Friday, April 5, 2019

The What and Why of Logic

Classical education can be thought of as unique both in how it teaches things but also in what it teaches. The subject of Logic is one of those subjects that is unfortunately not found in most schools today, but it is one of the most foundational subjects to a classical education. Given everything else there is to study, why should we spend time on logic? Why not just take more time to study chemistry or literature? 

Logic is the science of good reasoning. It can be thought of as the language of truth. It is the study of proper inference. When someone reasons from a proposition (for example, that ‘God has commanded all men everywhere to repent) to the further proposition that they, indeed, are a man, and therefore should repent, they are being logical. When someone, however, reasons that because an unborn baby is composed of a bunch of cells, it is, therefore, nothing more than a bunch of cells, that person commits the fallacy of composition and reasons illogically. The term logic may sound grey, lifeless, or cold, but it undergirds the arguments of the colorful, the lively, and the emotional human beings made in God’s image. 

Formal logic, such as categorical logic, helps us sort things into proper categories and examine their relationships, such as the syllogism:

All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Socrates is a mortal

Informal logic helps us see the issues of relevance or ambiguity in everyday arguments, such as the Ad Hominem, or attack on the irrelevant character of the person, rather than the soundness of the argument:


“Ben’s argument about taxes sounds reasonable, but he often yells at his wife, so we shouldn’t take it seriously."

We should study logic because in doing so we can be more human. Part of what it means to be human is to be logical. God created man with the ability to reason. When we reason, we apprehend the truth. This ability allows us to understand rational statements made by others, and to form rational statements ourselves and communicate them. 

The laws of logic actually undergird all communication, and without them, communication becomes impossible. Try making a statement without using the first law of logic, which is that A cannot equal non-A at the same time. Whatever you said, I could easily assert that you said the opposite, unless we both assume the first law of logic. A line can be either curved or straight, but the straight part cannot also be curved. When we make a statement like “the first twelve feet of this line is straight, and the last seven are curved,” we are in fact putting different propositions into categories, and because of the first law of logic mentioned above, when two categories are non-exclusive, they cannot have multiple meanings. We recognize this, and sort things into categories all of the time. When we get up in the morning, we decide to put on our snow boots rather than our flip-flops, and we understand that “snow boot” and “flip-flop” are exclusive items that cannot be the same thing. We then walk into the kitchen and make a distinction between a bowl and a counter, and conclude that based on the construction of those items, we should pour our milk into the bowl instead of next to it. Toddlers sometimes have trouble making these categorical distinctions. 

Perhaps the biggest reason to study logic is to obey the commands of Christ. Jesus Christ is described for us in John 1 as the Truth. In him is perfect and consistent reasoning. He does not think illogically, because He is perfectly truthful. Reasoning improperly is basically lying about reality. When you assert that because both Hitler and your political opponent love dogs, and that this means that they share political views, you are not merely reasoning illogically, but are in fact lying. Jesus does not lie, He commands His followers not to lie; instead He commands them to become like himself. We are commanded to conform to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). We are also commanded to tear down every argument raised against the knowledge of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:5) and discern between (sort!) good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). 

In a classical school, logic is treated as a distinct discipline because it is of foundational importance, like reading. We teach people how to read because doing so allows them to interpret their world, obey God by reading his Word, and learn any other subject that requires reading. In the same way, we teach logic as a distinct discipline so that the student can interpret their world better, sorting between good and evil, true and false, helpful and unhelpful. By learning logic they will also be able to rightly interpret/exposit God's word after reading it. Lastly, by learning logic, the student will be able to interpret everything else they study! If you want a better math, science, literature, and rhetoric student, teach them how to interpret and sort between propositions in all of those subjects. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ontological Argument Paper

This is a reposting of a research paper I wrote for Reformation Bible College in 2013. It was posted on my Tumblr blog (now abandoned) but I don't believe it was ever posted here. It probably isn't my best paper, but it was my first and therefore is special to me. The formatting is going to be wonky as it has been copied and pasted so many times. Enjoy!




The Ontological Argument is one of the most highly debated theistic proofs in Apologetics today. Some philosophers have dismissed it as nothing more than a & charming joke, yet philosophical giants throughout history such as Scotus, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Plantinga have risen to defend it. Popular Apologists seem to be sharply divided over how useful this argument really is, however. For example, one of the most prominent Apologists today, William Lane Craig, devotes less than a single page to it out of the 415 that comprise his signature work Reasonable faith, and the well known Catholic Apologist Peter Kreeft takes 3 pages to outline the ontological argument and writes; “We include [the ontological argument] not because we think it conclusive or irrefutable, but for the sake of completeness.”
Yet, on the other hand, Alvin Plantinga, one of the most well-respected Christian philosophers alive today has written an entire book on this argument and has even formulated a version of it that has gained wide acceptance among the philosophical community at large. Douglas Groothuis, another prominent apologist who writes and speaks frequently of the ontological argument, gives us an idea of why the argument is so captivating: 

Imagine a philosophical argument that has been engaged by some of the most stellar minds in the history of thought about the greatest controversy ever engaged: the existence and nature of God. This line of reasoning requires no empirical premises; it works from sheer rational concepts. Now imagine that the conclusion of this argument announces that a Perfect Being exists–a superlative entity in who rests all possible perfections and in whom no defect can be found. Is this an apologetical fantasy? No, it is the ontological argument.

