Lessons from The Epic of Gilgamesh

The ancient Babylonian story The Epic of Gilgamesh occupies a well-deserved spot in the Omnibus syllabus. Our recent study of the poem gave us opportunity to examine a whole host of worldview-enriching lessons for our students.

In case you’re not familiar with Gilgamesh, Sean Higgins provided a short rundown of the story and the main characters in his own blogpost, which I’d recommend. Sean’s recurring thought throughout his reading of Gilgamesh was one of gratitude: “Thank God that our God is not like Gilgamesh.” And that ought to be where we end up – and remain – at the end of our reading. But I was impressed with a few other takeaways from Gilgamesh. I’ll off your three of them for now.

Man did not write the Bible

Gilgamesh is one of many savior stories in the canon of Western literature. The notion of one person rescuing others, being a hero, and so on resonates deeply within men…for good reason: God made it like that. He’s a really great storyteller! It is evident from the reading of Gilgamesh that the ancient Babylonians were aware of the nature of man (that is in turn reflected in the nature of their gods): he is sinful and prone to destroy himself and is in need of rescuing; he needs a savior.

And Gilgamesh is the ancient Babylonians’ idea as to what sort of a savior men need. Gilgamesh is how men would (and did!) write the story; the gospel is how God would (and did!) write the story. John MacArthur often makes the case that Scripture is its own best defense. This is most evident in the gospel. If the Bible were from the mind of man, Jesus would look and act more like Gilgamesh. But it’s not! Think about it:

Jesus is humble; Gilgamesh is proud. Jesus delayed his glory; Gilgamesh manufactured and ensured his glory. Jesus is fully God and fully man; Gilgamesh is two thirds god and one third man. Jesus endures but does not fear death; Gilgamesh fears death. Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him; Gilgamesh dreaded what awaited him upon death.

Men just wouldn’t write the story the way God did!

It’s no wonder Jesus was a stumbling block

If Gilgamesh is any indication as to what ancient pagans envisioned a savior should be like (and the Jews’ apparent expectations regarding the Messiah would also be consistent with this), then they would have expected the Messiah of the Bible to be a conquering demigod-type military hero who would subdue his enemies, establish his own greatness and promote his own glory…like Gilgamesh.

Imagine their surprise when Jesus shows up in his first coming, meek, humble and wise. His humility alone would have been difficult to understand.

Make no mistake: Jesus will ultimately vanquish and destroy his enemies and liberate the captives and establish his governmental authority on the Earth. It was just not in his plan when he came the first time.

A stream will never rise above its source

The gods of ancient Babylon were amoral. That is, they had no sense of morality. They were capricious and sinful, selfish and unpredictable. They – like the natural men who gave birth to them – are driven chiefly by their own desires. We see this absence of morality again in the pantheons of Greece and Rome. It makes for an interesting mythology, but it provides little direction as to how to lead a righteous or happy life.

It is no surprise then, that Gilgamesh is amoral. How could he have a sense of morality when the gods he worshiped did not? This distinguishes the true God from the false gods of ancient Babylon and other polytheistic cultures: He is absolutely holy, good, just, powerful and yet righteous. He is not capricious, but is unchanging.

Now, this has far-reaching application, especially for any who wish to lead, to be the source of a stream. But for now, it’ll suffice to merely echo the sentiment: Thank God that God is not like Gilgamesh.

Changing the World from a Basement

The following is the address given by Sean Higgins during the inaugural convocation of Evangel Classical School on Tuesday.


Many school years ago Solomon wrote that the end of a thing is better than the beginning. I did not graduate highly enough in my class to argue with him, but I do know that you can’t get to the end without a beginning. You’ve got to start somewhere. This is our start, a sunny first day of school, an historic beginning for Evangel Classical School. Lord willing, we’ll finish well, however long it takes us.

When the end is worth it, it’s worth getting going even if you don’t have everything in place. C.S. Lewis wrote,

If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.

