Just finished two days of conferencing in which I talked non-stop about books, teaching writing, history, grammar, literature, my publishing company...and a thousand other things learning- and book-related.
I then slept for fourteen hours and just now woke up. This was a rough week. It started with a bad cold; then I spent three days with my father while he had emergency surgery (heâ€™s much better, before you ask–home and recovering nicely), then got on a plane and went to a conference center, which (inevitably) produced bronchitis. I did the whole conference with almost no voice. The CDs of the talks sound like Gollum Does Grammar.
I spent a lot of time at this conference talking to parents and giving them personalized advice on how to get past particular educational challenges with their kids. I’m not concealing the fact that I get paid for these appearances, and that selling books at them helps keep my boat afloat. But believe me when I say that if it were just a matter of money, you couldn’t PAY me enough to do what I did this weekend. I like teaching. I like teaching writing. I love history. I want people to read more history–world history in particular. I am a Writing Zealot out to convert writers to good prose style and a History Emissary out to convince readers that they should know whatâ€™s going on in both southeast Asia and Europe during the Renaissance.
And in the middle of all this, people would come up to our booth and say, “Are you aware that other speakers are telling people in their workshops that Dr. Bauer is out to remove all Christianity from homeschooling and that’s she’s not even a Christian and that we shouldn’t buy any of her materials?” This was accompanied by Facebook and blog pots with big WARNING! headlines, explaining how I was part of a plan to destablize the kingdom of God.
Oh, good grief.
Stay with me for a little while here, because I want to say something about that.
First, for those of you unfamiliar with the home school world, let me give you a quick orientation.
PART ONE: HOME EDUCATION
There are thousands and thousands of home schoolers who teach their children at home primarily because they want to instill their faith in their children, and they are concerned that a classroom will actively discourage and destroy that faith.
There are thousands and thousands of home schoolers who teach their children at home for other reasons. Their school options are poor; their kids have particular needs that canâ€™t be met in the classroom; theyâ€™ve had bad classroom experiences and are trying to recover; theyâ€™re travelling, or military, or just generally peripatetic; they like the flexibility and freedom of not being tied to a school schedule; they think they can do a better job than the available classrooms. (The latter two would be me. My kids are going to learn to WRITE, darn it, and Iâ€™m going to make sure they do.)
Although homeschool parents of both kinds attend education conferences, the conferences have historically been weighted heavily towards speakers and materials that teach particular forms of Christianity along with the academic subjects.
PART TWO: BEING CHRISTIAN IN AMERICA
Anyone who digs around in my website will quickly notice that Iâ€™m a ministerâ€™s wife. Yes, this means that Iâ€™m a Christian. (I guess that’s not always a given. But I am.)
This simple fact has opened me up to a ridiculous level of bashing from people who canâ€™t see past it. Hereâ€™s an example. In The History of the Ancient World, I use stories from a number of different religious traditions–Sumerian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese–in an attempt to reconstruct very early political history. This isnâ€™t a perfect method, but since these texts are the only ones we have, I thought it preferable to simply ignoring very ancient political history altogether. I was pleased with the result. Itâ€™s highly speculative, but I point this out in the preface of the book; and it did produce a compelling, logical narrative for the very earliest years of recorded history.
Yet as soon as readers see anything from the Pentateuch–even though itâ€™s nestled in there with stories from the Sumerian and Egyptian worlds–they go into high alert.
Let me quote from a couple of Amazon reviews (because those are always a great source of intemperance).
Then I got to the Hebrews in Egypt. With growing amazement I began to realize I was being treated to the story of Moses, lifted right out of the Bible, as though that were some sort of HISTORICAL document…..After having recovered from the considerable shock of seeing a supposed “historian” go to considerable length to throw her own credentials out the window, I radically revised my estimate of this book…I would obviously not be wise to trust this author with her gargantuan biases, and I would suggest that anyone actually interested in HISTORY find some other introduction to the ancient world.
Apparently he didnâ€™t notice that Ra and Shamash make appearances in the same section.
Um, hey lady: the stories of Moses and the Old Testament have no place in a book about world history, as these things never happened. Some scholar of History you are.
(I have a book on punctuation for this guy.)
I have another book of hers on how to analyze classic literature and its fairly good but I briefly wondered if she was an idiot, just from some of the comments she made. This solves that mystery.
Oh. Well, good. (Iâ€™ll send you a copy of the punctuation book, by the way.)
What lies behind this level of invective?
PART THREE: CONVERT AS MANY AS POSSIBLE, AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE (OR, GOD AND THE FACTORY METHOD)
To be a Christian in America, particularly a Christian with any evangelical associations, is to be associated with a specific form of Christianity. Allow me to oversimplify (I highly recommend this and this for un-simplification, should you be interested). This form of Christianity has long been focused on one particular calling: converting other people.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying;
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
–Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915
Of course, it has long been part of the Christian faith that Christians should tell others what they believe. Early Christians did a lot of it.
But then came nineteenth century revivalism, in which â€œtelling others what you believeâ€ was transformed into â€œconvert as many people as possible as quickly as possible because that is what God wants.â€
And in order to convert as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, you have to use the proper methods.
Charles Finney stands at the beginning of this shift, but Dwight Moody, a businessman who brought business methods to evangelism, is probably the central figure. Let me quote from Paul Chilcoteâ€™s study of American evangelism:
Revivalism in many respects systematized the process of evangelism and conversion….Among the New England Calvinists of the First Great Awakening [1730s-40s], the means for revival rested with God. Evangelists might preach for revival, Christians might unite in â€˜prayer concertsâ€™ beseeching God to give revival, but ultimately only the sovereign God could grant the outpouring of revivalistic zeal….
By the Second Great Awakening of the nineteenth century, evangelists such as Charles G. Finney condemned those Christians who waited for revival while thousands remained unevangelized. Finney wrote that a revival
â€˜is not a miracle, or dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means….There may be a miracle among its antecedent causes, or there may not.â€™
D. L. Moody, the great evangelist of the late 1800s, elaborated on Finneyâ€™s views regarding the means of evangelism. He urged any method which would lead to the conversion of a person, insisting, â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter how you get a man to God, provided you get him there.â€ Moody and company refined Finneyâ€™s new measures so that techniques for mass revivalism and personal witnessing were carefully systematized. Revival campaigns were planned in detail and Christians taught how to share their faith with â€œinquirersâ€ before and after the nightly meeting.
Paul W. Chilcote, ed., Study of Evangelism (2008), p. 104
Letâ€™s put this in context. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Americans had fallen in love with systemization–arranging an activity into a logical, standardized set of steps that were always carried out in the same way. Systematization was producing the factory method of manufacturing, the rigidly enforced system of K-12 grades in education, the standardization of medical licensing so that all doctors would receive more or less the same level of training, the current structure of the U.S. military.
And Dwight Moodyâ€™s method of evangelism, which so influenced American Christianity that weâ€™re still living with it today.
This method has two presuppositions:
1. If you do everything right, people will convert.
2. The more people you convert, the better.
Whatâ€™s wrong with that?
Well, Iâ€™m happy that all of my fatherâ€™s doctors, this week, received the same level of medical training. But there are two big problems with standardized evangelism.
1. Itâ€™s impersonal.
2. Its success depends on getting everything exactly right.
Those two presuppositions, I think, account for both the invective I get whenever I dare to mention the Bible in my work, and for the invective I got from other speakers at this home school convention.
PART FOUR: WHEN BOTH SIDES THINK YOUâ€™VE GOT IT WRONG
Letâ€™s start with the invective from the secular side. Why did those Amazon reviewers (who are, unfortunately, representative of quite a few readers) react so strongly to my use of the Pentateuch and not even register a blip at my use of Sumerian myths?
Because they know Iâ€™m a Christian. An American Christian. An American Christian with an evangelical background. And so they assume that all of my work has a single purpose: itâ€™s out to convert people.
