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  • Fall Semester (2023-2024)

    Stealing Past The Watchful Dragons In reading Till We Have Faces and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis this semester, I was reminded of the importance that stories and literature play in the life of the Christian and particularly in the life of the Christian high schooler. C.S. Lewis, raised in a religious family that attended the Church of Ireland, separated from Christianity at the age of 15 when he started to view religion as a chore and a duty. He recounts how he was told as a child that he ought to feel a certain way about God and the sufferings of Christ, but the obligation to feel a certain way often froze his feelings. The whole subject of church and religion for young  Lewis was associated with “lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical” (Lewis, 58). In his adult life as a Christian  C.S. Lewis affirmed the fundamental importance of “the ancient and orthodox doctrines” of the church, but he also believed that while these doctrines serve as an absolutely necessary and inestimably important map, they are not the destination or goal of the Christian life” (Jacobs, 293). The goal of the Christian life is not the ability to recite the Apostle’s Creed from memory but the possession of a heartfelt love for the truths professed in the creed, a love that flows from a real and warm affection for Christ himself who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried, descended into hell, rose again on the third day, and ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty. To this end and toward this goal, Lewis wrote stories. In his essay, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to Be Said,” Lewis writes, “I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood… supposing that by casting all these things (the ancient and orthodox doctrines of the church) into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency. Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could” (Lewis, 58). In my own life, the stories of C.S. Lewis, more than any other stories, have served to help me steal past the  watchful dragons of coldness, doubt, and fear. I know and trust and recite every Sunday  morning that I believe in the “forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting,” but I don’t always feel what I ought to feel about these truths. So I praise God for C.S. Lewis and his books where these truths appear in all their wonderful beauty and potency. I have never felt more prepared to die and more ready for Heaven than after reading Till We Have Faces and The Last Battle. So as we close out one semester and prepare to begin another, may we continue to go further up and further in until we come home at last, to our real country, the land we have been looking for our whole life (The Last Battle, ch.15). Knowledge and Wisdom in Submission to God, Chris M. Blackwell - Jacobs, Alan. The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis. HarperCollins. - Lewis, C. S.. Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. HarperCollins.

  • Spring Semester (2022-23)

    Thirty-One Days and Thirty-One Chapters One morning at breakfast, when my brother and I were still in high school, Mom cheerfully announced that it was the beginning of a new month, and this month has thirty-one days, and the book of Proverbs has thirty-one chapters, so she was going to read a chapter from Proverbs each morning to her sons. As you know, high school boys are sometimes barely human in the mornings. So our initial response was less than cheerful, and along the way through our month long pilgrimage through Proverbs we proved to be a very unreceptive audience. On many days, the mood expressed in our countenance was: “This is torturous.” “How much longer is it going to go on?” Little did we know at the time, but our cold response just proved the accuracy of Mom’s diagnosis. Her sons were definitely not little saints, and they needed to hear Proverbs read to them each morning. As a father, with sons and daughters of my own, I have often wondered: “Why didn’t Mom give up?” “Why did she keep reading to her uninterested sons?” The short answer is that she loved us, another answer is that she is a born teacher, and the more full answer is that she believed. She believed that God’s Word is true. There is a wise created order interwoven into this world, and the book of Proverbs would show her sons how to live in harmony with that created order. She didn’t want her sons to grow up to be complacent fools because she knew that “The complacency of fools will destroy them, but the one who listens to wisdom will dwell secure” (Prov. 1:32). Living in accord with God’s wise created order, as it is revealed in Proverbs, would give health to her sons’ bones and place them on the path that leads to a good life. The seeds of faith and wisdom that my Mom planted bore fruit. As I grew older and eventually left home, I became less complacent towards the things of God and believed and embraced the truth of Proverbs for myself. I saw the truth of Proverbs manifested in the lives of those around me. The wise Christian people that I met tended to do better in life than the foolish people. Things normally worked out well for those who wisely sought to live in harmony with God’s created order. In time, however, I began to notice something else. Everything in life didn’t always work the way that I thought it should work. Sometimes horrible things happened to really wise people, and sometimes foolish people were rewarded. It was then that God brought a second teacher into my life, Qoheleth, the teacher from the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes resonated with me even as a young college student, but it wasn’t until eight years ago, when I read the Omnibus introduction for the book of Ecclesiastes by Jeffery Myers and Knowing God by J.I. Packer, that I was able to understand why. The teachings of Proverbs are true, living in accord with God’s wise created order will give health to your bones and place you on the path that leads to the good life. But the teachings of Ecclesiastes are also true, namely, God’s universe is incredibly complex and beyond human understanding. Furthermore, this complex world is made up of humans who are not piano keys or organ stops that operate in a direct cause and effect way. We have souls and wills of our own. So as Jeffery Myers notes, “What the author [of Ecclesiastes] intends to teach us is that real biblical wisdom is founded on the honest acknowledgement that “under the sun” [from our limited and finite human perspective] this world’s course is enigmatic; much of what happens is quite inexplicable, quite incomprehensible to us, and quite out of our control” (Myers, 12). And as J.I. Packer notes in Knowing God, “God in his wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out in the churches and in our own lives” (Packer, 106). “As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God who doeth all” (Ecclesiastes 11:5). Myers recognizes that the enigmatic, vaporous nature of our “under the sun” perspective of God’s world could lead us to feel anxious, so he goes on to say, yes, life is full of wind and vapor, but “Jesus rules over all of it. Even the wind and waves obey him. And this means that while certain mysteries and disappointments and hardships will always remain, we can enjoy the goodness of life and creation in the midst of the storm of life and rejoice in the care of the one who shepherds the wind” (Myers, 13). And as Packer notes, “The inscrutable God of providence is the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption. We can be sure that the God who made this marvelously complex world order, and who compassed the great redemption from Egypt, and who later compassed the even greater redemption from sin and Satan, knows what he is doing, and ‘doeth all things well,’ even if for the moment he hides his hand” (Packer, 107). So as you enjoy the goodness of life and creation this summer, remember: July still has thirty-one days, Proverbs still has thirty-one chapters, “the complacency of fools will destroy them,” “the one who listens to wisdom will dwell secure,” and “the inscrutable God of providence is [still] the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption who knows what he is doing and doeth all things well.” Knowledge and Wisdom in Submission to God, Chris M. Blackwell - Myers, Jeffery, “Introduction to Ecclesiastes,” Omnibus VI - The Modern World, Veritas. - Packer, J.I. Knowing God. InterVarsity Press.

