Friday, December 31, 2010

Getting Ready for John Milton's Paradise Lost

Take a deep breath or a long rest and get ready for a ready mountain unlike anything else you have experienced.  We are soon beginning John Milton's epic Paradise Lost.  Here are some steps to get ready.

1.  Read carefully and prayerfully the first three chapters of Genesis and as much of the Bible, perhaps in the King James version, as you can.

2.  Read and remember and have access to as much of Greek and Roman mythology as possible.  Read Edith Hamilton, Thomas Bulfinch, and Robert Graves.  Have a mythology handbook nearby.

3.  Read as much about mid-17th century England as possible. Read about Puritans, Cromwell, the Stuart kings, the Restoration, and life and learning during that period of history.  (We will soon watch the movie Cromwell which will be helpful.)

4.  Read as many of the shorter poems of Milton as you can.  At least read the sonnets and re-read them.  Then read the poems again, slowly, pausing over each word and phrase.

5.  Read about Milton's life, blindness, literary career, political activities, theological views, and trials. 

6.  Become familiar with the names and works of Milton's contemporaries.  His career follows that of Shakespeare and Spenser.  Spenser's Fairie Queene would be a good prepatory reading before getting into Milton.  Some of the other writers of his era, including John Bunyan (greatest of devotional writing), John Locke (greatest of political philosophy), John Owen (greatest of theology), and John Donne (greatest of poetry), are all helpful in capturing the spirit of the times in which he lived.

7.  Take some long, meditative and reflective walks.  Think of that Dooyeweerdian triad of man's creation, fall, and redemption.  Think more deeply upon it than ever before.  Jog or sprint, if appropriate.

8.  Find and create a wonderful reading nook.  Preferably, a nice, cushiony chair, with a window nearby overlooking a lake or the slope of a slightly wooded hill.  Calming chamber music or acoustic guitar might be best.   

9.  Have a ready supply of good caffeine based drinks.  Good strong coffee is my preference, but others might prefer hot tea or hot cocoa.  Cokes or energy drinks?  Doesn't fit the ambiance.

10.  A clear mind, shined up around the edges with prayer, and uncluttered by techno-gadgets, trivia, and interruptions to the soul.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Season Near--Thoughts of Books


On the Art of Browsing

"If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them be your acquaintances." Winston Churchill

Friday, December 3, 2010

Week Fifteen: December 6--10


Readings for the Week: 
  1. From Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion:  Read Book IV, Chapter 20, "Of Civil Government.  Keep this chapter in mind as we deal with political upheavals in England and Scotland.
  2. Read lots and lots of poems from The Annotated John Milton: Complete English Poems.  Glance, on occasion at Paradise Lost and imagine how wonderful it will be when we read it.
  3. Finish Douglas Kelly's The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through the 18th Centuries, Introduction and Chapter 4 "Calvinism in England: The Puritan Struggle and Its Results."
  4. Read Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume II. Chapter 8, The Reformation in Great Britain
  5. Finishing reading the complete version of  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
  •        More on "The Reformation in England" with a Timeline of Key Events and People
  •         Film/Documentary:   "The Body of the Queen"
  •   Who were the Puritans?
  •    Continue film/documentary
  •  Continue Notes and Readings on the Puritans
  • Continue film/documentary
  •  Readings from Milton and others

  • England's Golden Age Under Elizabeth
  • The Defeat of the Spanish Armada
  • The Problem of Succession
  • The Continued Presence of Puritans
  • Poets of the Age:  Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ben Johnson, & Others

1.  Worksheets over The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World. Due Thursday, December 9.

2.  Read all the "shorter" poems of John Milton.  "Shorter" means any poem that is not an epic.  This means pages 1-130. Due By Christmas Eve.

Field Trip this week if possible to the Tudor era castle and garden grounds pictured above.

Queen Elizabeth

Sunday, November 28, 2010

England Under the Tudor Monarchs


1455  Wars of the Roses between the House of Lancaster and House of York
1485  Henry Tudor, of the House of Lancaster, defeats Richard III, of the House of York, and ends the War of the Roses
1485—1509  Reign of Henry VII

1509  Henry VIII becomes King

1515 Thomas Wolsey named Archbishop of Canterbury
1526 William Tyndale’s English New Testament reaches England
1527  Archbishop Wolsey petitions Pope Clement VII for an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon
1529  Wolsey dismissed by Henry
1529  Parliament summoned by Henry to formalize the establishment of the Catholic Church of England
1535 Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia, executed
1547 Young Edward VI becomes King

1553  Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) becomes Queen following the death of King Edward VI.  300 English Protestants are martyred and 800 flee to the continent.

1558—1603  Reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England.  The Elizabethan Compromise

1588 The Defeat of the Spanish Armada
1603  James VI of Scotland (son of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, and cousin of Elizabeth I) becomes James I of England

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 13 November 29--December 3

Reformation Comes to the British Isles:
God's Providence, Henry VIII's Quest for an Heir


Readings for the Week: 
  1. From Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion:  Read approximately the first 12 pages of Book I  (Chapters 1--4), the first 10 pages of Book II (Chapter 1), and Book IV, Chapter 20, "Of Civil Government.
  2. Begin John Milton's Paradise Lost:  Read Books 1--3.  Also, read selected poems by Milton.
  3. From Douglas Kelly's The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World: The Influence of Calvin on Five Governments from the 16th Through the 18th Centuries:  Read Introduction and Chapter 4 "Calvinism in England: The Puritan Struggle and Its Results."
  4. Be reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for fun. (Failure to read it for fun will result in a flogging and a zero.)

