The ECS Mission Statement

In the fall of 2017, the ECS Board released our freshly-crafted Mission Statement.  In October I talked through the Statement at an assembly.  Below are the notes from that talk.  Enjoy.

Evangel Classical School Mission Statement:

We commend the works of the Lord to another generation with the tools of classical education, weaponized laughter, and sacrificial labors so that they will carry and advance Christ-honoring culture. 

Many organizations are crystal-clear on their mission before they ever begin.  We had a rough idea, and it’s getting clearer.  While we’ve had a vision of what we were aiming for from the start of ECS, we haven’t had an actual mission statement until last week.

We commend the works of the Lord to another generation 

Psalm 145:4 reads, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

To “commend” is to praise.  At ECS, we intentionally praise the works of God first to you all, with the hope that you will do the same thing, in time, and in turn.

with the tools of classical education, 

We don’t just commend the works of the Lord to another generation with our words, but with “the tools of classical education.”  Now this is a big point, saying a lot because classically, education was used to help prepare students to advance culture, equipping them well to do so.  As students learned how to work hard, how to reason, how to organize thought, how the world works and how to present ideas, they were learning how to advance their culture.

So in order for us to do this, we take a long, hard look at history and great books.  We want for you students to know how we got to this point in our culture’s history.  Where did our ideas come from?  What assumptions are behind our laws and customs?  Why do we hold the door open for ladies, and why do we love stories where the hero dies for the ones he cares about?  What does it look like when men try to save themselves?  What’s it look like when men try to make sense of the world we live in without looking first to the Bible?  What happens when people abandon sound reason or call evil things “good?”

An education aimed at advancing culture must include these sorts of discussions.

Sadly, but much of modern education is aimed at separating students from their culture.  Our culture tries to educate young people without examining the Bible that has influenced so much of our fathers’ decisions.  Many multiculturalists (maybe you’ve heard that word) want you to feel badly for the blessings you enjoy, and they won’t be happy until you’re willing to say that every other culture in the world is as great as yours.

We want you to love your culture so that you’ll be grateful for how God has worked to bring you where you are, and so you’ll be excited to actually make your culture better!  And we believe that this is the key to properly loving other cultures!  Just because you love yours doesn’t mean you have to hate others; may it never be!  Loving your culture is an important part of appreciating others’ cultures.

So when we talk about classical education, we’re talking about cultural advancement, which we’ll come to again later in the Statement.

weaponized laughter, 


We’ve talked about this a lot before, but this is not just silly happy laughter, this is a laughter that comes from our souls.  It’s a laughter of confidence and gratefulness, and it cannot be squelched by cruddy circumstances or the devil.

Raggants, whether we realize it or not, we are in a cultural war.  It may not involve a bunch of bullets and grenades, but all around us there wages a war of ideas, religious agendas, and moral redefinitions.  And the leaders of the earth try to promote themselves and make a name for themselves…and Jesus laughs at them in derision.

We want to love our enemies, and laugh in the face of adversity.  And that is sometimes really hard.  But laughter is a lot easier when we remember that God is sovereign, He is good, and we’re on the winning side of a war where the outcome has already been determined.

Imagine you were in a war and you happened to stumble into the war room of your enemies.  You saw them gathered around a table looking over your battle plans…and they were confidently laughing.  Wouldn’t you be bothered, at least a little bit?  What if they were watching video footage of battles that hadn’t happened yet, battles where they were victorious and you were crushed.  And they were cheering and laughing with merry fists in the air.

This is not a frivolous, silly, amused laughter, but rather the confident and cheering laughter of the winning side…but before the battles are over.

and sacrificial labors 

One of the many evidences that the gospel is not from the mind of man is that our labors are effectual.  What that means is that we can know with absolute certainty that – even though we don’t see the results right away – God will use the sacrificial labors of His people to bring about His will.  He does this all the time.

This is encouraging, because we want immediate and visible results, but discipleship is a long road.  It’s taken you years to get where you are now, and it’s going to take a lot more years for you to get where  you’re going.

God sees our labors even when others do not, but the sacrifices your parents are making and the sacrifices we’re making as a school are actually tools that we are using to commend the Lord’s works to you all.  And our desire is for you to do the same thing for the generation after you.

so that 

There is a point to this all, and here we get to it.

they will carry and advance Christ-honoring culture. 

