education. The teacher is the guide, the coach, the facilitator, the mentor, and the specialist.

II. There is authority in classical education. While dilemmas will arise that require circumspection and academic acumen, there is a right answer.

III. In the Rhetoric stage of classical education, there is a presumption that the student has a basic knowledge of the humanities and knowledge. Furthermore, there is a presumption that the student can read and write critically in an age-appropriate manner.

IV. The curriculum is cognitive-developmentally based, inquiry prejudiced, and student-centered. If the program is a Christian based, classical education event, then the curriculum is clearly, unapologetically, chauvinistically Christo-centric.

V. Because of the benefits of Rhetoric in the cognition process, the student writes substantial essays often. Essay and forensic exercises are the primary form of evaluation.

VI. Class size is normally small to facilitate didactic instruction, coaching, and Socratic interchange.

VII. The library available to a classical education program must reflect the variety and breath of a classical education.


Friday, August 14th, 2009

What would the world have been like if John Milton had been taught format writing? Would he have pushed convention enough to write Paradise Lost? C. S. Lewis’ Nardia Chronicles was innovative—not regurgitation of old forms. Remember too thatt most of the apologetic argument of the last century was generated by literary critics, not theologians. Could we be putting apologetics in jeopardy by teaching format writing?

What price are we willing to pay for quick and easy writing progress? What are we willing to lose to gain formula writing? Would w e allow someone who could not play the piano teach our children how to play Mozart? Would we hire a math teacher to teach our children calculus who only knows arithmetic functions? Are all major curricula companies wrong? Not one of them advocates formt writing.

Home schoolers, format writing (or what I call sophism or format rhetoric) is the antithesis of what we stand. We have instituted a meritocracy; format writing is the very essence of mediocrity. It advances convention, standardization, sterility. There is no life in format writing. There is no truth in sophism/format writing. It is high treason to a theistic evangelical advancing the content of the Gospel. It is anathema to the Christian apologist gropping for fresh metaphors to share Gospel truth with an unsaved world. Its seeds of superficiality grow forests of ho hum pedictability.

Are we sacrificing the next J. R. R. Tolkein or T. S. Eliot on the altar of convenience and of quantification? Sure, format writing is easy to learn. Easier to teach. But do you think Flannery O’Connor was taught to write through format writing? Do you really want to produce a generation that begins all essays with a ubiquitous generalization about reality followed by 3-5 examples ending with a trite summary?

Let us be frank. In these post-Christian, post-modern times, we abandon Christian rhetoric at our great peril. If we embrace format writing, we embrace mediocrity, superficiality, and conformity. We assissinate metaphorical faith. We doom ourselves and our world to live in culture and in reality paradigms that are old and facile. The creative edge of home education may very well die on the sword of convenience. Think and pray about it.


Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Format writing has become popular in the last 5-10 years among some home educators. However, it has not been embraced by many serious Christian or secular educators. In fact, I have never heard of an orthodox day school, of any size, that has exclusively implemented format writing. In point of fact, some of us home school educators reject format writing too. Why?

The Argument: Aristotle, in his Rhetoric argues that communication, or writing and rhetoric, concerns the character (ethos) of the speaker, the emotional state (pathos) of the listener, and the argument (logos) itself. In fact, the success of the writing enterprise depends on the emotional disposition of the audience. To Aristotle this is the topoi or topic written for an audience. To ignore the audience, removes the very heart of the writing piece. Format writing invites the writer to sacrifice ethos, pathos, and logos on the altar of convenience.

Another casualty of format writing is creativity. Creativity is discouraged—afterall, the wriiter only has to implement certain neutral skills that are completely voic of context, purpose, and audience. There is no encouragement to build on past strategies; no need to consider new audiences. One merely implements a form for each new literary challenge. One size fits all!

I have been a part of the home school movement for 23 years and I must tell you that creative thinking and problem solving is at the heart of our movement. We neglect its development, practice, and implementation at our own, and our world’s peril. I will explain this more later.

Educators avoid format writing for one very good reason: it does not work. In the short run young writers produce all sorts of stock outcomes. But to what end? The purpose of great writing is to influence an audience, to communicate content, to persuade an audience to embrace truth. If the writer knows no or very little content this will be reflected in his writing. This is the reason great writers are great readers—classical reading is at the heart of great writting. One reads the masters, discovers writing strategies, and pushes further.

