Overwhelmed

This is such a beautiful worship song! I delight myself in You, God!

I see the work of Your Hands
Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I hear the sound of Your Voice
All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

I know the power of Your Cross
Forgiven and free forever You’ll be my God
All that You’ve done is so overwhelming

I delight myself in You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You

You are Beautiful, You are Beautiful
Oh God, there is no one more Beautiful
You are Beautiful, God you are the most Beautiful

You are Wonderful, You are Wonderful
Oh God, there is no one more Wonderful
You are Wonderful, God You are the most Wonderful

You are Glorious, You are Glorious
Oh God, there is no one more Glorious
You are Glorious, God you are the most Glorious

Convention Season is Fast Approaching

SOUTHEAST-Homeschool-Convention

So it seems I will be attending the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville this year! I am looking forward to talks by Andrew Kern, Martin Cothran, Dr. Christopher Perrin, and Laurie Detweiler among others. Going and listening to these talks helped get me pumped up to finish the year strong last year. I hope it does the same this year. I think it will. Actually, I am expecting the year to be even better. Last year was my first time going to a convention so the experience was more exploratory, just trying to figure it all out. This year I have more of a focus. I know much more what I am looking for in the talks and am targeting specific speakers and topics.

Last year I did not find the deals in the exhibitor hall to be that exciting, but I did find that it was very useful to be able to get my hands on materials I was interested in. It is much easier to evaluate things when you can hold them in your hands than trying to look at a few sample pages on the internet. Unfortunately, last year was overwhelming and seeing all of the amazing products out there made me question some of what I was doing. This year I have a plan. I have a list of things I am considering using in the future and will seek those out specifically. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the variety I want to spend real time delving into the few things I am interested in to really get a sense of what they are about and whether they will work for us. So, while last year was exciting and rekindled my passion for homeschooling when I was dragging myself down the homestretch of the year, I am fully expecting this year to be more fruitful.

Do you guys attend conventions? Which ones and what do you get out of it?

C.S. Lewis On The Reading of Old Books

We often settle for reading about the works of Augustine, Calvin, or other “old books” rather than reading the works themselves.

C.S. Lewis recommended the reading of old books in his introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said.

The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.

This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.

CS Lewis on the Reading of Old Books

“I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old.”

Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

CS Lewis Writing

I myself was first led into reading the Christian classics, almost accidentally, as a result of my English studies. Some, such as Hooker, Herbert, Traherne, Taylor and Bunyan, I read because they are themselves great English writers; others, such as Boethius, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Dante, because they were “influences.” George Macdonald I had found for myself at the age of sixteen and never wavered in my allegiance, though I tried for a long time to ignore his Christianity. They are, you will note, a mixed bag, representative of many Churches, climates and ages. And that brings me to yet another reason for reading them. The divisions of Christendom are undeniable and are by some of these writers most fiercely expressed. But if any man is tempted to think—as one might be tempted who read only con- temporaries—that “Christianity” is a word of so many meanings that it means nothing at all, he can learn beyond all doubt, by stepping out of his own century, that this is not so. Measured against the ages “mere Christianity” turns out to be no insipid interdenominational transparency, but something positive, self-consistent, and inexhaustible. I know it, indeed, to my cost. In the days when I still hated Christianity, I learned to recognise, like some all too familiar smell, that almost unvarying something which met me, now in Puritan Bunyan, now in Anglican Hooker, now in Thomist Dante. It was there (honeyed and floral) in Francois de Sales; it was there (grave and homely) in Spenser and Walton; it was there (grim but manful) in Pascal and Johnson; there again, with a mild, frightening, Paradisial flavour, in Vaughan and Boehme and Traherne. In the urban sobriety of the eighteenth century one was not safe—Law and Butler were two lions in the path. The supposed “Paganism” of the Elizabethans could not keep it out; it lay in wait where a man might have supposed himself safest, in the very centre of The Faerie Queene and the Arcadia. It was, of course, varied; and yet—after all—so unmistakably the same; recognisable, not to be evaded, the odour which is death to us until we allow it to become life:

an air that kills
From yon far country blows.

We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age. It is not enough, but it is more than you had thought till then. Once you are well soaked in it, if you then venture to speak, you will have an amusing experience. You will be thought a Papist when you are actually reproducing Bunyan, a Pantheist when you are quoting Aquinas, and so forth. For you have now got on to the great level viaduct which crosses the ages and which looks so high from the valleys, so low from the mountains, so narrow compared with the swamps, and so broad compared with the sheep-tracks.

The present book is something of an experiment. The translation is intended for the world at large, not only for theological students. If it succeeds, other translations of other great Christian books will presumably follow. In one sense, of course, it is not the first in the field. Translations of the Theologia Germanica, the Imitation, the Scale of Perfection, and the Revelations of Lady Julian of Norwich, are already on the market, and are very valuable, though some of them are not very scholarly. But it will be noticed that these are all books of devotion rather than of doctrine. Now the layman or amateur needs to be instructed as well as to be exhorted. In this age his need for knowledge is particularly pressing. Nor would I admit any sharp division between the two kinds of book. For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that “nothing happens” when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.

