The Biblical Structure of History: Chapter 7, Autonomy

Gary North – November 05, 2021

History is thus the self-knowledge of the living mind. For even when the events which the historian studies are events that happened in the distant past, the condition of their being historically known is that they should ‘vibrate in the historian’s mind’, that is to say, that the evidence for them should be here and now before him and intelligible to him. For history is not contained in books or documents; it lives only, as a present interest and pursuit, in the mind of the historian when he criticizes and interprets those documents, and by so doing relives up for himself the states of mind into which he inquires. – R. G. Collingwood (1946).

A. Covenant Model, Part 2

Part 2 of the biblical covenant model is hierarchy: God over man over nature.

Part 2 of the biblical model for social theory is authority. Authority is delegated by God. It is hierarchical.

Part 2 of the humanist covenant model is autonomy: man over nature, which includes other men. The humanist believes that the theory of cosmic evolution has eliminated the idea of the Creator God of the Bible. The humanist therefore denies three concepts: the sovereignty of God, the omniscience of God, and the providence of God. This denial creates a challenge: the humanist must make sense of the world without invoking any of these three biblical concepts. He searches for an authoritative theory of causation by which he can gain a correct understanding of the world. There are many conflicting theories of causation, but they all rest on this presupposition: the autonomy of man.B. Collingwood’s The Idea of History

1. Autonomy vs. Objective History

I began this chapter with the quotation from page 202 of The Idea of History. I am going to discuss his theory in detail because it is representative of what the epistemology of historians became no later than the mid-1930’s. He was not alone. But, because of his erudition as a philosopher, and because of his willingness to declare in print some of the most audacious conclusions of this position, readers who are interested in history should pay attention to what he wrote.

Oxford University Press published The Idea of History in 1946. The author, R. G. Collingwood, had died in 1943. This book was an edited version of the fragments that he had spent years writing in the 1930’s. He probably wrote most of it in 1935.

Collingwood was not a practicing historian. He was a philosopher. But his book gained rapid acceptance among historians. There were a few early critics, but the book eventually became a classic. It is still in print. It is still widely cited.

Collingwood’s primary thesis was this: the autonomy of the historian. He believed that the creative imagination of the individual (autonomous) historian is the basis of history. He did not say that the historian’s creative imagination is the basis of historiography: historical interpretation. That would not have been controversial. He argued something fundamentally different. He said that the creative historian literally creates history. This seems implausible to a non-historian, but his suggestion has gained support from practicing historians over the decades. He argued that the lone historian imputes meaning to the past. There is no objective past. The past is dead and gone. So, there are only subjective interpretations of the past—lots and lots of subjective interpretations. (See Chapter 9.) This is consistent with the idea of the autonomy of man.

The Christian philosophy of history rests on this presupposition: God imputes meaning to the past. This past is objective. Why? Because God has providentially sustained all of it. This past has left a record in God’s perfect memory. This objective past will be the context of God’s final judgment at the end of history. He continually judges the words and deeds of everyone, and His judgments are irrefutable. (See Chapter 4.) Man, who is made in God’s image, possesses an analogous ability (Chapter 2). This is why historical scholarship has meaning. This is also why there is a covenantal battle over historical interpretation.

In his rebellion, Adam decided to test God’s word against the serpent’s. Adam remembered what God had told him. There was nothing defective in his memory. This was why he was responsible for his actions. The serpent had offered Eve a different account of God’s words. She was deceived. Adam was not. He decided to test God’s words. He thereby asserted his autonomy from God. He had to assume the high probability that God had misinformed him about the consequences of his disobedience. This was a life-or-death assumption. He lost. So did we all. He was our covenantal representative (point 2).

Collingwood was Adam’s spiritual heir. He made the case for the historian’s autonomy. No other book on the philosophy of history is more self-conscious in its assertion of the individual historian’s autonomy. But, in making this case, Collingwood had to surrender the idea of objective history (the past) and also objective historiography (writing about the past). He also ignored the crucial issue of competing interpretations. In 334 pages, he never raised this issue. Refusing even to raise the question, he did not suggest an epistemology or a methodology for reconciling competing interpretations.

Then what good is the book? For understanding history, it is useless. For understanding historiography, it is equally useless. But for serving as evidence of the inability of humanism to answer the fundamental questions of both history and historiography, it is a primary source document of great value.

2. Historical Evidence and Its Interpretation

He talked about historical evidence. This included historical documents. He called this testimony. Documents possess no objective value. “History, so far from depending on testimony, has therefore no relation with testimony at all. Testimony is merely chronicle. So far as any one speaks of authorities or of accepting statements or the like, he is talking of chronicle and not of history. History is based on a synthesis of two things which only exist in that synthesis: evidence and criticism. Evidence is only evidence so far as it is used as evidence, that is to say, interpreted on critical principles; and principles are only principles so far as they are put into practice in the work of interpreting evidence” (p. 203).

This raises three questions. First, what are these critical principles? Second, what is the epistemological foundation of these critical principles? Third, how can the historian correctly apply these permanent critical principles (Parmenides) to pass judgment on the validity of evidence regarding historical change (Heraclitus). You might imagine that somewhere in the book, he would have dealt with these three questions, but he did not mention them.

I am not singling out Collingwood as having uniquely failed to explain what he was talking about. In fact, he is representative of the historical guild as a whole after the 1920’s. (See Chapters 9 and 10.) Part V of the book is “Epilogomena.” It is a long chapter, beginning on page 205 and ending on page 334. Here, he attempted to explain what he was talking about.

In section 2, “The field of historical thought,” he took a stand against what he and his peers referred to as positivist historiography. This approach to studying history extended back to the mid-nineteenth century. Positivists believed that, through a careful compilation of documents, and through careful research, historians can discover what had objectively taken place in the past. This is what normal people also suppose is possible. Otherwise, why study history? By the 1930’s, almost no professionally trained historian defended such a view. About the only person who held it was Arnold Toynbee, who was the greatest historian of the era—or maybe any era—in terms of volume of research and breadth of knowledge, but he was also the last.

Collingwood distinguished between outside history and inside history. Outside history has to do with documents. The outside of an event has to do with “bodies and their movements” (p. 213). Caesar crossed the Rubicon. A group of senators later assassinated Caesar. Something moved. In contrast, the inside of the event can be described only in terms of the thoughts of the actors. The historian must consider both. He is studying actions, and action is the unity of the outside and inside of the event. He said this of the historian: “. . . his main task is to think himself into this action, to discern the thought of its agent” (p. 213).

This means that the historian has to be a retroactive mind reader. Collingwood never used this phrase, but he used something similar: “mental science” (p. 224). I understand his point. God is a mind reader. He judges all of the thoughts of everyone. So, I am not dismissing Collingwood’s requirement that the historian must understand the motivations of historical actors. What I am saying is this: if you reject the concept of an omniscient God, you lose any authoritative way of ascertaining whether you have successfully gotten inside the mind of a past actor. I ask: What repeatable technique would enable you to do this? How would you judge the objective adequacy of this technique? How would you judge the adequacy of your ability to implement this technique in any specific assessment of evidence? Humanistic historians cannot answer these questions. They pretend that they can, but they cannot. They do not agree on what this technique is. One group has said that no such technique exists: postmodernists. They have blown the whistle on the entire profession, so to speak. They are not appreciated by the vast majority of practicing historians, but these historians have not written coherent responses to the postmodernists that invoke any agreed-upon theory of historical investigation and procedure that answers their criticisms. Postmodernists are radical autonomists. They have followed the logic of autonomy to its unpalatable conclusion: nobody can know anything about the meaning of the past. Other historians do not want to follow them down this path. (See Chapter 9.)

Collingwood continued: “For history, the object to be discovered is not the mirror event, but the thought expressed in it. To discover that thought is already to understand it. After the historian has ascertained the facts, there is no further process of inquiry into their causes. When he knows what happened, he already knows why it happened” (p. 214). But how does the historian discover this past thought? How does he understand it? How does he ascertain the facts? Once he does, I am sure that “there is no further process of inquiry into their causes.” But how can he attain this highly desirable situation? Collingwood never said.

He continued: “The cause of the event, for him, means the thought in the mind of the person by whose agency the event came about: and this is not something other than the event, it is inside the event itself” (pp. 214–15). Thus, he drew a conclusion: “All history is the history of thought” (p. 215). He then asked the right question. “But how does the historian discern the thoughts that he is trying to discover?” Here was his answer: “There is only one way in which it can be done: by rethinking them in his own mind” (p. 215). “The history of thought, and therefore all history, is the re-enactment of past thought in the historian’s own mind” (p. 215). In short, we are back to the historian as a mind reader.

Collingwood was a defender of autonomy for the historian. In a careful review of Collingwood’s unfinished book, Principles of History, David Boucher summarized Collingwood’s view of evidence: the historian creates it in his mind.

The starting point of history is not the evidence itself but what the historian, knowing the language, takes it to mean. He or she makes his or her own autonomous statement of the fact that the statement has been made. The historian makes the judgment saying that I read this evidence to be saying this rather than that, and it is in this respect that the historian is autonomous in relation to the evidence: ‘his evidence is always an experience of his own, an act which he has performed on his own powers and is conscious of having performed by his own powers: the aesthetic act of reading a certain text in a language he knows, and assigning to it a certain sense’ [PH, 43–44]. The evidence, then, is not found, but instead made in the mind of the historian, which interprets what the evidence says and what it means (“The Significance of R. G. Collingwood’s ‘Principles of History,’” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 58 [April 1997],p. 315.)

3. Historical Criticism

How does the historian do this? Through criticism. Unfortunately, Collingwood never explained how this criticism works. He never presented a methodology by which criticism can be made to work. He did not explain how such a thing as objective criticism can even exist in a subjective world. Nevertheless, he invoked the word. “It is not a passive surrender to the spell of another’s mind; it is a labour of active and therefore critical thinking. The historian not only re-enacts past thought, he re-enacts it in the context of his own knowledge and therefore, in re-enacting it, criticizes it, forms his own judgment of its value, corrects whatever errors he can discern in it. This criticism of the thought whose history he traces is not something secondary to tracing the history of it. It is an indispensable condition of the historical knowledge itself” (p. 215). This is an implication of the doctrine of autonomy. The autonomous historian must use his mind to understand the thoughts of somebody decades or millennia ago. This assumes a constancy of human thought. On what basis can an evolutionist assume this? He has to assume it, but how is it that such continuity exists? The continuity of thought means that human thought does not evolve socially. But how can human thought be rendered immune to the processes of social change? In other words, how can Parmenides defend his kingdom of changeless logic against the constant assault by random historical change? Collingwood was a consistent evolutionist. He later denied in the same chapter what he had to assume in order to make sense of his position. He spelled out in detail the implications of his position.

History, then, is not, as it has so often been mis-described, a story of successive events or an account of change. Unlike the natural scientist, the historian is not concerned with events as such at all. He is only concerned with those events which are the outward expression of thoughts, and is only concerned with these in so far as they express thoughts. At bottom, he is concerned with thoughts alone; with the outward expression in events he is concerned only by the way, in so far as these reveal to him the thoughts of which he is in search (p. 217). To the historian, the activities whose history he is studying are not spectacles to be watched, but experiences to be lived through in his own mind; they are objective, or known to him, only because they are also subjective, or activities of his own (p. 218).

