Letter to Parents

I’m excited to be teaching several Integrated Humanities courses, as well as Apologetics, at Logos Online School this year! I sent out this letter to the parents of my students, and thought it might be helpful for others who want know more about our approach to education.

Thank you for honoring us with the opportunity to partner with you in the education, training, and discipleship of your children. The Bible clearly commands parents to take the primary responsibility for the education of their children (Deuteronomy 6:1-4; Ephesians 6:1-4), and we always want to remind ourselves that we are here to serve you, with your delegated authority. As a father myself, I take this role and responsibility very seriously.

The curriculum used at Logos Online School is unique, although a similar curriculum is being used by hundreds of other schools across the world. It’s actually a time-tested way of educating our children, but one that has been forgotten in the modern world. We call it “classical Christian education.” There are different varieties and emphases in this movement, but something we all agree on is the importance of reading good books–and reading a lot of good books! Reading is somewhat counter-cultural in our world. Many people don’t read very much these days. Sadly, many Christians don’t even read their Bibles. I want to offer you some resources on the value of reading, and on our approach to education. I hope they are helpful for you. 

The ultimate proof of our educational approach is in our graduates. I’ve taught in classical Christian schools for 20 years now, and I could go on and on about the amazing things our graduates go on to do. I could tell you how much more prepared they are for college. I could brag about the companies they work for, and the companies they’ve started. But, most importantly, they are equipped to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasingly hostile world. They are motivated to serve the lost and the lonely, and to extend hope to the hopeless. That is the ultimate aim of our entire curriculum. We are “Christian” before we are “classical.”

We will read a variety of books, some of which have worldviews that are opposed to Christianity. Think of this as boot camp. We want our students to practice wrestling and sparring with the “Bad Guys” (and bad ideas) before they head out into the world, to pursue whatever God calls them to. We want to help them learn how to respond to some very powerful and seductive lies–lies that still entrance and delude millions of people all around us. 

When we read the classics, the Great Books, we realize that there really is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). If you don’t embrace the truth of the Gospel, then you will believe the lies of Satan. And since Satan can’t really create anything original, he just keeps counterfeiting God’s truth in various different currencies. We want to train our students how to spot these counterfeit lies, guided by a deep grounding in the Truth.

In all of this, we want to approach all things in a Biblical way. The Bible shows us how depraved man can be without God. There are shocking and disturbing stories in the Bible. But, we do not dwell on them. They are there to show us humanity’s inability to save themselves. They are there to show us our deep need for God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. So as we read some of the classics of Western civilization, this will be our approach as well. We will not dwell on the ugliness, and we will be discreet and mature in our discussions. We will see that people always mess up, left to themselves. We will discover that humanity’s greatest achievements are always accompanied by massive failures.

We are here to serve you. Many other students have been through this curriculum, and are now contributing in all sorts of ways to the Kingdom, and to their communities. I hope the following resources are helpful as we begin this school year:

Looking forward to a great year!

Gregory Soderberg

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

A Great Treasury of Praise & Prayer – J.W. Alexander on the Psalms

In “The Hymn of the Eucharist,” a sermon delivered before the observance of the Lord’s Supper, the renowned pastor and theologian J.W. Alexander (1804-1859) expounded on the significance of Jesus singing a hymn with his disciples after their celebration of the Passover, and before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion (Matt. 26:30). Alexander extols the powerful spirituality of the Psalms, and exhorts his hearers to follow the example of Jesus whole-heartedly, who sang in a moment of deep, personal pain and suffering:

“To this day the Psalter stands as the great treasury of praise and prayer, the authentic liturgy of the Church, which can never grow obsolete; which presents every varying mood of holy experience; and by its divine flexibility and expansion is equally suited to every revolving period of the body of Christ” (93).

“But the psalms are not all rapturous. The chords are sometimes touched to the softest notes of penitence and sorrow. And hence in their wonderful modulations from confession to praise, they suit themselves to all conditions of believers and the church” (94).

“There can be conceived no mode of singing God’s praise, more simple, grave, impressive and truly Protestant, than the chanting of the very words of Scripture by all the voices of a congregation” (94).

“There is a principle involved in psalmody which extends widely in religion; it is that our emotions are increased by due utterance” (103).

“Let it be placed high among maxims for the improvement of piety, that our religious affections must have utterance” (104).

“It is only when the death of Christ becomes a secondary matter, and his divinity is denied, that Socinian criticism begins to amend the hymn-book, (as in some European churches) and weaken or remove all expressions of love to a Divine and dying Saviour” (106).

