Archive for May, 2010


Monday, May 31st, 2010

The Elizabethan Age in some ways has no precedence. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) saw England emerge as the leading naval and commercial power of the Western world. England consolidated its position with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and Elizabeth firmly established the Church of England begun by her father, King Henry VIII .

When Elizabeth assumed the throne the nation was ready to support her.  The alternative was civil war—her father, Henry VIII, made everyone uneasy. His successors, Edward VI and Mary, brought great discord.  Most Englishmen saw the disaster that would result if England divided again over religion.  So, mostly, people decided not to be religious.  In some ways, then, Queen Elizabeth usher in one of the first “secular” regimes in world history.

Elizabeth understood and fervently sought public support for her person and policies.  She was a masterful campaigner and resourceful public relations experts. She embraced Parliament. “Though I be a woman I have as good a courage answerable to my place as ever my father had.  I am your anointed Queen.  I will never by by violence constrained to do anything.  I thank God I am endowed with such qualities that if I were turned out of the realm in my petticoat, I were able to live in any place in Christendom. . . and though you have had, and may have many princes, more mighty and wise sitting in this state, yet you never had, or shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.”

Elizabeth worked hard and surrounded herself with capable counsellors, counsellors who were honest advisors, not sycophants. Her wise rule brought England out of the Middle Ages to the Modern Era.

Her explorers gave her the world.  Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world and became the most celebrated English sea captain of his generation. Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh sent colonists eastward in search of profit. European wars brought an influx of continental refugees into England, exposing the Englishman to new cultures. In trade, might, and art, England established an envious pre-eminence.  England experienced a cultural


Friday, May 28th, 2010

Christianity came at the pagan Anglo-Saxons from two directions. The Celtic Church, pushed back into Wales, Cornwall, and particularly Ireland. The Roman Catholic Church approached from the south, beginning with the mission of St.Augustine to Aethelbert, King of Kent, in 597.

Aethelbert was chosen because he was married to Bertha, a Frankish Christian princess, whose support was essential. King Aethelbert, unsure of the intent of the Christian magicians, chose to greet them in the open air to ensure that they couldn’t cast a spell over him.

Augustine’s original intent was to establish an archbishopric in London, but this ignored the political fact that London was in the realm of decidedly pagan religions, particularly Mithraism, so Canterbury, the capital of the Kentish kingdom, became the seat of the pre-eminent archbishop in England.

The Celtic church was empathic, fervent, monastic, and more spontaneous. Ultimately the more disciplined, structure, Roman Church prevailed.

The church was the only truly national entity tying together the different Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The early monasteries of Northumberland were vital centers of learning and the arts until they were destroyed by the Viking raids of the 9th century.

The earliest and most important writer of prose was the Venerable Bede, a contemporary of the auth or of Beowulf.  Bede also spelled BAEDA, or BEDA (672/673-735), Anglo-Saxon theologian, historian, and chronologist, best known today for his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People), a source vital to the history of the conversion to Christianity of the Anglo-Saxon people.  He also introduced to historical works the system of dating events from the birth of Christ and did careful work in historiography.

Churches were almost the only forum for education. Under the auspices of Alfred the Great church schools were encouraged, and many Latin works were translated into English. The higher church officials also played important secular roles; advising the king, witnessing legal transactions, and administering landholdings of the church, which could be exceedingly large.

Most of the early work of spreading the Gospel was done from monasteries. The monks of the 7th and 8th centuries were not confined to a closed monastic community, but carried the responsibility of traveling, usually on foot, throughout the surrounding countryside to preach and convert in the villages.

