Already Gone?

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That’s the title of a provocative book published in 2009 by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer. Its thesis is that, contrary to what many had assumed, we’re not losing evangelical kids because their faith is challenged when they go off to college.

We’re losing them in middle school and high school.

Ham & Beemer uncovered this shocking fact by doing some meticulous research – asking a large sample of 20 year olds why they had stopped attending church. They have stopped attending church, you know. The phenomenon has been recognized for years now. Two thirds (2/3) of those who attended church regularly as children stop going to church in their 20s. The question is “Why?”

For years, the widely accepted answer was that they were secularized by the colleges they went to. The real answer is more troubling.

Ham & Beemer probed deeper in their questions about belief and church attendance and, in particular, asked when these 20-year-olds began to doubt that the Bible was true. Confidence in the truth of the Bible is closely correlated with church attendance among 20 year olds. Of those who no longer believe the Bible to be true, roughly 40%, first had doubts when they were in middle school. 44% first had doubts when they were in high school. Only 10.6% report they first began to doubt the Bible when they were in college.

In short, the church has not lost these children because they were secularized in college. They were already gone before they left for college.

Here are the more shocking results of Ham & Beemer’s research: There is a correlation between Sunday School attendance and skepticism about the Bible. Those who had attended Sunday School regularly were MORE likely to doubt that the Bible is true. Here’s the most stunning question: “Do you believe you have become more anti-church through the years?” 39.1% of those who attended Sunday School regularly said yes, they have become more anti-church. Only 26.9% of those who DIDN’T attend Sunday School said yes.

For the 20-year-olds surveyed by Ham & Beemer (a large national sample, demographically balanced), Sunday School had a negative effect on their attitude towards church.

The research is convincing and disturbing. The situation uncovered by Ham and Beemer is serious, with serious implications for the long-term health of the church.

What can be done?

First, let me emphasize that Ham & Beemer are NOT anti-Sunday School. They resist the temptation to bash the whole concept of Sunday School, or suggest that it be abandoned. And although they do point out that there is no specific biblical mandate for Sunday School, they hasten to add that there is no biblical case to be made that it’s a bad idea. In any event they don’t believe that the problem is the institution of Sunday School – it is the content and attitude of how Sunday School is being conducted which is at the root of the problem. The problem is systemic, subtle, and insidious. The systemic problem is the abdication of families in the religious instruction of children. Parents whose faith is unformed or uninformed and whose understanding of the Bible is shallow will not be able to convince their children that the Bible is true and authoritative. If parents have no conviction that the Bible is true, then their children are unlikely to ever believe it either. It won’t matter much whether Sunday School is abolished, or extremely well-taught with excellent materials if parents don’t live a life of faith at home where they are closely watched by their children.

Ham & Beemer’s first challenge is to parents: Defend the Word. Live the Word. Parents if you are unsure about the Bible, it’s time to invest in some adult Christian education for yourself. Our culture has been waging a full-bore attack on the truth and accuracy of the Bible for generations. If you’ve not thought about the issues, it’s quite likely that your own faith has been weakened or undermined by the 24/7 assaults of movies, tv, news & talk shows and popular culture. The secular world dismisses the Bible as a ridiculous collection of myths and fairy tales. What do you believe? Can you answer the world’s attacks? Your children will inevitably ask you. You need to be prepared with an answer. “Be ready always to give an answer of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Ham & Beemer’s second challenge is to all those involved in Sunday School and Christian Education: Defend the Word. Live the Word. Get trained. Find solid curriculum. If necessary, just sit down and teach the Bible (now there’s a radical concept). My favorite admonition: Teach Bible history, not Bible stories. Far too much Sunday School curriculum treats the Bible as if it were Aesop’s Fables. A cute story is told, followed by a moral principle found in the story. Children instantly understand that it is completely irrelevant whether the story is true or not. If the Bible is told as a fable with a moral, you’re actually communicating that it’s most likely NOT true. DON’T DO THIS. The Bible is not hard. It was designed to be read to children. Cf. Deuteronomy 6:7. The things God calls us to teach to our children are not the morals – he calls us to teach the scriptures.

Ham & Beemer have similar exhortations for youth pastors and pastors. Be sure in your own mind about the truth and authority of the Bible. Then teach it confidently.