  •        Surveying the landscape of Calvin, The Institutes, Calvinism, and the Reformation
  •        Introduction to "The Reformation in England" with a Timeline of Key Events and People
  •         Film:  "A Man for All Seasons"
  •         The Wives and Wiles of King Henry VIII 
  •          Meet John Milton and begin in-class close readings from Paradise Lost
  •           Continue Watching "A Man for All Seasons"
  •  Reformation under Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and the Men of the White Horse Tavern
  •   Studies from Paradise Lost:  Books 1 & 2
  •    Documentary Film:  "Burning Convictions" with Simon Schama

  •            Edward VI, Mary (a.k.a. Bloody Mary), & Good Queen Bess
  •            Studies from Paradise Lost:  Books 2 & 3
  •            Continue Documentary Film
  • The Golden Age of England--The Age of Queen Elizabeth
  • Poets of the Age:  Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ben Johnson, & Others
  • Finish Documentary



Taken from the Web

The following quote is from the homilies established as standard sermons during the English Reformation.  The homily is called, A Short Declaration of the True, Lively and Christian Faith.
First, the quote from the original:
Such is the true faith, that the Scripture doeth so much commend, the which when it seeth and considereth what GOD hath done for vs, is also mooued through continuall assistance of the Spirit of GOD, to serue and please him, to keepe his fauour, to feare his displeasure, to continue his obedient children, shewing thankefulnesse againe by obseruing or keeping his commandements, and that freely, for true loue chiefly, and not for dread of punishment, or loue of temporall reward, considering how cleerely, without deseruings wee haue receiued his mercy and pardon freely.
And now a transliteration into modern spelling:
Such is the true faith, that the Scripture doth so much commend, the which when it seeth and considereth what God hath done for us, is also moved through continual assistance of the Spirit of God, to serve and please him, to keep his favor, to fear his displeasure, to continue his obedient children, showing thankfulness again by observing or keeping his commandments, and that freely, for true love chiefly, and not for dread of punishment, or love of temporal reward, considering how clearly, without deservings we have received his mercy and pardon freely.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
    Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 12: November 15--19


the theologian/Bible scholar's essential library

Monday:  John Calvin, The Institutes on the topic of prayer, and Geneva during the Reformation

Homework:  Read--carefully--chapter 7 of Justo Gonzalez, "John Calvin.," pages 61-69.
And continue reading from The Institutes.

Tuesday:  John Calvin, The Institutes (more on the topic of prayer), and Geneva as a center of Reformation

Homework:  Continue reading about prayer from The Institutes.

Wednesday:  The Institutes on prayer;
The Five Centuries of Calvinism.

Homework:  FINISH reading Book 3, Chapter 20 (Bk. III, Ch. XX)

Thursday & Friday:  Guest Lecturer: Pastor Martin Rizley from Texarkana Reformed Baptist Church

If time permits:  An introduction into Reformation in England.

It was not from Greece or Rome that the regeneration of human life came forth; that mighty metamorphosis dates from Bethlehem and Golgotha; and if the Reformation, in a still more special sense, claims the love of our hearts, it is because it has dispelled the clouds of sacerdotalism, and has unveiled again to fullest view the glories of the Cross.
Abraham Kuyper,  Lectures on Calvinism

Friday, November 5, 2010

Week 11: November 8--12

Reformation Spreads Through Europe

John Calvin and the Reformation in Geneva

Monday:          Book Exchange:
Turn in Bondage of the Will; pick up Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Turn in Schaeffer, Bradford, Dickens, and Veith.

Notes:  The Reformation
Survey Western Civilization, Chapter 13, "Reformation and Religious Warfare                                      in the 16th Century"

Introducing John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, & Calvinism

Tuesday:  Luther: A Test Over the Obvious
Survey Work on Western Civilization, Chapter 13. Pages 347--352.

Assign and begin Calvin's "Prefatory Address" to King Francis I

Survey Work on Western Civilization, Chapter 13. Pages 352-356.

Discussion of Calvin's "Prefatory Address"
Assignment of Calvin's Epistles to the Reader and Method and Arrangement of the Whole Work.
Assignment of Book III, Chapter XX, pages 143-201, "Of Prayer"

Complete Survey Work on Western Civilizations, Chapter 13. Pages 356-366.

Discussion of Calvin, Doctrine, Prayer, Geneva, etc.

Test over Western Civilizations, Chapter 13.

Continued Discussion of Calvin, Geneva, and Prayer

Readings, Writings, & Musings:
Western Civilizations, Chapter 13.
Selections from The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Journal Entries on Your Readings

  • The historian Froude said, “Calvinism has produced characters nobler and grander than any which republican Rome ever produced.
  • The historian Merle D’Aubigne said, “Wherever Calvinism was established, it brought with it not only truth but liberty, and with all the great developments which these two fertile principles carry with them.”
  •  The historian Motley said, “To the Calvinists more than to any other class of men, the political liberties of Holland, England, and America are due.”
  •  The Frenchman Guizot said, “Calvin’s Institutes, in spite of its imperfections, is, on the whole, one of the noblest edifices ever erected by the mind of man, and one of the mightiest codes of moral law which ever guided him.”
  •  The historian John Fiske said, “The promulgation of Calvin’s theology was one of the longest steps that mankind has taken toward personal freedom.”
  •  The historian George Bancroft said, “They (Calvinistic doctrines) infused enduring elements into the institutions of Geneva, and made it for the modern world, the impregnable fortress of popular liberty—the fertile seed-plot of Democracy.”[1]
  • Bancroft also said, "He that will not honor the memory, and respect the influence of Calvin, knows but little of the origin of American independence."