Most church buildings were built of stone, but this was not true of domestic buildings. Even in towns, very few buildings would have had even a stone foundation. Most dwellings were wooden, with low, thatched roofs, an open hearth in a floor of earth or gravel, and walls of planks or mud and sticks (

The Anglo-Saxons ruled England for almost a century.  During that time they established a nation.  It is true, as G. K. Chesterton argues, that the end of Roman rule meant the beginning of barbarian rule. “It seems certain that in this welter Roman Britain bought help from ruder races living about that neck of Denmark where is now the duchy of Schleswig. Having been chosen only to fight somebody they naturally fought anybody; and a century of fighting followed, under the trampling of which the Roman pavement was broken into yet smaller pieces. It isperhaps permissible to disagree with the historian Green when he says that no spot should be more sacred to modern Englishmen than the neighbourhood of Ramsgate, where the Schleswig people are supposed to have landed; or when he suggests that their appearance is the real beginning of our island story. It would be rather more true to say that it was nearly, though prematurely, the end of it.” Still, thanks mostly to Christianity, Anglo-Saxon culture emerged from barbarism, to a high culture.  The Church then surely is one of the major reasons the nation of Great Britain emerged.

The Anglo Saxon

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

The Anglo-Saxons were invading Germanic tribes who dominated England from the early AD 500 to the Norman conquest of 1066. The Benedictine monk, Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, identified them as the descendants of the Angles, Saxons, and the Jutes.

Small in number, they were nonetheless able to conquer all of Britain in one generation. How? Initially the regions seized were mainly those that had been closely administrated by Rome, regions where traditions of political and military self-help were at their weakest. Many of these former Briton centers, welcomed Germanic invaders, who, after all were more “Briton” than the Romans (John Davis).

Another compelling reason cited by historians is the emergence in Britain of the great plague of the sixth century from Egypt that was particularly devastating to the Britons who had been in close contact with peoples of the Mediterranean. Be that as it may, the emergence of England as a nation did not begin as a result of a quick, decisive victory over the native Britons, but a result of hundreds of years of settlement and growth, more settlement and growth, sometimes peaceful, sometimes not. The native Celts were constantly warring among themselves too, which made the Anglo-Saxon invasion more effective.  As Historian Goldwin explained:

Another obvious attribute of an island is freedom from invasion. The

success of the Saxon invaders may be ascribed to the absence of strong

resistance. The policy of Roman conquest, by disarming the natives, had

destroyed their military character, as the policy of British conquest

has done in India, where races which once fought hard against the

invader under their native princes, such as the people of Mysore, are

now wholly unwarlike. Anything like national unity, or power of co-

operation against a foreign enemy, had at the same time been extirpated

by a government which divided that it might command. The Northman [Saxons] in his

turn owed his success partly to the want of unity among the Saxon

principalities, partly and principally to the command of the sea which

the Saxon usually abandoned to him, and which enabled him to choose his

own point of attack, and to baffle the movements of the defenders. When

Alfred built a fleet, the case was changed.

The Anglo-Saxon invasions of England—and there were multiple invasions—were part of a larger European event.  As the Roman Empire collapsed, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes moved westward. First they were merely raiders; then colonists; finally conquerors. Their invasions were made more effective by the extensive Roman road system and English natural river system.  In the end, they were able to conquer more of England than the Romans.  They went farther north (into Scotland) and farther west (to Wales).

In a few short decades, the Anglo-Saxons dominated Great Britain.  King Alfred the Great (849, ruled 871-899) was the most famous Anglo-Saxon kings. He defended Anglo-Saxon England from Viking raids, formulated a code of laws, and fostered a rebirth of religious and scholarly activity.

Two very important events occurred in the next two centuries:  the success of Christianity over all other religions and the political unification of England. In 596 Pope Gregory I sent a monk named Augustine to Kent, where pagan King Ethelbert had married Bertha, a Christian princess.  Augustine witnessed to King Ethelbert.  Soon after, Ethelbert was baptized and Augustine became the first archbishop of Canterbury.  The southern kingdoms–called England–became Christian.

In Northumbria (Northern England and Scotland) the Roman Christianity met Celtic Christianity, which had been brought from Ireland to Scotland by Columba.  Although not heretical, the Celtic church differed from Rome in the way the monks cut their hair, in its reckoning of the date of Easter, and, most important, in its organization, which emphasized the clans of Ireland rather than the highly centralized Roman Catholic Church.

All these institutions strengthened Anglo-Saxon hegemony over the region. Furthermore Anglo-Saxon rule was forced to consolidate further by Danish and Viking invasions. For the first time, one people ruled all of Great Britain.  Even though Anglo-Saxon rule did not last long, The monarchy was in place, never to end except for a short time during the English Civil War.

