The Fundraising Feast Approaches!

The erratic weather and happy tulips agree with the calendar. It’s springtime.  And the Fundraising Feast is just around the corner.

At ECS we are particularly fond of feasting, and for reasons we’ve documented in a host of contexts.  But since it’s already teed up for me, I’ll take another swing. Feasting is an important cultural ingredient to what we are trying to build at ECS.

To be sure, feasting can be done badly.  If we eat or drink to excess, we’re gluttons and drunkards.  If we make the food the focus, we are focusing on the gifts, not the Giver.  If we eat without gratefulness, we may be ingesting calories, but we’re not feasting.

But let me take the philosophical hot-air ballon up another hundred feet or so. Feasting is grace-saturated and it is fun. It is alluring to onlookers.  It is a hallmark of a life worth wanting.

For our part, while we are (rather certainly and excitedly) a school, we are also more interested in being used by God to produce certain kinds of people than we are about producing intellectuals who may or may not love God.  The sorts of people we are trying to produce will be aware that they have nothing that they have not received. And for what they have received, they are grateful…and they act like it.

When we act grateful, we boast in the Giver of the good gifts we enjoy.  We tell any who are watching that God is gracious, and He is free with His grace. That means they can have it, too!

So our feasting is literally an evangelistic weapon.  We showcase the goodness of God when we feast.  We want for our fully-trained students to do this routinely…unto the salvation of their neighbors and the glory of God.

And in the end, it’s really fun.  I love this evening with our people.  The conversation, the music, the food, the sangria….  “SANGRIA?!” Oh! right. I haven’t mentioned what we’re doing this year.

This year, our Fundraising Feast may be better dubbed a “Fundraising Fiesta.”  We will have a “fiesta bar.”   And sangria.  And probably Coronas.  It’ll be delicious and, well, festive.  Ole.

Come dressed for a party, and that’s what we’ll enjoy.

So, the details!

  • What: ECS Fundraising Fiesta!
  • When: Friday, May 12, 2023 at 5:30pm.
  • Where: Swans Trails Farms, 7301 Rivershore Rd, Snohomish, WA 98290 (swanstrailfarms.com)
  • Who: Amigos of Evangel Classical School
  • Cost: Free!
  • RSVP: Aisha Bone: abone@evangelcs.org (360) 502-6950

Space at the Farm is limited, so if you want in, please let Aisha know by Monday, May 8.

See you there!

Risus est bellum.

U.H.

Culture, Shiny Things, and Keeping Your Soul

Curriculum is really important.  

And curriculum doesn’t matter.

Whether we use Saxon or Harold Jacobs for math depends on how much review is enough and how much is too much.  Whether we use Latin for Children or Lingua Latina for Latin grammar depends on what we want to get out of those particular hours of fourth grade.  How completely we adhere to the Omnibus curriculum depends in part on whether we agree with postmillennialism.  

But just as guns don’t kill people, books don’t teach students.  Curriculum matters, but people matter more.  The right curriculum can’t get bring a healthy culture; the right people can.  

Humans are imitative creatures, and children are always being shaped by their influences.  They are going to become like those influences, which is why the influences themselves matter, too.  

For years we at ECS have talked about our aim as being the shaping of souls, the formation of character, and the transfer of culture.  Our mission statement sums it up well; the telos of our work is the carrying and advancing of Christ-honoring culture by our fully-trained students. 

From enrollment decisions to discipline conversations to teacher meetings to soccer in the parking lot to the actual minutes practicing math facts and Latin vocabulary and reading drills and impromptu speeches, our aim is cultural more than it is curricular.

I know of a lot of schools that have better procedures and more airtight policies than we do.  They have processes for volunteer coordination and curricular review that are commendable and worth working to grow into.  We need to work on all of that.  But when schools lead with those things, I believe that they set the bar too low, and they set themselves up for failure.  

You see, procedures and paperwork are easy to manufacture and replicate. They don’t require a soul. But if you work on developing the soul of an organization, then the other pieces often come with the package…if they actually need to.  

Jesus said to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  If we seek first the culture of the school, the curriculum will take its proper place.  

I understand the allure of the shiny things, but you can have a shiny floor in a shiny gymnasium, or shiny Mary Janes on cute little feet, and it matters not at all if you compromise culture to get it.