[1] Quotes all taken from The New Dictionary of Thoughts, 73.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Second Quarter: Week Ten of the School Year


Luther's Theology:  Bondage of the Will
Luther's Life:  A Place to Stand: The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther
A Movie About Luther:  Luther
Plus Quotes, Essays, Discussions, and Analyses

Monday:  Watch movie in class.
Discuss sections of Bondage of the Will.  
Outline Notes on the Reformation

Tuesday:   Follow up on the Movie
More discussion of Bondage of the Will.
What did Luther accomplish?

Wednesday:  Luther and Erasmus:  What are the issues?
Essay/Handout:  "Luther: Giant of His Time and Ours"
Problems With Luther

Thursday:  In Class Essay on Luther

Friday:  Luther and the Other Reformers:  Bucer, Calvin, and Melancthon

Readings, Writings, and Written Work: 
  • Close reading and re-reading of portions of Bondage of the Will.
  • Four or Five Journal Pages Devoted to Copied Portions of BOTW.
  • Review and Discussion of the Luther Biography
  • The Story of Christianity, Volume II, chapters 1--3
  • Western Civilization, Chapter 13, pages 336-347
  • Handouts: Selections from the 95 Theses; "Luther: Giant of His Time and Ours"

From Luther's Ninety-Five Theses:
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
    1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
    2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
    3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.
    4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Week Nine: October 25-29

From Chicago to Wittenberg


Tales from our Travelers to Far Distant Lands:  Wheaton College, Moody Bible Institute, the C.S. Lewis Museum, and downtown Chicago.

Glances at Bondage of the Will.  Do we choose God or does God choose us or do we choose God because God chose us or does God choose us because we chose God?  Is our will free, neutral, able to do good, or bound naturally by sin?  What kind of Reformation would Erasmus have given us?

Back to Hamlet:  To kill Claudius or not to kill Claudius:  Here is the question:  What SHOULD Hamlet do? And when is he mad and when is he portending madness?  And what did Gertrude know and when did she know it? 


Guest Lecture by Sean Mahaffey. 
Topic:  Amusing Ourselves to Death.


Class Reports:  Background to the Reformation
To be Followed by an Exclusive Mr. House Test: Background to the Reformation


What Do We Then Understand:  Assemble the 10 Discussion Questions from Francis Schaeffer.
To be Followed by an Exclusive Mr. House Assignment on How Should We Then Live?


Hamlet, then Luther

1.  Bondage of the Will.
2.  A Place to Stand: Martin Luther and the Word of God
3.  Chapters from Gonzalez and Spielvogel
4.  Hamlet
5. Romans 1

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 8: October 18--22

What caused the Reformation? 
"Without the advent of printing, there have been no Reformation,
and there might have been no Protestantism either" 
Alister McGrath, Christianity's Dangerous Idea


1.  Bondage of the Will.  Work on Chapter V, pages 190--238. 
2.  A Place to Stand: The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther by Gene Edward Veith.  Continue reading through this biography.  Read to enjoy.  The book is approximately 225 pages long.  Push on to the 3/4th mark in this book.
3.  Hamlet by Shakespeare.  Hopefully, we will get all of Act III read and perhaps most of Act IV.
5.  The Story of Christianity, If you have read Volume 1, Chapters 33 & 34, you can rest for a week or move into Volume II, Chapter 1. 
6.  Western Civilizations by Jackson J. Spielvogel.  Read Chapter 12 (Recovery and Rebirth: The Age of the Renaissance) and begin Chapter 13 (Reformation and Religious Warfare).

7.  Extra Readings:   A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman, selected chapters.

Day By Day Plans:
Monday:   Background Causes of the Reformation:  The Roles Played by John Wycliffe and Jan Hus

Work on Reports and Francis Schaeffer Discussion Questions (Both Due Friday).

Read from Hamlet, if time permits.
Tuesday:  Field Trip to Court Session in Ashdown, Arkansas followed by visit with the Judge, followed by lunch...somewhere

If we have sufficient classtime, we will either watch a documentary on the Black Death or read from Hamlet

Wednesday:  Close reading and examination of Bondage of the Will

Hamlet:  The play's the thing, to catch the conscience of the king.

Thursday:  Special Guest Speaker: Sean Mahaffey

Discussing Amusing Ourselves to Death.


Francis Schaeffer Discussion Questions Due

Background to the Reformation Reports to be Read in Class

Hamlet, Hamlet, Wherefore art we in reading Hamlet?

I dream of a new reformation -- a reformation that is not simply a renewal of life but a new vision of life: a vision that yields new forms and structures in society and culture. As long as Christians restrict their Christianity to a religion, a faith that is compartmentalized and isolated from life, they can have revival but never, ever reformation. We need to hear and do the Word of God in all of our lives.
R.C. Sproul

We can give all kinds of satisfying explanations of why and when the Renaissance occurred and how its transmitted itself. But there is no explaining Dante, no explaining Chaucer. Genius suddenly comes to life, and speaks out of vacuum. Then it is silent, equally mysteriously. The trends continue and intensify, but genius is lacking. Chaucer had no successor of anything approaching similar stature. There is no major poet in 15th-century English literature.
Paul Johnson, The Renaissance

Friday, October 8, 2010

Week 7: October 11-15


1.  Bondage of the Will.  Read through chapter 4, pages 137 to 189. 
2.  A Place to Stand: The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther by Gene Edward Veith.  Continue reading through this biography.  Read to enjoy.  The book is approximately 225 pages long.  Try to get half-way through it this week.
3.  How Should We Then Live?  by Francis Schaeffer.  FINISH THE BOOK. The discussion questions will need to be completed this week.
4.  Hamlet by Shakespeare.  We will continue reading/acting out this play.
5.  The Story of Christianity, Volume 1, by Justo Gonzalez. Read Chapters 31-33. 
6.  Western Civilizations by Jackson J. Spielvogel.  Read Chapters 11-12.

