Dear Mandy: Our Final Statement Concerning MOPS

Dear Mandy,

Thank you for your responses to our recent podcast and article, both by email and on our Facebook page. We appreciate your attention to detail in responding to many of our points. We have had a chance to review your responses and consider your perspective. In the interest of working towards the best possible outcome, we have again reviewed MOPS resources, along with statements made by you and your organization and can not at this time change our position regarding MOPS.

We hope you will consider our response to your statements. The first point below is in regards to your email that was sent from you and the MOPS board (also on the MOPS blog), and the remaining points are in response to your Facebook comment* made on May 31, 2019.

  • “As we listened to the podcast and read the blog, we found it primarily revisiting concerns from 2016 which we thoroughly responded to then and made adjustments where needed. These concerns have been addressed.” 

The concerns from 2016 were not addressed appropriately, and we believe the problems remain. The gospel is still not central to the MOPS curriculum. The clear gospel is difficult to find in MOPS resources. It should be central to MOPS, as it once was. Mandy, while you yourself proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah and the risen Christ, there are things missing from your message. We’ve yet to hear you talk about how we’ve sinned against a Holy God and a clear explanation of the gospel, the good news.

We have copies of letters sent to both you and the MOPS board, along with your responses. These letters are as recent as 2018 and express some of the same concerns we talked about on the podcast and in the article. These have been brought up before, and the responses from you and MOPS were disappointing. There’s been ample time to make appropriate changes, and yet the same errors continue.

  • “I made a mistake in quoting John Phillip Newell, honestly I wouldn’t do it again and didn’t understand his theology at the time.” (Point 3)

Newell’s book, The Rebirthing of God, is a rejection of the true gospel. Mandy, as we said on our podcast, when you talk about books, women listen. Women buy those books. If you truly recognize the serious errors in this book, future editions of Starry-Eyed will be changed, and a statement will be released recognizing the serious errors.

By the time you published Starry-Eyed in 2016, you would have been working in ministry for about 17 years. You were also educated in doctrine, having been to seminary. The unfortunate thing is that you did not just simply quote Newell, you called his book, The Rebirthing of God, one of your favorite books, and built the entire 13th chapter of Starry-Eyed around one of Newell’s concepts (Page 93). We do find it hard to believe that you did not understand his “theology” at that time, as quotes from his book show a blatantly obvious rejection of the atonement of Jesus Christ:

“…the cross has been so strongly linked with a particular doctrine of salvation. They [talking about Christians] have either been explicitly taught or given the impression that a price needed to be paid for God’s forgiveness, and that price was the death of Jesus. The teaching is often referred to as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Although a payment needed to be made, says the doctrine, we are not worthy to make the payment ourselves, so a substitute sacrifice was needed. Jesus died on our behalf to propitiate the anger of God.

“One of the problems with this doctrine is that it runs counter to our deepest experiences of love. Who are the people who have most loved us in our lives amid our failures and betrayals? Could we imagine them ever requiring payment to forgive us? True love is free. Perhaps so much wrong has been done by this doctrine that the cross has become an irredeemable symbol for many, both within the Christian household and beyond. But I hope not. I hope it can be redeemed because, essentially, it is a symbol of the mystery at the heart of Christianity’s great gift to the world – the belief that love can reconcile all things.” (The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 107)

  • As far as Rob’s Bell’s quote, I quoted where he says “the most powerful words we can use are ‘me too'”, and they were written in one of his earlier books before his theology shifted. The quote had nothing to do with theology, only how we connect with people.(Point 3)

Rob Bell’s theology had shifted far before 2016, and even before the publication of his earlier books that you quoted from in Starry-Eyed. His theology had shifted by the time his first book was published in 2005. We also must note that you did go on to quote him in your most recent book that was published in 2019, Have More Fun. In fact, it’s clear from your endnotes that you knew people would be uncomfortable with you quoting Bell:

Here is the deal. Some of you will see Rob Bell’s name and automatically put this book down. I think that is a total bummer because he has great ideas about parenting that have nothing to do with theology. I also think we can agree about some things and disagree on others and still be friends.” (Have More Fun, pg 183-184)

People that previously had expressed concerns to you about Bell felt as if they were being mocked with this endnote. Rob Bell is a heretic who is actively trying to tear down Christ’s church, and who without question is spreading a false gospel. Scripture addresses how we should respond to such people:

“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (2 John 1 9-1,1 ESV)

  • “I will tell you that since Starry-eyed, I try not to quote from controversial figures who don’t align with traditional Christian teachings anymore, because as my leadership grows I am aware that my words have more weight and I don’t want to be misunderstood or assume that I align with that teaching.” (Point 3)

Unfortunately, this statement from you does not line up with who you have quoted from in your most recent book, Have More Fun. In this book, you quoted from Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward. Rohr is a Catholic Mystic with a completely heretical view of Jesus and the gospel. This is just one reference point to what Rohr says he believes in his book you chose to quote from:

“Sin and salvation are correlative terms. Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact, salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. That is how transformative divine love is. If this is not the pattern, what hope is there for 99.9 percent of the world? We eventually discover that the same passion which leads us away from God can also lead us back to God and to our true selves.” (Falling Upward, Page 60)

You also say in your response that you try not to quote from controversial figures and yet we’ve only named three– there are others. We have to question the type of people that are influencing you, by the books you read and the people you listen to.

You never offer any warnings about these men or explicitly renounce their heretical teachings. Bell, Newell and Rohr are not just “controversial,” they are false teachers that attack our Lord and the Church. We know that you claim to not specifically quote from Rohr or Bell’s theology in your books, but your quotations from them are read as a tacit endorsement. Do you acknowledge that the men you quote from, are more than just controversial – that they are false teachers who are intent on leading people away from the saving gospel of Jesus?

It’s unclear from your statement if your regret in quoting these men is because they’re controversial, or because you truly understand the seriousness of their errors. Furthermore, your books are still heavily promoted within the MOPS curriculum/leader materials. As long as this is the case, your statement “I try not to quote from controversial figures who don’t align with traditional Christian teachings anymore” is simply untrue. You are currently and actively quoting and promoting these false teachers.

  • In response to who do I think Jesus is, I believe Jesus is the Christ, the risen Messiah and the only path to salvation.” (Point 4)

We just wonder, how can you hold this view and yet quote from several individuals who believe the direct opposite?

  • For our leaders, we provide a leader certification that walks them through how to do evangelism and reach moms who do not have a faith background. I encourage you to check out our materials and see for yourself what we provide.”

We did address the MOPS Evangelism Perspective video in the podcast, as it does not share the gospel once, nor does it encourage women to turn to their Bibles. Rather the focus is on nourishing oneself, coming alive, and going in peace.

In Conclusion

We know that it has been brought up that Theology Gals, Coleen and Angela, have never been involved with MOPS. This is something we’ve recognized from the start, it’s one reason why we included Stephanie in the discussion. A journalist doesn’t have to be involved with an organization to adequately report on it. In preparation for the podcast, we spoke with many people that were previously involved with MOPS, many of them leaders, with years in the program. We also spoke with people currently involved with MOPS.