Let’s consider how this informs our teaching at ECS.  I recently offered these thoughts to our teachers, but I will share them here for sake of your encouragement and perhaps for your own application as parents.  When, for instance, you’re tempted to fuss about whether or not your son will master his times tables through the 12’s by the end of the year, or whether or not your daughter will pass all her reading drills, or whether you’re ever going to get through that pile of laundry, recall those things that you already know.  Here are a few that offered to the teachers earlier this week: 

  1. You’re always teaching.  Your behavior is instructive…more than your words.  If you freak out or stress out or make excuses, you advance that as a legitimate option for your students.  If you maintain a glad presence and you’re marked by joy despite circumstances,  you advance that as a legitimate option, as well. 
  2. The gospel wasn’t your idea, but it is yours to own.  As obedient Christians, you get to teach by faith.  As you rehearse the gospel and enflesh it for your students and their families, you’ll be dying a thousand effectual deaths.  You will die to your schedule by your thorough lesson planning and your timely grading.  You will die to your own preferences as you put the students ahead of yourselves and serve them well.  You’ll die to self in your over communication on email and Sycamore for the sake of your students and their parents.  You will model faithful obedience in your loving discipline unto restored fellowship…even – and especially – when you don’t feel like it.  And God will take those deeds of faith and obedience and bring glorious fruit. 
  3. The transfer of culture is more important than the transfer of information.  If all you’re giving your students is information, data, and skills, you’re shortchanging them and missing the point of our mission as a school.  You need to be concerned with equipping them (with tools, skills, attitudes, and the character) to shape the culture for Christ’s sake when they’re through with ECS…no matter where God has them.  
  4. Laughter is war. When in doubt, laugh.  You can laugh as the right sort of taunt to your enemies.  You can laugh because God is in control, writing a variously hilarious story that you get to be a part of…and that is different from the one you’d have written.  You can laugh because it’s not about today.  So when you’ve been faithful but the moment is frustrating or even terrible, that’s okay, because you’re aimed at something way down the road, and the pothole out of when you’re peering right now is part of the road you must navigate for now if you (or your students!) are ever going to reach your destination years from now.  

Maybe one day we’ll have some shiny things, too. But it is not worth it if it comes at the expense of our culture.  That is an important point to keep in mind now…in the thick of enrollment season.  

As a school, if we are so focused on the curriculum, or programs to retain the students, or impressive facilities, or an actual playground, figuring that the culture will just work out, we miss the point. The same is true of you.  Is a big house and fancy car to be preferred over a happy dinnertime vibe?  No way. The culture WON’T just work out.  You have to work it out.

Teachers and parents alike have to be fighting personal sin with a vengeance, repent before our children if necessary, be competent and confident and humble (all at the same time), gracious and patient and firm (all at the same time), and a loving disciplinarian. 

And my final encouragement is this: Take a look around you and listen next time you’re walking past Mrs. Pakinas’ office, or eavesdropping on Mr. Liden’s class, or you pass a knot of secondary girls in the parking lot.  What sort of cultural advancement is going on throughout the school day?  It’s possible that some of it will not encourage you, but I’ll bet a lot of it will.

Risus est bellum.

U.H.

Living According to Reality

The Place of Logic In a Post-Logic Culture

For a couple of years, I’ve been struggling to find a concise and compelling justification for our offering of Logic at Evangel Classical School. Like, an elevator-trip rationale.

Though I’ve never considered ceasing to offer Logic as a class for our middle-level students, I believe firmly in doing everything we do with intentionality. We want to teach and make our curricular decisions on purpose, and I want to understand myself why it’s so valuable in order to communicate that well to others.

So what is the point of teaching our students Logic when they are tasked with shaping a culture that has abandoned any regard for sound reason?

Our culture tells itself that a key to our flourishing is not only to permit same-sex unions, but to celebrate them. If enough couples did that, we’d quite literally cease to exist, since procreation requires the union of a biological male and a biological female (Romans 1:26-27).

