Avoiding Plagiarism from the Pulpit

Plagiarism is a sin. In a wonderful talk “Meta-Apologetics” (available online here), Douglas Groothuis observed that the plagiarizer, by taking someone else’s work as their own, breaks at least three of the Ten Commandments: (1) they covet, (2) they steal, and (3) they bear false witness. He handles this issue when calling apologists “to be above reproach in citing our sources in our speaking and writing.” In this essay, I want to affirm the sin of plagiarism and suggest three practical steps to avoid it.

Of course, plagiarism has become a hot topic in evangelicalism, specifically among Southern Baptists, after allegations of plagiarism were brought forward against the new President of the Southern Baptist Convention. I have no desire to delve into denominational politics here, but I do want to say that this conversation has brought up an important topic for all pastors to consider: plagiarism in the pulpit.

1. Preach Your Bad Sermon

In John Piper’s newest revision of The Supremacy of God in Preaching, he adds a chapter called “In Honor of Tethered Preaching.” In this chapter, he addresses the difference between a “Bible-oriented preacher” and an “entertainment-oriented preacher.” I would recommend reading this chapter to understand this distinction alone. He claims that the Bible-oriented preacher sees himself as “God’s representative sent to God’s people to deliver a message from God.” Insofar as this is an accurate picture of a faithful preacher, we must acknowledge the need to represent God in truth if not in perfection. Typically, the desire to plagiarize arises out of a desire to be seen as a good preacher or a smart preacher or a fill-in-the-blank preacher. Pride leads us to the sin of plagiarism when we cannot stand to face our congregation with our own inadequate, imperfect, un-alliterated thoughts on a passage of Scripture.

Your people need a steady diet of faithful preaching (preaching drawn directly from the text of Scripture that communicates the gospel clearly and applies it to the life of the listener). They don’t need you to preach a sermon worthy of going viral every week. In recent decades, the internet has provided great resources online for pastors to learn about writing and delivering sermons. It has also given them access to huge catalogues of preachers across the globe that they can learn from, but it also leads to the temptation to “borrow” just a little more from someone else.

It’s Saturday night. It’s been a long week of pastoral visits in hospital parking lots, during lunch, and randomly in the pastoral study. The week left you behind. You haven’t gotten any further on your sermon than when you worked on it Monday morning. You have some ideas. You’ve meditated on it throughout the week, but now you have to plan what you’ll actually say. This is the critical moment. Do you write the subpar sermon that is drawn from your own ideas on the text and merely checked for truth by outside resources? Or do you go online type in the name of your favorite preachers and listen to their sermons on the text?

It doesn’t take a long week or a sermon written the night before to lead someone to cut corners. Sometimes we see the plethora of good resources and become disheartened by our insecurities and imperfections. We lean on someone else’s work—someone else’s sermon, someone else’s exegesis.

The first step in avoiding plagiarism in the pulpit is simple: when you get to those moments where your sermon just hasn’t come together, preach your bad sermon anyway. Make sure it is drawn from the biblical text. Make sure you preach Jesus. Make sure you address the hearts of the listeners. But when the transitions are weak, the points aren’t coming together, and you can’t help but think a YouTube preacher could do it better than you, preach your bad sermon anyway.

2. Struggle with the Biblical Text

I preach weekly on Wednesday nights for 6-12th graders. I only preach on a Sunday morning roughly once a month. Although I still have the pressure of weekly sermon prep, I’m not writing a 35-45 minute sermon for a whole congregation on a weekly basis. This allows me more time to write my next Sunday sermon. I often try to write a few weeks ahead of time which allows for new ideas and illustrations to be added, but it also makes sure I have a sermon ready to go in case my pastor is suddenly unavailable.

I last preached Mark 1:1-8, and I really struggled with it. I wrote it over the course of several weeks, and for the first couple weeks, I was lost. Should I end in verse 8 or push it forward? How do I preach Christ when he is only mentioned in verse 1? How do I handle this text without just going to a commentary to guide me? I spent at least 80% of my sermon prep time just wrestling with the passage on my own. I only consulted study Bibles and commentaries to see where they split the verses as independent thoughts to make sure my division wasn’t completely off base. I can say that if I had consulted other resources before that wrestling I would have been extremely tempted to take their points, thoughts, illustrations, and preach their sermon or a mix of a couple commentators’ sermons. I did consult resources for some study help to understand the context of the Old Testament Scripture being quoted and to understand the role and meaning of John’s baptism in the history of Israel. But otherwise, I allowed my own understanding of the text to drive the sermon.