Several people have questioned whether we went to you privately with our concerns prior to publishing the article and podcast. As we’ve explained several times now, public errors are open to public criticism. We spoke with several people that had already come to you with the same concerns.

As we stated in response to you on our Facebook post, the gospel is not “an encounter with Jesus” or “starting a relationship with Jesus”. It is the good news that Jesus Christ has done for you what you could not do for yourself: He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life satisfying the requirements of the law on our behalf, died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and rose again on the third day. This is the gospel.

We aren’t looking for explanations or apologies, we are simply addressing information coming from your organization that contradicts the Word of God. In Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, under the word repentance it says, “More commonly the translation is ‘turn’ or ‘return.’” That’s what we are calling on MOPS to do, repent, turn away from unbiblical theology and false teachers, and return to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and the proclamation of it.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Schumacher

Coleen Sharp

Angela Whitehorn

*Mandy’s response is in the comments of this post.

 

Why Your Church (and You, Believer) Should Stop Associating with MOPS International

Why Your Church (and You, Believer) Should Stop Associating with MOPS International

By Stephanie Schumacher

If you are a mother, then my guess is at some point you have heard of MOPS International. The acronym stands for Mothers of Preschoolers and the organization has been partnering with churches around the world for more than four decades. MOPS claims to create an environment where women can come to socialize, receive childcare, support one another, and be equipped to grow in their faith. According to their website:

MOPS International is committed to telling the truth of the saving work of Jesus Christ, of God’s grace to mankind, of the reality of the Trinity and the role of the Church in God’s plan for the world.

These are some of the reasons why I decided to join a group myself. My husband and I had just moved to a new city and the church we were attending was hosting a MOPS group, so for this mother of two it seemed to be the perfect fit. Since attending MOPS, I met a wonderful group of women who greatly blessed me by providing meals for my family after the birth of our second child, and who encouraged me in the many issues surrounding motherhood. I can say that I love the women who were in my group, and even if we have never met before, I feel the same affection for the countless other women all around the world that are part of this community.

Now based on what I’ve said so far, it may come as a shock to you that I am calling for every professing Christian who is a part of MOPS to stop associating with the organization, bring this to your pastor and elders, and remove it from your church.

I write those words with great sadness, as it brings me no joy to share what is outlined below. However, I do it out of love and concern as it has become painfully obvious that MOPS is openly promoting false teachings, teachers, and worst of all, failing to give the thousands of women who join MOPS each year what they need most — the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel

To understand why I am making such a bold claim, let’s focus on the core issue: the distortion of the gospel.

So, what does MOPS say the good news is? On an all leader call, June 22, 2016, the MOPS CEO Mandy Arioto explained the good news in the following way:

“Here’s the thing, we live amongst a generation of people of women of families who are famished physically and spiritually, families who are looking for something. But here’s the thing, people are so interested in finding hope that they have no idea what the good news is, and they haven’t found it amongst the followers of Jesus until now. We are people who are reclaiming the good news, who are walking out among the way of the one we follow, a man named Jesus, and bringing good news to hurting people. 8 million people are leaving the church every year and so we are taking serious responsibility for the fact that we need to be people who come bearing the good news, reclaiming the good news. And what is good news? Good news is friends when you are lonely, it is food when you are hungry, it is kindness with no strings attached, it is food when your baby is sick. Good news is Jesus. And it is the embarrassingly extravagant love of God.”  (Minute 7:28)

That statement certainly is not the good news according to Scripture. So, what is the good news then? Let’s rewind for a moment and start with the bad news. The bad news is that we are all sinners in desperate need of a Savior. Our sin makes us enemies of God, as He is perfectly holy and perfectly just. These two characteristics require that His wrath be poured out against us and justice be served.

The true gospel, the actual good news is this: The life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. In God’s redemption plan, with Him being perfectly loving and full of mercy, He entered into His own creation by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to take on human flesh, being fully man and fully God, and live the sinless life we could not live. As a substitution for us, Jesus willingly went to the cross, took on the wrath of God, died, and was buried. Three days later He rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God, having conquered both sin and death.

If you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and put your trust in Him, you will be saved. Not by works or anything you can do; but only by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. When God looks at you, He will no longer see your sin; for you will be clothed in the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:23-25, ESV)

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, ESV)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world… and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2: 1-2, 3-5, 8-9, ESV)

Now you may be wondering, was Mandy’s explanation of the gospel taken out of context? Did she misspeak? My answer is a resounding no.

Her inaccurate explanation of the gospel is not limited to a single statement made on a conference call. The twisting of Scripture and the gospel message is a consistent theme throughout her books as well. One example of this comes from Mandy’s most recent book Have More Fun, where she quotes from Luke 2:10-11, and then summarizes it as “Good news, great joy, for all people. That is Jesus.” (Page 151) Although she mentions the birth of Jesus and the love of God, she withholds any of the foundational truths of the gospel itself, leaving you with a hollow human-centered message that is unable to save.

As the head of an organization that claims to promote and believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ, between her two books, a combined 378 pages, she never once delivers the true gospel.

False Teachers

Here is what she did take time to deliver.

MOPS encourages participants to buy Mandy’s books and includes them in the leader curriculum. In both Starry-Eyed and Have More Fun, her two books that have been published since her time as the MOPS CEO, she cites and endorses the work of false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing. For brevity sake I am going to focus on three.

Let’s start with a direct quote by Mandy in Starry-Eyed:

“One of my favorite books is The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by Celtic mystic John Philip Newell.” (Page 93)

Since she claims that this is one of her favorite books, I think it is reasonable to assume that she agrees with and supports the ideas in this book, including the following: the denial of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the denial that Jesus died as a substitute for our sin.

“…the cross has been so strongly linked with a particular doctrine of salvation. They [talking about Christians] have either been explicitly taught or given the impression that a price needed to be paid for God’s forgiveness, and that price was the death of Jesus. The teaching is often referred to as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Although a payment needed to be made, says the doctrine, we are not worthy to make the payment ourselves, so a substitute sacrifice was needed. Jesus died on our behalf to propitiate the anger of God.

One of the problems with this doctrine is that it runs counter to our deepest experiences of love. Who are the people who have most loved us in our lives amid our failures and betrayals? Could we imagine them ever requiring payment to forgive us? True love is free. Perhaps so much wrong has been done by this doctrine that the cross has become an irredeemable symbol for many, both within the Christian household and beyond. But I hope not. I hope it can be redeemed because, essentially, it is a symbol of the mystery at the heart of Christianity’s great gift to the world – the belief that love can reconcile all things.” (The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 107)

“What if we had realized long ago that the important thing is not getting the world to believe what we believe, getting others to subscribe to particular beliefs about Jesus? The important thing is inviting the world to believe with Jesus, to believe in the way of love… What matters is whether they believe in love. What matters is whether, with Jesus, we are following the way of love, for this is all we need. Love is all we need.”

