One of the goals of a classical education, we are frequently reminded, is to become fully human. I hear that phrase quite a bit, so it caught my attention immediately when I came across it in J.I. Packer’s book “Knowing God.” In a chapter titled, “Thy Word is Truth”, Packer reminds the reader that all God’s commandments are true and tell us the truth about our own nature.
For this is part of the purpose of God’s law: it gives us a working definition of true humanity. It shows us what man was made to be, and teaches us how to be truly human, and warns us against moral self-destruction.
[O]ur souls were made to run on the practice of worship, law-keeping, truthfulness, honesty, discipline, self-control, and service to God and our fellows. If we abandon these practices, not only do we incur guilt before God; we also progressively destroy our own souls. Conscience atrophies, the sense of shame dries up, one’s capacity for truthfulness, loyalty, and honesty is eaten away, one’s character disintegrates. One not only becomes desperately miserable; one is steadily being de-humanised. This is one aspect of spiritual death.
Classical education is a wonderful thing, but it will not save us. In all our rhetoric about saving Western civilization and becoming fully human, let’s remember that an education can only teach us to be truly human as it teaches us to love and obey God’s law.