I let myself struggle with the passage on my own for as long as I could. I didn’t let my misreading override the majority of commentators, but I did allow my legitimate reading to trump over other commentators’ legitimate readings. Let the text being the driving force, not a commentators explanation of it.

3. Cite Your Sources and Confess Your Sin

Besides the advice give above, the best way to avoid plagiarism is to give credit where credit is due. Cite your sources. No, this isn’t Junior English or Comp 1, but it is real life. The result of plagiarism isn’t just a bad grade, but it’s the integrity of your ministry before God and before your people. Don’t use another preacher’s words without giving him credit. Don’t take an idea from a book without giving its author credit. Don’t quote those song lyrics without giving the composer credit. Give credit where credit is due, and cite your sources.

Can you give credit to a whole sermon and then preach it? No. No publisher will publish a book that says, “C.S. Lewis writes: …” and then proceeds to type out The Abolition of Man in quotation marks. You can’t cite someone and take all of their work. You can reference all of their work. But you can’t spend a whole sermon quoting someone else. Cite sources when you use another’s work, but don’t make their work look like yours with an asterisk.

Finally, I would say that if you have plagiarized in your preaching—whether not attributing quotations, stealing outlines, or preaching whole sermons—confess your sin. If your church has a leadership team or a body of elders/pastors, reach out to them and confess your sins in genuine repentance seeking reconciliation with them and God. Allow them to decide how to discipline. It won’t be easy, but it will be right. If your church does not have a leadership body, you may confess it to your denominational leaders who exhibit authority over your local church. However, if you do not have either a leadership body within the local church or a leadership body outside of it, you should publicly confess your sin before the congregation and encourage them to pray and seek a biblical response to this problem.

When you plagiarize in the pulpit, you don’t just commit a sin, but you commit a sin that compromises your church’s trust in you and compromises your authority as a teacher. Therefore, you must seek reconciliation by confessing your sin to those you have wronged.

Free Will with Kevin Timpe (Part Two)

Do you think that the Christian Bible teaches a specific account of freewill or no?

No, I don’t. I do think that the Bible teaches us that we have free will, so long as we understand free will as the control condition for moral responsibility rather than the having of alternative possibilities. (This should/can be linked to the first interview, but not sure how best to do it.) For I think that it’s apparent that the Christian Scriptures hold that at least some humans will be held responsible for their actions. And if that’s true and free will is the kind of control over one’s actions required to be held responsible, then there must be free will.

But I don’t think that the Christian Scriptures teach a specific account of what free will is—that is, whether incompatibilism or compatibilism is true. I’m inclined to think that those who think they find one or other of the views clearly taught are importing their own views into the text. I don’t think we should expect the Scriptures to teach one or other of the views since that’s not the purpose of the Scriptures. It’s not a metaphysics text and I am suspicious of the hermeneutic of those who think the Scriptures are trying to give us a fully worked out metaphysic.

And while I’m skeptical that the Scriptures did teach compatibilism or incompatibilism or libertarianism, I’m even more doubtful that they teach a more specific account of free will, such as that free will involves agent-causal powers that are not reducible to event-causal properties.

[Pause] Oh wait, the Scripture clearly and unambiguously teach the source incompatibilism rooted in reasons-responsive substance causal powers with a robust tracing condition is true…. And that just so happens to be my own view as well!

Why might God create humans with freewill?

I’m inclined to think that there’s not a single reason why God would do that. I’m quite tempted by Alex Pruss’s view of omnirationality that God not only acts for reasons, but that he always acts of all and only the unexcluded reasons in favor of that action. What reasons might there be for creating creatures with free will? Among the plausible candidates are: as a reflection of God’s nature; because it is good for things to exist, and good for a wide range of things to exist; because it is good for things that require the existence of free will to exist, such as virtue, certain forms of love, certain forms of creativity, certain forms of being a self. I think that free will is both intrinsically and extrinsically valuable, and God values things properly. Of course, free will also has tremendous extrinsic disvalue given the ways that we misuse it. And so those reasons against giving us free will also need to be taken into account.