(The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 116)

“The great offering of Christ to humanity was not about salvation from the world. It was about salvation of the world. Jesus showed a way of transformation from the injustices and violence that dominate the world of international relations and domestic affairs.” (The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 78)

Mandy also quotes from Rob Bell who is a well-known apostate. He rejects that the Bible is the inerrant, authoritative, only true Word of God, and similar to Newell, he does not believe that Jesus needed to die as an atonement for our sins.

“Did Jesus Have to Die? No. He didn’t. He was killed.” (What is the Bible?, Page 241)

“God didn’t need to kill someone to be ‘happy’ with humanity. What kind of God would that be? Awful. Horrific.” (What is the Bible?, Page 245)

“That’s what the Bible is. It wasn’t written by a third party somewhere in the sky who passively and objectively tells you what the plan is. It was written by real people in real places at real times doing their best to make sense of it all.” (What is the Bible?, Page 244)

“So one of the main points of the library of books [the Bible] that some refer to as the word of God is that there are lots of words of God and you can and should listen to them all? Exactly.” (What is the Bible?, Page 267)

In  Have More Fun, Mandy quotes from Richard Rohr, who describes himself on his website as “a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition.” Rohr is a false teacher who has a completely heretical view on the gospel, sin, salvation, and Jesus Christ himself.

“The gospel for me, is Jesus’ announcement of the shape of reality, and the effect that it has is that it re-aligns you inside of the universe, not in the false-self but in the true-self.” (https://youtu.be/nVonW-cX-j0 Time Stamp 0:25)

“Sin and salvation are correlative terms. Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact, salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. That is how transformative divine love is. If this is not the pattern, what hope is there for 99.9 percent of the world? We eventually discover that the same passion which leads us away from God can also lead us back to God and to our true selves.” (Falling Upward, Page 60)

“As Christians do, to formally say Jesus is God is bad theology it is incorrect.” (https://youtu.be/MnTC4NNIACk  Time Stamp 23:27)

Are you shocked? I was too, but it is impossible to deny the weight of the evidence. There is no way that an organization that is actually committed to telling the truth of the saving work of Jesus Christ can promote blatant falsehoods like these.  The MOPS logo sits at the end of each one of Mandy’s books. As the CEO she speaks for the entire organization. Therefore, the only conclusion we can reach is that Mandy Arioto and MOPS are knowingly promoting a false gospel to mothers around the world.

Call to Action

The Bible has many warnings and commands concerning false teachers and false gospels, providing us with answers on what we are to do when faced with a situation such as this.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:11, ESV)

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. (2 John 1:9-11, ESV)

Now I am not a theologian; I am a mother of two. I don’t have a PhD and I can’t deliver an eloquent speech. But do you know what I can do? I can tell what is and what is not truth, because I know the Word of God, and therefore can recognize when someone is distorting it. And what does the Bible tell us to do when we encounter a gospel that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ? Writing to the Galatians Paul answered this exact question…

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:8-10, ESV)

In closing, my sincere hope is that the church (and you, believer) will turn away from MOPS International and start sharing with these moms the thing they need more than anything else – the only good news that we have – the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Check out Theology Gals Episode It’s Time to Say Goodbye to MOPS International

Stephanie Schumacher is a Christ follower, wife to the love of her life, and mother to 2 precious girls. She and her family reside in a small town in the Midwest.

Stephanie Schumacher is a Christ follower, wife to the love of her life, and mother to 2 precious girls. She and her family reside in a small town in the Midwest.

All correspondence should go to theologygals@gmail.com

Extended Resources on MOPS

By Stephanie Schumacher and Coleen Sharp

As mentioned and/or recommended on Theology Gals Podcast

Check out Stephanie’s article Why Your Church (and You, Believer) Should Stop Associating with MOPS International

Our Call To Discernment

Discernment: Growing Up In Christ Theology Gals Episode

  • Discerning between truth and error, right and wrong, what is true and false
  • Being discerning helps to guard us from being deceived.
  • “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” Charles Spurgeon

Verses

Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach the things which are in agreement with sound doctrine [which produces men and women of good character whose lifestyle identifies them as true Christians].

1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

Ephesians 4:15&16 So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes

but speaking the truth in love,]we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,

Romans 16:17&18 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive

1 Thessalonians 5:21 But test everything; hold fast what is good

  • What is Biblical love
    • Bible Dictionary – “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” Love for neighbor is a decision that we make to treat others with respect and concern, to put the interests and safety of our neighbors on a level with our own. It demands a practical outworking in everyday life placing a retaining wall around the roof to keep people from falling Deut 22:8
    • Love is not just accepting others in their errors
  • “What about our commands to not judge?”
    • Regarding Matthew 7 which is often misused, Christ is  not forbidding His people from issuing judgments altogether. In fact, Jesus in this same gospel orders us to discriminate between good and evil.

The Gospel

What is the Gospel? Michael Horton (video)

Gospel is a very particular word or kind of speech in the Bible; from Genesis to Revelation the gospel is God’s promise of a Son who will crush the Serpent’s head forgive the sins of His people raise them from the dead and give them everlasting life solely on the basis of His grace for the sake of Christ. Michael Horton

  • I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
    • A false gospel is serious error
    • This isn’t a secondary issue. Scripture is clear about the gospel, the church has agreed throughout church history that this is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith.
  • The gospel is for Christians too
    • Church programs need a clear gospel
      • As a reminder to Christians
      • As evangelism for non Christians

The Gospel from MOPS

On an all leader call, June 22, 2016, the MOPS CEO Mandy Arioto explained the good news in the following way:

“Here’s the thing, we live amongst a generation of people of women of families who are famished physically and spiritually, families who are looking for something. But here’s the thing, people are so interested in finding hope that they have no idea what the good news is, and they haven’t found it amongst the followers of Jesus until now. We are people who are reclaiming the good news, who are walking out among the way of the one we follow, a man named Jesus, and bringing good news to hurting people. 8 million people are leaving the church every year and so we are taking serious responsibility for the fact that we need to be people who come bearing the good news, reclaiming the good news. And what is good news? Good news is friends when you are lonely, it is food when you are hungry, it is kindness with no strings attached, it is food when your baby is sick. Good news is Jesus. And it is the embarrassingly extravagant love of God.”  (Minute 7:28)

MOPS Evangelism video

5:04: Nourish yourself and go in peace.

Come alive. Coming back to life is a restoration of that which was lost. It is a filling in of the gaps and brokenness and a breathing deeply of hope and healing.

5:20: It is choosing to believe that our mistakes are forgiven our healing is imminent and that hope always wins.

Nourishing Ourselves. Nourishing ourselves is permission to acknowledge the deep hunger and nagging longings that cause our insides to feel ravenous for sustenance. It is permission from the healer himself to consume that which holds energy to sustain us. It means rest and play and good food and being with people who care for us.

5:55 It means finding ways to encounter Jesus not just in the ways we are told we are supposed to get to know him, but in ways that actually work for us.

And lastly, go in peace. Go in peace is about being a person of peace in the world. It is about being a safe place for friends or strangers the ones who are desperate or scared or feel like a walking dead person because they are longing for purpose or meaning. Where those people can find us and we can point them in the right direction. Not because we have all of the answers, but because we have met the healer who does.