7.  Extra Readings:  Punic Wars and Culture Wars, chapter 15 and A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman, selected chapters.

Monday:  Holiday: No School in Honor of the Achievements of Christopher Columbus
 "I am a most noteworthy sinner, but I have cried out to the Lord for grace and mercy, and they have covered me completely. I have found the sweetest consolation since I made it my whole purpose to enjoy His marvellous Presence. "  Christopher Columbus
Tuesday:  Birthday of Christopher Dawson (1889-1970)!

"As I have pointed out, it is the Christian tradition that is the most fundamental element in Western culture. It lies at the base not only of Western religion,
but also of Western morals and Western social idealism." 
Christopher Dawson

Background to the Reformation
Topics:  Wycliffe, Hus, the Brethren of the Common Life, Thomas a' Kempis, the Papal Schism, the Calamitious 14th Century, the Renaissance, Dante, Machiavelli, Columbus, and much more.

Examine Books, Chapters, and Themes of the High Middle Ages.

Wednesday:  Who were the Brethren of the Common Life?  And what do we owe to them?

Reading and research in the books on the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Thursday:  Reading, Writing, & Research Projects:
1.  Discussion Questions from How Should We Then Live?

2.  High Middle Ages and Renaissance Reports

Friday:   Continue Research Projects

Reading from and/or watching Hamlet

More Regarding Historian Christopher Dawson:

from on Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More on Christopher Dawson

Concerning books, a visitor to the home of Christopher Dawson once wrote:

"It is an old and hackneyed idea to have a library in one's house; it is a new and rewarding idea to have a house in one's library."

The same visitor wrote:

"The practice of having volumes--and such splendid ones--in every room is, I think, an altogether wonderful idea: one not only has the world of learning at one's fingertips, but at one's elbows, coat tails, and collar buttons."

(From Sanctifying the World: An Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson by Bradly Birzer.)

For those who are wondering what to read by Christopher Dawson, I offer the following annotated recommendations:

1. One of the best books to begin reading Dawson with is the excellent collection of his essays found in Christianity and European Culture: Selections from the Work of Christopher Dawson, edited by Gerald Russello (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1998). This book includes the whole of another Dawson book titled The Historic Reality of Christian Culture: A Way to the Renewal of Human Life. The essays in this collection include the topics of Christian culture, Christianity and history, and the impact of secularism.

2. Another work focusing on a Christian philosophy of history is The Dynamics of World History, which outlines Dawson’s Christian distinctives in regard to history. This book begins with ten essays on the sociological foundations of history. This is followed by another ten essays on different broad aspects of history. The second half of the book deals with how Christianity provides meaning with history, and the last part examines key historians, ranging from St. Augustine to Karl Marx to Arnold Toynbee.

3. Religion and the Rise of Western Culture and The Making of Europe are both useful surveys of the impact of Christianity upon European cultural history. Both of these books survey movements and events in European history from the end of the Roman Empire up through the latter Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

4. More on the Medieval period is found in Medieval Essays, which has played a key role in the whole field of Medieval studies. This book is a topical study and also includes chapters on Medieval literature, including discussions of Dante’s Divine Comedy and Langdon’s Piers Plowman.

5. The Dividing of Christendom surveys events from the Renaissance and Reformation through the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Certainly, my historical sympathies are much closer to Luther and Calvin than was Dawson’s. But even though he might not always have judged history “correctly,” Dawson always judged it judiciously and insightfully. His insights into the further theological, political, and philosophical developments after Europe’s spiritual unity was fractured are most worthy of consideration.

6. The French Revolution and other revolutionary upheavals are given more coverage in The Gods of Revolution and The Movement of World Revolution Dawson’s historical studies focused on the larger movements rather than biographies and source materials. His aim was to examine the impact of culture in its broader dimensions.

7. The Crisis of Western Education first appeared in 1961. It was an appeal to Catholics, making making a strongly defended case for the necessity for Christian education. But we Protestants find much to "Amen" in this call for Christian schooling. Notice just this one quote: “But for the Christian the past can never be dead, as it often seems to the secularist, since we believe the past and the present are united in the one Body of the Church and that the Christians of the past are still present as witnesses and helpers in the life of the Church today.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ode to the Confederate Dead

A powerful poem at any time, but especially worth reading in the Autumn:

Ode to the Confederate Dead
by Alan Tate

Row after row with strict impunity
The headstones yield their names to the element,
The wind whirrs without recollection;
In the riven troughs the splayed leaves
Pile up, of nature the casual sacrament
To the seasonal eternity of death;
Then driven by the fierce scrutiny
Of heaven to their election in the vast breath,
They sough the rumour of mortality.
Autumn is desolation in the plot
Of a thousand acres where these memories grow
From the inexhaustible bodies that are not
Dead, but feed the grass row after rich row.
Think of the autumns that have come and gone!--
Ambitious November with the humors of the year,
With a particular zeal for every slab,
Staining the uncomfortable angels that rot
On the slabs, a wing chipped here, an arm there:
The brute curiosity of an angel's stare
Turns you, like them, to stone,
Transforms the heaving air
Till plunged to a heavier world below
You shift your sea-space blindly
Heaving, turning like the blind crab.
Dazed by the wind, only the wind
The leaves flying, plunge
You know who have waited by the wall
The twilight certainty of an animal,
Those midnight restitutions of the blood
You know--the immitigable pines, the smoky frieze
Of the sky, the sudden call: you know the rage,
The cold pool left by the mounting flood,
Of muted Zeno and Parmenides.
You who have waited for the angry resolution
Of those desires that should be yours tomorrow,
You know the unimportant shrift of death
And praise the vision
And praise the arrogant circumstance
Of those who fall
Rank upon rank, hurried beyond decision--
Here by the sagging gate, stopped by the wall.
Seeing, seeing only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire
Turn your eyes to the immoderate past,
Turn to the inscrutable infantry rising
Demons out of the earth they will not last.
Stonewall, Stonewall, and the sunken fields of hemp,
Shiloh, Antietam, Malvern Hill, Bull Run.
Lost in that orient of the thick and fast
You will curse the setting sun.
Cursing only the leaves crying
Like an old man in a storm
You hear the shout, the crazy hemlocks point
With troubled fingers to the silence which
Smothers you, a mummy, in time.
The hound bitch
Toothless and dying, in a musty cellar
Hears the wind only.

