Remembrance is one of the greatest themes in all of Scripture and the call to remember one of the most constant imperatives. We hear the voice of Hebrew prophets and poets as church bells, echoing across the rolling landscape of holy writ. Repeatedly, the people of God are told not merely to remember God’s words and works but also to retell their countless narratives and imitate their countless deeds. But forming memory requires time. And time is a complex reality.
In a lecture entitled “Faking It,” philosopher Roger Scruton exposes how “kitsch” has especially colonized the arts, religion, and academia in modern society. He applies the concept of Gresham’s Law to the life of the mind and to the soul.
In his dissertation, The Classical Trivium, Marshal MacLuhan notes, “From the time of neo-platonists and Augustine to Bonaventura and to Francis Bacon, the world was viewed as a book, the lost language of which was analogous to that of human speech” (7). In De Doctrina Christiana, for instance, St. Augustine notes, “There are things and signs,” and that the most obvious expression of such a phenomenon is language and letters.
Yes; in spite of the contrasts that are as conspicuous and even comic as the comparison between the fat man and the thin man, the tall man and the short: in spite of the contrast between the vagabond and the student, between the apprentice and the aristocrat, between the book-hater and the book-lover, between the wildest of all missionaries and the mildest of all professors, the great fact of medieval history is that these two great men were doing the same great work; one in the study and the other in the street.
Last time I wrote I considered how Jesus was, by contemporary standards, a bad teacher. His disciples didn’t always immediately “get it,” and at times his public lecturing seemed to drive away more students than it attracted. His ability to properly “motivate” students could potentially come under scrutiny as well. And Jesus seems quite content to leave behind a student or two in his teachings. Or what else does the phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” mean? But obviously.
By contemporary standards, Jesus is a bad teacher. If Jesus were to be evaluated by the common core “teachers” of today, he would almost certainly fail the test. And it is a fact often overlooked by Christians—not merely evangelical—that when the Bible speaks of “teachers” and “teaching,” it attaches very different expectations to these words than we find in our current definitions.
You knew it was coming. It comes every quarter. But predictability doesn’t make it any easier. Every time we approach grades, I often end up asking myself existential questions. Why? What’s it all for? What do grades mean anyway? The wherefore hits home when one considers that although we classical educators philosophically oppose scienticism and modern education, many of us still use grading systems born in a time when science was univocally redefining what it meant to know anything.
We moderns seem to question the identity of all the bards. Shakespeare. The scop of Beowulf. Or the skáld of the Eddic sagas. But the question of Homer’s identity seems to be a field of study all to itself. We shouldn’t be surprised to find academic journals entirely devoted to positing new theories of who Homer really was. It goes beyond mere psychological obsession or even historicism. The question of Homer has almost risen to the height of rhetorical exercise, a disputatio of sorts.
We often hear childhood described as a “time of innocence.” But it would be misleading to compare Adam and Eve’s situation with that of children. The words of Genesis 2:25, “they felt no shame,” don’t express a lack development, but a fullness. They indicate that Adam and Eve had a full understanding of the meaning of the body, bound up with their nakedness. When this fullness is lost, shame appears…Shame—in particular, sexual modesty—plays an important role in the formation of any society by affecting the relationship between the sexes.
Personally, I am not a KJV-only-person, especially not out of some sectarian commitment. But in the midst of a myriad of publishers seeking to market the Scriptures and amid the theological concerns for accuracy and psychological concerns regarding ease, Christopher Hitchens offers insight especially helpful for our task as educators, especially those of the Rhetoric school.