The Quarterly Newsletter of Wittenberg Academy
The Ninety-Sixth Thesis
Chaplain's Corner- p. 8
Rev. David M. Juhl
The Heart of A Lutheran School
Poetry- p. 24
The Holy Scriptures
A Point of Confession- p. 25
On the Road with Wittenberg Academy- p.23
2nd Annual Wittenberg Academy Family Retreat Memories- P. 26-27
From Our Teachers p. 10-20
~Teaching Logic I
~“To Speak in the Most Excellent Manner”: The Good of the Progymnasmata
What makes a Lutheran school Lutheran? This question is always worth asking and has certainly been asked (and variously answered). In order to know what makes a Lutheran school Lutheran, we must know what makes a Lutheran Lutheran. After all, is not the purpose of education formation? An artist, when beginning a project, has a goal in mind and takes particular steps to get there. The tools he uses determine the outcome. Were a four-inch brush used where a Filbert brush was needed, the finished result would differ greatly from that which was intended.
Luther, in his address to the German nobility, famously said, “But where the Holy Scriptures are not the rule, I advise no one to send his child. Everything must perish where God's word is not studied unceasingly…” He also said, “Parents are not free to do with their children as they please. They are entrusted with parental authority that they may train up their offspring for society and the Church, and they are held to a strict account for the manner in which they discharge this duty.... For if we wish to have proper and excellent persons both for civil and ecclesiastical government, we must spare no diligence, time, or cost in teaching and educating our children, that they may serve God and the world, and we must not think only how we may amass money and possessions for them....” Thus, we know that education must prepare children for life in this world and the next. In age, as in youth, children must be of some earthly good to their neighbor and be prepared to stay alive both in this valley of sorrows, but also in heaven.
How might we approach this formation of the young and not as young? If we had one teacher-education text, what would it be? Let us consider Luther’s Small Catechism as a guide for equipping our children for this world and the next.
In the Law, we learn what we should do and what we should not do. In the Creed, we learn what God has done and is still doing for us. In the Lord’s Prayer, we learn what we may ask of God for our temporal and spiritual needs. In the study of Baptism, we learn of the covenant [God made with us] in our infancy. The Office of the Keys teaches us that God gave to His Church the power to forgive sins to us when we repent. The Sacrament of the Altar was instituted for the strengthening of our faith in the forgiveness of our sins. (Koehler, 26-27)
Section II of the Catechism includes instruction for the Head of the Family to teach his household the Morning and Evening Prayers, as well as how to ask a blessing and return thanks. Section III of the Catechism is the Table of Duties, whereby we learn from Scripture of the holy orders and estates.
The dutiful reader may nod and acknowledge Luther’s Small Catechism certainly contains this summary of Christian doctrine. But how does this aid us in teaching for life in this world and the next? Each teacher and student is a sinner in need of salvation. We receive salvation through faith in Christ, which comes by the Holy Spirit in the waters of Holy Baptism. Teachers and students are called by God to love and serve their neighbor. The purpose of man, and thus our purpose for educating, is to prepare students to love and serve their neighbor. Through catechesis we learn who we are—forgiven sinners—and how to live in the faith of our baptism as we love and serve our neighbor. This we learn in the Catechism, which is an exposition of Scripture, which we know to be faithful and true.
In catechesis, we are properly equipped to live the life of faith as citizens of the heavenly kingdom. But, we know we are citizens of two kingdoms, the heavenly kingdom and the earthly kingdom. We also need to be equipped and so also equip our children to live in the earthly kingdom. We need the Liberal Arts and Sciences to distinguish God’s voice from the devil’s and to equip ourselves to rightly be a good stewards of all resources and serve God through our neighbor. The Liberal Arts are Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy. To these we add the Liberal Sciences: Moral Sciences, Natural Sciences, Theological Science. In the Liberal Arts and Sciences, students are taught to identify what is good, true, and beautiful in all of life by strengthening their minds for service toward their neighbor. The Liberal Arts are not utilitarian. They give students a foundation of knowledge upon which to grow, teaching them how to think, not what to think.
What makes a Lutheran school Lutheran? A right understanding of God, of man, and the world in which we live as we know through the Scriptures as summarized in Luther’s Small Catechism and the ability to live that understanding through our vocations.
Edward W.A. Koehler annotated A Short Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism originally in 1946 and it was republished in 1981.
Mrs. Jocelyn C. Benson serves as Wittenberg Academy's Head Teacher.
Recognition of Graduates pg. 22
2017 Wittenberg Academy High school Graduates
From the Head Teacher's Desk- p. 3
The Heart of a Lutheran School
Mrs. Jocelyn C. Benson
Candor for such a Time as This- p. 6
Wives, Lay down Your pride
Mrs. Lauren K. Mastin
Are you looking for a summer learning opportunity?
