Monthly Archives: April 2006

Do you have sensuality or Spirituality?

He that has not received the Spirit is said to be sensual. Oh, what a gulf there is between the least Christian and the greatest moralist! What a wide distinction there is between the greatest professor destitute of grace, and the least of God's believers who has grace in his heart. As great a difference as there is between light and darkness between death and life, between heaven and hell, is there between a saint and a sinner; for mark, my text says, in no very polite phrase, that if we have not the Spirit we are sensual. " Sensual!" says one; "well, I am not converted man—I don t pretend to be; but I am not sensual." Well, friend, and it is very likely that you are not—not in the common acceptation of the term sensual; but understand that this word, in the Greek, really means what an English word like this would mean, if we had such a one—soulish. We have not such a word—we want such a one.

There is a great distinction between mere animals and men, because man hath a soul, and the mere animal hath none. There is another distinction between mere men and a converted man. The converted man hath the Spirit—the unconverted man hath none; he is a soulish man—not a spiritual man; he has got no further than mere nature and has no inheritance in the spiritual kingdom of grace. Strange it is that soulish and sensual should after all mean the same! Friend, thou hast not the Spirit. Then thou art nothing better—be thou what thou art, or whatsoever thou mayest be—than the fall of Adam left thee. That is to say, thou art a fallen creature, having only capacities to live here in sin, and to live for ever in torment; but thou hast not the capacity to live in heaven at all, for thou hast no Spirit; and therefore thou art unable to know or enjoy spiritual things.

And mark you, a man may be in this state, and be a sensual man, and yet he may have all the virtues that could grace a Christian; but with all these, if he has not the Spirit, he has got not an inch further than where Adam's fall left him—that is, condemned and under the curse. Ay, and he may attend to religion with all his might—he may take the sacrament, and be baptized, and may be the most devout professor; but if he hath not the Spirit he hath not started a solitary inch from where he was, for he is still in "the bonds of iniquity," a lost soul. Nay, further, he may pick up religious phrases till he may talk very fast about religion; he may read biographies till he seems to be a deep taught child of God; he may be able to write an article upon the deep experience of a believer; but if this experience be not his own, if he hath not received it by the Spirit of the living God, he is still nothing more than a carnal man, and heaven is to him a place to which there is no entrance. Nay, further, he might go so far as to become a minister of the gospel, and a successful minister too, and God may bless the word that he preaches to the salvation of sinners, but unless he has received the Spirit, be he as eloquent as Apollos, and as earnest as Paul, he is nothing more than a mere soulish man, without capacity for spiritual things.

Nay, to crown all, he might even have the power of working miracles, as Judas had—he might even be received into the church as a believer, as was Simon Magus, and after all that, though he had cast out devils, though he had healed the sick, though he had worked miracles, he might have the gates of heaven shut in his teeth, if he had not received the Spirit. For this is the essential thing, without which all others are in vain—the reception of the Spirit of the living God. It is a searching truth, is it not, my friends? Do not run away from it. If I am preaching to you falsehood, reject it; but if this be a truth which I can substantiate by Scripture, I beseech you, rest not till you have answered this question: Hast thou the Spirit, living, dwelling, working in thy heart?

(An excerpt from a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon, The Holy Spirit and the One Church.  Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 13, 1857, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.  To read the entire sermon, click here.)

Categories: Church Life, Devotional | Leave a comment

A truly blessed time at T4G!

I am so thankful to Boone's Creek Baptist Church for allowing me these opportunities of refreshment and renewal. The Together For the Gospel Conference was an absolute treasure. Hearing the hearts of Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, CJ Mahaney and John MacArthur encouraged and inspired me no end.

