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Homeschooling, Adam Clarke style… (Adam who?!)

Adam Clarke

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Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, originally published in the early 1800s, has an interesting note on Deuteronomy 6:25. It is about the most excellent summary of homeschooling philosophy I’ve ever read. I can’t stop thinking about it. I wish I were smart enough to have written this in the first place! Ha!

(Sometimes my tired, “momma brain” can’t process 19th-century writing by mid-afternoon. 🙂 But I also admire how every word is packed with so much food for thought. Don’t you? Below the quote, I’ve broken it up into more manageable thoughts.)

A most injurious and destructive maxim has lately been advanced by a few individuals, which it is to be hoped is disowned by the class of Christians to which they belong, though the authors affect to be thought Christians, and rational ones, too; the sum of the maxim is this: “Children ought not to be taught religion for fear of having their minds biased to some particular creed, but they should be left to themselves till they are capable of making a choice, and choose to make one.” This maxim is in flat opposition to the command of God, and those who teach it show how little they are affected by the religion they profess. If they felt it to be good for any thing, they would certainly wish their children to possess it; but they do not teach religion to their children, because they feel it to be of no use to themselves. Now the Christian religion properly applied saves the soul, and fills the heart with love to God and man; for the love of God is shed abroad in the heart of a genuine believer, by the Holy Ghost given to him. These persons have no such love, because they have not the religion that inspires it; and the spurious religion which admits of the maxim above mentioned, is not the religion of God, and consequently better untaught than taught. But what can be said to those parents who, possessing a better faith, equally neglect the instruction of their children in the things of God! They are highly criminal; and if their children perish through neglect, which is very probable, what a dreadful account must they give in the great day! Parents! hear what the Lord saith unto you: Ye shall diligently teach your children that there is one Lord, Jehovah, Elohim; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: and that they must love him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might. And as children are heedless, apt to forget, liable to be carried away by sensible things, repeat and re-repeat the instruction, and add line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, carefully studying time, place, and circumstances, that your labor be not in vain: show it in its amiableness, excite attention by exciting interest; show how good, how useful, how blessed, how ennobling, how glorious it is. Whet these things on their hearts till the keenest edge is raised on the strongest desire, till they can say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee!”

Whew! Okay, let’s ponder a few thoughts at a time, especially as they pertain to homeschooling.

A most injurious and destructive maxim has lately been advanced by a few individuals, which it is to be hoped is disowned by the class of Christians to which they belong, though the authors affect to be thought Christians, and rational ones, too…

This was written in the early 1800s, and my history-loving husband has been reading much this week about the very destructive, humanistic philosophies that were rampant in America and Europe during this time period. To my own frustration, it seems that many homeschooling families are enamored with all things written by “great minds” during this time period, even when those philosophies should have been “disowned by the class of Christians to which they belong.”

Just as now, don’t accept something simply because the author is a “Christian” — and a “rational one, too.” Be a good Berean, and compare all things you read to the Scripture!

The maxim: “Children ought not to be taught religion for fear of having their minds biased to some particular creed, but they should be left to themselves till they are capable of making a choice, and choose to make one.”

This “maxim” is alive and well in our day. Yes, all agree that we should teach our children reading, writing, arithmetic, social studies, and science. Even health should be included in our children’s education.

But one of the main reasons I’m a homeschooler is because I believe that “theology is the queen of the sciences.” The Bible clearly says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7, KJV), “for the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6, KJV). No matter how good the school, you simply won’t find “the fear of the LORD” in the education plan at any public school.

According to the Bible, it is our duty to “bias” the minds of our children. Not with creeds, please note. With the “fear of the LORD.”

This maxim says that children should be “left to themselves.” This is an interesting choice of words, I think, since God specifically says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15, KJV).

This maxim is in flat opposition to the command of God, and those who teach it show how little they are affected by the religion they profess.

The specific command of God referred to here by Clarke is found in Deuteronomy 6. How easy it is, though, for us to be “little affected by the religion we profess.” How easy it is for us to attend church services on Sundays, to hear the Word of God read, and even to read it daily in our homes — yet be “little affected” by what we profess to believe.

My son has the word conscientious as a spelling word this week. Con-science… with science… with thought and knowledge.

Am I conscientious as I hear God’s Word read? Do I think about it? Do I allow it to enter my heart and affect my life? “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22, NIV).

If they felt it to be good for any thing, they would certainly wish their children to possess it; but they do not teach religion to their children, because they feel it to be of no use to themselves.

Ah, and this is why we tend not to teach the fear of YHWH to our children. We don’t see any use for it ourselves.

Have you ever sat through a sermon or Bible lesson and (yawn…) wondered what on earth you were doing there? How did it make any difference to your life? (It would have been a better use of time to just go ahead and make that grocery list that you were thinking about anyway.)

I firmly believe the Bible is of practical use! But when my heart turns evil on me, it’s because I either don’t want to apply it to my life… or I refuse to make the changes it is requiring… or I’m embarrassed to make the changes.

