Archive for October, 2007


Monday, October 29th, 2007

Conclusion: What would the world have been like if John Milton was taught format writing? Would he have pushed convention enough to write Paradise Lost? C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles was innovative—not regurgitation of old forms. Remember too that most of the apologetic argument of the last century was generated by literary critics, not theologians. Could we be putting apologetics in jeopardy by teaching format writing?

What price are we willing to pay for quick and easy writing progress? What are we willing to lose to gain formula writing? Would we allow someone who could not play the piano teach our children how to play Mozart? Would we hire a math teacher to teach our children calculus who only know arithmetic functions? Are all major curricula companies wrong? Not one of them advocates formt writing.

Home schoolers, format writing (or what I call sophism or format rhetoric) is the antithesis of what we stand. We have instituted a meritocracy; format writing is the very essence of mediocrity. It advances convention, standardization, sterility. There is no life in format writing. There is no truth in sophism/format writing. It is high treason to a theistic evangelical advancing the content of the Gospel. It is anathema to the Christian apologist gropping for fresh metaphors to share Gospel truth with an unsaved world. Its seeds of superficiality grow forests of ho hum pedictability.

Are we sacrificing the next J. R. R. Tolkein or T. S. Eliot on the altar of convenience and of quantification? Sure, format writing is easy to learn. Easier to teach. But do you think Flannery O’Connor was taught to write through format writing? Do you really want to produce a generation that begins all essays with a ubiquitous generalization about reality followed by 3-5 examples ending with a trite summary?

Let us be frank. In these post-Christian, post-modern times, we abandon Christian rhetoric at our great peril. Jf we embrace format writing, we embrace mediocrity, superficiality, and conformity. We assissinate metaphorical faith. We doom ourselves and our world to live in culture and in reality paradigms that are old and facile. The creative edge of home education may very well die on the sword of convenience. Think and pray about it.

In summary, the following are indicators of format writing:

  1. Inevitably format writing emphasizes form over content. A format writer is virtually unable to participate in meaningful literary analysis (i.e., profound analysis of a literary piece).
  2. Format writing is full of broad, predictable generalizations where the writer purports to be a specialist in everything. But in fact the format writer is substantially unable to develop, and much less to defend, any serious rhetorical point. One rarely finds a credible thesis (i.e., purpose statement) in a format writing piece.
  3. All essays begin and end exactly the same way. Predictability is a sign of inferior writing and endemic to format writing.
  4. While form essays are marginally acceptable in the late grammar and early dialectic stage, inevitably rhetoric level students are unable to cope with the content-heavy stresses of the rhetoric level.
  5. Format writers are virtually never published. They are doomed to languish in the throes of predictability and mediocrity.
  6. Finally, format writing does not consider audience, content, or purpose. It can lead to sterile, inferior writing.


Friday, October 26th, 2007

In summary, in format writing, reality begins and ends with the writer. It discourages the discovery of metaphor and discourages the discipline of writing to an audience. True writing, true rhetoric demands that we reclaim the use of metaphor. It demands, too that, we consider our audience. Central to metaphor is comparison between two ostensibly dissimilar phenomena and this is absolutely critical to creative problem solving. After all, how does one describe love? Hope? Faith? These are metaphors that Christian believers use to describe the character of God and His people. Format writing invites participants to write coldly with no content, with no audience—with no metaphors. Without creative metaphors Christianity is forced to abandon all hope of advancing fresh metaphors for the timeless truth of the Gospels. After all, all we need to do is write five paragraphs with transitions and 3 ly words. Would 1 Corinthians 13 fit a format? It was birthed by the Holy Spirit and it is full of creative, fresh metaphors that would have remained undiscovered in most format writing programs. In fact, the entire book of Revelation is iconoclastic. Metaphors, figurative and creative images of reality, are not necessary and will be lost in cold format writing.


Thursday, October 25th, 2007

The Argument: Aristotle, in his Rhetoric argues that communication, or writing and rhetoric, concerns the character (ethos) of the speaker, the emotional state (pathos) of the listener, and the argument (logos) itself. In fact, the success of the writing enterprise depends on the emotional disposition of the audience. To Aristotle this is the topoi or topic written for an audience. To ignore the audience, removes the very heart of the writing piece. Format writing invites the writer to sacrifice ethos, pathos, and logos on the altar of convenience.


Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Background: In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul talks about having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Every Spirit-filled Christian would understand the difference between religion and relationship with God. One is dynamic and the other an imitation.

In other arenas, there are other forms that can rob us of the real. One such form that is causing a stir in the home school arena is format writing. It is easy to teach and easy to grade. It seems like a dream come true for our often reluctant writers. But is it?


Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

IV. Conclusion
Martin Luther wrote, “There is no greater love than God and no more desperate scoundrel than the world. . . His love is greater than the fire seen by Moses and greater even than the fire of hell.”