And that my friends is what Mops is all about. Its an acknowledgment that we are in it together. It is a responsibility to invite others to touch the corner of Jesus’ shawl and find the hope and healing that we are only just beginning to fully understand ourselves.

The Gospel from Mandy

“When I spoke to Mandy via phone, I directly asked her about her view on sin. She was nice to me over the phone, and even offered to fly me to Denver to speak on Emmanuel’s outreach successes through MOPS, as well as our outreach strategies. But Mandy didn’t answer my question on her view of sin.  She did talk to me about next years theme, but my heart grew even more troubled by what I heard. There seemed to be deep theological differences between her theology and my understanding of biblical Christianity. Those differences may even be irreconcilable. because it seems to me through hearing Mandy’s own words, her views are entrenched. After listening to Mandy’s review regarding next year’s MOPS theme, I felt compelled to ask her again about her view of sin.  Mandy would not speak to me about sin, and it seemed to me that because I pressed for an answer, I was the problem. Our church has partnered with MOPS for over 20 years in ministering to women, and to ask the President of MOPS her view on sin seems like a question that MOPS partners should be able to ask.

  • Video where Mandy shares where she plans to take MOPS in the coming years… starting around 7 min she says that up until now people cannot find the “good news” among the followers of Jesus, but they (MOPS) will reclaim this. What is the good news? According to Mandy, the good news is “friends when you are lonely, food when you are hungry, kindness with no strings attached, food when your baby is sick, good news is Jesus, and it is the embarrassingly extravagant love of God”.
  • You are worthy before you achieve. In the first-century Jewish world, the wilderness wasn’t sanctioned, and it was a place where everyone was welcome. When Jesus heads out to the wilderness, he’s baptized by John, comes out of the water, and everyone present hears the audible voice of God saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Before Jesus does anything fantastic, before he sacrificed, earned, or achieved, he is validated. That’s not all. At the same time God affirms his pleasure with Jesus, and a dove hovers over the water. The last time we read about something like that happening was in the Genesis story where God hovers over the waters as creation is taking form. What all of this is telling us is that, with Jesus, there is a new creation, the slate is wiped clean. Jesus in his full humanity is leading us to our full humanity. Without any earning or achieving, we are beloved. This is my child in whom I am well pleased. Calm your racing mind, cease the search for the next best thing. You have always been with him, and all he has is yours.HMF
  • Mandy’s tells the story of Scripture in Starry Eyed, but no gospel

Many of us who have a spiritual frame of reference have misinterpretations about the story God tells us about our body. The story starts with the idea that we were created by a good God. This God is a Craftsman who, when he is finished creating, looks at his work and declares it good. Another part of the story is that Humanity’s earliest experiences were in a garden. A garden named Eden, which in Hebrew means Delight. The Story Goes that these first people were naked in a garden named Delight, with delicious food growing all around them. It is interesting to me that the original design for Humanity was to live with our skin exposed to the world, and unashamed of our bodies and enjoying good things that grow wild, and the place that delivered all these opportunities was called Delight.

As the story unfolds, we read that the desire for knowledge and power got the better of these first humans. They wanted insider knowledge of great and unsearchable things, but little did they know that what they would learn wasn’t life-giving but rather life taking. In their quest to know God’s mind, they learned they were naked, and they became ashamed. They were so aware of their vulnerabilities that they lost the ability to enjoy all that the light had once offered them.

Ultimately, they were banished from the garden. The curse They Carried with them as they left was that their work would become all-consuming, basic provision for their bodies would burden. The land would grow thorns and thistles that would complicate their efforts. Clearing thorns and tilling the ground would fill their days. Delight was forgotten.

Fast forward a lot of years, and a man who is God in skin gives his life in exchange for the curse of being banished from the garden. A crown of thorns is placed upon his head as a symbol that thorns no longer have to be a burden. The kingdom is being restored; delight returns. He has come that we might have life and have it to the full. The only issue is that we have yet to remember what it feels like to delight”

Questionable Teachers Promoted by Mandy

JOHN PHILIP NEWELL

“One of my favorite books is The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings by Celtic mystic John Philip Newell.” (Page 93)

“…the cross has been so strongly linked with a particular doctrine of salvation. They [talking about Christians] have either been explicitly taught or given the impression that a price needed to be paid for God’s forgiveness, and that price was the death of Jesus. The teaching is often referred to as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Although a payment needed to be made, says the doctrine, we are not worthy to make the payment ourselves, so a substitute sacrifice was needed. Jesus died on our behalf to propitiate the anger of God.

“One of the problems with this doctrine is that it runs counter to our deepest experiences of love. Who are the people who have most loved us in our lives amid our failures and betrayals? Could we imagine them ever requiring payment to forgive us? True love is free. Perhaps so much wrong has been done by this doctrine that the cross has become an irredeemable symbol for many, both within the Christian household and beyond. But I hope not. I hope it can be redeemed because, essentially, it is a symbol of the mystery at the heart of Christianity’s great gift to the world – the belief that love can reconcile all things.” (John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, Page 107)

‘What if we had realized long ago that the important thing is not getting the world to believe what we believe, getting others to subscribe to particular beliefs about Jesus? The important thing is inviting the world to believe with Jesus, to believe in the way of love… What matters is whether they believe in love. What matters is whether, with Jesus, we are following the way of love, for this is all we need. Love is all we need.’

(John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings,Page 116)

“The great offering of Christ to humanity was not about salvation from the world. It was about salvation of the world. Jesus showed a way of transformation from the injustices and violence that dominate the world of international relations and domestic affairs.” (John Philip Newell, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings,Page 78)

ROB BELL

“Did Jesus Have to Die? No. He didn’t. He was killed.” (What is the Bible?,Page 241)

“God didn’t need to kill someone to be ‘happy’ with humanity. What kind of God would that be? Awful. Horrific.” (What is the Bible?,Page 245)

“That’s what the Bible is. It wasn’t written by a third party somewhere in the sky who passively and objectively tells you what the plan is. It was written by real people in real places at real times doing their best to make sense of it all.” (What is the Bible?, Page 244)

“So one of the main points of the library of books [the Bible] that some refer to as the word of God is that there are lots of words of God and you can and should listen to them all? Exactly.” (What is the Bible?, Page 267)

RICHARD ROHR

“The gospel for me, is Jesus’ announcement of the shape of reality, and the effect that it has is that it re-aligns you inside of the universe, not in the false-self but in the true-self.” (https://youtu.be/nVonW-cX-j0Time Stamp 0:25)

“Sin and salvation are correlative terms. Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer; but in fact, salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor. That is how transformative divine love is. If this is not the pattern, what hope is there for 99.9 percent of the world? We eventually discover that the same passion which leads us away from God can also lead us back to God and to our true selves.” (Falling Upward,Page 60)

“As Christians do, to formally say Jesus is God is bad theology it is incorrect.” (https://youtu.be/MnTC4NNIACk  Time Stamp 23:27)