Because the message of Ham & Beemer can be easily misunderstood and misapplied, I want to stress that it is not a structural problem that is causing young people to leave the church. There is no magic structure, or magic program, or magic formula that will change the demographics of young people leaving the church. Abolishing Sunday School or simply re-organizing Sunday School will not solve the problem. The problem is not the structure. The problem is and has been the content of what is taught in the home and in Sunday School.

There does not need to be another lost generation. Jesus loves these kids. They need him desperately (as do we all). Our culture needs Jesus. Our best hope to reach the culture is by equipping our kids. The Holy Spirit uses the preaching and teaching of the Word to bring young and old into a relationship with Jesus. When we ignore the Word, or devalue the Word, we undermine and block the very tool by which the Holy Spirit works. The Word is Truth. Jesus is revealed in the Word. We have no higher calling than to preach Jesus and Him crucified. And how shall any know of Him, except through the Word?

There is a crisis in the church. There is a crisis with young people. They are leaving the church because they have no reason to stay. They have only vague notions about Jesus. Sunday School Jesus, sadly, is often little more than Aesop with a pious story. The Word gives us a much richer picture of Jesus than that. We need to teach the Word, defend the Word – that our children may come to know Jesus.

I commend Ham & Beemer’s book to all of those involved in the education of young people. I hope it scares you and makes you think.

(originally published in Family Magazine)

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marriage under fireI am a short term pessimist about the future of western civilization in general, and the United States in particular.

The culture war was lost in the 1960s & 1970s. Everything since has been a rear-guard, fighting retreat.

The Obergefell decision was not the Rubicon. We crossed the Rubicon 50 years ago.

The normalisation of sexual amorality and promiscuity began in the 1960s. Marriage was the primary target, and sustained shock after shock.

Promiscuity, unfaithfulness, abandonment, abuse, all contributed to the destruction of marriage. Sneering at it, demonizing it, jeering at it, and refusing to take it seriously all came long before the beginning of the new millenium.

Abolishing marriage legally came only after a substantial portion of the population had been persuaded to abandon it.

And this should not have been surprising. Marriage was and is the first institution. It is the institution upon which all other institutions, and indeed civilization itself is built.

Marriage precedes the state, in time, in the created order, and in importance. God did not say, on the 6th day, “Behold, I have created government, and it shall look after you and provide for all of your needs.”

To add the capstone of God’s gift of marriage, Hosea in the OT, and Paul in the NT, tell us that marriage is a picture of God’s relationship with his people and Jesus’ relationship with his church.

God, of course, knew what he was doing. Marriage is a great gift. It is for our good. It blesses us, it blesses our children, it blesses our community.

Those committed to the biblical view of marriage are an increasingly embattled minority. And that is why I am pessimistic about the short term future of civilization. The attacks on marriage, its abandonment and eventual abolition have left us in a dire situation.

men and marriageThe most imporant book you should read about the current collapse of civilization in the west (and in the USA in particular) is George Gilder’s Men and Marriage (original title: Sexual Suicide).

Gilder makes a compelling case that marriage is the tool that women use to civilize men. Take away marriage and young men remain uncivilized barbarians. Take away marriage, and older, rich men will commit serial polygamy – abandoning the wives of their youth and the mothers of their children for younger playthings – whom they will eventually abandon as well (after thoroughly exploiting them). Hint to women: The Sexual Revolution is not your friend.

In our current circumstances, marriage will not and cannot be restored by a political victory.

Christians are going to have to learn how to live as an oppressed and despised minority. We have once again been tagged as “haters of mankind.”

What to do?

I suggest reading the history of the persecuted church – across time and across geography.

The church converted the urban population of the Roman Empire, from 33AD to 300AD. It took several centuries. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, was not the cause of the conversion of so many Roman citizens. He was the result.

The church converted the barbarian tribes from 400AD to 600AD.

The church converted the Vikings, from 750AD-900AD.

That’s why I’m a long term optimist.

Committing to a biblical marriage may well be the most revolutionary thing you can do.

How do we then live? I would call you, my brothers and sisters, to commit to marriage. Honor it as an institution. For those who enter in to it, take the vows and the promises seriously. Committing to a biblical marriage may well be the most revolutionary thing you can do. Model for your children what love and commitment look like. Deny yourself for your spouse, and for your children. Be the living model of Christ’s love for his bride, the church.

Unless and until we do these things, we will have little impact on the culture.

We should not cease to have an answer for the hope that is in us.

