You are hereHomeschooling, the Genesis Debate, and Hypocrisy
Homeschooling, the Genesis Debate, and Hypocrisy
by Timothy P. Martin
I recently learned that that the Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) banned Sonlight Curriculum for Homeschoolers from the 2008 annual homeschool convention sponsored by CHEC. Now it appears, unless CHEC reverses their decision, that ban will be permanent.I recently learned that that the Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) banned Sonlight Curriculum for Homeschoolers from the 2008 annual homeschool convention sponsored by CHEC. Now it appears, unless CHEC reverses their decision, that ban will be permanent.The CHEC – Sonlight Controversy
What is going on here?
CHEC is the only state-wide homeschool organization in Colorado. Sonlight, a Christian curriculum based out of Colorado, has been a regular vendor at the CHEC convention for more than 12 years. The co-owner of Sonlight is John Holzmann. Though John is no longer involved in day-to-day operations of Sonlight, he remains the inquisitive type who is always investigating various viewpoints. That shows in how Sonlight Curriculum was originally formulated. They offer books written by Christians. They offer books written by non-Christians. They sometimes offer books with contrasting (and even contradictory) views. The goal is to expose the homeschool student to different points of view so that the student, with their parents' guidance, can develop critical thinking skills. In a nutshell, Sonlight Curriculum is after real education – which is probably why they are so popular with homeschoolers. Except...
This has now caused a problem for John and Sonlight in Colorado.
Why did CHEC ban Sonlight from the annual Colorado homeschool convention? The reason Sonlight was not allowed in the vendor hall at the 2008 CHEC convention is because Sonlight includes some material written from an old-earth perspective! (See John's initial account here and updated account here. Important note: please read this context in order to follow my article.)
CHEC's Position Statement contains an explicit young-earth statement, and they require all vendors to sign this statement in order to participate. Sonlight has always signed in good faith. Their curriculum is produced with notation from the young-earth perspective even though some of the individual books used in the curriculum are written from an old-earth perspective. Sonlight is not an old-earth organization. They are interested in providing materials that help educate students about the debate. You know... think critically about the issue by reading arguments from both sides.
CHEC determined that, since Sonlight includes material that contradicts the young-earth framework, Sonlight is no longer eligible to participate at the Colorado homeschool convention. It does not matter that Sonlight explained at length that the old-earth material in the curriculum was given for educational purposes, and that parents should critically evaluate the material with their children. Sonlight even includes notes regarding the young-earth view at these points to aid the teaching parent(s). Someone in authority decided that Sonlight does not meet the standard required by CHEC.
When Sonlight privately tried to resolve the situation with CHEC and rectify the problem, the leadership began to raise wider issues and concerns regarding Sonlight curriculum. Now CHEC has broadened their complaint. They have come to the conclusion that the overall method and material Sonlight uses in its curriculum is "not Christian enough" for the Christian Home Educators of Colorado. Sonlight was allowed to participate in the CHEC convention for the last 12+ years, but they are good enough no longer.
I suspect that some of John's articles regarding the Genesis debate have something to do with Sonlight getting the boot from CHEC. John has written a few articles over the years in an attempt to moderate the extreme accusations that often fly in the Genesis debate.
There are reasons to believe, as you will see below, that Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis used his platform when speaking at homeschool conventions in years past to marginalize Sonlight in the homeschool community and to mark out John Holzmann, specifically. On numerous occasions Ken Ham listed Sonlight as a curriculum that does not teach origins to Christian homeschooling children the way he believes the topic should be taught in Christian homes. He also named John Holzmann in public as an example of one whose teaching should not be permitted or promoted within the homeschool movement. Ken Ham was the major speaker at the CHEC homeschool convention in 2007, the year before Sonlight was banned from displaying their curriculum.
What made John Holzmann a target of Ken Ham and other young-earth leaders a few years ago? We will get to the details below, but it boils down to this. John's call for open dialogue in the debate was interpreted as promoting old-earth creationism. John's personal writing on the subject has focused on helping each side of the debate to understand the logic and arguments of the opposing side; a sort of meeting of the minds to bolster understanding and mutual respect in the debate. Someone in authority at CHEC lost respect for Sonlight. It appears that Ken Ham's wish regarding John Holzmann and Sonlight is being fulfilled to some degree, at least in regard to the official function of CHEC.