Theology

Mysticism: We Don’t Need You Theology Gals Episode

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Theology Gals Episode

Quotes from Have More Fun by Mandy Arioto

I hope you have someone in your life who can tell you this, but if not, hear it from me: God is proud of you. I can guess what your inner voice is saying. Well, what about this, this, and this. God surely isn’t proud of those things. I hear you, but those are part of being human, the part God understands and forgives and sees through. (Page 149)

In referencing the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, Mandy writes:  “The Jesus said, ‘Give her something to eat.’ ‘Give her something to eat.’ That happens to be my favorite verse in the whole Bible. In fact, it is my life verse.” (Page 75)

All the research presented throughout this book suggests that if we have more fun we will accomplish more, be healthier, like ourselves better, and people will want to be our friend. Not to mention that fun is an aphrodisiac, the solution for online bullying, and the answer to almost every existential question about how to live a more fulfilling life.(Page 18)

It is also OK to ask questions, to have doubts, and to like Jesus (but not like his people sometimes). (Page 150)

Have you ever thought about God as fun loving? I have a picture hanging above my desk in my office to remind me that God isn’t always angry and disappointed. The picture is of Jesus laughing. It reminds me that Jesus is the person who laughs with us, even as we squander our days looking for something that will open our minds when love and truth are already waiting for us if only we choose to accept it.

Having more fun with spirituality will show up in your life in different ways, but what I do know is that it typically takes some searching because we only see what we are looking for. It might mean showing up with other people who are looking for the same thing. For me, this sometimes means church, but not always. Jesus is obviously not contained in the church, but he can often be found hanging around in there. If you are thinking about church, but you feel angry or leery or hurt yet are somehow still drawn to a gathering of people looking for God, I think that is courageous. Also, please know that some people go to church because they believe and others go because they want to believe. Neither is more holy.

It is also OK to ask questions, to have doubts, and to like Jesus (but not like his people sometimes). We are all doing our best, and God gets it because he lived it too. It was just over two thousand years ago that Jesus was born in a barn to a teenage mom. In a rocky pasture not far from Bethlehem on a hillside speckled with sheep, an angel showed up to a bunch of shepherds, possibly sitting around a campfire and drinking wine out of a skin. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11 NASB). One of them surely spat out the wine and whispered, “Was that what I think it was?” Good news, great joy, for all people. That is JESUS.

I overheard her inviting a friend from the street to come for donuts, and she said, “I want to introduce you to my friend Mandy. You have to hear how she talks about God.” On the other hand, read some of the reviews of my latest book on Amazon and you’ll see, “Don’t read this book because of the way Mandy talks about God.” I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and it is all good because there is room in the family of God for all of us. All his love, all his forgiveness, and all the hope that one day we will understand entirely. Until then: good news, great joy, for all people. We don’t need to see eye to eye to dance hand in hand, so go out and enjoy the party you have been at the whole TIME.

Cake as Communion. This is a prac practice that I bust out occasionally when we need to be reminded of God’s goodness. It started when I was a pastor in San Diego, and now I do it once a year at staff prayer time at MOPS. The process is simple. We do the communion reading straight from Scripture, but instead of bread and wine we use cake and whatever beverage we have on hand. Sometimes it is grape juice; if we’re at my house, I might substitute champagne. I know this makes some people uncomfortable, but I don’t think it needs to. Every day around the world this very same thing happens when church families in other countries “take and eat” with Coca Cola and crackers or whatever makes sense in their cultural context. Taste and see that God is good. It creates just enough dissonance in our minds and taste buds that communion takes on a whole new meaning. The beauty of Jesus’s sacrifice at the cross is amplified in our senses, and we are reminded of what a gift it truly is. Try it and let me know what you think.

Draw Happy God. Draw the face of a gracious God. Yes, images of God are fraught with complication. Even more so if you’re not a gifted artist. But you could scribble out a smiley face that represents God’s joy.

I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you reminding them what God says to them, the rattling of bone against bone starts reverberating so forcefully Ezekiel can feel it in his chest. Suddenly, drawn by an unseen magnet, bones are pulled back to their original partners as God begins the process of restoring all the things that at first glance appeared hopeless and lifeless. Bodies are reassembled, and breath returns; the bones once again house souls, and a mighty army of people become warriors of hope. They regain their aliveness.

Miscellaneous Recommended Resources

Open Letter of Concern Over MOPS International Sarah Wilkins

MOPS and Its Move Away from Biblical Christianity Sarah Wilkins

Tone Deaf Ref by Carl Trueman

Christless Christianity Michael Horton (video)

Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton (book)

Quotes from Christless Christianity

Jesus was not revolutionary because he said we should love God and each other. Moses said that first. So did Buddha, Confucius, and countless other religious leaders we’ve never heard of. Madonna, Oprah, Dr. Phil, the Dali Lama, and probably a lot of Christian leaders will tell us that the point of religion is to get us to love each other. “God loves you” doesn’t stir the world’s opposition. However, start talking about God’s absolute authority, holiness, … Christ’s substitutionary atonement, justification apart from works, the necessity of new birth, repentance, baptism, Communion, and the future judgment, and the mood in the room changes considerably.

If we think the main mission of the church is to improve life in Adam and add a little moral strength to this fading evil age, we have not yet understood the radical condition for which Christ is such a radical solution.

Regardless of the official theology held on paper, moralistic preaching (the bane of conservatives and liberals alike) assumes that we are not really helpless sinners who need to be rescued but decent folks who need good examples,

God’s downward descent to us in grace reversed by our upward ascent in pragmatic enthusiasm, we are increasingly becoming a sheep without a Shepherd—and all in the name of mission. Instead of churching the unchurched, we are well on our way to even unchurching the churched.

He demands perfect righteousness, not good intentions.

Christ is ubiquitous in this subculture, but more as an adjective (Christian) than as a proper name. While we swim in a sea of “Christian” things, Christ is increasingly reduced to a mascot or symbol of a subculture and the industries that feed it. Just as you don’t really need Jesus Christ in order to have T-shirts and coffee mugs, it is unclear to me why he is necessary for most of the things I hear a lot of pastors and Christians talking about in church these days.

religious speech becomes assimilated to the pragmatic rationality of rules, steps, techniques, and programs for personal transformation and well-being.

Judging by its commercial, political, and media success, the evangelical movement seems to be booming. But is it still Christian? I am not asking that question glibly or simply to provoke a reaction. My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for “relevant” quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshiped, and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be.

Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (book)

Quotes from Christianity and Liberalism

Christ died”–that is history; “Christ died for our sins”–that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity.

What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you. I know your exhortations will not help me. But if anything has been done to save me, will you not tell me the facts?

Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.

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Case Closed: A Unified Voice Against the Federal Vision

Case Closed: A Unified Voice Against the Federal Vision

When Theology Gals decided to take on the subject of Federal Vision and release episodes discussing the errors, we knew we would get push back. Some people urged us to “hear them out” and let them come on the podcast to explain their side. We will not be doing that because the Reformed churches have spoken, and the debate is already over.

