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John Frame on Homeschooling

I was listening to John Frame a while ago and he made a case for homeschooling that I’ve heard some variations of but not with the undergirding that makes Frame’s view understandable (maybe even plausible).

Frame thinks that the only possible reasons to send children to public schools are abject poverty and total inability to home-school.  Why? Well, this sounds pretty standard fare, the values the schools dictate are secular humanist, relativist, New age and so forth. In such an environment, also in light of after school activities, parents will have to spend a lot of time unteaching certain values and epistemological facts and it is doubtful if they can properly provide the Word saturated environment demanded by God.

Young children he thinks should definitely be in a home-school environment (at best) or have some of the responsibility delegated out to a Christian school (with the caveat that you will do some serious teaching and unteaching at home if need be).

They should be taught in such a way that they will be able to go to secular schools without being damaged, but rather salt and light in that situation. Indeed, more advanced levels of education fiels will require first-hand interaction with non-Christian approaches.


Students differ as to when they are ready for secular study, or for employment in “the world.” Some will be able to handle it in high school, others in college, still others not until graduate school. But one should not go to a non-Christian institution until he is well enough grounded in Scripture and the Reformed world-and-life view to discern what is true and false in non-Christian teaching. And he should not go to such  a school until his Christian characters is well formed, until he is able to say “no” to the temptations of non-Christian society.

The position sounds fairly standard until you see the undergirding thought.

John Frame is a: a Calvinist; philosophically he’s Van Tillian; he sees certain ethical values as being tied to the nature of a human, contingent to God, and solidified in covenant to God. For instance, when he looks at philosophy, he sees it as primarily concerned with three branches which, given the reality of God, have real interplay. So metaphysics (the intangible…minds, God, pain, etc) , epistemology (how we know what we know), and values (ethics) wind up changing drastically given the revelation of God. A Christian philosopher dealing in metaphysics automatically has some metaphysical facts (the existence of another mind who is God) which also ties into epistemology (God has revealed himself) which also ties into values (“Thus says the Lord”).

When  God explicitly tells Israel that they are to know God (He is One), they are to Love God (with all their being) and they are to obey God (his given commandments) he is not making an optional request, rather he makes a covenantal demand because they are bound to Him. This is why he would then say to impress these things on their children, in their talk, in their homes, in their walk—everywhere (Deut 6:4-9). This is something that would be required as a human created in the image of God (Genesis 1, 2) but since mankind is in active rebellion one finds education separated from all of this.

Frame doesn’t segregate the reality of God from education. This is primary for him. We (people) know what we know in the world (nature) and in our own situation (internal, conscience, identity) because God really exists and has spoken in word and action—to separate any part of this is to ignore the basis of education as rooted in God. The Christian knows this already because of the revelation of God and must ethically act on the basis of this information.

So whereas some homeschoolers decide to home-school to keep their children away from a certain environment, Frame does the same but because he sees Word-saturation as an ethical, existential and epistemological requirement.

Well, what about teachers in the public school environment? Surely there is some sort of redeeming qualities about them being there. He agrees and thinks they should be in there but he says that the way the institution is set up, in light of the governmental obligations, the Christian teacher can’t saturate that environment in the Word. He jokingly said that if he were given a chance to be a public school teacher he’d be a skeptic of everything—all philosophies, all positions, all epistemology—just so as to destroy the humanistic hope of knowledge or beliefs without God.  That’s pretty funny but man, it sounds awesome.

I think I’d like to see a treatment of his presuppositionalism explicitly tied to his view on education (pdf warning). I tied the purpose of education to personhood, and ultimately the imago dei, but in the end I balked from tying an ethical dimension to it via the reality of God. I’m not sure if I’m doing right by that or not, but it bears consideration

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2 replies on “John Frame on Homeschooling”

If Frame’s meta-ethics is the same as Van Til’s, then he’s basically a subjectivist about ethics, but the only subjective view that matters is God’s. Any ethical position could have been true if God had said so. If God had wanted the causing of pain to be the highest calling for humanity, then it would have been.

I have to register that I find this view to be completely nuts. There’s no point if praising
God by calling him good if that claim is true by definition rather than saying substantive about God based in an objective standard. All we’d be saying is that might makes right. I’ve heard that Frame departs from this a bit, but it’s not in a more orthodox direction. It’s in fact in a more relativist direction. But I’ve never read anything by Frame on this. I’m just going by someone who was once taken in by Van Til who discovered the craziness of it after some time and eventually rejected it as untenable.

Frame seems to rightly push his positions to the Word of God because God has spoken authoritatively but I, admittedly, haven’t read enough of Frame to know if he pushes that far in the relativist direction. And to hear the why of it is a bit off-putting so I’ll have to keep digging.

I’ll have to also read Van Til closely to see if I can pinpoint some statements that highlight that wackiness.

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