How evangelicals are becoming the new champions of the pagan classics.
In the fall of 2018, I spoke at Mars Hill Academy, a classical homeschooling co-op in Lexington, Kentucky. It began in 1995 and offers classes in Latin, Western civilization, rhetoric, and worldview, as well as English, math, and science. A cynic might have warned me that I would be greeted by insular families trying to protect their children from secular culture, a rigid Bible-only approach to learning, a legalistic mindset, and a withdrawal from civic engagement.
What I found instead were parents, students, and teachers with a shared vision of an educational program steeped in the Great Books and committed to glorifying God, freeing the mind from the marketplace of idols, and shaping virtuous, morally self-regulating citizens.
I’ve seen this phenomenon in many of the classical Christian schools I’ve spoken at—with some startling moments. Once, while explaining to an attentive group of teachers and students that the classical virtue of courage represents the Golden Mean between a lack of courage (cowardice) and an excess of courage, I asked what Aristotle might have meant by an excess of courage. A nine-year-old boy in the front row with white hair and a piercing glance shouted “bravado.” This young man had already begun to absorb the classics.
As in most schools I’ve visited, Mars Hill’s curriculum balances pagan (i.e., Homer, Aristotle) and medieval Christian (i.e., Dante, Chaucer) authors with major authors from the last 500 years of European and American literature (i.e., Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Faulkner).
In contrast, Western society today is increasingly eager to cut itself off from both its Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman roots. America’s elite universities, and increasingly …