As a result SAT graders (including myself) are warned to score format writing SAT I essays lower. Why? Because format writing is facile and predictable. It devoid of audience, content, and tone. In other words, it is inferior writing.

While orthodox educators would tolerate some format instruction at the grammar stage, to advance format writing into the dialectic and especially rhetoric stages is disasterous. At the heart of classical education is the notion that there are legitimate classics. Classics have timeless application, survive multiple readings, and concern world view issues. It is impossible to teach people how to write about classical literature unless the teacher himself has read and studied the classics! Format writing pragmatism purports to do exactly that.

To pretend to do so is the height of hypocrisy. It is what Plato called sophism. Sophism, an argument apparently correct in form but actually invalid, emphasizes form and function before content, purpose, and audience. Sophists teach anything for a price. Their teaching was practical instead of et hical and they emphasized rhetoric rather than virtue. Equally reprehensible, sophists were unwilling to pay the dues that serious rhetoric demanded—the discipline of study and of education. They were in a sense the marketing agents of their age. Their product was an inch thin and a mile long but it was appealing to the consumer. It was readily available at an exorbitant price, true, but the most unethical politician could hire a sophist to write a speech, or to write an essay on any subject to any audience. Neither really mattered. Since sophists believed one could communicate regardless of audience, or purpose, or content, it really did not matter. Sophists were mercenary pragmatists who wrote and spoke well but produced no lasting culture.

In summary, in format writing, reality begins and ends with the writer. It discourages the discovery of metaphor and discourages the discipline of writing to an audience. True writing, true rhetoric demands that we reclaim the use of metaphor. I t demands, too that, we consider our audience. Central to metaphor is comparison between two ostensibly dissimilar phenomena and this is absolutely critical to creative problem solving. After all, how does one describe love? Hope? Faith? These are metaphors that Christian believers use to describe the character of God and His people. Format writing invites participants to write coldly with no content, with no audience—with no metaphors.. Without creative metaphors Christianity is forced to abandon all hope of advancing fresh metaphors for the timeless truth of the Gospels. After all, all we need to do is write five paragraphs with transitions and 3 ly words. Would 1 Corinthians 13 fit a format? It was birthed by the Holy Spirit and it is full of creative, fresh metaphors that would have remained undiscovered in most format writing programs. In fact, the entire book of Revelation is iconoclastic. Metaphors, figurative and creative images of reality, are not necessary and will be lost in cold format writing.


Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Format writing is not based on any sound educational theory—affectivee or cognitive—for a very good reason: because is no good educational theory that supports format writing! The closest facsimile is the lower, perhaps the lowest, stage(s) of Bloom’s cognitive developmental theory (6 stages).

What is format writing? The following are indicators of format writing:

  1. Inevitably format writing emphasizes form over content. A format writer is virtually unable to participate in meaningful literary analysis (i.e., profound analysis of a literary piece).
  2. Format writing is full of broad, predictable generalizations where the writer purports to be a specialist in everything. But in fact the format writer is substantially unable to develop, and much less to defend, any serious rhetorical point. One rarely finds a credible thesis (i.e., purpose statement) in a format writing piece.
  3. All essays begin and end exactly the same way. Predictability is a sign of inferior writing and endemic to format writing.
  4. While form essays are marginally acceptable in the late grammar and early dialectic stage, inevitably rhetoric level students are unable to cope with the content-heavy stresses of the rhetoric level.
  5. Format writers are virtually never published. They are doomed to languish in the throes of pre dictability and mediocrity.
  6. Finally, format writing does not consider audience, content, or purpose. It can lead to sterile, inferior writing.


Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Background: Recently I examined some new paint-by-the-numbers kits in a local craft store. I was very impressed! The paint-by-the-numbers has improved considerably since I was a child. Now, without a doubt, these “canned” pictures are impressive. No kidding, one can literally paint a masterpiece by following a format created by someone else.

But so can 15 million other people. The same picture for infinitely different audiences bye infinitely different people. But the “artist” is no artist. He is a plagiarist, really, copying another artist’s work.

In the paint-by-the-numbers realm, there is nothing wrong with that. No one expects these pictures to be originals or to be worth much. However, what if Rembrandt himself learned to paint “by the numbers?” Would he, then, have pushed further and created his chiaroscuro innovations? I doubt it.

In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul talks about having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Every Spirit-filled Christian would understand the difference between religion and relationship with God. One is dynamic and the other an imitation.