“What a rebuke to those, who look on this part of worship as secondary, as a mere appendage, which they may observe or omit at pleasure, or as something which they are only to witness, without any attempt at participation! For a service which is named the Communion, nothing can be more appropriate than fellowship praise” (107-108).

“[W]e never shall know the joys of the sanctuary, until there be poured out upon us a new baptism in regard to fellowship of adoration, love and praise. We talk of our need of revival in many things–and justly–but what we greatly need is a revival of the spirit of worship” (110).

“Then shall the world without see and know that God is with us of a truth, and recognize that there is happiness in glorifying the name of God” (111).

“Amidst much that is obscure in the Apocalypse, one thing is as clear as day, that in the heavenly state there shall be lofty, joyous, and perpetual praise of Christ” (112).

– “The Hymn of the Eucharist” in J.W. Alexander, Sacramental Discourses (1860).

For more on J.W. Alexander, see the helpful biography at Banner of Truth.

Want to learn more about Psalms and Psalm-singing? Pastor Uri Brito has a bunch of great resources at Resurrectio et Vita!

[This post appeared originally at the Reformed Liturgical Institute.]

Teaching History with “Affectionate Realism”

As I finish up my PhD through the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam on communion frequency in Reformed churches, I’m starting to take notes on another research project. It’s focused on how Christianity has impacted society, and how the Gospel has transformed cultures. I’m not leaving behind my decades of research into worship and the Lord’s Supper, but I’m excited about continuing to explore the relationships between Christian worship and Christian activity within culture.

This has got me thinking about how I want to teach history, and how I want my students to think about history. I came across this quote:

“The purpose of historical study is to explore fully and summarize accurately what really happened in the past. Scholars do not pretend to have achieved absolute objectivity … Accuracy and impartiality are, however, the historian’s cherished goals. It happens that I hold deep affection for the faith of the revivalists whose labors this book recounts … But my intent has been to get the facts straight. Unless Christianity is dependent upon propaganda, its case is better served when historians hew to this line as best they can, letting the chips fall where they may.” – Timothy L. Smith, Revivalism and Social Reform In Mid-Nineteenth-Century America (1957), 10.

This captures what I’m calling “affectionate realism.” This attitude helps us navigate between two extremes in historical teaching and thinking. I want to approach history with “affection.” Of course, I love history! I love learning the stories about people, places, and cultures. I love learning where things come from, and finding out why things are the way they are. I know my students will not all share my enthusiasm, but I want to cultivate a level of affection in my classes.

At the most basic level, we can relate to the people we study because we are all made in the imago dei. There is a fundamental unity throughout the entire human race. So we can appreciate and value all of the achievements of people throughout history.

When we’re studying someone, we should try to see the world from their perspective, instead of rushing to judgment and condemning them because they aren’t as “enlightened” as us. But this is where the “realism” comes in. “Realism” helps us not to idolize, lionize, or white-wash the past.

Christians believe that all people are sinners. No one is perfect. So we’re not surprised when people don’t live up to their own ideals. We don’t need to tear out pages of our history books, or knock down every statue. If we only built statues to perfect people, we’d only be left with statues of Jesus–which might not be a bad thing.

“Affectionate realism” helps us avoid the error of idolizing the past, or the present. It helps us to be humble, and to be honest, as we both appreciate–and critique–the past. With this attitude we can study the past, in order to help us live wisely in the present.

Image by Prateek Katyal via Unsplash.”

Pigs, Gardens, & Church Announcements

At the church we attend the announcements at the end of the service are a continual source of amusement. Our pastor soldiers through as best he can, but there are regularly quite a few (since there are so many wonderful things going on), and the kids, and grown ups, are eager to get to the coffee and doughnuts waiting in the foyer. It was a historic occasion recently, when there were no announcements! There was great rejoicing throughout the land.

This is not a new problem. Churches in the Reformation also struggled with how to incorporate the mundane with the spiritual. Bruce Gordon, writing in Brill’s Companion to the Swiss Reformation, describes the merging of the secular and the mundane in the city of Bern:

“Ministers were required to make a series of announcements from the pulpit addressing the daily life of the community, such as a form of lost and found. Goods and belongings that had been lost were listed in case anyone should know where they were. Further, parishioners were told to control their dogs and pigs and not to bowl or ride horses in the graveyards. Apparently, these interventions became so lengthy that in 1548 the Bernese ministers were only required to announce that items over a certain value had been lost” (Gordon, “Polity and Worship,” 507).

It’s been a while since we last had anyone riding their horse through the church graveyard, so I guess we’re doing well!

[This post originally appeared at the Reformed Liturgical Institute.]

Why Teach Our Children Rhetoric?

