Reflecting on Three Years of Torrey Academy

Thus ends my participation in my favorite, most interesting, and most academically rigorous high school program. If you know me, you know that I love academics and overall learning. When I received my books for Foundations and Plato, I was reportedly “way too excited” and “in need of a life.” Of course, I owe this to various authors, my tutors, and multiple discussions. Last Friday was my last Torrey Academy Banquet. Since I realized that this would be my last year and likely the last time seeing certain friends, I reflected on the ways in which Torrey has influenced my life, which is what this rambling blog post is about.

When I heard the tutors giving their comments on the various courses, I could not help but think, “Wow! Look how far we’ve come. We did it.” In three years, I completed Inklings, Foundations, Plato, Faith, and Shakespeare. When I first started in ninth grade, I had high expectations. Torrey was the program that kept my brother up late at night, the one whose pile of books dominated the bookcase outside, the one that my sister loved to talk about, and the one whose tutor once threw a Coke bottle at our car . . . I still do not know why. Suffice to say, Torrey seemed intriguing and challenging. At the time, I was a shy person and generally quiet so putting my ideas under a spotlight to be discussed was not easy for me. Torrey helped me become more confident. Inklings in particular challenged my preconceived notions about Christianity and forced me to develop my beliefs based on reason. Essentially, Torrey challenged me to think. In fascinating discussions, my tutor and fellow students encouraged me to speak my mind, not merely for the sake of saying at least three comments per class, but for the sake of contributing to the pursuit of truth. I realized that I may be able to direct a discussion towards greater ideas.

My second year of Torrey was a lot of fun. Personally, I did not think that I would enjoy discussing and learning about government as much as I had enjoyed Inklings. Most of the texts were large and heavy, particularly Monty (Montesquieu) and Tocqueville. After a few weeks, I found that I really enjoyed reading and discussing these texts. I gradually developed a deeper appreciation for government and America through discussing the meaning of justice, the purpose of laws, where and what liberty is, whether democracy is the best form of government, how we as Christians ought to influence and live in the state, whether the church and state ought to be separated, and whether America can be great. These questions caught my interest. Foundations showed me the importance that one as a Christian must discover how to live as part of the City of God while living in the City of Man. Of course, this balance influences almost all aspects of a Christian’s life as one must discover how to respond and interact with society as Christians.

With Plato, I was always intrigued. As a class, we discussed the importance of knowing the self, the role of divine inspiration in art, whether or not the god-loved is loved because it is loved by the gods or because it is lovable, how to know if one knows, what is justice, what is goodness, and various other questions. In all of these questions, I think that what sticks most with me is Plato’s honesty, humility, and desire for wisdom. In his dialogues, truth is sought earnestly for the sake of truth with the understanding that the unexamined life is not worth living and that one cannot search for truth alone. Reading and discussing Plato helped me to examine myself objectively from a place of honesty and humility. This class inspired courage to engage these questions about goodness, knowledge, and justice, which inevitably cause me to realize my own flaws. Often in Torrey there are many unresolved questions. In fact, most of our questions led to many others that frequently required more than two or three hours a week to investigate. What this year taught me is that I need not fear questions. Questions merely show that there is further truth and knowledge to be gained about the self and God. Truth, through which we see God, is beautiful and worth all the time and effort.

This past year, I took Faith of Our Fathers and Shakespeare. Faith impressed upon me the importance of understanding the rich foundations of Christians thought, the beautiful traditions and stories from church history, the role of grief in a Christian’s life, what happiness is, the notion that all knowledge comes from God, the mystery and beauty of the Trinity, and the core principles of Christianity. The new thing was . . . presentations. These turned out to be great opportunities to organize my thoughts in a presentable manner and discuss topics of great interest to me, such as philosophic poetry and the place of music in Aquinas’ theory of happiness. This year, I especially noticed differences in our beliefs concerning Christianity. These were not major differences (none about core doctrines), however our ideas of God and human nature do differ based on our experiences. Within discussion, we brought our respectably different experiences to the table and evaluated our views to see which is most true. We listened and bonded over our differences. Most often I realize how special it is to discuss with a group that has read, thought, and pursued truth together. With any other group, there is less freedom to bring in foreign or past ideas. For the last class, we discussed both Descent into Hell from Inklings and Dante’s Inferno, taking all that we have studied throughout three years of Torrey and going back to one of our favorite beginning texts. As a class, we have thought about virtue, disagreed over what it means to know goodness, read an enormous amount of books, grown as thinking Christians, and laughed together. This bond only adds to a discussion.

Shakespeare was a lot of fun. As with all the meta courses, I spent a year reading and discussing a single author with a brilliant tutor and excellent students that I have had the pleasure of meeting. Shakespeare’s plays brought several of these huge concepts from the core classes to life with story and theater. In a sense, it made ideas such as justice, virtue, and honor that much more real. It is one thing to talk about virtue, but it is another to see it come to life. With story, my ideas of courage, loyalty, virtue, and honor were put to the test. Because the texts were short and by the same author, we were able to delve deeper into these intricate topics, especially love and honor. At the end of the year, my class performed As You Like It. I played the fool, for which my family says I need not act . . . It was wonderful to practice and perform a play with a group that I have discussed Shakespeare with and not some random group. Practicing was a lot of fun and often very humorous. I am so glad that I took Shakespeare this year with an awesome group of people that are very interested in truth and have great insights.