Also, we have lost the cultural capacity to explain that last sentence in any definitive way. No longer are TruthGoodness, and Beauty considered to be transcendent. They are now regarded as fluid, along with things like definitionsgender, and reality:

  • Genders can be changed like socks, but men are oppressors, so don’t choose to be one of those.
  • Women are largely victims, but men can become them if they want to.
  • People are responsible for the sins of anyone from history with the same skin color and gender…whatever that is.
  • Humans who are not yet born are not entitled to any freedoms…unless they’re wanted, in which case killing them is a prosecutable offense.
  • Like men, women are entitled to the privilege to have sex without the consequence of pregnancy; but the same is not true for men being afforded the privilege of pregnancy.
  • In a move applauded by ostriches everywhere (who have as much economical sensibility as they do ability to clap with those teeny wings), our president has authorized the canceling of billions of dollars of student loans with the charm of a hot-poker-to the eyeball to those of us who sacrificed to honor similar vows. 
  • “Women’s health” is not about women’s health. The same is true of “reproductive rights” and “marriage equality” and more modern jargon.

Where is the True? The Good? The Beautiful? The transcendent?

It’s no rhetorical spin to say that I could go on all day itemizing the madness, but I’m sure you could come up with examples without my help. I don’t list them in this way to be flippant, titillating, or crass; I do so to make the case that this battle is real, now. This is not preparation for hypothetical warfare which may one day be necessary; it’s training for fighting outside the base this minute. We are trying to train our students to deal with ideologies that are not on the horizon, they’re all around us.

We live in a Genesis 3 world with plenty of sin and blame to go around. We don’t need to do moral redefining to prove that it’s bad. In a three-dimensional exhibition of Romans 1, we invent new ways to be evil (1:30), and we are happy about it…and we think this is sophisticated (1:22). If we’re not currently under the abandoning wrath of God (1:24, 26), then I cannot imagine what it is supposed to look like.

So is Logic obsolete? Antiquated? A waste of time? By no means.

We tell our students that studying Logic is more about correcting themselves than it is about correcting others. Sometimes that message only hits home in the sense that they practice on their parents and siblings (usually the younger ones, who don’t have the same tools). This is a clunky bug in the system as they are introduced to a new tool, but its misuse is not a problem with Logic itself.

In a recent discussion with Sean Higgins, he quipped that we train students in Logic in order for them “to appropriately live according to reality.”

I plucked this from a context that included more goodness around it, and if he’d known I was going to examine his offhand remark, he may have been more careful in his word smithing, as he is prone to do. So it’s not inspired or airtight, but I thought it was pretty good! For sake of this exercise, I’ll dismiss the adverb (appropriately) as superfluous (and unfortunately located in the midst of an infinitive, for the three people who actually care) and briefly consider the rest:

“To…live according to reality.”

“TO…LIVE”

This points the students’ logical focus inward. Our students’ biggest problem will never be their adversaries, it will be the sin in their own hearts. Like the man who must deal first with the log in his own eye before he’s ready to go after the speck in his neighbor’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5), our students must rightly order their own thinking before undertaking to correct their neighbors.

Further, identifying the flaws in their opponents’ arguments (or panicked pleas) can help our students to not be seduced by lies…let alone to live according to those lies.

Our students cannot be shapers of culture for good or purveyors of the truth if they cannot live well, and living well requires living “according to reality.”

“ACCORDING TO REALITY”

Logic as a discipline is loaded with assumptions, the dependence on which has brought us to where we are today as Westerners. The most influential minds in Western History have assumed that reality as well as transcendent virtues. Those were actually something worth knowing and pursuing. And the men who best represented those virtues were the men they looked to for leadership (and they were not necessarily the caesars or kings).

Today, we elect the leaders whose “virtues” we hold dear, but we have a problem with our virtues. They are not transcendent; they are fluid and squishy…and in many cases, freshly-redefined (e.g., Love, Tolerance, etc.). And when you have virtuous Jell-O for your foundation, your structures can only have the strength of styrofoam.

Logic reinforces the notion that absolutes exist. Logic has rules, like the rest of our existence, and they’re not ours to create or change. They are transcendent, outside of us. Washing our students’ minds with what is True, Good, and Beautiful is loving, and it is necessary as we equip (arm?) them to shape culture. That also provides a virtuous bedrock for culture building or improvements…which is to be preferred over virtuous Jell-O.

Our living under the abandoning wrath of God is a reality. So is the gospel. Jesus has conquered sin and death and made a way for us to be reconciled to the Father. This is absolute, not fluid. And praise God that we get to spend time among lovers of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. May we equip our children to do the same as they undertake to lead the next generation.

Risus est bellum!

-U.H.

On the Weapon of Submission

There’s no denying that we are in a spiritual war. Our enemy is invisible and our weapons are unconventional. The Apostle’s arsenal included “the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness” and more. At ECS we’ve added to the list things like “weaponized laughter” and feasting. And really, any good gift from God becomes a weapon of our warfare when received with gratefulness.