This paper will seek to analyze the versions of the ontological argument that Anselm developed, in order to determine whether or not it is a useful argument to employ in the Christian Apologetical discipline. Anselm developed two arguments, and both will be assessed. Special attention will be paid to the logical structure of the arguments, and to the truth of the premises. An emphasis will be given to represent and interact with the primary sources, both in the positive arguments and the critiques by those such as Gaunilo. 
The originator of the ontological argument was St. Anselm of Canterbury, though he derived his inspiration of the argument from Augustine of Hippo. Anselm, (1033-1109), was a Benedictine monk, the second Bishop of Canterbury, and philosophical theologian known as the ‘Father of Scholasticism’. His ontological argument is found in his book Proslogion, which he formulates not to further convince himself or others that God exists, but to come from the viewpoint of one who already believes that he exists yet wants to know more about God (i.e. “Faith seeking understanding”). Anselm’s express purpose: 

But when I reflected on [The Monologion] and saw that it was put together as a long chain of arguments, I began to ask myself whether one argument might possibly be found, resting on no other argument for its proof, but sufficient in itself to prove that God truly exists, and that he is the supreme good, needing nothing outside himself, but needful for the being and well–being of all things.

It is in this context that we will look at Anselm’s two similar arguments, both of which are based on the same idea. The contemporary philosopher Richard Taylor suggests in his introduction to The Ontological Argument: From St. Anselm to contemporary philosophers that embedded within Anselm’s Proslogion are two similar arguments, though Anselm might not have realized this himself. The first one argues that God can be proven to exist simply from the concept of God; the second makes the stronger claim that God is the only being that exists necessarily. We will look at what Anselm says about both arguments in his own words: 

Now we believe that thou art a being than which none greater can be thought…But when [a fool] hears what I am saying–”A being than which none greater can be thought”–he understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his understanding, even if he does not understand that it exists…Even the fool, then, must be convinced that a being than which none greater can be thought exists at least in the understanding, since when he hears this he understands it, and whatever is understood is in the understanding. But clearly that than which a greater cannot be thought cannot exist in the understanding alone. For if it is actually in the understanding alone, it can be thought of as existing also in reality, and this is greater. Therefore, if that than which a greater cannot be thought is in the understanding alone, this same thing than which a greater cannot be thought is that than which a greater can be thought. But obviously this is impossible. Without doubt, therefore, there exists, both in the understanding and in reality, something than which a greater cannot be thought.