  • Fall Semester (2022-23)

    Atmosphere and Instinct One day after class, my daughter Eliza asked me, “What bothers you more, when students look out the window during class or when they yawn in class?” I thought for a minute and replied, “Well, while I don’t like silly behavior in the classroom or conversations between students that are not part of our discussion, I don’t really mind when students look out the window or yawn. In a world where we spend far too much time looking at screens, a few moments of daydreaming and looking at the birds and squirrels outside the window is probably a good thing. And yawning, so I’ve heard, is the bodies instinctive way of getting oxygen to the brain, so it would make sense that some students may need to yawn a few times as they study Hamlet.” As I thought more about Eliza’s question on windows and yawning, I was reminded of the importance of atmosphere and instinct. Good classrooms, like good books, should provide indelible atmospheres and instill proper instincts. C.S. Lewis highlights the importance of atmosphere in his essay, “On Stories.” Lewis notes that there should be pleasure in the plot of the story itself—the adventures and dangers that the characters face and conquer, but the element that shapes our imagination and provides lasting memories is… atmosphere—Narnia and Middle Earth, Sherlock Holmes’ London and Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River, Robin’s Sherwood Forest and King Arthur’s Camelot. Lewis sees atmosphere as the primary reason that we re-read the books we love: “We want to return there. […] when such stories are loved at all, they are re-read perhaps more than any others. Re-reading them is like going back to a fruit for its taste; to an air for…what? For itself; to a region for its whole atmosphere—to Donegal for its Donegality and London for its Londonness” (Lewis, 7). Classrooms, like good books, should have an indelible atmosphere. This is why we sing and recite Scripture together in Omnibus. This is why we set up the tables together, eat lunch together, and clean-up together. And this is why I praise God everyday for a classroom with a high ceiling, lots of windows, beautiful hardwood floors, and fireplaces. Not only should good classrooms and good books provide indelible atmospheres, they should also instill proper instincts. In her book, Deeper Heaven, Christiana Hale notes that the idea of stories shaping our instincts and loyalties was a frequent theme in C.S. Lewis’ writings: In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, shortly after entering Narnia together for the first time, the Pevensie children come across a robin that encourages them to follow him. The children have a brief discussion about whether or not it is safe to trust the robin. Peter is in favor of following the bird, arguing that robins are “good birds in all the stories I’ve ever read.” His sisters accept this as a legitimate argument. It is only Edmund (who has already succumbed to the White Witch’s magic) who raises any objections. By Peter’s reasoning, robins are always good birds in stories; therefore, we are safe to trust this particular robin. In other words, stories instructs us about the actual world. Stories teach us wisdom. Stories train our instincts and our loyalties (Hale, 65). In Omnibus this semester we have read books that instill biblical instincts and proper loyalties. We learned from Hamlet that “there’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will,” that past sins may be forgiven, but they still place irreversible burdens on the present, and that revenge never brings resolution. We learned from Paradise Lost that true heroism is found not in cunning and killing but in patiently and courageously enduring suffering. And we learned from both Robinson Crusoe and Emma that: Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience (WSC, Q. 87). As important as good atmospheres and good instincts are, they are not an end in themselves. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever for he makes known to us the path of life; in His presence there is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). So as we gaze out the window and daydream, may our minds dwell not just on birds and squirrels and good books but on God Himself. May we join with the psalmist in declaring, “Whom have I in heaven but you? There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25–26). And may our souls instinctively yawn and pant not just for oxygen as we read of God’s greatness and majesty but for God himself, the living and true God (Psalm 42:1). Knowledge and Wisdom in Submission to God, Chris M. Blackwell - Hale, Christiana. Deeper Heaven. Roman Roads Press. - Lewis, C. S.. On Stories. Harper Collins.

