I want to start a series of posts regarding learning and thinking. Below, I’m pasting an email that I sent to a buddy which really walks through the process of getting from where I was regarding my own learning and thinking to where I am now. I’m only in the beginning stages of what I mean when I say learning and thinking, but let me give you a couple sentences to attempt a starting point. When I say learning and thinking I am talking about the equipping of our whole selves to live out 2 Corinthians 10:5 which reads, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Now, I am quite sure that Paul, in context, had more than just learning and thinking in mind with this statement, but I am equally sure that he did not have LESS in mind. I’m not an apologist, but I am…just like I’m not a theologian, but I am. Or said another way, I’m not a professional apologist/theologian, but I am an apologist and theologian. I want to be as equipped as I can to wage war against all that sets itself up against the glory of God, and in our day and age, words and ideas are as powerful as ever and most are striving against God’s glory, so I’m going back to school. Not literally, but I am on a mission to equip myself to speak to those arguments and opinions that are anti-Christ. So, let’s begin with the below email.
I don’t know if I mentioned this to you, but I realized towards the end of my time in seminary that: 1. I had been carrying around the idea that systematics was inferior to biblical studies. 2. I realized that I had this bias, realized it was off-base, and quickly regretted having felt this way through seminary. 3. I realized that I needed some training/study in systematics. 4. I wouldn’t change spending all of my electives and my MAR in Bible classes because I think that it was the grounding I really needed and that it was ultimately a big player in opening my eyes to the necessity of systematics. No matter how good my exegesis is, I’ll never find a particular passage that speaks to so many issues in life – practical or philosophical. In many ways, trying to figure out how to move from the text to application or ethics or just good theology, etc. is an exercise in systematics. So, Biblical studies are the foundation and our best materials, but we have to build something with it.
As you know, I landed in Oklahoma with a job teaching composition as well as a reading course. I think that my realization at seminary was working on me, and at the same time, I started reading, studying, thinking about composition and reading…namely, the relationships between reading, thinking, and writing. I started realizing that I had never really had good training in at least the first 2 of those. I’m a much better reader following seminary, and I think my thinking was strengthened, but I would have loved to have had some strong logic teaching in my youth.
At the same time I started following some blogs where the authors regularly post on the need for strong liberal arts training for Christian ministry, the necessity of strong thinking in Christian ministry, including but not limited to apologetics, refuting bad logic in those that would seek to tear down the faith. I also read The Reason for God by Keller and saw him employing, in my mind at least, strong and convincing, logic based arguments to not so much prove Christianity, but to show the weaknesses of the arguments of those who opposed the faith.
Now, at the same time, due to our future ministry plans, we begin to look at home schooling options, or at least home schooling philosophies. The philosophy of education that we quickly began to resonate with is called Classical Education. And one of the things that really is impressive with this approach is that they encourage teachers/parents to equip children to think and learn well, including training in logic. I found strong Christian thinkers (from Peter Kreeft to Douglas Wilson) recommending Classical Education…obviously of a Christian variety. To get a strong understanding of what the goal of Classical Education is, you can read Dorothy Sayer’s “Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning” here. I found myself wishing I had been educated in this manner growing up. What if those in charge of my learning had sought to fully equip me to learn and think aright!
And now, because I’m the one in charge of my own learning, I have a strong desire to give myself a classical education, focusing on reading well and thinking well as a way to strengthen my own mind in order to engage in conversations with more ammunition than a solitary scripture verse that kind of talks about the topic we are speaking on (Though I plan to still talk about that one verse!). I want to study logic so that I can hold up arguments to both the light of the Word and the light of reason. I want to learn about worldview so that I better understand what it is that under girds the arguments of men. I want to read systematics to learn about the faith as well as to see how other believers are employing human language to discuss divine things. To be honest, I’m quite surprised that these are things that I am pumped about. I’m not really “that” guy, but I believe it is a thing that God is doing, and I’m excited to see how He will use it in my life, my family, and my ministry.
So, where is this going? I’m not 100% sure, but I’ve begun a reading regimen that will, I hope, give me the things that I believe my education lacks. Those I’ve read, Christians and pagans alike, have suggested that we read and understand the great works of history from the Old Testament to Homer’s Iliad to the works of the early Fathers to the Greek philosophers and so on through history. This will give me practice in finding and understanding someone’s worldview. I also believe that there aren’t really any brand new worldviews out there, and so as the devil tries to recycle old worldview to blind new generations, we need to understand those worldviews and the arguments that dismantled them so many years ago.
So, yesterday I finished reading Homer’s Iliad. I’m not sure what is next, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon. Do pray for me as I start this journey. If you guys want to read more about the idea of Classical Education and the ministry, let me know and I can email you some articles. Blessings, J.