We educate our children at home utilizing a classical model of learning in concert with a community of families. It’s been a rich experience and a learning journey I wish I’d begun decades ago. Three phases of learning unfold in a classical model: Grammer, Dialectic and Rhetoric.
Grammar: Here we learn the basic nuts and bolts– the essential information. We create the file folders and store essential data. Memorization plays a crucial role.
Dialectic: Here we delve into the world of the knowledge. We ask the hard questions, debate the answers and learn to work with the material at both the head and heart level. This is where the real formation happens. Epiphanies abound as disciplines collide and insight emerges.
Rhetoric: Here we grow to articulate and make nuanced application to the end that we can teach the subject matter to others. The deeper transformation happens here. The “art” unfolds here.
Taking an example from the world of music, we begin with the grammar by learning the notes, playing the scales, memorizing the chords and so forth. We learn to play actual music in the dialectic zone and we grow to play in concert with others. By the time we get to the rhetoric phase we know the rules so well we know when and how to break them. The beauty and joy of improvisation breaks forth in fresh musical vibes.
Growing up in the Church, many of us learned the Grammar of the Apostles Creed (i.e. we could stand and say it every week), but we never got much past that. Don’t get me wrong– learning the grammar is better than nothing at all, because the creed sows the seeds of the Gospel at minimum. But the creeds give us a fabulous life long curriculum to work with in the church.
Perhaps this is why so many seem to “move-on” from the creedal formulas of the Church. They feel like meaningless motions far removed from the movement of God. What might it look like to enter the dialectic zone and press on toward the rhetoric phase with respect to the creeds?
A dialectic approach would lead us to dig deep into the biblical moorings of the creedal claims. “I believe in God,” invites a massive and messy conversation about what faith is and is not. What fuels the “New Atheism’s” quest to create a faith-free world? “I believe in God… the Father Almighty.” So how does someone who survived an abusive father come to believe in a God like this? “I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.” What’s going on with two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2? How do we understand this? Is the earth billions of years old or only several thousand and what difference does it make to Christian faith? What are the implications for “life everlasting” on Creation care? What about evolution and science? All of this and we are barely into the dialectic learning zone and only twelve words into the creed.
The rhetoric phase takes us for a deep dive into the Trinitarian mystery where we begin to know what we do not know and yet find ourselves swimming in the joy of a knowing that transcends knowledge.
The late Rich Mullins put the Apostles Creed to music a few years before his death. In the refrain he wrote these words of the Creed, “I did not make it. No, it is making me. It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man.”
Seedbed aspires to sow extravagantly for a great awakening. We believe a robust recovery of creedal faith will not only form solid believers, it will deepen the biblical wells from which the Church drinks and embolden a time tested rallying point for unity among amazing Kingdom diversity in a world of religious pluralism.
To that end, we are pleased to release a new resource. We would love to share it with you, your family, small group and local church. Learn more here.