JGreshamMachen_Quote2

Christianity & Liberalism

I have been reading from some writings of John Gresham Machen. I am sure that he is not on most people’s list of authors. But, for me, I find him to be extraordinarily astute. He wrote warnings and essays in the 1920’s that have not only stood the test of times but, they have become even more applicable today than 100 years ago. His insight and wisdom are inspiring to me.

Specifically, I was reading Liberalism & Christianity (Machen, 1923) for a journal article I am writing. He says that there are two lines of criticism against liberalism in respect to the liberal attempt at reconciling science and Christianity. In this case, Machen considers liberalism to be the interpreting of the Bible metaphorically not literally. However, he also discusses the challenges of extending this worldview into all walks of life, which is more like our contemporary view of liberalism as opposed to conservatism. Therefore, He says, ”

Modern liberalism may be criticized:

(1) on the ground that it is un-Christian and

(2) on the ground that it is unscientific.

Machen concerns the reader with it being on the ground of being un-Christian first. I found this to be interesting. This reasoning, thinking, and devoted man chose first to address that it is un-Christian. Is it not true, in a Christian worldview that Christ and his teachings are first? Machen is so bold to say, “modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions”. Can we honestly say that the disregard of Biblical truths is Christian? Like Machen, I contend it cannot be.

The liberal attempt at making Christianity more relevant is false. We are not showing that there is no way of rescuing the relevancy of Christianity at all. On the contrary, the Christianity of the New Testament is not in conflict with science or truth, rather the supposed Christianity of the modern liberal Church. “The real city of God, and that city alone, has defenses which are capable of warding off the assaults of modern unbelief. (Machen, 1923 p. 5).” The immediate concern is with the other side of the problem of demonstrating just how that the liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity. What essentially remains is only that same type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene.” In trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of science, in trying to bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend. (Machen, 1923 p. 115)” Here, as in many other essentials of life, it appears that the things that are sometimes thought to be hardest to defend are also the things that are most worth defending.

This is why Salem Christian School uses every discipline to point toward the truth. We know that each truth in any discipline supports the Christian faith. We want our students to have the understanding that we should conform to the likeness of Christ, biblical truth, and God’s will rather than the pressures or liberal theology and contrary cultural norms. We should transform ourselves to the likeness of Christ.

“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3: 16-18 (NIV)

References:
Machen, J. G. (1923). Christianity & Liberalism (First ed.). New York , NY: Macmillan.


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Single burning white Christmas candle with a red berry wreath around the foot glowing in the darkness with copyspace for your seasonal or spiritual message

Have You Heard The Good News?

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” —John 3:16


The tradition of the Fourth Week of Advent is to focus on the purpose of Christ’s birth. As we are in our final days of preparation before Christmas, we are reminded to ask Christ to forgive us for our sins and, through His grace, to create us anew when He comes. This week of Advent is also a time to recollect, to reflect on our Advent journey we have had over the past four weeks. Every aspect of the biblical story points towards the Good News. The news was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, announced by the Angels, and alive in the flesh of the baby Jesus. This baby in the lowest of entrances in the world to be the Messiah, Savior of the world. Indeed, He gave his life so that we can know eternal life. This is the message of the Christmas holiday. As we celebrate the fourth week of advent, may we remember this purpose and share it with those who do not know the good news.
If you are like me and have let the hustle and bustle of the season get in the way of our spiritual preparations for Christmas, then we have one last chance to refocus. Thus, if you have an advent wreath, light the candles on the Advent wreath that symbolizes our focus, as well as a symbol of the light of Christ. May God’s good news, found in Jesus Christ be the symbol we show to our families, friends, and neighbors.[/caption]

MERRY CHRISTMAS


 

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Anticipating The Birth

A Protest That Changed The World

World Class Education

The Protest That Changed The World

 

A World Class Education

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Anticipating The Birth

Rogier_van_der_Weyden_Annunciation_Louvre_Visit

 

The Advent is about celebrating and anticipation of the arrival of Emmanuel, Jesus Christ. It uses a Christmas wreath to set the stage for the Christian holiday. The imagery is used to help retain the focus of Christmas. The Advent wreaths are circular, representing God’s infinite love, and are usually made of evergreen leaves, which “represent the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus Christ.” Within the Advent wreath are candles that generally represent the four weeks of the Advent season as well as “the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ. Each of the candles has its own significance. Individually, the candles specifically symbolize the Christian concepts of hope (week one), peace (week two), joy (week three) and love (week four). Many Advent wreaths also have a white candle in the center to symbolize the arrival of Christ. According to tradition, this center white candle lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Advent-WreathLast Sunday, December 3, was the first week of Advent. On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, NIV)

This first candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
This upcoming Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger:

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12, NIV)

Normally, I avoid liturgy and the man-made trappings of the faith. However, this tradition has such beautiful imagery and helps me properly prepare for this blessed season. Will you join me this week in meditating on the significance of what that baby wrapped up laying in the feed trough means to the world? Celebrating with an Advent wreath during the weeks before Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

Sources:
Kellner, K. A. H. (1908). Heortology: A History of the Christian Festivals from Their Origin to the Present Day Kegan Paul Trench Trubner & Co Limited. p. 430
https://web.archive.org/web/20111119020903/http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/advent-resource-guide/. Retrieved December 1, 2016


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A Protest That Changed The World

A World Class Education

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World Class Education

head-of-school-imageThe United States is spending twice as much on education today than we did 20 years ago. Of course we have 20% more people than we did then (U.S. Census), and we have a much more diverse society than most of the others. However, the fundamental difference between the U.S. and other countries is raising eyebrows. U.S. students ranked 17 th in science, 25 th in math, and 14 th in reading in the latest data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the most widely used global assessment of student achievement. Who’s beating the U.S. in these important categories – and how?

