My close colleague recently wrote a marvelous blog in response to an important article on The Death of the Classics. While I generally agree with the content of the article, and I completely affirm what my colleague says, I would like to bring in a different historical perspective. Shortly after the Roman empire collapsed, it was Christendom that collected, copied, and studied what we now call the classics.
In truth, there is some evidence that as the American empire is in decline, some institutions in line with Christendom are stepping forward again to repeat history. It is now the time for Christendom to treasure what has been discarded in the educational institutions of this nation. In a recent conversation with someone excited about the Great Books, this gentleman declared in the boldest and clearest terms the value of the Great Books. He said, “the Great Books contain the essence of our intellectual and spiritual heritage, and studying them directly is an immediate encounter with that heritage.” He added, “the value of directly studying them is of immense intellectual value.”
I would add that while the barbarians tear down the gates and rattle their swords, we should calmly and graciously engage the richest of what has been written by humans through the ages. While many run after the most recent educational trend down another dead end avenue, we should house those communities of character where we read, and in a sound Christian manner reflect on the good, the true, and the beautiful.
While there is some evidence that the classics are dead throughout most of our society, the classics are doing well in the Classical Christian schools, a few Christian colleges and universities, and countless homes of those who have long properly appraised the importance of holding on to the roots of our culture. So, if the classics are dead, we can anticipate a resurrection in the future. Our national culture is indeed dwelling long in a dark Friday afternoon, but Christendom is moving toward Sunday.
Books mentioned in this essay are available from The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.