Wittenberg Academy is pleased to offer this summer seminar taught by Dr. Jim Tallmon. Dr. Tallmon and Isaiah McPeak (founder of Ethos Debate) are collaborating on the "Rhetorical Intelligence Project." Rhetorical Intelligence is a species of Practical Wisdom that has to do with understanding the nature of the question at hand, analyzing it fully, and deeply, then responding eloquently and insightfully. Rhetorical Intelligence may be understood relative to "Emotional or Multiple Intelligences." It entails cultivating those intellectual abilities that result from studying, in tandem, dialectical inference and rhetorical reason, which contributes to mental dexterity. This summer seminar is a first foray into presenting these ideas publicly, and Dr. Tallmon will use the experience to put the finishing touches on his forthcoming collection of essays, the New Methodica.
The seminar begins on June 12. Register now to participate!
The Heart of a Lutheran School
Wives, Lay Down Your Pride
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband."
King James Version (KJV) Ephesians 5:22-33
Many people look at the verse to the right and cringe at the word submit. It sounds too servile and old fashioned to them. As a new bride who had this reading at our wedding, this verse has taken on a whole new meaning for me. The day of our wedding, a family member indirectly made the comment that marriage was nothing more than a transfer of property. She apparently did not like the point in the service in which the pastor asked who gave the bride in marriage, to which my father responded, "I do."
How degrading, how insulting! Do I not know that I am a strong, independent woman who can care for myself? What kind of misogynistic father do I have that thinks he can just pass me off like a piece of property? Obviously, this woman does not have a proper understanding of the patriarchy. In fact, it makes sense that she does not understand. She was never properly taught the roles of men and women.
She did not learn that her father's vocation in life was to care for her, her mother, and her siblings. He did not teach her that he left for work every day to be able to provide for their family, not simply for the sake of having a job. When he introduced himself, his line of work was inevitably in the first few lines of his introduction. He did not teach her that he gladly carried out those vocations that God had so graciously given him.
Her boyfriends were not screened by her father before she went steady with them. They did not have to pick her up at the house, greet her parents, and sit patiently in the living room making polite conversation until she was ready to go. When and if they got to the point of marriage, her future husband would not ask her father for her hand in marriage.
She grew up thinking that she could be whatever she wanted to be or accomplish anything to which she set her mind, because her parents wanted better for her than they had. Society has tried to erase the differences between men and women. We see this in children's gender neutral toys, the elevation of women in the workplace, and the admission of women in the armed forces, among many other instances.
I am not placing the blame solely on her father. We all know that mothers contribute to this just as much. It simply goes to show how ignorant our culture is of the patriarchy. It was not meant to degrade women or make them less human; it was meant to protect them. It exemplified how important women were to them.
Many of us were very blessed with fathers who did teach us. These were the fathers that taught and showed their children that God had blessed him with a family for which to care and that was why he left for work every day. The fathers who cared about who their daughters were interested in and insisted upon meeting these men, those fathers demanded respect- the same respect with which the men treated the daughters later on.
That is the reason some of us, instead of reacting with anger and indignation at the question of who is giving whom away, can gladly hear the words, "I do" from our father, knowing that we always have and always will be cared for, until death do us part. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." (Ephesians 5:31). This is why there is only a little sorrow when you are handed from one man, who has cared for you up until this point, to the man who will care for you from this point on.
So to answer my dear friend in the dark, yes, we are like property in that we belong to each other: I am his and he is mine. God has given us to care for one another until death do us part. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Mrs. Lauren K. Mastin serves as Wittenberg Academy's Communications Director.
Saint Peter writes in his first epistle, "Baptism now saves you." This saving by water and the Word of God may be considered a setting apart from the rest of the sinful world. The person's life will never be the same from this moment on. He or she is set apart as a child of God.
The baptismal rite in Lutheran Service Book gives us two ceremonies that visualize what Saint Peter says about baptism saving you. The first ceremony is the sign of the cross over the one being baptized. The pastor makes the sign of the cross on the forehead and on the heart "to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified." This is no empty ceremony. Something is being confessed here. What is being confessed is that this child (or adult) is marked for life.
For the devil and the world, the sign of the holy cross looks like a target. Both wish to have target practice on the baptized child of God. Both will throw everything they can at him or her. They want the child to turn their back on their baptism. They want the child to see God as the agent of evil in their life. They want the child to see sin as good and the saving work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection as bad.
Sometimes they hit their target. The baptized child of God no longer cares to be taught why they were baptized. They will not pray. They will not hear or read the Scriptures. Their setting apart is set aside in order to become more like the sinful world around them. Satan rejoices. The world welcomes the child with open arms.
All the more do we, like Martin Luther, crawl back to the Small Catechism to see the benefits of Baptism. "[Baptism] works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare." God never goes back on His words and promises. "Whoever does not believe will be condemned" Jesus says in Mark chapter 16. Unbelief condemns. God save us from unbelief! Yet "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved". Cling to Christ in His Word of promise connected with water in your baptism. He sets you apart to be His precious child. He bestows what He promises: forgiveness, life, and salvation.