My Homeschool Connection
Why am I writing about this?
There are quite a few reasons.
I have a personal connection, of sorts, to the situation. My wife and I were both homeschooled. We were married in Colorado and began to homeschool our children in Colorado. I have met the Executive Director of CHEC, Kevin Swanson, a couple of times. In fact, I remember making a small contribution to his campaign for US Senate with the Constitution Party back in 1998. My congregation here in Montana recently hosted a Christian Worldview Conference where we carried the latest edition of Kevin Swanson's book on our book table. It is a good book. Honestly, I hold many things in common with Kevin Swanson regarding modern American culture and the importance of homeschooling for a Christian worldview.
John Holzmann is a friend of mine who, a couple of years ago, expressed interest in Beyond Creation Science. (You can see his comments about the book along with the ensuing discussion about BCS on the Sonlight forums.) John has also examined the recent edition Jeff Vaughn and I published which further develops the connection between preterism and the Genesis debate. He found our new book intriguing though extremely controversial, since we tossed arguments for preterism into the mix along with old-earth creationism. You thought talking about preterism in public might get you into trouble? Try talking about preterism and old-earth creationism at the same time! To a lot of people that is heresy... squared.
Also, I happen to know quite a few preterist, old-earth homeschoolers in Colorado. (My wife and I were members of a preterist congregation in Colorado during the mid-1990s which was filled with homeschoolers.) Many of our old friends have been affected, either directly or indirectly, by CHEC's decisions. They deserve to hear what has been done behind closed doors. I write in the hopes that my friends will be informed in case they wish to try to change the current situation. I believe that Sonlight, a Christian curriculum, should not have been banned from the CHEC convention regardless of whether or not certain high-profile, powerful leaders personally approve of Sonlight's approach.
Everything related to homeschooling interests me. I have watched the movement develop since the mid 1980s (when my wife and I both began to be homeschooled). I have been involved in the Education Station, a local homeschool cooperative and support group here in Whitehall, Montana, for more than 8 years now. I talk regularly with quite a few homeschoolers. I say all that to say this. What I write here is coming from someone deep within the homeschool movement. I am not an outsider with a vendetta against homeschoolers or homeschooling. I am one who has benefited from the homeschool movement, and I am one who profoundly cares about the future of homeschooling for my children's and even grandchildren's sake.
Another reason I write is this. I have thought for a long time that the Genesis debate will make its way into homeschool circles in a big way, sooner or later. For better or worse, it is already a significant topic within preterism. Homeschooling, too, is very prominent within the preterist community. I personally know of more preterists that homeschool than preterists who don't. Consider how many of the speakers at the upcoming Covenant Creation Conference are active homeschoolers. Every single one of them is a homeschooling father.
If preterists care about the debates over Genesis, then it will translate into their homeschooling. A story that mixes homeschooling and the Genesis debate along with a bit of preterism gets my attention.
This story is a preview. As preterism gains popularity in the Church and as old-earth creationism grows in the Church this clash with dogmatic young-earth futurism will inevitably be repeated in state after state and organization after organization. This is a great case study, for what you are reading about is not the end of the story but the beginning of the future of homeschooling.
My hope is that we who are involved, simultaneously, in the homeschool, preterist, and old-earth communities can learn lessons through what is happening in Colorado. Don't think this situation is an isolated train wreck. There will be (and perhaps have been already) more examples that vaguely resemble this, quite possibly in a local group near you. I suspect that how old-earth homeschoolers (or anyone who allows old-earth arguments into homeschool curriculum, e.g. Sonlight) are treated today will have an eerie parallel to the way preterist homeschoolers (or anyone who allows preterist arguments into homeschool curriculum) will be treated in the future. After all, "heresy" is "heresy" as defined by the heretic-hunters. What they are doing to Sonlight and a segment of Christian homeschoolers today, they may very well be doing to preterist homeschoolers tomorrow.
Self-Contradictory Mission Statement?
Doesn't CHEC have the right to define themselves and their boundaries as they see fit?