Over the last few years, and especially over the last year, a growing number of us have realized how much there is to learn and, in particular, how much we, as Christian parents, have to learn. The simplicity of being made in the image of the Triune God means that we are to be mini-creators everywhere we go. Not only that, but we’ve also come to appreciate Abraham Kuyper’s declaration that rings out over a planet full of opportunities.

There is not a square inch [one thumb’s width] in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”

The world is Christ’s, we are Christ’s, and He would have us live everywhere and in all things for His sake. That means that building homes and governing nations should be done for Him, which means that math and history and politics must be mastered for Him first. We are to sing songs and write books for God, which means that we must learn how God made harmony and poetry to work in His world. It also means that we must learn how to read, which means that we must start with the alphabet and phonetics, which means we must learn how to sit still. Christ cares about it all, so we must care about it all.

Today is a small beginning. God admonished His people not to despise the day of small things in Zechariah 4. His people were returning home from exile and were charged to rebuild the temple as they anticipated the Messiah’s coming. With such a huge project before them, with so few raw materials and with so many enemies, God encouraged them that He was pleased for them to start small. Likewise for us, though the beginning is small, we trust that God is pleased with it.

G.K. Chesterton famously said that “[I]f a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” And here we are.

On one hand, our beginning is small, it is less than ideal. Our second greatest certainty is that we will do some things badly. So be it. Our greatest certainly, though, is that the opportunities are so great that we can hardly wait to get to work and try to catch up to where we should be. Christ is Lord everywhere so we have to start somewhere. Jesus has no jurisdiction clashes; you name it and He reigns over it. His reign covers everything He created and holds together in the universe; no principle or person is neutral. We want students who will grow up to laugh at any worldview that denies it. This is our Christ’s Lordship worship boot camp in a basement, as little as it may be.

On the other hand, it could be said that we already have too many good things to claim that this is hard. We have a delightfully suited-just-for-us place. We have more pencils than the apostle Paul. We have 30 years of a classical education movement ahead of us to learn from. We have families involved here who actually have lives worth sharing with students. We have a local church that supports us. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Institutes of John Calvin and beautiful chairs and a magical mascot that hardly anyone one knows what it is…yet. Considering how many things we have to be thankful for, it’s hard to say that we have it hard.

What makes it hard is that we’re entering a new field in the battle between good and evil, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. We are taking aim at the world system, at rebellion and unbelief, and we can be certain that the enemy would prefer us to sit on the sidelines.

Evangel Classical School is a front-line offensive campaign for Christ’s sake. From the first meeting of the school committee less than a year ago, we committed to fight and confessed that the first place we must fight is against the sin in our own hearts. We want to show the students how to deal with sin, to show them how to repent from laziness, fear, grumbling, and unbelief. By God’s grace we’ll kill our own sin first as we grow as disciples of Christ.

Isn’t that exactly what we want our kids, our students, and the following generations to have? More than brains crammed full of facts, more than grammar paradigms and dead languages and big textbooks and logic debates, we want our students to love God with all their hearts and minds and to believe that they are responsible to figure out all the ways that they can honor Him in the world no matter how crazy it seems! We want them to count the cost and then go to battle!

We don’t want our kids to want someone else to do it. We don’t want them to wait for all things safe and predictable and comfortable, for the “perfect” conditions. We don’t want them to work in reliance on their giftedness but rather because they believe God. We want them to walk by faith, ready to deal with the challenges of the battle even if they don’t have all the resources. We want them to be starters and singers. We want them to be just like us, only better. We want them to have first days like this, only bigger.

We do not have everything we need. We don’t even know enough to know all the things that we need that we don’t have. As others have said, we are attempting to provide an education that none of us received in order to slingshot these young people into a life we are still learning to run. Whether they use five smooth stones or five Latin verbs, we want them to fell giants and fight the dragon. We want them to read great stories, as they learn to write great stories, so that they will live great stories. We know it’s right and we praise the Lord that He’s brought us to the first day of changing the world from a basement.

