Two interesting themes surfaced this week at CCA that are central to the Christian life together: confession and remembrance. We often associate the former with negative experiences and sin, and we associate the latter with honor or legacy, or perhaps with training our memory skills in school. Both confessing and remembering play an important role in forming and maintaining our identity as the people of God, and these practices relate not only to things past but also things present and things to come. On the first day of school this year, I talked about the importance of remembering, using Aslan’s famous words to Jill Pole in The Silver Chair: “Remember, remember, remember the signs.” C.S. Lewis understood the critical connection between memory, storytelling, and obedience, but he certainly wasn’t the first to think of it. He models his Aslan after God’s own heart: the word “remember” shows up in some form 230 times in the NKJV translation of the Bible. God knows we are inclined to forget, so He commands us to keep our compasses pointing to true north by continually recalibrating based on His true word and will. Confession plays a key role in this practice and process.
We consider the idea of confession most as a means of acknowledging our sin before God and before one another, but it does not merely mean expressing what we’ve done wrong. Yes, James commands us to “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16a), and many other passages in the Old and New Testaments deal with bringing our sins honestly before the Lord and before our brothers and sisters. As missionaries like Paul took the Gospel into the Gentile world, souls were converted, “And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds” (Acts 19:18). Confession can similarly relate to telling the truth about what we believe, as in acknowledging Christ’s lordship: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). All these meanings point to an acknowledgement that agrees with God’s truth, whether it be about sin, salvation, or simple facts about the world. Latin helps us here: the root or stem “confiteri” combines the prefix “con” (meaning with or together) and “fateri” (to admit) or “fari” (to speak). In other words, to confess means to agree or admit together the same truth, to come to the same conclusion about something. In particular, we are to agree with God about what He declares as true. This, of course, gives glory and praise to God, since any acknowledgment of His truth shows honor to His name. Perhaps this is why we find that in Hebrew the same word that serves “to confess” can also be translated as “to praise,” as is the case in the story of Achan, who disobeyed by stealing forbidden treasure in Joshua 7. The NKJV reads, “Now Joshua said to Achan, ‘ My son, I beg you, give glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me’” (Joshua 7:19). The same verse in the ESV reads, “…My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” So praising God means more than singing songs in worship or expressing thanks, though it certainly does include those things. Praising God also means to give Him glory by agreeing with His word, His truth, and His work in the world. It means speaking the truth together and admitting He is right and true and good in all things. This is why we say that education is repentance, for we must continually confess that God is right and we are wrong, and education at CCA should help us get into the habit of recognizing where we need correction and redirection in order to rightly agree with the standards of truth.
That brings me to a great book recommendation: Live Not By Lies, by Rod Dreher. This timely work looks at the conditions present in pre-communist and communist era Russia and Eastern Europe. Dreher interviews people who lived through those times to learn what it was like, what to watch out for, and how to resist when our faith and truth itself are attacked. Here’s a hint: the themes we continually stress at CCA are important pieces of that resistance. Dreher writes, “Memory, historical and otherwise, is a weapon of cultural self-defense…History is culture–and so is Christianity” (126). He goes on to say, “We have to tell our stories….Seminars on literature, history, philosophy, and theology that dissidents [resisting totalitarian oppression] held in their apartments to help one another remember who they were–these are things Christians in our post-Christian societies should revive. Classical Christian schooling, both in institutions and in home settings, is a great way to revive and preserve cultural memory. Less academically, we can celebrate festivals, make pilgrimages, observe holy-day practices, pray litanies, perform concerts, hold dances, learn and teach traditional cooking–any kind of collective deed that connects the community with its shared sacred and secular history in a living way is an act of resistance to an ethos that says the past doesn’t matter” (126-127). No doubt, if you have conversations with me in the next few weeks, I’ll likely be referencing this book. If Dreher is right, and he seems to be, we are living in a new kind of pre-totalitarian state, mimicking the days prior to the arrival of the totalitarianism of the 20th Century. It won’t look exactly the same, but if it comes, we will need to be prepared with a theology of suffering, of truth-telling, and of faith in God’s promises in the midst of a hostile world.
For an interesting example of the speed at which cancel culture and the progressive agenda are advancing, take a look at an opinion piece posted in the For the Win sports column of USA Today this week, titled, “Oral Roberts University isn’t the feel good March Madness story we need,” about why the Christian university’s policies on gender, sexuality, marriage, and faith are being cited as grounds for demanding that the NCAA ban like schools from participating in college basketball’s greatest tournament. Although a counterpoint opinion piece was published by the paper the next day, it contained a disclaimer at the top distancing the paper from sharing the author’s conservative views. No such disclaimer appeared (nor does it yet) at the top of the original opinion article (which at first wasn’t even published with the qualifier “opinion”). Hemal Jhaveri, the author of the anti-Oral Roberts University piece, isn’t writing anything surprising to those who have been watching the demands of the LGBTQ+ crowd reach farther and farther; but what is new this time is the aggressive, unabashed, and sweeping claims made not in some side blog on the internet but on a featured page of one of the nation’s largest news sites. As Bob Dylan famously sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” We need to be paying attention, because the same logic will eventually head our way, attacking our own institution and those like ours. May the Lord prepare and protect us, and may we be ready to stand in His truth. Very soon, counting the costs will likely mean much more than just calculating tuition. God is faithful.
One of the great joys of CCA is being able to fellowship with other Christians who share a common orthodox creed but differ in less central details. Our kids don’t naturally know how to navigate these differences, but we can model and encourage love of neighbor and a spirit of charity and inquiry. Look for opportunities as parents not only to help teach your kids, but also to reach out and get to know other parents who go to different churches. Nothing goes further than parents loving other parents and teaching kids to do the same. We have a lot to learn from one another, and thanks be to God!
Christ is the reason for all. May the Lord be your light and your salvation!