Some who may sympathize with CHEC's actions in this case may ask the above question. If we were talking about a generic homeschool organization, then I believe the answer to that question would be an unqualified "yes." However, the name CHEC stands for Christian Home Educators of Colorado. That means CHEC officially takes the name of Christ upon them as a Christian organization. I would think we can all agree that this fact means CHEC is bound to a high Christian standard of conduct. That name would also seem to imply, at least on the surface from a plain reading, that Christians of various doctrinal persuasions would be welcome to participate. After all, it is not the Presbyterian Home Educators of Colorado... or Baptist Home Educators of Colorado..., etc. It is the Christian Home Educators of Colorado.
Consider this portion of CHEC's formal Statement of Purpose:
Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC), is a non-profit, Christian organization, dedicated to providing information, resources and leadership to all families involved in home-centered education.
Looks good, right? If I lived in Colorado as a Christian homeschooler, I would want to join CHEC based on that statement. They exist to provide resources and leadership to all homeschoolers in Colorado. However, immediately below the statement of purpose is CHEC's "Position Statement on Creation" which includes the following:
Since we believe the Bible is historically accurate in all aspects, and since we believe a day is and was a twenty-four hour period, then we believe the earth is less than ten thousand years old.
Now there seems to be a problem. What if I live in Colorado and I happen to be a preterist who holds to a local flood in Genesis and a corresponding Covenant Creation framework that matches Covenant Eschatology? What if my understanding of Genesis creation poses no problem for me to believe it more than likely that planet Earth and our universe is millions of years old? Preterists should note another portion in the statement as well:
We believe when GOD pronounced it "very good," He meant that the world was perfect, and without death and suffering, a result of the fall of man.
Clearly, this is talking about physical death and suffering. I do not believe that physical life and death are the point of the biblical record of Adam's fall or Christ's redemption. Does Jesus redeem his people from the experience of physical death through his salvation? If physical death is the penalty for sin, from Adam's day forward, then every Christian pays the penalty for his own sin when he dies. This young-earth doctrine effectively denies the substitutionary atonement of Christ on behalf of his people! Jesus says that those who believe in him will not see death (John 8:51). That shows us that biological death is completely beyond the purview of the story of Adam's fall and Christ's redemption. My preterist beliefs lead to these convictions which, along with other details, take me directly to an old-earth perspective on the Genesis debate.
Or we could take a more common approach. What if I happen to be a mainstream old-earth creationist? Some are not aware that the above statement – if 24-hour days..., then less than 10,000 years – was considered a non sequitur by some of the most conservative Christian theologians during the 19th and 20th centuries (click here for an example).
Either situation outlined above puts me in a quandary if I am a homeschooling parent in Colorado. (I personally know quite a few Colorado homeschoolers in both of these situations.) Out of one side of their charter CHEC claims to aid in providing "information, resources and leadership to all families involved in home-centered education." Out of the other side of their charter CHEC defines themselves in conflict with my beliefs, resulting from my diligent attempt to understand God's Word!
CHEC's position statement involves a contradiction when it is put into practice in the real world. The main statement of purpose outlines a wide circle of Christian belief and provides room for diversity of doctrine. However, the next position statement (apparently added years later) outlines a much narrower circle of Christian belief and doctrine. For those who find themselves inside the first circle but not inside the smaller circle, CHEC would represent a supportive/non-supportive role. Do they exist, as a Christian organization, to "provide information, resources and leadership to all families involved in home-centered education" or do they exist as a Christian organization to further young-earth creationism? It can't be both unless...
They define anything other than young-earth belief as "non-Christian" by definition.
It appears to me that CHEC has a problem. This problem will increase as both preterism and old-earth creationism grow in Colorado. Either their position statement is self-contradictory for an increasing segment of Colorado homeschoolers, or their definition of "Christian" is equivalent to young-earth creationist belief. Is CHEC making a statement that those who do not believe the universe is "less than ten thousand years old" do not meet the qualification of being "Christian?" Does CHEC need to evaluate this issue and clarify their position statement?
The Nanny CHEC
Why is this important, and what is the price involved?
The more you examine CHEC's charter, the more you have to ask questions about the recent development with Sonlight. Most Christian homeschoolers I know have very strong beliefs regarding State control over curriculum used by homeschoolers. The reason for this is because we tend to have very strong corresponding beliefs regarding Family control over the curriculum we use. A good explanation comes from CHEC's own charter:
CHEC stands firm in its conviction that parents have the Biblical authority and responsibility to direct and control that education.