We should not cease to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of Jesus, the Christ.

But we must show by our lives, as well as proclaiming with our lips, the good news of the kingdom.

 

 

 

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The Church of England has produced a very moving 60 second message – a montage of UK Christians praying the Lord’s Prayer, beginning with the Archbishop of Centerbury, Justin Welby.

They have launched a website (www.justpray.uk), and had contacted the leading movie theater chains in the United Kingdom to contract to have the message aired during previews in the month of December, capitalizing on the expected five million cinema-goers expected to view the new Star Wars movie over the Christmas Holidays.

Here’s the video (well worth 60 seconds of your time):

The cinema chains have refused to accept the advertisement on the grounds that it might “offend or upset audiences.”

Although this is not technically censorship, it is very close to its functional equivalent.

The viewing of a 60 second video, with the only the 66 words of the Lord’s Prayer, “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences.”

Here’s British actor Stephen Fry’s response:

And here’s a link to a more complete article from the Daily Mail:

Archbishop Welby’s fury at cinema ban on ‘offensive’ Lord’s prayer:
Church threaten to sue after plug pulled on advert due to be shown to millions at Christmas

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rivendell frodoI have just been re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring, and tonight I came to the account of the banquet given by Elrond in Rivendell to celebrate Frodo’s recovery from the knife-wound he suffered at the hand of the Black Riders at weather-top. There is a marvelous description of Elrond seated at the head of the table with Glorfindel seated on his right and Gandalf on his left in places of honor. And under a canopy, Arwen Undomiel. It is achingly beautiful.

In comes Strider, also called Aragorn and hailed as the Dunadan by Frodo’s uncle Bilbo who has retired to Rivendell. Bilbo and Aragorn retreat to a corner where they put their heads together over a new song which Bilbo has written. And then, Frodo hears him singing it. When I was younger, I tended to race through the poetry in order to get to the next section of narrative that moved the story along. Tonight, I savored the poetry.

And I pondered what a glorious way to spend an evening: at a banquet of elves with the wise Gandalf and the deep and brave Aragorn. It touches a deep longing.

I can’t believe how blessed I am to have found a calling where I am expected to read such great literature every year and guide young students through it, many of them reading it for the first time.

And I long for the banquet feast…

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israel wayneMy good friend, Israel Wayne has put up a web site with profiles of some of the home school pioneers from the 1980s & 1990s. He’ll be adding more, but Cyndy & I are honored to be included among such an august company.

The other profiles on his site so far are of David & Shirley Quine, Chris Klicka, Sam Blumenfeld, Chris Davis, Michael McHugh, and the De Jonge family of MI.

I love history, but this is much more personal – and these are stories about the early days of homeschooling that you just won’t find anywhere else.

Chris Klicka and Sam have already passed on to glory. How great to see there stories preserved and promoted here.

I can’t wait to read more profiles as he adds them. I want to read YOUR story, Israel!

Check back often, or subscribe to the sites RSS feed in your reader.

Our profile is at http://homeschoolpioneers.com/2015/09/14/rob-cyndy-shearer-founders-of-greenleaf-press/

 

4 slain marines

The news wires were full of press releases from elected officials (both D & R) last week denouncing the killing of five servicemen in Chattanooga as “senseless violence.”

All of them are wrong.

It wasn’t senseless.

It was carefully calculated and very logical.

Radical Islamic leaders wanted revenge on US soldiers who have fought them overseas. They achieved that.

Radical Islamic leaders wanted to initimidate US solders and their families and to make them fear being attacked and killed in their own country. They achieved that.

Radical Islamic leaders wanted to initimidate any civilians who might be considering signing up for service in the US military. They achieved that.

Radical Islamic leaders wanted to strike fear into all US citizens by striking on US soil, in the heartland. They achieved that.

Radical Islamic leaders wanted to embarrass the US military and make them appear weak and unable (or unwilling) to protect their own troops. They achieved that.

Radical Islamic leaders wanted to undermine and tarnish the image of the US President. They achieved that.

Stop saying it didn’t make sense.

The target was carefully chosen. The specific location was carefully chosen.

This wasn’t the first attack, and it won’t be the last.

Because with each attack, they achieve more of their objectives.

And they will keep attacking as long as they continue achieving their objectives.

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220px-Glenn_ReynoldsFor laymen with an interest in constitutional law, I highly recommend the article linked below.