So to break Anselm’s first argument down: Anselm is positing that”
 1. God is defined as a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, and of which everyone has an idea of, even if only in their understanding.
2. A thing exists either in the understanding only, or in both the understanding and in reality. 
3. It is greater to exist in reality than to exist merely in the understanding. 
4. If God only existed in the understanding, then he would lack a perfection, and then he would not be the greatest possible being. 
5. But the definition of God is that he is the greatest possible being (from 1). 
6. Therefore, God exists not only in the understanding but in reality as well. 
What Anselm means by a being “than which nothing greater can be thought” in premise 1 may be summed up in this definition: “A Perfect Being is a being who possesses every property it is better to have than to lack and who possesses this array of compossible excellent properties to the utmost degree (or to their intrinsic maximum value)”. Another part of this argument that needs further explaining is the assumption within premise 3 that existence is a perfection; in other words, it is assumed by Anselm (and by Descartes later) that it is plainly better to exist than to not exist. But think of it this way. Any god who didn’t exist would actually be less worthy of worship than anything that did exist, because of all the things needed for something to be in any sense powerful, glorious, and worthy of worship, actual existence is the first! As Taylor writes, “God, whatever else he may be, must be a reality as the very minimum condition of being thought of as God.” Or so it would seem…Though for some it is common sense that existence is an attribute of perfection, Immanuel Kant disagreed, as we will shortly see. Anselm’s first argument is logically valid, so in order to refute it the truth of the premises must be undermined (and there are no shortage of those who try!). Two men in particular have critiqued this argument of Anselm’s, and their concerns will be looked at in turn. The first was a contemporary of Anselm, a monk named Gaunilo, who though affirming the existence of God as strongly as Anselm did, he nevertheless thought that the major flaw with Anselm’s argument was that if you followed the same logic, but substituted “God” with any other object, you could come to the same conclusion that based on that objects definition, it must exist. Basically, Gaunilo accused Anselm of defining God into existence. He used an example to demonstrate this: “…it is said that somewhere in the ocean is an island…and they say that this island has an inestimable wealth of all manner of riches and delicacies…it is more excellent than all other countries…Now if someone should tell me that there is such an island, I should easily understand his words, in which there is no difficulty. But suppose that he went on to say, as if by logical inference: ‘You can no longer doubt that this island which is more excellent than all lands exists somewhere, since you have no doubt that it is your understanding. And since it is more excellent not to be in the understanding alone, but to exist both in the understanding and in reality, for this reason it must exist.
His obvious purpose in illustrating his island example was to draw a similar argument following the same logical lines, and then by showing how absurd his argument was, to also show how absurd Anselm’s was. The Oxford Illustrated History of Western Philosophy sees an exact correspondence between the two examples: “The arguments are exactly parallel…Gaunilo’s argument is formally exactly like Anselm’s.” The authors clearly agree with Gaunilo as well: “Since Gaunilo’s [argument] plainly does not [work], neither does Anselm’s.” But not so fast. What drives Anselms’s argument in the first place is that there can be thought a being who is the greatest possible being in every way possible. There cannot be two perfect beings, only one, which means that contrary to the Oxford Illustrated History of Philosophy, Anselm and Gaunilo were talking about two different types of beings; Anselm was talking about the greatest possible being while Gaunilo was merely describing the greatest possible island. He was taking an object (an island); predicating all of its desirable attributes to infinity, and then positing that he could do this with any object. But there is only one being that is the perfect being, logically speaking. Which means that if this island Gaunilo is talking about is really the epitome of perfection in the same way Anselm’s is, and not just perfect as to its own properties, then the island would in fact be the greatest possible being–proving Anselm’s argument! Gaunilo takes a contingent being and tries to make it into a necessary being. The second critique of Anselm’s first version of the Ontological argument is by the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who charged Anselm with assuming that existence is a predicate of perfection. He is right, as we see in premise 3: “It is greater to exist in reality than to exist merely in the understanding”. Douglas Groothuis summarizes Kant’s concern in his chapter on the Ontological argument in Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case of Biblical Faith

“For Kant, existence is merely a logical predicate, not a genuine predicate. A genuine predicate adds significant information regarding the subject, as in ‘The tree’s leaves were dark green.’ but contrariwise, a logical predicate adds nothing significant to the subject, as in, ‘The trees leaves are leaves.’…A real predicate ‘enlarges’ a thing in Kant’s terminology.” 