In this context, every use of a Christian source takes on a sort of ominous quality. The assumption is that Iâ€™ve got an unspoken agenda. Iâ€™m not just writing a history of the world, I’m out to push a particular worldview on them, preferably without their noticing, so that theyâ€™ll be ready for conversion.
Why do they resent this so much?
Because itâ€™s so impersonal. Were I trying to convert them (which Iâ€™m not; I was just trying to write ancient history), it wouldnâ€™t be because I have a deep personal concern for their souls. Itâ€™s because Iâ€™m part of a movement thatâ€™s out to convert as many people as possible, by whatever means are necessary. Thatâ€™s so…depersonalizing. And manipulative.
Thus the strong emotional reaction.
Now for the invective from the Christian side. (That would be, â€œDr. Bauer is out to remove all Christianity from homeschooling and she’s not even a Christian, so donâ€™t buy any of her materials.”)
Why on earth would this even matter to someone whoâ€™s buying a grammar book?
See Dwight Moody, above. The most important task for all Christians is to convert as many people as possible. Conversion only happens when all of the conditions are right. Influences which are not explicitly Christian (that would be me) mess up the conditions. Take that down to the unexpressed but logical conclusion: I am blocking the work of God.
Really? I didnâ€™t know it would be that easy.
PART FIVE: FINAL WORDS TO BOTH SIDES
Dear Amazon.com reviewer: Youâ€™ve got it wrong. Iâ€™m not out to convert you. Iâ€™m not stealth-bombing you with Scripture. Iâ€™m just doing my best to write a good ancient history.
I donâ€™t feel any need to stealth-bomb you with Scripture, because so far as I can tell, my faith doesnâ€™t call me to convert as many people as possible. It calls me to live in love, compassion, grace, and forbearance. Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m doing down here in Virginia. Iâ€™m not plotting the most effective way to get you to be a Christian. Not my job. Hope you can relax and read my history now. But if you see any love, compassion, grace, and forbearance sneaking into the text, you can write another nasty review.
Dear worried speakers who donâ€™t want parents to buy my writing and history books because Iâ€™m not using them to evangelize: Youâ€™ve got it wrong. If God can only reach people if all the conditions are right, heâ€™s not much of a God. And if my grammar book can stand in the way of the kingdom of God, itâ€™s not much of a kingdom. Please consider spending your time and energy talking about what you do and what you believe, rather than desperately protecting God from anything that might damage him.
PART SIX: AND NOW I HAVE OTHER THINGS TO DO
Now I will return to doing what I do–writing the most honest and accurate history I can, helping teach kids how to write, and trying to live in love, compassion, grace, and forbearance. Thatâ€™s a pretty full plate, and things are always falling off the edge.
Usually the forbearance goes first.
Yeah, I don’t get it. People should see the materials and take them as is. As an atheistic homeschooler myself, I still recognize the high quality of your materials, and if there is ever anything that I disagree with, I just explain that to my kids.
You can’t please everyone all of the time. It’s got to be had to balance between the secular and Christian homeschoolers, but I always figure it is easier for the Christians to add their world view to something than for us secular homeschoolers to take the Christian world view out.
Keep up the great work, Susan! There are plenty of us who appreciate what you do.
“if my grammar book can stand in the way of the kingdom of God, itâ€™s not much of a kingdom”
I totally missed the facebook/blog attacks on you, I guess they’re from people I am already avoiding.
I want to encourage your heart and say thank you for the excellence from which you write and speak. The enemy hates things done well for God, and you represent one of those “things”. I commend you for standing for what you write so well and for your faith. I pray you can step back from the bombardment you have received and let God show Himself strong for you.
Love Love Love this!!!! What a shame people do that to you at conferences. Now you have me wanting to visit your church when we’re out there for vacation, and we never do church on vacation, LOL.
Wow-Sounds exhausting! But thanks for spending the energy to help many home schoolers out there! I have heard most of your talks at conferences and they are always great! This year I attended the “Home Educating the REAL Child” workshop and it was, once again, very helpful! I am a Christian and I love your books! Blessings!
Wow! I don’t even know what to say…I heard you twice on Friday, I was just there for the day. I appreciated what you had to say. I am an evangelical Christian. I’m sorry that others speakers were not only unprofessional, but equally unloving. And “un-forebearing”. I obviously can’t apologize for others, but I am sorry, as a part of the Church, that this was your experience.
Two things: You appeared calm & collected. Good for you. I still like your curriculum, even if you don’t “Christianize” it.
Spot on, Susan. Hang in there! For every annoyance that you face “out there,” know that there are many of us who are deeply grateful for your help in providing our children with a rigorous classical education. You persistently challenge us to think deeply on issues that matter, and that is valuable to me whether or not I agree with you on every jot and tittle.
I was at the conference this weekend. I went to several of your seminars, even some that I’d heard you give before, because I think what you have to say is so valuable. I did notice that you made a few comments about how the formulas of child-rearing don’t work…I think I understand now why those needed to be thrown in there. I’m really shocked that a speaker would openly criticize another speaker at the same conference; that’s just unprofessional and petty. Personally, I’m one of those who home schools because I think I can do a better job than the school system, so I was disappointed that so many of the seminar options had to do with how to parent, or were outright sales pitches. I wish more of the speakers had been like you – although you have books to sell, your seminars are not ABOUT them, and are always informative, helpful, practical and enjoyable. I know that those negative reviews must be difficult to read, but please know that I am one person (of many, I’m sure) who is so grateful for your work and materials.
I know you weren’t writing this to make me feel better. I understand that you were responding to attacks and unfair criticism. I have to tell you, however, that as a homeschooling Christian who *doesn’t* believe in bashing people over the head with a Bible whenever she passes them on the street, I am very grateful to you for this post.
I am also very grateful to you for your books. Finding *good* history texts is surprisingly difficult. I was ecstatic when I found your books, and so happy to use them to teach my kids. Thank you.
Well, I’m a devout Christian–just not an evangelical–and I have really appreciated your approach. So thank you for doing all this work–sometimes it seems that you can’t win for losing, but I think a lot of us benefit from it.
My friend and I were at your booth and what I assume was a well-meaning but ill-informed lady was attempting to warn us of evils untold.
She showed us a book that was being sold at your booth (not authored by you) and made claims about the author’s beliefs. When I asked her to show me in the book where this was stated, her reply was, “Well I haven’t read it.”
She walked away and my friend and I used our classically trained brains to analyze what she said, fleshed out her concerns and noticed her seriously flawed doctrine to have settled on such a viewpoint.
I hope you feel 100% soon and am so thankful for the gifts that the Lord has given you to share with myself and others!!
although it wasn’t a surprise to me, a year or so ago i saw a video floating around showing a tea party sponsored seminar leader instructing his group on the methods of “seeding” online review or rating interfaces with the most negative ratings for liberal texts, movies, etc. and the highest ratings for conservative ones. he also stressed that the person rating (he mentioned amazon and rotten tomatoes) need not bother themselves with actually reading the book or viewing the movie. i noticed that the negative one you quoted above appears to be by someone who might have actually read your book (or some of it) but i wouldn’t put to much stock in many of the negative ones. i realize it’s a bit flippant for me to say that since it’s your livelihood but the practice, which no doubt is also perpetrated from the pulpit and has identified you as one of the targets, has effectively destroyed online interactive rating systems for many hot topics.
We appreciate your curriculum and it was exactly what we were looking for to teach our daughter. As a Christian myself, I think you are very knowledgeable and some can’t handle that as they are too juvenile to allow God to come out of the box they put Him in.
I think having a thorough understanding of history and all that was going on and believed in various religions, only complements your Biblical understanding. If a child, or an adult for that matter, didn’t know about Egyptian mythology and their various gods, how would they be able to understand why God chose the plagues he did in the OT? Surely, God wants us to grasp this view as well, as it doesn’t detract from His Word but gives us greater understanding.
