Education as Soulcraft
~ by Joelle Hodge ~
Classical education is about formation, about shaping the loves of our students, and ultimately giving them the tools to find their way to the Father. John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus (the way, the truth, and the life), is also referred to by St. John much earlier in his epistle, as the Logos—the Word made flesh.
The synthesis between the study of logic and the study of the Logos forms the core of Christian beliefs (John 1:1). We all know that Jesus is the bridge between God and man. As Job evidences for us in his long saga, man has always been in need of an intermediary, one who can bridge the gap and provide the way to navigate through Satan’s snares, and lead us on a redemptive path back toward God’s will.
St. John knew when he employed the word Logos that the Greek philosophers would have interpreted it as the rational principle of “divine reason,” “mind,” or even “wisdom.” But John imbued it with Old Testament references as well: expressions of creation, wisdom, revelation, and salvation—all in the personage of Jesus, the Christ.
John uses the term Logos as a way to reach two distinct group of readers at the same time, the Jews and also the Greeks. Logic is a bridge-discipline for students of varying backgrounds as well. Instruction in logic levels the playing field, providing all of our students with the tools to shape content and information, student skills, and their passions into a life worth living.
Additionally, logic has earned a position within liberal arts as part of the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric). Grammar provides us with the language paradigm each culture uses to define, describe, and order the world in which each one lives. Rhetoric, as defined by Aristotle in his Rhetoric, is “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” Logic, then, is the necessary process all humans must initiate if we are going to move from simple apprehension to eloquent persuasion. Another way to state this is, between the two stages of development, we must all come to establish a way of thinking, a framework to establish an epistemology, a system to help make sense of our world. Providing a system is necessary if we want students to one day grapple with what Truth is, make judgments about what is Good, and aspire to love what is Beautiful. This process is the way to human flourishing, and it produces a deeper knowledge and understanding of God himself.
In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis reminds us that we need to cultivate not only the minds but also the chests of our students. Cultivating the minds and chests of students is not accomplished by merely flooding and filling minds with more information. Information alone is not formative. For information to be formative, it requires the Socratic Method, it requires reason seeking Truth (though not reason alone).
C. S. Lewis also writes, “Reason is the natural organ [tool] of truth, imagination is the organ of meaning” (“Bluspels and Flalansferes,” in Selected Literary Essays). Students must be given opportunities to practice using those tools, holding information and content in the light of reason. This is the hard work of showing students the path “out of the cave,” and helping them to see beyond shadows (Plato, The Allegory of the Cave). Our goal, always, is the hope that they are better able to see Truth, and judge what is Good.
Ultimately, each student must decide whether or not he will endeavor to prepare his mind for action. But, once committed, the Logos of Truth works within each one to shape his love so that he becomes a better human being, flourishing (I Peter 1:13).