I ‘m reading John Senior’s The Death of Christian Culture alongside Desiring the Kingdom, or, at least, I’m trying to. I had a hunch that the two might complement each other, and I also sensed that Senior might provide an antidote to some of Smith’s weaknesses. I’m just a bit into the book, but so far they are dovetailing nicely, plus Senior is a delight.
The more Latin Senior uses, the more I fall in love.
You know what my love language is? Latin. I hear or read it and I get all tingly like a school girl over a football player.
Smith tells us:
Our worldview is more a matter of the imagination than the intellect, and the imagination runs off the fuel of images that are channeled by the senses. (p. 57)
He adds a bit later:
Stories seep into us — and stay there and haunt us — more than a report on the facts. (p. 58)
This is why, a long time ago, I wrote about reading aloud building a family culture, tying heart strings between a mother and a child. It’s a powerful thing. When the story captures the imagination of more than one child in a family, anything can happen. Forts might be built and adventures might be taken, all because of a story in a book.
John Senior likewise doesn’t limit story’s power. He says it builds Culture. And then he says something I’ve been chewing on for a few days now:
The beginning of the cure of a sick theology, for English-speaking people, is a schoolboy course in Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and even Matthew Arnold … (p. 8)
The stories told in high Christian literature are not mere achievements of art, though certainly they are that, but rather they are our tutors in the Good, True, and Beautiful. The remarkable thing is that they tutor us from the inside out. They birth a picture in our minds and, when we love it, we, like little children, start building forts and having adventures.
I’m going to have to write two posts this week as there were two aspects in the reading that I couldn’t seem to bring together, even though Smith managed to do so. In this chapter Smith gives us two clues to the ordering of the affections (as Augustine called it). The first is story.
The second, which I’ll write a bit on later this week, Lord willing, is habits. Habits seem to work from the outside in.
If we try to put these together, we see that Smith is already two-thirds of the way to promoting a Charlotte Mason approach. She said the three tools of education (i.e., formation) were atmosphere, discipline of habit, and life a la living ideas. He hasn’t yet touched on atmosphere, but surely habits and story cover the latter two!
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