For many of us in the homeschool movement this is a basic issue of liberty; some of us are willing to go to extreme measures in order to protect it.
It is also very clear from CHEC's statement that this one issue is of great importance in their organization, at least on paper. Note how many times, and in how many ways, they phrase the same thing:
CHEC advocates the Biblical model where parents exercise direct control and authority over their children's education.
CHEC recognizes that the statistical evidence shows the most effective option is where the child's curriculum is chosen and taught by the parents.
CHEC cautions parents who use curriculum and/or instruction that is out of their direct control and supervision.
... where the child's curriculum and instruction are chosen and taught by the parents.
Statement of Purpose:
We provide leadership, resources, and information that advances God-centered relationships while heeding the Biblical jurisdictions of family, church, and state.
Over and over again CHEC emphasizes that biblical authority for curriculum choice lies with the parents.
Yet, how is CHEC acting in regard to the ban on Sonlight Curriculum for Homeschoolers (a Christian curriculum!) from the Colorado homeschool convention? CHEC is making the choice about what Christian curriculum will and what Christian curriculum will not be available for homeschoolers at CHEC's convention. In other words, CHEC is filtering which Christian curriculum options will be available to Christian homeschoolers at the convention hosted by CHEC. CHEC has now said that Sonlight does not "measure up' to their standards as a Christian curriculum. They are banned.
But who has the direct authority for Christian curriculum choice, according to CHEC's own charter?
Can it be any clearer what is really going on here? The nanny CHEC has usurped the role of the Christian family. Homeschoolers are no longer allowed to choose from a full range of Christian curriculum at the CHEC homeschool convention. CHEC has violated its own foundational principles in banning Sonlight. This ban on Sonlight reveals hypocrisy on the part of the leadership of CHEC. They preach that the biblical model is for Christian parents to choose Christian curriculum and have direct control over home education. That is a good message. It is at the core of what made homeschooling possible from the early days of the movement. The real problem is...
CHEC no longer practices what they preach.
Remember, this whole issue with Sonlight began over someone's decision to ban Sonlight because it includes books written from an old-earth perspective. It has spiraled since then into more issues, but what was the original ground given for the ban on Sonlight for the 2008 conference? Essentially, it was this: "We don't like the approach and methodology you use in your Christian curriculum."
Wait a minute. What happened to the biblical principle that God gave parents the authority to choose Christian curriculum? What happened to "heeding the Biblical jurisdictions of family, church, and state?" Can CHEC demonstrate that Sonlight is not a Christian curriculum? By what standard does CHEC judge who passes and who fails? One wonders who needs the nanny State determining "approved" education when the nanny CHEC determines "approved" Christian curriculum for Christian homeschoolers at the Colorado convention. Who gave the leadership of CHEC the right to be the gatekeepers of Christian curriculum? The sad irony is that CHEC has become a junior version of the governmental beast that they were originally created to stand against!
The way this entire case has unfolded brings other questions to mind. Is the leadership of CHEC driven by a desire for power, control, personal prestige and ego? Does this leadership seek to make Sonlight pay for their even-handed approach regarding the Genesis debate?
There is a price that CHEC is apparently willing to pay for banning Sonlight. That price is selling out one the most basic principles upon which the homeschooling movement grew: God gave the family and parents the direct authority to choose Christian curriculum for their children. That is what CHEC's charter supports on paper. That should be the one bedrock foundation for "movement" homeschooling or "Christian Worldview" homeschooling. That should be held on to for dear life by homeschool leadership. CHEC has abdicated the very principle that enabled homeschooling to emerge as a viable option in the early days of the movement. CHEC is now the gatekeeper. CHEC decides. Parents no longer get to make their free choice of Christian curriculum at the CHEC convention.
If we no longer practice the fundamental principles upon which homeschooling began, then what good is a "generational vision" for the future? The defining principles of the movement are already lost.
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church and CHEC
Are those willing to discuss old-earth arguments that evil?