This is a good translation of a very great book. St. Athanasius has suffered in popular estimation from a certain sentence in the “Athanasian Creed.” I will not labour the point that that work is not exactly a creed and was not by St. Athanasius, for I think it is a very fine piece of writing. The words “Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly” are the offence. They are commonly misunderstood. The operative word is keep; not acquire, or even believe, but keep. The author, in fact, is not talking about unbelievers, but about deserters, not about those who have never heard of Christ, nor even those who have misunderstood and refused to accept Him, but of those who having really understood and really believed, then allow themselves, under the sway of sloth or of fashion or any other invited confusion to be drawn away into sub-Christian modes of thought. They are a warning against the curious modern assumption that all changes of belief, however brought about, are necessarily exempt from blame. But this is not my immediate concern. I mention “the creed (commonly called) of St. Athanasius” only to get out of the reader’s way what may have been a bogey and to put the true Athanasius in its place. His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

When I first opened his De Incarnatione I soon discovered by a very simple test that I was reading a masterpiece. I knew very little Christian Greek except that of the New Testament and I had expected difficulties. To my astonishment I found it almost as easy as Xenophon; and only a master mind could, in the fourth century, have written so deeply on such a subject with such classical simplicity. Every page I read confirmed this impression. His approach to the Miracles is badly needed today, for it is the final answer to those who object to them as “arbitrary and meaningless violations of the laws of Nature.” They are here shown to be rather the re-telling in capital letters of the same message which Nature writes in her crabbed cursive hand; the very operations one would expect of Him who was so full of life that when He wished to die He had to “borrow death from others.” The whole book, indeed, is a picture of the Tree of Life—a sappy and golden book, full of buoyancy and confidence. We cannot, I admit, appropriate all its confidence today. We cannot point to the high virtue of Christian living and the gay, almost mocking courage of Christian martyrdom, as a proof of our doctrines with quite that assurance which Athanasius takes as a matter of course. But whoever may be to blame for that it is not Athanasius.

The translator knows so much more Christian Greek than I that it would be out of place for me to praise her version. But it seems to me to be in the right tradition of English translation. I do not think the reader will find here any of that sawdusty quality which is so common in modern renderings from the ancient languages. That is as much as the English reader will notice; those who compare the version with the original will be able to estimate how much wit and talent is presupposed in such a choice, for example, as “these wiseacres” on the very first page.

Reading old books, especially classics of Christian theology and devotion, greatly helps in our spiritual development.

What is your favorite “old book’? Leave a comment with your recommendation!

What is Education?

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I read an enlightening article from Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg, writing at the Imaginative Conservative, entitled Are You a Bad Teacher?; which is itself a response to an article from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post, Are You a Truly Bad Teacher? Here’s How to Tell. Rummelsburg says that asking if someone is a bad teacher is the incorrect question. A better question would be, “What is a good teacher?”, and to answer that we have to establish what constitutes an education. Rummelsburg draws a sharp contrast between two competing ideas of education: Christian Classical and Modern education, Modern Public education specifically. He uses the questions proposed by Ms. Strauss to show the difference between the value systems of each education ideal. It is very instructive to see the two compared this way.

Christian Classical starts with the acknowledgment of a student for what they are, imago Dei, an image of God. So, what does it mean to be created in God’s image? The Hebrew root of the Latin phrase for “image of God” means image, shadow or likeness of God. We are a snapshot or facsimile of God. At the very least this means humans occupy a higher place in the created order because we alone are imprinted with godlike characteristics. Our godlikeness is the path to our greatest fulfillment. We will feel the greatest pleasure and wholeness when who God made us to be is fully developed and expressed. There can be no true education without acknowledging this.

In light of this knowledge, a Christian Classical education seeks to nourish the soul on the good, the true, and the beautiful, and rightly so. It seeks to teach the soul to love what is worthy of being loved. The goal is to inculcate virtue and set the student on a path of harmony with his Creator. Once the student knows what is worthy of being loved, and loves it himself, he will seek it out for the rest of his days. We will have started him on a journey of learning, given him a love of learning for the way it brings him closer to God. He will do it joyfully for the rest of his life. If we start with feeding the soul the best food, then everything else will follow naturally.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matt 6:33

Modern Education doesn’t acknowledge the soul. Modern man, for the most part, has done his best to divorce himself from the reality of the soul. It is impossible that this attitude could not affect how he educates. Modern education is no longer about teaching virtue. It no longer concerns itself with the good, the true, and the beautiful. Modern education has been reduced to a system of testing how well students retain the information they are presented. The fact that they are never asked to do anything with the information, that they are not taught a system of truth to evaluate it by (Modern man believes truth is relative so how could it be a proper standard?), means the new way is more indoctrination than education.

Once a student is instructed in the true, the good, and the beautiful, once the truth of God has been placed before them and they have taken it in, they have a proper framework for everything else in life. They know their place in the world, they know how they are to interact with their fellow man, and they have an unerring standard of value to compare everything else they ever encounter by. Only through this filter can a true education occur. Students must be presented with facts and then be allowed to wrestle with them. They must take them and judge them by God’s truth, and then they must place them together into an ever expanding tapestry of understanding. Short of this a student simply has a collection of disparate thoughts swimming around in his head, seemingly without any connection to one another, if he retains them at all.

When we fully grasp what it means to bear God’s image, we are at once struck with the grandeur of our possibilities and the tragedy of our unrealized potential. To be fully human is to fully reflect God’s creative, spiritual, intelligent, communicative, relational, moral and purposeful capacities, and to do so holistically and synergistically. As A. N. Whitehead said, “Moral education is impossible apart from the vision of greatness. If we are not great it does not matter what we do.”

The greatness the Classical Christian seeks is the true greatness of wisdom and virtue. This vision of greatness guides the Classical Christian in the way he educates. Students instructed in the modern way are denied that. They are not taught their place in the world. They are not taught why the world is the way it is or the proper way to view themselves. They are not taught how to relate to God. And they are much the poorer for it. What good is it to “teach” the way we do today? Facts and skills are not the aim of a true education. If we are not leading our students into a right standing with God, what is the point?

“For to me, to live is Christ….”

Show me Your glory!

18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”
20 But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”
21 Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock;
22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.
23 Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”

Exodus 33:18-23

This is my heart’s cry this morning!

I long to look on the face of the One that I love;
Long to stay in Your presence, it’s where I belong!