Now that the salt of their blood
Stiffens the saltier oblivion of the sea,
Seals the malignant purity of the flood,
What shall we who count our days and bow
Our heads with a commemorial woe
In the ribboned coats of grim felicity,
What shall we say of the bones, unclean,
Whose verdurous anonymity will grow?
The ragged arms, the ragged heads and eyes
Lost in these acres of the insane green?
The gray lean spiders come, they come and go;
In a tangle of willows without light
The singular screech-owl's tight
Invisible lyric seeds the mind
With the furious murmur of their chivalry.
We shall say only the leaves
Flying, plunge and expire
We shall say only the leaves whispering
In the improbable mist of nightfall
That flies on multiple wing:
Night is the beginning and the end
And in between the ends of distraction
Waits mute speculation, the patient curse
That stones the eyes, or like the jaguar leaps
For his own image in a jungle pool, his victim.
What shall we say who have knowledge
Carried to the heart? Shall we take the act
To the grave? Shall we, more hopeful, set up the grave
In the house? The ravenous grave?
Leave now
The shut gate and the decomposing wall:
The gentle serpent, green in the mulberry bush,
Riots with his tongue through the hush--
Sentinel of the grave who counts us all!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Autumn Poetry

A Vagabond Song
Bliss Carmen

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood--
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets my gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 6: October 4--8


1.  Bondage of the Will.  Read through chapters 1--3, to page 136. 
2.  A Place to Stand: The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther by Gene Edward Veith.  Begin a leisurely read through this easy, but well done biography.  Read to enjoy.  The book is approximately 225 pages long.  Try to get 20% of it read.
3.  How Should We Then Live?  by Francis Schaeffer.  Read chapters 11--13.  This will complete the book.  We will also finish watching the video series.  The discussion questions will also soon be completed.
4.  Hamlet by Shakespeare.  To read or not to read, there really is no question.  We will start reading/acting out this play, hopefully in the outdoor theatre (the front porch).  The reading of the play will be spontaneous and at whatever times we happen to have 15 to 30 minutes.
5.  Assorted and sundry poetry, partially dictated by the season.

Monday:  Readings in class:  Essays on A Tale of Two Cities

                 Read tonight and every night from Luther and about Luther.

Tuesday:  Terms Test for Philosophy and Science
                 Discussion of Francis Schaeffer and How Should We Then Live?
                 Background helps on understanding Bondage of the Will

Wednesday:  Terms Test on the Age of     t   rag F on i m ta e n (Fragmentation)
                       Thankfully, this test will be different; perhaps easier.                   
                       Francis Schaeffer Video, Session 9, "The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence."

Thursday:  Francis Schaeffer Video,  Session 10, "Final Choices."
                   What issues do we face today?
                    What has changed since 1976?               

Friday:      Final Assessments of Schaeffer's Work

"How beautiful Christianity is; first, because of the sparkling quality of its intellectual answers, but, secondly, because of the beautiful quality of its human and personal answers."
Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality

"Why should we honor those who die on the field of battle? A man may show as restless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself." 
William Butler Yeats

"He (Hamlet) accepts the world as it is, the world as a duel, in which, whether we know it or not, evil holds the poisoned rapier and the poisoned chalice waits; and in which, if we win at all, it costs not less than everything."
Maynard Mack, "The World of Hamlet"

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 27--October 1

Reading Assignments for the Week:
  • The Great Siege must be finished this week.  Credit reductions after Tuesday. 
  • The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther.  The Historical and Theological Introduction should be finished. Now read chapters 1--3, pages 62-136.
  • How Should We Then Live?.  Read chapters 8--10.  This will cover "The Breakdown in Philosophy and Science," "Modern Philosophy and Modern Theology," and "Modern Art, Music, Literature, and Film."
  • Begin reading A Place to Stand: Martin Luther by Gene Edward Veith
Writing Assignments for the Week:
  • Discussion Questions from HSWTL.
  • Theme from A Tale of Two Cities
Monday:  Back to the discussion of The Great Siege
                  Review of "The Rise of Modern Science"--Terms for Test

Tuesday:  Terms Test for Modern Science
Francis Schaeffer video, "The Breakdown in Philosophy and Science."
Check-up on Luther. 

Wednesday:  Terms Test on Philosophy and Science
                       Writing Sessions

Thursday:  Francis Schaeffer Video, "Modern Philosophy and Modern Theology"
                   Writing Sessions

Friday:      Readings in Class:

                   Friday morning Rhetoric class will prepare copies and practice readings
                   Humanities Class will consist of Readings on A Tale of Two Cities

Francis Schaeffer: We must never think that the Christian base hindered science. Rather, the Christian base made modern science possible.

