Saturday, August 13, 2005

Two Fascinating Links

I have come across two fascinating old on-line pieces that readers might be interested in. The first is an old piece at Beggars All on a certain "Charles Finney University", a Christian school in the Michigan area (the school's real name is revealed here). I must say, the main effect on me of this post is to confirm my general feeling that Christian education is absurd. I very much doubt whether Concordia is any better. Why is it so absurd? My gut feelings run this gamut: 1) because learning involves grades, which is works, which means kingdom of the left hand. 2) Because most Christian schools aren't that good, which means the faculty are mostly wannabes (a guy like Gene Veith stands out all the brighter by contrast), and wannabes are the stupidest, most dogmatic liberals; 3) because Christian schools are drenched in the treacly atmosphere of affirmation at all costs, which makes it impossible to do anything intelligent. (You know, in Buddhism, intelligence is supposed to be a transmuted form of anger. I think there is a lot of psychological insight in that.)

UPDATE: While the Here We Stand version of this post has a number of positive testimonials about Christian education (follow the link to the comment box), the Bayly brothers' blog, Out of Our Minds, Too argues that Christian colleges (at least - - they are big fans of homeschooling and/or truly evangelical Christian grade schools) are particularly dangerous to . . . Christians.

Here's another link to an essay by Allan Carlson, my favorite family historian, on Luther's idea of the family. It's a great essay; please read it.

BUT, I'm going to concentrate on the very end where he trails off into an all-too-common historical error. After summarizing Luther's idea of the family, he notes that for four hundred years it served the Lutheran lands well. He then asks, so what happened now, why did it decline? and offers the idea, that maybe not making marriage a sacrament was a bad idea.

OK, I confront this fallacy among my students all the time. It goes like this: any institution that doesn't last forever is a FAILURE and has a "FATAL FLAW" (cue most thoughtful look) deep in its foundation. It makes you sound like a very deep and long-term thinker, but really it's completely illogical. Marriage was not a sacrament in 1875 when the Lutheran family ideal was working in Lutheran lands, and it was not a sacrament in 1975 when it was being rejected. What basis (other than the hankering to water down the Reformation usual to tired Protestants) does he offer for linking one to non-sacramental marriage and not the other?

Two rules of thumb for would-be deep thinkers on history:

1) NOTHING LASTS FOREVER. If something lasts 100 years, it's a collossal success. What if humanity ever did create the absolutely ideal society? Our first order of business would be change it--you know, to improve it.

2) YOU CAN'T EXPLAIN A CHANGE OF STATE BY A CONSTANT. For example, non-sacramental marriage is a constant of the Lutheran marriage ideal; its twentieth century breakdown must therefore be related to some other thing happening relatively soon (and four hundred years ISN'T relatively soon) before the breakdown happens. Now that change (the efficient cause to use Aristotelian terminology) may well interact with a constant in a particular way, but the constant by itself can't be the reason for the change.

3) In general, every big thinker should have ECCELESIASTES 7:10 branded on his forehead. Actually the whole book should be required reading for any would be macrohistorian.

Allan Carlson's got lots of other good stuff on the Family Research Council website:
"Two Becoming One Flesh"
"Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace"
"'Conjugal Happiness' and the American Experience"
"Standing for Liberty"
"Marriage and Procreation"
"The Failure of European Family Policy"
"The Natural Family Meets the Moral Hazard at National Health Care Gulch"
"Making Social Security Reform Family Friendly"

Originally posted at Here We Stand

Labels: , , , ,