Ellsworth McIntyre just couldn't leave well enough alone. First, he founded six wildly successful (both religiously and financially) Christian day care schools (Chalcedon Report, December, 1996). Next, he started a Christian Reconstructionist denomination (Chalcedon Report, May, 1997).
Now, he's really making waves. No, that metaphor altogether won't suffice. He's making tsunamis. And if the pietists don't scat for higher ground, they'll soon be drenched. His new book, How to Become a Millionaire in Christian Education, published by Nicene Press, is poised to wash away the sand castles of pietistic education and wash ashore an invading army of godly dominionist educators who create extensive wealth while they spoil Satan's kingdom and advance Christ's kingdom. When this book hits the bookstores and school conventions, a third of the pietistic educational establishment will go into cardiac arrest, another third will salivate over it beneath their covers at night, and the final third will promptly tender their resignations and start the sort of schools McIntyre successfully pilots.
By then the tsunami will be unstoppable.
To indicate the significance of McIntyre's book, a brief historical sketch is in order. The predecessors of the modern Christian school movement are the parochial Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed (usually Dutch) Christian schools of early this century. By and large, they did a creditable, if somewhat modest, job. The fundamentalists gradually instituted Christian schools beginning in the 50s. By the 70s, their schools to their credit were flourishing at least there were a lot of them, even if many were financially broke. They monopolized the production of Christian school curricula. They hosted seminars around the country. Until recently they dominated the Christian school movement. In fact, the Christian school movement was usually, though not quite accurately, identified with the fundamentalists.
But that movement, somewhat like its Protestant and Roman Catholic predecessors, was built on an internal contradiction. The ideal of Christian schools is to engender godly youth whose Faith applies to all of life. The prime reason for abandoning the public schools was not their larcenous character (union of education and state), wicked though it is, but their secularizing character. Christian children were being subjected to non- and anti-Christian instruction, introducing a poisonously secular instruction and therefore world view. Christian parents who enroll their children in state schools tithe their children to Molech and thus invite divine judgment. It almost goes without saying that the prime goal of Christian education is to evangelize non-Christian youth and to train Christian youth to be Christian in their lives.
But we cannot expect Christian youth when they grow to maturity to maintain a truncated Christianity to limit their Faith only to family and church. Their schools teach them that all subjects are Christian, governed by Christ and the Bible. When they graduate, should we expect them to exempt economics, politics, art, media, and music from that comprehensive Christian schema in which they had been trained? Hardly. They will naturally tend to believe that if education must be Christian, all areas of life must be Christian. This is the Christian Reconstruction viewpoint, which virtually all Christian schools, fundamentalist or otherwise, teach, though usually oblivious to its profound consequences.
The problem is that the fundamentalist-dominated Christian school movement espoused, for the most part, a retreatist social theory and a pessimistic eschatology. In Rushdoony's language, they suffered from intellectual schizophrenia. Much of the modern Christian school movement espouses a self-frustrating philosophy: Christ should be Lord and the Bible should govern all of life, but we can never expect that Christ will be Lord and the Bible will govern all of life. The world will increasingly apostatize; so the harder we evangelize the unconverted and Christianize the culture, the more unsuccessful we'll be. In any case, poverty is a mark of deep piety, and helplessness a certification of authentic humility. So, in good masochistic fashion, let's roll up our sleeves and pray and work our way to predestined defeat (it always amazes me that many of the same people who hate the doctrine of the predestination of the salvation of sinners, love the doctrine of the predestination of the defeat of Christ's kingdom and gospel in history).
If all this sounds perverse, that's because it is.
Pietist Christians supporting Christian education and, make no mistake, we're grateful they do act as Christian Reconstructionists and think as pietist defeatists.
This is why they maintain a love-hate relationship with Rushdoony and Christian Reconstruction. We offer the most incisive, robust critique of secular education and justification for Christian education in history. This they like to borrow (usually without giving us credit). But we also articulate an optimistic, world-conquering vision that collides with their retreatist policy. This combination led one of them in the early 80s to brand Rushdoony "the most dangerous man in America as far as Biblical Christianity is concerned." On the one hand, his critique of secular education is as devastating as his justification for Christian education is unsurpassed. On the other hand, his comprehensive world view, law-based ethics and postmillennial eschatology dislodge the tent pegs of the pietists' pilgrim lodgings.
What's a pietist to do? Only one strategy: Plagiarize the critiques of state schools and justifications for Christian day schools, and hope nobody finds out about the world-conquering, Calvinist, dominionist message.
They are finding out. And as McIntyre's book circulates, many more will discover a basic fact: Christian education is not compatible with the defeatist, pietist vision.
Thomas S. Kuhn's classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1970 ed.) points out that old paradigms (models or ways of looking at data) in the scientific community die hard. The old-liners hold out until the end, vainly hoping that the defective paradigm in which they've been schooled can compete with the upstart paradigm embraced by younger scientists which accounts for a greater amount of the data and threatens to overturn and replace the older, outmoded paradigm. The defective paradigm, as it faces the irresistible challenges of the more accurate paradigm, is forced to yield. This is no less true in theology or Christian education.
The pietistic paradigm of modern Christian education is poised to collapse. McIntyre's How to Become a Millionaire in Christian Education signals the last straw. McIntyre's paradigm, I think, will eventually replace the sincere but unwieldy paradigm to which most of Christian education until just recently has clung.
How to Become a Millionaire in Christian Education captivatingly weaves McIntyre's extensive personal experience in Christian education with his stinging indictment of the schizophrenia and pietism of modern Christian education. It bristles with iconoclasms that will gag the pietists: "Free men own property; slaves do not"; "Why should success produce guilt?"; "Let the heretics try to teach these children as they grow older that Christians have no need for supernatural obedience to validate their profession of faith"; "Christian institutions, as a whole, have poor credit records"; "The customer is the sovereign of the marketplace"; "Sad to say, the pastors I have known have fully earned their miserable poverty, failing churches, failing health, and failing homes"; and "Handwringing about governmental abuse, although very real, does a real disservice to the Christian school movement."
I predict the book will be publicly and viciously attacked by the enraged pietistic educational leaders whose ministry requires a poor and dependent teaching corps. These attacks will increase the book's sales among the poor and dependent teaching corps, many of whom will become energetic (and wealthy) Christian Reconstructionists. The book provides the general outline and the motivational fire: it points readers to the actual training manual they can purchase to start a school of their own. In addition, it offers the possibility of working directly for Dr. McIntyre's Grace Community Schools.
Catch the wave.
I mean, the tsunami.
Send $10.00 and $2.00 for postage and handling to:
4405 Outer Drive,
Naples, FL 34112
- P. Andrew Sandlin
P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author. He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California. He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation. He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).