Friday, October 24, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition

The Seven

Aquinas- Liberal Arts are tools by which knowledge is fashioned.  The Greeks separated the sciences and the arts.  The sciences were a means by which any subject could be examined.  Art began with imitation.  Art is between imitation and science.  Aquinas- the liberal arts are used to produce the works of reason.  This is a epistemological study of what is true knowledge and an acceptance that Aquinas got it right when understanding true science or “knowledge” to be using the liberal arts and resting in reason.  The authors do no defend their acceptance of a rationalist approach with Holy Scripture so this is a “wait and see.”  They believe the seven liberal arts learned by way of imitation are the starting point for education and must come before philosophy and the final end or purpose which is theology.


“Grammar speaks, dialect teaches words and rhetoric colors words.”   The classical liberal arts are a product of a Christian synthesis in the early middle ages.  A brief history of what Christians understood to be grammar shows that knowing the classical languages were the end goal. 

In the dialect of the trivium there was an emphasis on not just the rules of logic but on the dialogues in first Plato and then Aquinas.  These teach what questions are worth asking and answering which is a necessary lead into philosophy and theology.

Under rhetoric the authors rightly sum up the attempt to bring persuasion and truth together.  However, I don’t agree that Aristotle’s book on rhetoric is not sufficient. 

Implications: “practice these arts in a form that respects their true nature.”  The second one I will shorten to “teachers need to learn Greek and then teach it to their students if you want them to be truly classically educated.” 

I am not convinced.  The trivium can be defended biblically as it follows what the Bible describes as developmental stages in a child.  The goal for me has never been to be “classically” educated or trained but to use a classical approach to be educated. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Slow Church Chp. 6

This chapter opens with a comparison of a small town restaurant to McDonald’s.  These guys really hate McDonald’s.  I am guessing the connection to McDonald’s and praise of good work is that McDonald’s workers… I don’t get the connection.  “Good work should be understood as cooperation with God.” Our work ideal should include more than what we do for pay.  Work is not a part of the curse but a part of the image of God given to each human being.  Nowhere in the Bible do we find work to be something we are to avoid or begrudge.  God gives each one of us gifts so that we can work and work well.  The writers begrudge the division of labor they see in society because it separates us and certain works dehumanize because they stifle individual creativity.  The two main fails of assembly work is that it treats people as expendable and separates the head from the hand.  Next is the connection I first didn’t get.   He calls it the McDonalization of work because of the stream line, assembly line way the company puts forth its product.  They want to reclaim work for Christians as God’s shalom.

1.     Change our thinking about what is good work.  It is not based on what is earned.  It should be based on what a person is gifted to do.
2.     Work should be seen as worship thus it calls us to do all things to the glory of God which includes doing them to the best of our ability.
3.     Stand up for justice in the work place. 
4.     Find ways to incorporate gifts within a local church to meet the needs of the church as well as the community around the church.

While l appreciate and assent with some points here I “feel” that something is either missing or missed directed.  Maybe it is the repeated attack on McDonald’s.  Have they never tasted their fries? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition Chapter 3

Gymnastics and Music

The authors think the readers will be surprised to hear that Plato and Aristotle would not start with the grammar stage as Dorothy Sayers does.  Instead they start with referencing gymnastics and music.  Gymnastics for the Greeks was not what we see every four years in the Olympics.  Instead it was learning to control the entire body to build up strength and coordination.  Music also was not limited to melodious sound but included all of the poetic arts.  Such an education is presented as a whole body, mind and soul experience.  The authors explain that the Greeks upheld these disciplines because they were the beginning points to acquiring moral and intellectual virtues.  This idea seems to do better than Christians because it recognizes the eternal value of an entire person.  Without realizing it modern educators, even in Classical Christian Schools have been influenced by Gnosticism (this thought is mine). 

The above leads to the point that gymnastics should be an essential part of a Classical Christian curriculum. 

A gymnastics curriculum should work to perfect human abilities.  It is also observed that there is a correlation between development disciplines of the body to better disciplines of the mind.  Temperance and fortitude are the two most obvious virtues that are strengthened by physical conditioning and they transfer well into the classroom. 