How? 1. apologetics, 2. capture the elite culture
3. join and participate in culture when we can.We stand today basking in the glow of the love of God in Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, October 16th, 2007


During World War II Zvi Michalowski, a Lithuanian Jew, was captured by the Nazi invaders and condemned to die, along with all the Jews from his village. Typically, the Nazi executioners lined up all the Jews in front of a ditch outside Zvi’s small town and then they were shot.

Zvi, though, had fallen into the pit a fraction of a second before the volley of shots which killed those standing with him, including his father. Later, Zvi crawled from the pit and escaped.


Monday, October 15th, 2007

“Who knows, you may have been placed in this place for such a time as this?”–Esther 4:14
(The reader will find similar concepts developed in “Who will Stand For us in the Face of Death?” a sermon preached by Pamela Ann Moeller in Pulpit Digest September/October, 1992. I used some of Pastor Moeller’s theological concepts and developed them concerning home schooling. The reader is encouraged to read Pastor Meoeller’s sermon.).


In our Scripture reading today the Jewish nation is facing imminent extinction. They stand at the brink of annihilation, genocide. They are the victims of the vitriolic and uncontrolled hatred of one man, Haman, and the whimsical irresponsibility of the foolish king, Ahasuerus.


Friday, October 12th, 2007

I preached on Esther 1 last summer and I introduced my congregation to this young, pious, beautiful orphan, raised by her dutiful Godly Uncle Mordecai. Here she is, minding her own business, obeying God and living a good Jewish life. Granted she was in horrible Bablyon and her peopl were in exilic captivity, but she, and as history proves, most of her people, were doing quite.


Thursday, October 11th, 2007

The Faerie Queene—as you probably know by now—is the longest narrative poem in the English language. It makes Milton’s formidable Paradise Lost to be like a walk in the park! Still, it is full of action and one of the seminal masterpieces of English literature, and it has influenced scholars since its completion in 1596. Nonetheless, its epic length, its wealth of incident and detail, and the complexity of its allegory and richness of its topical allusions make it one of the hardest texts to understand. By the way, letters u and v are rather interchangeable in Spenser’s deliberately antique English—used to evoke a world of mystery. What I really like about The Fairie Queen is that Spenser really had a hero. Well, a “heroine” really, because love his Queen Elizabeth. He adored her, honored her, trusted her. She had delivered England from the Spanish Armada. What sort of heroes and heroines do we have? A Republican candidate married twice, the second time to a woman with whom he had an adulterous affair? Or a Democrat married to a man who publicly dishonored the highest office in the land, on national TV, by lying and trying to cover up his fornicating ways? I am sorry for my vehemence but I want tired of having no choices at all And, I may be the only American left who feels this way, but I have enjoyed the last 8 years of a moral, Godly president. Bless his soul! Where are the Queen Elizabeths when we need them?


Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Don Quixote is a worn-out, older Spanish gentleman who sets off on a great imagined quest to win honor and glory in the name of his imaginary damsel-in-distress, Dulcinea. Don Quixote is much more; he is larger than life. He represents Cervantes’s satire of the sixteenth-century Spanish aristocracy. Don Quixote longs for a world that does not exist—a world of beauty and achievement. He naively seeks to bring order into this Renaissance world by Middle Age chivalry. But Don Quixote, nearly blind figuratively and literarily, with the best of intentions, harms everyone around him.

As the novel progresses, Don Quixote, with the help of his modern, loyal squire, Sancho, who is able to see things as they are, slowly distinguishes between reality and the pictures in his head. Even though he ceases to attack windmills, he never loses his conviction that fair Dulcinea is his salvation from all heartache.

But I like the clearn, naïve idealism of Quixote. I suppose I have attacked a windmill or two myself. I disagree with author/critic Vladimir Nabokov who wrote:

Both parts of Don Quixote form a veritable encyclopedia of cruelty. From that viewpoint it is one of the most bitter and barbarous books ever penned. And its cruelty is artistic. The extraordinary commentators who talk through their academic caps or birettas of the humorous and humane mellowly Christian atmosphere of the book, or a happy world where “all is sweetened by the humanities of love and good fellowship,” and particularly those who talk of a certain “kindly duchess” who “entertains the Don” in the second Part—these gushing experts have probably been reading some other book or are looking through some rosy gauze at the brutal world of Cervantes’ novel.

Critic Joseph Wood Krutch argued that Don Quixote strove “for that synthesis of the comedy and tragedy of life which we recognize as the distinguishing mark of the modern novel [and I would add the modern life].”
. Several years ago, the story of Don Quixote was adapted as the musical play Man of La Mancha. In this version, at Quixote’s deathbed, Sancho promises to continue Don Quixote’s mission. I think Cervantes would have been pleased with this ending.