Some reading this (a minority I hope) might not be impressed with what I have said to this point. Every scrap of old-earth thinking, they may reason, is nothing more than thinly veiled atheistic evolutionism that needs to be completely purged from anything that calls itself Christian. They may insist that parents should keep children away from old-earth concepts in any form. These readers may even be ready right now to applaud CHEC's leadership for their "hard stand" on the issue and for making a "tough decision" regarding Sonlight. If that is you, you may want to stop reading at this point.
Now we enter an area that I have not seen discussed in any way during this ordeal. What many onlookers do not know is that Kevin Swanson (CHEC Executive Director) is the pastor of Reformation Church, OPC, based in Castle Rock, Colorado. Bill Roach (CHEC President) also attends Reformation Church, OPC. A significant portion of the CHEC Board of Trustees also attends Reformation, OPC.
The reason I bring this up is because Reformation is a part of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian denomination that has a formal statement regarding the Genesis debate. You can read the 142-page document for yourself, but I will boil it down in simple terms. The OPC (along with its sister organization, the PCA) accepts members, elders, and pastors who believe old-earth creationism.
Did you get that?
Kevin Swanson is ordained to preach in the OPC. Kevin Swanson, along with the other members at Reformation, is currently living in solemn covenant through the OPC, with other old-earth, Presbyterian Christians around the country and the world. These old-earth members, pastors, and teachers in the OPC are free to take an old-earth view and remain in good standing. They are free to discuss the old-earth view. So long as they are not divisive, they are even free to promote old-earth creationism.
I find that remarkable, because Kevin Swanson and a major portion of the CHEC leadership are saying something through their relationship with the OPC. The OPC is "Christian enough" for them. They participate in and support the denomination. Yet remember what happened to Sonlight before the CHEC convention in 2008? Sonlight was declared to be unfit for the CHEC convention because Sonlight included material written from an old-earth perspective. Before the 2008 CHEC convention Sonlight was "not Christian enough" to display their curriculum.
And Kevin Swanson was preaching on Sundays at Reformation, OPC.
What happened? It looks like someone with the authority to decide the vendors for that year was a bit zealous for young-earth creationism. They saw some resource in Sonlight's material they found objectionable. Next they appealed to the young-earth statement in the charter of CHEC. Perhaps they heard Ken Ham's criticism of both Sonlight and John Holzmann over the years. Whatever happened, they decided against Sonlight.
Where was the leadership of CHEC to over-rule this rash and unjust decision? Where were the men in leadership at CHEC? Why didn't Kevin Swanson rectify the grievance Sonlight raised immediately? Did the committee's act behind closed doors align with the leadership's long-term goals regarding Sonlight? Was it convenient for the upper leadership in CHEC to allow the committee decision stand, look the other way, and remain at arms length from all the details? Could the removal of Sonlight be dismissed quietly after some time as non-descript "philosophical differences?" Was this a convenient way to sideline Sonlight, permanently? It could all be done behind closed doors by someone delegated responsibility to prepare for the 2008 convention.
Billboards on the [Electronic] Highway
What happened when John Holzmann began to tell Sonlight's story in public?
The answer to that question takes us into some bizarre directions. Months went by after the 2008 CHEC convention; preparations for the 2009 convention were underway. Sonlight had said nothing in public about the problem with CHEC.
Now we see why. Following the principles Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-16, John and Sonlight's leadership were trying to work out the problems CHEC initially raised about Sonlight in private, behind the scenes. They contacted the leadership about the problem, and explained the injustice of the committee's decision. They met in person with members of CHEC's upper leadership. Month after month went by and CHEC delivered no answer about the ban. The leadership started to speak in vague philosophical terms about their "concerns" regarding the methodology used in Sonlight curriculum. Note Kevin Swanson's comments to John:
I know that you like to use books written by materialists/naturalists for their engaging content. But I wonder how you intend to weave the fear of God and a God-centered metaphysic back into the course? If you could just share a little bit on how you intended to do that in the Intro to Biology course, I think that would be helpful for me. Thanks John. I hope you don't find this too burdensome. I'm trying to assess what is a Christian vs. a secular curriculum, and to tell you the truth I haven't really spent a whole lot of time thinking about it (esp. in the implementation phase.) It's one thing to philosophize, it's a lot harder to implement!
