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    Charlotte Mason, Total Depravity, and the Divine Image

    January 12, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Whenever I quote Charlotte Mason, I assume that folks understand the context, which is probably a mistake considering that very few CM educators have actually read her original works. In addition to this, I sometimes tend to assume that readers grasp the context of my mind … which isn’t very realistic as sometimes my husband has trouble doing this! So I find myself today in need of clarifying what I said yesterday, so that we don’t have any misunderstandings.

    Charlotte Mason, Total Depravity, and the Divine Image

    Here is a comment — a very good one, by the way — which was left on yesterday’s post:

    I have been an avid ‘anonymous’ reader for some time and most often wholeheartedly appreciate what you have to say, finding much of it Biblical and Christ-centered. That said, I don’t often comment, but I feel I must at this time.

    I would ask you what is your biblical backing for the statements you have made concerning children and sin? I may be completely mistaken, but it seems you are saying some very dangerous things here … such as children only being taught to sin, not knowing how on their own … and forgetting some of the scriptures which clearly state otherwise, such as Proverbs 22:15 which says “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” and Genesis 8:21 which states, “…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

    Perhaps I have misunderstood you, but if not I implore you to consider these things in Scripture. This is a great article I have come across from Desiring God.

    I have to admit that when I wrote the post, I wondered if this might come up, and I tried to phrase everything in such a way that we wouldn’t have this misunderstanding, but obviously I was not clear enough. I try to balance in my writing my desire to communicate a single idea with the temptation to cover all of my bases with every possible objection or misunderstanding of what I said. However, comma, in this case I do not think I did a good job.

    I love comments like this because I think they refine all of us as readers and thinkers.

    So let’s talk.

    Some Clarifications

    First, I want to clarify exactly what I believe. As I said in my original post, I believe in the co-existence of two components of anthropological theology (i.e., (1) man is fallen in nature and (2) he still bears the Divine Image). When I say I believe in the total depravity of man (and I do, as did Charlotte Mason before me), this means that I believe that man cannot save himself. In other words: man needs Jesus. But it means more than this, for being depraved implies being not perfect. Man is lacking morally, yes, but he is also lacking in every other way. He is fallen in every area of his being and requires redemption and improvement on every level.

    When I say, as I said yesterday, that “most men are not as fallen as they might be,” I understand how this could be taken as an attack on the doctrine of Total Depravity. I should have explained this better.

    Let’s take an individual, generic man as an example. He is not a Christian, and so not redeemed. If he were “as fallen as he might be” he would be a murderer, adulterer, etc. He would be the worst thing we can imagine. When I wrote that man’s natural “goodnesses” are a form of common grace, I mean that just as God sends rain to the godly and the ungodly, so He gives innate goodnesses (“virtues” is perhaps a better word) to the godly and ungodly. These goodnesses do not save. They do not redeem. But they are an amazing sign of the Divine hand … and the Divine plan.

    I think here of Horatius the pagan, boldly defending the bridge over the Tiber river, laying his life down for his friends and comrades. We are told that no greater type of love exists, and yet this man did not know Christ. All we can say, then, is that there are goodnesses that are common to us all, for humanity bears the Divine Image. Even these things, then, are a gift of God.

    Charlotte Mason in Context

    I think that when we read Miss Mason’s works, we need to remember that she was first and foremost writing an educational treatise. Even though the way that we educate naturally flows from our theology, when she speaks of “children as persons” and children being born with “possibilities for good and evil,” I think she speaks here first and foremost as a teacher, not a theologian.

    To clarify further, by “possibilities for good and evil,” she is thinking about developing the child as a person, not of the idea that he is still in a perfect state and does not require redemption, or that only society or his family corrupts him.

    Now, personally, I think Charlotte’s principles are an excellent outworking of the theological tenants I mentioned before — meaning man being both fallen as well as bearer of the Divine Image (and, I might add, possessing a soul, though this used to go without saying). Charlotte herself, though, called education the handmaid of Religion. She believed that education could offer real, tangible assistance to the progress of the work of the Gospel, but she never believed it replaced the Gospel. If we keep this in the back of our minds, it helps us know the limits of her ideas.

    All of this, and more, was in my heart when I wrote about the little girl I observed. I firmly believe that most people are born with a natural reverence or religious impulse. I would say this is akin to the now proverbial “God-shaped hole.” Romans chapter 1, for instance, talks about the idea that there is a natural knowledge of God that must be honored (and if it isn’t, a culture quickly plummets into every imaginable depravity).