The other ceremony in the baptismal rite that confesses being set apart in your baptism is the so-called "Flood Prayer". Lutheran Service Book did us a great service in placing this prayer in the baptismal rite. Toward the end of the prayer we hear these words: "Grant that (he/she/they) be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, (he/she/they) would be declared worthy of eternal life".
Like the sign of the holy cross, this prayer confesses that you are set apart from the multitude of unbelievers in the holy ark of the Christian Church. When we hear "ark", we think of Noah and his family, eight souls in all, who were set apart from the unbelieving world by being placed in the ark. While everything around them was deluged in the flood, Noah, his family, and the animals aboard the ark were set apart to repopulate the world after the flood. With fervent spirit and a joyful hope they believed in God's promise in His Word of rescue through water.
So it is with your baptism. You are put in the ark of Christ's holy Church. While the world is deluged (and deluded) in the darkness of sin and death, you are separated from the multitude of unbelievers in your baptism. Your baptism sets you free to serve the Lord in your vocations. Your baptism gives you joyful hope in the life of the world to come. You are worthy of eternal life because Jesus declares you worthy in His innocent suffering and death. You are worthy of eternal life because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He lives and reigns to all eternity. You live with Him, wetly robed in your baptism, awaiting the coming of the New Creation and the crown of life that is yours for Christ's sake.
These ceremonies, with God's certain promises in His holy Word concerning your baptism, confess that you are set apart in baptism to be His precious child. You died at the font. You have new life from the font through water and the Word. You are set apart to live in the joy that is yours in believing Jesus Christ has triumphed over death and hell, giving you life and salvation. You are set apart, yet you are one with all those whom the Lord has set apart for salvation. Rejoice! You shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. "Baptism now saves you."
Rev. David M. Juhl serves as Chaplain of Wittenberg Academy. Additionally, his vocations include husband of one wife, father of five children, and pastor of Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church in Momence, Illinois.
Teaching Logic I
What is Logic and Why Do We Teach It?
Dorothy Sayers, in her famous essay The Lost Tools of Learning, wrote: “Neglect in formal logic in the curriculum is the root cause of nearly all those disquieting symptoms we have noted in the modern intellectual constitution.” Those disquieting symptoms to which Sayers refers are those she mentions at the outset: resisting propaganda and mass marketing, distinguishing between true scholarly writing and slip-shod writing, arguing well, defining terms and distinguishing other uses of the same term, following a sustained argument given by someone else, and the ability to learn on their own.
Modern education’s response to this is to teach “critical thinking skills.” The so-called critical thinking skills of modern education is a well-worn aphorism. It is on nearly ever syllabus ever written under the rationale and purpose of any given course of study: “to teach the student to think critically about . . . .” You fill in the blank.
Now if you were to ask fifty modern educators to define what critical thinking skills actually are and how they are to be taught and instilled in the minds of students, you’re sure to get fifty different answers, if you’re lucky to get any at all, which has led Martin Cothran of Memoria Press fame to state: “Critical thinking skills is a hoax.”
And it is. “Critical thinking skills” is a Siren song that woos society—parents, students, and teachers alike—into believing that there is an ultimate purpose, a goal in mind that is beneficial to society to what is being taught and learned. That point, that goal is to think and to think critically.
But this raises a question: To think critically about what? In other words, how can one teach, let alone learn, “critical thinking skills” when it can’t be certainly defined? And how can one think critically about a given thing when the nature of things, when universals and objectivity are at
the outset denied? The answer is straightforward: You can’t. For this kind of thinking fosters the mentality that questions, differs, probes, and disagrees, but in a relativistic fashion. It thinks critically about proposed answers because it doubts that there are any real answers at all.
In this way modern education’s “critical thinking skills” becomes nothing other than the equivalent to saying, “Hi, how are you?” when seeing someone you know in passing. It just sounds good, and no one really wants the truth, especially if your answer is anything other than “fine.” That is why it’s an aphorism, a catchphrase that means whatever each individual teacher, parent, or student thinks is good and right. It’s an ambiguous term that allows for equivocation, and it explains why it is so popular. Because everyone is able to import his own meaning.
And so that is why we teach logic. It is the classical educator’s definition of and method for teaching real critical thinking skills. But if this is the case, then that means we must know what logic is, what real critical thinking skills are, and then what good, what benefit, it is to have them.
What Is Logic?
The best definition of logic, I think, comes from James Nance, logic instructor at The Logos School in Moscow, Idaho. He is not the only one to say this, but he has put into one sentence. And that is why I think it is the best because he has defined logic clearly in one sentence. Logic is the science and art of reasoning well. As a science, logic teaches the student to observe the human mind as it reasons so as to discover the laws and rules that govern the mind that reasons well. As an art, logic teaches the student to apply those laws in different situations, whether in speaking, listening, reading, or writing.