(Laura Ekstrom has a really nice paper on “The Cost of Freedom” in the Free Will and Theism volume that Dan Speak and I edited. In fact, it’s in there with a number of other really nice papers. If folks are interested in the intersections of the philosophical free will debates and Christian theism, they might want to check out this volume.)

While I don’t think that we are creators in the same way that God is a creator (since we can’t create ex nihilo), I suspect that God wanted us to participate in God’s creative act by being involved in the co-creation process. I have to confess that on many days, that the ranking of the various reasons cumulatively favors creating beings with free will isn’t obvious to me. But if something akin to historical Christianity is true (as I think it is), then I think that this is how the ranking does turn out and probably has to given what we’re holding fixed.

Does God have freewill?

If, as I have suggested, free will is understood as the control condition on moral responsibility, and if in line with historical Christianity we hold that God is praiseworthy for God’s actions, then I think we have good reason to think that God does have free will. I think it’s pretty obvious that God makes choices. And I don’t see how God’s choices could be constrained by anything outside of the Godhead—that is, I don’t see how anything could coerce or determine God to act in a certain way. And so, again on the assumption of Christian theism, I think that God is the most free being there is—and our freedom gets its nature by God’s creative act that makes us image God’s nature. I have a paper in which I explore the possibility that creaturely freedom is just analogical to God’s freedom. I take a slightly different approach, one most open to the idea ‘free will’ might be predicated univocally and not just analogically of God in my Free Will in Philosophical Theology book.

Does Jesus have freewill?

Given that I take Jesus to be the incarnate second person of the Trinity and, as indicated in the previous question, I think that God has free will, I’m also going to answer this one in the affirmative. This answer is fairly widespread in the history of Christian theology. Augustine and Anselm and Aquinas, for instance, all endorsed it. A Lateran Council in 649 CE affirmed that the Incarnate Christ has free will:

Canon 10: “If anyone does not properly and truly confess according to the holy Fathers two wills of one and the same Christ our God, united uninterruptedly, divine and human, and on this account that through each of His natures the same one of His own free will is the operator of our salvation, let him be condemned.”

And in the East, St John of Damascus writes in book 3, chapter 13 of his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith:

Confessing, then, the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, to be perfect God and perfect man, we hold that the same has all the attributes of the Father save that of being ingenerate, and all the attributes of the first Adam [including] … two natural volitions, one divine and one human, two natural energies, one divine and one human, two natural free‐wills, one divine and one human, and two kinds of wisdom and knowledge, one divine and one human. (Willis & Rouët de Journel, 2002, 323)

Tim Pawl and I have a paper on this (unfortunately hidden behind a for-profit publisher’s firewall; if people want a copy, they can email me). In that paper we try to do two primary things. First, reconciling the Incarnate Christ’s free will with the claim that Christ’s human will was subject to the divine will in the Incarnation. Second, reconciling the claim that Christ was both fully human and free with the claim that Christ, since also divine, could not sin. This latter claim can get tricky since we usually think that free will involves the ability to do moral evil. But we give a number of ways that one can affirm that the Incarnate Christ is both free and unable to sin.

Do humans have freewill after they die or after they are resurrected from the dead?

I think so—though I guess if I die and wake up in heaven and I’m not free, I probably won’t complain too much.

Tim Pawl and I have a series of papers where we address this with respect to those in heaven. (And unlike the previous paper I mentioned, these are available open access thanks to the awesomeness of the journal in which they’re published, Faith and Philosophy.)What we call the Problem of Heavenly Freedom asks How can someone be free and yet incapable of sinning? If the redeemed are kept from sinning, their wills must be reined in. And if their wills are reined in, it doesn’t seem right to say that they are free. There are a number of ways to respond to the Problem of Heavenly Freedom, depending on one’s views of free will and divine providence. Our view is a libertarian one, according to which through patterns of action we can shape our moral character (what Aristotle called habituation). A person’s character directs their actions both by influencing what one sees as reasons for actions and by influencing how one weighs reasons for and against those actions. Heaven, on our view, requires having a morally perfect character. But once a person has a morally perfect character, they will see no reason to engage in sinful and wicked actions. But since sinful actions are ruled out by their freely formed character, rather than external constraint or determination, we see no reason to think that threatens their free will.