Groothuis also notes that “If existence does not function as a genuine predicate, this is fatal to Anselm’s argument, since he is arguing from the very concept of God (plus logical principles) to the existence of God…If Kant is right, Anselm is wrong…” Philosophers have debated Kant’s question quite independently of the ontological argument, but the short answer is that it is quite legitimate to predicate existence to something, if that something demands existence to complete its definition. in other words, if it is really better to exist than not to exist, then to predicate this attribute to ones definition of anything is rationally justifiable. In conclusion, this first argument of Anselm’s is the most popular overall, though mostly because of its criticisms. The two major criticisms are 1. It defines God into existence, which leaves open the absurd idea that one can do so with any object of their choice (I am thinking of the worlds greatest blonde girl. This blonde girl is the best possible blonde girl ever; i.e., the most beautiful, greatest personality, best character, and madly in love with me. Thus she must exist in real life, because it is better for her to exist in real life than merely in my imagination.) The refutation to this refutation of Gaunilo’s is that to properly conceive of the definition of a perfect being means that there is only one being suitable to posit in this argument, and this is the best, most perfect being, not the most perfect version of any being you please. However, this is where Kant’s criticism comes in, because in order to soundly refute Gaunilo it must be true that it is rationally justified to 1. Attribute existence to something, and 2. That it is better to exist than to not exist. This idea of a “necessary being” is what will be assessed next, because if it is possible that this being not exist, then the first argument falls. This argument, though formulated by Anselm in the 11th century, was significantly developed by Charles Hartshorne and Norman Malcolm in the 1960’s. Here is Anselm’s second argument in his own words, which, though similar to the first, is subtly different: And certainly it exists so truly that it cannot be thought of as nonexistent. For something can be thought of as existing, which cannot be thought of as not existing, and this is greater than that which can be thought of as not existing. Thus, if that than which a greater cannot be thought can be thought of as not existing, this very thing than which a greater cannot be thought is not that than which a greater cannot be thought. But this is contradictory. So, then, there truly is a being than which a greater cannot be thought–so truly that it cannot even be thought of as not existing.
As was intimated earlier, the difference between Anselm's first argument and this one is with the idea of "necessary existence", as Groothuis writes: "The difference with this argument is the employment of the concept of what later philosophers call 'necessary existence.' God does not simply happen to exist as 'a being than which nothing greater can be conceived to exist.' Rather, God exists as a matter of logical necessity." The premises, taken from Groothuis, are as follows:
1. God defined as a maximally great or Perfect Being. 2. The existence of a Perfect Being is either impossible or necessary (since it cannot be contingent). 3. The concept of a Perfect Being is not impossible since it is neither non–sensical nor self–contradictory. 4. Therefore (a) a Perfect Being is necessary. 5. Therefore (b) a Perfect Being exists. The argument basically goes that there is a being that possesses a necessary existence, and then it makes the jump that because this being is necessary, it must also of course exist. According to Richard Taylor, the key to understanding Anselm’s second argument is to understand first a distinction between two senses of existence. The first kind of existence is that which exists in the understanding only, and the second is that which exists in reality. Again, as with the prior argument, the downfall of this one is that it is not clearly demonstrable that existence in reality is necessary for a Perfect Being.
The logic surrounding the ontological arguments is very complex, in part because the arguments themselves are a priori and purely conceptual. No side has a clear victory on whether or not existence is a predicate or whether actual existence is “greater” than nonexistence, and one of the downsides of this argument is that this logic is very confusing. Groothuis notes: “The rather abstruse reasoning of the ontological argument may make it intellectually inaccessible to many.” The overall goal of this paper is not to see if the Ontological argument is logically sound (though that plays a large part), but instead whether it should be used in Apologetics. My contention is that the complex nature of the argument severely hinders its recommendation for use even if it is logically sound. When I use this argument in apologetical dialogue, it is so confusing both to explain to the audience that many can’t refute it simply because they are so baffled and confused by it! Even if we restrict ourselves to the realm of natural theology and all of the theistic arguments within, there are so many other arguments that one could use. When Anselm was developing his first argument, after he had gone through most of his argument, he said this: “And thou art this being, oh lord our God.” Anselm made the huge leap of the being that resulted from his argument and the trinitarian God of the Bible. The ontological argument is usually considered a “theistic” proof, but when the word “theistic” is taken in its accepted definition, that is, a personal deity, then the ontological argument is actually a “deistic proof”, because the being that results from a successful inference of the argument is an abstract concept that is Perfect in every way. Yes, this is what God is, but that is only part of what God is. He is much more than that. I would argue that using the ontological argument in apologetical dialogue helps little in trying to win people to Christ, because even if they understand what you are trying to argue, they are far from the redeeming God of scripture, in whom they must place their faith in for salvation through Christ.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Go to Church!

      I recently had a conversation with someone, which inspired a facebook post, which inspired lots of people to say stuff, which led to more stuff being said in a long-winded way over the internet. I spent a lot of time trying to winsomely argue for my side in that little messenger box, and I thought since my mind was still fresh I might dump some of those thoughts here and make an article of it.

Over the weekend I had a conversation with a woman who it turns out had gotten a degree from seminary (in counseling),  but didn't regularly attend church until awhile ago when she found a church that "fit" and since then she has been a member of said church. I nodded and smiled and we went our ways, but I was shocked by the fact that someone could go to seminary and yet not go to church. It ate at me, so decided to post my thoughts about the issue of the church on my facebook page. The post read:


"Just talked with someone who said she was A Christian (and had a degree from seminary!) but only started going to church awhile ago.
Folks, people claiming to be Christians who don’t believe in church are like people claiming to be Christians but don’t believe in Christ. It’s that simple."


...It engendered some reaction. You know a post is controversial when it has 3 times more comments than likes, and that even after some have been deleted. In the rest of this post, I am going to draw from the comments made in reaction to this post (mostly arguing against it) and my arguments for it, but in a more organized, logical fashion. This is not directed at any person or group of people.


The structure of the basic argument is this:

Premise 1: Belief in Christ is of foundational importance to being a Christian.

Premise 2: Belief in and participation in the Church (weekly assembly of believers to worship) is of foundational importance to being a Christian.

Conclusion: To disbelieve in/not participate in the local church while still claiming to believe in Christ and call oneself a Christian is inconsistent and hypocritical.

Application: Those who claim to accept what it means to be a Christian should accept all such beliefs, not only ones such as belief in Christ, the resurrection, the Trinity, etc. but also the assembly of the saints...the local church.


It's really, really, simple. Before I attempt to establish these premises, let me list what I've been accused of saying that I didn't actually say and also don't mean, because the majority of the comments were directed against statements I didn't make and didn't mean, thus much effort was wasted attacking straw men.