It is the historian himself who stands at the bar of judgement, and there reveals his own mind in its strength and weakness, its virtues and its vices (p. 219).

As I have written, all of this assumes a continuity in human nature and human thought. This is what evolutionism denies. Collingwood was consistent. He also denied it.

To regard such a positive mental science as rising above the sphere of history, and establishing the permanent and unchanging laws of human nature, is therefore possible only to a person who mistakes the transient conditions of a certain historical age for the permanent conditions of human life. It was easy for men of the eighteenth century to make this mistake, because their historical perspective was so short, and their knowledge of cultures other than their own so limited, that they could cheerfully identify the intellectual habits of a western European in their own day with the intellectual faculties bestowed by God upon Adam and all his progeny (p. 224).

Notice his contempt regarding the idea of God the Creator bestowing Adam and mankind with constant intellectual faculties, meaning constant logic. Collingwood was an evolutionist. He was in revolt against the idea of a Creator God. So were eighteenth-century Enlightenment historians. So were sixteenth-century Renaissance historians. But they accepted the idea of a fixed human nature. Collingwood did not. “The idea of a science of human nature, as entertained in the eighteenth century, belonged to a time when it was still believed that the human species, like every other, was a special creation with unalterable characteristics” (p. 224). We know better today, he assured his readers. I ask: if there is no valid science of human nature, as Collingwood insisted there is not, then what is the meaning of “positive mental science”? He never said.

4. Relativism

Collingwood at this point had painted himself into a corner: relativism. He did not want to be in that corner. But he had a problem. He was an evolutionist. Social evolution changes people’s ideas. This raises a question: how can today’s historian accurately—objectively—understand the thoughts of people who made decisions thousands of years ago? Collingwood had to maintain the idea of the continuity of human thought in order to justify the idea of an historian whose mind has a connection with the minds of people long dead. If this connection is not viable, one generation to the next, then there can be no historical truth. He was horrified by this suggestion. So, he denied that evolutionary change applies to human thought. His argument had two parts. Here is part 1: an admission that the intellectual problem exists.

The fallacy inherent in the very idea of a science of human nature is not removed by pointing out that human nature, like every kind of nature, must according to the principles of modern thought be conceived as subject to evolution. Indeed, such a modification of the idea only leads to worse consequences. Evolution, after all, is a natural process, a process of change; and as such it abolishes one specific form in creating another. The trilobites of the Silurian age may be the ancestors of the mammals of to-day, including ourselves; but a human being is not a kind of wood-louse. The past, in a natural process, is a past superseded and dead. Now suppose the historical process of human thought were in this sense an evolutionary process. It would follow that the ways of thinking characteristic of any given historical period are ways in which people must think then, but in which others, cast at different times in a different mental mould, cannot think at all. If that were the case, there would be no such thing as truth: according to the inference correctly drawn by Herbert Spencer, what we take today for knowledge is merely the fashion of present-day thought, not true but at the most useful in our struggle for existence (p. 225).

We have now arrived at point 3 of the humanists’ concept of history: relativism. There is no truth. (See Chapter 8.) But Collingwood, without warning, reversed himself. He denied the logic of this position. This is part 2 of his argument. He said that evolution applies only to a natural process. It does not apply to historical change. The problem he faced was this: he had to show that historical change is not at least as evolutionistic as change in the biological world. To make this argument, he invoked corporate imputation. He had spent a hundred pages talking about the autonomy of the historian. But he finally admitted that the autonomous historian faces the problem of the discontinuity of thought over time. There is no way for the historian to be certain that, when he somehow gets inside the dead man’s mind, he can understand it correctly. So, Collingwood at this point abandoned the idea of the historian who imputes meaning autonomously. He needs help. “The body of human thought or mental activity is a corporate possession, and almost all the operations which our minds perform are operations which we learned to perform from others who have performed them already. Since mind is what it does, and human nature, if it is a name for anything real, is only a name for human activities, this acquisition of ability to perform determined operations is the acquisition of a determinate human nature. Thus the historical process is a process in which man creates for himself this or that kind of human nature by re-creating in his own thought the past to which he is heir” (p. 226).

In the game of poker, this procedure is described as dealing from the bottom of the deck. His invocation of corporate mental continuity down through the ages is in opposition to what he had been arguing for: an autonomous historian’s imputation of meaning to autonomous human beings in the past. I ask: How did this continuity maintain itself? How can he prove this? People change their opinions. Societies do, too. How can an autonomous historian impute accurate meaning to the past in terms of what actors in the past believed? How can he determine such meaning? In terms of social evolutionism, he cannot do this. In terms of humanist philology, there is no agreed-on theory that answers this problem.

Having made this argument of mental continuity by way of corporate instruction, he reversed himself again. He went back to his original justification of the autonomous historian. He never again raised the issue of corporate imputation, for corporate imputation is a denial of individual autonomy. (See Chapter 9.) He wrote this. (Warning: what you are about to read is incoherent.) “The historical process is itself a process of thought, and it exists only in so far as the minds which are parts of it know themselves for parts of it. By historical thinking, the mind whose self-knowledge is history not only discovers within itself those powers of which historical thought reveals the possession, but actually develops those powers from a latent to an actual state, brings them into effective existence” (p. 226). You cannot make sense of this, can you? That is because it makes no sense. Reread it. It is not going to make any more sense the second time than it did the first time.

Here is a way to spot someone who is in trouble answering a difficult question. For a time, you can follow his arguments. Then, without warning, he becomes incoherent. You can no longer follow his argument. If you try to get inside his mind, you find that his mind is jumbled. This is not because your mind is jumbled. He has failed to maintain logical coherence. This was Collingwood’s problem. His theory of history rested on the assumption of the continuity of human thought. But his theory of history did not offer cogent reasons to believe in such a concept. Humanism’s theory of autonomy undermines such a concept. Collingwood had to justify his theory of autonomous individual imputation of meaning to the past. He failed. He did not solve the problem raised by the theory of evolution. The doctrine of evolution undermines every theory of a constant human nature. Collingwood was in revolt against the concept of God-given human nature. But, to maintain his position, he invoked an unsupported theory of corporate mankind-given continuity of thought. There is such continuity, he said, because we have been taught ideas by others, who were taught ideas by others, who were taught ideas by others, all the way back to the non-objective past event, “outside and inside.” This justification of continuity is implausible. He offered no support for it. He merely asserted it. He never mentioned it again in his book.

Collingwood never finished this book. He started another, which he also did not finish. He never got his system clear in his own mind. He denied God’s granting of constancy in human logic. He did so in the name of evolution. But then, having chased God out of the universe by means of the theory of evolution, he found himself defending the autonomous historian who somehow has the ability to get inside the minds of people who have been dead for millennia. He had to assume the constancy of imputed ethical value and the constancy of imputed meaning. But he could not defend his concept of continuity in terms of his theory of autonomous individual imputation. So, he invoked collective imputation. He invoked an undefined system of consistent education down through the ages, which somehow preserves sufficient continuity of meaning for the historian to practice his “mental science.”

5. Evolving Principles of Selection

He asked a good question. “How can we ever satisfy ourselves of the principles on which we think are true, except by going on thinking according to those principles, and seeing whether unanswerable criticisms of them emerge as we work?” (p. 230). This is pragmatism. This is the philosophy of “if it works in practice, it is morally and epistemologically valid.” But then the humanist needs a theory for determining what works objectively. Collingwood did not offer such a theory.

He wanted liberty, which he defined as autonomy. He therefore did not want any trace of Parmenidean constancy in his theory of history. “History, therefore, cannot be made to square with theories according to which the object of knowledge is abstract and changeless, a logical entity toward which the mind may take up various attitudes” (p. 234). He claimed that he was offering “a Copernican revolution in the theory of history: the discovery that, so far from relying on authority other than himself, to whose statements his thought must conform, the historian is his own authority and his thought at times, self-authorizing, possessed of a criterion to which his so-called authorities must conform and by reference to which they are criticized” (p. 236).

In the next paragraph, he got to the main point of the entire book. It is the issue associated with the selection of facts and their interpretation. This issue affects every field of thought. It is the essence of the problem of knowledge. If man is not made in the image of God, yet he is still held responsible by someone or something for his thoughts and actions, this raises a question: which facts should he pay attention to at any point in his life? Here is Collingwood’s answer.

The autonomy of historical thought is seen at its simplest in the work of selection. The historian tries to work on the common-sense theory, and accurately reproduce what he finds in his authorities, resembles a landscape-painter who tries to work on that theory of art which bids the artist copy nature. He may fancy that he is reproducing in his own medium the actual shapes and colours of natural things; but however hard he tries to do this he is always selecting, simplifying schematizing, leaving out what he thinks unimportant and putting in what he regards as essential. . . . It is he, therefore, and not his authority, that is responsible for what goes on. On that question he is his own master: his thought is to that extent autonomous (pp. 236–37).

The historian autonomously creates the past. “The historian’s picture is his subject, whether that subject be a sequence of events or a past state of things, thus appears as a web of imaginative constructions stretched between certain fixed points provided by the statements of his authorities; and if these points are frequent enough and the threads spun from each to the next are constructed with due care, always by the a priori imagination and never by merely arbitrary fancy, the whole picture is constantly verified by appeal to these data, and runs little risk of losing touch with the reality which it represents” (p. 242). Notice his use of the word “if.” He based his case for the idea of history on this assumption, never explained: if has become are. I ask: “How can the historian know whether there are enough points?” There are always more. Next, how can he know whether he has connected the “threads” with “due care”? What is “due care”? Next, how can the historian distinguish between “the a priori imagination” and “arbitrary fancy”? For that matter, how can there be such a thing as an a priori imagination in a world of constant flux? The moment that somebody invokes a priori anything, he is nestled securely in the arms of Parmenides, who will squeeze him to death if he decides to change his mind about anything. In the world of humanism, when you embrace a priori, you must necessarily abandon a posteriori: the ability to assess new facts that may lead to new ideas. In short, you lose your liberty.

Collingwood, in the name of autonomy, wrote this: “The a priori imagination which does the work of historical construction supplies the means of historical criticism as well” (p. 245). I ask: how does such autonomous imagination supply the means of historical criticism? How does it criticize the means of criticism? In other words, how can the historian’s historical construction be evaluated in such a way that he can reach the truth about the past? What are the means of criticism? How does the historian get access to them? How does the historian apply them in specific situations? Are they permanent? Do they evolve? He answered none of these questions. He did not bother to ask them in the book.

At this point, his inner Heraclitus beat the stuffing out of his inner Parmenides.

It is for the same reason then in history, as in all serious matters, no achievement is final. The evidence available for solving any given problem changes with every change of historical method and with every variation in the competence of historians. The principles by which this evidence is interpreted changed too. . .” (p. 248).

. . . every new historian, not content with giving new answers to old questions, must revise the questions themselves; and—since historical thought is a river into which none can step twice—even a single historian working at a single subject for a certain length of time, finds when he tries to reopen an old question that the question has changed (p. 248).