A few words about the speakers:

Mark Dever. Dr. Dever serves as the pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and is the Founder of Nine Marks Ministries which seeks to help the church reform to the pattern of the Scriptures. He spoke on "The Pastor's Understanding of His Own Role" based on 1 Corinthians 4. The three marks were that we must have a cross-centered message (1-7), a cross-centered life (8-14), and cross-centered followers (14 to the end). What struck me was that a pastor must be one to forsake his own comfort for the sake of others. This is something that many in the Corinthian church would not do (and note the sarcasm of the Apostle Paul in verses 8 and following — but he makes his point, doesn't he?).

Ligon Duncan. Dr. Duncan serves as the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS, and is the Moderator of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He spoke passionately and persuasively on preaching Christ from the Old Testament. The comprehensive nature of this type of preaching must not be neglected — such as preaching Christ from the OT, preaching it as a Christian book, preach about the Christian experience (especially from the Psalms), and so much more. We have found this out to be true as I have spent the last 2+ years going through the Psalms on Wednesday night. Christ is there! Grace is there! Dr. Duncan reminded us of that.

Albert Mohler. Dr. Mohler serves as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. He preached on "Preaching With the Culture in View." He noted that expository preaching is ""That mode of Christian preaching which takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of a portion of Scripture." I loved the part where he noted that we should never think there was a "golden age in America." So many want to go back to the 1950s where marriage was defined properly and abortion and other ills were considered societal sins. Yet even during that time, whites and blacks had different water fountains, bathrooms, and seating arrangements in restaurants and city buses. That's no golden age! We much see the treasure of the Scriptures and be ready to apply it to the culture without harming the message.

R.C. Sproul. As the head of Ligonier Ministries, Sproul preached on "The Center of Christian Preaching: Justification by Faith Alone." He said he could do this in his sleep, and probably would since he was assigned the slot right after lunch. This doctrine is the "atlas" on which the Church and our individual faith stands or falls. He noted that the Reformation is not over, contrary to what so many think, and that we need to continue to demonstrate this crucial doctrine in our pulpits at ever opportunity.

John Piper. Dr. Piper serves as the Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and the director of Desiring God Ministries. He preached on "Why Expositional Preaching is Particularly Glorifying to God." What struck me was that we preachers often preach without passion. We speak on the glory of God, but our faces do not reflect this wonder! We must preach with zeal and conviction so that it will translate into the hearer's heart. Otherwise, we undermine His glory by not presenting it rightly.

C.J. Mahaney. Bro. Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries after serving for 27 years as pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD. After a few moments of self-deprecation (since he felt so unqualified to be among the T4G panel), he gave a wonderful sermon on the ministers self-watch based on 1 Timothy 4:16.  Tremendous.
John MacArthur.  Bringing over 40 years of experience as Pastor of the Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA, Dr. MacArthur refreshed me most of all.  A commitment to the Word and longevity in one place along with a desire for expositional preaching have mark his wonderful faith-filled career as pastor, Bible teacher, and author. 
I recommend going to Tim Challies website for a more in-depth review as he live-blogged the conference as it happened.  If would would like to buy the CDs or mp3s, go to and click on resources. 

This summer, you can register for T4G 2008, so I hope you'll take great advantage of it. 

Categories: T4G 2006 | Leave a comment

Where is Your Denomination Located?

Al Mohler has such a helpful blog entry on this issue.  The Glenmary Research Center has put together a map showing where our various denominations are represented across the country. 

Speaking for Southern Baptists, why are we clustered so much in the South and Southeast?  I mean, I know we are Southern Baptists, but shouldn't we have moved out a little more by now?  Mohler makes a point that the Pacific Northwest has the fewest church represented there — and it shows by how liberal they are politically and socially!

Sounds like a part of Samaria that we need to reach, eh?

Categories: Church Life, missions | 3 Comments

Attending the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville

I  will be attending the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville over the next few days and am looking forward to this time of refreshment and renewal.