A parallel story can be told about those in hell, which is what I try to do in the “Damned Freedom” chapter of my Free Will in Philosophical Theology. There I argue that those who are in hell are unable to escape, despite retaining their free will. The damned’s inability to turn to God, in the sense of psychological impossibility and not logical impossibility, is consistent with their being free. In the following chapter, I show how a similar line of reasoning can explain how it is that the redeemed will be unable to sin despite being free.

Review: Preaching by Tim Keller

In Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller provides, what he calls, a manifesto on preaching rather than a manual. He doesn’t spend the majority of the book delving into how to pick a biblical text, understand it, write a sermon around it, outline it, and preach it. But he does touch on all these things.

Although this book is entirely approachable from a young, inexperienced preacher/reader, I would not recommend it as a first read on preaching. Instead, I would put a more fundamental “how-to” book in their hands, hopefully one (like Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching) which does deal with issues of personal character and moral/spiritual consistency. I would let them read it and practice applying a book like that first, but then I would push them towards Keller’s book. Every chapter in parts two (on “Reaching the People”) and three (“In Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power”) along with the appendix (“Writing an Expository Message”) had me thinking “this is worth the price of the book alone!” But with three chapters and one appendix as helpful and powerful as these, I guess I should just say the book itself is worth the price of several books.

I did not particularly find the first three chapters enlightening. They are foundational, necessary and helpful, but they left me less than overwhelmed because they covered a lot of ground that I had already experienced as a reader of a couple other preaching books and as someone who has preached sporadically and now regularly over the last 5+ years. What I’m trying to say is this: I would recommend every chapter in this book, but I’d recommend it primarily for parts two and three and the appendix.

Why would I recommend other books first? Like I said, I would point a new preacher to other books which act more like manuals on preaching. A new preacher needs to get straight to the how-to. Local churches and denominations have the authority and responsibility to make sure those who are called to preach have first been called (by their local church not just God) to be holy and faithful. But once they have shown themselves faithful, available, and teachable and the church has decided to allow them to preach, they need to first learn how. I think, while Tim Keller’s book does deal with this throughout, his writing on engaging our current generation and living the life of a preacher are the most helpful parts of this book. He persuasively argues for authenticity and honesty between the preacher out of the pulpit and in the pulpit. He provides necessary information on exegeting (pulling out the underlying truth) of the culture as well as the biblical text. Therefore, a seasoned preacher or new, yet practiced preacher would find more use out of this–in my opinion–than someone who’s completely green to preaching.

I heartily recommend this book to all preachers and people who find themselves preaching.

The Problem of Evil with Tawa Anderson

In this article, I interview Dr. Tawa Anderson about Christian apologetics. Anderson is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Assistant Director of the Honors Program at Oklahoma Baptist University. He co-authored An Introduction to Christian Worldview: Pursuing God’s Perspective in a Pluralistic World which released in 2017. Anderson frequently speaks on issues concerning Christian apologetics, worldview, and philosophy for churches, seminaries, universities, and schools.

See my previous interview with Dr. Anderson on Christian Apologetics here.

Or, see my previous interview with Dr. Anderson on Christian Worldview here.

Thank you to Dr. Anderson for taking the time out of his schedule to answer these questions for us. My questions and comments appear in bold font, and his responses follow them.

What is the “problem of evil”? And what makes it a problem?

The ‘problem of evil’ as traditionally held is an argument against the existence of God based on the existence and/or prevalence of evil and suffering in the world.  In its classic form, as articulated by Epicurus, David Hume, or J. L. Mackie, the problem of evil suggests that if an all-powerful and all-good God exists, there should be no evil in the world.  Why?  Well, as the argument goes: (1) if God is omnipotent, he has the ability to prevent evil; (2) if he is all-loving he desires to prevent evil; and (3) if he is omniscient, he knows how to prevent evil.  If the God of Christianity exists, then, he wants to, knows how to, and has the ability to prevent evil.  Given the presence of evil, then, it would seem that God cannot exist.  It would seem, then, that evil presents a ‘problem’ for Christian belief!