This position produces skepticism. He did not want to be understood as advocating skepticism. So, he denied categorically the implication of what he had just written. “This is not an argument for historical skepticism. It is only the discovery of a second dimension of historical thought, the history of history: the discovery that the historian himself, together with the here-and-now which forms the total body of evidence available to him, is a part of the process he is studying, has his own place in that process, and can see it only from the point of view which at this present moment he occupies within it” (p. 248). I ask: what is this process? If it is a process, it keeps changing. But if it keeps changing, then the truth keeps changing. If the truth keeps changing, there is no truth across history. If “the process he is studying” keeps changing, this is a philosophy of skepticism. He did not show that this process does not keep changing. Here was his problem: an evolutionist is beset on all sides by historical processes that keep changing. This is the curse of Heraclitus.

What happens to historical truth? Collingwood did not say. He attempted to say it, but he did not say it coherently. “But neither the raw material of historical knowledge, the detail of the here-and-now, is given him in perception, not the various endowments that serve him as aids to interpreting this evidence, can give the historian his criterion of historical truth. That criterion is the idea of history itself: the idea of an imaginary picture of the past” (p. 248). I ask: what was his idea of history? He never got around to saying. Instead, he told us about the autonomy of historians in making judgments regarding documents that express dead people’s motivations and thoughts. He justified these creative explanations in terms of a priori principles that change. He needed to write a book on how a priori principles change.

He then wrote what he thought might be inspirational to some budding historian who took seriously his theory of history, whatever it was. This is what the young historian can look forward to. “The historian, however long and faithfully he works, can never say that his work, even in crudest outline or in this or that smallest detail, is done once for all. He can never say that his picture of the past is at any point adequate to the idea of what ought to be. But, however fragmentary and faulty the results of his work may be, the idea which governed his course is clear, rational, and universal. It is the idea of the historical imagination as a self-dependent, self-determining, and self-justifying form of thought” (p. 249). I do not regard this as an inspirational rallying cry to recruit, train, and motivate successive generations of dedicated historians.C. Van Til on Collingwood

I have gone through some of the arguments that Collingwood made in defense of the totally autonomous historian. Van Til devoted six pages to an analysis of Collingwood in Part 1 of the syllabus, Christianity in Conflict (1962).

Van Til got to the heart of the matter. Collingwood was opposed to the idea of an omniscient God who imputes meaning to his universe. He denied God’s sovereignty. “According to Collingwood the sort of philosophy of history involved in orthodox Christianity is to be called theocratic history [p. 15]. In theocratic history humanity is not an agent, but partly an instrument and partly a patient, of the actions recorded. The idea of God’s plan back of history as revealed by Christ in history through the Scriptures is said to be pure determination. Collingwood will not think of man as made in the image of God and therefore as an analogue of God” (pp. 10–11). Here was the motivation behind Collingwood’s vision of the totally autonomous historian. “For Collingwood, man’s thought, to be really his own, must be absolutely his own. Man must be his own ultimate interpreter” (p. 11). This means autonomy.

Van Til then asked a question: “What happens to the ‘objective facts of history’ on this point of view? The answer is that they gradually disappear into the subject that interprets them. That does not mean that the subject at last creates them in the sense that it produces them. But it does signify that the meaning to be attached to any objective historical fact is what it is as part of the framework that the subject projects for itself” (p. 11). What Van Til wrote about Collingwood applies to all of the humanists who have offered a philosophy of history. They attribute to the individual historian the ability to impute meaning to historical facts—facts revealed by historical evidence. But this view of imputation means that every man becomes his own historian. This creates cacophony in historiography. There is no way to bring harmony to this cacophony, given the presuppositions of humanism. (See Chapter 9.)

Here was Collingwood’s recommendation, Van Til wrote: “Collingwood thinks that the modern historian should follow Vico, the Italian philosopher of history, in holding that verurn et factum convertuntur [p. 64] The fabric of human society is created by man out of nothing, and every detail of this fabric is therefore a human factum, eminently knowable to the human mind as such [p. 65]” (p. 11). Although Van Til did not say this, Vico’s vision of the autonomy of man goes back to the Renaissance.

I have devoted this chapter entirely to Collingwood. There is a reason for this. Van Til understood this reason in 1962. “The great virtue of Collingwood’s view is that it so plainly rests itself upon the autonomy of man. When he speaks of the autonomy of the historical method he speaks, of course, in opposition to the idea that the historian should narrowly follow the method of the scientist. But more basically he is opposing the idea that the historian should be required to submit to any statement even in his own field as authoritative. The rights of the historian are infringed if he is required to take any statement at face value as being a true account of the facts that have taken place” (p. 15). The implication of this outlook can accurately be described in one word: skepticism.Conclusion

Collingwood did not finish the book. He started to write another, but he only wrote four chapters. Then he died.

The Idea of History presents one inconsistent theory after another. First, the autonomous historian needs to be able to impute meaning to past events. The past events are dead and gone. They are not objective. Collingwood’s theory implicitly assumes that there is no objective history. There is only imputed history, even five minutes after an event. It has become history. The historian needs evidence. But this evidence is not evidence until he imputes meaning to what the evidence points to. He has to be able to read the minds of the people who produced the documents. He also has to read the mind of the person described in the documents. This means that there has to be a source of epistemological continuity from the past to the present, so that he will be able to understand what the dead person was thinking. But, in a world of autonomous imputations of meaning, the existence of such epistemological continuity cannot legitimately be assumed. Also, in a world of evolutionary change, such epistemological continuity seems out of the question. So, Collingwood was forced to invoke collective judgments over time. Somebody taught the historian how to think, and somebody taught the person who taught the historian, back to the historical document. Then he dropped the argument.

Everything is in flux. This includes the principles of historical interpretation. It includes human logic. It includes individual value judgments down through the ages. There has to be continuity in the imputation of meaning, but autonomous man cannot show why this continuity exists or how he can take advantage of it in order to understand the past.

From a philosophical standpoint, Collingwood was among the best and the brightest of the authors who have offered a philosophy of history. He never offered guidelines for writing history: the selection of documents, analyzing documents, and the application of his unexplained critical theory to documents and also interpretations. He was not a practicing historian. But even if he had been, this would have done his theory no good. There have been a lot of practicing humanistic historians who have attempted to provide a philosophical justification for what they do and how they do it. They have been no more successful than he was. I hope to demonstrate this in the next two chapters.

Pat Buchanan on Public Schools: Wrong from the Beginning

Gary North – October 30, 2021

Pat Buchanan wrote an editorial on Terry McAuliffe’s run for governor in Virginia.

McAuliffe is your basic Democrat arm-twister. He believes in the big state. He was the major fundraiser for Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. He used to be the head of the Democratic National Committee. In other words, he is part of the problem.

He wants to be governor of Virginia. Again.

The polls say that he is running neck and neck with an unknown Republican. It will be settled on Tuesday.

Maybe the major issue on which McAuliffe is vulnerable was his statement publicly that parents do not have the right to tell school boards what to do. Buchanan hopes it will cost him the election. So do I.

But, to make his case, Buchanan fell into the standard conservative trap. He accepts the legitimacy of public education. He accepts the legitimacy of the myth that parents have a say in public education. Parents have never had a say in public education. That goes back to 1837 in the state of Massachusetts. Parents have been pushed around about what is taught in the public schools ever since there were public schools in America. The whole point of the public schools is to shove the ideology of the educators down the throats of children.

Doubt this? Read John Taylor Gatto’s book, The Underground History of American Education. Read R. J. Rushdoony’s Messianic Character of American Education.

Any suggestion that parents have now or ever had any significant influence in the public schools is ludicrous. It buys into the mythology of the public schools. The public schools have floated this mythology, or at least used too, that the parents have a say. But this has always been a convenient illusion. It has always been a con job. It is time to stop accepting the con job.

Here is what Buchanan wrote: Who Decides What Kids Should Be Taught?

For if he does lose, it will be because of an elitist belief McAuliffe blurted out during a debate with Republican rival Glenn Youngkin:

“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions. … I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Yet, during his own term as governor, one Virginia school district pulled copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn” out of the schools because of the books’ use of racial slurs.

McAuliffe blurted out what has been the truth from the beginning. He articulated what was implicit when the state of Massachusetts replaced government support of the Congregational churches with government support for public schools. They got rid of tax support for the churches in 1833. They started supporting the public schools in 1837. The state was setting up a replacement tax-funded church run by a Unitarian, Horace Mann. The switch was blatant. They got away with it. The Christians went along with it. They always go along with it. Christians are dumber than dirt on matters of public education. That is because they have been educated in the public schools. The public schools do a very good job in turning Christians’ minds into gray sludge.

When in power, the humanists always get their way with what gets taught in the schools. So, by getting rid of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, the school board was doing exactly what humanists always do. Of course, this was hypocritical. The whole thing has been hypocritical since 1837. It is based on hypocrisy. It is the most successful single hypocrisy in American culture.

What McAuliffe was saying was that the knowledge, truths and beliefs imparted to children in public schools are to be determined by school officials and teachers alone. Parents have no role and should butt out.

Parents should butt out. And when they butt out, they should take their children with them. That would break the back of the public school system. It would break the back of the humanist, leftist oligarchy in this country. But Buchanan is not talking about that kind of butting out. No, he is talking about a handful of parents going to a school board meeting, screaming bloody murder, going home, and then sending their kids in the public schools when the school board pays no attention to them. This has been going on since 1837.

His dismissal of any parental role in education did more than cause a backlash against McAuliffe. It put on the national agenda an issue that will be engaged and fought long after this Virginia governor’s race is over.

The victory here would last a couple of years, maybe. This would be one more case of the Left wing humanists’ running of the public schools: keeping parents from pulling their kids out of the schools. “Look, look, conservative parents won!” What will they win? They will win the right to send their kids back into a school system that, in every course, teaches the humanist worldview. And it is all done at taxpayer expense. It costs about $12,000 per child per year. Some victory.

But to the voters of Virginia, who have been moving to Youngkin since McAuliffe made his now-famous remark, these are real issues.

Critical race theory is peripheral to the nonsense that the public schools have taught for a century. There is no CRT curriculum yet. There will be. It is going to be rammed down the throats of the public within a couple of years. Billy Bob and Jenny Sue are going to be taught critical race theory, just as they are taught about Heather having two mommies. If the humanists want it, they are going to get it. The parents do not have any say.

Humanists are content once in a while to let the illusion spread among naïve parents that something the parents want is going to be done by the local school boards. Until there is a comprehensive CRT curriculum, it really does not matter that school boards delay implementation.

For what their children are taught and not taught in the public schools to which parents consign them from age 5 to age 18 are matters of grave concern for those parents. For it will affect the kind of adults and citizens their children will become.. . .

These schools are helping shape what children come to believe about the moral, social and historical issues tearing our country apart. These schools are helping shape the men and women these children will become.

He has got that right! And this is why the conservative movement has never had a prayer. This is why the conservative movement has been little more than an annoyance to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Consider. Under the landmark Supreme Court rulings in Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, abortion and same-sex marriage have been made constitutional rights. Yet both decisions contradict biblical truths, Catholic doctrine and natural law.

And what did Catholic bishops do about that? Nothing. Did they reopen parochial schools? No. Did Catholic parents immediately pull their kids out of the public school to homeschool them? No. Are they likely to do this? No.

While both decisions are today the law of the land, have parents no right to object if public-school teachers instruct their students that these decisions were right, moral and just? Do students and parents have no right to dissent, both inside and outside the classroom?

