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.