I look forward to your future work, keep them coming!!
I am so sorry. I hope you feel better soon. That was one cruddy conference! It must be so hard to feel attacked on all sides when you are trying to do the best job you know how. Try to remember that the klaxon alarms are from people who feel insecure in their own beliefs. It is more about them than about you. Really. It just doesn’t feel that way, does it?
I will say prayers tonight for your forbearance to not fall off of your plate. I have loved your books for nine years and am so very thankful that the Lord has given you a platter instead of a salad plate to balance everything that you have going on in your life. Thank you for the sacrifices that you make in order to teach mothers, fathers and children reliable history. I’ve enjoyed learning along with my family as we’ve used The Well Trained Mind as a guide to homeschool. You have no idea how much you have impacted the homeschooling movement. (Or, maybe you do.) It’s been very positive and the crack-pots that want to take cheap shots at you when you are trying to do your very best need to really consider their motives. I don’t question your motives. I’ve stuck around long enough to see your love, compassion, grace and forbearance. Once again, thank you for your commitment.
I hope your throat is better, and that your father is continuing to recover well.
I’m so thankful for your books and your mother’s, and your talks that I’ve downloaded. My 8 year old throws a fit if I’m late in reading his chapter from the Story of the World, the 3 year old demands a chance to color a map too, and the 13 year old hangs around to hear the chapter too (nostalgia?).
I think the excellence of your materials glorifies God.
The Well Trained Mind, is the first of your books that I have read. I wish I had known about it when it first came out, and not in 2009. ( I’m late to homeschooling.) But it is “The” book on homeschooling advice for me. It has opened a whole new world for me and my family, and it is something you should feel very proud of.
It seems those few people, who carry plenty of envy around with them, only wish they could have done at least one of the things you have accomplished in your life. ( For speakers to be knocking other speakers at a hs conference is ridiculous. )
So I just wanted to say thank you! Anyone who asks me how to homeschool, I always point them in the direction of your book. It has made a huge difference in the lives of our children.
Don’t listen to the negativity and please keep writing! :o)
All I can say is….WOW!
And please…keep writing AND speaking. You have no idea how much I appeciate you and your books, lectures and curricula.
Keep on doing what you do. There will always be cranky pants, jealous wannabees around. Let’s just ignore them.
You and Peace Hill Press still have our family’s unending support (and future curriculum dollars). I am sorry you have endured this persecution. I pray the Good Shepherd will comfort and strengthen you after this ordeal!
“jim” is spot-on about seeding, or ‘astro-turfing’ on the internet. It is quite real. All the more reason to classically homeschool our children so that they can evaluate reviews and opinions critically.
I agree with you. As a Christian and as a home educator, I’m fed up with the lack of logic on both sides.
Not to mention, it is thoroughly unchristian of them to gossip and disparage you when they have been paid to come in and discuss their product, not yours!
“If God can only reach people if all the conditions are right, heâ€™s not much of a God. And if my grammar book can stand in the way of the kingdom of God, itâ€™s not much of a kingdom. Please consider spending your time and energy talking about what you do and what you believe, rather than desperately protecting God from anything that might damage him.”
I love it. I have learned so much from you. Thank you for the millionth time.
AMEN, Dr. Bauer! I am sorry you had such a rough go of it at the SE conference!
Your work has changed my view regarding the education of my children, and I will be eternally grateful that God put you in my life through TWTM when I so desperately prayed for guidance with my boys. Your work is making a difference regardless of these “Christian” nay-sayers and self-righteous Amazon reviewers. Your curriculum has become the backbone of our homeschool, and I am seeing results yearly in my son’s writing, comprehension, and reading abilities. So, thank you! Continue to strive toward that which you love because God did put you here to help educate those of us who seek better for our children. God bless!
Woohoo! You addressed one my huge complaint about homeschooling, especially in the south. I get so tired of pointing out to people that I am a politically moderate Christian who homeschools her children because I think I can do a better job academically than the schools in my area. Way to go, Susan!
“Why did those Amazon reviewers (who are, unfortunately, representative of quite a few readers) react so strongly to my use of the Pentateuch and not even register a blip at my use of Sumerian myths?
Because they know Iâ€™m a Christian. An American Christian. An American Christian with an evangelical background. And so they assume that all of my work has a single purpose: itâ€™s out to convert people.”
You know, I agree that for some of these secular readers, I guess in particular those who make a point of bashing your work, your analysis is right on. I think there is something about your language that makes this easier for them,though. I am not going to dig out my copy right now to check, but it seems to me that you refer to the Sumerian and Egyptian stories as myths, but you do not refer to the Christian stories as myths. As a reader this grated on me. Not enough to stop reading, or to bash you in any kind of review anywhere. I really respect your work, and appreciate and share your goals as an educator. And I attend a Christian church with my children, even though I don’t believe in God in the way “American Christians” do. I can deal with these tensions in our culture. But I did see a difference in the way you treated the stories of the different cultures, and it did require me to distance myself from the story you were telling. I just don’t want to be grouped in with the type of reader you describe above. I know them all too well.
As usual, Susan, you’ve hit the nail right on the head! Your comments and analysis of the reactions to your work are spot on and really gave me some things to ponder. There is a reason that this conservative Christian depends almost solely on your materials to teach her children: you know how to teach both children AND adults of all faiths to THINK! I find your materials balanced, insightful, challenging and absolutely indispensable in teaching my four special needs children at home. Without your work, I’d have been on this challenging journey without a road map and would certainly not be as satisfied with their education as I am today.
I’m so sorry that you have to experience the censure that you have experienced this weekend. I am particularly sad to hear that so much of it came from the Christian community. How short sighted and depressing! I really do think that you have analyzed the situation well, however, and that your blog post clearly explains the history behind the divide. I’d not really thought about it from that perspective before, but it really rang true to me as I read through it. Thanks for making such an emotional and confusing topic so easy to understand.
Personally, I’ll be praying that God gives you strength for these trials. You must be doing something right if you are attracting so much attention! : ) Hang in there.
Fair enough. I find it hard to identify this in my own writing, but I’m perfectly willing to believe it’s there–just as I know that I write about the forced marriages of girls for political reasons, or the multiple wives collected by ancient kings for their own satisfaction, differently than the male historians who are often my sources. What takes me aback is not that readers recognize biases in my work. Of course they do. All historians have biases. It’s the immediate willingness to dismiss every single part of my work, and all of my professional training, and all of my hard-won expertise, simply because of that language, that needs explanation. IMHO.
I, too, am homeschooling in the south, and it’s sometimes exhausting (among other things). I *appreciate* being “allowed” to teach religion as a family, instead of being told what to believe. But then, we’re “of Wesley” instead of “of Calvin”. I wish upper level history and, heaven help us, *science* were as easy as SotW is. So long as I have children young enough, and until the History of the World series is done, you and PHP will get some of our curriculum dollars, directly when we can!
Excellent post! Go SWB! 🙂
Dr. Bauer, now seems a good time to reassure you that there are those who appreciate and admire you tremendously -both as an educator and a Christian – and I am foremost among them. I respect and appreciate the balanced tone of your history books and yet you have been an example to me of how one can have an inquiring and well educated mind, and yet be a strong and consistent Christian. Thank you for being a role model to me in every facet of your life!
Thank you for this awesome post. You make too much sense.
I was at the conference this weekend, and even extended my stay to hear your final session. The resources that are available through Peace Hill Press are priceless to my family, and I wanted to hear everything you had to say. The information regarding homeschooling was great, but most importantly, I wanted to thank you for being REAL. I walked away from your last session feeling the encouragement that I’ve needed for quite some time.