As I had mentioned in my previous blog, Vivien Stewart in her book, A World Class Education , looks at five countries—Singapore, Canada, Finland, China, and Australia. These are nations where students are doing significantly better on global assessments than students in the U.S. despite differences in the demographics, political systems and cultural contexts, there are some common policies and practices that drive success. Understanding how other countries are succeeding can offer insights that help us do a better job here in the U.S. (Stewart, 2012)

As Stewart points out, even a small improvement in the skills of a nation’s labor force can have a big impact on its economy. What kind of input could a mid-size Lehigh Valley Christian school have? Although we are located in a small part of Eastern Pennsylvania, we are in a global market. And, in a global market where companies can find well-educated workers in a growing number of countries —often at lower-cost— the U.S. will face greater competition if this trend continues. Our students are no longer competing against just within the borders, they are competing against billions around the world. Salem Christian School envisions that its students are impacting the world in whatever vocation they find themselves. To do this they need to rise above and compete with the best of their peers. Salem Christian School has the similar challenges to nations trying to rise to the top and compete strongly within the global market.
Finland has demonstrated a strong commitment to education and its results demonstrate this commitment. Finland is an interesting example because as recently as 1970, only 40 percent of Finnish adults held a high school diploma. Today, its students rank among the top on global assessments of student learning. Current parents (Partner Survey, 2017) and prospective parents (Barna, 2017) desire strong academics in a nurturing and spiritually rich environment.

Stewart points out, one key to Finland’s success was the decision in 1979 to require a two-year master’s degree for all teachers, even those teaching primary school. Teachers are trained to spot students who aren’t doing well early on, and each school has a multidisciplinary team of education professionals available to support students and help them catch up. In addition to the number of teachers pursuing or have obtained graduate degrees, Salem Christian School has invested in professional development significantly. Teachers are engaged in Professional Learning Communities, continuing educational opportunities, seminars, and practitioner research. There is a significant dedication to the development of the teachers at Salem Christian School.

Similar to Finland, we also did away with traditional structure and replaced it with a more flexible approach that encourages creativity and problem solving, individualized learning, and a wider range of academic and vocational options. The elementary has brought in Daily Five method in language arts and is researching guided practice in mathematics. The high school has developed block scheduling, dual enrollment, Math Lab, and other creative and innovative methods to ensure there is a strong liberal arts program. Additionally, the school has developed things such as Middle School challenge, First Fridays, and other school cultural events to expand the learning and engage students through an infusion of fun activities.

The modernization of our education system has helped put us in the ranks of the most innovative and prosperous in the Lehigh Valley and Northeast region. We hope to make a significant impact with our small portion.
Like Finland, Singapore decided that its future lay in tapping its only resources, human capital. In the Singapore system, all the key elements work closely together to produce continuous improvement. This has been the direction Salem Christian has taken over the last few years. It must be purposeful and intentional. It must fit the mission and vision. Similar to Singapore, we have introduced innovative and flexible learning choices for students. This is especially noticeable in our Language Arts program and you can see this developing through our research in guided instruction in math. Singapore has a policy called “teach less, learn more” that’s designed to encourage more innovative curricula and use of classroom time. This is the movement that we are taking. How can we ensure that our students are learning? Students should be the center of the classroom, not a system or teacher. It will be exciting to see how we use data and research to learn how to continue our path towards this goal.

I agree with every expert I have read that the quality of student learning is only as good as the quality of the teachers. This requires investing in strong evaluation and development systems that involve teachers from the start, include multiple measures of effective teaching, and that fuse teacher evaluations with high-quality professional development. This happens behind the scenes at Salem Christian School.

As an administrator it is exciting to help our teachers reach their goals. Each year (or continued from previous years) the teachers articulate their goals for teaching and learning. Each classroom visit, evaluation, and professional development is primarily focused on these goals. This focus, like in Finland and Singapore, will help Salem Christian School demonstrate what a world class education is. Moreover, what a world class education is that is wholly developed, because it is infused with the Gospel. After all, the Gospel changes everything!

Sources:
Barna and ACSI Research, 2017

Ng, P.T. Educ Res Policy Prac (2008) 7: 5. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10671-007-9042-

Partner Survey 2017

Stewart, Vivien. World-Class Education : Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, (2012). ASCD, Alexandria, VA.


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A Protest That Changed The World

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