The Iliad

4 of 5 stars to The Iliad by Homer

Impressive. Tedious.
Creative. Exhausting.
Poetic. Painful.
Polytheistic. Godless.

Read again with the Omnibus Tenebras class in 2018. I’m increasing my rating from 3 stars to 4 because, even though it is looooooong, I can appreciate its status as a classic.


2015: This is an impressive piece of work, whichever Homer wrote it.

The Codes of Hammurabi and Moses

2 of 5 stars to The Codes of Hammurabi and Moses

A lot of death required by these laws. I guess liberally executed capital punishment is a more likely deterrent than a complex system of fines and other punishments. Ham was trying to make a name for himself by establishing order in his empire. Contrasts to the LORD making a name for Himself by blessing His people with good fruits from obedience. Read this with the Omnibus Tenebras class (2018)

Good read if only to be more grateful for our God and His laws. (Omnibus I, 2012)

Ante Lux, Tenebras

Auditing Omnibus for the last six years has done more to shape my worldview than almost all of the formal education I’ve received. If I could only choose between having gone through seminary or Omnibus, that would be a tough call. For realZ. What I’m saying is, Omnibus–the readings and discussions–is really good stuff.

For the first six years of the school a small group of adults audited Omnibus I through VI. Jonathan (who taught the class) provided the reading assignments, and then we auditors would join the class every Thursday morning during the school year. The reading was often tough to complete, but always beneficial, and the discussions were invaluable. It has been crucial for continuing to shape my world-and-life view. Jonathan would say the same thing, as would all the other auditors, along with the students who have taken it (though most of them haven’t known anything different).

In order to make this doable for more people, we decided to offer a three year-long, two evenings a month, class for adults. Jonathan, Leila (the other Omnibus instructor at the school), and I selected the best of Omnibus I and IV (Ancient history), then II and V (Medieval history), and then III and VI (Modern history).

And we start tonight!

Year one is called Omnibus Tenebras (Latin for “darkness”). As I mentioned above, it’s history from creation until the coming of Christ, and it’s full of reading about men who long for a savior but had only selfish and petty and pars-potent (partially powerful) gods to try to appease. We’ll be working through the Gilgamesh epic, the Hammurabi code, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the history of Herodotus, Virgil’s Aneid, and a few more. We’ll also read through all the Chronicles of Narnia, you know, for fun.

Next year will be Omnibus Lux (Latin for “light”), because God came in the flesh and the news of Jesus’ death and resurrection spread and overturned so many kingdoms of men, Caesars included. The third year, the modern period, will be Omnibus Modius, the Latin word for “basket” (in Matthew 5:15), since the apparent project of many men since the Reformation has been to cover up the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

At the moment we’ve got over forty adults on the roster, and it’s going to be another fabulous ride.

Citizen Soldiers

4 of 5 stars to Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany by Stephen Ambrose

This is the only book on the Eastern Theater of WWII that I’ve read. I read Unbroken previously, which was in the Pacific, and that’s probably it for WWII. Citizen Soldiers was hard to read, but made me thankful for the ingenuity and sacrifice of the men, the Americans in particular.

Quite Some Ride

Today we passed another milestone. A small group of us finished the sixth and final year of the Omnibus curriculum.

My wife says she knew about Omnibus before we started the school, and I believe her. She was even interested in trying it out as homeschoolers. I also remember the summer before ECS started, our Headmaster along with our first full-time teacher went to the national ACCS conference and learned about Omnibus. We weren’t following the recommendation of the School Startup Notebook and so we needed something for three secondary students, two 10th graders and one 7th grader (who just graduated on Sunday).

Jonathan (our Headmaster) was very excited about Omnibus, a theology-history-literature class rolled into one. It is a six year program that cycles through Ancient, Medieval, and Modern periods twice (years I-III, then again for years IV-VI).

When we started to tell people what we were getting into, a number of adults at our church wanted in, too. What a great problem. So we decided to invite those who were interested to audit the class. For six years, every Thursday morning of school for two class periods, adults who had read (as much as they were able) of the assigned reading came and participated in the class.

I believe the number of books in the Primary reading (there is a Secondary track as well, but we didn’t utilize that much among the auditors) is 104, plus the introductory articles in the textbooks, along with some additional essays on subjects such as philosophy, art, sociology, and more.

I still remember a conversation I had with Jonathan in his living room in July or August of 2012, trying to decide if I should do the auditing or not. I wondered what effect it would have on my sermon prep. It has taken a toll, and I described it in class today as brutally glorious. I am not the same person as I was six years ago and, though Omnibus isn’t the only ingredient, it has flavored and complemented a lot of other inputs. I’ve referred to it here at my blog many times.

Some standouts for me are Beowulf, The Odyssey and The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy, and Moby Dick. Even 1984 and Brave New World made me appreciate That Hideous Strength more. Add in the likes of Augustine, Bede, Burke, Calvin, Chaucer, Dickens, Livy, Luther, Plato, Shakespeare, Sophecles, Toqueville, and Twain, and it has been quite some ride down the river of Western Civilization. Thanks to Jonathan for leading us, and congrats to him along with the other five auditors who finished the course.

Brave New World

3 of 5 stars to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Huxley portrays how brutishly selfish mankind is, and it is shameful. As Lewis would later say, we are far too easily pleased. While Orwell shows in 1984 how capably the State can control it’s subjects through power, punishment, and fear, Huxley demonstrates how the State can enslave us by our own passions.