I should note, however, that every worldview, not just Christianity, needs to account for the evil and suffering that exists in the world. There are two sides to the broad worldview problem of evil: first, defining and grounding evil; and second, explaining how evil fits coherently within the overarching worldview.

Many people consider the free will defense as a decisive victor against the logical problem of evil. Could you briefly outline the defense and explain why you do or don’t agree on its impact?

The freewill defense, as articulated by Alvin Plantinga, suggests (broadly) two things.  First, if God creates free-willed creatures (like human beings), then he cannot determine that they will use their freedom to always choose ‘good’ rather than ‘evil.’  After all, if God determined that they use their freedom only for good, then they would not be truly free at all.  Hence, even an omnipotent God cannot create free-willed creatures who only do good. 

Second, it is possible (I would argue likely) that God was committed to creating free-willed creatures who (a) would freely do more good than evil and (b) could know and worship him freely.  Hence, it could be that God created human beings with free will, knowing that we would use our free will to cause evil (even tremendous evil on occasion), but also know that it is better to have free-willed creatures who sometimes go wrong, than to have no free-willed creatures at all.

If this is the case, then God has a morally sufficient reason for creating free-willed creatures who cause evil.  Yes, God has the power/ability to prevent evil—but only by not creating free-willed human beings at all.  Yes, God has the prima facie desire to prevent evil—but that prima facie desire is overridden by his desire to create free-willed creatures who will frequently choose to love and serve him.

It is the consensus of contemporary philosophers that the free will defense has conclusively rebutted the logical problem of evil.  That is, there is no logical contradiction between the presence of evil in the world and the existence of God.  I tend to concur with this assessment—Plantinga and others have demonstrated the consistency of God’s existence with evil.

We should note, however, that the logical problem of evil is only one version of the problem of evil. Even if it is defanged, there are other aspects of evil in the world that can cause problems for the Christian faith.

Although the logical problem of evil may have appeared on the debate stage, it seems most people approach evil from a place of emotion. How should Christians engage people that see evil as a natural sign that God does not exist?

There are three versions of the problem of evil: logical, evidential, and existential.  We’ve already talked briefly about the logical problem of evil.  What you’re talking about here is what I call the existential (or experiential) problem of evil.  It seems to me that this is actually the dominant expression of the problem of evil. 

For most people, evil and suffering do not pose an abstract philosophical problem.  It’s not that they think about the attributes of God, and think about the existence of evil, and come to the rational conclusion that God and evil are inconsistent.  Rather, it seems to me that most people question the goodness or existence of God when they experience (or observe) significant evil and suffering in their lives (or in the lives of loved ones).  We encounter someone who hurts us terribly—through physical or psychological abuse, or abandonment, or betrayal.  We experience intense physical suffering—disease, sickness, injury.  We suffer exquisite emotional pain—the death of a beloved friend or family member.  And we wonder why, if God loves us, would God permit this to happen.  If God is all-powerful, surely he could have spared me from this evil and suffering.  So when we encounter evil and suffering personally, we are led to question God’s goodness, and perhaps even his very existence.

It is important to emphasize that people who encounter the existential problem of evil do not need philosophical answers to philosophical questions.  Instead, they need personal comfort and love.

In terms of engaging people who see evil as a sign that God does not exist, I suggest a couple of things.  First, remember that every worldview needs to account for the problem of evil.  Why is evil objectively evil?  And why does it exist?  It is fair to require Christianity to deal with the problem of evil; but it is also fair to require someone who uses evil as a reason to disbelieve in God to account for the reality and existence of evil.  So, for example, if someone uses evil as a reason to reject the existence of God and becomes an atheist; then we should ask them how an atheistic worldview can explain the objective reality of evil.