And this is it.  We want for you all to be equipped and eager to advance Christ-honoring culture when you leave ECS.  We want desperately for you all to take the baton of culture and run with it!  Run fast and far and laugh heartily along the way!

If you take full advantage of your time here, we’re confident that you’ll have the tools and the ability and the breadth of interest to advance this culture as “far as the curse is found.”

So once more…

We commend the works of the Lord to another generation with the tools of classical education, weaponized laughter, and sacrificial labors so that they will carry and advance Christ-honoring culture. 

Why Fiction?

Students at ECS read. A lot. They memorize phonograms, diagram sentences, and parse verbs–in English and Latin. They begin frolicking with Biscuit and homesteading with the Wilder family before they graduate to plodding with Plato, adventuring with Thucydides, and finally wrestling with a Leviathan.

In light of this reading load–and as a shameless plug for our upcoming Fiction Festival in March–I wanted to tackle (or at least arm-wrestle with) the question: “Why Fiction?”

There are clinical answers: it will help you communicate clearly, construct a work email, or write IKEA instruction manuals so people can actually assemble something resembling a desk instead of a piece of modern art.

Trust me, I am not disparaging clear communication or the use of possessive apostrophes. I would die upon the hills of subject-verb agreement, correct hyphenation, and the Oxford comma–to name but a few.

But may I offer that one of the most influential components of reading is the construction of people? Words mold, alter, edge-chip, buff, and refine. As Christians, this should be no surprise. The Word creates, divides, illuminates, enlivens, sustains, breathes, and communicates. God spoke and the Word created all that we see, and then the Word entered his own dimensioned and constricting materials to quite literally die for walking pillars of dust.

Story has a unique ability to shape our loves in ways few others things do, because it reflects the way the ultimate Author pre-eminently shapes. No child I have met wants to grow up to be pre-Dragon Eustace, Uriah Heep, or Javert. Give them Aragorn, Lucy, or Curdie.

Especially as young children, stories train our virtuous taste buds – they create flavor palates we love or spit out. As children we don’t necessarily know why we hate the White Witch, but we know that anyone who keeps Christmas away must be evil…because deep down we understand that things like life, color, messiness, parties, and even a redeemed Bacchus wandering through the forests of Narnia, are good things. Evil directly opposes those things–stories teach us that those who whitewash the world and create graveyards do it for power and for pride, and we shake our heads and back away, joining with the nymphs instead.

Not only do stories train our taste buds, they expand our palates. Stories pry us out of our own brain-boxes. As Franz Kalfka asserted in a letter to his childhood friend, “a book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” The tragedy of humanity’s inherent narcissistic prison is that most don’t feel the chains – we are all in desperate need of a light to shine on the bars and an axe to break us out. We want students at ECS to die to themselves while knowing and loving and caring for those around them; literature is a unique tool in this process.

Obviously, the Gospel is the only thing that can truly set a soul free from this dungeon, but literature can act as the match to light the lamp, and for Christians, it can certainly be a guide out of the maze of tunnels and into the fresh air of fellowship and selflessness and freedom.

Jumping into the great texts of Western Literature (and other cultures and times) is one of the only, and primary means, of dislodging our superiority. It fosters true critical thinking. It can humble us and teach us wisdom. Most people can cite the dates for World War II, the main players, and some concepts like Imperialism. Very few know what Hitler read, or what worldview led to the rise of Eugenics. Drill down a bit farther and actually crawl up into someone else’s soul for a moment: what makes a person turn Monster? Spy a golden ring with Gollum and feel the jolt of experimentation with Frankenstein. How does one justify horrendous crimes? Engage with the self-victimhood of Mein Kampf. Who would ever die for a sniveling weasel-child? Romp with Aslan.

