Thursday, September 26, 2013

Possibilities for good or evil

"The consequence of truth is great, therefore the judgment of it must not be negligent" (Whichcote).

1. Children are born persons.
2. They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil.
3. The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental; 
from "A Short Synopsis" by Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, p. xxix)
The wording of Principle #2 in Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education can be misinterpreted without a clearer picture of the context.  Here are some thoughts for today...

Children don't live unto themselves, nor do adults.  In modern terms, we don't live in a bubble.  All of our words and deeds affect others. When our children find themselves in situations where a choice is presented, there is an opportunity.   It is a possibility for good or for evil, avarice or magnanimity, for holiness or for sin.

Any action motivated by self-benefit moves me toward, well me, and thus away from God.  I don't usually look at it that way.  I think Miss Mason had substantial insight into the truth of human nature, in children and adults.  She clearly understood the necessity of a personal belief in and relationship with the "Saviour of the World"; this is supported and interspersed throughout her writings.  Persons are fallen creatures in a fallen world, "man is  glorious ruin"*.

For this reason, our responsibility of training our children in habits of the heart, mind and body begins at the very earliest of stages (see: When Children Love to Learn, pg. 63).  "[Habit] is the lever to lift a child contrary to his or her nature." (When Children Love to Learn, pg. 90).  A person under grace still acts from his will as he chooses above his nature; the more a person trains himself and the more truth He understands, the better he is able to choose and act rightly.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  As parents and teachers, we are companions under the authority of God (authority & docility); therefore, we must not neglect our responsibility for those same habits.

Sometimes we assign our children responsibility for things that we forget belong just as equally to ourselves; however, we also should not assume their part of that responsibility either.  Just as we have too high of expectations for them occasionally, other times our expectations are too low.  Further, we want to protect them from the hardship that comes of poor choices.  And I do believe there are times along the way that we must interfere and control the situation-when the outcome may be too great a cost or too heavy a burden for young shoulders.  That is the practice of "masterly inactivity" specific to moral or spiritual habit development.  I also believe that we must understand it is practiced to learn when that intrusion is necessary and when it is not.  People, regardless of age, make choices based on knowledge and understanding or on natural desire-possibilities for good or for evil.  It is an internal motivation, not a controlled external prop that allows us to will rightly.  As our children grow, it is grace and knowledge of God that builds them from the inside, and as they mature we must allow them to exercise that will, to practice virtue and also fail (with all the resulting ugliness of sin and the sorrow and repentance that must follow), then they will know for themselves the power of the Holy Spirit in overcoming evil.   Every believer has hope for this.

I wish I would have adopted the PUS school motto when my children were young; it is valuable to keep this thought before us as school children and adults.
I am a child of God,
I ought to do His will.
I can do what He tells me,
And by His grace, I will.
Grace for the day,

* This phrase has been attributed to both  Francis Schaeffer and C.S. Lewis-let me know if you can point to an original source document to credit.