Thank you so much for coming to the conference sick and with many worries and concerns in your life. From one tired and worn out mom, your classes were a real boost and I got a ton of ideas from your classes on a Well Prepared High Schooler and the Real Child. It was exactly what I needed. Thank you for your work and sacrifices to help the rest of us along the path!!
This desperately needed to be said, and no one could say it better than you. I’m disgusted with the invective from both sides. I also find it insulting to be “talked down to” by people who feel that the road to hell is paved with certain curricula choices and that they have a moral obligation to rescue me from my obvious ignorance. The late Dr. Raymond Moore called this “homeschooling’s Fifth Column” and decried its divisiveness.
I’m so grateful we serve a God who can save people in spite of us. He is much more sovereign than people (most Christians) give Him credit for. I know when I focus more on trying to live in love, compassion, grace, and forbearance by His grace in our OWN lives and less time worrying about everyone else and what they think, life gets much simpler. God is in charge of saving people and converting them. We are to go, preach the gospel, and make disciples. Disciples are only made AFTER they accept what is being offered. Then one becomes a disciple. Anyway, Susan, your blog is well stated and I can see your heart for God and His glory.
Angela wrote: “You addressed one my huge complaint about homeschooling, especially in the south.”
Unfortunately, it’s not confined to the South. I live in a very liberal northeastern state, and the homeschooling support network at the state level is controlled by the second group of people that SWB spoke of. This filters down to the local level and has a pronounced effect on the homeschooling climate.
. for writing intelligent curricula with the goal of actually teaching our children
(and us) academics and not just pure indoctrination
. for teaching history during history time, grammar during grammar time, writing
during writing time, and leaving religious education for religious education
time and our own discernment
. for including religious belief systems of other cultures, ancient or modern, for
treating them as what they are – a part of history that needs to be taught
because it was/ is an important point that – among other issues – defines
a particular culture
. for all the hard work sifting through tons and tons of curricula and advising us
on what you consider to be the best/most affordable/ for classical
education suited choices (and yes, I do trust my own opinion and make my
own decisions, but at the very least, the WTM is an excellent starting point,
pretty close to a homeschool bible)
. for coming to (enduring) these conferences. PLEASE continue. We need to see
the person who writes our curriculum, who gives us recommendations. We
need to see in persona whether what shines through the written word is the
real person. Are her goals and ideals the same as ours when it comes to
education? Paper is patient, and words can convey a very inaccurate
picture. We trust you and want to hear more of your ideas and experiences.
So also thank you
. for your new workshop on homeschooling the real child and your comments
geared toward certain workshops on parenting
. for making going to a homeschool convention worthwhile because there is more
to it than sermon after sermon after sermon that teaches us how to view
the world, how to parent our children, how to start or lead a Christian
We love your books, your style, your philosophy. Before starting SoTW, I would have never believed that a six-year old boy’s favorite past-time could actually be sitting or playing quietly while listening to history over and over and over again. We love having a writing curriculum at hand from an author who believes in high level education, who knows it first hand from both sides of the isle, and who has preparing students for any kind of future from no-college to Harvard as a goal. And, as a book-addict, I love the books you pull the lessons from, gives me a lot of new ideas what to look for.
Yes, I am a Christian. Yes, I am evangelical. Yes, I am reformed. No, I did not check my brain at the door. No, I do not make any church doctrine, any short or long catechism, any so-called Christian political agenda my idol. God is my idol. He gave me a brain to discern. He gave me a brain to use. And I most certainly appreciate an author and speaker who does the same. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Hope to see you at more conventions (btw, Florida needs you).
You could always come to Australia, no one will bash you here,.
To me you have celebrity status, I once heard an online lecture of yours, and was so thrilled that you listened to and answered one of my questions. I felt like I had just had an autograph form a famous person. SWB noticed me !! 🙂
I think some of those critics forget that Story Of the World is written for primary school children.
Gosh, Susan, I didn’t think it possible to like you any more than I do. But now I do.
As a secular user of your books- I have never found your religious references to be offensive or out of context at all. However I am not anti-Christian. Just not a Christian.
I wish all Christians had your attitude, personally- it would be much easier to get on with them!
Your grace and balanced, clear thinking always shines through and I am very grateful for what you have written and the work you feel inspired to do. It has made a huge difference in many peoples’ lives including my family’s. Thankyou.
Great comments, Susan. If some of these people had studied logic maybe they would see the holes in their own arguments. But then I would not have the chance to enjoy reading your rebuttals. My love and prayers for you father.
I was glad to find and read your thoughts here, Dr. Bauer, as I am one who has read at least one of the cyber-“warnings” in which you have been named. I’m an unapologetic evangelical Christian who – though I find your presumption that today’s evangelism is still as systematized as it was a century ago a little hyperbolic – has not had a problem using your fine history series. In fact, I hope to continue using it in the future.
I have never looked at your work as distinctly “Christian material.” Rather, I’ve characterized it as “Christian-friendly,” since you do not bash or ignore either Jewish or Christian history. And I’ve really appreciated the contextualization you’ve provided in terms of describing important Jewish and Christian historical events in terms of what was happening elsewhere in the world at any given time. I wouldn’t use anything that either pillioried or ignored Judeo-Christian history, but it’s just fine with me if it’s presented alongside that of other peoples and cultures.
If I may explain the specific issue I’ve read online, it’s not exactly an outcry that you’re trying to undermine Christian home education. Rather, it’s a statement by one person (and, by the way, it really speaks to your integrity that you did not name names here!) who claims you agree with beliefs espoused by Biologos. If you are so-inclined, I’d definitely appreciate knowing to what extent you do agree with Biologos, though I also realize it’s somewhat beside the point, given that Biologos is a matter of science and you specialize in history and language. Still, it might clarify things for some (current and potential) users of your work to state your position about the tenets of Biologos.
Please do not allow the pettiness and illogical thinking of others to discourage you. You do a great service to us in the homeschooling community. If I lived near you, I’d drop by with a Godiva Double Chocolate Cheesecake and Latte which cures many ills!
It is incomprehensible to me that anyone who claims to have ever read the Bible, would stand in judgment of another’s soul. I don’t want to answer to God for that action!
Thank you for living grace, love, and forebearance…living Jesus, in your neck of the woods. It gives me the encouragement to continue to do the same in mine, despite the fact that this method of living faith is often denigrated by others within the Evangelical community.
Also, you should note that my children have come through two rotations of SOTW along with Bible studies that DH and I designed ourselves. Our children are considered the “resident geniuses” of our church because they understand the cultures of the ancient world so well. This has lead to a deeper faith in them, not shallower.
Ken Ham and company, in my opinion, operate from a basis of fear, not love. Yet, we are admonished in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and 14:1 to make love our highest aim. You have role modeled this in your life. Thank you!
You know, when I first read this blog and heard of this kerfuffle, I thought to myself, “See! These people (Ken Ham, etc,) are exactly why I’m having such a crisis of faith!” I’ve had a real crisis of faith over the last several months. I’ve really been questioning the Bible and really reexamining what is believable. So, when I read about all of this I was quite upset with the way you’re being treated. It seemed, at first, to confirm what I’ve been feeling these last several months: Christianity can’t stand the test of critical thinking and understanding of history. One must blindly suspend belief and allow themselves to be blindly indoctrinated in order to believe in Christianity. Then this morning I realized (I’m embarassed to admit that it took me until this morning) that that is the exact opposite of who you are and what you represent. You are someone who has applied critical thinking and who has a considerable understanding of history, and your faith has remained intact. You demonstrate to me that critical thinking and Christianity are not mutually exclusive. Christianity CAN stand the test of critical thinking. Thank you for being a shining example of what Christianity ACTUALLY is.
Bravo Dr. Bauer!
Keep up the good work! We’ve been homeschooling for 20 years now, and I find your material refreshing! Yes, we are Christians, but we choked on some of the history books we read early on. “Lack of logic” well describes what we were up against.