The lineup consists of some of my favorite preachers and theologians:

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY)
Mark Dever (Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington DC)
J. Ligon Duncan, III (Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS)
C.J. Mahaney (Leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries)
R.C. Sproul (Founder and Chairman of Ligonier Ministries)
John MacArthur (Bible Teacher of Grace to You Ministries)
John Piper (Desiring God Ministries)

I'm also looking forward to getting together with old friends and bloggers that I haven't seen in some time such as Mark Combs, Josh Martin, Kevin Whitt, Bob Aubuchon, Derick Dickens, John Divito and many others.

Blessings! I'll blog more about this tomorrow.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No Matter Who You Are (Did the United Church of Christ Get It Right?)

Last night on TBS, my wife and I saw a commercial that caught our attention.  It opened in a cathedral sanctuary where people were coming in to sit for a worship service.  Suddenly, a mom is pictured holding a crying baby, followed a someone pushing a button that triggered an ejection seat in the pew that sent them flying out of there. 

Next, a gay couple sits down.  Ejection seat.  Then a homeless person, a man with a walker, and the list went on. 

Then it stated:  no matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here:  The United Church of Christ.

So let me get this straight:  a homosexual couple is now classified in the same arena as a single mom, an old man in a walker, a homeless person, etc.  I guess all of these now are classified as outcasts and oppressed in a 'traditional' type of church, yes? 

Friends, I agree that Jesus Christ always talked with the outcasts of society.  He spoke with the blind, the lame, the sick — and even healed such!  These people did not choose their situation.  But there are those who have lifestyles they have chosen who want to be lumped in with these other who are in situations they have not.

But in John 7:53-8:11 with the woman caught in a situation she chose — adultery — He told the Pharisees, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7, ESV).  They quote this along with Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, lest you be judged." 

But yet they seem to miss what else Jesus said.  He told the woman, "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?"  She said, No one, Lord."  And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you.  Go, from now on and sin no more."

Again, where's the focus for many?  That Jesus didn't condemn her.  The reason, I believe, is that the Pharisees did not offer the opportunity to repent.  They just took her with the intent of pronouncing a sentence and then punishing her.  No repentence!  No offer of God's mercy and forgiveness!  Just sheer condemnation.

But Jesus grants us that opportunity to repent — and that must be the message of the church.  "Go, from now on and sin no more."  From this point on, live for Me!  Love Me by obeying Me.

With the blind, the lame, and the sick, there was no sin to turn from!  But with other lifestyles that the Bible does speak of as sin, there is something to turn from and Someone to turn to! 

What kind of love would we be displaying as a true church if we did not tell folks of God's will and way and purpose?  If we did not preach, "Strive for holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14), then we would have as Cole Porter said a society where "anything goes."

Love your people — preach as Jesus preached in Mark 1:14-15:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

This is preaching as Jesus preached.  Turn!  Trust!

Categories: Church Life, culture, worship | 3 Comments

What Are We Looking For in the Bible (Michael Horton)

Calvin Theological Seminary professor Sidney Greidanus has provided a masterful overview of the Dutch debates of the 1930's and while the historical details may not be relevant for most readers, the issues raised cannot be dismissed in our own situation.3

While the liberal Protestants on the Continent were already busily engaged in downplaying the historical dimension of revelation, emphasizing the ethical, psychological and spiritual applications provided by the various biblical writers, a number of prominent Reformed theologians saw similar, if less overt, problems within conservative congregations. According to Greidanus, biblical interpretation during the early part of the century was often marked by the following three tendencies:

(Click here to read the rest of the article by Michael Horton.)

Categories: Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, For Seminary Students | Leave a comment

Bad and Getting Worse (Gary Bauer)

Every conservative (read: Republican) in town has been losing sleep over President Bush’s falling poll numbers. Today’s Fox News poll will provide them no rest. The president’s approval rating hit a record low of 33 percent this week, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. Is the country becoming more liberal? Not at all! The president’s decline, which appears to be picking up momentum on the down-side, is largely explained by falling support among self-described Republicans. For the first time, his approval rating from Republicans has dropped below 70 percent to 66 percent.