Of course they have the right to object. And the school boards have the right to laugh at them behind their backs, shove a new curriculum down the kids’ throats, and hike the cost per student to $13,000 a year. That is what they have done for a century and a half, and what they will do until parents pull their kids out of the schools. The pattern is clear. It is basic to the history of the United States since 1837.

Do parents have no right to object if the tenets of critical race theory — that America is shot through with “systemic racism,” that whites are privileged from birth and blacks oppressed — are taught as truth about the country to which they have given their loyalty and love?

Of course they have a right to object. And then they have the right to go home, shut their mouths, pay their taxes, and send Jenny Sue and Billy Bob into the public schools, which they had done from the beginning, and which their parents did, and which their parents’ parents did, all the way back to 1837.

CONCLUSION

When you ignore a trend that is unbroken since 1837, and you pretend that that this trend can be rolled back by the means of coercion — taking money from taxpayers to fund your kids’ education — you are living in a fantasy world. It is a fantasy world that is the product of public school education coupled with inconsistent conservative ideology.

It all boils down to this question. Are the parents responsible for the education of their children, or is the state?

The Biblical Structure of History: Introduction

Gary North (www.garynorth.com), October 25, 2021

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? (1 Corinthians 6:1–3)

A. Analysis

This is a familiar passage. Paul was writing to the church at Corinth to raise money. First Corinthians is the first known example of a fund-raising letter. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye” (1 Corinthians 16:1). Second Corinthians is the second known fund-raising letter.

The call for money came at the end of this letter. Paul devoted the early section to issues of church discipline. Chapter 5 deals with the sin of incest. Paul called on the church to bring the sinner under church discipline. Chapter 6 deals with church members who were taking other members before Roman courts. Paul said this should stop. By submitting to Rome’s courts, church members were acknowledging that justice from Rome was superior to justice from the church. This meant that they trusted the judgment of covenant-breakers more than they trusted covenant-keepers. They trusted Roman law more than God’s aw. This was an implicit statement of faith. They trusted the gods of Rome more than the God of the Bible. Those gods would provide justice. This is a crucial attribute of the gods in every society.

Then Paul asked a remarkable question. Didn’t they understand that Christians will judge the world? This was not a rhetorical question. Paul did not think that they understood this. This was a matter of eschatology. He was saying this: at some point in between his day and Christians’ entry into the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21, 22), Christians will be in a position of judicial authority, judging the world. He did not say when, but he made it clear that this would be the case.

Then he asked an even more amazing question. Didn’t they know that Christians will judge the angels? This is one of the most astounding statements in the Bible. It is so astounding that Christians find it difficult to believe. It has significant implications for biblical eschatology: the doctrine of the last things. Yet you have probably never heard a sermon on this passage.

Christianity confronted the ancient world with a unique doctrine: the final judgment. This doctrine was not clearly taught in the Old Testament. It was not taught by classical religion. There will be a final end to history. It will be marked by God’s judgment of everyone who has ever lived. It is described in Matthew 25, but especially the final third of Matthew 25: verses 31 to 46. This is the passage made famous by the phrase “sheep and goats.”

This will not be the final act of the final judgment. John added this: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14–15).

If we believe what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:3, something will take place after the separation of the sheep and the goats, but before God’s casting the goats and the fallen angels into the lake of fire. Yet 1 Corinthians 6:3 is never discussed in terms of the final judgment’s sequence. It is rarely discussed at all. There will be a final judgment that separates covenant-keepers from covenant-breakers. Christian churches have always taught this. This judgment will determine who will go into the lake of fire: the contents of hell. Fallen angels will be in hell. God made hell expressly for them. “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

There are covenant-keeping angels and covenant-breaking angels. Christians call covenant-breaking angels “demons.” They are sometimes called devils. Who will judge them at the end of history? Paul was quite clear about this: covenant-keeping humans. This will be the final task in history given to covenant-keepers. This will complete history’s phase of the dominion covenant (Genesis 1:26–28). Fallen angels and human covenant-breakers will no longer be factors in history after this final judgment. They will be consigned to the lake of fire.

Conclusion: the final judgment of humanity is not the final act of judgment. Then what is? Execution: the second death. But, before that can be imposed on men and demons, there has to be a trial. Paul said specifically that this trial will be conducted by covenant-keepers. Humans will judge fallen angels. During history, angels have far more power than humans. They are closer to omnipotence than humans. They are closer to omniscience than humans. They understand something of the future. Yet all of this is reversed in what can be called, judicially speaking, a great reversal. Covenant-keepers will judge fallen angels. Until this takes place, the marriage supper of the lamb cannot take place (Revelation 19:9). Neither can the establishment of the sin-free new heavens and new earth (Revelation 21, 22).

The transition from wrath to grace will be completed immediately after the final judgment of humanity. The transition from grace to wrath took place at the fall of man. The fall of man was specifically a failure on the part of humanity to exercise biblical justice. Eve or perhaps Adam and Eve together were required by God to bring judgment against the serpent: execution. But Adam and Eve instead rendered judgment against the word of God. They ate the forbidden fruit. God then brought them under judgment. God held a trial. God convicted Adam, Eve, and the serpent. But He did not end history. Mankind still was required to fulfill the dominion covenant.

The primary assignment to mankind is to exercise godly judgment. That was true in the garden. That is true today. That will be true after the separation of the sheep from the goats. Rendering judgment is the essence of the dominion covenant. There are economic aspects to this. There are technological aspects. But the central task of the dominion covenant is to improve our ability to render godly judgment. The final act of history, according to Paul, will be the comprehensive rendering of judgment by covenant-keepers against fallen angels. This is the narrative of history: the transition from grace to wrath, followed by the transition from wrath to grace. It will culminate with the abolition of wrath for covenant-keepers (Matthew 25). For covenant-breakers, eternity will be marked by excruciating wrath. There will be no transition out of this wrath.

A trial takes time. Under a jury system, competing lawyers present the cases for guilt and innocence. A jury decides which narrative is more plausible. To do this, the jury must exercise memory. One of the advantages of a jury is this: there is a division of labor. This division of labor applies to memory. Jury members remember different points made by the lawyers. It is through discussion that jury members come to an agreement regarding the comparative plausibility of the rival narratives.

In the United States, criminal trials have a high standard to justify conviction of guilt. The standard is this: “beyond reasonable doubt.” The key word is reasonable. The standard is not perfection. Christians should recognize that perfect justice is available only on judgment day. God will supply it for mankind. But it is clear from what Paul said that covenant-keepers will play a role in rendering judgment on fallen angels. God will not fill the offices of judge and jury by Himself. He will invite post-judgment covenant-keepers to participate in the final judgment. Creatures without enormous power in history will render final judgment against those creatures that possessed enormous power in history. This leads me to a conclusion: the essence of the conflict between God and Satan is ethics, not power. The battle for control over history is not primarily between God and Satan. The battle is between the covenantal representatives of God and Satan. Therefore, the supreme skill associated with dominion in history is the skill of rendering godly judgment.B. Casuistry: Applying Laws to Circumstances

Casuistry is the application of general legal principles to specific cases. It can also be the application of general ethical principles to specific situations. It is the exercise of judgment. The Bible calls this wisdom. In the Old Testament, the great model of a master of casuistry was Solomon. He was legendary for his ability to apply biblical law to specific legal situations. However, he failed completely with respect to his multiplication of wives. There, he is the classic example in the Old Testament of a man devoid of wisdom.

We gain understanding of the task of rendering judgment from about the time we turn two years old. In the United States, this age is called the “terrible twos.” Children begin to use this word: no. The only word that rivals it is this one: mine.

Children learn about discipline. They learn to exercise self-discipline in order to avoid the imposition of physical or other discipline by parents. They learn to render judgment in their own lives. The parents give them instructions, just as God gave Adam and Eve instructions. The children then learn how to follow these instructions in order to meet the standards set by the parents. The parents are in a position to impose negative and positive sanctions. These sanctions are teaching devices. They help children learn the crucial discipline of self-discipline. Children learn about rules early in life. They also learn how to manipulate parents by playing one parent off against the other. Not possessing power, they learn how to manipulate people who possess power. They become remarkably skilled at this at a young age.

The process of becoming an adult has more to do with learning and then applying the skills of self-discipline than any other skill associated with adulthood. Every society has rituals associated with becoming an adult. But the essence of becoming an adult is not passage through a ritual. The essence of becoming an adult is learning how to apply general principles of law, especially ethical principles, to specific circumstances in life. This used to be known as casuistry, but the term has fallen out of favor. From a young age, we are told by those possessing the power to impose sanctions that the rules are constant. We are told to observe the rules in specific circumstances. Circumstances constantly change, but we are told that the rules do not change. The rules enable us to make wise decisions. We learn the skills of casuistry. If we do not learn these skills, we suffer negative sanctions: as children and then as adults.

Continuity in life has more to do with the constancy of law than anything else. This may be ethical law. It may be biological law. It may be physical law. There are numerous realms of law in this world. In order to guide our own behavior, we must believe that there is continuity of law over time. If there were not, we would live in chaos. We would have no reliable idea of what will happen next as a result of a decision. The world would fall apart. But the world does not fall apart. This is strong evidence of the fact that there is continuity in law, and it is also a testimony that we learn how to apply general laws to specific circumstances.

We need accurate memories regarding what we have been told the laws are. We also need accurate memories regarding the consequences of disobeying specific laws. If we did not have memories, we would live in personal chaos. We would be as those who have Alzheimer’s disease. We would have to be institutionalized. Someone else would have to take care of us. The fear of Alzheimer’s is one of the most widespread fears in the modern world. Nobody wants to become dependent on somebody else as an adult. Nobody wants to be a drain on family resources. Nobody wants to be in a position of not being able to make responsible decisions. So, nobody wants to forget all of the past. A disease that removes our ability to recall the past is correctly seen as a debilitating affliction. It incapacitates the victims’ judgment.C. Historiography as Retroactive Casuistry

The Bible’s unifying themes for history are these: the transition from grace to wrath, followed by the transition from wrath to grace. The transition from grace to wrath took place in Genesis 3. It was marked by a trial. God cross-examined Adam and Eve. Then He imposed negative sanctions. But He did not kill them: grace. The transition from wrath to grace ends with a trial: the final judgment (Matthew 25).

History after the fall of man is marked by a pair of trials. In between these trials was the most important trial in history: Pilate’s trial of Jesus Christ. Pilate admitted that he saw no fault in Christ, but he sentenced Him to death anyway. Then Roman soldiers imposed negative sanctions. Pilate was a corrupt judge who violated Roman standards of evidence in order to placate a mob. This was a recapitulation of Adam’s fall: rendering false judgment against God’s word. Pilate condemned an innocent man and released a guilty man (Barabbus). He believed that he would benefit from this violation of the law. For this corrupt act, he became the most infamous regional Roman official in history. Millions of people have recited this historical judgment against him: “suffered under Pontius Pilate.”