    What I saw in this little girl was the brief honoring of this natural form of religion. I saw a glimmer of the Divine Image. This does not mean I thought she was not fallen. It means that I saw her possibilities — what God originally intended her to be, and what I hope will be her future.

    I also saw that she had not yet been fully tainted by our education system and popular culture. There is so much packed into this statement that it is hard for me to explain it all in this small space. I do not mean that our culture is the sole source of sin, or that if we could just clean it up, we would reach perfection. I know that perfection is only found in the Gospel.

    But I also know that there are good cultures, and there are bad cultures, and there are great cultures … and that culture is built by men. God ordained it to be so. So the way that we do things really does matter. My husband always draws this out as a cycle. We make culture, and culture makes us, and on and on.

    I think the most logical application of my post is to consider the culture we have built and are building around us. It predisposes people to be silly, shallow — it steadily lessens their humanity day by day. I think here of Wendell Berry describing the television as a tube which pumps meaning and depth out of the home.

    One of the things I love about Charlotte Mason is that she taught me that children really are persons. Or maybe it is actually bigger than that. I think she actually taught me that all people really are persons. They really have potential. And we really often do approach the child-mind as if it were silly and shallow and only capable of being entertained by highly animated kindergarten teachers that plan and control the carefully constructed child-centered environment.

    We treat them as less than human, and by the time they are grown they actually seem it.

    This is one contributing factor to our culture’s decay.

    In many ways, the Greek pagan culture was much, much higher than ours, and that is probably because it actually educated its children more in accordance with the Divine Image than we do. They didn’t believe in it, of course, but their view of man was much higher than the average American Christian you meet on the street. (Of course, they believed in the perfectibility of man without Christ, which was their downfall, except for those individuals who realized the beauty of Christ being the Logos.)

    I completely understand how parts of my post could be misconstrued, and I appreciate the chance to clarify my stance. I never want anyone to think that I do not believe in the depravity of man, or in man’s need for redemption through Christ. When we consider the bulk of Charlotte’s work we see that she was not talking here about the need for redemption. I think she was talking here about the Divine Image — the fact that all are human, that all deserve respect, that all are capable of a sort of reverence that is due to common grace, and that all ought to be educated in light of these truths.

    Remember that while others in her day believed that the lowest of low society could not be educated — almost as if they bore no Divine Image at all — Charlotte was offering her generous curriculum to the least of these (in this instance, the children of the impoverished miners).

    When I say that “we have made them so,” I understand that not everyone was inside the context of my head.  I am not a Utopia-touting Rousseau disciple by any means! However, comma, as John Hodges once said, cultivating good things in the soul of all children will not save them … but there will be more of a soul to save!

    Let’s Discuss the Scriptures Framing the Conversation

    Proverbs 22:15 is a good example here, I think. It is true: all children have foolishness bound up inside of them, and, according to this Scripture, need a good paddling now and then! But this doesn’t mean that they need be paddled all the day long. These foolish little sinners are still more than capable of delighting in butterflies and frogs and meadows and lightning and all the good things that the Lord hath made. They are able to love. They are able to extend kindness and joy to others. In other words, they still possess (broken) fragments of the Divine Image worth cultivating.

    We extend much grace to children, believing that they are able to receive it.

    In the case of Genesis 8:21, I looked up the Hebrew to be sure. The idea here is that the form of the man’s heart — of his conscience — is evil. It is malignant. It gives pain. And so on. I completely agree. In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. We are a fallen race, and the evidence for that abounds. But I do not believe that this means that we no longer bear the Divine Image. We are twisted and in need of redemption, but the imago dei is still there. Because it was the essence of what we were at creation, it has remained after the fall. When we fell, we became fallen humans. We did not become subhuman. This is why Paul can still say that man is the glory of God.

    I know that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. But even the Scriptures tell us that faith comes from hearing and how can people hear if we do not preach? God chooses to use people mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and on and on — as means. When people tell their testimonies, they do not just say, “the Holy Spirit saved me;” they usually give a name — “I was talking with so-and-so, and he preached the Gospel to me.”

    God gives us the honor of sowing seeds and helping to prepare the ground. A child that knows grammar and logic and rhetoric will be more able to understand the Gospel when she reads it or hears it, because he is more able to understand anything he reads and hears. Education, being the handmaid of Religion, has a rightful place in preparing the ground and sowing seeds.