If you want proof, consider the enemy’s perversion of God’s gifts to us. Food? Wine? Sex? Freedom of speech? Satan hates that stuff. He would have us fear food or (at least!) be gluttonous. He would have us abstain from alcohol because of its dangers when abused. He would have us commit sexual sins because doing so harms the image of God in us and because sex is meant to be fruitful, which he also hates. He would have us abuse our freedoms (including speech) to the injury of our neighbors. While we could go on, I want to focus for a moment on a weapon we rarely wield well: the weapon of submission.

Submission offers a formula for human peace, happiness, and flourishing. It is therefore well-positioned for abuse. Husbands abuse their wives; parents abuse their children; political leaders exploit those they’re supposed to serve and protect.

The abuse cuts the other direction, as well. Wives seek to manipulate and control faithful husbands; children seek to manipulate and control faithful parents; citizens subvert and undermine faithful leaders.

But what do we encounter when submission is the delightful norm for the faithful Christian? Well, I’ve already said it: peace, happiness, and flourishing.

A friend of mine once remarked that submission was a genius strategy to establish authority and responsibility among equals. Take marriage, for instance. Scripture nowhere argues that husbands are superior to wives, intellectually or otherwise. They generally have a different makeup and constitution, but it’s just that: different, not superior. Husbands and wives are equal in value, so how is a couple ever to make a decision? By identifying a responsible party who will give account for the outcome regardless of whose personality or voice is the strongest. And that party is the husband.

So even if a wife wants her husband to submit to her, he still bears responsibility for her before God. (I’ll let you read that again.) When a wife realizes this, she is then freed up to submit to her husband in the Lord. When the couple faces a tricky decision, she can say with appropriate respect, “[Husband’s name], you’ve gotten my input on this situation, and now I trust that you will do the right thing as God works through you to act in our best interests.” She can then support him even when disagreeing (provided, of course, that he’s not acting sinfully).

This extends to our children as well. I’ve had countless students unhappy in my office because they disobeyed. Quite literally, if they would have submitted to the direction of their teachers, they would have been happier than they were while paying me a visit. Such a child can say, “I don’t understand why you want me to [insert parental directive here], but I know that it pleases the Lord and everyone’s happier when I obey…especially me.” That’s idyllic, I know, and rather sophisticated for a child to use such language. But parents can help shepherd them that direction through cheerful and patient shepherding. This sort of weaponized submission can change the world.

To be sure, some objects of submission abdicate their authority, disqualify themselves, or otherwise don’t deserve our submission. But that too is an abuse. Christians must submit as far as we can, which is probably a lot further than we are submitting at present.

Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” That’s true. Tyrants pervert submission and they should be thwarted. But there are times when the way to thwart a tyrant is by…submission. A king who tyrannizes his subjects deserves what he gets. But part of the way a king comes to ruin may just be through his subjects’ faithful submission to God. It happened to Nebuchadnezzar, and it certainly can happen to parents and presidents. This sort of submission is active, deliberate, proactive.

That’s one way to weaponize submission. Another is through the conscious exhibition of cheerful submission as we refute worldly wisdom. A child who cheerfully submits to his parents may prompt the curiosity of the world. A wife who cheerfully submits to her husband may find a husband who is working to take responsibility…unto the flourishing of her whole family. A citizen who submits whenever possible to the king (i.e., as far as faithfulness to Christ will allow) may soon find influence with the king. When we wield the weapon of submission, we hack at the root of humanistic ambition; we put feet to the faith we proclaim…that death brings life, loss is gain, and happiness comes through self-denial. We model our Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

Though this is not a typical Raggant Standard “Letter from the U.H.”, I believe that we all need to be reminded that our kids (and students!) are learning from us. We are teaching them how to submit, and our actions are more effective teachers than our words. This is a principle we discuss frequently as a teaching staff, and we ought to do so as parents, as well. And just as we imitate Christ, may our children learn to wield this powerful weapon. And may grace cover the gap between our actions and our words…while we fight to close it.

—Mr. Sarr
The U.H.

Thoughts On the Orienting Feature of Feasting

Believe it or not, it’s November. Here we are, still recovering from Reformation Day, winding up the quarter, and staring down the barrel of Thanksgiving and the holiday season. This is a great time to offer some reminders about Thanksgiving and the value of feasting.