Pilate was an evil man. The Christian church has judged him accordingly down through the ages. His violation of the rule of law stands as the archetype of a corrupt judge. He committed this act of injustice based on historical evidence and his cross-examination of Jesus. There was no question in his mind that the evidence was not sufficient to convict Jesus, but he convicted Him anyway. This was not ignorance on his part. He did not make a mistake in assessing the evidence against Jesus. It was reliable evidence. But the Jews in the courtyard imputed evil to Jesus’ statements in the Sanhedrin’s earlier trial, and they demanded the imposition of Rome’s negative sanctions. From that day until today, Pontius Pilate has been regarded by the Christian church as the covenant-breaker who committed the greatest crime in history. This was a greater crime than the crime committed by Judas. Judas merely identified Jesus so that the Jewish authorities could arrest him. That crime was significant historically only because Pilate committed the greatest crime in history before the day was over.

The retroactive judgment of the Christian church against Pontius Pilate has shaped the church ever since. Before A.D. 70, the church possessed written evidence of this evil act: the Gospels. The church regarded this evidence as reliable. The Council of Nicea identified Pilate as evil in 325, but the church had concluded this over two centuries earlier. Christian creeds have shaped the church ever since. They have provided a model for Christian historiography. They asserted that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate. He was crucified. He died and was buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead. He ascended to the right hand of God. He will return in final judgment. This historical and also eschatological account has become authoritative as a major ritual of the church. This testimony is repeated in all the three branches of the church: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism.

Christians know who Pontius Pilate was. They impute guilt to him. They verbally condemn him every time they recite a creed that mentions his name. No other person in history has been publicly condemned more often by more people as an evildoer. Christians mark the origin of the church by reciting a creed, and the creed identifies Pontius Pilate as the culprit. The centrality of the creed in the history of Christianity marks the centrality of a specific historical narrative. The creed declares the birth, trial, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ at a precise time in history as the central narrative in history.

The creeds provide the model for Christian historiography. They identify righteous figures in history, and they identify a supreme villain. The creeds tell us that the public assessment of guilt and innocence retroactively, based on reliable evidence, is at the center of the biblical understanding of history. Here is one implication of the creeds: Christian historiography should correspond to what the Bible reveals as the structure of history. It must also do justice to the evidence of history. In short, Christian historians must not imitate Pontius Pilate. They are to render judgment in terms of reliable evidence. They are to judge evidence in terms of standards. These evidential standards must reflect God’s evidential standards. Human actions are governed by God’s law. Sanctions in history, both positive and negative, are imposed by God in history as well as in eternity. History is a series of human decisions that are tried by God from heaven, during history, and also at the end of history. He imposes sanctions, during history and also at the end of history. Christian historians, following the examples of the church creeds, should publicly declare people’s guilt or innocence retroactively in terms of objective evidence, God’s ethical standards, and casuistry: the judgment of historical events in terms of reliable evidence.

These declarations over time constitute a biblically sanctioned narrative of history. The narratives of history should conform to this pattern. Christian narratives of history should include retroactive assessments of good and evil, wisdom and foolishness, success and failure. People pay little attention to narratives that are not marked by sequential retroactive judgments of representative figures in history whose decisions shaped history. They want to hear about the good guys and the bad guys. What they want to hear about the good guys and the bad guys is this: the good guys win, and the bad guys lose. They win or lose in terms of permanent ethical standards that still govern success and failure in history today. This is the biblical structure of history from the trial in the garden of Eden until the final judgment.D. The Denial of Casuistry

Covenant-breakers wish to suppress evidence of this structure of history. They do not want to think about the final judgment. They do not want to believe that Jesus Christ will return in final judgment in order to separate eternally the sheep from the goats. They correctly perceive that they are the goats. So, the more self-conscious humanist historians deny that history is structured in terms of a specific form of casuistry. They deny that it is the primary function of historiography to identify those individuals who served as representatives of the forces of good and the forces of evil. They do not wish to think about the fact that the kingdom of God is going to triumph over the kingdom of man. They resent the suggestion. They try to live consistently with this denial of the structure of history as a form of casuistry.

A representative example of a philosopher of history with this outlook was Benedetto Croce [CROWcheh], who was an intellectual leader in Italian society from the late 1890’s until his death in 1952. He was a liberal politically. Because he was a lifetime senator, he served in political office during the reign of Mussolini. He opposed Mussolini during most of this period. In 1938, he wrote a book on historiography: History as the Story of Liberty. Part 4 of the book is “Historiography and Morals.” Chapter 1 of Part 4 is “Moral Judgment in Historiography.” He got right to the point. He cited Matthew 7:1, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” He did not offer any exegesis of this passage that would have indicated its historical context. That was because he did not regard it as authoritative. He was an agnostic. But the passage might be regarded as authoritative by some of his readers, so he quoted it. He then went on to deny the legitimacy of all moral judgments by historians.

He began by describing what history should never be. He denied this view of history: “History is supposed to be the great High Court which reviews all the trouble judgments arising out of the passions and errors of man, corrects them, and pronounces a final verdict as in a universal judgment, separating the elect from the reprobates” (Meridian Books, 1955, p. 201). He spoke of history as if it were a living thing. He meant historians, but he said history. “Neither the future nor history can carry this utterly intolerable burden of the task intrinsically absurd and impractical” (p. 201). In order for historians to pass judgment retroactively, they would have to have inner certainty. He wrote: “. . . no documents can possibly be converted into an inner certainty” (p. 201). “The labeling of men as good and bad is a troublesome enough business in practice and for practical purposes. Surely we need not desire to pursue it and take it up anew in our historical considerations” (p. 202). The historian must not judge people’s motivation. He must only judge the outcome of their actions. “The only moral judgment which attains to consistency and significance in historiography is that which is concerned with the character of the achievement, apart from the private impressions, illusions, and passions which may accompany it in the mind of the author, or which contemporaries and posterity enveloped it” (pp. 202–3). Only God may pass judgment on individuals. But, since Croce did not believe in God, that left everyone off the hook in both history and eternity. He wrote: “. . . we must agree that this intimate knowledge, reserved to man’s conscience and into which alone the eye of God penetrates, or in certain singular moments the eye of love and friendship, is not only not historical knowledge, but is not knowledge of any kind, not even the order of truth which belongs to poetry, where the part is always seen as a part of the whole, the human drama within the divine drama of the Cosmos” (p. 205).

The next year, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and this started World War II. Croce had opposed Italy’s participation in World War I. Mussolini took Italy into the war on the side of Germany on June 10, 1940. In 1945, he attempted to escape, dressed in women’s clothes, but he was identified and executed on the spot. The executioners hung his body upside down in the public square. After 1945, the widespread hostility to Hitler as the most evil man in modern times was extended to the legacy of Mussolini: the fool who joined with Hitler. Hitler made it virtually impossible for historians to adopt anything remotely resembling Croce’s view of retroactive silence regarding immoral individuals. Hitler, more than any other person in modern times, undermined the intellectual charade of moral neutrality by historians. Any classroom teacher of American history who would argue in favor of moral neutrality could be removed from his position by this question from any student: “Are you saying, professor, that there was no moral difference between Franklin Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler?” The professor would either have to deny what he just said about moral neutrality in teaching history, or else he would have to affirm that there was no such moral difference. If he affirmed this, he would be put on suspension by the end of the week and would probably be fired at the end of the semester.E. World History

There is a single theme for all of human history after the fall of man: the transition from wrath to grace. The basis of grace is the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the offer of redemption to individuals and institutions. Wherever sin is present, the gospel offers redemption. Sin is present in every institution. Sin is present in every society. Mankind and mankind’s works are under sin, and therefore mankind and mankind’s works are subject to redemption by the grace of God. This view of history is anathema to humanist historians. It testifies to God’s providential control over history. It also testifies to a final judgment. Humanist historians prefer to argue that history has no structure. However, if mankind’s history has no structure, then there is no such thing as a universal history. There can be regional histories, up to and including Western civilization, but there cannot be a universal history.

A major problem with this argument today is this: Western civilization is now spreading across the face of the earth. Western concepts of reason, science, economics, and progress have influenced the whole world since the end of World War II in 1945. This is what the church from the beginning expected would happen. The gospel would spread across the face of the earth. It would transform civilizations. It would lay the foundation for the kingdom of God in history, which is another way of saying the civilization of God.

It is not surprising that Croce was adamant that there is no such thing as universal history. This was consistent with his denial of any kind of moral order governing history.

The idea of so-called “universal history” has arisen from this demand for the impossible. It seeks, precisely, to embrace the totality of history, and in its consequential and logical, if mythological, form, a Universal History was at one time expected to include the future as well, finishing with the anticipated account of the end of the world. Such “universal history,” however, remains an idea and not a fact, because when executed the universal histories are either just compilations, manuals, and historical repertories, or else under the name of universal histories are really particular (universal-particular) histories, like every genuine history (p. 268).

Today, we see this universal history beginning to take shape across the world. It is not self-consciously Christian, but it is the historical outcome of the biblical view of the world. Croce recognized this. He wrote that “a Universal History was at one time expected to include the future as well, finishing with the anticipated account of the end of the world.” He was dismissive of Christianity’s view of history.F. War of the Worldviews

My book is about the debate between covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers over the foundation of history, the understanding of history, the laws of history, the meaning of history, the scope of history, and the future of history. Covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers have radically different views on these issues. That is because they have radically different worldviews. That is because they have radically different definitions of God, man, law, sanctions, and time. They operate in terms of rival covenantal structures.

Most covenant-keepers are naïve about the irreconcilable warfare between the covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers. Covenant-keepers have adopted the official doctrine of the covenant-breakers: the myth of neutrality. Jesus was clear that there can be no neutrality regarding Him. “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matthew 12:30). Despite this declaration, covenant-breakers have successfully infiltrated almost every area of academia by means of the myth of neutrality. The myth of neutrality becomes the justification for tax funding of education, from kindergarten through graduate school. Covenant-breakers extract tax money from covenant-keepers, and then they use this money to indoctrinate the children of covenant-keepers in the worldview of covenant-breakers. This has gone on successfully in the West for over two centuries. Covenant-breakers in classrooms have taught the children of covenant-keepers the humanistic content of their covenant. Most covenant-keepers generally remain content to send their children into the schools run by covenant-breakers. There is beginning to be resistance. That is because covenant-breakers are becoming more open about the implications of their God-hating worldview. They steadily move the curriculum toward nonsense and degeneracy. The content of the curriculum materials in the public schools is becoming more straightforwardly antithetical to Christianity. In the name of neutrality, the courts have forbidden state-run or tax-funded schools to teach Christianity, but the schools then teach a highly religious worldview: the worldview of humanism. The courts not only uphold this, they encourage it. They mandate it.

This is why it is imperative that Christians develop comprehensive alternatives academically. They should give up any attempt to compromise with the humanists with respect to the content of the curriculum. The courts have made it clear that no compromise by humanists is allowed. The humanists are in control of the tax-funded schools. They have been in control of tax-funded schools in the United States ever since the development of tax-funded public education in the state of Massachusetts in the late 1830’s. It has been the same all over the world.

