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What's a Father to Do?

By Ellsworth McIntyre
June 01, 1999

The most important lessons of life are learned in the marketplace, not in the classroom. Practical education is not graded on the curve. The Bible reads, "And we know that all things work together . . ."(Rom. 8:28). It was the common opinion among ancient Hebrews that "a man who did not teach his son the law and a trade, the ability to work, reared him to be a fool and a thief" (R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. I, p. 183). Classroom education, on the other hand, is almost always impractical and most distant from learning the law, a trade, and the ability to work. For this reason, the majority are always fools and thieves, because, well, that's what they have been trained to be. Socialism (collective thievery) and cultural Marxism (collective foolishness) are the natural product of a classroom education. What is a father to do? The good father will teach his son a trade.

Death by Science
The Holy Spirit will guide the godly father who trains his son in a practical skill. I remember a lesson taught to me by my father. I was very young, only two to three years old. I remember the lesson because of the pain and embarrassment. (Pain and embarrassment greatly increase learning.) In my formative years, there seemed to be always a project underway. My parents restored and improved two houses during my childhood. For eighteen years, there seemed to be a fine coating of plaster dust over everything. I received a classroom abstract Greek education at school and a practical Hebrew education at home. My first lesson began with my father's stern command, "Don't put your finger in there!" I noted his words and stared into the light socket on the end of an electrical extension cord. I had put my finger there before with no consequences; therefore, I proceeded on experience instead of obedience. Ah! A bitter lesson for all budding scientists. One must honor thy father and thy mother if one wants to live long upon the land that the Lord giveth (Ex. 20:12). My empirical evidence (scientific facts) told me my father was mistaken. My father, on the other hand, knew that the electrical cord was charged with power on this occasion, unlike those other times when I stuck my finger in the socket gathering my scientific facts.

Humanists always assume too much — that's why humanists don't dwell long on the land. Poverty, sickness, and premature death follow those who refuse to follow godly authority. Those who live by science die by science. The terrifying sting of electricity fired through my little body. I screamed and simultaneously wet my pants. It is not a good idea to wet your pants with 120 volts coursing through your flesh. My father roared with laughter, saying, "Well, boy, the next time I say 'Don't' you'd better listen."

My mother was all sympathy. She swept me into her arms. "Are you all right, Ellsworth?"

My father answered for me, "He's okay, but be careful, he wet his pants."

Laughter, embarrassment, humiliation; no wonder I can't forget that lesson. Experience guided by the Holy Spirit is very good education, absolutely essential if the child of God is to earn a reward. (2 Jn. 8: ". . . lose not those things which we have gained. . . .") Isn't it ironic that pain, embarrassment, and humiliation are forbidden tools in the classroom?

Education for Status or Money?
A good father needs to know the difference between classroom education and marketplace education. Our anti-Christian culture values degrees and diplomas more than demonstrated achievement. My father taught me how to work. He didn't consciously make that choice, but I believe the Lord certainly used that experience to overcome the foolishness of a classical education.

Our culture makes fools out of those who follow the majority. To illustrate how foolish we are, please read The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. It was on the best seller list for weeks and weeks, so I am sure you can get a copy at your local library. These two Ph.D.s note that it is still possible to become a millionaire in America if you avoid the professions, government work, and higher education in general. Instead, go into relatively unregulated businesses like pest control. The title of the book notes that the millionaires they surveyed live in middle-class neighborhoods next door to doctors and lawyers. The pest control business owner often has a net worth fifty times greater than his professional next door neighbor, but the businessman has less status than a doctor or lawyer. The relatively poor, debt-laden professional and the foolish majority look down their noses at the entrepreneur. As a result, the new millionaire (if he follows the majority) sends his children to college to become professionals. The millionaire trades his children's estate for status. I found the book reassuring, because at Grace Community Schools, we teach our teachers to start, own, and operate their own schools, instead of becoming "executives" in someone else's school. Class conscious fathers blinded by snobby degrees won't find The Millionaire Next Door a cheerful read. Fathers who follow the Great Commission to have all nations submit to God's law will understand that owning and controlling private property by means of righteousness is much better than many college degrees (See Gen. 2:28 and Mt. 6:33). Our purpose in this world is not to impress the majority of fools and thieves with our classical education. Our goal is to expand the dominion of Christ, and owning private property is our best weapon. That is why socialists hate capitalists. The saint in the marketplace will best all rivals most of the time.

The Last Laugh
My father taught me many lessons as I worked at his side for eighteen years. I asked him once if he remembered laughing at his son getting zapped with electricity. He was indignant and sure that I made the whole thing up. My mother remembered, however, and this time she was not sympathetic but laughed and laughed.

I am sure the Holy Spirit can overcome a stupid abstract classroom education. He did for me. I made certain that my eight children learned a trade. Yes, my children earned college degrees as well, but the ability to work and to know the law of God and a trade came first. The good father should follow the example of God the Father. God sent Christ to Joseph who taught Him to be a carpenter, and now Jesus is the ruler of the world. He that sitteth in the heavens is laughing. Make sure He's not laughing at you (Ps. 2:4). God always has the last laugh.


Topics: R. J. Rushdoony, Biblical Law, Family & Marriage, Education, Socialism

Ellsworth McIntyre

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