I was tempted to cut and paste from any of the multiple times we’ve discussed this topic in the past, including this invitation to the 2017 Fundraising Feast, this article from a 2017 Raggant Standard, or even this post from the Sarrs’ blog the fall that we opened ECS. I never get tired of talking about this, and I’m always looking for ways to make the message more helpful. This article is still another such attempt.

Why did the Lord wish for the Hebrews to remember Passover? Because that dark day was full of blessing and provision from God. Why do Christians call the day of Christ’s death “Good Friday?” Because that was the day that He dealt Death a fatal blow and paid our death penalty. These things are worth remembering, so Christians feast to remember the good that God has done for us…especially when we may be momentarily focused on bad things (like the death of a firstborn or the murder of the Son).

At ECS, we have problems. This is not the time or the place to catalogue them, but there’s plenty we need to work on and plenty that we need the Lord to fix. Much of my days are spent thinking about and trying to address them…or even helping to Lord to fix them (as though He needs it). But in the midst of our problems are countless blessings. Here’s a sample:

  • We still get to come to school.
  • We still get to retreat to God’s Holy Word, which affirms that all men have value as image bearers…and that God made male and female (Gen. 5:2).
  • We get to finish The Iliad and read all of The Psalms in the same class in the same week (this week, in fact).
  • We get to serve about 180 students.
  • We get to put our children under the tutelage of godly teachers…many of whom are men, and male teachers are quite rare these days.
  • We have a second basketball hoop on the playground (er…parking lot).

Whether it’s a basketball hoop, a sip of water, a candy cane, a decadent dinner roll, or a turkey’s hind quarter, receive it as gift, given by a smiling Father who loves to watch His children enjoy His blessings. Receive it, deliberately remembering that it represents a teensy fraction of the good He’s doing for you right now. Know that He delights in You because of the work of Christ and Christ’s righteousness in you.

If I’m being honest, I write these things first for myself. I need my philosophical tools to be sharp and oiled if I’m going to answer for why we want a culture of feasting…or if I wish to share that mindset with others. Articulating these thoughts proves a sharpening, orienting reminder. I also need to be reminded of the goodness of God and how He’s showered me with blessings. Your families comprise 95 separate blessings to me.

Along the way, I also want to encourage you. This practice of thanksgiving is a guard against presumptuous sins. Our blessings – both pleasant and unpleasant – are from Him…and they’re on purpose. And they’re good. And we will praise Him.

Risus est bellum.

-U.H.

Mind the Good

Something I’ve been preaching to my own heart in recent weeks has been a simple little mantra, namely this:

Mind the good.

In any given moment of our lives, whether in class or around the dinner table, there are a thousand blessings, if we would but see them. This takes eyes of faith, because we believe that being responsible means dealing with the problems before us. But thankfulness cleans off of our smudgy glasses to be able to see those problems more clearly. It lends perspective, and we all need that.

Imagine a mom and dad and their four kids are at the dinner table, and the kids are bickering. True, it’s bad that they’re bickering. Maybe even really bad. But…

  • It’s good that the kids are all there, and none are sick or in the hospital.
  • It’s good that the family has managed to prioritize mealtimes together for sake of connection.
  • It’s good that the table has food on it.
  • It’s good that they have a place to eat that food.
  • It’s good that moments like these are (probably) outnumbered by sweeter moments of harmony that cultivate family loyalty and create happy memories.
  • In sneaky ways, these times are stabilizing and anchoring for the family.

What, of these good things, do they deserve? (Hint: it rhymes with “sun.”)

Being mindful of the good things in this vignette does not make the bickering automatically disappear. And yet it does lend a degree of helpful clarity when it comes time to address that bickering.

If you’re at ECS, you have a family. Families are good, and families have family problems. Your kids are in a classroom full of other sinners and also full of good blessings.

May God grant us eyes of faith to see the good in the midst of the bad.

—The U.H.

Receivers Play Offense

I like football. It’s fun to watch and to play. On the offensive side of things, the people who have opportunity to touch the football play what are called “skill positions.” These include the quarterback, running backs, and receivers. The defense works to disrupt the plans of the offense and prevent them from going down the field and scoring.

For sake of the current illustration, I want to focus on the receivers. They are at the mercy of the quarterback to pass them the ball, or they are reduced to blockers or decoys. But if the quarterback does throw them the ball, their job is to actually catch the ball and then run furiously for the end zone, eluding the defense as best they can along the way.