This book is my contribution to the reclaiming of history and historiography by Christians. There have been lots of Christians who have taught history. There have been almost no Christians who have taught an explicitly Christian history. They have taught some compromise version of humanism’s narratives of historical development. They were certified as teachers in institutions that were accredited by humanists. These institutions taught a specifically humanistic view of historical causation. Christian teachers went into Christian schools to teach some variant of the humanists’ historical narratives. The war of the worldviews has always been a war of historical narratives. It is therefore the moral obligation of Christians to begin to replace the humanists’ narratives with narratives that are based on the Bible’s concepts of sovereignty, authority, law, sanctions, and succession.G. The War of the Narratives

I go into details on this issue in the appendix on narratives. Here, I sketch briefly the nature of the conflict. Humanists are evolutionists. They do not believe in the sovereignty of God. They have constructed a narrative of the history of the universe that explicitly denies any purpose whatsoever. Cosmic evolution is purposeless. It has no design. Out of the cosmos came life about 4.5 billion years ago, we are assured. Then came mankind about 2.5 million years ago. Only since the evolution of man has purpose appeared in the universe. Humanists have substituted their doctrine of the sovereignty of man for the Bible’s doctrine of the sovereignty of God. This underlies all of their historical narratives. There are major conflicting humanistic historical narratives, but they all agree on this point: man proposes, and man disposes.

Humanists have understood that narratives are central to society. There is no society that is not heavily reliant on specific narratives about the origin of the universe, life, mankind, and the society. Humanists have understood that they must be in control of the narratives. If they do not control the narratives, they cannot control the thinking, the voting, and the decision-making of the vast majority of individuals in any society. They have been self-conscious about taking control of the educational system that teaches the narratives to each generation.

The great barrier to this program has always been the church. Weekly sermons are sources of the Christian worldview. The Bible is structured mostly in terms of historical narratives. Constant preaching and teaching of these historical narratives has been basic to the establishment of Christian civilization. Therefore, it has been the policy of humanists to offset the effects of one or two sermons a week with 30 hours a week of lessons in schools controlled by humanists. Control over the content of historical narratives has been basic to the humanists’ agenda from the beginning.

One humanist who pursued this substitution systematically was Andrew Dickson White. He was the first president of the American Historical Association in 1884–85. He was the first president of Cornell College. He wrote one of the most important humanist books designed to undermine respect for Christianity: History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). He was a Protestant theological liberal. He hated any form of Protestantism that affirmed the final authority of the Bible. In the Introduction to his book, he described how he viewed his career as a college president. “My hope is to aid—even if it be but a little—in the gradual and healthful dissolving away of this mass of unreason, that the stream of ‘religion pure and undefiled’ may flow on broad and clear, a blessing to humanity.” He described his academic opponents, meaning Bible-believing Christians, as vicious. “Our purpose was to establish in the State of New York an institution for advanced instruction and research, in which science, pure and applied, should have an equal place with literature; in which the study of literature, ancient and modern, should be emancipated as much as possible from pedantry; and which should be free from various useless trammels and vicious methods which at that period hampered many, if not most, of the American universities and colleges.” He bragged about the success of humanists in replacing preachers as presidents of Christian colleges. In the final paragraph of the Introduction, he wrote this:

The ideas for which so bitter a struggle was made at its foundation have triumphed. Its faculty, numbering over one hundred and fifty; its students, numbering but little short of two thousand; its noble buildings and equipment; the munificent gifts, now amounting to millions of dollars, which it has received from public-spirited men and women; the evidences of public confidence on all sides; and, above all, the adoption of its cardinal principles and main features by various institutions of learning in other States, show this abundantly. But there has been a triumph far greater and wider. Everywhere among the leading modern nations the same general tendency is seen. During the quarter-century just past the control of public instruction, not only in America but in the leading nations of Europe, has passed more and more from the clergy to the laity. Not only are the presidents of the larger universities in the United States, with but one or two exceptions, laymen, but the same thing is seen in the old European strongholds of metaphysical theology. At my first visit to Oxford and Cambridge, forty years ago, they were entirely under ecclesiastical control. Now, all this is changed.

The academic enemies of Christianity have generally not been open about what their agenda is. White was quite open about it. Christians should take him seriously. His agenda has been systematically implemented in every area of higher education in the West.

Christians need a comparable agenda. They should understand that they cannot beat something with nothing. They must beat something entrenched with something far better. This book is my attempt to show that Christians have something far better.Conclusion

This book is dedicated to changing education back to where it was in the mid-nineteenth century America: funded by Christians, run by Christians, in order to educate successive generations of Christians. But the redesigned curriculum must be far better. It must not in any way be corrupted by the humanists’ myth of neutrality. Christian historians should adhere to the selection of evidence in terms of what the Bible says about sovereignty, authority, law, sanctions, and succession. They must write compelling narratives. They must work systematically to replace all of the humanists’ historical narratives. This is a requirement of the Great Commission. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20). Christian historians should observe what the Bible says about history. They should write their historical narratives accordingly.

Rebuilding the Godly Foundations (2)

Your Name, O Lord, is everlasting, Your remembrance, O Lord, throughout all generations (Ps. 135:13).

We make a big mistake as believers, if we centre the purpose of God in our lifetime. Our lifetime is certainly important to us, but God has a far greater time-frame in mind than the few years on the planet that we’ll have.

This means that we have to think about those years when we certainly won’t be here. We won’t be around, but our children and our grandchildren will. We can’t live their lives for them, nor should we try. But what we can do is help prepare the next generations of God’s people for faithful service of Him.

For this, homeschooling presents us with a great opportunity, and more. We can fulfil our obligation to the Lord to use our time productively, with the next generations in mind.

But when the first digit on your age changes as many times as mine has, you realise that statistically, there can’t be a lot more of these. We simply run out of time, run out of life.

On my office wall, I have a photo taken of the property where I grew up, near Cowra in the central west of NSW. In the foreground is a mob of sheep, and five hundred metres back is my home till I was 18. Another five hundred metres back, is the home my grandfather built around 1910, where my father (the youngest, born in 1918) and his siblings grew up. The last of my father’s generation died in 2000. Now, the property is owned by my cousins and their sons. Life moves on, to the next generations.

Abraham was the first of his family to be called of God. He sojourned in the promised land, knowing that God had promised it to him, but not just yet. For God said,

I will give it to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Gen.17:8).

Abraham and Isaac both lived in tents, dug wells, and built altars to the Lord. Some family traditions are futile, but not these ones. When you have lots of livestock (Gen.13:2) and dependent families (and Abraham must have had over 1,000 people-see Gen.14:14), a good supply of water is critical. But Isaac’s well-digging was fiercely contested by the Philistines (see Gen.26:12-25), because they were envious of him.

Moses was called by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but it was Joshua who led them into the land. And what was the centrepiece of God’s encouragement to Joshua? Faithfulness to the law of God.

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).

David had it in his heart to build a temple for God, and that was good. But it wasn’t his task- it was Solomon’s. All David was supposed to do was prepare for it, by assembling the raw materials for its building.

David was a great man, but Solomon, who seemed initially to show great promise, ended up in compromise and idolatry (I Kings 11:1-13). Though God had appeared to him twice, he frittered away his great inheritance, influenced by hundreds of foreign, pagan wives: “…the foreign women caused even him to sin” (Neh.13:26). In this, he did what his father had actually initiated: he married lots of wives; something God’s law (Deut.17:14-17) specifically forbade Israel’s kings to do.

This much is clear: the next generation of God’s people either builds on the past successes, or abandons them.

Everyone has to pass the baton, sometime. But what we must do as well as we can, is make those preparations for others who come after us, even while they are children.

This requires some things. It requires that we have faith in God, that He will lead and keep our successors just as faithfully as He has led and kept us. If we leave something of worth behind, they will have something to build on.

The first thing to leave for our children is a godly example. This aspect of leadership is a prominent theme in scripture.

It is a show of false modesty for a parent to say, “Well, my role is not a very important.” You are important, because you will spend a significant portion of your adult years modelling a lifestyle to your children, and then perhaps your grandchildren. Saying, “I don’t model anything,” is not facing the facts; you may not deliberately do so, but it will just happen in the day to day affairs of home and family, as others observe your speech, attitudes, behaviour and decisions.

Godly Gideon said to his three hundred men, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do” (Judges 7:17).

Even evil leaders understand the importance of leadership. Abimelech said to his followers, “What you have seen me do, hurry and do likewise. All the people also cut down each one his branch and followed Abimelech … (Judges 9:48-49).

Leadership by example is God’s way. The Bible says that “…God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro.5:8). Jesus commanded us to “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…” (Mat.11:29), and He also said that “when he [the good shepherd] puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (Jn.10:4).

When Paul explained to Timothy the requirements of an overseer (see I Tim.3:1-7), implicit in his description is that the overseer is to be an example to those he leads, while Peter plainly says that the elders are to be “examples to the flock” (I Pet.5:3).  Paul said, “the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil.4:6). He also said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (I Cor.11:1).

Conclusion:                                                                                                                             Everyone godly person leads with the hope and prayer that those who come after them will follow the Lord, and build on the useful foundations laid before them. We cannot ensure this will happen. But this we know: God wants to lead successive generations.

…Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back,” seven times. It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea” (I Kings 18:42-44).

Children Don’t Need School (11)

Biblical economics affirms that children are a blessing, since they are a form of social capital. Men are to become effective stewards of God’s resources. They are to invest in their children by constantly training them in the precepts of biblical law (Deut.6:7). They are to encourage them to take up a productive calling before God. But parents are entitled to a return on their investment. Children are supposed to provide for their parents in the latters’ old age. Parents are therefore to be honored (Ex.20:12). Honoring God involves giving one’s financial substance (Prov.3:9). Parents are also deserving of this financial honor.

Jesus strongly criticized the Pharisees of His day for their denial of this law, in the name of tradition. They refused to support their parents by claiming that they were themselves without assets, having “given to God” all that they had (Mark 7:6-13). This “higher spirituality” in defiance of God’s law was repudiated by Christ.

Children must support aged parents. The parents get the financial security they deserve; their investment in their children is returned to them in direct fashion. This increases the likelihood that parents will honor their obligations while their children are young. The family becomes a trans-generational economic unit-one worth investing in.[1]

The Christian person is obligated to hear the word of God and obey it. Logically, there will be occasions when he finds that his structures of belief and action lack integrity, and he needs to change.

God doesn’t need to change what He thinks and does. We do, for we are His servants, and as we grow in the faith, we learn. Christian maturity presupposes we’ll need to change in order to conform to His perfect will, and this will inevitably involve our attitudes to money, assets and giving. It also involves our family, and our children.

“Constantly training them in the precepts of biblical law,” means they will come to know that the scriptures are extremely practical, relevant documents, designed to be understood and applied. This commences with the Ten Commandments[2], with all their applications to life, then should continue to studying the case laws (Ex.21-23).[3]

These help us to see how God has structured His Word to be extremely practical. We are not to be like blind men, intellectually groping around for some kind of truth, but to seek out  scriptural instruction. That was the intention of us having His word, from the beginning.

The Psalmist wrote,

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law and keep it with all my heart (Ps.119:34).

Biblical law will show us just how much we in the church have walked away from His Word. Every part of the nonsense that most of the world is enduring today over Corona-19, has to do with God’s people neglecting to be instructed from Leviticus 13 and 14, which deals with laws relating to contagious diseases. In summary, only those infected were to undergo restrictions. Taking note of these, we could have instructed governments of the folly of “Lockdowns,” of enforced wearing of masks, closing state borders and other awful intrusions into our liberties, so that the community could go on in its normal state. And this would be just the beginning.