To Force More Perfect Union

Abraham Lincoln did not have the chops to unite the Union peaceably. Part of his problem is that he loved the Union too much.

Caveats, qualifications, and disclaimer: I did not pay much attention in school as a kid. I am not a historian or a politician or a librarian. I have only read about 100 pages of Lincoln’s speeches in this collection. I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. The opinions expressed in this post do not reflect those of my employer.

So I said that Lincoln did not have the chops to hold (or reunite) the Union together apart from force. He used the tool he had, the Army, and set a precedent of Federal preeminence. His example also demonstrates the failure of secular philosophy to consolidate a diverse people.

Lincoln was not a Christian. He spoke about God but he did not worship the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. He valued religion only to the degree that it wouldn’t alienate voters. He said,

I do not think I could myself, be brought to support a man for office, whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion. (55)

His first inaugural speech as President revealed that he didn’t serve God, he served the Union. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t have served God by serving the Union, but that wasn’t true for him. He valued the Union above all and he vowed that he would do whatever was necessary to defend it. He personally wished for abolition but, as long as the Union survived, it didn’t really matter to him if every slave was freed or if no slave was ever freed. Liberty was a great idea until it threatened his precious.

When his god was attacked he fought back. The sovereign Union punished any who questioned it starting with South Carolina. The Constitution framers wrote of their desire “to form a more perfect union.” Lincoln chose to force one.

He took over a country in tension and he knew there were problems. Yet he used his rhetorical skills to persuade his opponents only for a while. Because Lincoln did not worship the triune God of the Bible, he did not have faith or hope in a good God which would have enabled patient work for a resolution that may (or may not) happen decades later. He could not see far enough ahead to pray for worshippers who would be Christlike disciples who would educate the next generation.

Lincoln said that he knew the appropriate political process.

[B]allots are the rightful, and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly, and constitutionally, decided, there can be no successful appeal, back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal, except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections. (314)

Apparently he didn’t even have time to wait for politics, let alone trust anything or anyone greater.

The idea of the Union was most important. He failed to appreciate that the Union consisted of States, and the States consisted of persons. He couldn’t see it, and ended up trying to build a Union around an abstract rather than on persons or God Himself. His “success” not only left us with a heritage of overreaching presidents but also of people expecting the Federal government to rule them regardless of the brutal measures used to enforce unity.

Because Lincoln did not worship the triune God he could not see all men of all skin colors as image-bearers of God. Slaves were still property to be priced and restitution provided to their owners. Slaves only counted as 3/5th of a free man for representation purposes. Free men themselves served to fight. If they were ground up in war on behalf of the Union, so be it.

Lincoln talked about using tools other than force in order to avoid more bloodshed (363) but he couldn’t pull it off. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Spirit can create true and willing unity. We will not have a perfect union apart from submission to the Lord first. This means that obedient Christians are free to be the best citizens whether the Lord grants us obvious success, sooner or later or never. Lincoln had no such confidence.

The Laziness That Be

Reading the Foundational Documents and seeing how natural it is for some men to take advantage of others, I ranted a bit in our last Omnibus auditors’ session. For weeks we’ve been observing (and kvetching) about our current political slough of despond, and the question comes up, “What are we doing about it?” Are we just reading and watching cable blues and fussing? Maybe praying more for Jesus’ return?

It is true that we have much more to do, hopefully–in the future–changing the kind of characters who are on our ballots, let alone enculturating the kind of Christians who cast ballots. But as we dream about repealing laws, or even push to practice consistently the good laws we already have, we’re trying to train students how to be good citizens of two countries, both heaven and earth. How are we doing that?

First, we teach them to love God with all their hearts and to believe in Jesus Christ as the only Savior. God is sovereign. He rules the nations. We must submit to Him. Because His nature is Triune, He calls us to relationship and family and society and calls it good. We must bear His image in these bonds. When we sin and break fellowship, His Son offers forgiveness and peace. That is the evangel. We must repent and believe and receive and walk in Christ. Any attempts at peace among men without Him will not work for long.

Second, we teach them history. We’re learning where we came from and the many blessings that we all enjoy because men in previous generations worked and served to give us a good foundation. As Samuel Johnson put it,

A contempt of the monuments and the wisdom of the past, may be justly reckoned one of the reigning follies of these days, to which pride and idleness have equally contributed.

We benefit from their wisdom, watching them work through why they wanted what they did and what problems they envisioned. It profits us to read their arguments about states and nations and what forms of government would make a better union and what challenges come to those governments.

But beyond the content of the curriculum, we also make them read a lot of it. We ask them to memorize Latin and write multiple papers each week and participate in the discussion. And then we tell them that they are not entitled to a good grade even if they work hard. They are not entitled to graded papers which are red ink free zones. They are not entitled to have everything exactly the same as their fellow classmates. This isn’t mean, but it is surprisingly political. This is part of what it means to be free.

The solution to our national woes starts with the Spirit. We can glean wisdom from history. And the responsibility for it is individual. We cannot keep expecting others, especially experts or professionals or legislators or judges or presidents, to fix it for us. We must work on what is in front of us, be faithful in the little we’ve been given, and a generation of willing workers will, by God’s grace, at least challenge the laziness that be.