Steps to Wisdom: Standing for Truth

Augustine says that the sixth step, before attaining wisdom itself, is to recognize that the truths one has embraced are worth standing up for.

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Fear of God, piety, knowledge gathering, strength and resolution, diligent application. Our students have been practicing these steps since September. As parents and tutors we’ve seen them grow, as they learn a little bit more of what it means to humbly approach the learning process, to gather and absorb new information, to persevere when learning is difficult or boring, and to truly embrace what they know through application. And at Granite we’ve been emphasizing the sixth step all year through our theme, “Stand for Truth.”

Augustine says that the sixth step, before attaining wisdom itself, is to recognize that the truths one has embraced are worth standing up for. He says that the students on the verge of wisdom reach a point at which their pursuit of truth is so pure that they are compelled to acknowledge truth, regardless of the earthly consequences. He writes that this student will be “so single and so pure in heart, that he will not step aside from the truth, either for the sake of pleasing men or with a view to avoid any of the annoyances which beset this life.”

In one of my Omnibus classes this week, we discussed the persecution of Christians in the early church in Rome. I explained to students that the Christians of Rome were often martyred for refusing to burn even a pinch of incense to the image of Caesar. One of my students asked the poignant question, “Why would you die for something so small? Does it really matter?” This prompted what was possibly one of the most important conversations I had with my students all year. The martyrs of the early church were willing to die for something so seemingly small and insignificant because they understood that such a compromise was in fact supremely significant–burning incense to the image of Caesar would have been a clear statement that a human being deserved worship as a god; it would have been a direct denial of the truth indelibly stamped on their hearts.

A person who will not stand aside from truth for the sake of this world is the culmination of a Christian education. We want to graduate students who are so convinced of God’s truth that they cannot recant it for anything—not for a higher standing among their peers, not for a better grade from a college professor with a different worldview, not for a better position in their workplace, not even for the sake of avoiding persecution. Our hope is that the student educated at Granite would become so practiced in finding truth and diligently applying it that he cannot back down from what he knows to be true, even when the world pressures him to do so.

Augustine says, “Such a son ascends to wisdom which is the seventh and last step, and which he enjoys in peace and tranquility.” In other words, the student who is convinced of God’s truth can hold his ground on it without fear of the earthly consequences. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The early Christian martyrs who refused to burn incense to Ceasar understood the Truth, and that truth freed them to gladly give up their lives for its sake. That’s wisdom!

That’s the student that we want to send out into the world at the end of a classical education. That’s what every part of a classical education is working towards, from memory work and question and answer flows, to Socratic discussion, debates, and thesis defenses. We want to produce young men and young women who not only stand for truth, but who do so for the right reasons, and who do so with confidence and peace.

Our prayer is that our students have been moved along in their journey towards wisdom during this academic year. But it’s important to remember that no amount of classical practices or liturgies will necessarily produce this; our students need to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. That is why it is our prayer that this has taken place and will continue to take place.

When Martin Luther gave his famous “Here I Stand” speech, he didn’t stop with, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” His closing words were, “God help me.” One of the prayers we’ve used throughout the year in chapel, also penned by Martin Luther, says, “Write into our hearts, by your Holy Spirit, whatever is abundantly found in scripture. Let us constantly keep it in mind, and allow it to become far more precious to us than our own lives, and all else that we cherish on earth.” That’s a hard prayer to pray, and one which none of us can pray sincerely without  the aid of the Holy Spirit, who gives us such an understanding of truth that we are freed from attachment to this life.

May this continue to be the prayer of the Granite community–faculty, staff, parents, and students–even after this academic year and its theme have drawn to a close. May God help us to continue to guide our students down the path to true wisdom and freedom.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

Steps to Wisdom: Diligence

This is the step in the journey to wisdom in which knowledge is applied.

For in this frame of mind he extricates himself from every form of fatal joy in transitory things, and turning away from these, fixes his affection on things eternal, to wit, the unchangeable Trinity in unity.

And when, to the extent of his power, he has gazed upon this object shining from afar, and has felt that owing to the weakness of his sight he cannot endure that matchless light, then in the fifth step—that is, in the counsel of compassion—he cleanses his soul, which is violently agitated, and disturbs him with base desires, from the filth it has contracted.  And at this stage he exercises himself diligently in the love of his neighbor.

–St. Augustine

We’ve been back from our winter break for one week now at Granite, and it’s worth reflecting on step five in St. Augustine’s “Steps to Wisdom,” which is diligence; I know I certainly need the reminder to exercise diligence after a week off!