Second, Christians need to do a better job of presenting the full reality of a biblical worldview.  It is a tragedy that so many people in contemporary Western society believe that God is supposed to be like our personal genie—providing us with health, wealth, and happiness (sugar, spice, and everything nice).  But Scripture does not give us any reason to expect such a peaceful and pain-free life—at least, not on this side of death and resurrection.  A faithful biblical worldview will expect there to be pain and suffering in this life—we live in a world beset by the fall, in which humans perpetrate evil, and there is no reason to expect our lives to be exempt from the suffering.

How should local churches teach, preach, and counsel their people on issues of evil?

As mentioned above, churches need to teach the full breadth of the Christian worldview, particularly emphasizing the reality and impact of the Fall.  There is a desperate need to recapture the biblical notion of lament, and the biblical expectation of suffering in this life.

In addition, it would be helpful to be pro-active and pre-emptive in our preaching and teaching on evil and suffering. It seems to me that the contemporary church is frequently reactive: we preach and teach about evil after events like 9-11. Far better, it seems to me, that we preach and teach about evil six months before 9-11. We need to help prepare our congregations to face the evil and suffering that will inevitably come to them by presenting the fullness of the biblical teaching.

You’ve given an argument before for God’s existence from evil. Can you explain your motivation behind that argument and when you find it useful? Is there a time when it may not be the right approach?

In fairness, I consider the argument for God based on evil to be a purely intellectual exercise.  Here’s how it works (in short).

  1. ~(~PE) It is not the case that there is not a problem of evil. That is, there is a problem of evil.
  2. ~OEכ~PE If there is no objective evil, then there is no worldview problem of evil. If there is no objective evil, then worldviews need not explain, ground, or accommodate evil.
  3. ~(~OE) Combining 1 and 2 (via Modus Tollens), therefore it is not the case that there is no objective evil. That is, there is objective evil.
  4. ~OMVDכ~OE If there are no objective moral values and duties, then there is no objective evil. The understanding here is that objective evil requires an objective moral standard, such that acts (or intentions) that violate (or fall short of) the objective moral standard are objectively wrong (or evil).
  5. ~(~OMVD) Combining 3 and 4 (via Modus Tollens), therefore it is not the case that there are no objective moral values and duties. That is, there is such a thing as objective moral values and duties.
  6. ~Gכ~OMVD If there is no God, then there are no objective moral values and duties. This part of the argument is far too involved to defend briefly here; but simply put, it seems to me (and many other philosophers, theists and atheists alike) that the only way to ground the existence of objective moral values and duties is in the existence of a transcendent moral divine being (i.e., God). Hence, if there is no God, there are no objective moral values and duties.
  7. ~(~G) Combining 5 and 6 (via Modus Tollens), therefore it is not the case that God does not exist. That is, God exists. If you start with the ‘worldview problem of evil’ (Premise 1), or even if you start with the existence of objective evil (Premise 3), then you arrive at the conclusion: Therefore, God.

I find this approach to the question of evil and God most helpful with people who are abstractly raising evil as a reason to reject Christianity.  I think it is profoundly unhelpful in responding to the existential problem of evil, or in ministering to those who are hurting.  But it poses a robust challenge to those who want to maintain the reality of evil in the world while simultaneously avoiding God.

I also think this argument can be helpful in reinforcing the faith of believers, whether they are struggling in the presence of evil and suffering or just wavering in their faith.

Thank you again to Dr. Anderson! Look for my other interviews with Tawa Anderson here.

Christian Classical Education with Josh Spears

In this article, I interview Josh Spears about Christian classical education. Spears serves as Lyceum Director and Chair of Theology at The Academy of Classical Christian Studies in Oklahoma City, OK, which really means he gets to talk about nerdy things with dialectic and rhetoric students. He is also an adjunct instructor in the Humanities and Philosophy department of the University of Central Oklahoma. Spears is a husband of one and father of four, an elder at City Presbyterian Church, and an Enneagram 5w6. He’s rather fond of making things out of wood, chocolate in the 72-84% dark range, and the peaty export of the Scottish Islays.

Thank you to Josh Spears for taking the time out of his schedule to answer these questions for us. My questions and comments appear in bold font, and his responses follow them.

What is a “classical education”?

Classical education is an art devoted to human-making, the telos (i.e., purpose) of which is to produce wise humans, enabled by virtue, to live excellent lives.