    And here is the crux of the issue I meant to be addressing (though my effectiveness in this instance is clearly up for debate): modern education handicaps the soul. I do not have the time to discuss all that this means, but let me be clear here. A modern Darwinian education cultivates nothing less than practical atheism, if not actual atheism. This approach to educating eliminates questions of metaphysics, thereby disregarding the Divine Image, thereby treating students as less than human. When I said that the little girl had not been ruined by our culture, I meant that every little religious impulse had not, in the words of C. S. Lewis, been completely debunked out of her soul.

    At least, not yet.

    And my hope, of course, is not ever.

    Update: I believe that the definitive article on this subject is Why Did She Have to Say That? by Karen Glass.

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  • Reply Classically Charlotte: The nature of children | Simply Convivial February 21, 2019 at 10:07 am

    […] of the theological aspects of this principle, I encourage you to read Brandy’s post “Charlotte Mason, Total Depravity, and the Divine Image” and Cindy’s post, “Here is Wisdom,” and Linda Fay’s article, […]

  • Reply Clay July 27, 2018 at 4:20 am

    I’m a CM husband. I found this article via Google when searching for a clarification in CM’s theology. Thanks for the clarity you’ve brought! It’s good to know she believed in the biblical doctrine of total depravity.

    However, I found the following paragraph especially disturbing and wrong:

    “God gives us the honor of sowing seeds and helping to prepare the ground. A child that knows grammar and logic and rhetoric will be more able to understand the Gospel when she reads it or hears it, because he is more able to understand anything he reads and hears. Education, being the handmaid of Religion, has a rightful place in preparing the ground and sowing seeds.”

    Could you please provide scriptural support for this claim? As it is currently written, this paragraph stands in opposition to scripture.

    In 1 Cor. 1 (and throughout the Bible), God makes it especially clear: formal education has no bearing on one’s ability to understand and believe the gospel. In fact, the point of the passage is to affirm the opposite! Grammar, logic, and rhetoric are exactly what the Greeks were emphasizing in their education. Yet God makes it clear, “18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe… 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world {ie the weak and unwise}, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe formal education (ie grammar, logic, rhetoric, etc.) is important and good. But the acceptance or rejection of the gospel does not depend on one’s knowledge/understanding of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In fact, such knowledge can also be used by one’s kids (which is often the case) to reject God.

    A child that knows grammar and logic and rhetoric will NOT be more able to understand the Gospel when she reads it or hears it. Why? Because..

    “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is NOT ABLE to understand them BECAUSE they are SPIRITUALLY discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, emphasis mine)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 27, 2018 at 7:41 am

      Hi Clay!

      It’s been six and a half years since I wrote this, and honestly I agree with you! I think I worded that very poorly and I think I overlooked the work of the Holy Spirit in regard to unmasking spiritual blindness. I will be honest: my doctrine of the Holy Spirit was not then what it is now.

      I am still trying to work out all the implications of saying something like “God uses means” which is my summary of passages like Romans 10:13-17. I think I see education as something like giving the deaf child a hearing aid. Of *course* God could use other means to save a deaf child — we could learn sign language, for example. But if we were able to give a hearing aid that would allow the child to hear the Gospel everywhere and not just where people knew sign language, it seems like that would be something — that this would have meaning. I *think* I view education in a parallel.

      I am still working this out, and admittedly I could be wrong!

      I thank you for the correction. If I remember correctly, when I wrote this, I was being influenced by some non-Protestant Christian thinkers … and it shows!

  • Reply Is it Biblical?: CM’s 2nd Principle (Part 3 of 3) | Letters from Nebby May 20, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    […] “Charlotte Mason, Total Depravity and the Divine Image,” by Brandy Vencel at Afterthoughts Blog […]

  • Reply Shauna February 24, 2017 at 11:55 am

    I just joined a group using your 20 Principles, and questioned Principle #2 because it seemed to go against total depravity. Luckily, I did not abandon completely, but went on to listen to your “Charlotte Mason in One Hour” recording which reassured me the intent of this principle is not nefarious. You do a good job of fleshing it out here. Our group’s coordinator linked this to in my comment regarding my fears.

  • Reply Lauren January 24, 2017 at 6:06 am

    This really resonated with me. I had the same questions in my head when I first read “For the Children’s Sake”, but her comments on children’s potential make so much sense in a pragmatic educational kind of way, and that doesn’t have to be in conflict with the fallen nature of man. Truth is so refreshing, especially when someone clearly explains it. Thanks!