For this year at Evangel Classical School, and we pray for many school years to come, we cry Soli Deo gloria!

Introducing the Omnibus

* Among the most compelling aspects of the classical and Christian model of education is its integrated nature. The lines that so clearly distinguish math from science, literature from history, and Bible from art are intentionally removed, not just obscured. Doug Wilson states it well:

“Classical and Christian academies teach all subjects as an integrated whole with the Scriptures at the center.”

From a curricular standpoint, one superb example of this philosophy is the Omnibus. The Omnibus is a curriculum that features a host of works that have contributed to the river of Western Civilization. A student of the Omnibus will read – in his first year – Heroditus, Plato, Homer, Moses, Shakespeare, Lewis, Paul and many more influential contributors. Further, the curriculum itself comprises – in addition to the primary readings – a series of essays and study questions offered by conservative Christian scholars that will help to inform the student’s study of the primary resources. So our Omnibus students won’t just read Histories by Herodotus, but they’ll also read a short essay and study guide by ND Wilson to help them get the most out of the reading and to help them best understand where we’ve come from, where we’re going, and even why.

Omnibus I-VI spans six years, grades seven through twelve. Over that six-year span the students will cycle twice through three epochs: ancient (grades 7 and 10), medieval (grades 8 and 11) and modern (grades 9 and 12).

But here’s one part that I especially like: The Omnibus in its entirety is good for one credit apiece in Bible, History and Literature. This is one three-credit, integrated class.

The philosophy undergirding the Omnibus presupposes – and teaches the students – that it is fallacious to try to avoid evil. After all, we live in a fallen world, and evil surrounds us like the air we breathe. The dragon is to be fought, not fled. We want to give our students an excellent, integrated, well-rounded education that will properly equip them to confront and conquer evil.

The Omnibus helps enrich secondary students’ understanding of Western Culture and equip them to conquer evil rather than avoid it.

So far, the adults with whom I’ve shared this information have shared a common response: “I wish I had that.” Well, I feel their pain. And the Omnibus offers a great way for those of us who did not receive a classical and Christian education to catch up. To that end, we want to offer a way for you to follow along with our Omnibus I class this year, to do the readings and to take part in some of the discussions.

Our plan – for now – would involve having one day per week (presumably Thursday) being especially discussion-oriented, and interested adults wishing to audit the class would be invited to join us during our regularly-scheduled meeting time. By “us,” I mean Sean Higgins, the students and myself. Interested parties will purchase their own texts, but will incur no additional cost for their participation. We will determine more of the details as others express interest.

So, if this interests you, you’re welcome to contact me for more information.

But regardless, we covet your prayers that we would be able to optimize our opportunities while doing our part to help create powerful, informed worshipers of the living God.

Announcing the ECS Uniform Policy and Shopping Links!

Hello, ECS families! We are about four weeks from the start of school, and things are really ramping up.

After much time and research, we have generated a uniform policy replete with some helpful links on how and where to make uniform purchases.

If you decide to utilize Old Navy’s current sale involving many approved uniform garments, I believe the sale ends August 15, so you should act soon, whether online or in person!

Go HERE to see our Uniform Policy.

Go Raggants!

Risus est bellum!

Why Is This So Hard?

Why is this so hard?

Last week I was at a national conference for the Association of Classical and Christian Schools in Dallas, TX, and I attended a workshop led by George Grant, pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, TN, who has quickly become one of my favorite biographical speakers.  The workshop was entitled “Why Is This So Hard? The World, the Flesh, and the Devil Against Reformation.”  Now, while Pastor Grant was addressing educators, the message has very broad application.

His thesis was pretty simple: It’s hard because it’s supposed to be.

I guess I should have seen that coming, but I was expecting – in typical workshop fashion – something like, “Ten ways to maintain your passion and focus when the going gets tough.”  Instead, I got the blunt reminder that nobody ever said anything worth doing was easy…because it almost never is.