Why should one pursue a classical education as opposed to another model of education?

I would say first that a classical education alone isn’t sufficient for a genuine education. Greek wisdom cannot be the ultimate telos of education. Nothing short of a robust Christological foundation will suffice (arguably, or at least as I understand philosopher Eleonore Stump’s reading of Aquinas, true virtue is impossible apart from the Spirit’s enabling work of shedding love abroad in the hearts of His people). Thus, I could not simply recommend a ‘secular’ classical education, though I would recommend it over a modern, non-classical one. The trouble with modern education, secular and otherwise, is that it has inverted what Christ commands, to wit, seek first the Kingdom and all the other will be added. To the extent that modern education’s goal is to produce, say, a work force, to the exclusion of virtue (theological or Aristotelian), it has failed as a viable model of education.

A pedagogy based on homo economicus (humans as economic beings) will fail to produce virtuous, flourishing humans. Recognizing that we are homo adorans (humans as worshiping beings) reorients both the means and the ends of education. We worship first and foremost, and our loves point us toward and shape our worship. Education is as much about training children to love the right things so they’ll worship aright. Attuned to love the Transcendentals, students will then be free to accomplish whatever vocation to which they’re called.

What kind of learning and what learning outcomes become more important in a classical education model?

I couldn’t speak to other classical institutions of education but my own demarcates four ways of being we hope characterize our graduates. Our graduates:

1. Humbly recognize their place in Christ’s story
2. Expectantly pursue and cherish all that is True, Good, and Beautiful
3. Graciously love their neighbor, especially the most broken and marginalized
4. Joyfully cultivate and embody a cruciform vision of all of life

The trouble, of course, is that these are not quantifiable in the traditional sense required by most evaluators of an educational program. In fact, we won’t know we’ve successfully meet these goals for our graduates until the end of their lives; how could we evaluate until then? ‘Our graduates die faithfully living for Christ their King through loving their neighbor and seeking the True, the Good and the Beautiful in all they do,’ of course, doesn’t fit well in a social media, sound-bite world.

How does studying the classics and the liberal arts shape students differently than an education which may emphasize STEM programs or other models?

Because STEM programs are aimed primarily at getting students into jobs via technology training, they’ll fail to shape students in the proper ways (in fact, there’s a movement to replace STEM with STEAM!). To be sure, all education is transformative, that’s not the question; the question is to what end students will be transformed. Science and technology work only with an imaginative accessing of reality. This imaginative access comes through narratives and poetry, the liberal arts. Ironically, the quadrivium of classical education contains the four mathematical arts; part and parcel of a classical education is what STEM programs are after. But modern education has put asunder what Athens hath put together. STEM makes sense only if it’s founded on the liberal arts. So, we might say that, if a bit melodramatically, STEM without the liberal arts gets you Hiroshima and Enron; scientists and mathematicians who wrought destruction in the name of defense and economic progress.

For people who want to pursue a classical education but either don’t have the finances or the geographical access to a classics school, what would yοu recommend to them?

This is such a good question and I wrestle with it all the time. The Classical Christian movement is overwhelmingly WASPy. On its own, there’s no shame in this; middle class white kids should have a good education. But so should all children. If only those with means are able to access this kind of education, then the Church is failing to provide what is most basic for the least of these. We need people willing to sacrifice their personal resources, we need churches to devote budgets to scholarshiping students, we need state and federal governments to untangle themselves from arbitrary and oppressive statutes that maintain an unfair educational monopoly. There are a number of schools who are attempting to do just this: West Dallas Community School-Dallas, The Oaks Academy-Indianapolis, and Hope Academy-Minneapolis. I serve on the board of St Paul’s Community School, a classical Christian school devoted to serving one of OKC’s poorest neighborhoods.

That said, I’d say to anyone in this situation to ask for help from their deaconate funds; to offer to work for the school to help defray the costs; to talk to schools about scholarships. If you live too far from a good school, there are a number of online resources to start either homeschooling or supplementing current schooling. Classical Conversations (https://www.classicalconversations.com/) is a great entry into the classical education world.

Thank you again to Director Spears! Follow my site to see when I post my next interview on how Josh became Presbyterian and to see more interviews and content.