  • Spring Semester (2021-22)

    Sanctified Moments of Childhood and The Lions on the Beach Parents, I praise God everyday for your decision to educate your children at home and would argue that this decision is one of the most important decisions of your life. Though there are still good schools and wonderful school teachers in our country, the school system, along with much of American society, has abandoned God and the absolute truths found in His Word. When pastor and author Francis Schaeffer surveyed the cultural landscape of America in the sixties and early seventies, he saw a troubling shift away from the absolute truth of God’s Word. He warned that cultures which reject the truths of Scripture will inevitably decline into chaos, despair, and absurdity. To paraphrase Schaeffer, this rejection of God’s absolute truth is the reason—and not a less basic one—why our schools are unsafe and children in many schools in our state will begin next school year by walking through a metal detector. There is a created order to this world, reveled in the Bible, and living in accord with this order is the only way to establish a society that can provide both form and freedom. As Schaffer notes, “the freedom brought forth in Christianity is titanic, yet with the forms given in Scripture, the freedoms do not lead to chaos” (Schaeffer, 204). In choosing to educate your children in a Christian home, you gave your children something of inestimable value: a childhood. This semester we read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway, and both authors conveyed how the sanctified moments of childhood are of profound importance. Mrs. March, in Alcott’s Little Women, reminds her daughters that “children should remain children as long as they can,” and at the end of Santiago’s heroic life and epic last hunt, Hemingway writes that the old man “no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength… He only dreamed of places now and of the lions” which he had seen on the beach when he was a child (Alcott, Loc. 885 & Hemingway, Loc. 195). This sacred childhood moment that Santiago experienced brought him joy in his old age: Lions, who had fought with incredible power and strength, now at peace, resting and playing in a idillic setting, like young cats in the dusk. To the Young Lions of 2022, as you move on into the challenges and delights of manhood and womanhood, and contemplate the many storms, great occurrences, and contest of strength ahead, don’t forget to praise God for your parents and for the sacred places and moments of your childhood. Your parent’s fidelity to God and the absolute truth of His Word bestowed on you the blessing of living, growing, and maturing in an atmosphere of clear form and great freedom. I will miss you, and I pray that your senior year in the log cabin, which is the home of the Woman’s Club of Cayce, proved to be one of the cherished sacred spaces of your childhood. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Hebrews 10:39). Knowledge and Wisdom in Submission to God, Chris M. Blackwell

  • Fall Semester (2021-22)

    First Semester Newsletter Upon the completion of our semester, I would like to express my gratitude to the students for their hard work, good behavior, and joyful but serious presence in the classroom, to the parents for their support and all they do to make it possible for the students to attend class, to those who graciously support us financially and faithfully pray for us, and to the women of the Woman’s Club of Cayce who allow us the use of their wonderful space. This semester we learned from Angelina Stanford’s reflections on Gulliver’s Travels that, contrary to the contemporary slogan, “Knowledge is Power,” the purpose of education is not to gain power over others but to produce virtuous men and women. Swift challenged us to gain a proper perspective by learning from the ancients who, with their universal range, long search, much study, and true judgment, were able to enrich both themselves and others in their pursuit of goodness, truth, and beauty. From Charles Dickens in Tale of Two Cites we learned the danger of “twisting humanity out of shape and sowing seeds of rapacious license,” and that the only hope of redemption, once the deadly seeds have been sown, is to look to Christ and give up self-love for self-sacrifice. From Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice we learned that first impressions are often mistaken, that the surface of manners can often be misleading, and that before we can see others correctly we must learn to overcome our own self-deceit. And from Mary Shelley in Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus we learned that forbidden things might not actually be good things, and that a desire for forbidden knowledge can become a “serpent that stings you.” Praise be to God for the books read, lessons learned, songs sung, and friendships made, and may He be our portion and strength in the upcoming year. Knowledge and Wisdom in Submission to God, Chris M. Blackwell

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