There are two main branches of logic: informal logic and formal logic. Informal logic teaches the
defining of terms, the informal logical fallacies, and common sense reasoning. As classical educators, you are more than likely already teaching informal logic as you teach the liberal arts. You define terms, setting limits around words and concepts, so that these may be apprehended by the mind and applied elsewhere. You may have even discussed some of the informal logical fallacies, like circular reasoning or begging the question, ad hominem, post hoc ergo propter hoc, etc.
But formal logic is where the rubber really hits the road. Formal logic is the study of the form of arguments, their structure. Formal logic can also be divided into two branches: inductive and deductive. Inductive logic is the logic of the experimental and observational sciences and criminal forensics. It deals with arguments of likelihood and probability. It makes conclusions from specific facts or experience, but the conclusions of inductive arguments go beyond the premises because it states something about the whole of a thing by only observing some of the evidence. That is why it deals with likelihood and probability. Inductive arguments are either strong or weak, depending on how well the evidence supports the conclusion, how much evidence you have for the whole.
Deductive arguments, on the other hand, are either valid or invalid. If valid, the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises. If the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. The categorical (Aristotelian) syllogism is the most common form of deductive arguments. The classic example is “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” The argument is then changed into symbols so that it can be analyzed and proven valid or invalid by
various rules, Venn diagrams, and counter examples. And so the syllogism above would become: All M is P. All S is M. Therefore, All S is P. The M stands for the middle term. The S stands for the subject of the conclusion, and the P stands for the predicate of the conclusion.
This is what Logic is. But what’s the value of teaching Categorical (Aristotelian) logic? What good, what benefit, is it to have this type of logic.
What Good Is Logic?
You may be wondering: “What can I do with logic?” The answer is that logic can do something with you. Logic builds the mental habit of thinking in an orderly way. It gives us order. A course in logic does this, even if every detail learned is forgotten (which it won’t), just as learning Latin will make us more habitually aware of the structure of language even if you forget every particular Latin word and rule.
No course is more practical than logic, for no matter what you are thinking about, you are thinking, and logic orders and clarifies thinking. No matter what the content of thought is, it will be clearer when it has logical form. The principles of thinking logically can be applied to all thinking and to every field.
As mentioned earlier, logic studies the forms, the structures of thought. Thought has form and structure too. Thought is not like a blank screen that receives its form only from the world that appears on it, as a movie screen receives a movie. A course in logic will show you the basic forms, the basic structures and the basic laws, rules of thought. It will help you put things into its proper order.
Second, logic has power: the power of proof and thus persuasion. Any power can be either rightly used or abused. The power of logic is rightly used to win the truth and defeat error; it is wrongly used to win the argument and defeat your opponent. Argument is to truth as fishing is to fish, or war to peace, or courtship to marriage.
The power of logic comes from the fact that it is the science and art of argument, of reasoning well. As Thomas Good wrote in his 1677 text, A Brief English Tract of Logick, “Logick hath its name from logos ratio, because it is an Art which teacher Reason and Discourse.” Or as Peter Ramus Martyr wrote in his 1574 book, Logicke, “Dialecticke, otherwise called Logicke, is an arte which teacheth to dispute well.”
Whatever you use logic for right or wrong ends, it’s a powerful tool. No matter what our thought’s end or goal or purpose may be, it will attain that end more effectively if it is clearer and more logical. Even if you want to do something with logic rather than letting logic do something with you—even if you want to deceive others or toy with them—you need to know logic in order to be a successful sophist. You must be a real logician even to be a fake one.
We need authority as well as logic. But we need logic to test our authorities. We need authorities because no individual can discover everything autonomously. We all do in fact rely on human community, and therefore on the authority of others—parents, teachers, textbooks, experts, friends, history, and tradition—for a surpassingly large portion of what we know. And this is another reason we need logic: we need to have good reasons for believing our authorities, for in the end it is you the individual who must decide which authorities to trust. It is obviously foolish to buy from every peddler of ideas that knocks on your mind’s door. In fact, it’s impossible because they often contradict each other.
Which brings us to our next good, recognizing contradictions. One of the things you will learn in studying logic is exactly what contradiction means, how to recognize it, and what to do with it. Logic teaches us which ideas contradict each other. If we are confused about that, we will be either too exclusive (that is, we will think that beliefs logically exclude each other when they don’t) or too inclusive (that is, we will believe two things that cannot both be true).
When we consider two different ideas that seem to contradict each other, we need to know three things:
1) We need to know exactly what each one means. Only then can we know whether they really contradict each other or not.
2) And if they do, we need to know which one is true and which is false.
3) And we do this by finding reasons why one idea is true and another is false.
These are the three acts of the mind: understanding a meaning (simple apprehension), judging what is true, and reasoning. They are the answers to three questions: what is it, whether it is, and why it is. And these three acts of the mind are the three parts of logic that you learn in any logic course worth its salt.
Reading & Writing
Besides these fundamental goods, logic will help you with all your other courses, because logic will help you to read any book more clearly and effectively. And you are always going to be reading books. Books are the single most effective technological invention in the history of education. Peter Kreeft has said, “On the basis of over 40 years of full-time college teaching of almost 20,000 students at 20 different schools, I am convinced that one of the reasons for the steep decline in student’s reading ability is the decline in the teaching of traditional logic.”