If feasting were a football game, we’d be those receivers…and receivers play offense. Their job of receiving a football is part of an offensive attack on the defense in the other uniforms. Our receiving blessings is an assault on the wicked ideologies and spiritual forces that surround us. We don’t generate the blessings any more than a football player throws a pass to himself. And the real magic happens once we catch it and run.

Every year, in anticipation of our Fundraising Feast, I am glad to work through the mental exercise of coming up with new reasons why feasting is so important to our culture here at Evangel Classical School. This year is no different.

This year, there are two particular reasons that come to the surface.

  1. We are still here.
  2. We don’t know where we’ll be tomorrow.

If you’re a Christian long enough, you’ll run into an interesting phenomenon, namely this: God sometimes removes the means that you need to do His will. Why would He do this? I believe it’s to foster dependence.

You’ve seen it before. A generous man goes bankrupt. A loving mother loses her child. A doting grandfather loses his mobility and energy. A Christian school outgrows its space to operate. When God closes the door, where does the faithful Christian turn? Like wide receivers, we turn to Him with open hands, because in all likelihood, a new blessing is on its way.

Although we have not been evicted by Reclamation Church, and although we are committed to getting creative and to keeping our doors open next year at Reclamation Church, the sort of growth we’ve been experiencing is not sustainable in our current location. The fact that we are open even now is only attributable to the grace of God. All over the country schools have been operated online this year, but God has allowed us to continue our work of enculturation in person. I’m not sure why He has allowed this, but I’m sure grateful.

God provides; we receive. It is an act of faith to celebrate the provision of God before His provision is visible. I want that sort of faith. And so I will not be waiting until we have all the answers to give Him thanks.

This means we do not need to wait for circumstances to get good for us to praise God. We trust Him, and operate in the faith that He is good, and He wills good for His people, whether or not we understand it. And if you think about it for a moment, that’s some kind of statement.

Beyond all this, feasting is fun. It’s sweet and rich to gather with God’s people and receive His good gifts (like friends, song, food, wine, steak and chocolate) as an act of assault on the powers of darkness and the thankless spirit of the age.

Really. What are they going to do when we eat each bite of steak and drink each sip of wine and enjoy the mirth of our table mates like all is gift? What are they going to do when God sits in the heavens and delights in His people’s grateful enjoyment His gifts to us? Even the kids get in on the action when they cheerfully bring delicious morsels to the table as God’s vehicles of blessing.

God has blessed us in tremendous ways this year at ECS, and we receive those blessings with gratefulness. I look forward to doing so with you at our Feast on May 14.

Risus est bellum.
Mr. Sarr

The Work of a Lifetime

Before most of our third graders were born, a small group of naive and ambitious parents and some their friends decided to start Evangel Classical School as a training ground for culture shapers. We wanted to forge worshipers with sharp skills, a robust worldview, a big work capacity, and a playful smirk. I say we were naive not because we were wrong or idealistic, but because we had only a vague idea what we were really getting into, how very valuable that enculturation would soon prove to be, let alone (at least for my part) how much fun we were about to have.

A veritable lifetime later (for those third graders, anyway), our status as a training ground is becoming more concrete and necessary.

More Than the Shell

Communicating the data related to math formulas and how suspension bridges work and writing an essay and reading a novel are all fine. Really. But all this data has a point, a telos to which it is directed and to where it is going. In order for education to occur, the telos must be included in the lesson. Modern education is all shell, no nut. To teach the what without the why or the how misses the point. Yet that’s the best our modern educational offerings are doing!

It gets worse. Increasingly even the what is being reimagined. Our culture has no authoritative, true, and clear answer for some pretty simple questions: What happened in 1619? What is a boy? What is truth? How much more ill-prepared are we to answer the follow-up questions: Why was the American Revolution fought? What is a boy for? Why does truth matter?

We’re training our students to be able to answer these simple questions, which makes Raggants surprisingly exceptional.

More Than Academicians

People who can answer these questions will stand out in our culture like the captain of the ship with his funny hat, special coat, and words worth listening to. They will have an idea of what’s just beyond the cultural horizon because they will have examined historical trends. They’ll know that once you’ve navigated A, B, and C, that D is likely around the corner.