When it comes to music nothing speaks more readily and profoundly to the soul than the poetic arts.  Plato would say nothing forms the soul more than the poetic arts.  Aristotle went further to say it develops human intuition toward what is good or noble.  The author explains Lewis’ argument as being the same when in the Abolition of Man he explains how intuition and imagination work together in humans to form a conception of the good. 

To avoid frustration by the reader the authors don’t suggest imposing a new curriculum for music but to recognize the music they already use in other subjects.  Subjects in general could also be approached by recognizing the music that is within them such as the music of history with its poetic flow as well as the poetics that come out of history.

Slow Church: Chp. 5


Slow breathing.  This is going to be bumpy.  There is a great picture on the internet of post WWII America that shows a mass of people riding a train and everyone is looking at a newspaper.  The caption reads something like “before iphones”.  The authors try to make the point that isolationism is a dangerous thing and technology is a primary cause.  Well, as the picture mentioned above shows, isolationism has been around a while.  We are provided a guilt trip regarding our consumption verses our population and yet there is no cause and effect provided.  Why is it that other countries don’t consume as we do?  It most certainly isn’t because they are more utilitarian than an average American.  There is not evidence to that.  So what is it?  Could it be that the corrupt politics, false religions and a poor work ethic have held other countries back?  That seems a fair question.

They use the “butterfly effect” idea to interconnect how seemingly insignificant behavior can have a very great effect and such appeals to open minds that don’t want to look at facts.  It sounds good if it were true but it is not, as least not in terms of the mega effect the authors want.

Unfortunately the authors went into global warming and thus I am done with this chapter.  I have liked them so far, but they have bought into the arrogance of the liberal western mind which believes man can control all things, even the weather and that man is to be constantly feeling guilty and repeatedly atoning for his own sins.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition Chp. 2


Love the Richard Weaver quote.  Piety- duty, love and respect owed to God, parents and communal authorities past and present.  It is faithfulness to one’s relationships and commitment to one’s traditions.  Beautifully said.  This chapter fits well with “Slow Church.”  Piety is found in the first four commandments as well as the fifth as the fifth is the first to deal with social piety.  The Greek and Roman cultures seem to have understood the necessity of piety as a part of natural law.  The Aquinas reference nicely brings together piety in terms of our love for God and our patriarchs and matriarchs.  It also can be summed up in the two greatest commandments.  Piety, however, is not just another virtue but the highest of virtues and is also a gift from God.  Because piety is a foundational virtue for Christians it is a schools responsibility to build on that foundation. 

In past cultures they were intentional in passing on their traditions by way of education.  The authors rightly point out that we no longer have a culture to transmit.  The case does not need to be made to Christians that an impious culture cannot be sustained. 

The end point is so important.  Piety begins in the home and is supported and nourished in the school.  The school cannot effectively replace the home in providing a pious foundation nor should it ever undermine it. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition

Here is another summary study of a book being read by our school board.

The Paradigm of the Liberal Arts Tradition

We have been gifted with the seven liberal arts tradition, which adds arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music to the base three subjects of grammar, logic and rhetoric.  Acknowledgments are made of those that have started the movement of what is called classical Christian education.  While the 7 subjects provide a well trained intellect they do not address what makes a Christian whole. 
Their thesis is to incorporate subjects like piety, gymnastics, music, liberal arts, philosophy and theology to enable students to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength. 

A subject like piety is recognized as a necessary focus for it was the end goal of any virtue that was valued.  The beginning of a true education must be with God as in loving God first so that all things are understood through a students love for Him.  Theology was to be a subject that informs other subjects.  Students are to be grounded in piety and governed by theology. 

Gymnastics and music allow for the body to be incorporated in a love for God (piety).  Training of the body brings discipline of mind as does training in music, which as a subject adds the element of beauty and joy.

Liberal arts that include an emphasis on linguistics and mathematics teach students not just what to think but how to think. 

The point is made that even when incorporating all of the liberal arts with a focus on piety that it is not enough.  All subjects are, in their most basic essence, tools of learning.  But when you provide students with these strong tools they become foundations to build upon.

Finally, the authors want the reader to know that their use of philosophy is not as it is used in modern studies but in truest sense of the word, which is a love of wisdom.  This allows the subject to incorporate moral sciences such as ethics and politics.  Combining the natural science and moral science is compared to understanding the transcendent Christ to the incarnate Christ.

The book will now look at the categories of piety, gymnastics, music, liberal arts, philosophy and theology.