In fact, what is easy?  I mean, really.  Try to think of something that is easy that is actually worth doing, important, valuable, culture-changing, lasting, whatever.  None of it is easy. Because if we are a threat to the world or the devil, then we should anticipate resistance; if the world and the devil are fine with what we’re doing, then we should anticipate little resistance.

Am I suggesting that anything that’s easy is of the devil?  No, not necessarily.  That’s not the point.  But when we find ourselves asking “Why is this so hard?”, we should be encouraged to know that the difficulty is probably a good sign.

So, what do we need to remember when it gets hard?

  • We are making the enemy nervous.  He is threatened and is forced to direct greater attention our way because we are rattling the gates of the the Kingdom of Darkness.  And anything that Christians do to generate greater happiness, influence or dominion in the domain of darkness makes the devil nervous.
  • We are used to failing – and so is everyone around us who is trying to steal our dreams.  People quickly point out all that could go wrong, assuming that we can’t possibly have counted the cost or we’d stick with what we’ve always done.
  • Growth is uncomfortable.  In fact, growth cannot happen in your comfort zone.
  • Reward doesn’t come without risk.  We’ve said it all and heard it all before:

Don’t invest those dollars, because you may lose them.  

Don’t start that school (or business), because people might not come and then what will you do?  

Do you have any idea how much work it’s going to be to lose fifty pounds?  You’ll probably just burn out and quit, so why bother starting?  Just be content with who you are.  

If you ask for that raise, your boss may tell you, “No,” and that would be humiliating.  It’s better to just take less money and retain your dignity.  

The list goes on and on and on.  But in each of these examples the reward could be tremendous, but it will not come without risk.

  • Easy success breeds independence.  If it were easy we would become self-reliant and would not depend on God as we ought.  God forbid.
  • Others have gone before us…and it was hard for them, too.  Grant pointed to the examples of Charles Spurgeon, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards.  All three men faced tremendous adversity because while God was using them to make a lasting spiritual impact in the world.

So what about us at ECS?  We will be collecting registration paperwork and first semester payments in a matter of days, and we are squarely in a holding pattern, waiting for new students to enroll and for the first semester to begin.  Many of us are excited and downright impatient.  Others are nervous.  Still others are overwhelmed.  Personally, I’m all of them at once.

But we can be certain of this: Just like anything else with a gargantuan upside, this is going to be hard.  It’s going to be hard because it’s supposed to be.  We are a major threat to the enemy and to the world, and we are looking to create generation after generation of worshipers who will be dangerous weapons in the hand of our Redeemer King.  God willing, they will be familiar with hard work mixed with happiness; the mindset of fallen man filtered through Scripture and the mind of God; their place in the river of Western culture and the river’s source and destination.

I’m guessing that what we have become as a society is less like a threat to Satan than it is  like a warm blanket:  ambivalent about religion, ignorant about history, apologetically spineless, altogether faithless.  But when it comes to the Church, we remember the words of Martin Luther (still another guy familiar with adversity):

For still our ancient foe,
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And crowned with cruel hate;
On earth is not his equal.

 

But Luther doesn’t stop there.  Two verses later he offers excited encouragement:

The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.

 

It’s hard because it’s supposed to be.  We face resistance from the world, the devil and even our own hearts.  But we also know that the future is bright, because we serve Christ Jesus.  Let’s let Luther take us home:

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing.
Were not the right man on our side,
The man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
From age to age the same,
And he must win the battle!

 

Risus est bellum.

Creating Worshipers

If you tell a lie frequently enough and convincingly enough, people are going to eventually take the lie as a given fact.  There is tremendous power in narrative.  The classic example with which we’re all familiar is the preposterous theory of evolution.  At every turn, academics and academic wannabes push the evolutionary agenda…with particular attention given to children’s programming, whether on TV or at the museum.