Public schools have taught us there is another way: the humanistic way. When Christian parents send their children to the public school, they are subjecting them to 14,000 hours of humanistic indoctrination, spread over 12 years. Is it any wonder that so frequently, they abandon the faith?

But, the Bible says that

Adversity pursues sinners, but the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity (Prov.13:21).

Conclusion:

Educating our children at home requires parents to seriously consider what they believe and why. It means we have to go and seek out what the Bible says about a host of important subjects (like economics, taxation and defence) that may be new areas of study to us. And that means investigating godly authors who have gone and done their work, leaving it to posterity.

This will be good for us, our families, the church, and the community. And social health will be the consequence, because “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Ps.33:12).

And children don’t need school.


[1]Gary North, “The Dominion Covenant,” 1987, p.170-71.

[2]Rousas Rushdoony, “The Institutes of Biblical Law,” 1973.

[3]Gary North, “Tools of Dominion: the Case Laws of Exodus,” 1999.

Counting the cost of national maths failure

National Correspondent Brisbane

Researcher Matthew Dean says first-year students have knowledge of maths concepts but lack the skills to solve problems. Source: News Corp Australia

Academics are concerned that assignment-based assessment methods are rendering a generation of Australian children innumerate.

WHAT’S five times four? Geophysicist Peter Ridd was gobsmacked to see a first-year university student pull out a calculator to work out the no-brainer equation.

The James Cook University professor blames the dumbing down of a generation of Australian students on modern teaching philosophies that deride rote learning as “drill and kill”. His alarm is echoed by eminent maths, science and education professors concerned that under­qualified teachers, “student-led” pedagogy and assignment-based assessment methods are rendering a generation of Australian children innumerate.

“Modern educational theory says you don’t need knowledge because it’s all online; there’s Google,’’ Ridd tells Inquirer. “But you ultimately do need a basic proficiency in spelling and numbers; you need knowledge inside your head. I’ve seen uni kids, when I’ve asked them ‘What’s 61 x 0?’, pick up a calculator.’’

Scientist Jennifer Stow, a former Harvard University researcher with a PhD from Monash University and a postdoctoral degree from Yale, shares Ridd’s dismay. As laboratory head at the University of Queensland Institute for Molecular Bio­science, and a principal research fellow with the National Health and Medical Research Council, she teaches science to undergraduates and trains PhD students.

Stow is “flabbergasted” by what she views as substandard skills in maths and English among many Australian undergraduates. Foreign PhD science students outnumber the locals in her field, she says, because local students are so far behind in maths.

“They can’t do basic maths,’’ Stow tells Inquirer.

“A lot of them haven’t learned the times tables at school, they haven’t been drilled in spelling and they come to university not being able to do division.

“There are lots of international students at university now, and kids from places like Singapore have got much better reading, writing and maths skills than the Australian kids.’’

The sliding standards are spelled out in the latest results from the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment. The international PISA test, last conducted in 2012, reveals the numeracy levels of Australian teenagers have plunged so far in a decade that four out of 10 lack “baseline” maths skills.

Australia’s maths performance in Year 10 fell by the equivalent of six months of schooling between 2003 and 2012. Australia dropped from 11th to 19th place in the league table of 65 countries. China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan topped the class; the average 15-year-old from Shanghai is 1½ years ahead in maths than a typical Australian student. Just 15 per cent of Australian students were top performers, compared with 55 per cent in Shanghai. One-fifth of Australian students were ranked among the poorest performers in maths, in contrast to 3.8 per cent of Chinese students.

The national curriculum for maths has won broad support from maths teachers and university educators. Kevin Donnelly, one of two educational experts appointed to review the curriculum for the Abbott government, believes style and quality of teaching count as much as the content.

“If it’s not rigorous, and teaching isn’t explicit and well structured, you do get into trouble,’’ he tells Inquirer. “There needs to be rote learning, memorisation and mental arithmetic so it becomes automatic. The fashion for the past 20 years has been very much against memorisation and we need to bring that back.’’

The steady decline in mathematics performance in Australian schools has resulted, in turn, in a shortage of qualified maths teachers. Thousands of children are being taught maths by teachers who specialised in humanities subjects at university.

“At high school the person teaching physics is more likely to be a physical education teacher than someone qualified to teach science,’’ notes Ridd.

Forty per cent of Australia’s maths teachers are “out of field”. Queensland’s Auditor-General has revealed that one in eight maths B teachers in years 11 and 12, and one in three maths teachers in years 8 to 10, lacks a tertiary qualification in maths. Four times more phys-ed teachers graduated from Queensland universities than maths teachers in 2012. The audit noted a shortage of maths, science and technology teachers in high schools — but an oversupply of physical education, music, drama and dance instructors.

Stephen Norton, a senior lecturer in mathematics education at Griffith University’s school of education and professional studies, tests the numeracy of all his would-be teachers. The results are worrying: the average undergraduate teacher has the maths skills of a Year 7 student. Half would struggle with a Year 9 National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy test, which measures basic levels of literacy and numeracy for 14-year-olds.

Norton believes most univer­sity teaching courses fail to demand “reasonable levels of numeracy’’ from trainee teachers. Instead, course lecturers concentrate on teaching “learning theories, the role of technology, mathematics of indigenous cultures, learners’ attitudes towards mathematics and curriculum trends”. A typical four-year teaching degree, Norton says, dedicates just 32 hours to the teaching of maths.

“Every year I test my students and they’ve got the understanding of a Year 7 or Year 8 kid,’’ he says. “Maybe 25 per cent have a good knowledge. They struggle with fractions and proportional rea­soning and anything to do with algebra. I believe it is our res­ponsibility in universities to make sure we can remediate that.’’

Norton is critical of schools’ emphasis on “inquiry-based teaching” at the expense of drills and memorisation. Performance is falling, he says, “not because our kids are dumber; it’s because they haven’t got the basics”.

“We’ve got to find a balance where we don’t stifle creativity but we give students the basics to apply in higher order ways,” he arg­ues. “On the one hand, we want kids to discover how to do things themselves and be persistent and resilient. But what happens when you have inquiry-based pedagogy, with teachers who don’t ­really know the discipline and don’t emphasise the basic skills, is that children end up falling behind.”

One example of the modern “student-directed learning” style is the maths homework set for 10-year-olds at a Brisbane state school this week. “Write a reflection that highlights at least 2 areas in maths that you feel more confident about as we draw to the end of Year 5,’’ it says. “List at least two target areas that you would like to work on and explain what strategies you will use to take responsibility for your learning.”

Ridd, the James Cook University scientist who despairs at the reliance on calculators for simple sums, is highly critical of Queensland’s unique but controversial assessment methods for high school maths. While other states and territories rely on regular external testing of kids’ maths ability, Queensland high schools set a series of written assignments that can be 10,000 words long.

“We (scientists) want someone who can solve an equation and add fractions,’’ Ridd says. “The Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority wants someone who can write an essay. The problem for us is the mark that comes down from the high school is a very poor predictor of whether the students can do simple maths. The subject has been hijacked by education theorists who have no idea what’s going on.”

A Queensland parliamentary inquiry has recommended that external testing be introduced for 50 per cent of students’ marks in years 11 and 12 — in line with the southern states — with a limit of one written maths assignment each year.

The Liberal National Party government, having sat on the findings for 14 months, is now promising a “draft response” by Christmas. This week it published a vague “30-year vision” on education reform, which referred to the need to “attract, retain and reward the best and brightest teachers”. It will appoint 300 “master teachers” to 463 schools next year. Queensland is also reviewing its OP system, which ranks students on their “overall position” in relation to other students, without external exams.

It is telling that Education Queensland’s selective Academy of Science, Mathematics and Technology — reserved for the state’s brightest students — has shunned the official curriculum. Instead, its students study the International Baccalaureate Diploma, which the academy describes as a “program for rigorous learning and assessment”.

Matthew Dean, a researcher and former first-year lecturer at the University of Queensland school of mathematics and physics, believes teachers who let kids use calculators at primary school are “ruining children’s lives”.

In a submission to the national curriculum review, Dean explained that technology had a “smart end” consisting of the creators, and a “dumb end” of consumers. “Rather than making all Australian students and parents pay to be at the dumb end of technology, a good education system would give students the freedom to one day be at the smart, creative end, if they so choose,” he wrote. “The way to this freedom and ability is through mastering mathematics — the power of thought behind science and technology.”

Dean likens reciting the times table to learning musical scales on the piano: boring and repetitive but essential to mastering more advanced pieces. Having lectured first-year maths students at university for five years, he notes that many have knowledge of mathematical concepts but not the skills to solve problems. “It’s as if they’ve done a mathematical appreciation course,” he says. “They know of things but don’t have the skill to do it themselves.”

Nationally, the number of Year 12 students enrolled in advanced maths has fallen 22 per cent in a decade, choking the supply of graduates for research institutions and industry.

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute is warning of a looming skills shortage for industries such as banking, mining, information security, IT, biotech and communications.

Stow, whose groundbreaking medical research is tracking the movement of proteins within cells, complains that high school students are getting “dumber by the minute”. She champions a return to the times tables and spelling bees in primary school. “There is no substitute for rote learning and it is the only way to build neural networks and imprint things into your brain,” she insists.

A surgeon, Stow argues, has no time to Google in an emergency. “You can’t operate that way,” she says. “You need a certain amount of basic skills and instant recall to do the job properly. You’ve got a computer; it’s called your brain.’’

Appreciating the First Lady (6)

Every household and every person needs help to get things done. I agree with the statement that

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, but he needs his wife to help him,

but it’s only a part of the story. It’s also been said that

A woman’s work is never done,

and this is just as relevant. Where am I going with this?

Husbands need the help of their wife, but busy wives may need the help of their husband too, to get their tasks completed. Marriage is a two–way street, whereby each assists the other.

We’re having visitors for lunch today, and I’ve got things I want to do, in terms of some writing. I think these are important, and I need to do these. So far, so good.

But what about what my wife needs to do, too? Is she able to cope with the house and food preparations, by herself?

Let’s be practical. Sue works part-time with me, and this can be between two and five days a week. When its five, there is more to be done to ensure the household tasks get done, and nothing gets omitted, so she needs my help.

I think a man ought to be willing to help his wife in her tasks, and never think it is somehow beneath him. That’s pride, not godliness. Yes, he has a role to lead and direct his home, but her work sometimes needs his assistance to take a load off her, so that she isn’t floundering.

Thirty years ago, a friend of mine claimed that he didn’t believe in doing “women’s work,” whatever that is. He never did marry, though he had an opportunity. Was there a connection?

Christianity is highly service oriented. Jesus Christ is called “My servant…” by God (Isa.42:1). Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, and later went and died for them all. Paul instructed us, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil.2:5). So, wise husbands (like all good leaders) are happy to lead through service.

The smooth functioning of any household requires the participation of every member, to get things done efficiently, and there can be overlap of responsibility. I don’t think of myself as superior to Sue, as though all help should be directed to me, only. That’s how tyrants and abusers operate, and I don’t want to be in that company.

She is not to be my slave or door-mat, but all of us need to bear in mind the Biblical command,

…through love serve another (Gal.5:13).

My fellow husband, is that what you do, too? It’s the servants who get honoured in the kingdom of God.

Appreciating the First Lady (2)

Is God’s leadership authoritarian? No.  How do I know that?

