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Friday
Mar312017

All good things come to an end

I realized yesterday that I only have two more regular classes in my theology class. On the 20th I write my final exam, and on on the 23rd, my Moral Theology paper is due. I will be sad when it's over.

I have been in class with most of the students all year. The majority who began with me in September also took the second half of the course. Some of them are also in my Moral Theology class, and often on Thursdays there are discussions about that class as well. I have come to really appreciate and enjoy these people. And what I really like is the diversity of ages and experiences. Yesterday, as usual, there was laughter and fun in the midst of learning theological truth. I'm really going to miss that, and I'm going to miss my prof's teaching and wisdom.

I think this year more than any other, I have seen how we need to value older teachers. As I have listened to Dr. Fowler, I have heard more than just someone who knows theoretical knowledge. He has also practical ministry experience. In Moral Theology, when we discussed divorce and re-marriage, he shared personal insights about his own experience as a pastor. He has done a lot of work on the issue of baptism because his doctoral dissertation was focused on that. But he has also dealt with baptism in the capacity of a pastor. All of the theological issues we have learned this year he has dealt with both experientially and academically. I wonder how many pastors have a certain idea of what they believe regarding various doctrines, only to have those challenged as they confront them pastorally. 

This year, school kept me busier than last year, and that was a good thing. I spent less time online, although I still need to pare that down a bit. Yesterday, it was a cold, slushy, bitter ride home, and I was glad to come home and unwind with a cup of tea as I checked my email. I had a brief look at Twitter, and I was struck by how we can become so keyed to what see online that we may not have time for other things. There is much chewing over Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option. And there is some issue regarding a Billy Graham rule and a Donald Trump rule. At this point in the semester, I don't have time to check that out. Sometimes, getting embroiled in these matters (which will be cast aside for something else in a few weeks) just eats up time I need to spend elsewhere. And it exhausts me just watching how long some will continue a debate in 140 characters, refusing to let someone else have the last word. Where do they get the energy? 

This time next month, I will be spending time with my family, celebrating my dad's 80th birthday. I'm heading out to the prairies, and am eager to get my camera out and re-charge. But I will miss my weekly meetings with my fellow students. I'm looking forward to Greek I and Church History beginning in September.

And now to get that term paper done and study for my exam.

Thursday
Mar302017

What think we of Christ ourselves?

From J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings:

What think we of Christ ourselves? This is the one question with which we have to do. Let us never be ashamed to be of that little number who believe on him, hear his voice, follow him and confess him before men. While others waste their time in vain jangling and unprofitable controversy, let us take up the cross and give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.

 

Wednesday
Mar292017

Even older people can improve their reading ability

Is it still okay to say good things about homeschooling? Lately, I've seen people who used to homeschool say some really negative things about it. No education system is perfect, including homeschooling. However, it's still something I recommend. My kids grew to be good writers, good thinkers, and good readers. They all did really well in high school and university. My youngest son recently made the Dean's List.

Homschooling was good for me, too. I have always been a good reader. I have always engaged with books, pencil in hand. But I learned to be a better reader after homeschooling; thanks to Susan Wise Bauer's books The Well-Trained Mind and The Well-Educated Mind. By teaching reading principles to my children, I was able to learn some helpful ones myself.

In her book The Well-Trained Mind, she encourages students learn to outline passages. It all begins with dictation: having a student tell you what he's just read. Later, you write down what he tells you, and later still, she writes what she's read. I did that with my kids. Later, it turned into full blown outlining of short passages, using a formal outlining system with Roman and Arabic numerals. In my daughter's first years of undergraduate study, she told me that learning Latin and outlining were the two best things she got from homeschooling.

Susan Wise Bauer's book The Well-Educated Mind is similar to Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book with the exception that it isn't mind numbingly boring. Honestly, when I see people recommending Adler's book, I feel sorry for the potential reader. I read it, and so did my daughter. Ew. Ick. I didn't realize how boring it was until I read The Well-Educated Mind. The only benefit it has is that it addresses reading science. 