Logic will also help you write more clearly and effectively, because clear writing and clear thinking are a packaged deal: the presence or absence of either one brings the presence or absence of the other. Muddled writing fosters muddled thinking, and muddled thinking fosters muddled writing. Clear writing fosters clear thinking, and clear thinking fosters clear writing. Common sense expects this, and scientific studies confirm it.
Even religion, though it goes beyond logic, cannot go against it; if it did, it would literally be unbelievable. And even though Maureen O’Hara in Miracle on 34th Street defined faith as "believing what you know isn’t true,” we simply cannot believe an idea to be true once it has been proved to be false by valid logical proof. As Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, a proponent of Intelligent Design and author of Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt, has stated: “The heart cannot exult in what the mind rejects.” And so while it’s true that faith goes beyond what can be proved by logical reasoning alone, logic, however can aid faith in at least three ways.
First, logic can often clarify what is believed, giving it order in the mind and defining it.
Second, logic can deduce the necessary consequences of what is believed, and apply it to different and difficult circumstances. (Romans 8 example).
Third, even if logical arguments cannot prove all that faith believes, they can give firmer reasons for faith than feeling, desire, mood, fashion, family or social pressure, conformity, or inertia.
There are even crucial social and political reason for studying logic. As Thomas Jefferson said, “In a republican nation, whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of first importance.” If only it were still so. But even the Declaration of Independence, as Dr. Mark Kalthoff, an LCMS layman and professor of History at Hillsdale College, has argued that the Declaration itself is not so much a declaration as it is an argument, a statement of reasons, a very long syllogism, for revolution. This can only happen where logic is known and used.
Our last reason for studying logic is the simplest and most important of all. It is that logic helps us to find truth, which is worth knowing for its own sake. Logic helps us do this by 1) demanding that we define our terms so that we understand what we mean, and 2) by demanding that we give good reasons, arguments, proofs.
Truth is worth knowing for its own sake because it fulfills and perfects our minds, which is part of our very essence, what makes us distinctly human. Truth is to our minds what food is to our bodies.
In Book IV of his Ethics, Aristotle puts forth three reasons for pursuing truth and three corresponding “sciences” (in the older, broader sense of the word meaning “rational explanations through causes”). He called the three kinds of sciences 1) “productive sciences,” 2) “practical sciences,” and 3) “theoretical sciences.”
The productive sciences study the world to learn about it so that we can change it, improve it, and make things out of it. The end of the productive sciences is to produce things. This includes engineering, medicine, auto-making and repair, cooking, etc.
The practical sciences study ourselves so that we can change and improve our own lives, our behavior, our activities. The end of the practical sciences is to put knowledge into practice, into action. This includes ethics, politics, economics, etc.
The theoretical sciences seek to know simply in order to know, that is, to become bigger on the inside. The end of the theoretical sciences to see more fully, to expand our understanding, and contemplate our place in this world. This includes physics, biology, theology, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy. All these have applications and uses, but they are first of all aimed at simply knowing and understanding the truth, even if there is no immediate practical or productive application.
Theoretical science is the task of the classical educator because the original meaning of a liberal arts education was this: the study of the truth for its own sake, no only for the sake of what you can do with it or what you can make with it. The term liberal arts comes from Aristotle: He said that just as a man is called free when he exists of his own sake and a slave when he exists for the sake of another man, so these studies are called free (liberal or liberating) because they exist for their own sake and not for the sake of anything else.
Logic will prove useful in many ways, but its most important use is simply to help you see more clearly what is try and what is false. Logic alone can’t tell you what is true. It will only aid you in discovering what is true. You also need experience—through books, lectures, investigation, observation—to get your premises, and logic can then draw your conclusions.
And a life full of discovering the truth and knowing the truth is what we, as classical educators seek to instill in our students. And since logic helps us discover this, that is why we teach it, not only as a part of other subjects, but as a subject in itself.
Rev. Jason Braaten serves as Logic teacher for Wittenberg Academy. He and his wife, along with their children, live in Tuscola, Illinois, where he serves as Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church.
In Cicero’s “On Rhetorical Invention,” he references an ancient scholar, who claimed that“an orator was able to speak in the most excellent manner of all men on every subject” (Cicero 1.5). Indeed, the goal of both classical and modern writers seems to be clear communication on any topic. In the academic world, educators and students hope to pen the perfect paper, persuasive and pleasing. To pursue this goal, we look to the ancients and hope to imitate their enormous rhetorical ability, but how do scholars today achieve that level of mastery?