The first really important king was Egbert.  One of the first Egbert’s grandson, Alfred, became king in one of England’s most precarious moments.  Alfred were all that stood in the way of a Danish invasion. Alfred was able for a season to keep the Danes from controlling all of England, even though they controlled most of it.  This was to change in 1066.

The Legend of King Arthur

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

No one knows for sure if there really was a King Arthur. Most historians, however, believe there really was a Briton King named Arthur, or a combination of Briton Kings whose exploits are summed up in the life of one man.

Arthur was allegedly the son of King Pendragon, a Briton Welsh King during the Roman occupation. Legend states that the departing Roman army asked Arthur to protect Britons from the warring Anglo-Saxons pouring into England.

King Arthur is so inextricably tied up in Celtic Mythology that he must, in origin, have been, not a man at all, but a god. In early stories he and his knights have superhuman strength and abilities.  Some Welsh legends say that Arthur is not dead but only sleeping in one of numerous caves waiting to return and lead his people. (David Nash Ford,

Serving with King Arthur were the Knights of the Round Table. The knights themselves are the heroes of many of the stories. The most important ones are Sir Bedivere, Sir Gawain, and Sir Kay. Later surpassed by Sir Lancelot.

Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur is first mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain. According to this account, King Arthur gets a sword called “Caliburn,” which was made on the Isle of Avalon. Later legends have the sword being returned to the Lady of the Lake on the mortal wounding of King Arthur at Camlann. It was not until Robert de Boron wrote Merlin (c. 1200) that the author introduced the story of the young King Arthur drawing the sword Excalibur from a rock.

Arthur’s knights perennial go on quests for the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper and which was used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch Christ’s blood as he died on the cross.

Tennyson is perhaps the author who has the greatest influence on the conception of the Holy Grail quest through his Idylls (in Skills for Literary Analysis)and his short poem “Sir Galahad”.

How did Arthur die? In some accounts, King Arthur was taken to the Isle of Avalon to be healed, and what happened to him after reaching the island is a mystery. Some say he lies in a cave awaiting the day he is needed again by his country; others say King Arthur he died at Avalon. Apart from the somewhat dubious claim by some Medieval monks to have found King Arthur’s grave, no real evidence has emerged for an Arthurian grave.

In summary,King Arthur was probably a folk tale, based roughly on a historic, figure. He was portrayed as a ‘Protector of Britain’ who wanders across Britan with his band of chivalrous knights. Perhaps there was a great king who saved Briton from Saxon hands for a time.

Roman England

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

C. K. Chesterton once remarked, “The land on which we live once had the highly poetic privilege of being the end of the world. Its extremity was ultima Thule, the other end of nowhere. When these islands, lost in a night of northern seas, were lit up at last by the long searchlights of Rome, it was felt that the remotest remnant of things had been touched; and more for pride than possession.” Britain was directly Roman for fully four hundred years; longer than she has been anything else. Being Roman did not mean being subject, in the sense that one savage tribe will enslave another. Both conquerors and conquered were heathen, and both had the institutions which seem to us to give an inhumanity to heathenism: the triumph, the slave-market, the lack of all the sensitive nationalism of modern history (Chesterton). But the Roman Empire did not destroy Great Britain; if anything, it created it. Britons were not originally proud of being Britons; but they were proud of being Romans. As Chesterton explained, “The Roman steel was at least as much a magnet as a sword. In truth it was rather a round mirror of steel, in which every people came to see itself.”  The Celts were firmly in place when the Romans came.  No one was every able to conquer completely the Celts, but the Romans tried.  In 55 B.C., Julius Caesar, then general of the Roman armies in Gaul (Germany and part of France), invaded Britain.   The Celts were aiding Roman enemies in Europe: the dangerous Gauls.  Something had to be done.  Caesar sought to gain prestige, new territory for Rome, and to remove an ally of Rome’s enemies.  He soundly defeated the Celtic Bretons and established a firm Roman foothold in Great Britain.   There was no such thing as a unified Great Britain, and there was no such thing as a unified Celtic army to meet the Roman advance.  Each tribe fought its own battle against the formidable Roman legions.  And generally it lost.  Nonetheless, Julius Caesar left after two summers fighting, exacting a promise of tribute from the defeated tribes.  It would be 100 years before Rome would try to extend its influence over other par ts of Great Britain. In the meantime, the Roman Empire and Celtic England mutually benefitted from trading goods.