–I am NOT saying that believing in church makes you saved, or that going to church makes you saved. People literally repeated this straw man multiple times at me. Read the actual post people, and don't assume what someone believes. Respond to what is written.

–I am also NOT saying that those who don't go to church AREN'T saved.

–I am NOT saying that the church is a building. I was referring to the church as the gathered assembly (bit of an oxymoron, but I still have to say it that way for people) which is how the greek word ecclesia is translated.

Now, to establish our premises:


Premise 1 isn't controversial at all, and that is why I used it in my facebook post. Nobody would question that it would be inconsistent for someone to claim to be a Christian but not believe in Christ.  That would make you an achristchristian, which is confusing and weird. :-)

Premise 2 is the most controversial, and the one I will spend most of my effort on. The argument will go thus: I will list some imperatives in scripture that don't make sense UNLESS it is normative for a believer to participate in the assembly (church):

1. Communion makes no sense unless you participate in the gathered church.

Firstly, taking communion is a command for believers from Christ. He issues this command in Matthew  26 (to name one gospel) and is quoted by Paul saying "Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." In Acts 2 we see the infant church taking communion along with praying and singing and listening to the apostles teaching. We see communion as a function of the gathered assembly in worship again in Acts 20:7.

When Paul addresses some issues surrounding communion in 1st Corinthians 11, he assumes that they should and do come together as a church.

If you don't go to church, how can you rightfully take this sacrament? How can you obey Christ? There are exceptions of course if a church member is sick or otherwise shut-in, but then they still take communion with and from the elders of their church. This brings me to my next argument:


2. Elders and our command to submit to them makes no sense without the gathered church.

Scripture plainly demands the creation of elders in the local church to oversee and care for the church and it's members. See Acts 6, Titus 1:5, and James 5:14 for a few examples.

We are supposed to submit to, honor, and encourage these elders, as seen in 1 Timothy 5:17,  Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 5:1.

If you don't go to church then Elders and Deacons aren't necessary. If you don't go to church, you can't submit to them, honor them, and encourage them.


3. Paul's conversation about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 makes no sense without the gathered church.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth on how to exercise their gifts, and he does so in the context of the gathered assemby as a part of the overall body of Christ. He recognizes that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to each Christian individually (12:11) but that these are integrated into the whole body. The individual members make up the body (12:12-13.)

Later on, Paul talks about the gift of tongues. Your position on cessationism is irrelevant here, because the point I am making is that in order to properly exercise the gift of prophesy, you must do it  in the gathered assembly. This is because the very point of tongues was to edify the body of Christ. This is why Paul says that he wishes that everyone could speak in toungues and prophesy so that they could edify one another (14:5).

Paul writes: "Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at most three, and each in turn, one must interpret...for you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted." (12:26-31).

























Sunday, January 6, 2019

Philomath Episode 16 Show Notes: Books Read in 2018, Part 1

Here are links to (some) of the books mentioned in episode 16. I mentioned in excess of 15 books I believe, so I will only link to the best ones. The list below will represent the best books I have read in 2018, part 1:



1. The Absurdity of Unbelief by Jeffrey Johnson

2. Make it Stick by Peter C. Brown

3. Galatians for You by Timothy Keller

4. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

5. All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes by Jeff Myers

Come back next Sunday for part 2!




Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Research Paper-Horace Mann

Thesis Statement: A study of the father of the Common Schools, Horace Mann, reveals that his ideas about education conflicted and sought to replace the gospel. He believed in the messianic nature of state education, which had its roots in his pelagian beliefs about man’s inherent goodness. These views will be analyzed and contrasted with the Biblical view.

Outline:
  1. Outline
    1. Importance of the Issue
    2. Framing the Issue
    3. Thesis
  2. The Perfectibility of Man
    1. Mann’s view
    2. Scripture’s view
    3. Practical application to education
  3. The Messianic State
    1. Mann’s View
    2. Scripture
  4. Practical Application/Conclusion



