Why Classical Must Be Essentially Christian

Augustine Classical Academy has, and remains committed to, a classical and a Christian approach to education. One can find schools that are classical and one can find schools that are Christian, but why do we insist on holding to both of these ideals in the same institution? 

One of the most powerful and alluring features of classical education is its integrated approach to learning. It recognizes that the world is not a disparate set of individual categories, but that everything is connected to everything else. History cannot and should not be understood apart from literature and science and math and ethics. Life is vibrantly integral; it is an interconnected whole. Classical education recognizes this about the world and adopts an approach to learning that embraces this sort of world. But such a view of the world comes from somewhere. A randomly generated universe gives us no reason to expect that anything is connected to anything else. But if we live in a created universe -- created by a Person who has done so with great intentionality, then we can reasonably expect to find a world where everything is connected to everything else. Science and history and math and morality and beauty all held together by a God who designed it that way. But such design requires a commitment to thinking about the world as one who believes in a God like this. Without this “religious” component to education, we lose one of Classical education’s greatest strengths.  

Secondly, classical education aims at the formation of human beings. It recognizes that education is formation. This is why ACA doesn’t simply exist to teach students to know truth, virtue and beauty, but to train students to love and practice these things as well.

The ideas of Truth, Virtue and Beauty require some basis in reality. They must to come from somewhere. Without some norm for these things, truth becomes nonsensical, goodness a matter of preference and beauty simply a matter of taste. Schools that attempt to divorce truth, goodness, and beauty from some objective standard are left without the most powerful and anchoring idea in all of education: the Why. Why does 2+2=4? Why does a triangle have to have 3 sides? Why is human cellular structure so complex? Why is it heroic when Bilbo deceives Thorin?  Why is it wrong to cheat on my spelling test? Christianity -- and importantly the whole view of the world which Christianity provides -- unapologetically answers all of these questions. Secular educational models (like what is found in all public schools and many private institutions) are left without any way to root what is taught in the classroom to anything outside of current social norms, or what seems to work. In other words, the transcendent is lost, and there is nothing to anchor life in outside of ourselves. Such an approach to education tends to turn all of society inward, producing a general drift towards rootlessness, triviality, and rampant individualism.

A Christian education is free to anchor the formation of our students in a transcendent view of the world. A world where there are actual things like truth, goodness and beauty. A Christian education is free to anchor this education in the beauty of grace: a God who is not only there, but who loves and redeems His people. The label Christian in classical Christian Education provides the overarching context for everything we teach, while classical provides the delivery method. We want our students to know, love, and practice truth, beauty, and goodness because we want our students to know, love, and obey the God has created those things and revealed them to the world. 

Brian Brown is a founding Board member of Augustine Classical Academy, where all three of his children are enrolled, and planting pastor at Trinity Church Denver in Golden.