I also heard the author of a math book try to convince us that the “other” secular math curriculum was based on evolutionary thinking because it taught with so much repetition. P-L-E-A-S-E was all I could say, and I didn’t buy his book — out of principle, I just couldn’t.
Some of us are trying to teach our children to THINK, not parrot!
Bless you for your efforts!
Yet another GREAT example of the church eating it’s own. ARGH! I am sorry you are experiencing this. Personally, you put a face on homeschooling (and Christianity for that matter) that gives me hope. Thank-you for putting up with all of the cr*p to provide support, vision and materials for those of us who want more than pedantic shallowness and bad grammar (admittedly I stink at grammar, but I am learning ; )
Love this, Susan! It is disappointing to see the mentality out there that assumes there is an appropriate “Christian” curriculum. (As an art history officianado, what bothers me more is when some homeschoolers “black out” nude body parts in masterpieces by the old master in order to “protect” children from so-called obscenity…grrrrrr…why don’t they just draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa and be done with it…one should be particular about what works of art they show their children, yet blacking out the nudes in Michelangelo’s Sistene Chapel ceiling makes me want to throw up! But I digress… :o)
This year we put a few of our chilren in the Catholic schools. Some of my Christian homeschool friends are concerned about that believing that my children will be brainwashed. I want to tell them that this experience has produced a variety of discussion and thought in our family.
I have always appreciated your viewpoints and writings, especially when it comes to the homeschool movement.
I have little of intelligence to add to the conversation, but I will say that I am not Christian and I use your materials. I know you’re Christian. It doesn’t bother me. I skipped over the bible parts of SOTW. Big whoop. People have too much time on their hands. 😀
I was honored to hear you speak this weekend in Greenville. Loved your advice on a writing program for K-12th grade! Fortunately, I completely missed the mean-spirited drama occurring behind the scenes. Guess I forgot to bring my Roman sword and spear to defend you!
My daughter is using your History of the Ancient World as a “spine’ for her Ancient World History studies this year in 10th grade. We both loved how you wove (weaved? have woven?) Biblical history in with the Ancient World History. The book was beautifully written.
Keep up the good fight. Hope you are feeling better soon. We appreciate all you do in the literary world.
Thank you for your excellent post. It was thoughtful and fascinatingly educational in its own right. As a Christian, my faith is encouraged by your honesty, intelligence, and this respectful discussion.
Just want to say a big THANK YOU for your work, publications, and public appearances. One of the many reasons my husband and I love SOTW is because of the way you integrate Biblical history with the history of the whole world. Unfortunately, I grew up thinking of them as two separate entities.
Keep up the great work! We’re also excited about the “Telling God’s Story” materials (which appear to be generating unfounded controversy as well). All I can say is that if your work stirs up controversy, you’re probably on the right track! When people have to engage their brain and truly wrestle with their long-held, narrowly constructed views and ideas, I think many find it easier to attack than to do the hard work of thinking.
(I just have to respond one more time….)
Tina said, “Still, it might clarify things for some (current and potential) users of your work to state your position about the tenets of Biologos.”
But if she did this, then people would be asking her what she thought about other beliefs and organizations, and on and on. I think her whole point is that we individuals have to *read* and *think* and come to our own conclusions, using mental tools that are available to us. And not slam people, but talk about the issue.
On another note, I “ditto” what A. Olinger said. Similar experience in recent years. 😀
I think your books (using history and grammar so far) provide a great balance. As a christian I prefer that the bible, the pastor, and the parents do a majority of the religious teaching, and hope that the grammar book will teach grammar.
My kids enjoy the history and grammar books, and I think they do a fantastic job of teaching the items I expect them to teach. We just got back from our first trip to London, and my daughters enjoyed what they saw all the more for understanding the history behind the places and items they saw.
I look forward to buying your new bible study books. Please keep doing what you do. You make homeschooling so much easier on me and so much more fun for my children. I doubt I could give my children the history lessons I never had without the aid of your great materials.
I was AT the homeschool convention this weekend, and I want to assure you that you might have felt like Gollum doing Grammar, but you didn’t sound like it. : ) (the tapes may be a different story, but it’s OK)
You sounded like Dr. Bauer, our knowledgeable and trusted friend, helping us figure out what in the world to do with our kids even while you were sick.
The sacrifice on your part was deeply noted and appreciated.
Thank you, truly, for your dedication!
I don’t think anyone who reads your blogs or talks to you would ever think that you’re not a Christian! But by making yourself so “public” there are always people who are going to misinterpret you (in any direction). But the MOST of us, whom you don’t hear from often enough, see you for who you are – a Christian who is dedicated to her children and husband and then to helping the rest of us.
You are appreciated,
PS – We met at the end of the conference, and you graciously let our group take their picture with you. Oh, my kids are the ones who think of you as their principal. : )
My one concern with homeschooling our children as they get older (now K and 3rd) is being able to provide them a true classical education, not just indoctrination. I think many Christians are attracted to the rigor of a classical education but they get stuck in the grammar stage, which is a really poor way to prepare them to “always be ready to give an answer” for their faith. A college freshman should have a cohesive, coherent, and concise argument for what they believe, not “mommy said so.”
I think that the basis for this is American Christians’ decreasing ability to be able to think on their own. Evaluate. Study. Argue. Write. Think. Converse. Adult brains have become like the fat people on the conveyor belt in the movie Wall-E: I’ll take a Fox News slurpee and a Glenn Beck twinkie and wash it down with a conspiracy theory instead of thinking for myself.
Sorry for the sarcasm, but it does concern me and it should concern every evangelical Christian. If our only defense for our faith is petty criticism and repetition of “things we heard” rather than original thinking based on truth, then who is going to want what we have?
I don’t want a grammar program with a Bible verse on every page if it leaves my children unable to put together a coherent sentence in high school or a Logic curriculum that leaves them speechless when someone questions their faith in a way that wasn’t in the textbook.
We will continue to buy your materials because they are intelligently written, well-researched and they WORK.
Wow! Ironically, your defense of not evangelizing through your writing has strengthened my faith.
Looking forward to seeing/hearing you in Cincinnati. I tell my homeschooling friends how much I look forward to hearing you at the convention because you are the one person who’s not preaching a sermon to me (some of them look at me like I have 4 eyes when I say that, but my church is where I hear sermons), rather you give me practical advice and remind me that after a sandwich and a shower, I can do this. Or are the sandwich and shower for my kids? 🙂
This has kinda turned into a SWB pep-rally, and I like it!
I attended the “Writing Well: a Plan for Grades 1-12” and I must say: I would fully advocate Gollum Grammar because it has certainly proved fireproof. Your gracious response to these bigoted, biased and pretentious criticisms speaks louder than any action because you’re not afraid to defend what you do with research, a little ache in the fingers, and a heap of rich wisdom. People like you remind the rest of us that getting out of bed in the morning is worth it! I can only hope that your intelligent and cultured body of work will inspire others to carry on the torch in a way that would justify your honest labors.
-Lindsey from VA (I had you sign “Though the Darkness Hide Thee”)
It makes me crazy that “Christians” behave this way. Really. Crazy. It makes them (and then all of us by association) a laughing stock, and you are not a laughing stock, nor are you apostate, nor are you an inept historian. God is quite capable of speaking for himself through His word, History, and His creation. You have chosen well not to try to put words in His mouth and force a dogma or preach at people with the power of the pen.
I’m thankful that you are part of my life, even though we’ve never met–you have been such a tremendous help to our family.
Always good to see when something that really needs saying finally GETS SAID.
You go, girl.
Wow Susan. Just wow.
I was at the Greenville Convention and was privileged to hear two of your sessions. The others I bought the cds for and our group listened to them during our six hour road trip back to FL.
