As I’ve slowly changed my understanding of classical education from The Well-Trained Mind approach to The Latin-Centered Curriculum approach, I have struggled to understand why we should read the ancients. I haven’t even read all the English classics – I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to read and understand those! Why study Homer and Virgil and Dante? For that matter, why prioritize the study of ancient Rome and Greece?
Louis Markos is one of the speakers scheduled at Sodalitas, the homeschool conference that I’m planning to attend next month. I bought his book, From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics, so that I could read it before hearing him speak. I’ve just started it, but this passage from the introduction addresses some of my questions about classical ed:
If we make no attempt to assess the glories and brutalities of ancient Egypt, then we have misunderstood, at least in part, both Moses (the traditional author of Genesis) and the Exodus. Unless we strive to understand the rise and fall of the four great empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome,…we fail to grasp how God works through history. To neglect the study of Rome is to strip Paul’s statement that God sent his Son in “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4) of half of its meaning. How can we hope to understand ourselves if we do not know our own history? And if we do not know where we came from in the historical realm, how can we know where we came from in the spiritual realm? If our study of the great pagan historians and political scientists (Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Polybius, Cicero, Livy) can point us toward some of the truths that lie behind these questions, that same study can help us gain a clearer perception of the nature of mankind and the divine purposes that undergirded our creation.
But we mustn’t stop there. Once our meditations on pagan history, combined with our reading of the Bible, have helped us sketch out the broad historical picture in which God has worked out his plan, our focus must narrow to the works of those great poets, philosophers and statesmen whose dreams and visions lifted them above their time and culture…
All our works and our ideals are blackened over by the stain of sin, and yet now and again throughout history the light of Christ has broken through in the lines of a poem, the maxims of a philosopher, or the decisions of a lawgiver…
Though the fullness of deity is found only in Christ and the fullness of his revelation in the Bible alone, the shadow of the Almighty yet hovers and broods over the yearnings of the pre-Christian world.
May we have eyes to catch glimpses of God’s presence and glory in the forms and rituals of pagan antiquity.
From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics by Louis Markos (from p. 20-23)
What have you been reading? What words have caught your mind? See what others are reading at the Wednesdays with Words link up.