Below are links to the various reports from the PCA, OPC and URC, along with the main points outlined in each. Following are more resources for further study.

If you are someone that has held to the errors in Federal Vision, I pray you’ll repent. Here’s A Form For Penitent Ex-Federal Visionaries

PCA

REPORT OF AD INTERIM STUDY COMMITTEE ON FEDERAL VISION, NEW PERSPECTIVE, AND AUBURN AVENUE
THEOLOGY

From The Heidelblog, here is The PCA’s Nine Declarations Against The Federal Vision:

  1. The view that rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture as represented in the Westminster Standards (i.e., views which do not merely take issue with the terminology, but the essence of the first/second covenant framework) is contrary to those Standards.
  2. The view that an individual is “elect” by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this “election” includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his “election” if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  3. The view that Christ does not stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to individuals who believe in him is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  4. The view that strikes the language of “merit” from our theological vocabulary so that the claim is made that Christ’s merits are not imputed to his people is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  5. The view that “union with Christ” renders imputation redundant because it subsumes all of Christ’s benefits (including justification) under this doctrinal heading is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  6. The view that water baptism effects a “covenantal union” with Christ through which each baptized person receives the saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, including regeneration, justification, and sanctification, thus creating a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  7. The view that one can be “united to Christ” and not receive all the benefits of Christ’s mediation, including perseverance, in that effectual union is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  8. The view that some can receive saving benefits of Christ’s mediation, such as regeneration and justification, and yet not persevere in those benefits is contrary to the Westminster Standards.
  9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards

OPC

Report on Justification – Orthodox Presbyterian Church

An article by Alan Strange on the OPC website on Understanding the “Federal Vision, outlines the errors from the OPC’s report :

“Twenty errors that are held by one or more advocates of the Federal Vision are listed in the conclusion of the report of the OPC’s Committee to Study the Doctrine of Justification:

  1. Pitting Scripture and Confession against each other.
  2. Regarding the enterprise of systematic theology as inherently rationalistic.
  3. A mono-covenantalism that sees one covenant, originating in the intra-Trinitarian fellowship, into which man is invited, thus flattening the concept of covenant and denying the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.
  4. Election as primarily corporate and eclipsed by covenant.
  5. Seeing covenant as only conditional.
  6. A denial of the covenant of works and of the fact that Adam was in a relationship with God that was legal as well as filial.
  7. A denial of a covenant of grace distinct from the covenant of works.
  8. A denial that the law given in Eden is the same as that more fully published at Mt. Sinai and that it requires perfect obedience.
  9. Viewing righteousness as relational, not moral.
  10. A failure to make clear the difference between our faith and Christ’s.
  11. A denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ in our justification.
  12. Defining justification exclusively as the forgiveness of sins.
  13. The reduction of justification to Gentile inclusion.
  14. Including works (by use of “faithfulness,” “obedience,” etc.) in the very definition of faith.
  15. Failing to affirm an infallible perseverance and the indefectibility of grace.
  16. Teaching baptismal regeneration.
  17. Denying the validity of the concept of the invisible church.
  18. An overly objectified sacramental efficacy that downplays the need for faith and that tends toward an ex opere operato [automatically effective] view of the sacraments.
  19. Teaching paedocommunion.
  20. Ecclesiology that eclipses and swallows up soteriology.”

URC

Report of the Synodical Study Committee on the Federal Vision and Justification

The URC’s Nine Points Against The Federal Vision

  1. Who deny or modify the teaching that “God created man good and after His own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness,”” able to perform “the commandment of life” as the representative of mankind (HC 6, 9; BC 14);
  2. Who, in any way and for any reason, confuse the “commandment of life” given before the fall with the gospel announced after the fall (BC 14, 17, 18; HC 19, 21, 56, 60);
  3. Who confuse the ground and instrument of acceptance with God before the fall (obedience to the commandment of life) with the ground (Christ who kept the commandment of life) and instrument (faith in Christ) of acceptance with God after the fall;
  4. Who deny that Christ earned acceptance with God and that all His merits have been imputed to believers (BC 19, 20, 22, 26; HC 11-19, 21, 36-37, 60, 84; CD I.7, RE I.3, RE II.1);
  5. Who teach that a person can be historically, conditionally elect, regenerated, savingly united to Christ, justified, and adopted by virtue of participation in the outward administration of the covenant of grace but may lose these benefits through lack of covenantal faithfulness (CD, I, V);
  6. Who teach that all baptized persons are in the covenant of grace in precisely the same way such that there is no distinction between those who have only an outward relation to the covenant of grace by baptism and those who are united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone (HC 21, 60; BC 29);
  7. Who teach that Spirit-wrought sanctity, human works, or cooperation with grace is any part either of the ground of our righteousness before God or any part of faith, that is, the “instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness” (BC 22-24; HC 21, 60, 86);
  8. Who define faith, in the act of justification, as being anything more than “leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified” or “a certain knowledge” of and “a hearty trust” in Christ and His obedience and death for the elect (BC 23; HC 21);
  9. Who teach that there is a separate and final justification grounded partly upon righteousness or sanctity inherent in the Christian (HC 52; BC 37).

For Further Study:

For Those Just Tuning In: What Is The Federal Vision?

Federal Vision Audio

Forty Three Years Of Federal Vision Theology

With The Presbycast On The Federal Vision podcast

With The Regular Reformed Guys On The Federal Vision podcast

Justification By Faith Alone Is The Normative Reformed Doctrine

Heidelcast 55: Why We Can’t Move On (1)

Heidelcast 56: Why We Can’t Move On (2)

Heidelcast 57: Why We Can’t Move On (3)

Striking At The Vitals Of Religion: Understanding The Federal Vision links on Federal Vision

Resources on the Federal Vision Theology

Federal Vision with Dewey Roberts Part 1 | Episode 76

Historic Christianity and the Federal Vision by Dewey Roberts (currently offered at special price – $14 which includes shipping and handling)

 

Theology is for Women Too

Theology is for Women Too

I hear quite often from women who are struggling to find other women who are interested in theology. In some cases women are intimidated by it and in many cases they just aren’t interested. A lot of Christian women don’t understand why theology should be important to them.

If you visit a Christian bookstore, you’ll quickly see the result of women neglecting theology. Most popular resources for women are not grounded in Biblical truth, and many women don’t have the discernment to recognize it. In so much of American Christianity, the emphasis is on “experiencing God” over knowing Him through what He’s revealed about Himself in His Word.  This tends to be the primary emphasis of many Christian women and the books they love. Some even think doctrine is a distraction from their experience. That’s exactly what one woman told me upon leaving the Theology Gals Facebook group recently. An emphasis on experience at the expense of truth is just one example of the problems you’ll find in the most popular of these books.

