A Reflection on the Blessings of Classical Christian Education
By John Hayward
“The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17 (ESV)
“The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.” Proverbs 14:8 (ESV)
“The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Proverbs 16:21 (ESV)
The second blessing I have received from classical Christian education that I have reflected upon is discernment (links to the first and the intro). Specifically, the training I received in Logic and Rhetoric equipped me to be able to understand and sort through any idea or approach that I encountered. This enabled me to thoughtfully be engaged with an often hostile world rather than be dismissive of it or simply digesting it all as is. This discernment that has flowed from training in Logic and Rhetoric has led to pragmatic and personal blessings.
Studying Logic has enabled me to be a better listener in conversations and analyze someone’s explicit or implicit reasoning. Another pragmatic blessing of training in careful, precise, and accurate reasoning has been the ability to read and read around contracts for mortgages and such things. Similarly, the study of Rhetoric bears much practical fruit with being able to discern the subtle messages and methods of advertisers and politicians. Logic and Rhetoric help me be a more discerning consumer and voter.
More significant than any pragmatic benefits of my classical training in Logic and Rhetoric are the personal blessings. Studying Logic trains the mind to objectively figure what truly follows from sets of premises regardless of your feelings or social circle. I experienced the fruit of that training in college when I went through some dark seasons of melancholy. My feelings and experience of life was that there is nothing good, but I had been trained that the voice of my feelings is not the authoritative voice. The truth about who I was because of what Jesus has done and is doing dictated that certain conclusions regarding the meaning of life and my identity follow. Feelings do not define reality. God used my training in Logic directed by His word (along with other things) to comfort me in the face of despairing suffering. I could tell many stories about how Rhetoric has shaped some of my communication in my marriage but those stories are best told in person. So I will rather close by saying that learning to consider the person you are speaking to with understanding and sympathy and learning that how you say something really matters equips the student to live out Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (ESV)