Emperor Claudius the Stutterer increased Roman control on Britain.  The struggle continued during other Roman reigns.  In 123, Hadrian’s Wall, stretching 73 miles across Northern England became the northern frontier.  Later emperors tried to spread Roman influence as far as what is now Glasgow, Scotland, with the Antonine Wall, but were unable to hold the line and ultimately retreated to the Hadrian line. In 138 AD Antonius Pius (86-161 AD) succeeded Hadrian as Emperor of Rome. To mark the northernmost extent of Roman territory in Britain, Antonius built a wall to keep fierce Bretons, Scots, Picts, and Celts from harassing Roman settlements.

The Antonine Wall spanned the narrowest portion of lowland Scotland, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde.  Unlike its more solid southern counterpart, Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall was built of dirt fronted by a ditch 12 feet deep. The wall was 10 feet high and 14 feet wide and dotted with 29 small military forts linked by a road. As a defensive barrier the Antonine Wall failed. In 181 Roman enemies poured over the wall and pushed the Romans back to Hadrian’s Wall. The Roma ns finally gave up any hope of regaining the territory between the two walls in 196 AD.

Requiring a 10th of the entire Roman army to garrison Britain forced Roman leaders to reassess the value of ruling such a violent and ungrateful people as the Celtic Bretons were.  In 410 Rome abandoned Britain.  Roman influence remains today.  Cities like London were founded; wonderful roads were built; Christianity came to Great Britain.

By the 5th century various tribes–especially the Angles and Saxons raided and then settled in Great Britain.  Indigenous Bretons and Celtic Bretons, one of whom was probably King Arthur, valiantly resisted invasion.  But to no avail.  In a few short decades, the Anglo-Saxons dominated Great Britain.  King Alfred the Great (849, ruled 871-899) was the most famous Anglo-Saxon kings. He defended Anglo-Saxon England from Viking raids, formulated a code of laws, and fostered a rebirth of religious and scholarly activity.

Two very important events occurred in the next two centuries:  the success of Christianity over all other religions and the political unification of England. In 596 Pope Gregory I sent a monk named Augustine to Kent, where pagan King Ethelbert had married Bertha, a Christian princess.  Augustine witnessed to King Ethelbert.  Soon after, Ethelbert was baptized and Augustine became the first archbishop of Canterbury.  The southern kingdoms–called England–became Christian.

New History

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I am excited about the new edition of my BRITISH HISTORY that will be available in July.  FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS will offer 8 different history choices:  American, British, World, Epoch I (Creation to the Middle Ages), Epoch II (The Middle Ages to French Revolution), Epoch III (French Revolution to Gilded Age), Epoch IV (Gilded Age to the Present).  The following is a section on “Druids,” in my British History:

A druid was a member of the priestly class active in Gaul (Northern Germany), and in Celtic Britain.  They were priest, judge, scholar, and teacher to their Briton communities. The core points of druidic religious beliefs included reincarnation and human sacrifice.

Druids were highly educated for their culture.  Yet, they wrote nothing.  Some Druids spent 20 years memorizing oral traditions of Druidic lore. The Druid priesthood was open only to males.  All instruction was communicated orally so there was no record of Druid ritual or theology.

Druids could punish members of Celtic society by a form of “excommunication”, preventing them from attending religious festivals.  Druids, then, had both priestly and political roles and were instrumental in maintaining order.

Druid religion included rituals performed at so called Druid temples, usually stone structures built into the side of a hill.  Stonehenge may be an exception.

Stonehenge is a place of pilgrimage for neo-druids, and for certain others following pagan or neo-pagan beliefs, but it was probably nothing more than a burial site.

One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It included several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.

Stonehenge was associated with burial from the earliest period of its existence. Stonehenge evolved in several construction phases spanning at least 1500 years. There is evidence of large-scale construction on and around the monument that perhaps extends the landscape’s time frame to 6500 years.