Peter Ackroyd in Dickens:  The force of the novel springs from its exploration of darkness and death but its beauty derives from Dicken's real sense of transcendence, from his ability to see the sweep of destiny.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

American & French Revolutions Compared

A blog entry on my book blog of a year ago covered books comparing the American and French Revolutions. This entry stemmed from a question left by a viewer.
The question was as follows:
Do you know of any books that compare/contrast those nations that embraced Calvinism and Protestantism (Scotland, America, etc) v. those that did not (France)? The comment continued, "I wonder if the two revolutions differed because of contrasting theological underpinnings."

The impact of Protestant and Reformed thinking on nations in history and the differences between the American and French Revolutions are incredibly interesting questions for students of American and world history. Quite a few of the books listed in my previous blog include references to differences between the American and French Revolutions. Others emphasize the historical impact of Calvinism on the maritime powers of Britain (England and Scotland), the Netherlands, and the United States in contrast with the beliefs and events in France.

Let me re-cap some books from the list of studies of Calvinism in America:

R. J. Rushdoony's This Independent Republic devotes several chapters to contrasting the French experience with that of America.

Abraham Kuyper made quite a few remarks in Lectures on Calvinism on the cultural and political impact of Calvinism on particular countries, especially the U.S. and the Netherlands. Kuyper delivered those lectures in 1898, so the French Revolution was not all that far in the distant past. He would have known people who had lived during the French Revolution (which began in 1789) and the age of Napoleon.

I cannot remember exactly, but I think Arnold Dallimore credits (and rightly so) George Whitefield and the Wesleys with having staved off revolution in England through their preaching. Dallimore wrote a powerful 2 volume biography of George Whitefield and also a useful biography of Charles Wesley.
Francis Schaeffer echoes the same idea as Dallimore and attributes it to Cambridge historian J.H. Plumb in his How Should We Then Live? Speaking of Francis Schaeffer, his chapter on The Enlightenment in How Should We Then Live? covers way too much ground--from Voltaire to the French Revolution to the Russian Revolution and beyond, yet he is right on target in understanding the basic secular humanist underpinnings of the French

Also, Paul Johnson's short biography of Napoleon contrasts the Emperor with George Washington. That comparison of results--Napoleon and Washington--is quite a study in contrasts.

Let me list and briefly comment on a few other books:

One of Abraham Kuyper's predecessors, Groen van Prinsterer gave a series of lectures in his home that were later published under the title Revolution and Unbelief. This is a classic work detailing the impact of unbelief which then spawned the French Revolution.

An outstanding book that describes the changes and challenges in America, France, and Russia during the late 1700s is The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World by Jay Winik. America won its independence and developed a republican form of government while France was experiencing the horrors of a bloody revolution. At the same time, revolutionary impulses in Russia, under the control of Catherine the Great, were squenched. (Winik's book has been on the bargain shelves at Books-A-Million for quite a while. It is a treasure at any price.)

With a healthy dose of discernment, you might read God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World by Walter Russell Mead This is an amazing analysis of how Britain and America, the maritime powers (which historically includes the Netherlands) have dominated history and defeated their rivals militarily, culturally, and economically. Discernment is called for because Mead gets so much so right, but he totally botches his discussion of Calvinism.

Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Roads to Modernity: The British. French, and American Enlightenment is also a wonderful coverage of these issues. She does not focus all that much on Protestantism, but does credit the Methodist Revival with preventing revolution in Britain.

Other books to consider when reading on the French Revolution are
Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Burke is often viewed as one of the best minds of his time who really understood both what the American colonies were doing in the 1770s and what the French were doing in the 1780s and beyond.

Friedrich Gentz's The French and American Revolutions Compared (which was translated into English by John Quincy Adams).

Christopher Dawson's The Gods of Revolution. Some of Dawson's other works also deal with the French Revolution.

Crane Brinton's The Anatomy of Revolution.

Simon Schama's Citizens.

Otto Scott's Robespierre: The Voice of Virtue (sometimes subtitled--The Fool as Revolutionary).

James Billington's Fire in the Minds of Men. This is a weighty and powerful tome.

Of course, one can do no better than beginning on the French Revolution by reading Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (which we read in class) and Baroness Emuska Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Friday, September 17, 2010

To Autumn by John Keats (1795-1821)

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

September 20--24

Readings for the Week:

A Tale of Two Cities should now be finished. Keep quiet and low if you have not finished. You will be penalized after Wednesday if not finished!

The Great Siege will now be the focus of this week's reading. Strap on your armor, dig in, and prepare to repel Soleyman's Janissaries.

How Should We Then Live?--Read chapters 5, 6, and 7. These sections continue with the Reformation and then move into the Enlightenment and Modern Science.

The Bondage of the Will--Read the Translator's note and the "Historical and Theological Introduction."

Monday: Full class, no holds barred discussion of A Tale of Two Cities.
Themes, characters, plot development, coincidences, and style.
The message of Redemption

Preview of Schaeffer's videos for the week

Tuesday: HSWTL video, part 5, The Revolutionary Age
Survey and begin studying the lengthy list of Key Events & Persons
Work on and keep up with the Discussion Questions

Wednesday: Test over Revolutionary Age Terms

Graded Assessments of A Tale of Two Cities reading and comprehension

The World of Charles V, Sulieman the Magnificent, &
the Knights of Malta

Thursday: Welcome Autumn with John Keats' poem--"To Autumn"
HSWTL video, part 6, The Scientific Age
Survey and study yet one more lengthy list of Key Events & Persons

More discussion of The Great Siege.

Friday: Test over Events and Persons from the Scientific Age

Survey the Landscape: Books Read, Ideas Discussed, Issues Raised.