“It’s taken us millions of years to get this far!” says one animated shrimp to the other (Happy Feet Two).

“The sting ray evolved from the shark about 150 million years ago” (Jeremy Wade in River Monsters, one of my favorite Animal Planet shows).

“That’s a lie, by the way, Abbie!  God made stingrays and sharks differently from each other a few thousand years ago hours before He made Adam. (Me, with Abbie sitting in my lap while we watch River Monsters together.)

Our spongelike minds of our children absorb truths and lies with natural ease and enthusiasm.  We must be intentional about what we give them to absorb, particularly in the grammar years.

And the narrative of evolution is but an example.  There are plenty of seemingly-harmless half-truths and non-truths that distort the picture of Christianity in the world.  The narrative is powerful:

Christians are pacifists.

A Christian in the military has a built-in conflict because the Bible says, “You shall not murder.”

We go to church on Sundays to be fed for the rest of the week.

My personal devotions are more important than corporate worship on Sunday mornings.

The list goes on.  These are tricky issues to address, but the composite picture here is that believers need to be in an ongoing and passive state of preservation with a defensive mentality, when the New Testament picture of the role of believers in the world is decidedly more assertive.

We may be peace-loving, but not at the expense of the name of Christ.

The military needs Christians because the government exists to bear a sword, and killing in the context of war is distinct from murder.

What we do on Sundays is powerful as we gather corporately to worship God together.  Approaching Sundays with the typical consumer mindset (i.e., primarily to get something rather than to contribute) is misguided.

I don’t intend exhaustively to set the record straight in each of these matters in this blogpost.  Rather, as relates to education, my aim is to raise the questions that I myself ask in seriousness regarding the education of my own children:

What is my children’s school doing to prepare my children to advance the cause of Christ in the world?

How will Evangel Classical School train and equip my children to be worshipers of Jesus Christ?

If this is the aim, an excellent academic education will be a necessary outcome, though not the chief end in itself.  Learning to identify logical fallacies, anticipating historical trends, understanding complex concepts and clearly and winsomely defending or combating arguments will serve our students well in college and the workplace, to be sure.  But more than that, by God’s grace it will better equip them to be a powerful presence for Christ in their homes, communities, workplaces and churches.

Our challenges transcend debunking evolution.  Christians are in an ongoing battle to propagate an accurate narrative about Christ, Christians, and the Church.  The enemy is working tirelessly with the propagation of a powerful and insidious narrative of his own, but we want the world to know that Jesus Christ is Lord over all the world, and that impacts all spheres and epochs of life, from creation to His coming and beyond.

Risus est bellum!

The Plan for Fall of 2012 at ECS

Greetings once again from Evangel Classical School!

Over the course of the last several months, I’ve had occasion to think about all of the really great things that started out really, really small.  It is my prayer that Evangel Classical School would one day be on that list.  Right now it is small, to be sure (we haven’t yet had any classes), but with God’s blessing and our hard work it can be great.

Based on the preliminary numbers and expressions of interest in the school, we present – with great excitement, I might add – the following plan:

The Plan:

Meeting days: 

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

Location: 

To be determined

Classes to be offered:

Kindergarten, grades 1-3 and grades 4-6 and secondary

Teachers:

Andy Bowers, Morgan Higgins, Sean Higgins, Jonathan Sarr, Sonja Sarr, Jen van der Beken, Ron van der Beken.  The remaining teacher(s) are still to be determined.

Teachers’ qualifications: 

Of those listed or referenced, five have teaching degrees and the other two have experience educating their own children in the classical Christian model. All are committed to the classical and Christian model of education along with a Kuyperian-Calvinistic worldview.