Augustine says that after receiving strength and resolution in step four, wherein the Christian has the “counsel of compassion” of the Holy Spirit, he is enabled to “exercise himself diligently” in following the commands he’s come to know through Scripture.

Whether we’re talking about wisdom applied in a spiritual sense or in an academic sense, this is the step in the journey in which knowledge is applied. We want our students to apply what they know in all stages, but this is really the hallmark of the rhetoric stage, because it’s in this final phase of their education that students are starting to realize for themselves how they can apply what they have learned, and how they can live out the principles they have come to embrace. We guide students fairly heavily in the application of knowledge in the grammar and logic stages, so that when they reach the rhetoric stage they can take ownership not only of their knowledge gathering and class preparation, but of the application of what they glean from that study as well.

If your students are in the rhetoric stage, they will be particularly challenged to produce. They will write complex arguments that draw from a wealth of sources; they will do their own research and experiments and draw their own conclusions; they will carefully weigh the ideas they are encountering and then consider which ones ought to permeate their principles and worldview. By the end of their education, classical students apply the things they learn very naturally and fluidly, as a matter of course. That’s our hope, as they journey towads wisdom.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

Truth Incarnate

In keeping with our 2017-18 school year theme, “Stand for Truth,” the tutorial-wide memory verse for the Advent season was John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In a beautifully written essay titled “Beauty is Truth: Faith and Aesthetics,” Joseph Pearce writes about Christ’s incarnation, and the way that truth is incarnate in Him. And for all our focus on truth this year, Pearce points out something that is important for us to remember as a classical community, which is that truth cannot be separated from goodness and beauty, because all three find their ultimate expression in the person of Jesus Christ:

For the Greeks, and for Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the good, the true, and
the beautiful are inextricably entwined. And, for the Christian, they are not only
entwined but ultimately are one and the same thing: they are the Thing that is Christ. Jesus Christ is the answer to Pilate’s perennial question: quid est veritas? It is Christ Himself who is truth. And it is Christ who is also beauty and goodness.

Christ is the very incarnation of the good, the true and the beautiful. He is these three things rolled into one. Truth is, therefore, trinitarian. It is one with the good and the beautiful.

This often-cited triumverate of goodness, truth, and beauty, also known as the Transcendentals, is central to the classical Christian education. As Pearce puts it, “Since, properly understood, they are synonymous with Christ, it can be seen that the good, the true, and the beautiful are the ends for which we strive.”

But we would do well to ponder how we, as broken human beings could ever craft an education that would truly show our students the good, the true, and the beautiful. What hope could we possibly have of accomplishing this?

Thankfully, Pearce does not leave us in despair of ever achieving these ends. He continues:

They [goodness, truth, and beauty] are, however, also the means by which we attain the end. Christ is not merely the truth and the life, he is the way. He is not only the end, He is the means. All that is good, all that is true and all that is beautiful have their source in Christ and lead us to Him.

Christ became man, walked the earth, and embodied the Transcendentals so that we do have some hope of understanding them, teaching them, and living them out by His grace. That is an incredible, burden-lifting, encouraging promise to hold on to as an educator. None of us can ever fully, perfectly show our students truth, goodness, and beauty. But we can point to Christ, and trust that he who is the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, will capture our students’ hearts, minds, and souls.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

Steps to Wisdom: Piety

Following fear of God, which is the first of Augustine’s “Steps to Wisdom,” is what Augustine calls piety. He says that once we recognize that God is in authority over us and we start to learn his commandments, we ought to realize that “whatever is…written [in Scripture], even though it be hidden, is better and truer that anything we could devise by our own wisdom.”

Just today, my 8th grade class read a similar idea in “Sic et Non,” a work by medieval scholar Peter Abelard, who cautions that when scripture, or even the writings of the church fathers or another credible, time-tested text is difficult to understand, we should “believe that we lack felicity in understanding rather than that they lack felicity in writing.” In other words, even if we don’t quite understand something, we love it because of the source—we persevere, trusting that the Great Books are worthwhile endeavors, and that scripture will always ring true eventually, when we have the ears to hear it.

This is what Augustine, elsewhere, calls ordo amoris, which is Latin for “the order of love.” When our loves are rightly ordered, we love all of creation because God created it, and we love God above all because we rightly fear him and are piously devoted to him.

And students don’t have to be able to tackle Medieval texts to start to develop rightly ordered loves. In fact, one of the best tools for ordering one’s loves is memorization, the main learning tool of the grammar stage. Children’s loves are naturally ordered towards the acts of repetition and routine. And eventually, the material being memorized, rather than the act of memorization itself, becomes the object of affection. We naturally feel affection for the things that are a part of us, and that includes what we’ve engraved onto our hearts and our minds through memorization.

