Monday, June 18, 2012

Homeschooling by Faith Part 4--Finney and Edwards

                                                 [Karis and Isaiah learning to cook.]

From a series of talks I gave at a Classical Conversations' parent practicum.

What we believe about God working through families effects what we do every single day. It effects how we homeschool and it effects whether or not we continue, and continue well. Am I repeating myself in these blogposts? Maybe so, but I need repetition, I learn from repetition, I need to read my own writing and be reminded, so that I can homeschool by faith. Without faith, I won’t continue well.

Let me give you an illustration about how what we believe effects how we live.

Charles Finney was an evangelist who lived from 1792-1875. Although he was a Christian and brought many to Christ, we know from his writings that he would have disagreed with much of what I’ve written concerning God’s promises to families. He did not believe that God still desires to work through families, but believed that in the New Testament it is "every man for himself." Working through families is something God did in the Old Testament.

Are you surprised to hear that not one of his six children ever became a believer?

Based on what you know about his belief that God did not desire to primarily work through families, do you think he spent much of his time spiritually discipling his children? Do you think he faithfully prayed over them and taught them the scriptures, expecting all the time to see God spiritually bless the fruit of his labors? Do you think he spent time training them for the great tasks he believed God would charge them with?

Let’s take this a step further. Do you think he clung to God’s promises for them even when he saw no fruit and all he saw was a fussy, cranky toddler who threw tantrums all the time? There are two interpretations of that event: one says, “Yep, I knew it all along, God no longer works through families. This child is destined for prison.” The other interpretation says, “From what my eyes can see, I don’t have any reason to believe that my work in training this child and reading them the scriptures, of loving them and modeling for them is doing a thing for their soul, but by faith, I continue anyway, knowing that God has promised to bless to a thousand generations, those that love him and keep his commands. I claim that promise for my family.” (Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Chronicles 16:15, Psalm 105:8)

How could Charles Finney’s understanding of God’s ways give him the impetus he needed to persevere with training and teaching his family? History tells us the outcome of his beliefs.

Let me tell you about Jonathan Edwards. This man had 11 children: 1 son and 10 daughters. All of 11 of his children faithfully followed the Lord for their entire lives. But that’s not all. Remember “to a thousand generations” from the last paragraph.
Here is his impact upon America:

"Of the 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards, 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny. 'The memory of the just is blessed' (Prov. 10:7)."

Compare this with the atheist Max Jukes who lived at the same time:
"Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from the union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars." (HT: 

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
So what did Jonathan Edwards believe? Not only would he agree with everything I have written, much of my understanding of the faith passing through families has a direct connection to the teachings of Jonathan Edwards. The pastors and writers who have influenced my understanding of family, who have increased my faith by pointing me to scriptures, have all claimed Edwards as having a profound impact upon them. Edwards' exposition of the scriptures is stilling bearing fruit to this day.

Because Edwards believed not in his own greatness, but in the greatness of a God who keeps his promises in a mighty way, he took God at his word and raised his children accordingly. I would recommend reading some of the letters he wrote to his children while he was away. He spoke to them as intelligent, mature believers of whom were worthy of having the best believed about them.

These were children who shared in Adam’s sin every bit as much as our own children. They were not exempt from willfulness, obstinacy, or selfishness. And yet, faith sees beyond to a child of the covenant.

Why would I open a homeschooling conference on this topic? Well, because the yellow bus has an appeal to us until we get a bird's eye view of the coming generations. We moms, who live in the day-to-day of laundry, meals, and cleaning, can easily lose sight of why we’re doing what we’re doing. The question becomes, “is the yellow school bus really that bad?” Honestly, I don’t think it is. But when I embrace by faith a multi-generational calling from the Lord, I suddenly feel this need to oversee everything my kids are learning and make sure it is equipping them to the uttermost. I want to make sure Christ is the center of everything and that they are daily being trained in the full armor of God.

I do this, not so that I can earn God’s promises, but because as I embrace the promises by faith, I am convicted by the fact that my time with them is short, but their future spiritual potential impact is so great, I can hardly grasp it.

If you are thinking: "Yes, I believe all this but I don't know where to begin. What should I be doing?" --then the rest of these posts are for you. 

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