  • Reply Jill April 7, 2015 at 1:53 am

    I appreciate this post. I misunderstood Charlotte’s meaning when I first started reading her works. I thought her theology didn’t include total depravity, so I initially dismissed her and her educational philosophies as majorly flawed. I have since embraced her wisdom, but still wondered how she could think children are neither good nor bad. Your post has shed so much light on this!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 7, 2015 at 7:47 am

      Thanks, Jill! It was hard for me at first, too, because I took her words to have a modern meaning. Have you read Karen Glass’ article on the subject yet? It really puts it all in the historical context, which is super helpful, I think.

  • Reply Melissa February 2, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Thanks Brandy…I actually read that post and wondered if it was the notes….good stuff!!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 2, 2015 at 9:04 am

      Oh good! Glad you found it. 🙂

  • Reply Melissa February 1, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Excellent post Brandy!! About 1/2 way through Chapter 3 of Vol 6, it hit me that Charlotte was not talking about theological good/evil, but academic good/evil. I’m still thinking all this through. Thanks so much for your insight.

    Also wondering if Karen G. ever shared those notes publicly?


  • Reply Mystie January 11, 2013 at 2:03 am

    I can do any technical help with making it into an ebook if you wanted, too. 🙂

  • Reply Karen G. January 10, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    This is just my comment to let you know that I see these requests. I’m thinking about where and how to post for those interested. I’ve actually been mulling over the concept of a new, focused blog, but I distrust my ability to keep it moving. I’ll keep thinking. My first task is to revisit the forum and catch up…or at least, pick up where we are….

  • Reply Dawn January 10, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Hear, hear. CM’s works are ones that I glean more from with each successive reading…and I have yet to even touch Vols 4 and 5. She was so very far ahead of her time in so many ways…and so courageous to commit herself to the betterment of educational movements of her day. And how much more they seem needed today.

    As for Karen potentially reading along: Pretty please? With sugar on top? I would type for you, too!! Can I admit that I actually have a file on my computer entitled “Wisdom of Karen Glass”? Honest. I can even take a screen shot to prove it.

  • Reply Dawn January 9, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I am reading this post again after it was linked by Higher Up and Further In. One of your better ones for sure, Brandy. Not that they aren’t all great – I think I told you I am not a big reader of blogs (have to limit my computer time somehow:)but I always look forward to yours. The first time I read this I coveted the information that Karen Glass sent you and I am back to the same place. I found her blog, and am wondering if she did post this material at your prompting?? If so, can you advise me how to search for it?? Karen’s comments are always so full of wisdom and I have missed her presence on the forum lately. Thanks in advance for any guidance, Brandy.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      As far as I know, Karen never posted her paper. BUT if she subscribed to the comments, she’s being informed {as we type!} how badly we want to read it. {hint hint…I’ll even type it up for you or format it–whatever you need, Karen!}

      I was actually thinking again last night about reading books from CM’s time. She uses the word “suggestion,” for instance, in a way that I have always known I don’t quite understand. I did a little research before I led a reading group through a section of Vol. 6 in which she uses it, and somehow–I wish I could find it again–I turned up these writings {non-fiction}–one from Britain and one from a university here in the states–that were all about suggestion and it was just fascinating. I don’t believe I fully grasp it even now, but their use reminded me of the connotations of suggestion in hypnotism–it is a way of exerting power over a weaker will.

      Anyhow, all of this to say that the more she is put in her context, the more I appreciate her. Her principles are universal, I truly believe, but she was combating very real–and very dangerous–ideas in her own time.

  • Reply Nancy January 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Personally, I think Mason is responding to Enlightenment thinking…Rousseau and the complete innocence and goodness of the child on the one hand…and children as machines made for adult’s and society’s well-being a la Dickens on the other…and in an educational context, not solely a theological one.

    Always a good discussion to bring up, this “where does she stand and what does she mean” about children.

    Well done!

    From joy to joy,

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 9, 2013 at 2:44 am

      I completely agree with you, Nancy!

      I am getting to where I love reading books from her era not just for the stories–which are wonderful–but because it helps me understand her, and what she was responding to, so much better.

  • Reply ...they call me mommy... January 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Great post!!! You articulate things so well!!