So, what explains the horrendous numbers? Two issues have been in the headlines in the last week or so: rising gasoline prices and illegal immigration amnesty. On the gas prices, the media has been relentless with a new story every night. Meanwhile, the Republican Party and the White House have been largely silent, even though there is a strong case that can be made to explain the increase. By the way, this will get worse. Spot shortages are now showing up here in the East because of environmental requirements mandating that an additive be taken out of the gasoline and ethanol added.

On immigration, the problem is more severe, and the Republican Party is in danger of self-destructing. The Fox poll shows that only 26 percent of the country thinks that recent demonstrations are appropriate, but there has not been one word from the administration questioning how illegal immigrants can freely march demanding – not requesting – that we change our laws. Do we want to reach out to the center? Then deal with illegal immigration. The Fox poll shows that Independents, in a backlash against the demonstrations, now say they are less likely to support easing immigration requirements by a 54-to-14 percent margin.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Jesus' Demand to Repent (John Piper)

Letters From Cambridge #2

As part of my sabbatical here in Cambridge, England, I am working on a book with the tentative title What Jesus Demands From the World. The demand to repent is as basic as it gets in Jesus’ message. It is equally basic to, and almost synonymous with, the command, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). One of my concerns is to show that repentance in Jesus’ message is not behavior but the inner change that gives rise to new God-centered, Christ-exalting behavior. Here are some thoughts to help make the meaning of repentance more plain.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)

The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:41)

Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3, 5)

The first demand of Jesus’ public ministry was, “Repent.” He spoke this command indiscriminately to all who would listen. It was a call for radical inward change toward God and man.

Two things show us that repentance is an internal change of mind and heart rather than mere sorrow for sin or mere improvement of behavior. First, the meaning of the Greek word behind the English “repent” (metanoeo) points in this direction. It has two parts: meta and noeo. The second part (noeo) refers to the mind and its thoughts and perceptions and dispositions and purposes. The first part (meta) is a prefix that regularly means movement or change.1 So the basic meaning of repent is to experience a change of the mind’s perceptions and dispositions and purposes.

The other factor that points to this meaning of repent is the way Luke 3:8 describes the relationship between repentance and new behavior. It says, “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” Then it gives examples of the fruits: “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” (Luke 3:11). This means that repenting is what happens inside of us that leads to the fruits of new behavior. Repentance is not the new deeds, but the inward change that bears the fruit of new deeds. Jesus is demanding that we experience this inward change.

Why? His answer is that we are sinners. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). What was Jesus’ view of sin? In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus describes the son’s sin like this: “He squandered his property in reckless living . . . [and] devoured [it] with prostitutes” (Luke 15:13, 30). But when the prodigal repents he says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Therefore, throwing your life away on reckless living and prostitutes is not just humanly hurtful; it is an offense against heaven—that is, against God. That’s the essential nature of sin. It’s an assault on God.

We see this again in the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray. He said that they should pray, “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). In other words, sins that God forgives are compared to the ones people commit against us, and those are called debts. Therefore, Jesus’ view of sin was that it dishonored God and put us in debt to restore the divine honor we had defamed by our God-belittling behavior or attitudes. That debt is paid by Jesus himself. “The Son of man came . . . to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). But for us to enjoy that gift he says we must repent.

Repenting means experiencing a change of mind that now sees God as true and beautiful and worthy of all our praise and all our obedience. This change of mind also embraces Jesus in the same way. We know this because Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God.” Seeing God with a new mind includes seeing Jesus with a new mind.

No one is excluded from Jesus’ demand to repent. He made this clear when a group of people came to him with news of two calamities. Innocent people had been killed by Pilate’s massacre and by the fall of the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:1-4). Jesus took the occasion to warn even the bearers of the news: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). In other words, don’t think calamities mean that some people are sinners in need of repentance and others aren’t. All need repentance. Just as all need to be born anew because “that which is born of the flesh is [merely] flesh” (John 3:6), so all must repent because all are sinners.

When Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32), he did not mean that some persons are good enough not to need repentance. He meant some think they are (Luke 18:9), and others have already repented and have been set right with God. For example, the rich young ruler desired “to justify himself” (Luke 10:29) while “the tax collector . . . beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ [and] went down to his house justified [by God!]” (Luke 18:13-14).

Therefore, none is excluded. All need repentance. And the need is urgent. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What did he mean by perish? He meant that the final judgment of God would fall on those who don’t repent. “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41). Jesus, the Son of God, is warning people of the judgment to come, and offering escape if we will repent. If we will not repent, Jesus has one word for us, “Woe, to you” (Matthew 11:21).

This is why his demand for repentance is part of his central message that the kingdom of God is at hand. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The gospel—the good news—is that the rule of God has arrived in Jesus to save sinners before it arrives at his second coming in judgment. So the demand to repent is based on the gracious offer that is present to forgive, and on the gracious warning that someday those who refuse the offer will perish in God’s judgment.

After he had risen from the dead Jesus made sure that his apostles would continue the call for repentance throughout the world. He said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). So the demand of Jesus to repent goes to all the nations. It comes to us, whoever we are and wherever we are, and lays claim on us. This is the demand of Jesus to every soul: Repent. Be changed deep within. Replace all God-dishonoring, Christ-belittling perceptions and dispositions and purposes with God-treasuring, Christ-exalting ones.

For Christ and his kingdom,

Pastor John

1 For example meta is used as a prefix in the word metabaino (transfer or change from one place to another), metaballo (change one’s way of thinking), metago (lead or move from one place to another), metatithemi (convey from one place to another, put in another place, transfer), metamorphoo (change in a manner visible to others, be transfigured), metastrepho (cause a change in state or condition, change, alter), metaschematizo (change the form of something, transform, change), etc.

Categories: Theology | Leave a comment

Lessons on effective leadership from Harry Truman (

In a recent edition of his TIPS newsletter, Philip Humbert writes, "Harry Truman didn't find a career until late in life. He didn't marry until well into his thirties, and before that he tried a variety of jobs and ventures, including farming and selling men's clothing. His clothing store went bankrupt and he referred to himself as a 'failed haberdasher' for the rest of his life. Because of poor eyesight, he barely made it into the Army, but served with distinction and courage in World War I. In his 40's and 50's he drifted into politics and served as a county commissioner, mainly dealing with road repair.

"He never had money and he and his wife spend most of their married life living upstairs in his mother-in-law's home. When he was elected to the U.S. Senate, he was seen as a party hack and given little respect. In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt selected him to run for Vice President after the 'better' candidates were all rejected. FDR thought so little of him, they never had a serious conversation and Truman was told nothing about the atomic bomb until several days after he was sworn in as the new President.

"And yet this 'common man' is often viewed as one of the greatest Presidents of the 20th century. How can this be? Truman himself often said that there 'are probably a million people more qualified than me to be President, but I'm the one with the job, and I'll do my best.' Throughout his life, he was always known for doing his best, and often astonished people by exceeding their expectations. Here are some of my observations about how he did it.

1. First, he out-worked everyone around him. FDR rarely got to work before 10:00 AM, but Truman was usually up by 5:30 and worked all day long. In his first days as President, the change caught the White House staff off-guard. From the butlers to members of the Cabinet, they had never seen anyone who worked so hard and demanded such from them. One key to his amazing success was simple hard work.

2. Second, he was decisive. Where FDR delayed and avoided decisions, Truman listened to advice, read the reports, made decisions promptly, and once they were made, he rarely changed his mind. He made bold decisions and once made, he knew how to hold a steady course.