Many schools and students today dive directly into essay-writing, scribbling out what is called “the five-paragraph essay.” Five simple paragraphs to express yourself! Introduce your idea, shuffle off three points, and sum it up by repeating what you have just said. Is this the most successful method? Classically, it is not. Leonard Spengel, a classical scholar, disdained the modern method as rushed and unappreciative of the techniques that constitute good rhetoric. It is, as Spengel says, like “learning pottery-making by starting with a big jar” (Kennedy 3). To remedy this hurried and harried modern method, Spengel translated and explained ancient texts on the progymnasmata—an ancient method of learning rhetoric that gradually introduces fourteen basic writing skills. These skills act as building blocks for each other and for more complex rhetorical pieces. By learning the methods of the progymnasmata, a student learns to attack any sort of written work and becomes able, as Cicero wrote, to “speak in the most excellent manner of all men on every subject.”
So what are these stages? What exercises make up the progymnasmata? The fourteen skills begin with simple narrative tasks, such as writing a fable, and progress slowly to complex argumentative compositions, such as the attack or defense of a law. Though ancient classical educators organize them in a few different ways, the following list is the generally agreed-upon order today:
14. Attack or Defense of a Law
Fourteen individual exercises in fourteen seemingly unrelated styles. How do they relate to one another, and more importantly, how do they equip a student with the mental acuity to discourse on any topic, in any way, with anyone, at any time? Allow me to spell out their usefulness.
The first and simplest of exercises, the fable asks a student to wrap up a deep truth about human nature in a simple story that can be universally understood. Consider a few common fables: the Tortoise and the Hare, the Ant and the Grasshopper, the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Each one contains a moral that all men can understand, at any age, in any lifestyle. It is an easy-to-learn and easy-to-use narrative device that nevertheless packs a powerful rhetorical punch.
Perhaps even more basic than the fable is the narrative, which relates the plain facts of a situation from beginning to end. It need not contain a deep human truth, but without the narrative even stories so simple as the fable could not be told. The narrative can be historical, political, or dramatic; it can be verbose or brief; it can be told for mere pleasure or to carry and emphasize a point. Flexible and adaptable, the narrative is an excellent building block for any rhetorical purpose, be it serious or silly. The student of the progymnasmata learns it early on so that he can manipulate it in later stages and in any rhetorical work.
CHREIA and PROVERB
The chreia and the proverb perform similar tasks: using snappy dialogue, they condense ancient wisdom into memorable and applicable phrases. The proverb comes from the Greek gnosis, or “knowledge,” while the chreia derives from the Greek chreiodes, or “useful.” While the chreia conveys both a speaker and an action, the proverb consists of only a saying; nevertheless both techniques stay true to their Greek roots and edify the listener in some way. Almost universally applicable because of their timeless wisdom, these sayings appear in all types of rhetoric and perform a variety of rhetorical tasks.
The student of the progymnasmata, however, does not necessarily write a chreia or proverb, but rather amplifies an existing one. Such a composition teaches him to consider thoughtfully not only maxims, but any written or spoken word; for often people bundle up many thoughts into a brief statement or story. The student learns how to extract and explain meaning in a clear yet concise way, a skill which he can then apply to literature or law or, indeed, any language at all.
REFUTATION AND CONFIRMATION
The next two stages arrive hand-in-hand, although it is important that they remain separate. The confirmation defends a particular viewpoint, while the refutation condemns it, but they are not yet paired together in one composition. Beginning with a debatable topic that remains in doubt, a student must consider logically why he believes a certain thing and then defend it or attack the opposite. The confirmation and refutation require logical thought, research, and clear explanation of why and how different ideas should be supported or rejected.These rhetorical building blocks point ahead to the usual academic goal of paper-writing, but remember that the confirmation and refutation remain simple exercises. Before a student can thoroughly examine an argument from two sides, he must prove he can logically discuss and defend one perspective. (Remember Spengel’s advice not to begin pottery “with a big jar.”)
Following in the same argumentative vein, the commonplace asks a student to praise or condemn a particular virtue or vice. While the confirmation and refutation can cover a variety of topics—people, ideas, events, etc—the commonplace discusses only virtue and vice. Imagine that it is a more complex version of the fable: in the fable, virtuous or vicious deeds are dramatically upheld or vilified; in the commonplace, these deeds are condensed into a plain nonfiction dialogue on the virtues and vices of human nature. The commonplace utilizes the logical argumentation process of the previous few exercises, but instead of working with tangible details or person or place—as the confirmation and refutation might—it condemns or extols an intangible aspect of human nature.
ENCOMIUM AND VITUPERATION
It is easy, then, to move from general virtues and vices to the virtues and vices of a specific person or thing. The encomium and vituperation exercises ask the student to praise or condemn a topic based on its history and characteristics of mind, body, and fortune. The intent, however, is not to cast blind praise or judgment from a one-sided and personal perspective, but rather to consider reasonably the truth about the topic. Is it beautiful and good? Is it wicked and vicious? How and why do we understand these descriptions? In an encomium, the topic is extolled as glorious and good because it truthfully is so; it is praiseworthy and naturally falls into God’s created order. In a vituperation, the opposite: the topic is evil and sinful and ought not to be emulated or valued.