  • Reply lindafay January 8, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    I am so glad you spoke about the divine image stamped upon each one of us. I believe so many of us miss this important truth. This is why I like Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. She recognized this and it is fleshed out in her ideas and methods. Great post, Brandi!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 9, 2013 at 2:46 am

      I really think the divine image is oft overlooked among Christians, at least the ones I know.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I’d like to see it, too…

    {{a book! a book!}}

    And if not, perhaps a new feature on your blog?

  • Reply Naomi February 6, 2012 at 10:10 am

    May I see a copy of said 10-page article?!?! Or a link to where it is posted. I agree, a book!

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 24, 2012 at 12:03 am

    WOW, Karen! What a treasure trove! What you emailed to me was amazing…I wish I could have been a part of the group that was discussing the topic at the time.

    What to do with it? Well, you could post it, one post at a time, on your blog. That will earn you the title of “reliable blogger” which you have secretly always wanted, right? 😉

    Or cut and paste it into a book. I’ll be your editor. 😉

  • Reply Karen G. January 23, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    P.S. It’s better than what I could write at the moment, because it’s full of references from the CMSeries that are no longer so fresh in my mind…

  • Reply Karen G. January 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Okay, it was three computers and I don’t know how many different mail programs ago. Cheers to my patient techie husband, who retrieved my sent email dating back to 2000. Is he amazing or what? All my side, at least, of discussions that took place on the CMason list, Classical/CM list, CMSeries list…it’s all there.

    Along with everything else I wrote for the last 10 years.

    It will take some time to fish it out…it won’t necessarily be pretty…and what I wrote then is what I wrote then, while I was right in the middle of wrestling with different perspectives. It lacks the conviction and conclusions I now hold much more firmly.

    One of the most comprehensive things I wrote is a 10-page article about those first two principles. Now where should I put that?

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Naomi, I will have to check out Art Middlekauff’s rebuttal. Thanks! I try to read the discussions on ning, but I guess I missed this one?

    I’ve been meaning to ask Karen for a recommended reading list. {hint hint Karen!} I would like to try and read much of what CM read herself, to gain the same influence that she had gotten. I know that Karen has done a lot of that kind of reading, but I have no idea what order it is best done it, or if that even matters.

    And I also would like to go through Karen’s old writings. I think if she dusted them off and reposted them, a lot of us could direct people that way. I agree that many of us are likely having the same conversations now that they all had 10-15 years ago.

  • Reply Naomi January 21, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Excellent post Brandy. We had a discussion about this on the ning a while back ( stemming from an article by Aimee Natal titled “Charlotte Mason: For Whose Sake” where she concluded that “a Christian should conclude that her educational philosophy is not for the children’s sake.” I also linked to Art Middlekauff’s rebuttal there. I think it brings up a good point that we need to look at CM’s writings in context of her time. I wonder if there isn’t some recommended reading to help us do just that. And Karen, I second Brandy’s request to read what you have written in the past, I have no doubt we are discussing the very same things.

  • Reply Linda January 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Hi, I found your blog through a link at the WTM forum. I enjoyed this post and will be bookmarking your site for future reading.

    We homeschool with Ambleside Online.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 17, 2012 at 1:00 am

    Anonymous, I want to thank you again for the question/comment because I think it was really good for me to have to think through the issue. To be honest, for years I was just as uncomfortable as you were with CM’s second principle, so I totally identify with how you felt! CM is not infallible, either, so I think it’s good to question and examine what she has to say to us.

    Your little ones are very blessed to have a mama like you!

  • Reply Anonymous January 16, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Hi Brandy,

    This is ‘anonymous’ again. Thank you so much for your thought provoking responses. I am glad I did misunderstand what you said, because I do so enjoy your blog. I hoped the response you gave in your post was more of where you were coming from, but since I saw some ‘seeming’ inconsistencies I just felt the need to speak out to be sure. So thanks too for understanding that and taking my comments seriously.

    That said, thank you also for explaining CM a little bit more. You put a lot more thought into your response than I expected, but it was very helpful to understand. I have been dabbling in CM a bit here and there, as my kiddos are not school age yet, and have learned lots from your blog.

    Side note, re ‘dabbling in CM’: I learned the concept of living books from your blog and wouldn’t you know it? My 2 and 3 year olds ‘know’ what that means, intuitively, already! I have been focusing on that since the 3 yo was at least a year, but I didn’t quite expect them to just ‘know’, you know?! When we go to the library, garage sales, etc. they most often know how to choose good books just from experience. Very cool, and just makes me excited to do more w/ them as they enter school age.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts January 15, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Karen, I did not know that! Thank you so much for sharing–I always wish I had a more in-depth, working knowledge of history so that I could more easily place things in context like that. Are your old writings on your blog somewhere? I would love to read more of your thoughts on this and other “problem areas” in CM.

