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    Educational Philosophy

    Theology: All Hail the Queen

    December 2, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    What does it mean when we say that Theology is the Queen of the Sciences? After all, it’s a pretty common thing to say in Christian classical circles. If we get the definition wrong, we could extrapolate application wrong as well.

    Clark and Jain commence their Theology chapter of The Liberal Arts Tradition with a quote from Aquinas, which quite turned my head, being an Aquinas fan girl and all. The quote briefly discusses the idea that there should be other knowledge. In the natural sciences, we get knowledge about the external world via our five senses. In the philosophical sciences, we get knowledge using our immaterial mind — using our reason, our ability to deduce from observations, and so on. But in theology, the knowledge comes to us from something outside ourselves — these ideas originate in the mind of God.

    Of course, there is a sense in which, being the Creator, everything originates in the mind of God. But this is different. In Scripture, the knowledge is revelatory — it is revealed to us. It is inspired directly by God. And in theology, the Scriptures — this special font of knowledge — are our source text.

    Theology the Queen

    So how is Theology the Queen? What jumps out at me is the superiority of the Scriptures. Prima Scriptura, we might say — Scripture above all. It is due to Scripture’s special nature that Theology has a right to rule. Clark and Jain flesh out Theology’s right to form and guide every level of the school — it exists not just as a subject (though it is, of course, a subject). And in addition to its right to form, it is also the ultimate end of learning — Theology is the goal. This is a very medieval mindset for our modern world, folks.

    Forming and Guiding

    One of the (many) things I love about Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles is how inherently Christian they are — and I suppose what I mean is that they are theologically formed, though I have never said it that way before now. For example, when she says that “Children are born persons,” she, as a member in good standing with the English Church, is defining personhood biblically.

    Charlotte Mason’s habit of Bible study is very evident in her writings. My Anglican friends tell me she also quotes freely from the prayer book throughout her works — I wouldn’t catch that, since I’m not familiar with it. But it doesn’t surprise me that Miss Mason breathed her religion throughout her works. After all, she wrote over a thousand pages of poetry about the Gospels. To say it was a the forefront of her mind seems to be an understatement.

    And that’s what I want us to focus on. Forget Charlotte Mason’s work, and look to her example. How can Theology be the Queen in every little homeschool? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s not through ignorance. Miss Mason didn’t have to think about “making Theology Queen.” She knew her theology. End of story. When you know it, it naturally rules, and that is that — there is no “making.”

    Theology is for persons. It’s for moms. It’s for housewives. It’s for you and for me and it’s important.

    While it’d be really awesome to write a “5 Ways to Make Theology Queen of Your Homeschool Right Now” post, I don’t think it works that way. So study up.

    Before you freak out, I’d like to suggest the eating-the-elephant approach. (Remember? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.) Life is a marathon, and theology is part of it. Take a few bites a day and you’ll be amazed where you are in a month, in a year, in a decade. Miss Mason read the classics 10 minutes per day, six days per week, and look where that got her.

    Theology as a Subject

    A number of years ago, I wrote a two-part series on how Charlotte Mason taught Bible in her schools, so I’m not going to duplicate all of that here. If you are interested, here is the Old Testament post, and here is the New Testament post.

    As a quick summary, she had her students read the Old Testament three times through by the time they graduated. This was done chronologically and was accompanied by well-written commentaries. I’ve been using her commentary by Patterson-Smyth because I haven’t seen anything like it that is modern. Granted, I do some editing because I don’t completely agree with all of the theology. But it is so well done, so vividly written, that I can see why she used it. I have tried a few of the modern commentaries written for children and they refuse to engage the imagination, which frustrates me to no end.

    But I digress.

    With the New Testament, the Synoptic Gospels (meaning Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were read over and over until age 12. The Epistles and Revelation (and also John) were all saved for later.


    This is the most important question we could ask here, I think. Unfortunately, a full answer (or attempt at one) is going to have to wait for another day — it could take up an entire post. But my hunch is that it has much to do with the difference between analytic and synthetic/poetic reasoning and at which ages one or the other is appropriate.

    Someday, we’re going to revisit this idea. But for now let me just say that I’ve noted a new desire by well-respected, well-meaning people to push formal, highly analytical theology down into the lower grades in order to combat false teaching and ignorance, and this concerns me. I think hearts are in the right place, but I don’t think theology is exempt from the rules — that the poetic, the wholes, are still important at the young ages — and just as children who dissect animals at young ages are harmed, so are children who dissect God.

    Just something to think about.

    In the meantime, Miss Mason assumes a lot else happens on Sundays:

    The Catechism, Prayer-book, and Church History are treated with suitable text-books much in the same manner and give opportunities for such summing-up of Christian teaching as is included in the so-called dogmas of the Church. We find that Sundays together with the time given to preparation for Confirmation afford sufficient opportunities for this teaching.

    Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that the catechism may just be the solution for the “problem” of what to do in regard to early theological training. We’ve used a variety of resources over the years. Right now, my husband has been using Starr Meade’s Teaching Hearts, Training Minds. I don’t love that she uses the more modern phraseology, but in general it’s a good starting place for elementary students, if you don’t know what to do.

    Theology as Goal

    Miss Mason doesn’t it put the same as The Liberal Arts Tradition, but I think even here she shared the vision. In her sixth and final volume, she wrote:

    If we believe that knowledge is the principal thing, that knowledge is tri-partite, and that the fundamental knowledge is the knowledge of God, we shall bring up our children as students of Divinity and shall pursue our own life-long studies in the same school.

    In the end, it turns out that Sunday is still the most important day of the week:

    Then we shall find that the weekly sermons for which we are prepared are as bread to the hungry…

    With that said, I appreciate the depth of the understanding that is laid out in The Liberal Arts Tradition — I think it truly meets the needs of today’s Christian classical teachers and homeschoolers, spelling out what can no longer be taken for granted in our secular culture.

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  • Reply Dawn July 22, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Hi Brandy! I just came across the post and read your Old Testament and New Testament posts. Very happy to have come across these. I found a great resource for J. Paterson Smyth books. Very excited to have found this! I would put it on AO forum but not very familiar how to navigate that yet. Thanks for all you do!!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 9:25 am

      Oh wow! This is an amazing resource, Dawn! Thank you so much!

  • Reply dawn December 2, 2015 at 5:34 am

    This was my favorite favorite chapter in the book. I quoted a big paragraph of it one Wednesday:

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 2, 2015 at 11:25 am

      I think it is one of my favorites, too, Dawn! ♥ TOTALLY loved the quote you shared. It’s all stars and hearts in my margins. 😉

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