Introduction
Horace Mann was an educational reformer and advocate of compulsory state funded public education. He has been rightly regarded as the father of the Public School movement. An educational historian has said of Mann: “No one did more than he to establish in the minds of the American people conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, and free.” (Cubberly, “Public Education in the United States”, 167). Plays and pageants have symbolized him as the great “Crusader” for educational equality, and he enjoys the reverence of many who are familiar with and students of education in general. This author has chosen him and his thought as the root and representation of ungodly thought in education today. His ideas have been the cause of many ills in the Public education system, some of which have been smuggled into Christian schools. It is important to the field of Christian education to understand the unchristian foundations of secular education so we don’t adopt them into our own schools. It is also helpful to know how the Bible answers these same questions. 
Horace Mann’s driving belief was that the state could solve man’s problems through education. He arrived at this conclusion because he believed that man was basically good, and his chief problem was that he was ignorant, not sinful. Mann characterized Calvinism’s belief in the depravity of man as evil. Mann believed that the state should then seek to solve man’s problem of ignorance by educating him to be a moral and active member of his society. Thus, education wasn’t for the end of learning to know and glorify God in all things (as in Christian education) but was instead to be trained by the state to be a good citizen. 
If one consults Scripture, he will find the complete converse of these assertions, and it is to these that we will turn in order to rebut Mann’s unbiblical positions. In short, Scripture asserts that man is completely depraved, unable to come to a knowledge of saving faith in Jesus, apart from the sovereign regenerating power of God. Mankind isn’t as bad as he could be, thanks to the common grace of God, but he is spiritually and morally dead. The only solution for man’s spiritual problem is for him to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. No school can solve man’s most basic problems, and if we think it can, we will be bound for disaster. Secondly, Scripture places the responsibility to teach children about God and his world at the feet of their parents, and gives grave warnings for ignoring those commands. (Deuteronomy 6). The state should not and cannot fill this void. 
A study of the father of the Common Schools, Horace Mann, reveals that his ideas about education conflicted and sought to replace the gospel. He believed in the messianic nature of state education, which had its roots in his pelagian beliefs about man’s inherent goodness. These views will be analyzed and contrasted with the Biblical view. 

The Perfectibility of Man
It is somewhat hard believe Mann on this point because he was a very religious person and a consistent churchgoer. Rather than being antagonistic towards religion in education, he encouraged schools to teach the Bible and morality. However, we should know that a “religious” person does not a Godly person make, since Romans 1 asserts that ALL men are religious, but only some of those are Godly. Mann was a Unitarian, and as such loathed the Calvinistic doctrine of the depravity of man, instead believing that man was damaged but perfectible through natural means. Indeed, as R.J. Rushdoony points out in his book “The Messianic Character of American Education: "Since this [his] implicit interpretation of Christianity was anthropological, the natural realm was of more immediate interest as an arena of revelation than the supernatural. Accordingly, natural law looms large in Mann’s thinking.” (Rushdoony, Loc. 533) This preoccupation with “natural law” lead Mann to have a very shallow conception of religion, viewing it essentially as moralism. How, then, was he to square the obvious failure of man to live uprightly, with his doctrine of man in general? In short, man’s problem was not sin, but ignorance, and ignorance led to the social diseases of crime and poverty. Mann thought he could cure this problem through education, writing: 
If all the children in the community, from the age of four years to that of sixteen, could be brought within the reformatory and elevating influences of good schools, the dark host of private vices and public crimes which now embitter domestic peace and stain the civilization of the age might, in ninety-nine cases in every hundred, be banished from the world.” (Massachusetts Board of Education, Annual Report, 1849: 95-96)

He not only believed that education was the solution, but that state education was the only solution. For Mann, it was either state-controlled education, or no education at all. He was essentially a Marxist, believing that the most basic institution was the state, and not the family. As such, the State should and could do anything the family could, but more effectively. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. In contrast to Mann’s essentially Pelagian view of Man, What does Scripture say about man, and how may we apply it’s teaching to education?
There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible. The fallenness of man is affirmed after the first 2 of them, as we read in Genesis 3:6: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.” This was the first time man transgressed the law of God, but it would not be the last time. Paul, writing in Romans 3, and quoting several Psalms, writes: “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless…” (Romans 3:10-12, ESV). Additionally, Psalm 58 says that men are evil from birth: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” (Psalm 58:3, ESV). The social problems (like crime) stem from their sinful nature, as James writes: (italics mine): “What causes Quarrels and fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” (James 4:1-2, ESV) People commit crimes because they are sinful. The only solution to crime is the good news of the gospel, which is the only “pill” that can cure the “disease” of man. 
Now, what does this mean for education? For one thing, it means that education must have its proper place. It cannot save men, and shouldn’t be utilized for that purpose. Secondly, we must recognize that in order to educate people who are sinful, we are going to have to constantly fight against that sinful nature, and if we don’t believe sinful nature exists, we are doomed to fail and miss our mark. Mann didn’t believe in the sinfulness of man, and thus his educational philosophy was doomed to fail from the start, in the same way that a man who didn’t believe in gravity would have a hard time flying, because gravity would hinder his progress, whether he believed in it or not. Instead, we must consider education as something we can only accomplish after and through the gospel.