Scholars believe that Stonehenge once stood as a magnificent complete monument. This cannot be proved as around half of the stones that should be present are missing, and many of the assumed stone sockets have never been found.

One final personal message. If one asked this author, when I was an eight year old, what my favorite holiday was, he  would have enthusiastically proclaimed: Halloween!  Haunted houses, costumes, candy–it all captured his imagination.  But that was 1961 and this is today.

Halloween clearly is not a Christian holiday.  In fact it is anything but Christian.  In fact the origins and traditions of Halloween can be traced back thousands of years to the Druids.  The eve of October 31 marked the transition from summer into the darkness of winter.  On this night, the spirits of the dead rose up.  Demons, fairies, and ghouls roamed about the town.  They destroyed crops, killed cattle, soured milk, and generally made life miserable . . . unless an appropriate appeasement was offered.  Namely, a human sacrifice.  So, anticipating these goblins, Druid towns annually, on October, chose young maidens and sacrificed them in honor of the pagan gods.   This is not the same as having a Christmas tree, or believing in the Easter Bunny–Halloween is a celebration of death, destruction, and hell.

Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is hope and mercy and love–not death, destruction, and murder.  There are alternative celebrations you know.  Some parents hold costume parties and have the kids dress as Bible heroes (no trick or treat though!).  Other groups hold hayrides and harvest celebrations. Halloween is a time to rejoice in the fact that “the Son of God appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)!”  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).  You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light . . . and do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them (Eph. 5:8,11).


Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

On one level the SAT and ACT are indeed different.

Some differences are obvious.  The SAT is a math, verbal (language arts), and writing test while the ACT includes math, verbal (language arts), writing, social studies, and science questions.  SAT test-takers are penalized .25 points for guessing.  There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT.

Other differences are not so obvious.  The SAT is an aptitude, critical thinking test in the same family as the IQ test.  The ACT is an achievement, or knowledge-based test, in the same family as a Stanford Achievement or Iowa Basics test.  What this means, is that test takers must spend a lot more time in SAT preparation than in ACT preparation.

Students will not increase their IQ scores in six weeks nor will they increase their SAT scores in six weeks.  Not so with the ACT.  ACT scores, based on knowledge acquisition more than critical problem solving, can be increased with the most basic review hours before the exam.

There are more similarities, however, than differences between the exams.  Both are predominately math and verbal exams.  The math on the ACT is somewhat more difficult, but it often is presented in math problem format (like the SAT).  The verbal section is very similar—with a huge emphasis on critical reading and vocabulary.  Even the ACT writing section is similar (although students will need to include a counter argument in the ACT to get a high score).

But the greatest similarity is in stress reduction.  Stress reduction (in my book stress reduction is alleviated through Bible memory verse memorization and Scripture prayers) will increase immensely SAT and ACT scores.

In summary then, here are my conclusions:

  1. The ACT and SAT are very fine tests in so far as they predict fairly well the success of a college freshman.
  2. Home school students in particular are doing well on both. Students should probably take both the SAT and ACT.
  3. Most colleges prefer and some even require the SAT.
  4. The coaching resistant, critical thinking SAT requires a great deal of test preparation.   The knowledge-based ACT requires a strong academic background, but no particular test taking skills. So it will require less preparation.
  5. At the same time, most of the components of both tests are similar, and, without a doubt, stress reduction preparation will boost scores on both tests.
  6. Therefore, why not kill two birds with one stone?  Prepare for the SAT  and students will be sure that they are ready for the ACT too!

One final note:  THE SAT AND COLLEGE PREPARATION COURSE (2009), with its emphasis on critical thinking, critical reading, math computation, and writing skills, therefore is really a preparation for the SAT and ACT.  It is all students will need to prepare for both tests!

Emily Dickinson

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Emily Dickinson didn’t just have a passion for poetry–she also loved plants. Well, plants, bulbs, annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs – basically all things related to gardening. Throughout her life, Dickinson created a leather-bound herbarium and pressed over 400 specimens into it, all of which she labeled with the genus and species. This manuscript, along with some of her poems and letters make up only a part of The New York Botanical Garden’s newest exhibition entitled “Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers.” Opening this Friday in the Bronx, the show will feature three straight days of Dickinson’s poetry; visitors, staff and special guests can participate in any or all of the eight-hour sessions, the chronological marathon readings of her 1,789 poems.