3. Third, his personal integrity was beyond reproach. At the Potsdam Conference after the war, he went into Berlin and a staffer suggested they could go drinking or get some 'women of easy virtue,' to which Truman coldly responded that he loved his wife and didn't mess around on her. He kicked the staffer out of his car and never spoke to him again.

4. Fourth, he knew the value of loyalty. He was famous for his life-long friendships and personal warmth. He knew the names of staffers in the White House, and remembered their families. When members of his staff came under political fire, he ignored the newspapers and kept his team together.

5. Fifth and most important, he knew who he was. In the face of enormous pressures and criticism, Truman knew his goals and purposes, remained firm in his beliefs and seldom wavered. He had enormous personal courage and quiet confidence in his own judgment.

"Sooner or later, life confronts each of us with problems that seem beyond our abilities and asks us to meet them anyway. Whether from illness or business gone bad, or in some other form, eventually we must dig deep to see what we are made of. These 'impossible' challenges reveal our character and give us the opportunity to surprise ourselves. President Truman did it, and so can we." (Copyright © 2006, all rights reserved. Contact Humbert at or email to

Categories: leadership | Leave a comment

A Review of "Stupid in America" (Lee Duigon)


Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids A Documentary by John Stossel, for ABC’s 20/20

Dressed like derelicts, teenagers in a public school classroom — with their teacher present — climb on top of their desks, crawl on the floor, turn their backs on the teacher and talk loudly with each other, play cards, or wander around the room. One boy even strips to the waist and “dances” during class.

Everyone who has ever cracked his head against the brick wall of the government school monopoly owes ABC’s John Stossel a vote of thanks for filming these goings-on and broadcasting the images over the nation’s airwaves.

Why? Because the American people don’t believe us when we say that public education is a failure. Even if they grant that “other schools” may be in trouble, they insist that “our schools” are all right.

Parents and taxpayers need to see these images, and Stossel has provided them. But in one 60-minute documentary (with time out for commercials), he is able to reveal only the tip of the iceberg. As bad as the schools fare under his examination, the truth is ever so much worse.

Are American Kids Stupid?

Making the film wasn’t easy. “State after state wouldn’t let us in,” Stossel said. “Washington, D.C., directed us to a few of their best schools, and New York City wouldn’t let us in at all.” In fact, the chaotic classroom described above was in “one of America’s best public schools!” Stossel said.

Why keep out the cameras? What do the schools have to hide? Plenty — but constrained by his time and format, Stossel focused sharply on the academics.

“The longer they stay in school,” he concluded, “the stupider they are.”

Stossel compared a “good” school district in suburban New Jersey to an “average” school in Belgium, administering to the students a general information test. The Belgian students answered 76% of the questions correctly; the New Jersey students, 46%.

“It has to be something with the school,” said a disappointed American child, “’cause I don’t think we’re stupider.”

A recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics reveals that only 31% of American college graduates can read a complex book with good comprehension.[1]

How can that be? Stossel zeroed in on an 18-year-old in South Carolina who could not read, period. School administrators and “education specialists” insisted he was making progress, “doing fine,” etc. — only he still couldn’t read. His mother finally sent him to the local Sylvan Learning Center, where he learned to read in 72 hours.

“South Carolina schools, in 12 years, spent $100,000 on [his] education,” Stossel said, “and left him behind.”

Compared to students in 24 other countries, American children at the age of 10 take a standardized test and place eighth out of 25. At the age of 15, when children from 40 countries take the test, the Americans slip to 25th place. “They do worse than kids from much poorer countries, like Korea and Poland,” Stossel said.

Why are America’s schools so bad?

It’s the Monopoly, Stupid

Ask an “educator,” and he’ll surely tell you that our schools would get better if only we spent more money on them.

“They tell us, ‘There’s nothing wrong that money can’t fix,’” Stossel said. He went on to examine a Kansas City school district where $2 billion was spent on gaudy “improvements” — indoor pool, indoor track, weight rooms, computer labs, and so on. “The kids’ scores got worse, and those schools lost their accreditation.”