Encomia and vituperations contribute to grander rhetorical works in introductions,conclusions, or even main arguments—consider the analysis of a novel, in which the villain is vituperated, or a political speech, in which a candidate for office is praised. Again, though, they introduce a skill in small portions, so the student can understand and produce the exercise whenever necessary. Perhaps a student can later combine a narrative and an encomium, or a proverb and a vituperation.
The next skill is just what it appears to be: a thorough comparison of two topics that either announces one as greater than the other or concedes that they are equal. This exercise follows naturally from the last two, in which topics are praised or blamed separately; here the encomia and vituperations combine to produce a parallel examination of two or more topics. The juxtaposition of ideas forces the writer—and the reader!—to consider each subject, confess its faults, and recognize its virtues. Examining and affirming truth in such close quarters aids the student not only in writing comparisons but in deciding what worldviews and beliefs to support or reject in real-world situations.
In the impersonation, the writer places himself in someone else’s position and writes from that perspective. Obviously this technique is useful when it comes to fiction, which requires impersonation and narrative as starting points to create vivid yet believable figures and scenes. Impersonation also aids non-fiction writers, however, when the author wants to introduce a foreign perspective or empathize with audience members who have a differing view. He must broaden his mind and pretend, for a moment, to have a different opinion or at least a different perspective on the same opinion. Understanding a foreign perspective strengthens the argument, and impersonating a figure in a text forms a deeper emotional or mental connection. Consider dramas, or letter-writing, or dialogues such as Plato’s, in which he recreates conversations to prove a rhetorical point… but also, more simply, impersonation embellishes writing to make it .
Like the impersonation, description adds flourish to what otherwise may be dry and boring narrative. It paints a picture and makes the reader an eyewitness by adding details pertinent to the overall rhetorical point and drawing on sensory experiences. Such embellishments can improve any written work, whether a progymnasmata exercise or a larger rhetorical piece. A narrative will become more lifelike if filled out with sensory descriptions; a commonplace against greed spoken at a trial will become more persuasive if there is a vivid description of a robbery, and so on. Details of sound and smell and sight reinforce the meaning of the work from beginning to end and involve the reader in a more personal way, and, as classical scholar Nicolaus the Sophist writes, “in this way the speech comes alive throughout” (Kennedy 167).
The final two stages of the progymnasmata require much more forethought and rhetorical footwork than where we began with the fable—while we cannot yet form a “big jar,” as Spengel would say, we are much closer than when we began. After learning how to argue for or against people, objects, virtues, and vices, and after using truth as a base for comparison and decision-making, and after practicing stylistic methods with the impersonation and description, the student of the progymnasmata can attempt the thesis. The thesis of the progymnasmata is not as involved as an undergraduate- or graduate-level thesis, a research project which requires specifics of person and place. Instead, it discusses an unspecific and debatable question, for example, “should one marry?” The thesis composition—still just an exercise!—logically argues an undecided topic by including two or more perspectives in the same work. The author makes a point with his main thesis arguments, then, to be academically honest, addresses any opposing arguments. He then rebuts these antithesis arguments, reinforcing his original point.
Logically working through these stages helps the student process ideas and combat opposing viewpoints. The two-sided approach only strengthens the persuasive aspect of the composition, because it admits any questions and answers them immediately. The thesis serves as the basis for many more complicated compositions, but can also be used to introduce broader ideas.
ATTACK OR DEFENSE OF A LAW
The progymnasmata finishes with a legal composition. In classical times, a political dialogue would usually be the intent of a public oration, thus it is a fitting close to these classical exercises; however, this is not to say it is an outdated practice. The attack or defense of a law is a reasoned, clearly written composition that directs the skills already learned towards specifically political goals. The laws can be for any community of people—a country, a city, a local knitting group—and the composition will argue for or against it based on legality, justice, decency, expediency, and consequences. Why or why not is it a useful law?
By learning the skills in the progymnasmata, the student learns the basic building blocks of writing, but the true rhetorical good of these techniques comes about in how the student pairs them and implements them in discourse. The student learns how to write each composition individually and how to blend two or more to make a stronger point; he learns how to include them in a larger work or how to magnify or shrink them according to the rhetorical needs of a situation. The initial goal of writing an academic paper is achieved, but also surpassed; the student is capable of writing persuasively or entertainingly, of writing for personal reasons, for private debate, or for the public, of writing academically or legally or educationally.
Having learned and practiced these skills, the student has learned not only to write clearly and purposefully but to think clearly and purposefully. The progymnasmata ingrains in the student a sense of order and beauty when approaching language, but also equips them with the capabilities to understand and to express truth in an orderly and beautiful way. One last quote from Cicero touches on these more lasting effects of the good of rhetoric:
“And, moreover, after cities had been established how could men possibly have been induced to learn to cultivate integrity and to maintain justice, and to be accustomed willingly to obey others, and to think it right not only to encounter toil for the sake of the general advantage, but even to run the risk of losing their lives, if men had not been able to persuade them by eloquence of the truth of those principles which they had discovered by philosophy?” (Cicero 1.2).