While listening (and your voice sounded fine, btw), we determined that every leader in our Classical Homeschool group must listen to your Classical Ed. and Writing workshops before school begins next year.
We also decided that it might be better next year if we just ordered a bunch of convention talks and drove the loop around our city for a day instead of forking out big bucks for a hotel room. We’ll just have a “minivan convention”. The sound quality would certainly be better than the “hall” they had you in last weekend.
Anyway, it was well worth the drive to hear you speak and we appreciate all it took for you to get there. You were a great encouragement to many. It makes me sad that other Christians cannot leave well enough alone. Most of us are intelligent enough to figure out matters of faith for ourselves. If God wants me to walk a certain path I’m sure to be convicted of it. I wish more people would get the log out of their own eye.
I’d agree that Dr. Bauer’s personal beliefs on evolution are not germane to her curricula. I’ve been grateful that she’s stayed out of the whole creationism/evolution thing and I think it’s very wise.
Like you, I’m a historian who has done a lot of work developing educational resources for primary and secondary students. And I’ve been pilloried over the years for being, allegedly, both an unfeeling conservative and a “communist.” So I empathize with you. There’s an increasingly desperate tribalism at work here, I think, and it really wears me out.
The worst of my criticism has come when I’ve had the temerity to suggest that students ought to try to understand the points of view of both sides of a historical issue. Child labor, for example, in the early-20th-century U.S.: Addressing it at all suggested to one person that I was actually a union organizer infiltrating the public schools; presenting facts, context, explanations, and first-hand accounts and letting secondary students decide for themselves how they felt about the issue earned me snide comments from a couple of liberals because I hadn’t outright condemned it. A lot of people, for whatever reason, seem to have invested a great deal of their self-worth in being absolutely certain about things, are deeply disturbed by challenges to them, and see anything short of vigorous single-minded agreement as a challenge. Which, as you say, makes their Kingdom of God, whatever it happens to be, awfully weak.
For what it’s worth, my daughter adores your books.
Keep fighting the good fight.
Beautifully said Susan! Thank you so much for taking the high road and not folding to those with such a small mind. I am happy to say we have home educated with your methods all along and my children ages 10, 12, 14 and 16 are Christians with a very mature view of the world from all viewpoints. This is something others might need as well.
To live with love, compassion, grace and forbearance is a goal we should all strive to reach.
I guess my only question is this: does it really matter that you are a Christian? By that I mean, if you were Susan Schwartz or Susan Mohammad would their criticisms/concerns be any less unfair? i wonder how hard it would be to publish homeschool materials and have them used if you weren’t part of the predominant culture within homeschooling. I agree with the points that you made, but I wonder if it is really necessary for you to state your Christian bona fides as part of that defense.
I have a hard time defining myself as a homeschooler precisely because we are Christians but that has less than nothing to do with why we homeschool. But at the same time, I’m eyeing the Telling God’s Story curriculum because it fits with the way we want our children to learn about our faith. Sigh.
Finally…………………..a voice of reason!
Excellent post, Dr. Bauer. Having put up with invective from both sides all my career, please allow me to add a word of encouragement: God is working through you. The evidence is quite clear on this point. I can’t tell you the number of God-honoring, loving, exceptional homeschool students and graduates I have met over the years, and many of them use your materials. You are making a difference for the Lord, and while you and I disagree on many things, it would be foolish for me (or anyone else) to ignore this simple (and wonderful) fact!
“I am blocking the work of God.
Really? I didnâ€™t know it would be that easy”
That’s hysterically funny!
Thank you for continuing to do what you do for the homeschooling community. I don’t always agree with every word you write, but then I have differences with my siblings and best friends also – that’s life! This was a very insightful post. I hope you and your father have speedy recoveries!
First, I will like to say that i am a muslim and I have most of your books and do have a feeling your xtian background does influence your writings but then which writer will his/her ideological background not influence his/her writings? As for the accusations from the two parties, all I can say is that whenever I go to an Author I go with the mind that “this is not my “Holy Qur’aan” and as such I don’t have to agree with everything in it in to to but to become myopic and say the Author is xtian and as such her “grammar book” is trash is senseless because I have seen the bible, read it and other christian materials and that hasn’t made me a christian because religion is more of conviction and not confusion. On a final note I have to say I do regularly recommend your books to people and that’s because i don’t have any major issue with them. You can check my review http://www.amazon.com/review/R33RRVC4GDGDRS/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0393067084&nodeID=283155&tag=&linkCode=#wasThisHelpful. I just want to say thanks for your good works.
As an Orthodox Jew, I was thrilled to see both the wide range of information from other cultures and the respectful treatment of my own nation’s history in SOTW1. I’m looking forward to reading the other volumes, including reading about the birth of Christianity and other world faith traditions.
Learning history devoid of religion is an empty and useless pursuit – yet it is how history is taught in the majority of public and even religious schools.
Thanks so much for your response. It makes me a bit nervous to say what I really think in comments some times, for fear of truly offending. As an educator and mother, I think resistant/analytical reading is one of the most important things we can teach our children, and it is always necessary, because as you say, all historians have biases. Teaching them to dismiss the entirety of someone’s work because of a particular style or approach is doing them a disservice indeed.
This wasn’t a Christian conference. It was a homeschool conference. Personal attack is never appropriate in a public forum. I appreciate your response. And your stance on Christian responsibility. It would be nice if people would carry their arguments all the way through. My ability to agree or disagree with someone else’s opinion is also the reason we are able to homeschool in this country. But I don’t have the right to cram it down someone else’s throat. As adults we should want to hear opposing views and then make up our own minds.
I wasn’t able to hear you this year, but look forward to hearing you at the conference next year.
First I want to say that I highly respect you…..
I do not think though you were attacked for your grammar book or your history, but rather your association with Dr. Pete Enns who is part of Biologos, which they feel speaks against what they believe is biblically sound (which I agree with them on that). But you should not be attacked for this.
Again, I am thankful for you. I have your history AND your grammer and writing with ease… You have made my homeschooling journey a little more pleasant. And your book on The Well Trained Mind about homeschooling, simply put, ROCKS!!!! Thank you!
I AM SO GLAD YOU’RE HERE!!
Well put and inspiring, especially for me! My daughter and I have learned so much from Story of the World, plus she loves PHP grammar and writing. Keep up the good work!
Susan, thanks for all you write and publish. All my support for you and your work, from a non practicing catholic homeschooler mom.
I am a Christian who uses your SOTW. When I began my HS journey I looked for a history curriculum or guide line that would clearly show God at work through the ages. All those that did so were not appropriate for elementary age children or were to dificult to utilize. I find yours to be easy reading, and with the activity books easy to expand upon in varying depth as I see fit. The beauty of classical education is, I don’t have to cover every thing the first time. They (and I) will get this 2 more times. Once from a distinctly nonchristian worldview, and once from a distincly christian worldview. All with me and my faith.
Just as you give logical opinions of others curriculum, don’t take it so personally if someone critiques yours on any basis.
I just love this so much. Thank you for helping me to see what has been bothering me about being a Christian in the homeschooling world.
“And if my grammar book can stand in the way of the kingdom of God, itâ€™s not much of a kingdom. Please consider spending your time and energy talking about what you do and what you believe, rather than desperately protecting God from anything that might damage him.”
Susan, you are brilliant!
You go, girl! Good stuff. Chris
I just received an email from our local home school network which some years back became a “christian” home school network. Don’t even get me started on that one. This email is encouraging people to boycott the convention in Cincinnati. Unfortunately people like this are what give all home schoolers a bad reputation as religious zealots with 7 kids and a mom in a blue jean jumper saying, “anything you desire dear”, to her lord of the castle. Your books are great, you are great, and we will continue to use and recommend your materials.