“You could give the public schools all the money in America, and it wouldn’t be enough,” said a frustrated reformer.

“Where does the money go?” Stossel asked. To administrative salaries, additional administrative staff, new administration buildings, “consultants,” and “experts,” he answered. Asking a few teachers how much money ought to be spent per child, per year, the teachers replied: “Oh … $10,000 per pupil … maybe $25,000 … or $30,000. The more, the better.”

The money makes no difference, Stossel said, because public education is a government monopoly — immune to competition and under no pressure whatsoever to improve.

Competition and school choice, in the form of vouchers and charter schools, would force the public schools to improve, Stossel said. Stossel is well-known for his libertarian, free-market views. Returning to Belgium, he compared that country’s choice-based school system to America’s government monopoly.

“Belgium has school choice,” he said. “The money for education is attached to the kids, not the schools, and parents have full choice. So if the schools are not good, they’re gone.

“Why should we keep kids in a school that’s not working?”

Why No Reform?

Just before Stossel finished preparing his documentary, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s experimental school choice program — which had already produced positive results — was unconstitutional. Earlier, school choice proposals in South Carolina, backed strongly by the governor, were killed by the state legislature.

In Florida, a public school teacher sued to abolish school choice. “Competition is not for human beings,” she said.

In South Carolina, the state teachers’ union spent millions of dollars on lobbying and television ads to keep school choice from seeing the light of day.

Reform efforts fail, Stossel said, because public school administrators and teachers’ unions do everything in their power to defeat it. To show the political face of the teachers’ unions, Stossel filmed a mass rally by the New York City teachers. “You are heroes!” the union president roared to the crowd; and the crowd roared back.

How strong are the unions? “The monopoly in my town [New York],” Stossel said, “can’t fire a teacher who sends sexual emails to a 16-year-old student.”

That teacher finally was fired, he said, but only after a five-year wrangle with the union.

In a rhetorical coup, Stossel displayed a chart showing the process that must be followed by a New York City principal seeking to fire a teacher for cause. The chart was six feet long and featured enough arrows, boxes, solid and dotted lines to make the schematic for a lunar probe look like a diagram for a balsa wood toy glider. And it’s backed up by a 200-page union contract!

What He Left Out

Unable to dissect a world-class mess in an hour-long documentary, Stossel omitted any reference to the teachers’ unions’ political and cultural agenda. The unions spend tens of millions of dollars a year to support left-wing political candidates and causes. And in most states, if you match up the names of your teachers’ union officers with those on the rosters of the leading homosexual activist groups, you’ll find many of them on both lists.

These are not the persons to whom Christian parents should entrust their children. The unions may not be doing a good job of teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic; but they are teaching promiscuity, abortion, and sodomy.

Stossel also neglected to mention the only real solution to the problem — remove your children from the public schools, and either send them to Christian schools or homeschool them. This has long been Chalcedon’s position.

An evil tree can bear only evil fruit, and public education is an evil tree. R.J. Rushdoony spent decades proving this: see his 1963 book, The Messianic Character of American Education.[2] American public schools rest on a non-Christian, aggressively secularist philosophy that rejects God’s laws and puts man and the state in His place. This is not fruit you want your children to be eating.

Stossel also found no time to explore the rising tide of violence, crime, drug use, and sexual activity in the public schools. Perhaps he will oblige us with a follow-up.

Meanwhile, if he has succeeded in jarring a few parents out of their false sense of educational security and inspiring them to seek an alternative to the public schools, he has done America a service.


[1] See .

[2] Ross House Books, Vallecito, CA: 1995 edition.


Lee Duigon is a Christian free-lance writer and contributing editor for the Chalcedon Report. He has been a newspaper editor and reporter and a published novelist.

(Thanks to Bill Pershing, in Missouri for sending the article this way!)

Categories: culture | Leave a comment