There’s an adage oft-repeated in classical education that says, “you become what you behold.” When we have our students memorize something, it’s because it is something true, or good, or beautiful, and we want our students to behold those things so often that they become a deeply ingrained part of their rightly ordered affections.


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

Steps to Wisdom: Fear of God

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 9:10

The path to wisdom is one that we are very much concerned with in classical Christian education. Because our model is founded in the Christian worldview, we look to scripture, such as the oft-cited verse above, for direction.

St. Augustine, in On Christian Doctrine, writes about the pathway to godly wisdom, and, given that Augustine is one of the founders of classical Christian thought, his thoughts are unsurprisingly very valuable to classical educators. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting about each one of these seven steps Augustine forwards as markers on the path to wisdom.

Rightly taking his cue from scripture, Augustine asserts that a person who would have wisdom must first fear God. We must “seek the knowledge of His will, what He commands us to desire and what to avoid.” When we’re pursuing spiritual wisdom, we have to start with the recognition that God is in authority over us, and we are to obey Him.

In the classical classroom and homeschool, we must start with that recognition: God has created the universe, and there are certain truths that he wants us to learn; as God’s creatures we are obligated to obediently do our best to learn those truths and live them out. Of course, a child at the very beginning of the pathway to wisdom, say a first grader, isn’t going to have a real, true understanding of what it means to “fear God.” But a young child can certainly understand that God is in charge and has put certain adults in authority over him. He can understand that obeying parents and tutors is obeying God. We set our students on the pathway to wisdom when we teach them to live out this first step by obeying the teaching authorities that God has placed over them.

As a tutor, I find this very humbling; it’s a solemn reminder that I have an obligation to be very careful about how I exercise authority in my classroom and to make sure that everything I do is intentional and ultimately points my students to God, the source of the truths I’m asking them to learn.

The hope of this foundational principle, of course, is that over the course of an education, the student will come into his own knowledge of God and will start to recognize that teaching authorities are merely dim reflections of the ultimate, awesome authority of God.

A Scholar’s Daily Schedule: Entertainment

Homeschool moms, you are the primary educators of your children. Give your child entertainment options that reinforce the classical admiration of truth, goodness, and beauty, rather than entertainment options that undo these ends.

Tea should be taken in solitude…for eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere. The ones I learned to use so at Bookham were Boswell, and a translation of Herodotus, and Lang’s History of English Literature.

–C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

With Granite’s last class day behind us, many Granite families are in full summer-mode. With that in mind, I want to take one last look at Lewis’s scholarly schedule to glean some guidance from him about what kinds of entertainment children should be pursuing. Of course, the proportions of entertainment that children will enjoy during summer days are probably much higher than during the school year, which only makes his advice all the more relevant now.

Reading
In this part of his scholarly schedule, Lewis gives us what may seem a rather lofty goal for the modern-day student: reading Herodotus for pleasure! But the main point here, I think, is that reading for pleasure should be a regular source of entertainment for the student. Whatever our modern-day perception of Herodotus, Lewis found him “gossipy and formless,” meaning casual and unstructured. Herodotus’s Histories covers the major events of the ancient Greek world, ambling from one episode to the next. (Something like The Story of the World might be the modern-day student’s equivalent.) Something easily read, not overly concerned with plot or artistry, and interesting. Lewis also names some popular novels of his day and says that they served a similar purpose. That purpose is to stimulate the mind and to bring enjoyment to the spirit.

When I was growing up, my brother and I used to read collections of “Calvin and Hobbes” comics together. The medium was a bit fluffy, but the content was entertaining, wholesome, and probably did more to expand my vocabulary than some of the academic books I read. I also read gobs of historical fiction. My brother was attracted to DK-style books with spreads full of interesting facts about the world. Each child is different, but there are enough resources out there to find something your child will pick up for fun. The point is to make reading a source of pleasure, one that your students can draw from even outside of “schoolwork.”

Get Off the Screens
The big takeaway here is that some forms of entertainment are good and aid the scholar, while others are not. Screen time, for instance, has been shown by a plethora of studies to have negative effects on developing brains, from disrupting cognitive and processing abilities to hurting a child’s emotional range and capabilities. Whenever possible, substitute reading for digital media use. Reading almost anything is better for your child’s brain development than screen time. Not only that, but as many classical educators have pointed out, you are much more likely to be forming your child’s loves and affections well with a book than an iPad. A Caldecott or Newberry award-winning children’s book gives your child access to wholesome, useful, thought-provoking content, and limits access to anything else (you can’t click away from a book page to watch videos on YouTube) while a tablet likely gives a child far more access to unwholesome, or at the very least frivolous content.

