Perhaps you’ve seen the famous optical illusion with the rabbit. Or is it a duck? In any case, the image involves double-sight. Most people will see one animal without effort but can also force their mind to see the other image. Which one does the drawing truly represent? both. The image allows us to see two pictures, one atop the other.
It is one thing to ask, “What is classical Christian education?” and another thing entirely to ask, “What sort of movement is classical Christian education?” The first question can be answered with proverbs, theories, titles of books, lists of virtues, and history lessons. However, a robust answer to the second question might begin with Doug Wilson and end with discussing differences between the SCL and the ACCS. The first question is theoretical. The second question is political.
I am nearly certain I once read a book by Peter Brown where he claimed every good historian must be a regular reader of fiction. I say “nearly certain” because the claim has, over the last decade, taken on a mythic status in my heart and myths, by definition, arise from uncertain origins. For the life of me, I cannot find the book and the passage where Brown makes this claim. Alas, perhaps some less forgetful reader will break the spell for me in the comments section.
In the beginning, we walked with God. We saw that God saw us, and we saw God face to face. Then we reached out, took, and ate of the Tree of Knowledge. We absorbed into ourselves a sudden onslaught of the discernment of divinity. We crumbled under the substance of it: we saw ourselves, and others, self-consciously. We hid from one another behind clumsily crafted coverings. We hid from God.
The other day, I picked up my sixth-grade daughter from school and she immediately reported that, while the teacher was not looking, a fellow student had brazenly, flagrantly broken several school rules. “Did you tell the teacher?” I asked. She said she had forgotten. “No, you didn’t,” I replied, “because it obviously bothered you quite a bit. How could you possibly forget?” The truth, which slowly came out in the conversation which followed, was that my daughter didn’t want to tell the teacher for reasons of cowardice that are common to youth, adolescence, adults, and the elderly alike.
Throughout this last year, I have enjoyed reading a variety of beautiful stories on the Daily Gathering; we read and discussed the story of a rabbit who desired to be real, a Mermaid who sought an immortal soul, and a cowboy who lassoed a tornado. These, and many other stories, have brought the participants into a world of fairies and giants, witches and kings, and wonder and joy; they have taught the students how to attend through imagination, narration, discussion, and comparison.
For reasons difficult to truly grasp, fallen angels cannot be restored to God. Christians pray for their human enemies, but not for their spiritual enemies. The Church has for many centuries rejected the idea that demons will someday repent and be restored to God, thus, as St. Augustine notes in the City of God, there is no need to pray for the Devil. Likewise, we may pray for animals to recover from illnesses and injuries, but there is no need to pray for their spiritual conversion. Of all sentient beings, humans are unique in this: once spiritually broken, they can be repaired.
What makes a Christian, a Christian?
A Christian—much like a Canadian, an American, or a Russian—is defined by his citizenship. Unlike the national allegiances of this world, however, a Christian is someone whose citizenship is rooted in the person and kingdom of Christ. According to Jesus, such an allegiance requires nothing less than a total denial of self, the taking up of one's cross, and a willingness to follow Him to whatever end. This is, and has always been, the Bible’s only definition of a Christian.
What hath the Athens to do with the rural South?
Most classical Christian schools in this country are ecumenical projects, which is to say they are open to students from many different church backgrounds. An ecumenical school is not an Anglican school, not a Presbyterian school, and not a Catholic school, but a school for Christians of all these traditions (and more). As with any project, an ecumenical project can be done well or poorly. A certain project is not good simply because it is ecumenical.