1. Don't fall behind in your readings. HSWTL discussion questions, learning terms, & experiencing literature.
2. A massive Charles Dickens Test is on the horizon.
3. A great Tale of Two Cities theme is coming soon.
4. Bondage of the Will, the Luther biography, & Luther--the movie are all converging on our class.

Charles Dickens said, "There are books of which the backs and the covers are by far the best parts."
Mr. House then told him, "But not the books we read in Humanities."

Friday, September 10, 2010

September 13-17 Assignments

Assignments for the Week Ahead:

Where to be in the Readings by the end of the week:

A Tale of Two Cities--Press on to the exciting conclusion of this book!

The Great Siege--Can you finish this week? Why not?

How Should We Then Live?--Chapters 3--5 The Renaissance and the Reformation

The Story of Christianity--Chapter 34


Updates on the Readings--Dickens and Bradford

The Renaissance--Schaeffer's book and video

Survey the Study Guide


Updates on the Readings--Dickens and Bradford

Test over the Renaissance--outline, key events and persons, etc.

Preview of the Reformation


Schaeffer video on the Reformation

Introduce Readings on the Reformation--Bondage of the Will, Calvin's Institutes, biographies of the Reformers


Lectures: The Influences of the Renaissance and Reformation Worlds on Modernity

Updates on Readings


Test over the Reformation--outlines, key events and persons, etc.

Updates on Readings

Quote from A Tale of Two Cities:

Who said it? What was the context?

"If you could say, with truth, to your own solitary heart, to-night, 'I have secured to myself the love and attachment, the gratitude or respect, of no human creature; I have won myself a tender place in no regard; I have done nothing good or serviceable to be remembered by!' your seventy-eight years would be seventy-eight heavy curses; would they not?"

A Brief Summary of Medieval History

George Grant, The Last Crusader: The Untold Story of Christopher Columbus

Interestingly, that medieval period has commonly been described as the Dark Ages—as if the light of civilization had been unceremoniously snuffed out for a time. It has similarly been dubbed The Middle Ages—as if it were a sort of gaping parenthesis in mankind’s long upward march to modernity.

It was in fact, anything but dark or middling. Perhaps our greatest fault today is that we limit ourselves by a chronological parochialism. It is difficult for us to attribute anything but backwardness to those epochs and cultures that do not share our goals and aspirations.

The medieval period was actually quite remarkable for its many advances—perhaps unparalleled in all of history. It was a true nascence, while the epoch that followed was but a re-nascence. It was a new and living thing that gave flower to a culture marked by energy and creativity. From the monolithic security of Byzantium’s imperias in the east to the reckless diversity of Christendom’s fiefs in the west, it was a glorious crazy quilt of human fabrics, textures, and hues.

Now to be sure, the medieval world was racked with abject poverty, ravaging plagues, and petty wars—much like our own days. It was haunted by superstition, prejudice, and corruption—as is the modern era. And it was beset by consuming ambition, perverse sin, and damnable folly—again, so like today. Still, it was free from the kind of crippling sophistication, insular ethnocentricity, and cosmopolitian provincialism that now shackles us—and so it was able to advance astonishingly.

The titanic innovations medievalism brought forth were legion: it gave birth to all the great universities of the world from Oxford and Cambridge to Leipzig to Mainz; it oversaw the establishment of all the great hospitals of the world from St. Bartholomew’s and Bedlam in London to St. Bernard’s and Voixanne in Switzerland; it brought forth the world’s most celebrated artists from Michaelangelo Buonarotti and Albert Durer to Leonardo da Vinci and Jan van Eyck; it gave us the splendor of Gothic architecture—unmatched and unmatchable to this day—from Notre Dame and Chartes to Winchester and Cologne; it thrust out into howling wilderness and storm tossed seas the most accomplished explorers from Amerigo Vespucci and Marco Polo to Vasco da Gama and John Cabot; it produced some of the greatest minds and most fascinating lives mankind has yet known—were the list not so sterling it might begin to be tedious—Copernicus, Dante, Giotto, Becket, Gutenberg, Chaucer, Charlemagne, Wyclif, Magellan, Botticelli, Donatello, Petrarch, and Aquinas.

But of all the great innovations that medievalism wrought, the greatest of all was spiritual. Medieval culture—both east and west—was first and foremost Christian culture. Its life was shaped almost entirely by Christian concerns. Virtually all of its achievements were submitted to the cause of the Gospel. From great cathedrals and gracious chivalry to bitter Crusades and beautiful cloisters, every manifestation of its presence was somehow tied to its utter and complete obeisance to Christ’s kingdom.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What is the Modern World?

Lecture 2: What is the Modern World?

I. Introduction:
“We are at the dawn of a new era.”
Martin Luther
“I see the whole world reviving.”
Beatus Rhenansus
“Novus Ordo Seculorum”
Found on U.S. money

II. The Threefold Division of History
a. Ancient
b. Medieval
c. Modern

III. Key Events of Modern History[1]
a. The Renaissance (c. 1450)
Art; Michaelangelo; Leonardo da Vinci

b. The Reformation (1517)
Religion; Martin Luther; John Calvin

c. The Age of Exploration (c. 1492)
Columbus; New World; Spain

d. The Scientific Revolution (c. 1550)
Copernicus; Galileo; Newton

e. The Rise of Nation-States (c. 1558)
Queen Elizabeth; the Netherlands; Hapsburgs of Spain

f. Absolute Monarchies: France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia (c. 1618)
Thirty Years War; Louis XIV of France; Peter the Great of Russia