And those areas of God’s Word in which I see no practical use are exactly the ones I won’t teach to my children. (For instance, see Genesis 1, Genesis 10, Leviticus 11, Daniel 7, or Zechariah 14, as passages that don’t typically make it into homeschooling curriculum… but should! See 2 Timothy 3:16-17 for a listing of the exact passages that should be taught to our children.)

Now the Christian religion properly applied saves the soul, and fills the heart with love to God and man; for the love of God is shed abroad in the heart of a genuine believer, by the Holy Ghost given to him.

This is an amazing sentence. If I could wrap my mind around this one sentence, it would not only revolutionize my homeschooling; it would revolutionize my life! I encourage you to write it out and place it on a card. Mull over it all week. Find the Bible verses that back it up. Yes, it’s that good!

In fact, to me, this sentence would make an excellent mission statement for homeschooling. Yes, it’s that good!

In fact, the instruction of God in Deuteronomy 6 begins with this statement. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NIV).

In fact, all the New Testament explains, illustrates and clarifies it.

In fact, Jesus Christ IS this love, and He is the only “way, truth, and the life.” He saves my soul! The more He fills my home, my heart, and my homeschooling, the more “the Christian religion will be properly applied.”And I can only accomplish this through “the Holy Ghost given” to me.

Yes, this is a great statement!

These persons have no such love, because they have not the religion that inspires it.

Maybe I can understand what he’s saying here better by saying that these persons don’t have Jesus. They are not filled with the Holy Ghost. They might have a head knowledge of Scripture, but they don’t do what it says.

So they don’t have love. They don’t see any use for God’s Word, and the only use for God’s Word is love.

…and the spurious religion which admits of the maxim above mentioned, is not the religion of God, and consequently better untaught than taught.

Yup. Any “religion” that doesn’t include Scripture (because it doesn’t view it as relevant to our lives) and doesn’t include love for God and others is “better untaught.” Amen!

If we’re attending churches that don’t believe Scripture is relevant, then we’re wasting our time and corrupting our children. What about Creation? Do our churches teach it as truth? What about Jesus as the only way to be saved? What about love for God and others? Do you see this evidenced in the lives of those in your church? If you don’t, your children won’t either — and this is religion that is better “untaught.”

How about in your own home? What do your children see there? How about in their mother?

We’ve got a great start to a biblical homeschooling philosophy, don’t we? Let’s continue this next week, but in summary for today,

  1. Compare all homeschooling philosophies, methods, and goals with God’s Word!
  2. It is my biblical duty to teach the fear of God to my children. This is the basis of all their homeschooling subjects.
  3. If God’s Word doesn’t affect my own life, I won’t teach it to my children.
  4. All of Scripture is to be taught to my children.
  5. Truth is evidenced by a love for God and a love for man.
  6. Anything that doesn’t teach God’s truth should not be taught at all.

~Anne

Comments

  1. I absolutely love this article! Thank you so much for sharing. I am a mother of twins just getting ready to start into the world of home learning. This article helps me to more clearly define our convictions for educating our children at home.

  2. Thank you so much for this reminder. I have been suffering from the mid year slump and with things being busy around our house have had many days I have let bible study go in order to get a math or grammar lesson done. Shame on me. I will be reworking our curriculum to include the bible in every subject, not just have a subject on the bible. Thanks again!

  3. Great article! Thanks for sharing “Adam who?!”

  4. Thank you for this article. You are right in that this attitude and philosophy is alive and well today. We have a neighbor, very anti- religion, that refuses to let his 6 year old know anything about God until he is old enough to make up his own mind. Problem, that 6 year old is having his mind bent away from God the whole time. When he is old enough (whenever that is??) he will already be hard and so exposed to the world that he won’t be able to hear what God is saying. And your comment about homeschooling today and being enamored with the “great minds” of this time period–how very true. I am finding as I go through some of the various materials available today, that I need to question even the great minds of yesteryear. The only source we can trust is God himself who said over and over in the Proverbs to seek after wisdom, to hang on and not let go. Only then would we dwell without fear and in safety. And I love a very simple definition for wisdom I heard a long time ago–WISDOM–thinking God’s way.

  5. This is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing!
    Joycelyn

  6. Anne, I love this quote and your thoughts! I can’t wait to read more!! It goes right along with thoughts I’ve been pondering lately http://learninghowmuchidontknow.blogspot.com/2011/01/right-education.html

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m reposting his quote with a link to your blog and thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Anne Elliott says:

    Shonya, I don’t mind at all. Wow… what a great discussion going on at your blog right now! Keep it up…
    ~Anne

  8. Anne-I hope you don’t mind but I want to share this on my blog and facebook (with a link to your page of course). So often I am asked why we homeschool and I have been thinking for a while about writing a blog post about it and then I read this (can’t wait to read part 2) and figured why re-invent the wheel lol? This perfectly describes my primary motivation for home educating my children. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Lisa

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