In this month’s Solid Ground, “A Practical Plan to Equip the Next Generation,” Brett builds his plan on an ancient educational model:
As our oldest daughter approached the junior-high years, my wife and I began to rethink our views on educating and discipling our kids. We were dissatisfied with things we were seeing in her life, not only academically, but also spiritually and morally. In that process of reevaluation, we discovered an ancient approach to education called “classical education,” stretching back to the Classical Greeks and Romans and formalized in the Middle Ages. Educator Susan Wise Bauer offers a concise description of this approach:
Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study [Grammar Stage]. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments [Logic Stage]. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves [Rhetoric Stage].
While not an exhaustive definition, it gets us started and highlights the three-stage pattern of classical education called the trivium….
The medievals believed this trivium pattern corresponded to the universal human experience of learning. It accurately captures the manner in which young minds are best trained. Thus, we should take this ancient approach to education and breathe into it new life for our modern context. Indeed, the trivium provides us with a three-stage approach to discipling the next generation.
Brett goes on to apply the trivium approach to apologetics instruction, outlining a plan for you to use this strategy to train your children in the truth.
The article was originally published as a chapter in A New Kind of Apologist, a collection of essays addressing current apologetics topics and strategies for reaching our culture (Alan also has a chapter); so after you finish reading the article, make sure you check out the rest of the book.
I recently answered the question “Should Christians keep children in public schools to be ‘salt and light?’” for our weekly video blog. This, and the larger question of whether Christians should allow their kids to be publicly educated, period, are questions I have been wrestling with for some time. I tread carefully with this question because I know many good Christian parents who enroll their kids in the local public school, and I also know many good Christians who are public school administrators and teachers. And I certainly don’t want to offer simplistic answers that minimize the gravity and implications for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I also know that school districts within the same states and even the same local region can vary widely in terms of their quality, culture, and commitments, so I don’t want to paint with too broad of a brush and be dismissive of the entire enterprise without taking these things into account. But, given the current cultural context, I think this is a question every Christian parent must seriously grapple with and do so year-in and year-out.
Let me offer a question to my Christian friends whose kids are being publicly educated, or who are working in public education, that should help guide this conversation: What is your tipping point? In other words, can public education and all that it involves disintegrate to a level where you would say “enough is enough” and pull your kids out? Of course, I would hope your simple answer is yes. But beyond that, you must begin to outline some specific criteria. You must make explicit the tipping point in your own mind so that you can effectively evaluate whether your local public school has reached that point. Andrew Walker summarizes this well in his article “How the Federal Government is Transforming Public Education”:
Christian parents need to establish a tipping point. This may be the most important response to consider. What actions taken by your local school will be sufficient for you to re-evaluate public education? Is having a teacher reprimand your child for his or her belief about marriage, sex, and gender acceptable? Will you allow them to be in schools where bathroom policies are based on gender identity rather than biological sex? Not establishing a tipping point could leave your child over-exposed to environments they shouldn’t be in. Not thinking about a tipping point is irresponsible and will communicate carelessness about a child’s education and Christian formation. This is not a call to exit the public schools; it is a call to vigilance. It is advisable that spouses have a candid conversation and establish a line in the sand.
So, what’s your tipping point? Christian parents, I’m pleading with you to consider this question carefully and, indeed, to even write out specific criteria that will guide you into the future. The challenges are coming at breakneck speed. For example, entire school districts are adopting pro-transgender policies and will use coercion to enforce them. Therefore, you and I cannot simply float along with the cultural currents, as the church has for the last century, without reaping serious consequences, which we certainly are now. As one possible example, here is a Christian principal who has reached a tipping point in his role as administrator.
I know this opens up a huge conversation, and there are significant practical consequences for individuals and families to face (e.g. leaving a job as a public school teacher or moving from a two-family income household to one in order to homeschool). And of course, the way in which we are most effectively salt and light in the culture must be carefully reflected upon too. But before you consider those things, maybe first we need to spend some time rethinking our views about education itself. Is there a Christian view of education and if so, what it is? What does Scripture say? And given these things, what does wisdom demand from us in this day and age? Biblical thinking about education and our role in it will help clarify what our tipping point(s) should be.
Here are a few resources to get you thinking about a Christian view of education:
Take a first step. Now. Read an article. Discuss the question of a tipping point with your spouse, trusted family member, friend, or mentor. Purchase one of the books above. Take action immediately. The Body of Christ is responsible for raising up the next generation of Christian ambassadors, so doing nothing is not an option.
Sunday school teachers, youth workers, small group leaders, pastors, and other church leaders are always on the lookout for good resources to help equip their people. So I thought it might be helpful to collect some of the best short apologetics videos that are online and available for free and put them into a single list. Use these to introduce an argument, spark a small group discussion, or even share with your unbelieving friend. And feel free to add your contribution to the list in the comments section.
Faith Refocused (answers the question “What is faith?” and describes the relationship between faith and reality)
On Sunday, I returned home from another Berkeley Mission trip, where I intentionally exposed high school students to some of my atheist friends in the Bay Area. For the last six months, we’ve taught apologetics to these high schoolers from Upland Christian Academy. Now it was time for them to “get off the sidelines and into the game” and engage non-Christians with the truth. Of course, my atheist friends are more than happy to oblige, so they meet with our missions teams, challenge them with a short lecture, and then dive into some rigorous dialogue.
Without fail, a couple of our atheist guests will contend, “Religion is the cause of most wars.” This cultural mantra has been uttered so often and with so much force, it has come to be accepted as an undeniable declaration. Prominent atheists like Sam Harris contribute to the chorus of voices, arguing religion is “the most prolific source of violence in our history” (The End of Faith, page 27). Richard Dawkins claims, “There’s no doubt that throughout history religious faith has been a major motivator for war and for destruction.”
But as we trained students for this trip, we equipped them with a simple question to expose such claims: “How did you come to that conclusion?” (also known as Columbo Question #2). We simply taught students to recognize when someone makes a claim and then to request their supporting reasons. When our atheist presenters were challenged to provide justification, they could only offer up the Crusades, the Inquisition, 9-11, or vague references to Islamic terrorism. Certainly we recognize religion’s role in these examples, but three or four references cannot support the claim that most wars are caused by religion.
Not only were students able to demonstrate the paucity of evidence for this claim, but we helped them discover that the facts of history show the opposite: religion is the cause of a very small minority of wars. Phillips and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars lays out the simple facts. In 5 millennia worth of wars—1,763 total—only 123 (or about 7%) were religious in nature (according to author Vox Day in the book The Irrational Atheist). If you remove the 66 wars waged in the name of Islam, it cuts the number down to a little more than 3%. A second scholarly source, The Encyclopedia of War edited by Gordon Martel, confirms this data, concluding that only 6% of the wars listed in its pages can be labelled religious wars. Thirdly, William Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence, exposes the “wars of religion” claim. And finally, a recent report (2014) from the Institute for Economics and Peace further debunks this myth.
We didn’t stop there. We showed students it gets worse for the atheists’ claim. A strong case can be made that atheism, not religion, and certainly not Christianity, is responsible for a far greater degree of bloodshed. Indeed, R.J. Rummel’s work in Lethal PoliticsandDeath by Government has the secular body count at more than 100 million...in the 20th century alone.
Our students were able to see that a simple examination of the facts relieves religion from blame for most of the world’s wars. In addition, we were able to help cultivate in students a healthy skepticism of atheistic claims. If the skeptic will shout such an unsubstantiated claim so loudly and with so much force, what other skeptical claims might quickly fall apart under rational scrutiny?