g. The Enlightenment (c. 1700)
John Locke; Rousseau; Adam Smith

h. The French Revolution (1789)
The Bastille; Robespierre; Marie Antoinette

i. The Napoleonic Era (1799-1815)
Napoleon; Waterloo; Wellington

j. The Industrial Revolution (<1800>)
Steam power; textiles; Karl Marx

k. Reaction, Romanticism, and Revolution (1815-1867)
Holy Alliance; Potato Famine in Ireland; Walter Scott

l. Nationalism (1848)
Revolutions of 1848; Bismarck; Franco-Prussian War

m. 19th Century Social and Political Change (<1850>)
Gladstone; Disraeli; Queen Victoria

n. The Age of Imperialism (<1850>)
British Empire; Boer War; Rudyard Kipling

o. The Fin De Siecle: Modernization or Decadence (c. 1890)
Fabian Societies; new inventions; Nietzsche

p. World War I (1914-1918)
Germany; Western Front; Lawrence of Arabia

q. The Russian Revolution (1917)
Czar Nicholas; Bosheviks; Civil War

r. Totalitarian Societies (1920s—1930s)
Lenin; Mussolini; Hitler

s. World War II (1939-1945)
Churchill; Roosevelt; Stalin

t. The Cold War (1945-1991)
Truman; Iron Curtain; NATO

u. The End of Imperialism: Africa and Asia (1945-1970s)
Ghandi; Zionism; Suez Crisis

v. The Demise of the Soviet Union (1985-1991)
Reagan; Gorbachev; Pope John Paul II

w. Modern Challenges and Issues
9-11; Faith; Freedom

[1] List heavily borrowed from AP European History by Joan Levy, Norman Levy, and Richard Weisberg. (New York: MacMillan, 1993).

September 7-10 Assignments

Looking Ahead at This Week's Assignments:

Where to be in the Readings by the end of the week:

A Tale of Two Cities--Ideally, the end of "Book the Second The Golden Thread." Page 287.

The Great Siege--Ideally, the end of chapter 12. Page 104.

How Should We Then Live?--Chapters 1 & 2

Day by Day:


Scan back over Schaeffer, chapter 1; answer one of the three discussion questions from the Study Guide.

Lecture: What Is the Modern World?

Group Therapy: What has happened so far in A Tale of Two Cities?


Discussion of Dickens and A Tale

Discussion of The Great Siege

Survey of Western Civilization by Spielvogel, chapters 2--10


Guest Speaker: Francis Schaeffer--Part 2 of the video.

Chapter 2 of How Should We Then Live?

Question from the Study Guide

Poems--if time permits


Lectures: The Influences of the Ancient World and the Medieval World on the Modern World

Discussions on current readings.

[Saturday: Happy Birthday Eric!]

Quote to ponder: Most people catch their presuppositions the way a child catches measles.

Write the quote in your journal. Then think about it and write your own comments upon it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reading Dickens

Three points grew out of the lecture/discussion of A Tale of Two Cities today:

1. Dickens wrote his books serially; meaning, he wrote them in installments in newspapers. People were not sitting at home reading the whole book when it first began appearing; rather, the family would listen to the weekly or bi-weekly installment with all the intense interest of modern folks watching a television show.

2. Dickens generally closes his chapters with a hook. In the first several chapters, we noted how he mysteriously gives a small bit of information, a clue, a phrase, or something that his characters mull around, but that the reader cannot quite figure out.

3. Don't neglect the lyrical or poetic qualities of Dickens' writings. Yes, he can wear the reader out with character description and details, but he did have an eye for detail.

Paul Johnson said that Dickens wrote in a room full of mirrors. He would look at himself in a mirror and make faces to fit what he wanted a character to look like.

Quotes to Note

“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.”
Soren Kierkegaard

" A wise man devoutly thanks God that the price of knowledge is labor, and that when we buy the truth, we must pay the price. If you wish to enjoy the prospect at the mountain’s summit, you must climb its rugged sides.”
Boston Schoolmasters, 1844

Scholars in the Renaissance thought of studia humanitatis (the Liberal Arts) as having this result:
"Society needed well-educated and articulate people who could present ideas in a winsome, convincing way that appealed to deeper springs than merely the intellect. Learning to speak and write in a way that did not bludgeon others into intellectual submission but that persuasively wooed them to agreement offered the opportunity to contribute to the further development of Italian society. Well-crafted speech, elegance in language and winsome appeal to beauty and experience were needed along with solid thought." (from James R. Payton, Jr.'s Getting the Reformation Wrong, a very good book.)

"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!”
Abraham Kuyper

“The humanities cannot be dismissed. Far from being outmoded, they are eternally relevant precisely because they are the arts of communication, the arts of continuity, and the arts of criticism. Language remains the indispensable medium within which we move and breathe. History provides the group memory which makes the communal bond possible. Philosophical criticism is the only activity through which man’s self-reflection modifies the conditions of his existence. The cup of the humanities, therefore, must be the vessel from which we drink our life.”
Albert William Levi, The Humanities Today (1970).

Monday, August 30, 2010

Opening Guns

Can you imagine a better opening to a book than Dickens' first paragraph in A Tale of Two Cities?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

It sets a tone for the universiality of the experience of this book. It reminds us that all times are God's times, and that all times in a fallen world are times of glimpes of grace and of judgment.

This week we will be slowly moving through the first part of this book.

Also, shifting gears to a historical topic, be reading The Great Siege by Ernle Bradford. I first heard the story of this book from R. J. Rushdoony who told it on his World History tape series. For years, I looked for the book. When the Internet changed the world of book searching, I bought a copy of the book and enjoyed the story first hand. Then the book was reprinted. I not only used it in several classes over the years, but also sold (or gave away) numerous copies of the book.

So, we have a novel that reads like history and a history that reads like a novel. What a delight.

Great first day.