That’s funny, and yet so true. I just finished writing an email to a Christian I know. I knew that I had to give the subject a non-biblical heading or else he would think that I was just trying to force a certain biblical view upon him (one that he personally does not adhere to). I had to calm him down before he would even read the email through his present bias…sad.
Thank you for stepping up to the plate and addressing this issue with a straightforward, logical response.
Blessings to you, your mother and family!
We recently began using WWE and have truly enjoyed it. My son’s desire to write has improved dramatically because of it. Thank you for pouring your time and energy into the writing of it.
In your addendum at the WTM you stated in your third point that “to your knowledge Dr. Enns has a publisher-author relationship with them (Biologos)”. The Biologos blog states that Dr. Enns is “Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies for The BioLogos Foundation”. I am not at all trying to be argumentative. I just thought you would want to have accurate information about the exact nature of the relationship since Peace Hill Press now has a connection with Dr. Enns.
Having read and relished both of your published history volumes (as well as your school-age volumes), I’d come to assume, based on your presentation of the material, that you weren’t religious at all. Fancy that.
I’m Roman Catholic and often lament that people assume I’m superstitious, or naive, or stupid, or enslaved to the Pope, or automatically supportive of all the bad/stupid things the Church has done both recently and over the past 2,000 years. I understand this assumption. So many Christians do so many stupid and un-Christian things so regularly, it’s easy, at times, to generalize. But it’s always dangerous–and non-objective–to judge a group based on its worst manifestations.
Your books have done a fine job of balancing faiths and cultures, and your presentation of Christianity is satisfyingly warts-and-all. I can’t imagine how anyone reads your chapters on Constantine or the early popes and thinks you’re glorifying the faith. If anything, you’re showing how religion, like science later on, existed as both a pure pursuit *and* as a tool/weapon in the struggle for power.
This is a case of readers bringing their own agendas to a book, which is healthy and normal, however frustrating it surely is to the author. Plenty of us, however, think you’re doing good, balanced work.
Remember, we ARE in a spiritual battle…I hope you don’t feel too “beat up”. Keep seeking the Lord’s grace and strength for all you do. I appreciate you.
Oh Susan! How unfortunate that Greenville behaved so badly. I was sooo looking forward to hearing you speak and had I had the chance (I had to leave the Greenville for a funeral) to meet you, I would have let you know that YOU are the reason I homeschool, you and your mother that is. I read your book when it came out before marriage and children and my soon to be husband and I were “converted” to homeschooling. I LOVE SOTW and WWE and try to convert everyone to using your wonderful curricula.
When I left my first comment on Mar 20, 2011 at 5:23 pm, I thought you were being attacked for your history books as I was not clued in to the whole Enns/Ham/convention story until yesterday evening. After researching the facts myself about Dr. Enns and his beliefs out of his own mouth, I’m at a loss for why you chose him to produce a Bible curriculum that you endorse by selling. I really wanted some answers, so I left a reply on a sticky on the forum asking what your views were, etc. My reply, along with all the other posts on a full page of replies got deleted. Then I asked why my reply got deleted and then that reply got deleted. I pm’d Justin and still haven’t received any explanation.
Others have told me that you (or your webmasters) are not letting any opposing view of “Telling God’s Story” to stay on the forum, only good reviews. Well, mine wasn’t either but merely a polite question, wanting to know YOUR personal beliefs or did you know Enns believed in evolution and a metaphoric Adam, etc.?
I can’t help but say this puts a sour taste in my mouth for your publishing company and that saddens me as I thoroughly enjoy your curriculum and we use it all and I’ve even recruited several women in my church to use your curriculum. I’m hoping that you stop selling the Bible curriculum and distance yourself from Dr. Enns to show that you do not support evolution and a skewed sense of the Bible as he does, but I’m afraid, since you haven’t, that you do have those beliefs.
I watched Dr. Enns lecture as he told of his interpretation of creation, Adam, and even his views on Paul which astonished me. My husband, who is a preacher, was shocked at these outrageous interpretations as well. We would never purchase anything this man wrote about the Bible and will advise others not to do so as well as it is error.
If you would take the time to answer my questions, or give an explanation, that would be much appreciated, as I prefer to receive my answers direct from the source, not hearsay.
Thank you for your time.
We decided to publish the curriculum because we thought that the idea of starting an elementary Bible program in the Gospels, with Jesus, was a different and valuable approach, and because Dr. Enns has both a wonderful voice for young children and the ability to explain clearly to parents. You can read the entire first year for free now on Scribd, at http://www.scribd.com/doc/51538077/Telling-God-s-Story-Year-One-Instructor-Text-and-Teaching-Guide. (You can also read samples from the activity book on Scribd and Google Books.)
The information others have told you about the boards is incorrect. As with all other topics, threads are removed when board rules about civility and courtesy are broken. (I’m sure that has been a difficult job for the mods, with many judgment calls.)
Of course I fully support your decision not to use the materials. Every parent needs to decide for themselves which books are useful for their family, and which are not.
I also want to point something out–I know this will not relieve your concerns, and again, your convictions on this matter will guide you–but you should keep in mind that the Westmont College video (I assume that’s the one you’re talking about?) was given in an academic setting, to faculty and students. I have already heard several times sentences from that lecture pulled completely out of context. In an academic lecture, a professor has an entire hour to develop ideas, talk about possible interpretations and their problems, and discuss different theories. I would hate to have two or three sentences from one of my lectures pulled out of context and used against me–I could easily be made to sound like a complete idiot. And an academic lecture is not a sermon. It is not a place where the lecturer tells you: This is what you should believe. It is a place in which to say: What about this? What if this were the case? Is it possible to see this from another direction? Academic lectures are meant to be questioned, not accepted as the final statement on a matter.
Once again, please be guided by your own convictions, but I do encourage you to read the book that we actually published. I think it stands on its own merit.
Thank you for replying, I didn’t expect one but it really was a blessing that you did and we do appreciate it! You don’t have to publish this comment, I wrote it merely for your reading as a reply and not to continue a dialogue (unless of course you wish to).
For the record, I not only disagree with Enn’s evolutionary thoughts but I also disagree with Ham’s young earthism. I’m assuming by your reply that you think I got my information from Ham’s short clips of Enns lecture – I did not. I read many articles on Enn’s blog, listened to the entire almost 50 minute Westmont lecture he gave and read some of his writings for BioLogos – that is how I got my information. I’m pretty certain where he stands, and it is so opposing to us, thus our decry against his Bible curriculum and wonders of your endorsement.
We personally believe Genesis 1:1 as the beginning of all but there was a time before Genesis 1:2 where a lot went on that we only know bits about from Jeremiah and Isaiah (Angelic reign/Lucifer). Genesis 1:2 picks up from the end of this age and continues on with God’s re-creation and his creation of the man. So, the earth is definitely way older than from Genesis 1:2. How much older? Only God truly knows for certain.
Regardless of beliefs of how old the earth is, to claim that Adam is not the start of our humanity really crosses the line and to go so far to say as he was a metaphorical Israel verges on heresy. I think God knew what he was doing when he wrote through Paul, and God was well aware that Adam was the start of the human race as we know it. Obviously, I could go on and write a book about this but I will save us both the time and not.
So maybe you can see where we are coming from. We are not like the majority that heard it from Mr. Ham and just heard clips of a lecture. I like to seek out the truth myself, not take another man’s word for it. I feel satisfied that I did find the truth about Enn’s belief because who better could know it but him?
All that aside, it just so greatly disturbs us as we view it as heresy, HOW could this man write a correct curriculum for children? Then that brings us to the place that we wonder HOW you could choose such a man/belief.
I suppose it isn’t for us to know as you don’t have to give an explanation besides that he is such a great teacher, of which is he is very eloquent that I will agree on. But eloquent doesn’t equal truthful, especially in the sight of God.
