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The End of Many Books

Crisis of Responsibility

by David Bahnsen

Some of the men I enjoy and respect the most recommended this book for all the men at our church to read and discuss. I’m glad they did.

Bahnsen lets no one off the hook. It’s an extended look in the mirror, and expects us to look from the financial angle, both the K-12 and higher education angle, the political angle, all the way down to the moral angle. Considered individually, your fault level may vary. Considered as a nation, the image is UGLY.

A great temptation for many men is not to look in the mirror but through the window. At certain moments they see themselves, and acknowledge some of the work they should be doing. But most of the time is spent looking at all the problems…other people have. That guy, that banker, businessman, politician, teacher, professor, immigrant, even robot (or owner replacing humans with automation), someone else is responsible for all the junk making our lives miserable.

Again, Bahnsen pokes at this irresponsible tendency. That’s good.

A few things make me less confident of Bahnsen’s claim that we can “cure” our cultural addition to blame.

First, the book came out in 2018. Sheesh, has a lot happened that has exposed even more of the rot. Even though Big Tech and Big Brother and Big Pharma and Behemoth U. aren’t the only bugs in the system, they sure are BIG bugs, and they’ve all sucked a lot more blood these last five or six years.

Second, speaking of changes since publication, the Foreword was written by David French, and French has gone all footsies with many in Big Media (as full-time writer for the New York Times), those who fancy themselves the taste-makers in elitist, Christian-hating culture. I don’t remember reading French in 2018, but this inclusion (and his name on the cover of the book) means Bahnsen’s book will be judged by the cover.

Third, there’s much less neutrality now, not that neutrality was ever really true, but it seemed like it, or it was easier to coast. Responsibility is not a commodity, it can’t be bought, and it most definitely cannot be sold. There isn’t anyone who wants to buy it! The virtue of personal responsibility has survived in name, but it is only consistently valued by those who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine a return to a culture of responsibility without a revival brought about by a great work of the Spirit to draw men to true life by the gospel. I don’t follow Bahnsen’s current work, maybe he is more explicit about that now. But while this book is interesting, it’s not compelling apart from a Christian conviction with Kuyperian flavor.

Should you read this? Sure, you should. There’s much to learn. And also, you’ve got to know that it only matters because Jesus is Lord.

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The End of Many Books

Battle for the American Mind

by Pete Hegseth and David Goodwin

If you can read then this book would benefit you. It’s about education and schools, about the trajectory of teachers’ unions for a century, about what chaos happens in classrooms across the country. But it’s more than that. It’s about civilization and culture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The key term in the book is paideia. Its from a Greek word referring to the culture of a society, how a people understand the “good life,” and how they share it with their kids and equip their kids to live and love according to what is really good.

There are three paideias distinguished in the book: 1) the Western Christian Paideia (WCP), 2) the American Progressive Paideia (APP), and 3) the Cultural Marxist Paideia (CMP). The WCP was predominant in the West until about a century ago, the APP took over, and the CMP started to displace and destroy the remnants of real objective virtue just after the year 2000.

The Christian and classical model is what makes our school tick, and David Goodwin is the President of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS) of which our school is a member. The Battle isn’t new, but it will hopefully reach a new audience and convict Christian parents that something is better than government mis-education.

If you care about helping students be less stupid so that they will be less stupid citizens and neighbors, buy and read and share this resource.

4 of 5 stars

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Bring Them Up

What We Need to Work On

I heard George Grant give a workshop talk at the 2017 ACCS National Conference called “Tools for the Toolbox.” I could not find a link to it anywhere, BUT he reworked/focused his material and gave it as a plenary talk at the 2018 conference under the title “Lifelong Learning: Following in the Footsteps of Isaac Watts.”

Grant works through 10 principles in Watts’ book, On the Improvement of the Mind (which according to Grant is a follow-up to Watts’ Logic textbook, ha).

It’s a talk about learning as repentance, about remembering that we do not remember as we should, that we have not read or learned all we need to, and that we should identify areas where we’re ignorant/weak, then set goals and a schedule, and get to work growing and getting stronger.

Grant nails this flush between the 19:30 and 20:30 minute marks. He does not elaborate on it as much as I thought he did in the workshop talk, but, whatever. Rather than (only/primarily?) focus on maximizing our strengths, as most of the current productivity content counsels, it’s “healthy to take a broad estimate of everything we’re not, everything that we can’t, everything that we won’t.” That way we know what we need to work on.

This strategy is good for making progress as disciples, and it is also appropriate for the education/enculturation of every student. Teachers aren’t good teachers because they can see what a student is already good at, teachers are also trying to turn a student’s “can’t”s into “can”s. That teachers should be motivated examples of this, not just motivated enforcers of it, seems more than appropriate.

Related, here’s a great story (that my swim-loving wife shared with me) about a young man who keeps choosing to jump into the deep end to get better. “If I couldn’t handle not being good at something, then how could I consider myself a successful person?”

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Bring Them Up

Make Disciples, Not Dependents

One temptation for teachers is that they expect to be treated as Teacher for all time. This isn’t to say that their students won’t move on to other classes, but that as teachers they expect to always be treated as the ones with the answers for their students.