Teaching assignments:

They are currently being settled, but this is the latest:

  • Teachers will primarily teach subjects rather than grade levels, as we will generally have Kindergarten together, grades 1-3 together, and grades 4-6 together.
  • Sean and Andy will handle the majority of the 4-6 teaching (including Latin 1 to grades 4 and up).
  • Morgan and others to be announced will handle the majority of the teaching in grades K-3.
  • Jonathan will teach formal logic and a secondary literature class and will oversee supplemental secondary classes that are either self-directed or are taken online

Tuition:

$4,000-$4200 per student, depending on the payment option.

Tuition payment due dates:

  1. Option A (one payment of $4000/child): Due July 1.
  2. Option B (two payments of $2000/student): Due July 1 and January 1.
  3. Option C (10 payments of $420/child): First payment due September 1.
  4. Option D (12 payments of $350/child): First payment due July 1.

Questions and Answers:

Will students have every class every day (that is, Tuesday through Thursday)?  Yes, with the following exceptions:

  • K-6 Science (2 days per week)
  • K-6 Art (one day per week)
  • Latin 1 (2 days per week)
  • 4th-6th Writing (one day per week)

When is the first day of school?  Tuesday September 4 (the day after Labor Day).

Will students have PE? We’ll likely have strategic activity during recesses and potentially even give “homework” PE assignments for the parents to administer.

Will there be discounts?  None at this time.

Is any financial assistance available?  There may be some assistance available.  All requests should be submitted personally or via email to Jonathan Sarr.

What if my secondary student has not had Latin or formal logic? We will offer Latin 1 (technically a grammar class) to interested secondary students or encourage them to take a Latin class online. We will offer formal logic to secondary students.

What additional fees will we incur?  At this point, none.  There will be no registration or activity fees.  After August 1, however, there is a $420 withdrawal fee per student for any withdrawals.

Will we buy our own books?  No.  Curricular costs are included in tuition, and consumable texts will be issued to the students and will be yours to keep.  Families incur the cost for any replacements (lost, damaged, stolen, etc.).

So once more, what does my tuition payment cover?  The cost of the classes and all curricula.

What does tuition not cover?  School uniforms, replacement of lost, stolen or damaged books and the occasional fee related to a field trip (e.g. museum admission, etc.).

You mentioned uniforms.  Where do we buy those?  More information is forthcoming on that.

Now I should note that plans are by nature not reality; they chart a direction.  As such, some of the details of our plan may change based on actual enrollment numbers or our facility, but we’ll be quick to communicate changes of any significance, should they be necessary.

We covet your prayers as desperately now as ever.  Perhaps you and your family will be part of a fantastic story and testament to the kindness of God to ECS and our people in the near future.

As always, please feel free to contact any of us if you have any questions.

Risus est bellum!

A Case for the Study of Primary Resources

Greetings from Evangel Classical School!

It’s hard to believe that we’re now but a few days from our follow-up meeting when we look to make the official announcement of our plans for ECS this fall.

So if you  haven’t done so already, please plan to be at the meeting on Monday night, April 30 at 7:00PM at Marysville Seventh-Day Adventist Church to hear more about what’s to come in the fall of 2012.

In previous news posts, we’ve tried to explain what is distinctive about the classical and Christian model.  One piece of the model that I appreciate the most is the commitment to being as true as possible to the various disciplines. For instance, that requires going beyond the memorization of formulae in mathematics, and it involves being unafraid to ask, “But why?” when it comes to history and the Bible.  But also related to history, there is a strong commitment to making use of primary resources.

Any historian will tell you that this is what historians do: they spend as much time as possible examining primary resources in order to get the clearest picture of the period in view.  Contrast this with what many bad historians do (along with many schools and universities): they rely on secondary resources, or another man’s work and explanation of what happened rather than taking a look for themselves.  They end up with interpretations of interpretations.

Now don’t get me wrong; obviously, scholarship has its place.  We value the work of good historians who have themselves examined the primary resources and done much of the legwork to make our study easier.  But we still recognize that the more removed we are from the primary resources, the less likely we are to be accurate in our understanding.  If you’ve ever played the telephone game, you know what I mean.  In a circle of twenty participants, by the time your original message gets back to you, you’re fortunate if the idea is in tact, let alone the words themselves.