The Messianic State
According to Horace Mann, the goal of education is to prepare man for civic duty, making the state the idolatrous telos of man. And, because the goal cannot trump the means, and the goal is service to the state, then the means (education) will be controlled by the state. Mann believed education was a community affair, but only in the sense of using the resources of everyone to fund education. Ironically education for Mann was collective only as it manifested itself in the single organism of the state. 
Religious instruction is only useful if it can contribute to good manners in civic life. In general, Mann viewed education as the great savior of mankind, because the great problem of mankind was not sin, but rather ignorance.
What does Scripture say about the goals and means in education? Firstly, Scripture says that the goal of education is to raise up children to glorify Christ and take every thought captive to his way of thinking. Deuteronomy six commands us to teach our children to remember the great works of the Lord, so that we might glorify Him and remember whose we are.  Ephesians 6 says this: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Rather than the goal being to serve the state, the goal was to serve Christ, the only true Lord of all men. The distinction is crystal clear when the goals are laid out this way. All academic subjects should assist in allowing children to see the goodness, truth, and beauty of God and his works. 
As for the means of education, Scripture is equally clear that the parents of children have the authority and duty to educate their children, not the state. To understand this, it will be helpful to discuss this issue philosophically. Scripture delineates three main institutions with God-given duties in this world: Marriage, the family, and the state. Marriage is to be with one man and one women, who are to leave their respective families and cleave to one another. The family to born when these two people marry, and is extended and blessed as they have or adopt children. They are given the responsibility to care for and educate these children (Deuteronomy 6, 11, Joshua 4, Ephesians 6). The state is a legitimate institution established by God for the purpose of punishing evildoers, or those who commit crimes. (Romans 13) The church handles those who commit sins that aren’t crimes. (1 Corinthians 5).  But, nowhere is the state given the duty to either educate children, or punish those who don’t educate children. That duty is given to the family, and the authority to punish those who neglect to educate their children is given to the church. This is a striking departure from Public education today, which has its roots in the early reformers such as Horace Mann. 
Some practical ramifications of these differences would be that we, as Christians, need to relieve that our students are sinful people, who need the gospel more than anything. We should expect them to lie, cheat, steal, and generally grumble. We should realize that education is not going to go “with the grain” of their nature, contrary to Mann’s thinking. We should remit discipline in our schools, which Mann was vehemently opposed to, because we are dealing sinful children. Secondly, we should resist any and all encroachments upon the idea that education should be “pragmatic”. Education’s primary goal is NOT to allow its students to make as much money as possible, or to worship the state, which are the two biggest goals of public education today. We must affirm that the end of all things, including education, is to glorify Christ. This doesn’t mean that we don’t seek to prepare our students for the real world, but to do so in a God-honoring way. A good litmus test in a Christian school is to ask about their Theology curriculum. Do they have one? Are their Bible classes merely Sunday-school moralistic preaching, or are they just as rigorous as the AP History class? These subtle differences can reveal a school's priorities. The third practical application of our study is that we need to involve parents in their children’s education as much as possible. Parents are responsible to educate their children, and fathers are at the head of their families. At most schools, there are very few men, either in teaching positions or as fathers. This should not be the case at a Christian school! Fathers and mothers need to not only know what is going on at the school, but actively be teaching their children with the school. Picking a good school is only the beginning of a parent’s job in education. 
To close, we have analyzed some of Horace Mann’s thinking, though only in summary fashion. We have then compared it to God’s Word, and then practically applied our thinking. Hopefully, we have come away with a Biblical understanding of the nature of man and the goals and means of education. In addition, we hope to have instructed the reader with a picture of how the sinful world thinks about education, not only so we can avoid it, but also so we can keep from copying it in our own schools. 














Works Cited

ESV Study Bible. (2011). 1st ed. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles.

Cubberly, E. (1920). The History of Public Education. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Massachusetts Board of Education (1849). Annual Report.


Rushdoony, R. (1995). The Messianic character of American education. Vallecito, Calif: Ross House Books.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Myers Book Report

I recently had to write a book report for one of my classes, and I thought I would upload the full report to the blog for your edification. The book is a popular one on Culture entitled “All God’s Children in Blue Suede Shoes” by Ken Myers. Enjoy!


Cultural changes since 1989:

In the 29 years since Ken Myers wrote this book, I believe that pretty much all of his conclusions are more true now than they were in 1989. The main thesis of his book is that philosophically, modernism with its prioritizing of man and his feelings in the search for the New, bred the rise of a pop culture which has appealed to the worst in man’s sinful nature. Pop culture breeds impatience, novelty seeking, instant gratification, instant credit, the self, etc. and in 2018 with post-modernism in full swing, this has gotten even more true. Post-modernism is like modernism but without any sense of objective truth or shared cultural heritage!
And not only this, but materially and technologically, it has become even easier to be addicted to pop culture. Instead of a television, we have a flat screen with internet access, “streaming” an entire season of a show immediately. Instead of a telephone at your house or in your car, we have a computer we put in our pockets that we take with us everywhere. Instead of pornography in a magazine, it has become one of the largest videos-based industries in the world, all accessible from your phone. Myers’ comments about the TV are doubly true now. 
More recently, we have seen a breakup in the news industry as people have lost trust in their news sources. While some of this can be good, because it is usually not good to monopolize any one industry, it is a symptom of the fragmented nature of information in today’s age, where  people can exist in two completely different realities because they imbibe news and information from two different viewpoints (most noticeably politics, but also religion) and this makes the idealogical search for truth even harder. Aldous Huxley was right–The problem is not lack of information, it is that we are drowning in it, with no ability to know true from false.

