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Universals, Particulars, and “School Choice”

If there is one book I suggest reading before diving into all sorts of Biblical Classical materials, it’s Francis A. Schaeffer’s The God Who is There. It lays a solid foundation for much of what Biblical living and learning is and what it isn’t (in my opinion). In it, Schaeffer teaches about universals, particulars, cause-to-effect, and the didactic vs. dialectic process. That being said, I think it’s important to consider universals, particulars, and “school choice” in this debate about education.

God Created the Universe

If you’re a Bible-believing Christian you already know that God created the universe. But, I want to illustrate something before diving into philosophy. To begin with, let’s define universe.

Noah Webster defined universe as:

“The collective name of heaven and earth, and all that belongs to them; the whole system of created things.

-Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (The emphasis is mine.)

In this article, I’m addressing the “whole system of things.” For clarification, “things” refers to what is abstract and what is concrete. Specifically, “things” will either be categorized as “universals” or “particulars.”

Universals and Particulars

Universals

In short, universals are abstract. They’re concepts like truth, goodness, beauty, humanity, art, music, and education. Quite frankly, they’re every single abstract that exists because Sovereign God created them. Comprehending that gives context for the particulars.

Particulars

Particulars, however, are concrete. They’re the individual details of a universal. If particulars are taken out of their God-given context, individuals end up creating their own universals to fit their worldview. But, it’s often forgotten that when creating one’s personal universal they then throne themselves above God. That’s dangerous!

The Universal of Education and Its Particulars

Noah Webster gives us the Biblical worldview definition of what education is:

“The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”

-Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

The context of education involves the universal of religion. It’s important to note the keyword religion:

“1. religion in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man’s obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.”

How ever one may try to create his or her own universal of education apart from religion, education and religion are linked. If one chooses not to acknowledge God as Sovereign, that individual remains under God regardless. For God is over all (Isaiah 45:7–9). The Creator has all rights to His Creation—including the universal of education, all its particulars, and how one goes about attaining it (honoring or dishonoring God’s moral laws).

The Education Universal

Within God’s universals of education and religion (as defined with a Biblical worldview) is also God’s universal of economics. All three function together and they function rightly within the context God has created for them. When separating God’s purposes, principles, and parents as the teachers of their children, man makes his own universal.

The “School Choice” Universal

Furthermore, when man goes outside God’s economic law, titled Thou Shall Not Steal, to justify using taxpayer dollars (legal plunder) to pay for one’s educational preference, man makes his own universal. It’s a universal of trusting in civil government to provide for the educational needs of our children vs. trusting in God’s Providence for those needs. And, God’s Providence for the individual needs of our families will be determined by Him. Enter the battle against the sin of covetousness for some individuals.

Why is using taxpayer money for education considered legal plunder? Firstly, it’s not civil government’s role to provide for education. Secondly, it’s the parents’ role to provide education for their children—with the support of the church and/or volunteer organizations.

Another concern: If we declare socialism contradicts God’s laws and principles but turn around and utilize the socialist program of funding education through civil government, our children will see us as hypocrites (and they’ll do so rightfully). How can we possibly expect them to choose God’s ways when we do just the opposite?

(For information on the effects of “school choice” in a nation, read Alex Newman’s article on: Vouchers: School Choice Trap.)

“School Choice” and the Dialectic Process

I love reading works by Francis A. Schaeffer; I’m thankful for the wisdom he encapsulated in his writings. In part, I believe that he has left us a piece of a map to help us through the times in which we find ourselves.

As I study his writings in The God Who is There, I’ve come to see how some Christians have fallen for the use of the dialectical process to come to the conclusion that participating in “school choice” funds is perfectly fine to do. It goes something like this:

Reason and Relate Questions

  • What is the cause-to-effect of going against what God says?
  • When encouraging parents to go ahead with receiving “school choice” funds, is doing so causing them to stumble into sin?
  • How will our children see us if we utilize a socialist program when we teach them that socialism is wrong?
  • What kind of example and legacy do we truly want to leave our children and grandchildren?

How the Dialectic Process is Meddling with What to Do

The premise has everything to do with the results. If the premise is wrong the results will be wrong. The dialectic’s premise is always questioning what God says (this goes back to the serpent in the Garden of Eden) and coming up with a “new” truth based on one’s synthesis—it’s a man-made “truth” which is really a lie. We cannot mix true truth and a lie and honestly expect to have the equation be true truth. We’re deceiving ourselves if we think it’s possible.

“School Choice” and the Didactic Process

I implore my fellow Christians to rethink personally accepting and encouraging others to accept “school choice” funds. And, I’d like to encourage Christians to use the didactic process from which to reason:

A Call to Remain Within God’s Universals

No matter how much we want to hold on to a certain image we conjure up in our minds of what life should look like for our individual families, it’s ultimately up to God what the particulars end up being. He is Sovereign, knows what we and our families need, and He knows what to give and what to withhold for our own good. We can trust Him to help us with the particulars of education as we remain within His universals!

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV)

For further reading see, School Choice: The Bottom Line.

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