Another illustration might be our appreciation for theologians.  We are very thankful for the way many Church fathers and theologians have labored to make the Bible and its doctrines more understandable.  But he is no student of Scripture who only reads the words of men but fails to read the Word of God.  We want to train our students to be able to read the works of theologians and to discern truth from error.  That requires an accurate understanding of Scripture.

As for history textbooks, they are particularly helpful for younger students who are learning how to study.  But as students become able, we want to introduce more and more in the way of primary resources…just as with Scripture.  That is true to the discipline of history, it yields more accurate understanding, and it’s challenging for the mind.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve devoted a news post to this matter, I do so because this right treatment of the disciplines appears to be getting rarer and rarer in our schools.  As a culture, we are about the business of forging lazy learners who would rather get their history from movies or TV, who would rather have a dependable formula whether they understand it or not, or who are satisfied to be able to speak a language without understanding how it’s constructed or where it came from…or where it’s going.

I’ll finish by anticipating an objection: Primary resources are too hard for our students to understand, so studying them is then a waste of time.  Well, we can’t blame anyone for that but ourselves, and we shouldn’t expect that anyone else is going to fix it.  And rare is the student who finds out on his own how rewarding a right treatment of history can be.  If God wills to give us the energy to teach them and grants them the appetite for knowledge, our students will soon be able to read more widely than we can and with greater understanding.  (Think about the possibilities that would bring!) But we cannot expect that will happen if they only read simplified and modernized language and potentially-biased interpretations of history textbook writers.  They must supplement their historical diet with a steady supply of primary resources.

Risus est bellum!

In a Nutshell…

We’ve said before that these are exciting times in the life of our school.  I was talking with someone earlier this week about how we’ll be able one day to look back on these days with an affectionate grin, grateful for how God made us dependent upon Him with so few answers to our questions, and grateful that we likely won’t be repeating them.  But who knows?

As YOU know, we’re in the planning window between April 2 (the soft deadline to at least express interest in sending your child(ren) to ECS) and April 30 (our scheduled follow-up informational meeting to share our official plans for fall 2012).  That means we’re feverishly making phone calls and having meetings in order to make decisions and plans as best we’re able.  We covet your prayers in this time, and as always, we are available to address questions, comments or concerns you may have.

Again, do circle April 30 on your calendar as the date of our follow-up meeting.  It will be at 7:00PM in the basement of the Marysville SDA Church.

IN A NUTSHELL… 

As we anticipate the coming school year, I would caution all of us against losing sight of the bigger picture for sake of the tyrannically urgent.  Yes, we need to buy textbooks and uniforms, pencils and teeny chairs, but there are lots of good reasons why we aim to make good use of the classical and Christian model for our children.  To remind us of why, I give you a lengthy quote from Gregg Strawbridge’s “Classical and Christian Education: Recapturing the Educational Approach of the Past:”

“Christians should desire for their children to learn of Christ at school, as well as at home and church.  The devotional and spiritual aspects of the Christian faith are often emphasized in the home and church.  But there is more to our faith than sacred activity and devotional experiences.  Schools, regardless of their kind, are places where children are inescapably trained in some view.  Christian schools ought to be places where children are trained in the Christian world-and-life view.  I assert that it is the duty of believers to see to it that their children’s education is consistent with their Christian convictions (Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:4-7).

“The classical emphasis in structure, content and method is unsurpassed for providing the tools of learning.  This emphasis heartily provides for intellectual development, academic achievement, and moral stability.  It provides a way to educationally apply the mandates of God’s Word, to seek true knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.  In our growth in the mastery of God’s world, as well as His Word, we apply that ancient mandate — ‘Fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion’ (Gen. 1:28, cf. 2:20).  Through high quality education we also apply the mandate to love God with our hearts and heads.