This is where the role of literature takes a central role in the life of the reader. In fact, literature may be the primary – and potentially only means in this world–of entering into another person’s mind, albeit fictitious. Where else can you feel the desire of another, or understand his or her motivations, like in a novel? As Scientific American noted in an article in October 2013, a study from the New School for Social Research in New York showed that “literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking.” Interestingly, popular fiction didn’t affect young readers in the same way–it simply took them on an oft frequented emotional ride with familiar-looking people in what the researchers called ‘readerly’ reading–you are simply entertained. Literary Fiction that is ‘writerly’ makes you fill in the gaps and participate–it forces you into different shoes–it enlarges your soul just a bit. This is why we teach some of the those hard, old, boring books at ECS–to foster humility, empathy, and action.

The Holy Spirit, prayer, meditation, and the Word can and must all resuscitate and foster our delight in God, His creation, and His people. They are the source and the bedrock. Yet Literature can aid in the recovery effort, and we must read with wisdom–rejecting that which would mold us grotesquely away from the good while fostering a voracity for vomit. True, ECS does sample some deceptively delicious looking appetizers in the hope that the students around our table learn some dishes are best fed to the dogs.

Ultimately, may ECS teach–and we all read–books that mould sturdy characters while whittling away our own weaknesses, stories that chip away at blinders to move our gaze further up and our steps further in. In this endeavor, please consider joining us for ECS’ third-annual Raggant Fiction Festival Saturday, March 24th. The theme this year will be “Character Development and the Development of Character.”

Mrs. Bowers

Liberty of Conscience

The following is a guest post by ECS senior Kara Rothenberger.

Since its founding, America has been recognized and shaped by its freedom, and its continual increase of liberty in all areas of life, whether for good or ill. However, many Americans fail to recognize how much they owe to the gospel, and specifically to Calvinistic thinking, for the freedoms they enjoy today. Hundreds of years ago (and in some parts of the world today) men were killed for holding differing beliefs, entire countries were split because of opposing practices, and religious freedom was simply unheard of. Then, after the Reformation, Calvin’s teachings brought about a strange development in many countries. Religions of all sorts were flourishing, and this flourishing directly points back to Calvin’s teaching of the liberty of conscience and Christ’s Lordship.

During the Reformation, many Reformers questioned how much authority is actually given to the Church. Should there be a head of the earthly Church? Do Church leaders get to decide on and enforce specific practices and doctrines for all Christians? In his Lectures on Calvinism, Abraham Kuyper writes, “With Rome the system of persecution issued from the identification of the visible with the invisible Church, and from this dangerous line Calvin departed” (103). Catholicism enforced the idea that truth must be imposed by force onto those who are not wise enough to find it by themselves. Calvinism holds that other religions and practices can flourish because Christ has orchestrated the whole world to glorify Him through their own particular purposes, “which enables every man to serve God according to his own conviction and the dictates of his own heart” (109). This is not to say that all religions are correct in how they worship, but it does mean that religions can flourish because of this liberty of conscience, this freedom of religion, this presupposition that Christ’s perfect predestination fertilizes the free soil we stand on. America’s assumption that neither the government nor the Church has the authority to impose truth by force comes from Calvin’s teaching on Christ’s Lordship over all realms. If Christ is the sovereign Lord over all, not only is it wrong to impose truth by force, but all religions are fulfilling the purposes He designed for them.

This culture recoils at the idea of attributing their freedom to the gospel, claiming that freedom comes from taking down authorities and moral standards, not embracing them. The freedom of the French Revolution, for example, dethroned God and placed man’s autonomy above all else, but this freedom was really a removal of God-given rights, including the liberty of conscience. No man was free to speak his mind, unless he was ready to face execution. It is because of Christ’s sovereignty, because of His perfect institution of authorities in governments and the Church, that we can enjoy freedom of religion, and flourishing of religion. Catholicism took away Christ’s role as the enforcer of Truth, and autonomy took away man’s role as the worshipper. However, presupposing Christ’s sovereignty over all means that some are called to worship Him, and others are called to reject Him, that He can make “one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use” (Romans 9:21).

Living in light of Christ’s Lordship does not just affect religion, but it gives a foundation for all other areas of life. If Christ is Lord, all lawful occupations are good and noble, whether done by His people or not. How we fellowship with family and friends, what we do for pleasure, all of it matters, and all of it points directly to His control over all. Not only religion, but relationships, jobs, governments, and everything else can flourish because of this fertilizer that gives life and meaning to everything.