“The penumbras of the Third Amendment, in conjunction with those other provisions, may impel stricter limits on official intrusions than would be provided by the Second or Fourth Amendments alone.”

“And going beyond sex, one might imagine that intrusive governmental regulations of childrearing, education, diet, and other domestic elements might fall within the Third Amendment’s penumbral protections. All seem as closely related to the maintenance of unmolested domestic bliss as, say, the right to have a diaphragm or condoms in the nightstand.”

Prof. Glen Reynolds is a Tennessee treasure. I’m very grateful that he is training future lawyers for this state. Denizens of the internet may recognize him as “Instapundit.”

NB: You’ll have to download the article in order to read it.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2616034

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tartuffe thank you

 

To: Shakespeare Theatre Company

To say that I was disappointed by the recent production of Tartuffe at the Shakespeare Theatre Company would be an understatement.

I attended the performance last Friday with ten of my students and four chaperones.

We expected to see an up-to-date performance of Moliere’s classic and looked forward to hearing a new translation.

My students all study the play, using the Richard Wilbur translation, and are quite familiar with its structure and message.

We were appalled by the performance.

The adaption went out of its way to excise almost all of Moliere’s humor. This was a mirthless, sinister Tartuffe.

In addition, the performance went out of its way to import blasphemy, misogyny, and obscenity into the play in ways which would have appalled Moliere.

stc tartuffe5  stc tartuffe10

The two strong women’s roles in Moliere’s play (Dorine and Elmire) were reduced to impotence and utterly defeated by Tartuffe.

The actresses were very talented. The fault was not theirs. The fault was with the twisted adaptation of the script and the staging of the scenes.

stc tartuffe3Adding a second servant to Tartuffe, and then having two servants accompany him as a constant entourage altered the balance of power between Tartuffe and the other characters in profound and disturbing ways.

They physically intimidated every other character and overwhelmed them. Keeping the servants onstage, at times perching in positions overlooking the room, turned them into voyeurs and vultures.

Tartuffe no longer relied on rhetoric and deception alone to effect his plans – now he had the threat of violence constantly on display.

There was no need to transgressively introduce bread and a chalice of wine and mock the sacrament. It’s not in Moliere’s script.

stc tartuffe8There was no need to provide Tartuffe with his own cross to carry (with a leer to the audience) as he exited at the end of Act 3.

Perhaps most appalling was the elimination of any element of farce from the famous “table scene” which begs to be staged as a slapstick tag game between Tartuffe and Elmire, but with Elmire always (if only barely) in control, and preserving her integrity as she becomes increasingly exasperated with her hidden husband.

There was no humor in Serrand & Epp’s staging. Elmire did not dodge Tartuffe as he pursued her around the table.

tartuffe-berkeleyIn this production, Elmire was offered up as a sacrifice on the table – violated and essentially raped by Tartuffe.

It was obscene. It was totally unnecessary. It violated the text and message of the play.

The closing scene was completely at odds with the text and intention of Moliere.

In the Serrand & Epp production, AFTER Tartuffe is arrested and led away (bearing his cross!) by the officials of the king, the family, with terror written on their faces, stacks furniture up to block the door to their house and throw the latch.

The implied message is that Tartuffe has won. The family is destroyed and lost – alienated and violated.

The redemptive intervention of the king to exact justice and restore harmony was undercut with a vengeance.

Serrand & Epp’s disdain is clearly for religion in general and Christianity in particular.

Moliere hated hypocrisy, not Christianity.

I am profoundly disappointed in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s decision to host this production.

It has violated the trust we placed in you in bringing our students to see the staging of one of the classics of the 17th century.

We had no warning that this was to be a radically different version of Tartuffe.

 

I do not know if I can bring students to any productions in the future.

 

How will I know what to expect?

 

Rob Shearer

Director, Schaeffer Study Center

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Here’s a photo published in their story today on the attack in Texas by American Muslims on the AFDI’s event awarding a $10,000 prize for the best caricature of Muhammed.

dailymail_texasattack

By blacking out the artwork, they show their obesiance to Islam. How brave.

In November of 2000, the voters had a choice between two candidates:

Al_Gore_vp_small GeorgeWBush_small

Here’s my question, gentle readers: Do you think Al Gore would have been a better president than George Bush?

Vote below.

[poll id=”2″]

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