Written by Mr. Triemstra, on February 19, 2021
Deuteronomy and Christian Education
Deuteronomy is a passionate book. We don’t often think of the Pentateuch that way, but Deuteronomy is Moses’ extended and passionate plea for the recently forged people of Israel to remember the great deeds of their God and their Redeemer and to remember his law which is a gift to them. In Deuteronomy 6 and 11 he implores the Israelites to teach their children about the great deeds of God and his law. “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Moses’ concern is that this newly forged people will be enticed by the Canaanite gods and not follow the one true God, the source of all good things. The people will need to learn how to worship God rightly, but they need to learn to live rightly before the face of God as well. In Deuteronomy there is instruction about farming, marriage, immigration, debts, criminal law, and diet – all aspects of life governed by God’s law.
In our Western culture we have benefited from the impact of the Gospel on our social life. It is reflected in our relatively generous immigration policies, our bankruptcy laws, and our notions of individual rights, limited government and representative government. All these are gifts to cherish. But there are gods that entice us. In fact there is a veritable pantheon of gods that are alluring to us. I would venture that there are two chief deities and a group of lesser gods: Mammon and individual human autonomy being the main gods. We are constantly told that we should consume more and more. If we can’t afford what is on offer, we should borrow to pay for it. Economists tell us that our economy needs to keep on growing: in fact it should grow faster than our population. This culture of never-ending consumption fits well with notions of individual human autonomy. We are constantly trained to be the sole choosers for our life.
Even though markets and individual choice are part of the good created realities, when they are made into gods they alienate us from the one true God, from our neighbours, from creation and they lead to massive injustices. Our desire for more leads to farmers all over the world being paid less than poverty wages for our appetites. It leads to sweatshops that can close and move and in an instant if there is any protest from employees being paid starvation wages. It leads to a Texas-sized (and growing!) blob of plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean that is killing vast numbers of marine creatures. Our desire to be autonomous without any external limits, more like little gods, has lead to the fracturing of communities, the deepening of poverty in those fractured communities and to the strange idea that our children, though they may not be able to choose the courses they want in grade nine, are free, even against their parents’ opposition, to choose medical interventions that can lead to lifelong sterilization.
These chief gods of the modern Western pantheon are pervasive in our culture and are alluring to us and our children. So are the lesser gods: the worship of national power, technology, sex, our tribe. We need to be ready to counter them in our homes, in our churches and in our Christian schools. We need to do this for the sake of our children, yes. But we also need to counter them for the sake of the world. Followers of Jesus Christ are called to be agents of his love in this world. The more they are drawn to the false gods, the “principalities and powers,” the less effective they will be as God’s agents of redemption, his ambassadors of the Kingdom. Moses knew how important it was to teach the great works of God to our children. Talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” This is a call not just to parental action, but to communal action, and this is where Ottawa Christian School comes alongside parents.