Practicing rhetoric makes language beautiful, but expressing ideas clearly, concisely, and eloquently makes truths about the good, the true, and the beautiful more accessible to the average citizen. These truths, in turn, affect the lives of those who know them, an effect which is made possible through “speaking in the most excellent manner of all men on every subject.”
Mrs. Minte Irmer serves as a trivium teacher for Wittenberg Academy.
“To Speak in the Most Excellent Manner”: The Good of the Progymnasmata
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Wittenberg Academy is pleased to announce that recent graduate Emeline Ring has been awarded the Luther Scholarship for the 2017-18 school year at Bethany Lutheran College. This scholarship, valued at $44,000 over four years, is based on high school grade point average and national standardized test scores. Congratulations, Emeline!
On June 3, Paideia III instructor Pastor Charles Henrickson presented, on behalf of Wittenberg Academy, a high school graduation diploma to Autumn Grote. Autumn was one of his students in the Paideia III Theology course. Congratulations, Autumn!
Wittenberg Academy 2016-17
On the Road with Wittenberg Academy
Recent and upcoming travels
2017 CCA Symposium June 14-16, 2017
Peace Lutheran Church
Higher Things Conference June 27-30, 2017
San Antonio, TX
CCLE XVII July 11-14, 2017
Trinity Lutheran Church and School
2017 Institute on Liturgy, Preaching and Church Music July 25-28, 2017
Chicago University Chicago
Higher Things Conference July 25-28, 2017
Wittenberg Academy is pleased to award diplomas to three exceptional students: Autumn Grote, Emeline Ring and Jonathan Paul. Congratulations to all three of our graduates!
The Holy Scriptures
OH Book ! infinite sweetnesse ! let my heart
Suck ev’ry letter, and a hony gain,
Precious for any grief in any part ;
To cleare the breast, to mollifie all pain.
Thou art all health, health thriving, till it make
A full eternitie : thou art a masse
Of strange delights, where we may wish and take.
Ladies, look here ; this is the thankfull glasse,
That mends the lookers eyes : this is the well
That washes what it shows. Who can indeare
Thy praise too much ? thou art heav’ns Lidger here,
Working against the states of death and hell.
Thou art joyes handsell : heav’n lies flat in thee,
Subject to ev’ry mounters bended knee.
OH that I knew how all thy lights combine,
And the configurations of their glorie !
Seeing not only how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the storie.
This verse marks that, and both do make a motion
Unto a third, that ten leaves off doth lie :
Then as dispersed herbs do watch a potion,
These three make up some Christians destinie.
Such are thy secrets, which my life makes good,
And comments on thee : for in ev’ry thing
Thy words do finde me out, and parallels bring,
And in another make me understood.
Starres are poore books, and oftentimes do misse
This book of starres lights to eternall blisse.
A point of confession
2016-17 Academic Calendar
June 5- August 25 (No Class July 4)
2017-2018 Academic Calendar
MICHAELMAS TERM: September 5, 2017 - November 22, 2017
CHRISTMAS TERM: November 27, 2017 - March 2, 2018
(Thanksgiving Break November 23-26, Christmas Break December 23 - January 7)
EASTER TERM: March 5, 2018 - May 25, 2018 (Easter Break March 29-April 2)
TRINITY TERM: June 4, 2018 - August 24, 2018 (No Class Independence Day, July 4)
Scripture teaches that we are justified before God, through faith in Christ, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christs's sake. Now if the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead simply by performing it, justification comes by doing Masses, and not of faith. Scripture does not allow this. But Christ commands us, "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19). Therefore, the Mass was instituted so that those who use the Sacrament should remember, in faith, the benefits they receive through Christ and how their anxious consciences are cheered and comforted. To remember Christ is to remember His benefits. It means to realize that they are truly offered to us. It is not enough only to remember history. (The Jewish people and the ungodly also remember this.) Therefore, the Mass is to be used for administering the Sacrament to those that need consolation.Ambrose says, "Because I always sin, I always need to take the medicine."
~ Luther's Large Catechism- Augsburg Confession XXIV 28-33
Wittenberg Academy's 2nd Annual Family Retreat
Wittenberg Academy held their 2nd Annual Family Retreat on April 27-29, 2017. Many good conversations were had and memories made. Our plenary speaker, Dr. Anthony Esolen, spoke on imagination and education, generating many thoughtful discussions. Many families were able to make connections with other homeschool families and exchange thoughts and ideas, We look forward to next years' retreat on April 26-28 with speaker Aaron Wolf. We hope you can join us!
This book is a treasure for all ages!
Buy this book for your kids, buy it for your grandkids, buy it for the kids at church, buy this book!
Then teach this hymn to your kids, your grandkids, the kids at church, and tell your pastor to have it sung at your funeral.
Sing this hymn!
from Kloria Publishing