Our students will have been trained to reason with the tools of Latin grammar and Logic. They will have read Paul’s letters and Lincoln’s letters, Marx’s Manifesto, Hitler’s struggle, and Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail for themselves. They will have sung fighty and jubilant psalms and recited the Apostle’s Creed hundreds of times, reminding themselves and the cosmos that the Maker of Heaven and Earth is doing all of this on purpose.

Every day our students play a cultural role at our school (and in your homes!). In this cultural greenhouse that we call Evangel Classical School, students are being formed and shaped by the conversations they have, the songs they sing, the relationships they cultivate, the books they read, the math problems they work out, the sentences they diagram, the teachers they imitate, the games they play, and more. The curriculum is like the chisel in the hand of the woodworker.

Our prayer is that – equipped with all this – they’ll be prepared to be citizens who shape the worldview of others for Christ’s sake, and we ought not be surprised when others look to them to lead.

More Than a School

So we’re more than a school. Ours is a project that is far more about shaping certain sorts of people than it is about their report cards or transcripts or strictly academic metrics. We are trying to train our students how to think, not what to think. We are trying to train them how to be certain sorts of people, not how to get good grades (to get into a good college, to get a good job, to make lots of money, etc.).

I’ll say it again. Grades are not themselves the point, though they are handy as we try to gauge and assess the academic aspect of our arrow-shaping. We’re training free men, not hirelings; we’re not merely training in the skill of getting good grades, but rather being certain sorts of persons, thinkers, worshipers.

And this is why you are so important in this process; if we were just a school, then parents would do well to get out of the way and let the professionals do their jobs. But we are trying to help you shape your people, and you have to be worshipers yourselves, faithful to your churches and your people, and working hard to shape your children in obedience to God. Only then can we operate properly as an extension of your church and your home as we help you in this ambitious but grace-saturated undertaking.

Risus est bellum.

U.H.

Office Visits

Evidently, God thinks the U.H. needs regular reminders about the gospel. I’m pretty sure I agree with Him, which is one reason why I’m grateful for disciplinary office visits from students.

It’s strange, I know, but it’s true. These visits are rarely enjoyable (although sometimes, I admit, they’re hilarious!), but I do not dread them, and I generally find my follow-up conversation with parents to be marked by gratitude and like-mindedness. But I think these office visits benefit me perhaps more than they benefit the students. Why is this? In these conversations, I get to rehearse the gospel. I get to speak truth to the a student on the other side of the office, as well as to my own heart.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was described as having preached the gospel for four decades in the same place. As a young man, I thought that was strange. Why would an evangelistic message be necessary every week for decades? What would you say once the hearer actually got saved?

Now years later I realize that a study of the gospel offers profound insight into the nature of God and that it cements principles by which the faithful Christian must live.

Take a student who willfully sinned against his teacher in some outrageous fashion, say, blurting out repeatedly in his gleeful enthusiasm for Latin declensions without deigning to raise his hand. Scandalous, right? If he does this enough, he winds up talking it over with me. In my office, we’ll talk about the obvious stuff, like self-control, and what it’d be like if everyone blurted out all the time, and how enjoyable that would not be. But what else?

We also talk about the nature of sin, and how it destroys fellowship. That blurting out cannot now be undone, but it can be forgiven. And back in the classroom is a flawed and forgiven teacher who is eager to restore to fellowship and to class a flawed and repentant student. So the ticket back to class (for the student who is ready to do so) is an apology, replete with the profoundly-Christian request for forgiveness from the teacher (or any human object of the sin). And every time (no, really), the teacher is glad to welcome back the student to class.

Is that not a fantastic picture of what God does with us? The teachers and I will tell the students as much. Just as sin hinders fellowship with God, so it hinders fellowship amongst humans. That can only really be fixed with forgiveness, which must be sought and given. God does it with us; we should do it with one another.

I’ll often tell the students that this is how the Christian life works, and that they’d better get used to it, because they’ll be sinning against people (and they’ll be sinned against!) for the rest of their lives…though hopefully with decreasing frequency as they become more complete in Christ.

When you’re the sinner, pray for the Spirit’s conviction of sin; confess your sin before you’re confronted, own it, repent, and ask for forgiveness.

When you’re sinned against, remember how patient God is with you; love fellowship; be ready to forgive and restore your brother to full fellowship when he repents.

And enjoy the sweet fellowship and the picture of what God does for us.

Risus est bellum!

-U.H.