Here’s your “dog bites mailman,” obvious news bulletin of the day: the world is a dangerous, scary place.
And the more things change, the more they stay the same; the world has always been (in the words of Luther) “with devils filled,” “for still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.” The world has ever been a place where enemies abound and uncertainty reigns, where hatred and injustice prosper while good men toil unnoticed. As Psalm 73 affirms, “the ungodly […] are always at ease; they increase in riches.” Though Lot “pitched his tent even as far as Sodom” (Gen 13:12), yet he was “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” (2 Pet 2:7). We feel you, Lot.
Even so, our culture has its own unique style of danger and scariness. We dwell in a post-Christian society, a civilization currently imploding on itself, with its very foundations crumbling before our eyes. Racial turmoil and social foment, political polarization, economic instability, and institutional decay (not to mention the chaos inspired by global pandemic) are obvious signs that something’s rotten in the state of Denmark. Ross Douthat, in his book The Decadent Society: How We Became Victims of Our Own Success, quotes G.K. Chesterton’s analysis of the prolonged autumn of the Roman empire: “There was nothing left that could conquer Rome, but there was also nothing left that could improve it. … It was the end of the world, and the worst of it was that it need never end.” Douthat asserts that the dilemma Chesterton described “is now not Rome’s but ours.”
Rod Dreher, in Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, writes,
Elites and elite institutions are abandoning old-fashioned liberalism, based in defending the rights of the individual, and replacing it with a progressive creed that regards justice in terms of groups. It encourages people to identify groups – ethnic, sexual, and otherwise – and to think of Good and Evil as a matter of power dynamics among the groups. A utopian vision drives these progressives, one that compels them to seek to rewrite history and reinvent language to reflect their ideals of social justice.
Dreher further describes the shifting standards of thought, speech, and behavior that cancel culture seeks to enforce in the academy, government, and the media: “You can never be sure when those in power will come after you as a villain for having said something that was perfectly fine the day before. And the consequences for violating the new taboos are extreme, including losing your livelihood and having your reputation ruined forever.” I’m sure that examples are multiplying in your mind as you read this: men are now women, women are now men, love is now hate, and lies are now truth. Dreher has a name for the resulting thought control and coercion – “soft totalitarianism.” He writes, “A progressive – and profoundly anti-Christian – militancy is steadily overtaking society.” He urges us to learn from those who resisted 20th c. Soviet totalitarianism so that we, as Christians, can learn to resist, too, and live faithfully for Jesus Christ. (By the way, please read this book!)
Here is my real point: this is the world into which we are sending our children. God calls us to do so in Psalm 127, speaking of our children as weapons: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” We are to launch our children into this world as adults, the way a warrior launches an arrow from his bow. Will our children be ashamed, or will they “speak with their enemies in the gate”? It’s not a question of whether they will need to be prepared for warfare, but how prepared they will be. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
We need to teach our children to think well, to use the gift of reason that God gave them when He made them in His image. Thomas Sowell wrote, “One of the painful signs of dumbed-down education is how many people are unable to make a coherent argument. They can vent their emotions, question other people’s motives, make bold assertions, repeat slogans – anything except reason.” Into this setting we must launch children who are well-prepared to out-think the devil, resist the indoctrination campaign of the cultured despisers of the truth, and take every thought captive to Christ.
Further, we need to train our children to be courageous and loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter the cost. C.S. Lewis famously wrote that “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Following Christ will be increasingly costly, both for us and for our children. Will they be sturdy, courageous, stalwart, ready for the testing of their faith? Will their faith be deeply rooted in the Bible and a biblical worldview? Will they be wise in the ways of the enemy because they have studied the history of ideas and critically examined competing ideologies in light of God’s Word? Will they have a heart for God?
Providence is, of course, a classical Christian school. I want you to know that I am increasingly aware of the profound need for us, as an institution, to zealously protect and devotedly lean into that identity, now more than ever. Luther said, “Every institution in which men are not unceasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.” We are a Christian school, where Christ is Lord and we adhere to His Word with our all. At Providence men are still men, women are still women, love is love, and truth is true – because God tells us so. There is no better time to stand for His truth than now.
The future is uncertain, and the world is a scary place. But God is sovereign, and He has called us to be faithful to Him. To do so, we are raising our children together, equipping them to serve Him and be salt and light in a world desperate for the truth of Jesus Christ. Let’s rededicate ourselves to that great purpose, Providence parents.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).