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Volume 11, Issue 4: Anvil

Assuming the Center

Douglas Wilson

Through the kindness of God and generosity of many of the saints, my wife and I had the privilege of traveling to Scotland this summer in order to visit many of the places dear to those who love the Reformation.

For various reasons, the high point of the trip was a visit to St. Andrews. One of these reasons had to do with the juxtaposition of several events, separated by some centuries. We visited the ruins of the castle there, in front of which is a marker in the road where the Protestant martyr, George Wishart, was executed. Wishart was a powerful preacher, the man who had set such a wonderful example for the young John Knox.
Shortly after seeing this, we found ourselves in the market area of St. Andrews, where a gray-haired gentleman was doing some open-air preaching in the presence of the many people there. But for all they cared, he could have been a parking meter. It is hard to imagine someone being considered more completely irrelevant, or seeing someone more thoroughly ignored. Even a parking meter would have gotten, periodically, some attention. But as I listened to him speak, I heard the content of the ancient gospel. He was preaching the truth.
If you had a good arm, he was preaching just a stone’s throw from where Wishart had died, and I found myself wondering about the difference fifty yards makes. Or four centuries. Or perhaps neither.
The difference was in the fact that the early Protestant preachers assumed the center in their preaching, and they were consequently a genuine threat to the establishment. Modern preachers, whether on the street or safely ensconced in their worship centers, do no such thing. Even when modern evangelicals oppose the wickedness at the center, they still do not question their right to that center. We modern Christians tend to agree with the wicked about one thing at least—the fact that the wicked belong at the center, and that those who oppose them should always harangue them from the periphery.
After the glorious death of Wishart, when Knox threw himself into the work of Reformation, it never occurred to him to start a new little ministry in a chapel on the outskirts of town. He settled in his mind that he was going to preach at the Cathedral at St. Andrews (just a short distance up the road in another direction). This was the man who prayed, “Give me Scotland, or I’ll die.” The bishop there said that if Knox tried it, he would be received with a twelve-gun salute, the most part of which would light upon his nose. But Knox came to St. Andrews anyway and preached there, from the center.
As we consider the work before us, the needed reformational work, we must realize that the historic Reformers were not just “lucky.” With a medieval mindset, they understood something about the center which we do not. They knew, in short, that it was central.


Christianity Today, Out of Touch Again

By Douglas Jones

Just when a crack of light begins to break through the evangelical cultural wall, Christianity Today rushes to plug it up.

For years, many evangelicals have been working diligently to convince others of the principial idolatry inherent in public education. On the other side, organizations like Citizens for Excellence in Education have made stalwart efforts to keep Christian kids in public education and to try to reform it from the inside.
Within the past couple of years, CEE changed its direction in a wonderful way. In its new Rescue 2010 plan, its president Dr. Robert Simonds announced a “significant change in our approach,” arguing that “Christians must exit the public schools.” Despite all the good attempts at reform, he says, “Christians can no longer afford to wait before rescuing their own children. Our children’s souls are at stake.”
This is light and glory and news worth spraying champagne around the office for. Here someone recognizes one of the most strategic fault lines for the next fifty years and publicly acts upon it.
But Christianity Today’s lead editorial (9/6/99) calls Simond’s turn “wrong.” Wow, that’s actually quite a dramatic word for CT, where passion and strong words are, well, sort of, no-nos.
CT argues that the “fear [of our children imitating pagan culture] does not negate the duty of both parents and students to minister and evangelize.” Perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea. Imagine the power of a clumpy crowd of little kid ministers and evangelists who are “blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior,” etc. (1 Tim. 3:2–4). Now those are kids ready to be salt and light in Babylon.
CT also claims “public education’s greatest asset” is “the diversity of its student bodies,” and such diversity will teach Christian kids “how to relate to non-Christians.” Well, then prisons should also foster better diversity relations. CT assumes government ed only nurtures healthy relations. Whence, then, comes all these snotty little nazi wannabees? Dumping your kids off at the local Baal Elementary School is the lazy boy’s way of learning diversity.
CT complains that “fear is not . . . a valid reason for educating children at home or in private schools.” Why not? CT’s appeal to psychobabble fear misses the deeper fear at issue. Even the tamest government school is devoted to an omnipresent neutrality. Where does Scripture exhort us to bring up our kids in the nurture and admonition that the Lord God is irrelevant to life? Why is it so hard to see that public education is institutionalized idolatry?

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