What does the word “rhetoric” mean to you? Most people associate “rhetoric” with words that are big, showy, or empty, fake, and manipulative. Why would we want to teach our children how to use words to manipulate people? As an online teacher at Kepler Education who teaches Rhetoric, I’d like to submit that rhetoric is inescapable. We are surrounded by rhetoric. It’s not a question of whether our students are going to learn rhetoric–it’s a question of what kind of rhetoric. 

Continue reading “Why Teach Our Children Rhetoric?”

Should Your Church Start a Disability Ministry?

When I was growing up in Arizona, my parents took my brother and I to volunteer at a Christian ranch where adults with disabilities could live. They were able to pursue basic trades and sell what they created. There were all types of adults, and all types of disabilities, but what we learned is that they were all people, deserving our love and respect. And many of them surpassed us in their joyfulness and good humor.

We also attended a small church out in the country. Quite a few former cowboys, and other rugged, independent types that you find in small towns, and especially in the American West. But, every Sunday, a van full of our friends from the ranch came to the church, and so we worshipped and fellowshipped alongside these wonderful brothers and sisters. After a while, we didn’t notice their disabilities as much, and grew to appreciate the unique ways that God had gifted each one of them.

What was notable about this situation was that this was not some official “ministry” of the church–it was just the church welcoming people with disabilities into our life, community, and fellowship. This is the vision that Stephanie Hubach presents in her helpful book–Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability.

Continue reading “Should Your Church Start a Disability Ministry?”

Why Study Logic?

I’m really enjoying starting a year long study of Introductory Logic with a fantastic group of students at Kepler Education! But, you might wonder if we really need to study Logic?

In his wonderful book, Socratic Logic, the eminent Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft gives several compelling reasons to study Logic. Here’s a sampling of the many good reasons that Kreeft provides:

  • The question is not what you can do with logic, but what logic does to you. As Kreeft puts it: “Logic builds the mental habit of thinking in an orderly way.” Also, “No course is more practical than logic, for no matter what you are thinking about, you are thinking, and logic orders and clarifies your thinking. No matter what your thought’s content, it will be clearer when it has a more logical form. The principles of thinking logically can be applied to all thinking and to every field”[1]
Continue reading “Why Study Logic?”

Edwards on the Expensiveness of Gospel Blessings

Going through Jonathan Edwards’ Sermons on the Lord’s Supper for my PhD work has been fun. I’m not an Edwards scholar by any means, but I think these sermons capture the pastoral heart of this amazing genius. There are many gems like this one:

But we shall show in some particular instances how gospel provision is well represented by a feast. 1. In the expensiveness of gospel blessings. As feasts are expensive and are provided at the expense of the host, so the provision that God has in the gospel made for our souls in exceedingly expensive. But we have it for nothing; it costs us nothing, but it cost God a great deal …

Never were any feasted at so dear a rate as believers; when they eat and drink, it is a thousand times more costly than what they eat at the tables of princes that is far-fetched and dearly bought. Every crumb of bread that they eat and every drop of wine that they drink are more costly than so much gold or gems

Christ Jesus obtained this provision by victory. He was obliged to fight for it, as it were, up to His knees in blood so that He might obtain it; yea, He waded through a sea of blood to get it for us.

Leadership & Hope for the Future

I just picked up David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning-biography of John Adams, our 2nd president and one of the key leaders in birth of the United States of America. As we prepare to celebrate our nation’s founding, even in the middle of chaos, confusion, and heart-ache, it’s helpful to learn about what inspired leaders like Adams:

Ambitious to excel–to make himself known–he had nonetheless recognized at an early stage that happiness came not from fame and fortune, “and all such things,” but from “an habitual contempt of them,” as he wrote. He prized the Roman ideal of honor, and in this, as in much else, he and Abigail [his wife] were in perfect accord. Fame without honor, in her view, would be “like a faint meteor gliding through the sky, shedding only transient light” (19).

Adams was motivated by the “Roman ideal of honor.” He had a standard by which to measure himself. He had a goal he aspired to. His moral imagination was fueled by a deep exposure to the classics. His sense of duty was also informed by his faith:Continue reading “Leadership & Hope for the Future”

Why Study the Medieval Period?

In chaotic times, we search for direction. What do you do in the middle of a pandemic? Riots? Racial strife and wars? A collapsing economy?

Christians have been through all of this before. This is one of the main reasons we should study history. We realize that, though our times are full of trials and tribulations, the Church has weathered cultural storms and upheaval before. We can learn from the past, in order to live wisely in the present. One of the most important times to learn about is the so-called “Dark Ages.”

Read the rest at Consortium!