Bauer, in The Well-Educated Mind lays out a reading plan for self-education whereby we have different levels of reading corresponding to the Classical model of the Trivium. There is Grammar Stage Reading, Logic Stage Reading, and Rhetorical Stage reading. Grammar stage reading is the basic level of observation, Logic delves into deeper questions, and Rhetorical even deeper. The book encourages one keep a notebook. The genres of fiction, biography, history, poetry, and drama are examined individually, and each chapter ends with an annotated list of suggested books. While I have put my The Well-Trained Mind away in a box, I keep The Well-Educated Mind on my shelf. For those people who are queasy (or outright hostile) toward homeschooling, one can read this book without bothering his conscience.

Last night, as I got out my "Theology II" notebook, I thought of how much Bauer's book has helped me with reading. We have weekly quizzes, and outlining has helped me read with a purpose. Every week I read the assigned chapters, and then a couple of days before the quiz, I outline the chapters, using the techniques I taught my children and the ones derived from The Well-Educated Mind. It prepares me well for the quiz, and cements the content in my head which will be necessary to write the final exam. One summer, while reading a lot of fiction, I used the same procedure, and from those books, I remember more of the content, themes, and some specific passages. That's something else we can use a notebook for, to write down passages we really like. Outlining and going through levels of reading makes me more attentive to detail. If one does not like paper notebooks, there is always digital help through things like Evernote or even just having a file on one's desktop.

I'm thankful for homeschooling in so many ways, and what it gave me is just as valuable as what my children received. And today, they are well-adjusted, well-socialized young adults. It's a win-win.

Tuesday
Mar282017

And this is why I don't identify as a feminist

Today, a news story was brought to my attention through a link which featured Al Mohler's "The Briefing." I confess I have only every listened to one or two of these broadcasts, and this morning, I simply read the transcript, but it alerted me to one of those things that gets me riding the rocking horse of indignation.

The story comes from Australia, where journalist Sarrah Le Marquand puts forth this view:

Rather than wail about the supposed liberation in a woman’s right to choose to shun paid employment, we should make it a legal requirement that all parents of children of school-age or older are gainfully employed.

I believe it is implied that "gainfully employed" means employed for financial remuneration. She bases this conclusion on economic reasons, saying that her country's financial health would be better served by women contributing through paid work rather than childcare. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently pointed out the shortfall of female representation in Australia's workforce, so the best option is to mandate all parents work:

Only when the female half of the population is expected to hold down a job and earn money to pay the bills in the same way that men are routinely expected to do will we see things change for the better for either gender.

I firmly believe that women are free to work after they have children. I am grateful for the work of many feminists in the past who worked to change inequitable and unjust situations for women. Their goal was to make life better for women. But in their pioneering to make work options more equitable did that mean removing their choice not to work? When a woman like Le Marquand tells me that I am not free to make my life's work my children, she is doing what feminists have long accused men of doing: exerting control. When feminist groups seek to dictate how other women live, they set themselves up as an elite (and sometimes, not a wise elite, but rather the elite who has been aggressive enough to be heard) handing down judgment. A women's boy's club. 

This is why I am not eager to embrace the title of "feminist." It's such a loaded word. I know women who identify as feminist who are godly women, who long to see women grow in the things of God, and to be seen as the equal heirs of Christ that we are. And then then there are extrapolations like this article. And when feminism begins to run to extremes as in this article, I don't want the title. I remain a committed Christian Theist, and I believe, if properly worked out and understood, it will necessitate equality of value for both men and women; including those who want to stay at home full time with their children for as long as they like.

Sunday
Mar262017

Daily Readings - John 6:66-71

J.C. Ryle, Daily Readings
John 6:66-71

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?" (John 6:68) 

The question with which Peter begins is just as remarkable as his confession. 'To whom shall we go?' said the noble-hearted apostle. 'Whom shall we follow? To what teacher shall we take ourselves? Where shall we find any guide to heaven to compare with thee? What shall we gain by forsaking thee?'

The question is one which every true Christian may boldly ask when urged and tempted to give up his religion and go back to the world. It is easy for those who hate religion to pick holes in our conduct, to make objections to our doctrines, to find fault with our practices. It may be hard sometimes to give them any answer. But after all, 'To whom shall we go,' if we give up our religion? Where shall we find such peace and hope and solid comfort as in serving Christ, however poorly we serve him? Can we better ourselves by turning our back on Christ and going back to our old ways? We cannot. Then let us hold on our way and persevere.