In other arenas, there are other forms that can rob us of the real. One such form that is causing a stir in the home school arena is format writing. It is easy to teach and easy to grade. It seems like a dream come true for our often reluctant writers. But is it?

Format writing is a writing strategy that purports to teach students how to write without the burden of a classical content, of a literary audience, or of a sagacious educational theory. This is in conflict with a more orthodox writing program that teaches writing in the context of purpose and audience.


Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

The Encouraging Thoughtful Christians to be World Changers are difficult courses. On purpose.

Wheaton College Professor Mark Noll in his seminal book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), opens his book with these prophetic words: “The Scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Touché! This author defines evangelical as “emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual (Miriam/Webster).” Concerning evangelicals and intellectualism, perhaps we evangelicals have no doubt dropped the ball in the past.

Noll traces the collapse of the evangelical mind to the mid 1800s, about the time that Stephen Crane was finishing Red Badge of Courage. Then, Noll argues, evangelicals proverbially became in and of the world instead of in the world and not of it. In other words, they wed themselves to the prevailing world views. It was about that time, too, as scholar George Marsden in The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Non-Belief ( 2000) explains, that evangelicalism abandoned the American university. Marsden laments, we all lament, that today, the once pervasive influence of religion in the intellectual and cultural life of America’s preeminent colleges and universities has all but vanished. For financial reasons, or other reasons, t he vast majority of evangelicals attend secular universities. Let’s face it: the secular university, at least, is a hostile place for evangelical Christians.

But that is changing. For several reasons, the present generation of evangelicals is reclaiming the university and all other gates to culture creation. Alistair McGrath, Evangelicalism and the History of Christianity (1995) has a very optimistic vision. He, and other scholars like Os Guinness, argue that within a few years evangelicals influence will be preeminent if most professions. Much as the evangelical Puritans captured the American elite from 1620-1700, today evangelicalism is captured the elite decision makers of this culture. Obviously this bodes well for the future of this great nation.

Let me put it this way: there are about 12 million college freshman each year. What if suddenly 1 million or so of those freshman were spirit-filled, smart, well-equipped academically, freshman? Would not our government, our industries, our arts, and our churches look a lot different in 5-10 years? I think so.

The Encouraging Thoughtful Christians to be World Changers series is committed to equipping these culture creators, world changers for Christ, to make a difference in American culture. This series is committed to the glorious goal established by Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated (1852). Newman’s Idea of a University grew out of Newman’s struggle with the rise of scientific learning—a struggle that continues today. Newman, it seems to me, is a 19th century Evangelical trying to come to grips with his culture. Likewise, it is the desire of this author to help your students to comes to grips with their culture.

What is this culture to which this generation is called to share Christ? The first great spirit of the times is the notion of subjectivity. The only authority in a person is that thought or notion that originates in that person. Next, that subjectivity has led most Americans to conclude that truth is not attainable. Therefore, a plurality of truths is most desirable and the tolerance of them is a virtue. S. D. Gaede, When Tolerance is No Virtue (1993), argues there is only one conviction that is deemed legitimate and worthy of public displays of passion, and that is the conviction of uniform tolerance. Finally, the net result is, as stated by the scholar Kenneth J. Gergen, The Saturated Self (1991), is a series of clashing relativities where the very ground of meaning, the foundations and structures of thought, language, and social discourse are crumbling. The very concepts of personhood, spirituality, truth, integrity, and objectivity are being demolished and replaced by a sort of “do-it-if-it-feels-good-and-does-not-hurt-anyone-else” world view.

Ironically, the Christian evangelical G. K. Chesterton retorts, “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” The future, if these guys are in control, in other words, is pretty bleak. It is doubtful, in my opinion, that a free people can live together and prosper in this sort of free-wheeling, self-serving nihilism. That is where your students come in.

They are coming, ready or not, millions strong. Smart, free, filled with the Holy Ghost. Not afraid to rock the boat, willing to die, even, for their faith. They are coming. That is the people for whom I have written these difficult courses. A people who are the new elite, the ones whom God has called forth to write a new chapter in history. They understand that culture creation is not about high SAT scores, or good grades, or high paying jobs. It is about obeying God at all costs.

This series, then, is committed to equipping your young people to be world changers for Christ in a hostile, even dangerous place, among a hungry, needy people. To that end, this book is dedicated to the ambitious goal of preparing our young people to be 21st century world changers for the Christ whom John Milton in Paradise Lost called “the countenance too severe to be beheld.” (VI, 825)


Friday, July 31st, 2009

Recently I was asked to summarize my ministry.

