Running a school today?


Headmaster Alun Ebenezer reflects on what Christianity ought to bring to education

Alun Ebenezer

Alun Ebenezer

Not a week goes by, it seems, without a faith school, or the subject of education and faith, hitting the headlines.

The Trojan Horse situation in Birmingham has put the topic firmly in the spotlight. The government and the Department for Education (DfE) are understandably worried about impressionable young people being indoctrinated and radicalised. Furthermore, as with schools, nurseries found to be teaching creationism as scientific fact will be barred from receiving education funding.

On top of this, in his annual report, the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said that almost a third of England’s secondary schools are not good enough. He went on to say that improvement at secondary level is stalling and in some cases sliding backwards, with weak leadership and a culture which tolerates low level disruption to blame. This is compounded by recent league tables that suggest 117,000 children are at inadequate schools and evidence which shows that British young people appear to be falling behind their contemporaries in other countries.

No time to retreat

At such a time as this many Christians do not want to send their children to state schools because they are worried that what they will be taught flies in the face of biblical Christianity and frightened of the ungodly influences that will surround their children.

But far from being a time to retreat and be downcast, what an opportunity a time like this presents! I cannot think of a better and more important time to be involved in education. The main responsibility for educating children is within the family and by parents. They are the ones God holds responsible. On 26 occasions the book of Proverbs calls fathers to instruct their children and on 13 occasions it calls mothers to do the same task. However, family life seems to have broken down in Britain today and schools and other agencies are required to play the role the family once did. While we can argue all day that this should not be the case, as long as the situation is as it is, surely we should see this as … (to read more click here)

Alun Ebenezer,
Headmaster Fulham Boys School

This article was first published in the February issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

Is there anybody out there?


Paul Copan and Kenneth D Litwak critique Naturalism and Scientism from the Christian point of view

istock

istock

Most children read Dr Seuss at some stage.

In Dr Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, a mean-spirited kangaroo opposes the elephant Horton’s conviction that small persons can exist in an invisible world on a flower Horton found. Despite Horton’s conviction about what he clearly heard, the kangaroo announces, ‘If you can’t see, hear, or feel something, it doesn’t exist!’

This pretty well summarises the view of many scientifically-minded academics on campuses today. They are opposed to the postmodern mood embraced by many of their peers, but they venture into another form of academic dogmatism.

Science alone?

During the Protestant Reformation, renewed emphasis was give to certain doctrines that had been diminished over the centuries: sola scriptura (‘Scripture alone’ is ultimately authoritative and, when push comes to shove, trumps church tradition) solus Christus (‘Christ alone’ is the basis of our salvation), sola gratia (God’s ‘grace alone’ is the source of our salvation) and sola fide (the means of salvation is ‘by faith alone’ rather than human effort). Well, in the academy, we regularly encounter the quasi-religious dogma of sola scientia, that ‘science alone’ can give us … (to read more click here)

This article is an edited extract from The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas by Copan and Litwak, published by IVP, ISBN 978 1 783 591 282, and is used with permission.

This article was first published in the February issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

The secret thoughts of an unlikely convert (book review)


THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT The secret thoughts of unlikely convert
An English professor’s journey into Christian faith
By Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
Crown & Covenant. 154 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 1 884 527 388

Sometimes when I finish reading a book the ideas in it haunt me — the narrator’s voice echoes inside my head. I wish that I hadn’t finished it because it has been such good company and everything else I have to read doesn’t feel as satisfying. I have just had that experience on finishing this book.

So why my enthusiasm? It’s not the title — although the by-line, ‘An English professor’s journey into Christian faith’, appeals to me. It’s not its slick presentation or that it has a clear target audience — in fact I’m not sure who the target audience is because it ranges across and through so many themes. The title actually describes it well — ‘secret thoughts’ — and the reader is taken into the mind of a perceptive and articulate woman who loves God, but her journey has been anything but conventional.

The book opens with this declaration: ‘When I was 28 years old, I boldly declared myself lesbian. I was a teaching associate in one of the first and strongest Women’s Studies Departments in the nation’.

She considered Christians bad thinkers and anti-intellectual, but they also scared her: ‘Here is one of the deepest ways Christians scared me: the lesbian community was home and home felt safe and secure; the people that I knew best and cared about were in that community; and finally, the lesbian community was accepting and welcoming while the Christian community appeared (and too often is) exclusive, judgmental, scornful, and afraid of diversity’.

Like a train wreck

This book shows how God brought her to himself through the loving and gentle friendship of a pastor and her devouring of the Bible. It was not an easy transition; she refers to her conversion like experiencing a train wreck, as she moved from radical feminism to being married to a pastor of a Reformed Presbyterian Church (unaccompanied psalm singing). Yet this book is so much more than the story of her conversion, albeit a powerful witness to the way God transforms the most unexpected people. It looks at issues of sexuality and witness to the gay community, but it is not a book primarily about the gay issue, although it is worth reading for that alone.
This book shows a person working out their theology having come to church as a total outsider for whom everything must be questioned and grappled with. It looks at what it means to be part of a church, relationships in church, the value of worship, hospitality, and serving others. She examines the principles of Christian marriage, and is a passionate advocate of adoption, fostering and home-schooling. She discusses Bible reading, hermeneutics, worldviews and education. Her perceptions are sharp, witty and thought provoking, I don’t agree with all of her conclusions (if I did I would be in a psalm-singing church), but she makes poignant and pertinent observations.

‘I loved (and love) the Bible, gorging on huge chunks at a time. But these skinny verses, taken out of their rich context, were just sitting there on placards, naked and rude.’

‘Too often the church does not know how to interface with university culture because it comes to the table only ready to moralise and not to dialogue.’

‘I came to believe that my job was not to critique and “receive” a sermon, but to dig into it, to seize its power, to participate with its message, and to steal its fruit.’

‘We in the church tend to be more fearful of the [perceived] sin in the world than of the sin in our own heart. Why is that?’

Finding a friend

I could quote on and on. Reading this book felt like finding a friend. Like all good friends there is room for disagreement, but, like the best friends we have, there is much to learn. Rosaria defies easy categorisation but I believe this book, despite its American context, has much to teach us — and not least how to share the gospel with our gay friends.

Karen Soole, Chair of The Northern Women’s Convention; 
blogs at http://karensdesk.co.uk

 

(This article was first published in the June 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)