As one critic mused, Dickinson “ was of the part of life that is always youth, always magical. She wrote of it as she grew to know it, step by step, discovery by discovery, truth by truth—until time merely became eternity. She was preëminently the discoverer—eagerly hunting the meaning of it all; this strange world in which she wonderingly found herself,—“A Balboa of house and garden,” surmising what lay beyond the purple horizon. She lived with a God we do not believe in, and trusted in an immortality we do not deserve, in that confiding age when Duty ruled over Pleasure before the Puritan became a hypocrite.”

I like a look of agony
Because I know it’s true
Men do not sham convulsion
Nor simulate a throe.

Dickinson struggled with life so she scarcely knew what to do with death . . .

BECAUSE I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the school where children played
At wrestling in a ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
Since then ’t is centuries; but each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

What is Literary Criticism? Why teach it?

Friday, May 7th, 2010

The heart of literary criticism is the notion of rhetoric.  Rhetoric, simply, is the ability effectively to communicate through the written and spoken word.  Written and spoken are the crucial concepts of understanding rhetoric.  One can send a photograph of a thing or cd with music describing the thing or paint a picture of the thing and communicate well enough.  But this is not rhetoric.  Rhetoric is a discipline that demands that the reader dutifully follow laws of grammar, logic, and communication to explain and to describe the thing.

Quality rhetoric is important and necessary.   It seems to me, and to the Greeks, that a democracy demands a responsible, well considered rhetoric. It is absolutely necessary that we participate in legitimate conversation about important issues.

Rhetoric demands that we reclaim the use of metaphor.  A metaphor is a word picture.   It is describing a thing with a dissimilar thing.  It demands discipline and control.  A four year old cannot understand predestination, for instance, unless the communicator pulls out experiences and images that are familiar with a four year old.  To describe predestination from the perspective of a seminary professor may be accurate, but it is not rhetoric.  Also, one can take a picture of a sunset and send it to millions of people via e-mail, but it is not rhetoric.  Rhetoric is the attempt to communicate a sunset by the use of the spoken and by the written word.   Thus, a metaphor is at the heart of rhetoric, at the heart of classical education.

To ignore rhetoric is to invite ourselves on a dangerous search for truth.  Our mindless search for relevance and literalness has gotten us pretty lost in the cosmos.  When the thing we seek is so easily obtained by computer chip or digital photograph, then we lazily refuse to engage ourselves in the discipline of metaphor.  Love, however, is not easily photographed.  Only the metaphor does it justice.  Question:  if we lose the written metaphor, will we also lose love?  How does one understand 1 Cor. 13 without first understanding metaphor?  Metaphor or comparison between two ostensibly dissimilar phenomena is absolutely critical to understanding abstract theological concepts, and, for that matter, it is critical to creative problem solving.  The problems of this age demands a kind of thinking that is promoted and encouraged by rhetoric.  The problems of this age will Aliterally remain unsolved.  However, rhetoric, and the power of metaphor, will invite this generation to look for more creative solutions.  Immorality, for instance, literally will not be removed unless we look to the written word, that is, the Bible, for answers.  Nothing in our experience offers a solution.  One will not understand the Bible unless one can employ metaphorical thinking.  How else will one apply the ethical teachings of a Savior spoken 2000 years ago?   Metaphor, along with other mysteries, have been victims of  20th century pretension, pomposity, and obsequious thinking.

Loss of metaphor is only the beginning of the problem.  Gertrude Himmelfarb, On Looking Into the Abyss, laments that  great literary works are no longer read–and if they were, there are no rules for interpreting them.  In philosophy, indeed in all communication, truth and reality are considered relative.  With no rules the rhetorician is invited to come to any conclusion he wishes.  He is invited to pretty shaky ground.  Gordon Conwell Seminary professor David Wells in God in the Wastelands argues that evangelicalBChristians who believe in a personal relationship with God– and non-Christians have both drunk from the trough of modernity.  We have both embraced a sort of existential faith instead of a confessional faith.  If it feels good do it and believe it.   Unless  evangelicals participate in serious apologetics, God will be Aweightless.