Theology is important for every believer:

“Theology simply means ‘the study of God,’ and doctrine means ‘teaching.’ Since the main message of Scripture is the unfolding mystery of Christ, who reveals his Father and reconciles us to him, theology is a central concern of every believer. It would be odd if we told our spouse or other loved ones that we wanted to spend time with them and experience their fellowship regularly but did not want to know anything about them—their characteristics, accomplishments, personal histories, likes and dislikes, and plans for the  future.” – Michael Horton

Here are just a few of the reasons why women should be studying theology:

  1. To know God   As children of God, we should know the One who has saved us, and how He has saved us, the story of redemption. We should know our Lord, who we are to love and worship. How can we love and worship a God we don’t know? In Pilgrim Theology Michael Horton explains, “Many Christians assume that we can just experience God in a personal relationship apart from doctrine, but that’s impossible. You cannot experience God without knowing who he is, what he has done, and who you are in relation to him. Even our most basic Christian experiences and commitments are theological. ‘I just love Jesus,’ some say. But who is Jesus? And why do you love him?”
  1. For discernment   We need to discern those things which are consistent with Scripture and those which are not. We learn discernment through the knowledge of God’s Word. Philippians 1:9-10 says, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;…”
  1. For life   Whether it’s parenting, suffering, or a variety of other life issues, God’s Word gives us everything we need for Christian faith and practice. Understanding who God is – His sovereignty, love, grace and other attributes – brings us comfort during suffering. It’s through His Word that we find wisdom for our lives. There are a lot of practical books available for women, but many of those are absent of doctrine and based on unbiblical principles.
  1. To understand who we are in Christ   Many of the resources available for women downplay sin, and therefore don’t emphasize our need for and magnificence of the gospel. Knowing theology is essential in helping us understand the weight of our sin, along with the the amazing grace lavished on us through the gospel. As believers we don’t hear the gospel once and then we’re done. As Rod Rosenbladt says, “The gospel is for Christians too.” I’ve spoken with women who lack understanding of the true gospel, including justification and sanctification. It’s through theology that we know what Christ has done for us. It also points us to the how and why of obedience, along with our standing before God through Christ, even as we continue to struggle with sin.

One reason Theology Gals exists is to encourage women in the study of God’s Word. We want women to understand why theology is important, and also offer resources which may be less intimidating for women who are new to the study and understanding of theology. On our podcast we will be discussing various topics and encouraging further study. Please write to us with any ideas you have on things you would like us to discuss.

Some of our favorite sites for women:

Berean Research

Michelle Lesley

Wise in His Eyes

Narrow Minded Woman

Is Homeschooling Really the Answer?

Is Homeschooling Really the Answer?

I’ll never forget the day my husband said, “You just can’t do it, not now, not with how sick you are. I think we need to send the kids to school.” I’d been sick for a while and things were only getting worse. I think I’d ended up in the hospital something like fifteen times already that year. It wouldn’t be long before I’d spend a month at the Mayo Clinic in another state. I knew he was right, I was barely able to care for myself, let alone homeschool four children. My children were already falling behind. There may be people who are thinking we could have continued homeschooling if we “really wanted to”. There is nothing you can say to me that I have not already heard from my circle of homeschool parents, or that I myself would have thought about someone in my situation. This was my husband’s decision, and I respected it. My husband is amazing, everything he has done to love and care for me through a horrible illness, while he provided for us and made sure our household ran smoothly. There was a time that I would have also been very judgmental of others in our situation.

We were never going to send our children to public school, not that awful place. Even before our first date, my husband and I talked about homeschooling our children. Brenton announced, “My children will be homeschooled.” This was great with me since I wanted to homeschool my children one day. Those of you who may judge our family now for sending our kids to school, you are probably not thinking anything that I did not also think when I would hear that a Christian was sending their child to that ungodly place we call public school. If there was an award for being a self-righteous, judgmental, homeschooling mom, I would have won first prize. I had no grace for families who weren’t homeschooling. Surely they hadn’t done everything necessary to make it work. I believed every mom could find a way, and if you weren’t homeschooling, then you just hadn’t tried hard enough.

There’s nothing like finding yourself in a situation like we did, which was in many ways humiliating, but also brought other moms and dads our way with their own stories. And what I’ve learned is that there are many wonderful Christians in situations where homeschooling wasn’t the answer. It simply wasn’t possible. I have heard from parents who are single due to divorce or the death of their husband or wife, from parents with a severely ill spouse, and other situations.

Homeschooling has been a good option for many families

In the last 25 years the homeschooling movement has grown quite rapidly, especially in Christian circles.  With the decline of public education, many Christian families have looked for educational alternatives for their children and in many cases homeschooling has been the best option available to them. In recent years Christian attitudes towards public education have become more and more negative, and rightly so. In some circles, especially my own,  Reformed and Calvinistic, some will go so far as to accuse Christian parents of sin if they send their children to public school. I’ve been a part of multiple conversations where such a view has been expressed. There are parents who find themselves with no other options but public school, who are struggling because of it, especially because they themselves often desire other options, but have none. They are being judged by their brothers and sisters, which adds to their heartache. Often those judging don’t know all of the details of the situation one finds themselves in, and may be making assumptions.

Is public school a sin?

Accusing Christians who send their children to public school of sin concerns me, because while I believe there is often wisdom in choosing alternatives, there are situations where homeschooling isn’t an option. I’m not going to address the arguments at this point about whether it’s a sin, but rather explain why we should be careful with such accusations. If it is a sin to send children to public school, then it would require confrontation with the hope of repentance and ultimately church discipline if the unrepentant sin continued. I know only a few churches, generally small and independent, which are known for their stance on homeschooling, that would take it that far, and yet many are still being accused and condemned on places like social media. Few Reformed churches would consider it a sin or a church discipline matter. When I bring up single parents who find themselves with no other options, or my situation, I’m often told, “That is different, and the judgments aren’t for those parents.” The problem is that it’s either a sin for Christian parents to send their kids to public school or it isn’t. More care should be taken with accusations of sin, especially if it’s not something which would be dealt with in the church the same way as we deal with other unrepentant sin. And even if one isn’t going so far as to accuse sin, the judgments are often quite harsh, much like my own were. What I can still agree with is that there is wisdom in finding other educational alternatives aside from public schooling. Many Christian public school parents would say the same, but feel stuck without any other options.

Public education is rapidly declining

There have recently been bathroom policies being enforced in public schools so that boys can go into the girls restroom if they identify as one, and vice versa. I know some schools are coming up with alternatives, like making a private bathroom available when necessary, and not all schools have such children which are needing to be accommodated. We will continue to see changes in public education which will make us uncomfortable.

Christians have valid concerns regarding public education: non-Christian teachers, curricula which is not from a Biblical perspective, the influence of peers, a science curriculum which teaches against a Creator, sex education which finds homosexuality and sexual immorality acceptable, and an overall non-Christian worldview. Entrusting our children to the ungodly for their education may be a valid concern.

I don’t want to neglect to recognize that public schools can vary, something many parents have pointed out to me. A public school in a small, midwestern town may be quite different than one in an urban area. I spoke with one public school mom who lives in a small town and works at the school her children attend. A lot of the staff are people from her church. Having spoken with many public school parents and teachers from different areas, the vast differences are evident. I understand that all are still run by the state and are not Christian, but the tendency towards broad generalizations is not helpful, nor fair, nor the consistent experience of all of those who have chosen public schools. There are often statistics mentioned by the homeschool crowd which are not representative of each and every individual public school.

