by Al Benson Jr.
Apostasy is a falling away, a willful departure from the truth, a revolt against the truth. It is not a new problem in God's Israel, the church. It has been around since the beginning. The Old Testament is full of accounts of Israel turning away from the one true God and chasing after the "gods" of the nations around them, no doubt in a desire to be like those nations. Being "different" is such a drag don't you know.
In Acts 20 Paul talks to the elders in the church at Ephesus and tells them (vs. 29, 30): "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." It would seem from the context that Paul is talking about people who had believed the truth, embraced it, and then consciously walked away from it, embracing some "new gospel" and not only that, the sought to drag other believers along with them that they also might attach themselves to the "new" teaching.
Although this revolt from God's truth has been prevalent through the ages, we have had major problems with it in this country and it has been the cause of many of our country's problems over the years, including the War of Northern Aggression.
Home-grown apostasy probably started in this country in the 1700s in New England. Some preachers there preached against Unitarianism in the late 1700s. Jedidiah Morse, in Charlestown, Massachusetts preached against "the infidel Deist and the rationalizing Unitarian." Others, including Timothy Dwight of Yale did the same thing. But even some of those that resisted apostasy in New England had, to some degree, swallowed some of it themselves without realizing it. James Turner in his book "Without God, Without Creed" has noted that "Even while damning Deists, church leaders swallowed the Deist conception of a natural-law God. Even while lauding the converted heart, they abosorbed the maxim that belief in God rests on intellectual assent to a demonstrable proposition. Even while preaching the blood of the Lamb, they devoured the Enlightenment's moralism and its God bound by human morality...The Enlightenment's animating principle in religion was to tie belief in God securely to the kind of clear, rational, tangible realities evident in the world as observed. What could not be so rooted (grace, spiritual communion, mysterious doctrines) either faded away or drifted into supernatural disassociation from ordinary reality." In other words, men had reached a point in their supposed intellectual growth where they were not willing to let God be God if they could not understand exactly how He did everything, as if, in some way, He owed them an explanation.
By the 1830s apostasy had grown rampant in New England. Turner noted that "Lyman Beecher's admonition that the republic's survival depended on 'well instructed' citizens echoed in Horace Mann, Henry Barnard, and scores of other school reformers, especially after the great influx of Irish immigrants began in the 1840s...Public schools consequently received wide support from Protestant ministers--and bitter resistance from Catholic clergy, resentful of Protestant flavoring of school curricula. Both sides knew what the schools were about."
Although Turner's book contains much excellent and useful information overall, I do disagree with him on this point. He feels the public, or government schools favored the Protestants. I will admit they gave that appearance. In a mostly Protestant society at that time they had to, otherwise the vast majority of Protestants would not have been taken in by them. Upon reflection, though, we are forced to conclude that neither Catholics nor Protestants really knew what the government schools were all about.
Horace Mann, the Unitarian, realized what they were all about though. Clergymen like Lyman Beecher should have understood where Mann and many of the other public school "reformers" were coming from. The late Rev. R. J. Rushdoony has written in "The Nature of the American System" that "The 'public school' movement, or statist education, did not exist until the 1830s. Statist education began as a subversive movement and its bitter, savage struggle has not yet been written. The essentials of the drive which produced statist education are clearly seen in Horace Mann...'the Father of the Common Schools.' First and foremost, Mann was a Unitarian. New England Unitarianism was in the forefront of the battle for statist education. For Mann, Unitarianism was true Christianity, and with humorless zeal he fought for his holy faith." Unless Horace Mann kept his Unitarian "light" hidden under a bushel, Calvinist ministers like Lyman Beecher should have known what he was and should never have supported any educational system founded or promoted by him and his Unitarian cohorts. Yet they did, which shows that, to some degree, whether they realized it or not, they had been bitten by the apostasy bug.
To be continued.