If we view him as a heretic, of which the Bible itself has many passages to refute his questions and humanity’s origins, why would we, and others, then not try and help someone else to stay far away from this man and his work, i.e. “Telling God’s Story”?
I don’t foresee this turning out to be a good thing for your publishing company, but it is a road you have chosen as I’m sure you knew the man and his views on scripture. We would like to see it gone but this isn’t our publishing company. It just hurts because we love your style, books, curriculum and lectures and now we are cautious to recommend them without a warning against the Bible curriculum.
Whew, sorry so long – just had a lot on my heart to share and I will end this and wish you peace and pray that God’s directs you in your decisions.
Such a careful and thoughtful answer deserves to be publicly posted, and responded to.
First, thank you for your willingness to research rather than accepting quotes from others. I am really frustrated by how little of this is happening. Please be assured that I did not mean to accuse you of lack of thought! I have just read so many distortions and misquotes from people who are obviously getting second-hand information that Iâ€™ve started to have a knee-jerk â€œPlease read the books!â€ reaction.
Let me just give you one example. Many people seem to be reproducing this particular quote from the overall guide to Telling Godâ€™s Story (thanks, I think, to an online review that quoted it and then said it was not orthodox):
and then using this to say that Peter Enns does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. If you read the whole section, it becomes very clear that Enns is saying: In Old Testament times, people did not understand that the coming Messiah would not be an earthly king. They thought he would restore political power to Israel. So when they used the word â€œMessiah,â€ they were usually referring to a political saviour–an expectation that Jesus constantly had to speak against in his time on earth.
I just donâ€™t understand how this can be condemned as non-orthodox.
Another online reviewer uses the following quote to dismiss Enns as unorthodox:
What this quote doesnâ€™t include is the footnote on page 70, which says: Of course this is not the right understanding of the Flood, but it is how people of the time often understood the Flood story.
And despite the fact that this is a Bible curriculum, and that Olive Branch Books has nothing to do with Biologos, people are STILL insisting that it â€œteaches evolutionâ€ (it doesnâ€™t even address origins) and that it is â€œpublished by Biologos.â€ I run this company and I have no connection with Biologos at all. I have been to their website, I think, once.
So you can see why Iâ€™ve become a little gun-shy when people start to talk about the books. In most cases, they have NOT read them–they have read online reviews which appear at best to be mistaken and at worst to be intentionally misleading.
Now let me get back to your post (which is none of the above).
I do see where you are coming from, and once again I should say: Follow your convictions.
But let me say a second thing.
In your post, you three times use the word â€œheresy.â€ That word has been used a lot, and I would beg you to reconsider it. It implies loss of salvation. I am incredibly distressed by the way in which it has been tossed around. As others have pointed out, the great fathers of the Church–including but not limited to Augustine–have disagreed about how literally to interpret Genesis 1. What none of them–or Dr. Enns–would disagree about is the centrality of Jesus, His work, and His divinity to the Christian faith. You may think that someone who takes a particular view of Genesis 1 is on a â€œslippery slopeâ€ to denying Jesus, but in that case you should still not use the word â€œheresy.â€ (I have huge problems with this slippery slope argument, by the way, which Iâ€™ll on post on later.) To declare something as â€œheresyâ€ is to declare those who believe it outside the bounds of the faith–and I have seen a lot of people very willing to do this very quickly.
I think that this is wrong.
The centrality of Jesus to the Christian faith seems to me to be under attack by some of those who are condemning this curriculum. A particular interpretation of Genesis, not the work and identity of Christ, has become central.
Dr. Enns has an unwavering belief in the centrality of Jesus to his faith, and that conviction comes shining through in these books. That is not an easy thing to find, or to teach to our children. So I continue to stand behind these books.
If things that Dr. Enns has said elsewhere disturb you, please donâ€™t buy or use the program. And if you feel you must warn others away from it, I understand. But as you do, I would beg you to be clear, and to say: I am not disturbed by this curriculum, but by other views of the author. And I would also be very grateful if you would think through my central point above–that Jesus, and not Genesis, is actually the center of our faith. I think that this allows Christians to disagree over interpretation without placing each other in the â€œheresyâ€ camp.
This too is incredibly long. We should probably not continue it at this point 🙂 Please do send an email to [email protected] if you need to.
It amuses me that folks misunderstand your intentions.
Ten years ago you spoke at a convention in TX where we were introduced to classical education – been fans ever since. My defense of adults-thinking-for-themselves began there when a stranger turned to me, during your talk, upset that you weren’t telling us how to incorporate the Bible into our curriculum.
At first I was offended that you hadn’t, but that quickly turned into the thought, ‘Why should she tell us how to think?”. I realized that had you done so, it would have been an attempt to lead us by a ring in the nose. Thank you for not insulting us (the attendees) and, consequently, for helping me learn more about myself.
I happen to be a Christian, as I later learned you are, but does that even matter for this purpose? 😉
I really appreciate and enjoy The Story of the World, and my kids love it. We use the tests and we listen to the recordings as well. I was a history major in college, and I’m not afraid of history or science and any truth that can be gleaned from either are a joy to me.
I don’t think Bev was incorrect in her use of the term “heresy” when it comes to the doctrines of original sin.
Heresy is defined as an opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system.
Paul was fairly clear in Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned … Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
It seems that the creation story was important to Paul. It’s hard to imagine that Jesus would appear to Saul and that the Holy Spirit would indwell him and inspire him, and yet allow him to continue propagating a myth. If anyone could handle the truth or not be afraid to say it to the people no matter how against their known beliefs it was, it was Paul.
Also, I don’t find the story of Adam and Eve that similar to the Sumerian story. All peoples had creation stories – I’ve read plenty of Norse myths. There’s just such a difference for me, I guess. The story about Adam and Eve is specific and compelling – it tells about a Savior that would come and that would be born of a woman.
I understand that Susan is sensitive to criticism – we all are. I would rather see a little more academic liberalism in her own approach, however. If she firmly believes that the Bible curriculum is solid, that’s fine. But I think she should also be aware that dissent is likely to come within the Christian community when it comes to a Bible curriculum. There are those of us who appreciate the nuances of doctrine, and appreciate being told/warned about the beliefs of a Bible teacher and how they might differ from traditional doctrine.
I don’t respect the homeschool convention for cutting off debate through ultimate censorship re: Mr. Ham. I’ve been to liberal Christian institutions where people with beliefs about doctrine are shunned as being “divisive” or “hurtful.” I think that’s just a way of silencing others. Homeschool conventions are going to either have to define themselves as strictly “Christian” (which will cause its own BIG family problems) or else be completely open to all. Homeschooling is becoming popular now with everyone – some parents’ choices of curriculum are going to horrify us, in fact. We are going to walk by pagan or occult homeschooling booths in the future. We have to be ready to deal with it and decide if we are committed to academic and parental freedom no matter where it leads.
Ohhhhhh…that explains it.
I was wondering about the freaky vibe in that hall. And you and he had to alternate back and forth between sessions. I don’t know how you did it, and when considering the week you had, I am so sorry you had that experience.
The brief mentions I heard regarding WTM were respectful…of course I was going to sessions by you, your mom, Dr. Pudewa, Andrew Kern (yeah, you should hear what he said about Sophie’s Choice, lol), etc.
What was playing in my mind during your lectures, “Finally, some sanity.” Of course, when I hear that people who are so well practiced in the defensive arts are now attacking you, it makes me wonder maybe whether they just like to quarrel?
I would introduce them to my four Christ-loving, intelligent, curious, articulate, friendly, well-mannerred (and well-read) little girls. These kids have good fruit because they were grafted onto a good tree.
I swear, your wit and humor (so dexterously interspersed throughout a very intellectually stimulating ‘article’) made my day – thank you! If you ever do a writing workshop for moms can I please enroll?!?! Hang in there – praying for you (unabashedly). : )