The rise of relativism has had disastrous results.  The British historian Philip Johnson laments Athe great vacuum that has been filled with totalitarian regimes and fascile thinking.  Rhetoric ferrets out truth.  If there is no truth, can there be any sense of authority?  And can a society survive if there is no authority?  Without a legitimate, honest, well considered rhetoric, will history be reduced to the Apleasure principle?  Literary Criticism, at least in the area of the written classics, forces us to dance with reality.

In some ways the American Evangelical Christianity=s loss of rhetorical skills–and I think rhetoric is akin to apologetics–has presaged disaster in many arenas. Without rhetoric Christians have no tools to engage modern culture. In some ways we have lost the mainline denominations to neo-orthodoxy and we have lost the university to liberals.  Where are the Jonathan Edwards?  C. S. Lewis? Good thinking, good talking, may redeem the Church from both the Overzealous and the Skeptic.  Rhetorical skills may help us regain the intellectual and spiritual high ground we so grievously surrendered without a fight (Alister McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity).  George Marsden in The Soul of the American University and Leslie Newbigen in Foolishness to the Greeks both conclude that we Christians have conceded much of American culture to modernism by our inability to merge thought and communication in a cogency and inspiration that persuades the modernist culture.  Without the main tool to do battle–rhetoric–Evangelicals allow orthodoxy to be sacrificed on the altar of relativism.

A Gathered Inheritance (from my book of the same title)

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

A transplanted Arkansas boy who now lives in the often-frigid Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania, I like my apple cider to be steaming and my house to be about 78 degrees. An anthracite coal-burning stove does the job, but there is one problem with coal heat, and it occurs about three o’clock every morning: the fire dies down to the point where the house is dangerously cold.

Is the home school movement growing cold?  I think not.   Old Testament Levitical priests had a duty to tend the fire in the tent of meeting, to keep it roaring and bright. The fire on the altar, the eternal flame on which sacrifices were offered to God, was not to go out. Other tasks could be deferred. But the fire on the altar was never to go out. (Leviticus 6:8–13)   Through the centuries believers have served well as fire tenders. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever . . .(Deuteronomy 29:29). This is a gathered inheritance kept alive by men and women of faith.  In our own home school history the honor belongs to Hulsey, Harris, Ferris, and countless others.     Truth is restated; more than that, the reader will observe that saints throughout the ages have built on the faith of those who preceded them. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: that is true, and truth is the same, forever. Revelation of truth, though, is forever becoming better understood, we hope. The previous generation of believers passes the torch to us, and we pass it to the next, and so on. Each generation builds on the illumination of the previous generation. We trust that the world is better for it.

On my farm grows an oak tree that began its life 30 years ago full of potential, and it was beautiful in its own right. Today it is so much more beautiful than it was thirty years ago. It is the same tree, but oh, how much larger and fuller are its branches and fruits! Diurnally I remove acorns and leaves deposited on my truck. It is the same tree, still full of potential, but producing more fruit than ever. A vicious blight or uncaring gypsy moth may kill it someday, but I already see a new oak seedling growing in its redolent shadow.

I look at this new generation of home schoolers and I know that we are not going to run out of fuel. The Holy Spirit is still here to encourage, to inspire every generation. There is, I have no doubt, a new C. S. Lewis or Oswald Chambers alive today.

Fear is dissipated by promises; evil is overcome by good. A gathered inheritance. We again recognize that the secret things belong “to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29). A gathered inheritance!

Theologian Paul Tillich wrote, “The lightning illuminates all and then leaves it again in darkness. So faith in God grasps humanity, and we respond in ecstasy. And the darkness is never again the same, . . . but it is still the darkness.”

All of God’s saints—past, present, and future—are flashes of lightning in the sky. And the darkness is never the same again because the light reveals what life can be in Jesus Christ. “Memory allows possibility,” theologian Walter Brueggemann writes. A gathered inheritance.  We bring memory. Our young people bring possibility.