Should Church schools be an option?

J. Gresham Machen talked about Christian schools. He said, “I can see little consistency in a type of Christian activity which preaches the gospel on the street corners and at the ends of the earth, but neglects the children of the covenant by abandoning them to a cold and unbelieving secularism.” Many covenant children are being abandoned and left with only public schooling as an option. Even most Christian schools today are full of children from outside the church and promote theology contrary to what most of us are raising our children in. Machen went on to say, “But one of its marked characteristics, in sharp distinction from the secular education of today, is that it exalts the family as a blessed divine institution and treats the scholars in its classes as children of the covenant to be brought up above all things in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I think the church’s help may be necessary in starting these sorts of schools, as few exist. I think what Machen is referring to is not happening in most Christian schools today, but I believe would happen in church schools. I’d like to see the kind of schools Machen is referring to. How can we provide a good Reformed Christian education which is available to all covenant children? While homeschooling is working for many, there are those who are left out who are ultimately being abandoned to a cold and unbelieving secularism as Machen said.

“Christian education of our covenant children is a moral obligation of Reformed families,” says R. Scott Clark. “I don’t want to hear from any of you about how I’m denigrating Christian education. I’m not. There is no question about the necessity and importance of Christian education of our covenant children. If we are not diligent to see to it that our children receive a Christian education, we will reap the whirlwind. Nevertheless, the local Christian school is not a divine institution and neither are the several dozen other Christian agencies that we often support. The only agency directly instituted by our Lord for the advancement of His kingdom is the agency to which He gave the keys of the kingdom: the visible, institutional church (Matt 16:18; 28:18-20). As important as it is as an aid to the Christian nurture of our children, the local Christian school may not preach the gospel in an official way, it certainly may not administer the sacraments or church discipline. It belongs to the sphere of the family, not the sphere of the church. That’s why we don’t have parochial schools.”

I agree with Dr. Clark that the education of our children belongs in the sphere of the family. The problem is there are few options for Reformed Christians. I think at this point we may need the church’s assistance in providing a good Christian education to all covenant children, especially one that will teach correct theology and exalt the family. We need to talk about how we can make Christian education available to those with no options.  I’m not sure how good Reformed Christian schools could be created at this point without the church. At the least, we need to be having conversations about future options for Christian education.

Church schools could be the answer. I am not denying the primary work of the church, preaching of the Word and administering the sacraments, but I still believe the church could assist in helping to offer educational alternatives for its covenant children. After speaking with many and researching, I don’t see a lot of educational options for the children of Reformed Christians. Homeschooling just isn’t the answer for everyone as it leaves so many families out and most Christian schools don’t promote Reformed theology. I’ve also spoken with many homeschooling parents who are struggling to provide an adequate education for their children, especially as they get older, and who would love to see church schools as an option. While many homeschool children are succeeding academically,  there is also the problem of educational neglect in some Christian homeschools.

Answering the objections to church schools

I’d like to address some of the initial objections that Christians make to the idea of church schools:

  • I attended a Christian school and it was no better than public school.

A church school isn’t a Christian school that is open to anyone who can pay. I’m speaking of parochial schools that would be available only to the children of members of that church. It is staffed by the people in the church. It’s run by the church community.

  • Most of our members can’t afford any extra expenses like tuition.

I agree, especially those families who are unable to homeschool. These schools are provided regardless of ability to contribute financially, but we need the help of those in the Church to make it work. There are several different models and there are churches who have them in place already. I have even talked with a couple of very poor churches which have made this happen. There are ways to do it which I will explain in more detail later in this series.

  • We’re a small church, we can’t afford it, and we don’t have the space.

The wonderful thing about putting together a church school is you can be flexible. There are different models and inexpensive options which I will be talking about later in this series. Church schools are staffed by members of the church, often moms. I’ve seen a one room schoolhouse model in the basement of a member’s home. It’s possible with the church working together. If moms can homeschool, they can help run a church school. It can even look like many of the homeschool co-ops that homeschoolers are a part of, and where many moms teach.

  • Our church already has something in place for those unable to homeschool.

If this is the case, wonderful. I have heard of churches that have put into place ways to assure each of their children are receiving a good Christian education, especially in situations where the parents themselves are unable to homeschool.  I have in the past, homeschooled the children of a single mom, and other children whose parents are not able at that point. I don’t think that happens very often though. When I found myself in the same situation, not one person offered assistance, except my mother, and she could only offer so much help. I’m not upset at those in my circles for not offering help. It’s hard enough homeschooling your own children. Regardless of what educational options we come up with, I think it needs to be a joint effort.

My family’s story

You may be wondering what happened with our family since I started this article on a very personal note. All of my children were homeschooled for quite some time before they were sent to school. When we initially enrolled two of them in school, and eventually a third in our local charter school, I received some help with my children still at home from my mother, a retired teacher. I heard from people in our homeschool community about someone who homeschooled through whatever illness, and if they could do it, so could I. I think it’s dangerous and unfair to make comparisons. I won’t get into the details now of the illness which continues to be debilitating. It has been quite life changing, but I can point to God’s grace, even though we had to make some difficult decisions. It’s not an exaggerating when I say that there were times when both my husband and I wondered if I would live through it. During one of my hospital stays, the Dr. Sat by my bed and said, “Do you understand you almost died last night? Do you understand how serious this is, that you could die?” I was clearly aware. That was right before we put the kids in school. We were in survival mode for a while.

Three of my children have attended small charter schools and have done quite well. We’ve had a fairly good experience with the charter schools in our small town. We are especially grateful for the small math/science/technology charter high school only a few miles from our home. They have a great program with our local college. My son who is a junior now hopes to graduate with a year of college under his belt. The school also has home study days. That same son was able to start with Algebra 2 in 9th grade followed by trigonometry, calculus and so on. He’ll graduate with five years of math, which will be beneficial for the things he’s considering studying in college. I don’t doubt that the foundation I helped build in our homeschool has been helpful. I also have to recognize he has received a better high school education than I could have provided at home. My youngest son will be a freshman next year and is on much the same educational track.

My children love learning, which I believe my husband and I have instilled in them. My 11th grader goes to bed early so he can wake at 3:30am to finish up any studying, but especially to have extra time to work on the languages he’s been learning on his own through an online program. He’s gotten quite good at Swedish and is working on two other languages besides the Spanish he’s taking in high school. Each of my children have things they enjoy studying on their own, specific areas of interest which they plan to pursue in some way and I’m quite proud of them. They love learning and have many ambitions. My kids are doing well and I’ve enjoyed the teenage years.

I will be writing more on this topic. We do have a problem, and we need to be talking about it. There are several who are preaching the evils of public education and homeschooling has worked for many as an alternative. But there are more reasons than what I’ve outlined here why I’m unsure if homeschooling is the answer.  Let’s start talking about some long term solutions for educating covenant children.

 

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