Monday, July 20, 2009

Apparently Lutheran Theology *Does* Conflict with the Underlying Philosophy of Classical Education

I was discussing with my dh - a Lutheran pastor - the accuracy (or lack thereof) of The Latin-Centered Curriculum's (LCC) description of Luther's beliefs toward classical education, and ended up getting completely blown away.

Dh advanced the position that, however hard we may try to find the truth, we can only succeed in actually finding it with the help of the Holy Spirit. Basically, sin has so thoroughly tainted everything - including the natural world and our reason - that on our own we are thoroughly incapable of ever grasping actual Truth. Sin corrupted all our data, and there is no way that we - equally corrupted by the Fall - can even have the slightest clue what it originally was like. We may very well find out accurate facts about our sinful world, but they are - at best - twisted, distorted reflections of actual Truth. And truth mixed with lies is ultimately still a lie. Only through the Holy Spirit can we discover actual Truth. (It's just like how we can not help but sin except through the continual help of the Holy Spirit.)

(Natural law would be something of a special case. It is directly written on our hearts by God, and - like all works of God - it is perfect. But it was done after the Fall, and in response to it - the law wasn't needed when we were in perfect communion with God, after all - and thus doesn't suffer from the data corruption effects that the rest of God's perfect creation suffers from. However, even though the law is perfect, our reason - outside of God - is still flawed, and thus can't help but mix lies in with the truth.)

Well, that is depressing. And flatly contradicts at least some of the basic premises of classical education. Objective truth exists, but it is not knowable outside of God. Not only it is impossible to know Christ without God, it is impossible to truly know anything without God. Sure, reason alone could never save your soul, but apparently it alone can't do much of anything, period.

Yet, does this understanding of human reason and its limitations violate basic premises of Christian classical education? More to the point, does it do so in a way that makes it impossible to have a historically meaningful classical education that is also grounded in Lutheran theology?

Well, based upon this explanation of true Christian education, written by William Michael of the CLAA, I would say that authentic classical education that is authentically Lutheran is possible. He writes that "[t]rue education teaches human beings to seek truth, goodness and beauty by the use of faith-enlightened reason." Despite our disagreement on the efficacy of non faith-enlightened reason, I am in complete agreement with that statement.

But even so, the more I read about the Scholastics, and about how thoroughly they - and through them the Catholic church - were influenced by Aristotle's philosophy, the more I'm starting to agree with Mr. Michael. If a true classical education requires adopting an Aristotelian worldview (which is not an indefensible position to take), rather than just studying Aristotle's works, then it really *isn't* possible to have an authentic classical education that is also genuinely Protestant.

But is adopting an Aristotelian worldview required to have an historical meaningful classical education? That's the kicker - I'm still trying to figure it out.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Genuine Lutheran Classical Education - Oxymoron?

So says the founder, Mr. Michael, of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy (provider of authentic Catholic classical education, in an historically meaningful sense).

My first reaction was to reject his conclusion out of hand - He's Catholic, what else would he think? Certainly, Catholics and Lutherans disagree on several fundamental issues, and this naturally would be reflected in how we approach learning - a Lutheran education is an entirely different animal than a Catholic education. But the idea that Catholic beliefs are necessary to an historically meaningful classical education - that's crazy talk, right? Yet, as I considered his arguments, I got to wondering - does authentic classical education, in the historically meaningful sense (which is what I am striving for), incorporate principles and philosophies that are antithetical to Lutheran theology?

Michael, in describing the trouble non-Catholic students would have in his program, says that "it is a matter of fact that the principles of Protestantism and Evangelicalism are inconsistent with the principles of true classical learning. In other words, there can be no such thing as a 'Genuine Protestant Classical Education'."

However, many of Michael's points, while accurate with respect to generic American Protestantism, do not apply to Lutheranism. All of the cultural advantages he lists for Catholic families - the liturgical calender, the numerous saints to study and imitate, the Sacraments, the fellowship in two millennia's worth of Christian society, and the historical examples of other classically educated Christians - are all available to Lutherans as well (though there are differences - number of sacraments, how we consider the saints, etc. - which, while I consider them unimportant to his main point, I doubt he would agree with me).

Also, we do have vastly different definitions of vocation - which Michael sees as the most important difference between Catholics and Protestants with regard to the suitability of a classical liberal arts education. However, I just don't see the problem. Why does a lack of "religious vocations," in the Catholic sense, make a classical education less desirable? (I think I'm missing his point, here.)

As well, we do not hold to the "Protestant principles of knowledge" that he lists - Sola Scriptura, private interpretation, and disregard for tradition, all of which he claims will have to be abandoned to study philosophy properly - in the way that most American Protestants do. On the one hand, we don't place the Lutheran Confessions on the same level as Scripture. Scripture is infallible; the Confessions aren't. We believe them to be a correct explanation of the Scriptures, but if they were proven to be incompatible with Scripture, we would abandon the Confessions on that point and go with Scripture. However, we do believe them to be correct. And we reject the idea of the individual as the highest authority on interpretation - all Scripture interpretation should be in the context of the church (i.e. the Confessions). Teachings that violate the Lutheran Confessions are generally considered to be false, by virtue of having violated the Confessions. Yet we still explicitly deny that the Lutheran Confessions are infallible. It's a paradox - and in good Lutheran fashion we embrace it, upholding both poles, contradictory as they are, as equally true.

Yet for all our differences from American Protestantism, we still have fundamental issues with Catholic theology. Are these issues equally fundamental to classical education? (And how are these issues connected to classical education in the first place?) I'm not sure. But I'm intrigued. So I've been reading more on the CLAA site, as well as researching early Lutheran education (which was classical - and very similar to Jesuit education, in fact) and the philosophical underpinnings of traditional classical education. It's interesting. So far I'm still inclined to argue that genuine Lutheran classical education, at least, can exist, but we'll see.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

K3 Diary - Informal Math

(I've been wanting to keep a log of sorts, recording what we've done, hs-wise - blog seems as good a place as any.)

Today R (3yo) was flipping through one of my books (Distler's "Teach the Latin, I Pray You"), and reading all the numbers she came to. When she said 11 wrong (said "one two two"; I've been teaching her to count the RightStart way - one-ten-one, one-ten-two, etc. - and sometimes she says "two" instead of "ten"; no idea why the second two, though, but she's been doing that consistently the past week or so.), I corrected her, and then said the page numbers (which happened to include 12) for her, first the RS way - one-ten-two - and then the regular way - twelve. That was so much fun that she flipped the page, so I could say the next ones as well. We did that through the mid-twenties. Then she gave me a number - 64, and we looked it up, plus a few more. Then she was done. Just five minutes or so, but every little bit counts.