How is that for an objective standard? And this comes from someone who admits he doesn't really know what he is doing with the process! After answering these questions, John wrote an e-mail to Kevin Swanson asking that he intervene and reverse the committee's decision. Weeks went by. No answer came. What would you do if you were in Sonlight's position, banned from the 2008 convention with the 2009 convention fast approaching?
John presented his story on Jan. 20, 2009 on his blog. The "response" came quickly. Kevin Swanson posted a blog entry on Jan. 22 titled "Billboards on the Electronic Highway" (no permalink available; archived here for future reference). Knowing the context, it would be hard to miss that the innuendo was directed against John and Sonlight for talking about the situation in public. Note what Kevin Swanson wrote:
While I don't agree with some things that friends say or write in the Christian community, I have never made it a practice to put a billboard up on the electronic highway or any other highway, explaining to the world all the reasons why I disagree with some Christian brother, or why I really dislike him. When unbelievers see these public divisions, this is how they know that we are NOT His disciples.
That is a remarkable statement. One wonders what Kevin would say about this billboard in Whitehall, Montana purchased by Answers in Genesis (it is still here three years later). Oh wait, there are no names mentioned on the billboard; it just "happens" to be placed right next to Whitehall, Montana (population 1,200), and features a gun pointed at random motorists. What a remarkable coincidence. Maybe Kevin Swanson's admonition would not apply to this situation.
However, there is an article currently on AiG's website that specifically names John Holzmann and Sonlight Curriculum. Note how John is described in this "electronic billboard." You see, back in 1999, John read some old-earth material that he found thought-provoking. So John, always interested in hearing the other side of the story, personally wrote to AiG and asked how they would respond. They used a portion of John's letter as the basis for that article titled "Answering those 'Bible-believing' Bibliosceptics." In other words, when John asked AiG questions about old-earth material, he was named as an example of a "'Bible-believing' bibliosceptic." The articles naming John Holzmann and Sonlight Curriculum continued for years from other young-earth organizations as well. Here is an article titled "Hold on, Mr. Holzmann." Another article warns people about Sonlight Curriculum. What does Kevin Swanson think about these articles available on the web right now?
Kevin Swanson's blog innuendo regarding "Billboards on the Electronic Highway" regarding the Sonlight affair is even more remarkable in light Ken Ham's public statements. Ken Ham delivered a lecture at the Gulf Coast Home Educator's Conference in June of 2000 where he stated from his platform in public:
"Hugh Ross, has an organization called Reasons to Believe . . . --he's greatly influenced the person who owns Sonlight Curriculum, by the way, who now tells you you've got to believe in billions of years. . . ."
That statement is false for two reasons. John Holzmann has been critical of the "science-driven" approach that Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe promote. The real issue, however, is that Sonlight Curriculum never tells students or parents that they have to believe any particular way about the age of the earth. John Holzmann is not interested in dictating people's beliefs about this debate. He never has been. John and Sonlight are interested in providing material from various perspectives in the debate. For that, Ken Ham decided that he must "expose them" in public.
What would Kevin Swanson have to say about the approach utilized by Ken Ham? Kevin Swanson and the CHEC leadership invited Ken Ham to be the main speaker at the 2007 CHEC homeschool convention.
You see, this became a serious issue for Kevin Swanson only after CHEC's handling of Sonlight behind closed doors began to get out to the public. He also writes:
Thankfully, many Christian brothers who care about this little business of the unity of the Spirit really do take the time to meet together and talk through their differences...
Meet with the people involved face to face. "Go to your brother."
Isn't that what John Holzmann and the Sonlight leadership had been doing for nearly a year?
This blog post was essentially the topic of Kevin Swanson's Generations radio program of Jan. 26 which was titled "How to Disagree with People." It is curious to note that the program (at about the 10:00 mark) brought up preterism in passing. Consider this advice from Kevin:
It's also fair to criticize certain parties like Pharisees and Saducees, OK? Jesus did that. For their specific faults and their positions that characterized them. So in the same sense we can criticize Republicans if we want to. Or we can criticize Liberals or Democrats or Methodists. Or you can take issue with the premillennialists, or the anti-nomians, or the preterists or what have you.