Games
There are other forms of entertainment that can be useful. Strategy games like chess have been shown to hone important critical thinking and foresight skills. The tangible, academic benefits of such thinking skills are obvious, but they have spiritual significance, too. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis writes that Satan is “like a good chess player”–“always trying to manoeuvre you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop.” Of course it’s just a metaphor, but it’s an apt one, because the strategic thinking skills your child picks up from such games (joined with a developed affection for truth, goodness, and beauty and a healthy reliance on the Holy Spirit) will help form him in to a person who has the foresight and wit necessary to develop self-regulating and temptation-avoiding strategies for his life. Those are not skills a child will develop from watching 6 episodes of “Adventure Time” in a row.

Gymnastic
Another excellent entertainment option is physical activity. Different from rejuvenating outdoor activities, physical entertainment is interactive and often aerobic. Run around outside, play tag, catch frogs in a creek–send your kids outside and spend time as a family having fun outdoors this summer! Activity is not only physically healthy, but it teaches your children to enjoy and make good use of the bodies God has given them.

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates even goes so far as to say that “gymnastic,” that is, formal physical training, ought to be part of the academic curriculum (and not just entertainment) because it develops certain qualities in the soul, such as fortitude and firmness. Find structured activities for your children, too. When I was growing up, I spent literally thousands of hours in the ballet studio. My brother spent similar time at his fencing club (that’s fencing as in swords). The hours I spent developing the physical art of ballet developed my perseverance and determination, and honed a love of beauty and artistry in my soul; the hours I spent playing computer games did not. To whatever extent your kids are physically able, teach them to prioritize physical activity over sedentary entertainment.

Entertainment is Formative
In Plato’s discourses on education, the Socrates of The Republic asks, “Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?” The question is designed to make us think about the consequences of entertainment and to help us realize that entertainment is formative. Socrates goes on to identify mothers and nurses as the main source of formation in children.

Homeschool moms, you are the primary educators of your children, even when “school” is not in session. Don’t allow yourself to be supplanted by a screen. Give your child entertainment options that reinforce the classical admiration of truth, goodness, and beauty, rather than entertainment options that undo these ends. As Socrates notes, the formation of character starts early, and entertainment choices affect character: “The beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.”

In Surprised by Joy Lewis writes of the times of entertainment he most looked forward to as a school boy: “On a Saturday afternoon in winter, when nose and fingers might be pinched enough to give an added relish to the anticipation of tea and fireside, and the whole weekend’s reading lay ahead, I suppose I reached as much happiness as is ever to be reached on earth. And especially if there were some new, long-coveted book awaiting me.” May your children’s entertainment this summer be formative, so that when winter comes, they share Lewis’s desire for the fireside and a good book!


Aubry Myers is the Director of Classical Education at Granite Classical Tutorials.

A Masterpiece

This is my deepest desire for you. That you would not allow your worship to be contained to the four walls of a church building, but that in every talent, gifting, and pursuit, you would glorify and honor your creator, your life a living sacrifice.

The following is the commencement address given to the Granite Classical class of 2017 by Mrs. Bethany Pautrat.


To Mrs. Morton, The Granite Board, tutors, parents, family, friends, and graduates. It is an incredible honor to have the privilege of being here with the Granite Class of 2017. Thank you for the opportunity.

As I started to prepare for this moment, I began to recollect and reminisce about the beginning of the year when we first met and started to get to know one another. I knew some of you by name or by a “hi” or a wave in the hallway. But the first day of classes, which oddly seems like yesterday and so far away at the same time, was truly our first introduction.

We started with basic first day formalities such as names and expectations, and we chatted about what we did over the summer. There was some expected senior thesis moaning. There was also quick jokes, laughter, grammatical corrections, snarky looks, and brilliant exchange of words. Two hours flew by, and you all ran out of the door to lunch with a, “See you next week Mrs. Pautrat!”

As I sat at my desk, I did not ponder my excitement at your dreams for thesis, at the study of the postmodern world, of my dreams of discussion of art and culture, or of reading and analyzing Orwell, Lewis, and Keller to name a few. No, my first thought was this: I am in serious trouble. They are quick-witted, well-spoken, opinionated students who think they are are smarter than me. And I’m a bit concerned they may be right.

It has been an absolute joy to be kept on my toes this school year by such a tremendous group of young people. I want to take this one last time to speak to you and to impart a few things I have learned on the way.