Should a teacher know more than her students? I mean, duh, yes, but also not forever. This is one of the benefits of thinking in terms of discipling. I know that the word disciple includes the idea of learning, but built in to the idea of discipleship is that a disciple matures and makes more disciples. A student can gather up truth to understand and call the work done, a disciple understands that the work isn’t done until there’s another disciple, until there is reproduction of true understanding. When we realize that our goal is beyond us, then we come to worry less about our students needing us.

When a grammar teacher is working on helping her 10 year-old student learn math, she is also helping him learn submission. There is the lesson represented on the worksheet, and there are numerous lessons impossible to represent on a worksheet; he’s learning how to multiply and how to be a man under authority. But she should remember that she is teaching submission to one to whom she may need to later submit. Her student, for example, might grow up to be her pastor, who will hold her hand and sing hymns at her hospital bed. His ministry to her at that point won’t be because he needs answers from her.

Pastors who think of teaching as their ultimate telos have the same problem, and will find themselves the (informed) hindrance rather than help to the growth of their people. Make disciples, not dependents.

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Bring Them Up

On Wanting More

I appreciate this video, not just for how much thankfulness it communicates in two minutes, but for two more reasons. First, the reason to start things like schools/colleges and to do work for our kids is not mostly because we’re fearful but instead because we know that there is more. Jesus is Lord of the cosmos. He created it all, and He cares about it all. Those who are growing up in His image should also grow in their capacity to care about what Jesus cares about, and that means our non-government education efforts have more to do with what we’re running toward rather than what we’re running from. We’re not necessarily wanting to be safe, we want much more than a gun and drug free campus.

The second part I really appreciated was the testimony of starting with what you have and going from there. Call it iteration, call it persistent revision, call it growth. Don’t wait for perfect, don’t expect there won’t be problems, and also don’t panic while addressing the problems. Need to figure something out? Well, you know, try to figure it out. Isn’t that what we want our students loving to learn to do themselves? We are not handing down the final answers from on high, we are “straining forward to what lies ahead” by faith and showing the way by example of learning more ourselves.

Wilson says near the end:

“Twenty-seven years ago we took the plunge. We didn’t know then what we know now, but what we did know we decided to act on. And as you act on what you know, one of the usual results is that God in His grace gives more light. Faithfulness requires no less….” [The work is] “because we wanted something more for our children.”

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The End of Many Books

Desiring the Kingdom

A friend gave me a copy of this book and I was eager to get after it right away. It didn’t take too long before I was reading bigger chunks at a time…so I could be finished with it faster.

The book is primarily about the power of liturgy to affect our desires/loves. And amen. This is something I had not thought about until ten or so years ago, and I am very thankful that this book by James Smith is not the first one I came across. It might have messed me up all over.

It’s not just that I don’t care for a number of his terms, such as “precognitive,” but I really came to not believe him when he tried to stick on a weak qualification here or there about how we shouldn’t abandon all propositions/sentences/statements of truth. Liturgy should be emphasized, especially among those who only see worldview issues through catechesis. But Smith emphasized it in such a way that liturgy becomes the autocrat of pedagogy, so to speak. But God gave us His Word. His Son is the Word. Psalm 19:7-8 describes the Word as potent.

I cannot recommend that you read this, and, if you do, watch out that you do not follow Smith in giving too much authority to the experiences and feelings and traditions of men.

1 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Angels in the Architecture

Published in 1998, I wish I had read it that long ago. Not that I would have appreciated, or even accepted, its message back then, but if I had been teachable I might have avoided a lot of dualistic confusion and battled for a lot better things. My point here is, don’t let my mistake be yours. Get a copy, read it soon. See how the medieval weltanschauung (not that they called it that) has much for our Kuyperian (not that they called it that) living and joy. Without agreeing with every jot and tittle, this book points toward a love of truth and feasting and poetry, of submission and sphere sovereignty and the silliness of so much so-called science, of earth and work and relationships teeming with beauty and breath and blessing.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

On Education

Fantastic. A lot of gems, and even more guts in this collection of various articles and addresses from Kuyper over his long career of loving, defending, starting schools, and supporting Christian education.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Wisdom and Wonder

by Abraham Kuyper

2019: This was my second read through the book, and it is as good as I remember. The church is most definitely not the boss of science and art, but the church should most definitely encourage Christians both to work in the spheres of science and art and also to appreciate where God’s common grace has allowed unbelievers (even though often inconsistent with their stated worldview) to contribute to humanity.


2013: More deep and wide application of Christ’s lordship over every thumb’s width in the universe.

It convicts me even more concerning my narrow, dualistic, wrong-headed Christian thinking. I cannot be little-zealed in helping to enculturate the next disciples.

There is so much work to do, just to expand the imaginations of men for the work they can do. Business and products wait to be created. Medical and governing solutions sit unconsidered. Music and media thresholds are far from being crossed.

As Christians we do not have the imagination, the ambition, the objective restraints, or the readiness to give ourselves to it. These come from grace, and we need that most of all.

5 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Range

by David Epstein

Epstein challenges the modern idol of early specialization in sports, in education, in music, in everything. I have already recommended this to a bunch of people, especially in education circles, and will be rereading it immediately with a group of guys who are aiming to start a college. Epstein doesn’t refer to the lordship of Christ in all of it, but he makes a compelling case that there is a lot of good things to learn (in Christ’s creative and sustaining domain), and even more of a case that learning about a lot of those things helps us appreciate and connect and do more good things.

4 of 5 stars