“Christian education is our duty to God (Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:4-7).  Classical education in methodology and content equips learners with the tools of learning.  Here is classical and Christian education in a nutshell: the trivium provides the tools of learning, Scripture and the classics furnish the core content, and Biblical truth is the fixed point of reference.  The trivium is the hammer, the classics are the wood, and the Bible is the ruler” (10).

And…risus est bellum!

Our Mascot: the Raggant

At Evangel Classical School, we share a focus with the classical Christian school movement on the liberal arts (which are largely misunderstood in their own right) and the intentional blurring of the disciplinary lines.  Many modern educational attempts to “differentiate” instruction (to use the jargon) may involve two disciplines (e.g., English and social studies) approaching a common project (e.g., a report on Spain).  But it usually stops there, and students’ minds are as divided as their class schedules.  A common outcome is the math student who doesn’t do English or the history buff who hates the sciences.  Sound familiar?  In many Christian schools, attempts to integrate the Bible into the curriculum are mandatory afterthoughts to the real lesson which could do just fine with or without the obligatory biblical add-on.

But in The Case for Classical Christian Education, Douglas Wilson states the appealing alternative very concisely:

“Classical Christian academies teach all subjects as an integrated whole with the Scriptures at the center” (111).

That is the educational approach to a comprehensive view of Christ’s Lordship.  We often compartmentalize and categorize much of life when all of life is an “integrated whole” under the umbrella of Christ’s Lordship.

Though identifying problems generally is easier than suggesting helpful solutions, we like the classical Christian alternative with its view to a complete, comprehensive education that has interest in the far corners of Christ’s domain.  And that means trying to perceive all of it.

Like a raggant.

A what?!  You ask?  A raggant.  Let us explain.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a an enjoyable trilogy by ND Wilson entitled 100 Cupboards.  If not, we heartily recommend it to you.  In the series, the main character Henry York, learns that one entire wall in his attic bedroom comprises ninety-nine cupboards (there’s one more downstairs – that’s the one hundredth) which are actually doorways to other worlds that have been plastered over and hidden from view. Henry’s adventures begin when a magical creature called a raggant relentlessly, tirelessly and successfully travels far and wide to find young Henry.

ND Wilson explains the raggant’s introduction to Henry’s family in 100 Cupboards:

“It stood up on all fours, shook out gray feathered wings, and looked around the table.  It was shaped almost exactly like a rhinoceros, only it was eighteen inches long and winged.  It had one short, blunt horn, split and cracked at the end.  It’s belly hung almost to the ground, like a basset hound’s” (278).

And this is a dignified, proud creature that takes itself way too seriously, which is completely comical and ironic given its ridiculous appearance.  Beyond this, the creature is rather endearing in his determination, loyalty, and comical stoicism.

In the second book of the trilogy, Dandelion Fire, ND Wilson gives us a bit of an insight into how the raggant operates and perceives the world:

“The raggant didn’t have any extra senses.  He only had one, and it interfaced everything into an amazingly complicated but entirely accurate caricature of whatever worlds were within his range” (226).

That is a picture of how we want for our students to perceive Christ’s domain academically.  We want their perceptions of the world to be less compartmentalized (like human senses) and more academically integrated like the blended, combined senses of the mighty raggant.

A raggant has no conception of distinct senses; he cannot help bringing his one interfacing and accurate sense to bear on his perception of life.  We want that for our students, too.  Whether examining a flower or a Rembrandt painting or a geometric formula, we’d just as soon have them unable to separate the truth from the goodness, the beauty from the science and so on.  And the classical and Christian model lends itself to that.

Thankful that someone else has come up with such a powerful example for us (thank you, ND) in the form of an endearing and novel magical creature, we can’t think of a better mascot for our school.  ND Wilson and Random House have kindly granted us permission to use the raggant as our mascot.

And we would also recommend that you get used to shouting it and hearing it exclaimed:

GO RAGGANTS!