Authoritarian leaders like all tyrants, are moral cowards. What matters to them is the maintenance of their authority, not the truth, or what is best for those they are supposed to be serving. This is always a highly destructive attitude for any leader to hold, in a family, a business, a church or a nation.

Nabal (I Sam.25) was an authoritarian leader of his household. The Bible says he was “…harsh and evil in his dealings” (v.3). When his servant observed how rudely he rejected a request from David’s servants for material assistance, the servant pointed out to Nabal’s wife Abigail, that “…he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him” (v.17).

In his folly, Nabal destroyed himself (vs.37-38). If it hadn’t been for Abigail’s wise and brave intercession with David, Nabal would’ve brought destruction upon his whole household.

Authoritarian husbands in the church hide behind Bible verses that suit their argument, like Ephesians 5:24:

But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything.

Should wives obey this verse?

Of course, but husbands are foolish if they view this text in a one-dimensional manner. A wife’s help towards her husband has many facets to it, that some husbands don’t understand. It’s taken me a long time to understood all the ways my wife can help me.

On many occasions we’ve been out somewhere, and when we got home, my wife had some observations to make about what had taken place. Sometimes, it was because she thought my comments to others were excessive, or I had come across as extreme, or arrogant, or I needed to tone down the rhetoric. Sometimes she thought I’d shown too much attention to another female, and she said so.

Those sorts of comments are blunt and confronting. They are not designed to stroke and comfort my ego, and it’s only a fool who thinks his wife should be there to comfort his ego, because the Bible says, “…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). And I’ve had to reflect upon what I’d said and done, and also consider verses like these:

A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool (Prov.17:10).

Reproofs for discipline are the way of life (Prov.6:23).

He who regards reproof will be honoured (Prov.13:18).

Faithful are the wounds of a friend… (Prov.27:6).

Every husband has to ask himself this question:

Which is better: to love, accept and submit to the truth (regardless of who gave it to you, or the consequences), or be an egotistical fool? You don’t need a lot of Bible knowledge to answer that question.

Naaman in the Bible shows us what a difference this can make. Twice (see II Kings 5:2-3, 13) he took advice from people who were under his authority, one of these being a captured little girl from Israel. On both occasions, taking advice from someone under his authority, propelled him towards his healing from leprosy.

It’s easy for a husband to say to his wife,

God put me in authority, and I’m not taking no advice from you.

But all he proves in the process, is that he’s getting dangerously like Nabal.

There is a lot more on this subject in the Bible, if husbands (who can be proud and arrogant), will care to pay any attention. Like,

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life (Prov.31:10-12).

Conclusion:

If husbands understand the Biblical role of their wife, it will lead to them appreciating her. It will lead to them making greater room for her opinions and attitudes, and all the household members will benefit from the greater harmony and richness of relationship this will bring.

Shouldn’t every godly husband want this?

The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honour and life (Prov.22:4).

The Catastrophe of Fatherless America

Jun 19, 2020 by Jerry Newcombe

Much of the mayhem we see today is linked to fatherlessness.

Around this time we celebrate Father’s Day. But fathers in our culture have not recently appeared very important—at least according to Hollywood and other culture-shapers.

We used to have programs like “Father Knows Best” or “Leave It to Beaver” with a respectable father figure. Then we devolved to Archie Bunker on “All in the Family.” He was the stereotypical bigoted, benighted patriarch who was not worthy of emulation.

Then we devolved to Homer Simpson, the buffoonish dad, who was anything but a role model.

Of course, in many households today, there is no dad. And that’s a serious problem. So many of the children in fatherless homes begin life at a serious disadvantage. The breakdown of the family at large has caused a huge crisis in our society. For instance, statistics show that the majority of prison inmates come from broken families.

Fatherlessness is a serious blight on American life. As the family goes, so goes society. And, contrary to what the left says (who spend much of their energy diminishing traditional gender roles and arguing that whatever “family you choose” is just as good as the real thing), fathers are integral to the life of a child.

 

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Take an example. What is it that is devastating the black community today? Many in our current climate would say the main issue is racism. But sociologically, cultural pathologies are linked closely to poverty. And poverty is linked closely to the structure of the family. Government subsidies (by which the left buys votes) has created a permanent underclass of people by subsidizing fatherlessness and unemployment.

Prior to the Great Society, the rate of illegitimacy in the black community was relatively low and families were intact. And as economist Thomas Sowell points out, the poverty rate for African-Americans fell by 40 percent from 1940 to 1960—just before the “Great Society” welfare programs. Today, the illegitimacy rate is over 75%, which is devastating—by virtually all accounts.

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I remember many years ago when I attended an “evangelical church” in Chicago that was a little on the liberal side. One of the lay leaders, a man, got up and prayed, and he said, “Our Father, Our Mother….”

I was thinking, “What?!?” So I asked him after the service about the unorthodox prayer.

His response was that that church was in the shadow of the most notorious housing project in the city, Cabrini-Green. Fatherlessness was a huge problem there. Most people growing up there had a negative feeling about their earthly father because he was absent or drunk or abusive. Cabrini-Green was such a disaster that it has since been torn down.

In his book, Hearts of the Fathers, Charles Crismier notes that many American children today lack the “God-ordered earthly anchor for soul security” because dad is not in the home. He notes, “It is well known but seldom discussed, whether in the church house or the White House, that fatherlessness lies at the root of nearly all of the most glaring problems that plague our modern, now post-Christian life.”

For example, take the issue of poverty. Says Crismier, “Children living in female-headed homes have a poverty rate of 48 percent, more than four times the rate for children living in homes with their fathers and mothers.”

He points out that fathers are so important in the Bible, beginning with God the Father, that the words “father,” “fathers,” and “forefathers” appear 1,573 times.

Obviously, children in fatherless homes can survive and even thrive despite that handicap. But what a better thing it is to follow God’s design for the family.

There’s also a link between fatherlessness and unbelief. About 20 years ago, when he was a professor at New York University, Dr. Paul Vitz wrote a book, The Faith of the Fatherless. In that book he showed how famous atheists and skeptics in history had virtually no father figure in their life or a very negative father.

As examples, he cites Voltaire, Bertrand Russell, H. G. Wells, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre, Thomas Hobbs, and Sigmund Freud, among others.

Conversely, Vitz found that strong believers often had positive fathers or father figures. In an interview for Christian television, he told me, “I would say the biggest problem in the country is the breakdown of the family, and the biggest problem in the breakdown in the family is the absence of the father. Our answer is to recover the faith, particularly for men, and we’ll recover fatherhood. And if we recover fatherhood, we’ll recover the family. If we recover the family, we’ll recover our society.”

If you’re a father and you stay with your children and you love your wife, you’re a real hero and role model. Keep it up—our nation is counting on you.

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Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is the senior producer and an on-air host for D. James Kennedy Ministries. He has written/co-written 32 books, e.g., The Unstoppable Jesus Christ, American Amnesia: Is American Paying the Price for Forgetting God?, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy), and the bestseller, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback)   djkm.org  @newcombejerry      www.jerrynewcombe.com

Under Whose Shadow?

The Bible says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps.91:1). This is reassuring for the Christian person, to know that as we trust and obey Jesus Christ, He will protect us from evil.

Recently as I’ve been reading history, I have been examining how Christians over many hundreds of years, have handled evil governments. And the overwhelming evidence from history, is that we’ve handled them very poorly.

Why? The most common problem we have faced, is our own naivety. We somehow ignore the fact that our enemies are religious people, with anti-God motivations. We console ourselves with optimism.

He can’t really be that bad, and if he gets into government, he’ll want to get re-elected again, so he won’t push that strange agenda he seems to have.

Many times, Christians have finally understood the truth about their enemies too late, and their tardiness has cost them their lives. Of the Protestants of Germany, Hitler said:

 You can do anything you want with them…they will submit…they are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.[1]

The Dutch had some concerns about Hitler in the 1930’s, but they consoled themselves too.

The Dutch government tried to ignore the signs, assuring the people they did not need to worry because Holland’s desire for neutrality would be respected. At the end of 1939 the prime minister assured the people in a radio broadcast that there was absolutely no cause for alarm. He quoted an old Dutch poem…

“People often suffer the most by anticipating suffering that never happens.

They, therefore, have more to bear than God gives them to bear.” [2]

But in May 1940, Germany invaded Holland, and the Dutch surrendered after five days.

What is your attitude towards political leaders? Do you trust them? Remember that the Bible’s warning is, “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps.146:3).

Have the West’s politicians been any different to Hitler, in terms of their attitudes towards the Church? I don’t think so. People seem to come and go, but naivete amongst believers in relation to political leaders, seems to remain the same. Political leaders want us to think that they can be trusted, so they will get our votes.

Where have we commonly fallen down in this? When we have been offered tax-payers’ money to do something that did not require tax-payers’ money, such as the education of our children. Or when we have believed that the public education of children is “free.”

Christians will employ every intel­lectual artifice imaginable in order to justify public education. And yet, what is government education based on except a wealth-redistri­bution scheme? Likewise, what is Social Security except a gargantuan behemoth of a wealth-redistribution scheme? What is the authoriza­tion of billions to prosecute unnecessary war except a wealth redis­tribution scheme? Christians will fight to the end for these things as morally right, and yet the funding for these things is based on insti­tutionalized theft.[3]

Christians excuse this. We say, ‘Well, everybody else gets taxpayers’ money to educate their children. Why shouldn’t we?”

But in saying this, we reveal that we have tacitly accepted the confiscation of monies for the education of the community, as though it was a legitimate government practice. We like the idea of access to a “free” service. We say, “It’s free, so I’ll take it,” forgetting that everything of value comes at a price. We are really saying, “Yes, we believe in the shadow of the Almighty, but there’s another shadow, we can walk and trust in.”

God has some pretty blunt words for those who deceive themselves into thinking they can trust godless people.

Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord… “who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharoah and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the safety of Pharoah will be your shame and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation (Isa.30:1-3).

Here’s a question: does God in His Word authorise the government confiscation of money from the taxpayer, so the government can then be responsible for the education of the community? (You should answer this question “No.”) The education of children is a parental responsibility.

Abram had a different attitude to receiving “grants.” He said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal or anything that is yours, for fear you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’ ” (Gen.14:22-23). God’s next statement to Abram, is “Do not hear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great” (Gen.15:1).

What happens when Christian institutions receive large amounts of tax-payers’ money? They say to themselves,

Isn’t this great! We know there’s plenty more where that came from. All we have to do is continue this happy relationship, and everything will be fine.

But in doing so, they become indifferent to God, His Word and His standards, and become dependent on the government that only had the money to spend because it confiscated it from tax-payers in the first place. The institution has entered into a relationship that can only have one outcome:

There was a young lady from Niger,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger,
They returned from the ride, with the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.

What is the only responsible choice for the believer? “‘Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord…” (II Cor.6:17).

Whose shadow are you walking in today? Make sure it’s the Almighty’s, because every other shadow is a counterfeit-a continuation of that original lie in the Garden: “You shall not die…”

 

 

[1] Found in Rauschning, “The Voice of Destruction,” p.54 (quoted in William Shirer, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” 1968, p.329).

[2] Moore, P., “Life Lessons From The Hiding Place,” 2004, p.92.

[3] Joel McDurmon, “God Verses Socialism,” 2009, p.34.

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