When I was graduating from high school somewhere in a strange place called the 90s, it appeared that I had it all together. I loved Jesus, I had been on a few mission trips, I had a 3.8 unweighted GPA, AP credits, college scholarships, honors program offers, and finally, the perfect pointe shoes. Appearance can be deceiving. You see, I was actually unsure of God’s calling, a perfectionist who wanted a 4 in front of that decimal point and full scholarships, and I was highly insecure in my identity.

As I have delved into the the depths of God, I have come away with truth and healing in three key areas.

1. Fear Will Paralyze Your Pursuit of Destiny.
I cannot tell you how many opportunities I passed by because I was scared of rejection. I was terrified of what people thought about me, how they would respond to that poem I wrote, to the idea that was aflame inside of me, or to a testimony I wanted to give. As a pastor I once heard said, I was living by the praise of men and dying by their criticism. Seniors, give your fear to your Father. Trust Him with your pursuits and with your desires. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” His love is perfect and can be relied on to demolish fear. You are children of God, conduits of His Glory, and deeply loved. Brennan Manning summed it up best when he said, “Define yourself radically as one beloved of God. This is the true self. Every other identity is an illusion.” Know who you are in the heart of your Father and as the scripture teaches, fear not, for He is with you.

2. Listen to Winston Churchill: Failure is not Fatal.
I took every failure as an indicator that I was a terrible student, creator, artist, writer, friend, or even Christian. I allowed failure to stop me in my tracks, boss me around, and tell me that I was worthless and would not amount to anything. I was missing a tremendous opportunity to grow and learn. I wish I had heeded the words of Thomas Edison. He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Don’t give up on the ideas; they are seeds that God has planted in your heart. Feel the sting; take a deep breath. You can get up again, and if you never experience failure the victory will never be quite as sweet. You have to have the ability to throw cowardice out the window if you want to be be victorious. There is something about being able to overcome. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” You will fail and it may not feel wonderful, but your strength and your sustenance comes from your heavenly Father. So climb that mountain, scrape your knee, and get back up. In the words of Helen Keller, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

3. Hope is an Anchor
I was the queen of pessimism and worry. I always thought of the worst case scenario when I heard about something terrible on the news. There are things happening in our world that through earthly eyes seem unprecedented. The unhinged political scene in the United States alone is enough to make you feel hopeless, not to mention radical Islam, terrorism, and droves of people turning away from the light and accepting evil as truth. The world appears to be shaking. But we have something the world does not have. We have hope. We have Biblical hope: confident expectation or joyful expectation. When I look at you, seniors, and I see who you are and who God has created you to be, I am filled with hope. You are light bearers and are going into the world ready to impact the lost and the dying with the greatest Hope there is–the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Psalm 147:11 says, “but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” C.S. Lewis so aptly describes our deliverance in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.” Jesus has come. He has the victory.

I Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.” Face the the future with an expectation of the victory won by Jesus. To quote Brennan Manning once more, “We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt.”

I want to leave you with this. In the 1980s, there was a famous movie called “Chariots of Fire.” It is the story of the life of missionary and champion runner Eric Liddell. There’s a famous scene where Liddell is being reprimanded by his sister for not putting God first as a missionary to China (which he later pursued and gave his life for) and for taking a season to pursue competitive running. Liddell responds, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” This is my deepest desire for you. That you would not allow your worship to be contained to the four walls of a church building, but that in every talent, gifting, and pursuit, you would glorify and honor your creator, your life a living sacrifice. There’s worship song that so beautifully illustrates how God wants to use to your life. It says:

Pick me up like a paintbrush
Dip it in the colors of my life.
Paint your picture, Father
And fashion a heart that is fully yours
Take your fingers, God,
Master potter come form the clay
Tell your story
As you mold me
Fashion a heart that is fully yours
And write your name in the clay
And sign your name on the picture. (Julie Meyer)

God wants to make a masterpiece of your life, with colors and shapes which he has sovereignly ordained for you.

So.

Bekah: Help people to feel better and stronger in their bodies as you train them to be healthy, and feel his pleasure.

Caleb: Save the world from computer viruses, create, get a patent, and feel his pleasure.

Gabriel: Write the shorts stories, plan the famous novel, get published, and feel his pleasure.

Reagan: Create innovative robotic solutions to help make the world a better place, and feel his pleasure.

Susanna: Design, create, solve difficult problems with great thinking and beauty, and feel his pleasure.

One more time: Awake Narnia.

Love: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”
Think: “and with all your mind,”
Speak: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love. Think. Speak. Take all that has been planted deep inside, and go change the world for the sake of the Gospel. I cannot wait to see what you do!


Bethany Pautrat teaches history and Omnibus at Granite Classical Tutorials.