    Cindy, I totally understand now why you just stick with “persons!” 🙂

    Meredith, I *completely* agree with you on the total depravity thing. In fact, I was going to say something similar in response to Cindy’s comment. More and more, I’m encountering a sort of practical theology of only *Christians* bearing the Divine Image. What I mean is that *in practice* the approach to nonChristians that many Christians I have encountered is such that it denies the Divine Image in those who do not believe. Now, I think if we were to all sit down and talk it out, the vast majority of Christians would repent of that behavior because in their hearts they know that all men bear the Divine Image. But in practice…that is the key. I have ever heard a Christian I much admire doubt that unbelievers really love their children–this is the sort of thing I’m talking about.

  • Reply Meredith in Aus January 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm


    I had thought you’d be open to a few comments, but this response is a truly great post. I also loved the comments by Karen (I remember those books/stories!) and Cindy.

    I also happen to think that many of us struggle under a false understanding of what Total Depravity means. I know I did. When I originally heard it, I had it confused/muddled-in with the idea that everyone was born a sinner and, therefore, sins. It was some time until I learned that the ‘total’ part actually referred to our total being: body, mind, soul. ‘Total Depravity’ can come across as though everything you do is evil, evil, evil (insert heinous laugh here), I think.

    Anyway, well done again on the post. I honestly don’t know how you manage to bang this stuff out so quickly and articulately! You must have really practised prior to children!

    In Him

    Meredith in Aus

    • Reply Katherine August 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      Everything we do is evil, because nothing we do as a fallen person, unsaved by the grace of God, is done for our glory, not His, and so it is evil. Any thought not given to God, any action not made for His glory is evil and sin. I may not murder, but if I do something and get praise and feel good in that praise, that is evil and sin because I didnt give God glory. We are all evil.

  • Reply Cindy Rollins January 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    This is one for the bookmarks. When I saw your other post, I wondered how you would handle it and you have done a great job. You may notice that I often just say “children are born persons’ without the rest because I haven’t had the strength to hash this out and as Karen said I put it in the context of the day and age she was writing. But those words are a stumbling block to many people and I am happy you have taken the time to deftly deal with them.

  • Reply Karen G. January 13, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Brandi, I really like what you’ve written here, but there’s one more–cultural!–reference that will help clarify CM’s understanding of the second principle (Children are not born good or bad…).

    She lived in a different time. From that time (and perhaps before) date “proverbs”such as “what’s bred in the bone comes out in the flesh” or “blood will tell.” The era of Darwin had everyone very excited about the nature of heredity and the future possibilities for the human race (and CM was part of her culture–she shared some of that enthusiasm). The word you want to think about is “determinism.” This is the idea that character itself–good or bad–is an inherited trait. If your blood is tainted by your murderous father or lying mother, then…there is *nothing you can do about it* and you will fall prey to the same inherited weakness of character. (Books of the period are full of this idea–when you start to look, you will find examples without end.)

    And this is the idea that CM rejects. And this is how her principle “Children are not born good or bad…” would have been received and understood by her contemporaries. It’s much, much less a *spiritual* statement than it is a setting-aside of a ridiculous *physical, pseudo-scientific* idea that was prevalent in the day.

    Ten years ago I wrote extensively about this principle (and the first one, too), and how they were understood by the modern Victorians/Darwinists. But that was a long time ago–maybe it’s time to revisit some of that with what amounts to a new generation of homeschool moms….

    • Reply td2of11 June 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks for this clarification! My long story is that 10 years ago I rejected CM outright on this question alone. Only in the last couple years have I been reading CM herself and I’ve become convinced that when she used this phrase she was not making a theological statement and that she was speaking in a context that would have understood her differently. I just couldn’t nail down what that context was. I would LOVE to read more of your work in this area!

      Brandi — thanks for this post!

      Cindy — thanks for sending us here!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 26, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Glad you’re here. Welcome. 🙂

  • Reply sara January 13, 2012 at 3:15 am

    I knew what YOU meant, but I’ve always had trouble with Mason’s meaning. This helps. Thanks.

  • Reply Jeanne January 13, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Fabulous post, Brandy.

    You explained this potentially confusing concept very well, I think. Thank you.

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