Book Summary of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes
Myers begins by asking his readers to take into account how much of popular culture has invaded their homes, and how much of it, medium and content, they have around them. How much is it influencing them without them knowing? The main theme of his book is that not everything in popular culture that is permissible is constructive, and much of popular culture today is watered down and instant, much like the bad coffee he had gotten used to in college. Once addicted to lower forms of culture, it can be hard to appreciate the higher forms, but it is worth the struggle. 
Myers begins his book by stating that many Christians feel like they are like Lot living in Sodom. The culture around them is against them. He then details the main point of his chapter: Unfortunately, to combat this, Christians have compromised by being “of the world, but not in the world” (pg. 18). They have created alternative music, movies, shows, etc. and christianized them, but left them basically secular. Oftentimes these cultural products are popular only because they are like the “real” secular thing they copied. Myers questions the usefulness of this “contextualization” because it seems to be hurting more than it is helping. Sometimes Christians tend to believe that if something is popular, it is working. After all, if an evangelist brings lots of people to Christ, his method must be sound, right? Not all culture is good even though it is popular. 
In chapter two, Myers briefly defends why we should engage in culture, and then defines it. Per  C.S. Lewis, people should engage in culture basically because to live and move is to be a cultural animal. Thus, the question is not if, but how well we do culture, and what culture we engage in and consume. Briefly defined, Culture is “A dynamic pattern, an ever-changing matrix of objects, artifacts, sounds, institutions…” etc. 
In chapter three, Myers recounts the creation account, the original creation mandate, the fall, and the seed of the gospel given in Genesis 3. He connects this information to the idea of our cultural duty in creation and Noah’s similar command given in Genesis 9, though this command (covenant) had a more temporal nature, and was also given to creation–Myers’ point is that it was not given to a special people. The Adamic and Noah covenants were ecumenical covenants, and they inform the cultural details of the New Covenant, not the mosaic covenant. The goal is not to strive for another Israel and create a holy, segregated culture. The goal is to impact the common culture that you find yourself in, be it American, Greek, Russian, etc. 
In chapter four, Myers suggests that even though we aren’t called to set up a new, holy culture, we do have a duty to abstain from “its profanities.” The main point of this chapter was that modern, pop culture appeals to the novel seeker in all of us, and trains us to be impatient. The market for this arose because of the advances of the economy (leading to previously unknown leisure time) and advances in technology (that made the consumption of media and the spending of money instant).
Continuing this theme of the restless and instant, in chapter five Myers also elaborates on how popular art has contributed to the cheapening of high art, and thus beauty. He posits that beauty is objective, and taste, while having variations, is also more objective than popular art provides for. Not all tastes are equal, because not all tastes and pleasures are equally good. Aside from being objectively worse than high art, popular art is also safe. It is predictable to the consumer, never challenging them, again, appealing to the baser desires in us.
In chapter six, Myers looks at a work of C.S. Lewis on Literary criticism, specifically on the question: “What makes a good book?” His alternative method was to look at the reader rather than the book itself, and then judge the book by the types of people that read them. He distinguished between unliterary and literary readers, and one of the best way to tell between them was those who read for joy, and those who read for work. 
In chapters seven and eight Myers discusses the “twenty year decade” of the 1960’s and the introduction of pop art, which subsequently took over and corrupted high art. Once high art became pop art, art itself began to disappear. Without a common basis for aesthetics, art is everything, and then it is nothing.  Romanticism and modernism helped encourage this attitude of feelings-first towards art and the central-ness of the human interpretation of art, rather than the appreciation of something objectively beautiful.
Myers closes his book by talking about how television has fitted the description of popular art quite well: it is easy to consume, it appeals to the masses, it discourages deep thinking, and it offers immediate gratification. Thus it is an apt medium for music videos, tv, and other parts of culture. In the last chapter, he closes with some advice for parents, teachers, and pastors, basically urging them not to ride the stream of popular culture, or be overcome by it, but to conform to Christ. He compares pop culture to meat offered to idols: It is not bad to eat it, but it is bad to make it your idol.