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Character and the 4 R's

By Lori Harris
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #24, 1998.

A primer for the Principle Approach.
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Lori Harris

In ignorance, Christians are aiding and abetting the rise of secularism in America. More than any other factor, it is the weakness of Christian character and scholarship that is responsible for this country's falling away from its founding Christian principles of education, government, and economics. Spiritual backsliding is a believer's trait, not a pagan's; for the pagan remains true to paganism. The dissolution of Christian character has resulted from generations of unbiblical education among Christian institutions of teaching and learning.

Christians are duped to believe that the "forces without" are mightier and inevitable; thus they isolate themselves (not biblical separation for ecclesiastical, moral, or social concerns), calling it separation, only to breed more cowards after their own kind. The battle is within; a battle against American Christianity's own ignorance of its ability to impact the nation and the world.

Impotent and unequipped to supplant or displace, Christians tacitly consent to creeping socialistic policies in their own institutions: homes, churches, and schools, advancing the kingdom of Satan.

Today we need to search our souls and examine the content and methods in our teaching, to consider their implications for home, church, school, and state. We need a generation of American Christians who know God and His Word, and by their own scholarship know how to implement their knowledge. It is the duty of Christian educators to lead in advance of their students, not only to stem the tide of anti-Christian socialism, but to seek an effective alternative in schooling parents, pastors, businessmen, and statesmen.

Purpose of Principle

The Principle Approach, through the years, has been mislabeled "just an American thing." That is not so. Long before the principles were labeled with American terms, they were biblical. Principles only convey to us in a human manner the nature of God but in and of themselves they are not God! Any time we rely solely upon principles without an intimate relationship with God, we miss out on His best. Many people are drawn to the Principle Approach because they see the law in operation, but without the Holy Spirit to guide, legalism can set in. That is the last thing that should happen. The Principle Approach is the American Christian method of inculcating God's word into the heart of the individual. It restores the historic method of teaching and learning used by the Pilgrims and the Puritans until about the 1830's.

A Christian method of biblical reasoning teaches us how God has used biblical principles of self and civil government to free men and nations. Christians are most responsible for sharing America's testimony of Gospel liberty with law. We may be the best Christian parents ever to teach our children Bible lessons, build better relationships, and cultivate excellent readers and writers "for the Lord," but we must also teach them the history of God's hand in developing a nation where the church and the individual have experienced the greatest liberty to achieve God's best. Otherwise we have failed.

We must personally be aware of the biblical principles of law and government which set us apart from other nations, or we will no longer be "set apart." The Principle Approach emphasizes certain areas in the development of curriculum. We look at history through a providential view and see where God was at work. We try to first identify the purpose of each subject biblically, educationally, governmentally, and historically. While searching out the historic aspects, we place all time links on the Chain of Christianity. You are on the Chain of Christianity, and your children are the next link in it! What an exciting thought that God has ordained this time for your family.

Fundamental Principles

What kind of principles are we looking for? The following chart provides a visual illustration. If you are familiar with the American Christian terms used by the Foundation for American Christian Education (FACE), these are listed first with the biblical name following. I find that understanding the biblical name makes the American application of the principle more relevant. Please also notice that I have included the opposite of this biblical principle as identified by Paul Jehle (Heritage Institute Ministries). I tend to teach God's Sovereignty as one of the first principles but no matter how you learn or teach them, these seven are only beginning principles. (See Paul Goedecke's Radical Christianity for more information.) How many of these principles can you regularly identify in your school subjects?

Principle Approach Principle Biblical Principle Opposing Principle
God's Principle of Individuality Christian Individuality Collectivism
The Christian Principle of Self-Government Christian Self-Government Anarchy (External Force)
America's Heritage of Christian Character Christian Character Degradation
Conscience is the Most Sacred of All Property Biblical Stewardship Communism
Our Christian Form of Government God's Sovereignty Autocracy
How the Seed of Local Self-Government is Planted Sowing & Reaping Centralization
The Christian Principle of American Political Union Covenant Social Engineering


While constructing curriculum, care should be taken in searching for the Christian character or the lack of it in the subject you have chosen. History and literature should work hand-in-hand to show how God has advanced the subject you are choosing to teach.

As the teacher, try to have the subject "rooted and grounded" in biblical truth and back it up with examples of God's hand in history. The student's love for God, for His Word and for learning will be strengthened by the love for the subject, as God revealed it and developed it in you. Teaching something you know nothing of is hard, especially if you don't want to learn it yourself. Your students always sense this and can become weak in the areas in which you are weak.

Great literature will enhance the study of history. As we studied European history that year, we studied Heidi. As we sat down with maps and notepads and sought out descriptive words from the book to reveal the character of each individual within the book, the alms uncle took on new meaning. Even in his personal hurts and problems, he showed the Father heart of God through his character's love for Heidi.

The Principle Approach is also unique in its development of notebooks. These written testimonies of students' progress show the greatest value when compared with students who have only learned from the fill-in-the-blank mentality. Most Principle Approach students have a written record of their learning in various subjects that will consist of vocabulary development, biblical passages and 4-R-ing.

The Four R's

"4-R-ing" is a term used in the Principle Approach to show the individual enterprise that must be undertaken to accomplish the notebook. All four, researching, reasoning, relating, and recording can all be traced biblically, educationally, governmentally, and historically. The Bible becomes the textbook as teacher and student learn to research the Word and see God's hand in the "Big Picture." Biblical principles are identified and recorded as students learn to write reasoned essays and apply biblical principles to areas of life, social issues and current events.

Our children are worth the effort it takes to learn something new ourselves. I hope this short introduction will inspire you to excellence as you apply these fundamental biblical principles to all areas of schooling and life.

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