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As I have been trying to piece together some resources for a directed study next quarter regarding my thesis topic, I have come accross some really great stuff. Particularly, I managed to dig up these two articles (1 and 2)on the Biblical Horizons website on what Jim Jordan argues is the Hebraic method of education. He separates education into five portions which somewhat overlap with some of the trivium and also makes some interesting points regarding the particularly western heritage of the Trivium.
As I continue to develop a list of books for my directed study, I am noticing that I really need to get into some books that might argue for the Western way of thinking over and above other cultures so I can anticipate some objections to my position. I am of the opinion that one has to know their tradition in order to transcend it. You aren’t going to teach a Chinese Christian how to transcend his culture if he is well versed exclusively in Western tradition. He needs to learn his own culture next to a solid Christian theology. Any book suggestions?
In Psalm 78, the psalmist tells of the failure of God’s people to remember God’s faithfulness to them. He reminds the audience to teach the children about His faithfulness so that they will not make this mistake. One example we can look at is how the Jews very quickly forgot who brought them out of Egypt and it wasn’t long before they credited it to a golden calf. Just as simple of an action as reminding and educating the people regarding God’s faithfulness was all that was needed. So this leads me to my question; Why don’t we study Church history more than we do? Dr. Leithart in a lecture last year suggested that Christians write world history as that of the church. The reason is, there is no better reference point for a Christian to base his/her paradigm of linear history. The Old Testament is a historical document recounting the faithful and unfaithfulness of God’s people in history and God’s own position and interection with that history. When Christ came on the scene and later established the Church, was the command for us not to forget soon forgotten? An uncomfortable majority of the destructive heresies, errors, and God-hating ideas with consequences have come as a direct result of the Church ceasing to be faithful, and often that is because they have lost there way. Like Israel, the Church forgot who was responsible for their freedom from slavery and it wasn’t long before everyone was vying for design rights to the new golden calf. This has happened a number of times throughout history and while we seem to learn our lesson and turn around, we also seem to screw up again just a little later. This seems like the Israelite syndrome all over again. What is the remedy? Psalm 78 says that simply remembering God’s faithfulness in our past will do the trick. What is the best way to do this? I would submit that we should place a greater emphasis on the study of Church history. This may mean developing a uniquely Christian method for writing Christian history as well, but primarily I think we can and should begin this work with what we have. Christians must remember God’s faithfulness so that we do not continue the disobedient pattern that characterized Israel throughout the Old Testament. If we are to think generationally and post-millennially, then this is a vital method for seeking the continued faithfulness of the Church. How else are we to be reminded of the faithfulness of our fathers without God mournfully having to teach us the hard way?
I spent a portion of this evening hammering out some of my thesis and consequently interacting with some sources that I will have to deal with in order to do well on it. This particular evening it was Tertullian and the age old question, ‘What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?’
After reading the passage that houses the infamous phrase, I was actually surprised at my reaction. Going into it, I expected that I would have to read it simply well enough to formulate a tidy refutation and move on. However, in the end I realized that I had been refuting a sound byte and not what Tertullian had actually said. (I despise mischaracterization due to sound bytes so this discovery meant that much more to me.) Tertullian actually makes a rather solid case by simply citing Paul in Colossians 2:8-9:
‘Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.’
Tertullian does come off as shrill and a little over the top, but the fact that Paul backs him up rather simply seems to balance the passage. All this said, I still don’t buy the statement that we ought to avoid philosophy out of hand. I don’t think that is what Paul is saying here and I don’t think that is what Tertullian was saying either. Paul was very familiar with much of his contemporary philosophy and consequently used it very well to his advantage when on his missionary journeys (Mars Hill for example). However, as familiar as he was with the many philosophies, he was no doubt just as familiar with their failures, their false answers, and their general weakness falsely understood as strength. Fundamentally, his approach to the gospel used his knowledge of philosophy simply as avenue for his apologetic for the Gospel to take it’s course.
If we (those in the Classical Christian Schooling & Humanities world) continue to reference Tertullian’s statement, we need to take the entirety of it. I think we have unfairly clipped a convenient sound byte that we can handily refute. This has happened only too often not only in the Classical Christian schooling world, but in the Christian world as a whole. A good deal of the heresy accusations leveled at Doug Wilson (for example) have come as a result of people just not doing their homework (and actually reading what he has said).
We also (finally) need to think more about the basic purpose of our education. If we use our education to simply answer the questions asked by philosophers of old and use that same education to answer them we may be falling into the trap of the ‘wisdom of men’. We need to constantly be asking ourselves how our education can be used at the service of the Gospel. Paul used his philosophical background to reach those at Mars Hill, and we also ought to use our education (formal or otherwise) to further the Gospel. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, after all.
I sent off an email the other day to Dr. Philip Jenkins. His book, The Next Christendom was a huge catalyst for me in developing my thesis topic, ‘Discussing the Application of Classical Christian Education in Developing Countries’. I included a small bit of info on myself, but mostly talked about the basics of what I am hoping to cover. I gave him some links to ACCS and the the The Classical School of the Medes as well as to New Saint Andrews. I haven’t heard back from him yet but I am hopeful he will be able to point me on to some very useful resources or perhaps even put me in contact with some useful people.
Robert H. Bork makes this interesting statement in the preface to Herbert Schlossberg’s Idols for Destruction. He says,
“All alternatives to Christian doctrine are themselves grounded in unprovable assumptions, and in that sense cannot be distinguished from positions of faith. Dogma is inescapable nothwithstanding the failure of so many to recognize the pervasiveness and fragility of their own belief systems.” Of course this is correct. Nobody lives without some idea of what life is, even if the idea is that life is essentially meaningless and governed by random events. But even that position constitutes a philosophy that cannot be proved correct and thus rests upon an act of faith or, if you prefer, a leap to a premise.
So…perhaps not all assuming is bad.