Today’s post is written by Dr. Warren Gage, dean of faculty and professor of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary.
It is with great pleasure that we at Knox Seminary are at last able to share our Great Books education program with the online world! This unique program is constructed of directed readings in the very best of the Western and classical literary and philosophical heritage. Two distinctive approaches inform the program.
First, we read the great writers’ works themselves—not summaries or interpretations of their writings, but their own works. And, generally, we read the entire work and not selections. Second, we read the books in the order they were written, beginning with the ancients. We trace the influence of the earliest of these writers on the best writers of the medieval and then the modern period. We approach literature and philosophy organically, identifying the greatest themes and seeing how they develop throughout the 25 centuries of the “Great Conversation.”
Our faculty, then, are Hesiod and Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine. We read the great tragedians: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes. We enjoy Aristophanes’ comedies. We read Aquinas, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, and Luther. We read Dante’s transformative Divine Comedy. We study with Hobbes and Milton. Tocqueville and Hawthorne, Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky. Hegel, Marx, and Einstein. And added to these—our unparalleled faculty—are the great biblical authors: Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, Luke, John, and Paul.
The Master of Arts (Christian and Classical Studies) is a unique program that recreates the essence of a traditional liberal arts education. Such an education is explicitly directed to the formation of the soul rather than the acquisition of a marketable skill. Ironically, however, this education is perhaps the most practical of all study programs. It is the essence of authentic leadership. It teaches the mind to understand the large issues and distinguish them from mere distractions, which is the unique skill crucial to success in any endeavor. It instructs the soul in the permanent values of our all-encompassing humanity. It ennobles the imagination and trains us in the aspiration of truly human virtue. All of this is done in an explicitly Christian context.
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