Where did that come from? Has Kevin Swanson studied preterism? Whatever issues are rolling around in the background, the overall pictures seems clear. Discouraging the practice of airing differences with Christian brothers in public only applies to those who do not march lock-step with Ken Ham and the mammoth young-earth organizations!
What happened next? More than a week went by without any formal decision from CHEC regarding Sonlight's interest to participate in the 2009 CHEC homeschool convention. Now, Kevin Swanson gave the appearance in his blog post and radio show, at least to those who understood the background and context, that John's public explanation was "internet gossip." John came clean. On his Jan. 31 blog he released the correspondence related to the situation from its earliest origin, including the formal documents from CHEC. John decided that if Sonlight was going to be condemned by CHEC, then people should understand why.
You can probably imagine that Kevin Swanson and the CHEC leadership were not pleased that what they did to Sonlight behind closed doors had found its way out into the light of day. John released his blog on Saturday morning. That Sunday Kevin preached this high decibel sermon at Reformation, OPC, on the subject of... "Relationships."
The Final Statement?
Where does the situation stand now?
It appears that the final word from Kevin Swanson and CHEC regarding Sonlight came a few days later, during the Feb. 4 edition of the Generations radio show titled "Why Teach Your Children Evolution?" Kevin Swanson discussed the goals and standards CHEC has in mind for the upcoming CHEC convention (10:00 mark forward). Then the conversation turned to the subject of creation and evolution (15:00 mark forward). The subject of Christians holding to an old-earth view was categorized throughout the show as Christian old-earth Evolution. The term "old-earth creationism" was not used during the entire broadcast. Preterists should also note that the issue of death before Adam was raised as a proof for the "biblical young-earth view." (Those who continue to insist that young-earth creationism is perfectly compatible with preterism should pay close attention to this segment.)
What was the conclusion? Those who believe that biological death existed before Adam's sin "allegorize" the Bible away and the next thing you know, once we go down "that road," is that Christians will be "allegorizing" the resurrection of Christ and "allegorizing" the resurrection of believers! (Does that sound familiar to preterists?)
The clear association in the show was that those who hold an old earth view have embraced naturalistic evolution and have compromised with atheists. It should be pointed out once again that Kevin Swanson is a pastor in the OPC. How many old-earth Christians in his own denomination did Kevin slander in that broadcast?
John Holzmann offered a final word in his Feb. 4 blog.
So what can preterist, old-earth, homeschooling families learn from this ordeal?
If you are involved in ministry and you openly discuss controversial issues against the wishes of the power-brokers and institutional authorities, then be prepared. They will remove you behind closed doors. They will misrepresent your views in public. They will denounce you and your beliefs without regard to honest evaluation in light of God's Word. They will accuse you of "gossip" when you explain the details or try to defend yourself in public. They will do all of this while putting on a great show of "standing firm" for the truth. And, rest assured, you will witness their hypocrisy up close and personal.
How much of this is new to preterists? Not much, really. It is the same old, same old; this is just a different environment and subject.
Consider this as a case study from which we can learn valuable lessons. How did this case come to such a bad ending?
- Failure of Vision
The first mistake happened years ago. This unfortunate event was predicated the day CHEC (chartered in 1990) added a dogmatic young-earth statement to its charter in 1997. That defined CHEC, originally Christian Home Educators of Colorado, as a sectarian organization. Rather than encouraging various Christians who may have different perspectives to participate and work together for the common good of the entire Christian homeschooling community, CHEC chose dogmatism. They acted as if those who have biblical reasons to doubt the young-earth view cannot be sincere Christians. CHEC became a schismatic organization that will likely reap more and more division. The seeds planted in 1997 are now bearing fruit.
If agenda is the basis for unity in the Christian homeschool community rather than faith in Jesus Christ, then that community will devolve into various factions because Christians have many different doctrinal agendas. The ultimate end of this trajectory is the loss of influence as the various homeschooling sects squabble amongst themselves. Will the homeschoolers in Colorado be able to unite if/when the State of Colorado encroaches on their liberty?
- Failure of Leadership
The details of the case speak for themselves when it comes to the reckless actions of the CHEC leadership. Why didn't Kevin Swanson correct the decision of the CHEC committee that banned Sonlight right away, before the 2008 convention? A simple, manly act of leadership on the part of Kevin and the Board of Trustees could have averted the entire situation. Instead, the problem was allowed to drag on for months and months on end with little or no contact with John Holzmann and Sonlight who requested resolution immediately.
