Citing Luther's theology of the cross vs. theology of glory, West tries to argue that homeschooling parents are motivated by fear rather than faith. A theology-of-glory person avoids obstacles, but a theology-of-the-cross person welcomes them, because he has faith in the Gospel's transformative power. Homeschoolers are more of the former category, West argues, than the latter. They withdraw from the world out of fear, and do not in faith rise to the challenge to be salt and light in the world. They lack confidence in the power of the Gospel. In his words:
It fears; it lives in fearfulness, and it has forgotten that "perfect love casts out fear". The theology of homeschooling calls for a withdrawal from society because, at its heart, it does not believe. Not really. Not that God can change people and thereby change society through the Gospel. And finally it supposes that society, social structures, and God ordained offices are evil. Indeed, it calls what God has ordained evil and withdrawal good. It errs in so doing, theologically.Then our sister and sometime-visitor here Kate responded in a post she says West was unwilling to allow. Like the two comments West allowed on his site, she argues that we do not HS out of fear and unbelief. She makes great points.
My wife observed that, in fact, the first waves of homeschoolers had a lot more to fear from their course of action than we generally do today. Society rejected them, thought them weird at best. They had to endure persecution from various government functionaries, and many had to defend their rights in court, at great expense. They were driven to confront their fear, due to their convictions -- because their concern for their children's souls was greater than this fear. She's absolutely right, of course.
Here's my somewhat-different response.
West has written the sort of article I might have written twenty-plus years ago, when I knew very little about homeschooling. At that time, my only HSing contacts was in fact a couple who struck me as having escapist and elitist leanings.
The following years brought me kids, experience of PSing as it is done today, and eventually a great deal more thought about and exposure to HSing. That's a story for another post, perhaps. The upshot is that I converted in a big way.
For my part, I don't accept West's premise. I don't agree with him that parents who free their children from government indoctrination are motivated by a faithless fear. Fear can be a perfectly good, rational, and godly motivator in child-training and care.
Why don't I let my goofy, adorable, indispensible little six-year-old play in the street, unsupervised? Fear. Why don't I let him run up the bank of a raging, rushing river? Fear. Does this fear indicate a lack of faith on my part? Don't I trust the sovereignty and goodness of God? Couldn't God protect him in any of those situations -- stop careening cars, split surging rivers in two? Of course.
But God gave me to my children to be their parent so that I could protect them, so that I could let my rational, sane fears drive me to take pro-active measures. That's my job -- and I'm the worst kind of contemptible fool if I try to shrug my God-given responsibilty back off onto God.
When the Galatians were wobbling under temptation to a false Gospel, what did Paul say? "I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain" (Galatians 4:11). Should he have been rebuked for his lack of faith? He went on to say, "my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you" (vv. 19-20). Is this ungodly anxiety? If it was anxiety, Paul did not regard it as a vice. In fact, Paul told the Philippians that one trait he loved in Pastor Timothy was that he, like Paul, would "genuinely be anxious" about their welfare (Philippians 2:20, Greek).
So what of public schools? Don't I want my kids to be salt and light, to engage the world with the Gospel? I do, passionately.
So, on West's line of argument, why don't I really "go for the gold"? Why don't I stop sequestering them in our sound, local church? Why don't I send them off to a Roman Catholic church, or a Kingdom Hall, or a Mormon church, from age 5 on? Shouldn't they evangelize those pagans? Isn't that a wonderful opportunity?
Of course it isn't. Their shoulders aren't broad enough to bear that weight. They're young saplings; they need support, nourishment, time, and a modicum of protection.
And so what are the government schools today? Are they (as I once naively imagined) flawed but fundamentally impartial purveyors of the mechanics of mathematics and writing, and the "brute facts" of history? In no way. As a school official condescendingly informed me when I protested a school interference, "Yes, Mr. Phillips; we know that used to be the model. But we take a more holistic approach now. Anything and everything that concerns the child is our concern."
I won't quote you the exact wording of my inner response to that. The "dynamic equivalent" would be, "Yeah, right."
Government schools today are religious institutions. It is basically the same -- to my mind -- as sending them to a Unitarian church. They do have a religious worldview (secular humanism), and they do set out to indoctrinate our children from Day One. Since the government itself is sterile, it uses us as brood stock, and seeks to turn our children into compliant statelings, suckled on the State's teat from progressively earlier days on.
I speak in generalities, of course. There are courageous Christian teachers trying to work within the system. Plus, I am explaining my perspective, and my rationale. I do not assume to know the situational considerations motivating other parents. Mine is one legitimate Christian choice; it is not the only one.
My target is this "fear factor" criticism. I find it silly, in this connection. My children are not born knowing what to fear -- so I do it for them, in their younger years. As they mature, I do it less. My older son and daughter are in different categories -- but I still express concerns to them, as I see fit. And fear -- intelligent, rational, responsible fear -- is sometimes behind those concerns.
As parents, it's our job to be afraid of the right things, and do something pro-active about it.
It is the failure (or refusal) to be motivated by appropriate fear that indicates defective faith.