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Theological Depth, Classical Breadth, and Adversity

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Dear Veritas Parents,

It’s the last academic week of the year. As students are finishing their studies, I would like to take time to encourage you by sharing how your students are growing. Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly how classical Christian education works. It is like looking at the growth of an organic life, say a plant. Close up, it is difficult to see how that life is growing. It takes time, and a lot of nurturing. But it requires the right kind of nurturing. Recently I have been able to see this growing process both in my personal readings and in the example of our graduating seniors, some of whom have been at our school for a long time. My conclusion is that a great leader is produced at the end of a mixture of three common factors: theological depth, classical breadth, and adversity.

By theological depth, I am referring to the following:

  • Deep Personal Relationship with God

  • Comprehensive understanding of the Gospel, and how the entire Scripture is fulfilled in Christ

  • Training in Thinking Biblically about every subject, understanding the Lordship of Christ in every area of life

By classical breadth, I am referring to the following:

  • Mastery of the “Seeds of Learning”: Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric

  • Widely read in the Great Books, to understand the wisdom of God

  • Skilled in the Fine Arts and the Practical Arts, to enjoy God in ordinary life

Adversity is a combination of various great challenge in life with a major emphasis on socio-economic challenges.

Recently I was reading through the massive, condensed version of Joseph Franks’ book on Dostoyevsky ( Dostoyevsky: A Writer in His Time, over 900 pages! From the original 5 volumes, totallying more than 2500 pages). I learned that Dostoyevsky, who is considered by many the greatest of the Russian authors, was different than most of the other famous Russian authors in two areas: 1) his family was generally poor (most of the other authors are from wealthy aristocratic family background, 2) he had a good Bible education (family read Bible together almost daily, this was somewhat unique in a generation when Christian faith was more of a tradition, and not genuine). Dostoyevsky also received a classical education, mastering Latin and literature. As I read through the book, I realized that the genius of Dostoyevsky came from a combination of these three factors: his adversity, his theological depth which comes from his sound biblical upbringing, and his classical education.

And then two weeks ago, when we watched our five seniors present their Senior Thesis, I realized that these students were experiencing a combination of these same three factors: adversity, theological depth, and classical breadth. They were being shaped by the same forces that Dostoyevsky and other great leaders in the past experienced. It is difficult to appreciate that because these students are still young and we are looking at them up close. But I am able to see how these students are growing a bit better than others because over the years I have seen these students grow through their adversities, their spiritual/growth based on God’s Word, and through their classical studies and skills (all of their presentations were full of conviction, clarity, and rhetorical power!).

So, let us not grow weary in doing good, particularly in raising our children in the Lord, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Gal 6:9)

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