When I think about my ministry these words come to mind:

–Christ Centered
–World View Centered/Culturally Relevant
–Home school friendly
–Student Directed
–Academically challenging
–Culture Changing (not Retreating or Assimilating into)

This author is profoundly, enthusiastically about the future. Not only do I trust in our Mighty God, I am greatly encouraged by what I see in this generation. God is doing great things in your midst.

There is much need. Social critic Os Guinness in his seminal work The Dust of Death (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1973) prophetically argues that “western culture is marked . . . by a distinct slowing of momentum . . . a decline in purposefulness . . . Guinness implies that the ideals and traditions that have been central to the American civilization are losing their compelling cultural authority.& nbsp; There is, in short, no corpus of universally accepted morality that Americans follow. As Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997) states “ . . . there is no recognized moral knowledge upon which projects of fostering moral development could be based.”

In his poem “The Second Coming” William Butler Yeats writes

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

America in the beginning of the 21st century is spinning out of control. America is stretching its wings adventurously, but drifting farther away from its God. America is in trouble. How do we know?

Whatever needs to be done, you are probably going to have to do it. You are first generation to grow up when wholesale murder is legal; the first generation to access 130 channels and at the same time to access almost nothing of value. In 1993, James Patterson and Peter Kim in their book The Day America Told the Truth (NY: Simon & Schuster Publishers, Inc., 1993) warns that 87% of Americans do not believe that the Ten Commandments should be obeyed and 91% of them tell at least one lie a day. Unfortunately I doubt things are any better today than they were over 10 years ago. This is a time when outrage is dead. This is the challenge, the bad news.

The good news is that I think we are turning a corner. It is my belief that Americans in the near future will be looking to places of stability and strength for direction. Besides, by default, those people whose lives are in reasonable good shape, who have some reason to live beyond the next paycheck will have almost an inexorably appeal. Those who walk in the light will draw others into the very-same light. My prayer is that this curricula, in a modest way, will help you walk in the light.

At the very time that 21st century Americans are searching for truth, at the very time they are hungry for things of the Lord God is raising a mighty generation! You will be the culture-creators of the next century. You are a special generation, a special people.

Young people, it is my strong belief that you are the generation God has called for such a time as this to bring a Spirit-inspired revival. At the beginning of this century God is stirring the water again. He is offering a new beginning for a new nation. I believe, you are the personification of that new beginning.

You are part of one of the most critical generations in the history of Western culture. Indeed, only the generation of which Augustine was a part comes close in importance to your generation. In both cases—today and during the life of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo”civilizations were in decline. Young Augustine lived through the decline of the Roman world; you are living through the decline of American cultural superiority. However, the barbarians conquered Rome; the Christians conquered the barbarians.

As did Anne Bradstreet and other young Puritans who settled in 1630 Boston, you will need to replace this old, tired culture with a new God-centered, God-breathed society, or our nation may not survive another century.

While a graduate student at Harvard University in the mid-1970s, I attended a chapel service where the presenter self-righteously proclaimed that we Harvard students were the next generation of culture creators. Indeed. Perhaps he was right—look at the moral mess my geneeration created!

Evangelical scholars Nathan Hatch and George Marsden argue, and I think persuasively, that you, young people, will be the next generation of elites. You will be the next generation of important politicians, inspired playwrights, and presidents of Fortune 500 companies.

It is my profound belief, and fervent hope, that you young people will be the new elite, the next culture creators. I define “elitism” as the ability and propensity of an individual or group to assume leadership and culture-creation in a given society. Theologian Walter Bruggemann in his essay “Blessed Are th e History-Makers” reminds us that culture iscreated, history is made, by those who are radically committed to obeying God at all costs.

Will you be counted among that number? Be smart, but above all, be obedient to the Word of God. In American cultural history, for the first time in 300 years, in your generation, I observe the marriage of smart minds and born-again hearts. This combination is potent indeed and has revolutionary implications for 21st century cultural American. Now, as only once before (i.e., during the Puritan era), this generation is both smart and saved, in other words, it is a spirit-filled elite, and the ramifications are exciting to say the least.

To that end, this book is dedicated to the ambitious goal of preparing you to be 21st century world changers for the Christ whom John Milton in Paradise Lost called “the countenance too severe to be beheld.” (VI, 825)