Saturday, April 23, 2005

Are Homeschoolers Accountable to ANYONE?

The following remarks are my response to other comments on a blogpost done by Carmon, but from which I was not able to post my comments because of the spam filter. So I am posting my remarks here, with a bit of editing for clarity's sake.

One thing that I, as a presbyterian, am conscious of is the fact that I am not only saved as an individual, but also saved into a community and therefore answerable to that community. I see a lot of Presbyterians, self included, who act as practical independent Baptists though who are not accountable to anyone outside their family/church.

Molly, one of the commenters, has hit on what I believe are salient points regarding the hostility that many Christian homeschoolers have regarding outside authorities butting in and asking if we are doing a good job in our education of our children. Most of the hostility is directed towards gov't officials who would dare to ask if we are actually doing anything with our kids or just keeping them home to provide domestic cleaning services. We *could* substitute the words "elders" or "sessions" or "local church leaders" for civil government and declare that God gave the authority to educate children to no one but parents and therefore the elders, sessions, local church leaders have no right to see if we are doing our job in educating our children properly. Catechizing them, yes. Teaching them their times tables, no. This does not belong to the sphere of the church. The church has nothing to say about times tables.

True, this world is not our home. But if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat. If a man fails to provide for his own, he is worse than an unbeliever. So does society have a vested interest in whether or not our children are educated, not only as godly people, but also as productive citizens? If we want a society whose citizens are not dependant on state welfare and handouts, do we collectively have an interest in seeing that people are equipped to provide for themselves and their families? Have we done our job as parents if our children can recite the catechisms and Bible verses forwards and backwards and can show people the way of salvation, but can't function as future homemakers and providers because we neglected this part of their education? This of course, is being extreme, but the point I am trying to make is -- do we have to answer to ANYONE? Does anyone have the right or authority to make sure we are doing our job?

Just as it is possible to be a professing five point Calvinist and yet act as a practical atheist in terms of applying the faith to our lives on a daily basis, I think it is possible for us to mouth the words of spheres of authority and accountability and yet be practical anarchists and antinomians because we haven't thought through all the ramifications of what we are saying. (And btw, this is NOT directed at Carmon or anyone else -- these are just my general thoughts that I have been having on this subject for the last year or so.)

You know, the longer I am a Christian, the longer I see just how realistic and practical the Lord is in how He provided for His people. God not only recognized and encouraged the standard of mature Christianity and economic prosperity through independant thrift and hard work, he also recognized that not everyone had it in them to be an economic risk-taker and so a man could become a slave for life. His ear was bored through with an awl and he had to work for a master he had voluntarily chosen. His economic and social needs were looked after by another. Was this sinful, or was this mercy and provision for those who don't have what it takes to be a master?

The highest ideal economically is every man under his own fig tree and vine, but those who didn't make the grade or weren't blessed with the gifts and abilities for it were not to be looked down on and discriminated against in the assemblies. (James 2:1-9) Likewise, the highest ideal educationally is that every family be able to provide a high standard of education for their children. But if the gifting and means are not there, is there a place for ANYONE to provide help for those who want better for their children but who are not able to provide this for them themselves? I often get the feeling that we look down our educationally sophisticated noses at those who aren't the educational equivalent of the pioneers of New England who were able to carve a nation out of raw wilderness.

Here is a question I would like someone to answer: if a "homeschool" family is not providing any education at all to their children, WHO is supposed to call them on it? Church elders? What if they aren't church members? Or are we to shake our heads sorrowfully and just let those particular kids go and claim it wasn't our sphere of authority and then go on our way like the Levite or the Priest in the Samaritan's parable?

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