Saturday, April 28, 2007
A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind
Thoughts on the Significance of Reading
I was reading and meditating on the book of Hebrews recently, when it hit me forcefully that a basic and compelling reason for education—the rigorous training of the mind—is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding.
This sounds too obvious to be useful or compelling. But that’s just because we take the preciousness of reading so for granted; or, even more, because we appreciate so little the kind of thinking that a complex Bible passage requires of us.
The book of Hebrews, for example, is an intellectually challenging argument from Old Testament texts. The points that the author makes hang on biblical observations that come only from rigorous reading, not light skimming. And the understanding of these Old Testament interpretations in the text of Hebrews requires rigorous thought and mental effort. The same could be said for the extended argumentation of Romans and Galatians and the other books of the Bible.
This is an overwhelming argument for giving our children a disciplined and rigorous training in how to think an author’s thoughts after him from a text—especially a biblical text. An alphabet must be learned, as well as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, the rudiments of logic, and the way meaning is imparted through sustained connections of sentences and paragraphs.
The reason Christians have always planted schools where they have planted churches is because we are a people of THE BOOK. It is true that THE BOOK will never have its proper effect without prayer and the Holy Spirit. It is not a textbook to be debated; it is a fountain for spiritual thirst, and food for the soul, and a revelation of God, and a living power, and a two-edged sword. But none of this changes the fact: apart from the discipline of reading, the Bible is as powerless as paper. Someone might have to read it for you; but without reading, the meaning and the power of it are locked up.
Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not read what David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself’?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).
The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (2 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).
The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense. Education of the mind in the rigorous discipline of thoughtful reading is a primary goal of school. The church of Jesus is debilitated when his people are lulled into thinking that it is humble or democratic or relevant to give a merely practical education that does not involve the rigorous training of the mind to think hard and to construe meaning from difficult texts.
The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans. Lord, let us not fail the next generation!
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Thursday, April 5, 2007
This small book (45 pages) is an ideal introduction to classical education written by the headmaster of a classical academy in Pennsylvania. It traces the history of classical education and describes its modern renaissance. The book also highlights the distinctive elements of the movement including its emphasis on teaching grammar, logic and rhetoric (the Trivium), and the extraordinary achievements of students who are receiving a classical education.
Other sections address the role and benefit of classical language study (Latin and Greek) and integrated learning through a study of the great books of western civilization. The book is written in a colloquial, engaging style, with several anecdotes, diagrams and charts. This book is especially recommended to parents just beginning their examination of classical education.
We have priced this booklet (and the Audio CD) very low so that schools and co-ops can affordably distribute it to parents. We encourage homeschoolers to give this booklet to other parents who may wish to consider classical education.
-Concise but significant introduction to classical education
-Clear definition and historical overview of classical education
-Descriptions of the modern renaissance in classical education
-Examples of student achievement around the country
-Helpful anecdotes, diagrams and charts
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
God is the main reality in the universe and is the main connection, purpose, ground and sustaining power of everything that is. And therefore anytime you treat anything without relation to God, you are superficial. And the fact that that sounds odd to us shows how infected... all American evangelicals are with our God-neglecting, God-belittling and our increasingly God-despising age. If you watch enough TV you cannot help but forget God, he isn’t there. And the sheer absence of God is blasphemy…
I pray for my sons and my daughter. I have 5 kids and two of my boys are out of school now, one is in college and one is in high school and my little girl hasn’t started school yet. And I pray, “Oh God, in all of their learning grant that they would see God and that they would see you. May they see you in geometry. May they see you in history. May they see you in philosophy. May they see you in English. May they see you in physical education. May they see you in spelling.”
And I can hear the cynics, “Right, a Christian spelling…there are Christian ways to spell words. Give me a break Pastor John.” Now that’s the way a cynic, a superficial 20th century saturated, God-neglecting cynic, responds to talking about God-centered spelling.
I’ve had two kinds of sons, academic and nonacademic. And they fit the pattern perfectly, son number 1, the scholar…son number two, the athlete - the jock, as soon as he could get out of high school he was done, he was gone. And he’s red hot for Jesus by the way. Well, I remember the day when this dyslexic non-speller said to me, “why should I care about spelling the way everybody else spells.” And he meant it because it hurt so bad. And I said, “Well ummm, you won’t be able to communicate as well if you don’t learn to spell the way everybody else spells.” “I don’t care about communicating well…why should I care about communicating well?”
Now here we are public school teachers, you got this kid in your class and he raises his hand after flunking his second spelling test. “Why should I care about communicating?” Now right here we're about a millimeter beneath superficiality, not very far. And the ways are gonna divide right here teacher. What are you gonna tell him. Here’s one answer, this is the blasphemous answer, the standard answer, the 20th century answer, the public school answer. “Well, if you don’t learn how to spell or you don’t learn how to communicate you wont succeed in business and you wont make as much money and you wont advance in the community.” And here’s the real clincher, the bottom line gospel – “you wont have as high self-esteem. So get to work and work and we’ll help you.”
Godless. Godless answers all.
Here’s another answer, my answer to my son and to anybody who will listen. “Ben, you should want to communicate and care about communicating because you were created in the image of God and God is a great communicator. Your in his image son, your in his image. To be a human being is no small thing and he is a great communicator and you should want to communicate and not be indifferent to putting obstacles in the way.” Number two; “you got something infinitely important to communicate Ben. You got God to communicate. You got love to communicate. You got salvation to communicate. You got Jesus to communicate. You’ve got the gospel to communicate. You’ve got eternal life to communicate. You’ve got purpose to communicate. You can’t be indifferent son, to whether you communicate and put obstacles in the way of your communication.” Third, “Ben, God is love and his love is scorned when we treat as a matter of indifference whether or not we communicate good things for people they desperately need to hear from us.” And finally, “you need to communicate and care about communicating and not putting spelling stumbling blocks in the way of your communication because language is God’s idea from the beginning – “In the beginning was the word and the word was with god…” It’s God’s idea. He is not a God of chaos and confusion. He’s a God of beauty and of order. He’s not a God of anarchy, even spelling anarchy.”
And you know if you are sitting out there now and you don’t care about the supremacy of God in spelling then you wont get my plea…you just wont get it…
-John Piper from The Supremacy of God in Preaching
Monday, March 5, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Update: I just added a video from Cary Christian School in Cary, NC. It is titled "A Day at Cary Christian School."
Update: Another one from Atlanta Classical Christian.
Update: Yet another one from Providence Classical Christian in Washington State.
Update: One for Franklin Classical in Franklin, TN.
Update: There are a number of videos from Liberty Classical Academy in Maplewood, MN. I strongly recommend The Parent's Perspective video.
Update: On the home page of the website of Providence Classical School in Williamsburg, VA. there is a good video introducing their school.
Update: Here is a really good video from Providence Christian Academy in St. Louis, MO.