The more time went by, the more difficult it became to rectify the situation where the problem began. What complicated matters is that a simple act to set things right with Sonlight would potentially run counter to Ken Ham's (and others') blacklisting of John Holzmann and Sonlight. Would Kevin Swanson decide in favor of Sonlight if it risked provoking the displeasure of Ken Ham?
When John and Sonlight pursued the matter, CHEC decided to embark on a fishing expedition to find some new "concern" that would vindicate the ban on Sonlight, saving face for CHEC's previous decision. Of course, there is no turning back at this point. At the end of the matter Kevin Swanson put on a demonstration of bravado, rolling himself and the whole affair in the emotion of the creation-evolution debate. That plays well to the young-earth majority of homeschoolers in CHEC. Once you demonize all old-earth Christians as "old-earth Evolutionists" who compromise with atheists, how can you ever be criticized by "the faithful?"
Consider how things could have been different. What if Kevin Swanson had actually practiced a long-term vision? Why not preach the educational philosophy you believe in for years? Why not have patience and act in faith that God will change people's minds through the working of the Holy Spirit? Why not allow others to see the end results of your methodology and, if they work out well, be drawn to your methodology like bees to honey? If CHEC used sound arguments for their beliefs and showed desirable results over the long run, then they just might influence even more Colorado homeschoolers their way. Kevin Swanson and the CHEC leadership hold all the cards. They are in control of who comes to speak at the CHEC convention. Couldn't they have enacted a long-term strategy to "win over" those who have a different approach to homeschooling curriculum over the coming decades... or generations?
Why the need, right now, to ban other Christian curricula with a varying educational method and perspective? Is it really healthy to conclude that there is only one right for Christians to homeschool their children?
Impatience is really at the bottom of this.
- Failure to Practice Fundamental Principles
Perhaps what is most distressing to me is that Kevin Swanson and the CHEC leadership shows, by their actions, that they do not care about the fundamental principles that made homeschooling a viable alternative in the early days. Homeschooling in America developed from a simple core belief: God gave the family and parents the role and direct authority to govern our children's education. That principle is promoted by CHEC on paper. They don't believe a word of it.
Do you realize that all of this could have been avoided if Kevin Swanson and CHEC had simply heeded, "the Biblical jurisdictions of family, church, and state" and followed the "Biblical model where parents exercise direct control and authority over their children's education?" Let parents decide curriculum at the convention! Why is CHEC sorting out what Christian curriculum is "Christian enough" and what is not? This is the practice of petty tyrants who show they really believe they are sovereign over Christian homeschool families in Colorado. If the biblical principle is that the family and parents are to have "direct control" over education, then leaders need to act consistently on that principle.
As it is Kevin Swanson and the CHEC leadership are presenting themselves as the models of Christian homeschooling and biblical worldview. No they are not. They are frauds. They have sold out the core principles that some early homeschool pioneers worked for, bled for, and, in some cases, went to jail for. Like their statist counterparts in charge of the government schools, Kevin Swanson and CHEC have usurped the God-ordained role of the family to control Christian education. This is rank hypocrisy.
What do they know will happen if they allow opposing views to be heard?
There is a reason why Ken Ham fears leaders or curriculum in the homeschool community that investigate both sides to the Genesis debate. There is a reason why Kevin Swanson needs to misrepresent old-earth creationism to his audience. What they know is that when both sides of the Genesis debate are presented, side by side, people leave young-earth futurism. Preterists know that the same thing is true in debates over prophecy. Silencing the other side is a defense mechanism employed to extend the dominance of a weak position. Leaders use strong-arm tactics when honest arguments can no longer defend a position.
All that does is postpone the inevitable.
As an old-school homeschooler, I have great confidence in the future. You know what? These homeschoolers are going to grow up one day. Sooner or later they will meet someone who makes a good argument against the young-earth futurism they were taught as children. You see, homeschoolers tend to be pretty bright. They tend to be critical thinkers. It's only a matter of time before they hear the "other side." And when they do they will learn the truth.
I know, because I am one of them.
co-author, Beyond Creation Science