In Torrey, I was often asked this question: where have I come from and where am I going? Of course, I grew as a Christian and as a thinker significantly these past three years. I am more confident in my beliefs. In pursuing truth, I have further come to love God and others. However, the truth is that I do not yet know where I am going. I am still searching for my path. What Torrey has taught me is that all knowledge comes from God. I need only to look to God for wisdom for my journey.

Why Poetry?: Examining the Merits of Poetical Philosophy

Boethius was in mourning of life
Till Philosophy comes and cures his strife
With poetry and prose, instruments used
For thinking pure thoughts to be cured.
Though Plato says “Boo! Poetry’s an imitation to you,”
The Lady replies, “Poetry raises man’s mind
And gives a glimpse of the divine.”

This whimsical poem demonstrates a difference between two philosophies on the nature of poetry. Many people when thinking of philosophy do not think of poetry. In fact, Plato banishes poetry from the perfect state for its imitational and emotional components, which would be unbeneficial to the philosopher who examines reality with reason. Nevertheless, Boethius, a Platonist himself, claims and demonstrates through his very usage of poetry in The Consolation of Philosophy that poetry is an appropriate instrument of philosophy. Surprisingly, Lady Philosophy herself illustrates this concept by engaging in poetry. To appropriately examine this dilemma, one would have to examine the nature and purpose of poetry. Although it appears that poetry is a mere imitation and distraction from reality, I think that poetry is an appropriate and beneficial instrument of philosophy, because poetry is the sanctification of language, thereby enabling the mind to transcend the self.

According to Plato, poetry would essentially be a distraction for philosophers. He affirms that all art, including poetry, is an imitation of reality and thus cannot depict actual knowledge. In the Republic, Plato through the character of Socrates banishes poetry from the perfect state asserting that the poet “uses names and phrases to color each of the arts. He himself doesn’t understand; but he imitates in such a way as to seem, to men whose condition is like his own and who observe only speeches, to speak very well . . . using meter, rhythm, and harmony” (601a). To Plato, the poet beautifies language to deceive people into believing his words. Hence, poetry according to Plato may be considered a deception because one who engages in poetry wastes effort and emotion on an imitation of reality. Based on these ideas, one would have to agree that poetry cannot be beneficial to philosophy because a philosopher is one who loves wisdom and reality. It would thus be contradictory that a philosopher would engage in poetry.

Furthermore, it appears that poetry primarily influences emotion as opposed to the intellect. Aristotle, though he differs from Plato, claims that the purpose of art involves the direction of emotion. In Poetics, Aristotle states that all forms of art are imitations that differ “from one another in three respects—the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation” (1.1). This statement indicates that art must primarily involve emotion since these techniques naturally imitate emotions that are appropriate to the idea imitated. For instance, a poem may be written in iambic pentameter to give feelings of normal speech or there may be certain words with accents that produce designated feelings. If poetry inherently involves emotions, poetry ought not to have a place in philosophy since philosophy focuses on reason as opposed to emotion.

However, art is more than an imitation. It is an image through which man is able to express the self. Imitation is a technique used to create the effects in art and is not the art itself. This is seen in the fact that art is not merely effects since these effects are always directed towards an idea expressed in the art. The artist is one who expresses an experience in an image, such as in painting, music, or poetry. By creating an image which by being an image expresses itself, the artist mentally acknowledges his own experience. All people experience through the mental acknowledgement of an image because experience requires knowledge. If one knows about an experience, one must have mentally acknowledged an image in the mind. This is why in a work of art an experience may feel more realistic than an experience drawn inartistically; the artist due to his skill of technique provides a greater and more coherent way for man to relay an image to the mind. In a sense, all people who think and express are artists, but the ones who are artistic express themselves more accurately. In her essay “Toward a Christian Esthetic,” Dorothy Sayers states that the poet “is a man who not only suffers the impact of external events but also experiences them. He puts the experience into words in his own mind, and in doing so recognizes the experience for what it is” (162). Sayers observes that the poet creates recognition through an expression in words. For poetry in particular, man is able to experience and thereby know through the language in a poem. All thoughts are in words, meaning that man’s capacity to experience and know is determined by his usage of correct and appropriate words. Because the aim of poetry is to piece together these correct and appropriate words, poetry is therefore a proper instrument to draw the self to experience truth and wisdom.

In spite of Aristotle’s claims, a philosopher can engage in poetry without sacrificing the integrity of thought. Gerard O’Daly observes that in The Poetry of Boethius that “sweet, soft song and grave seriousness of purpose are . . . not incompatible” (33). Since poetry primarily expresses the idea it images forth, there is nothing inherently wrong or emotional with the use of poetry, but with the poet expressing the idea. An example of this is found in The Consolation of Philosophy when Boethius invokes the Muses of Poetry. Boethius in his grief states, “I who once with joyful zeal / Am driven by to enter weeping mode” (1). The anguish that Boethius encapsulates in his poem is not a result of his use of poetry, but rather a result of the “barren thorns of Passion” (4). Banishing the Muses of Poetry, Lady Philosophy states, “Sirens is a better name for you and your deadly enticements: be gone, and leave him for my own Muses to heal and cure” (5). In this demand, Philosophy indicates since she has her own Muses that certain poetry can be used in philosophy. This is demonstrated when Lady Philosophy expresses philosophical statements in poetic form. Philosophy states describing the knowledge of God:

What is, what was, what is to be,
In one swift glance His mind can see.
All things by Him alone are seen,
And Him the true sun we should deem. (119)

In these lines, Philosophy depicts the omniscience of God in poetic verse. This does not hinder the integrity of wisdom since it is a serious poem unhindered by passion. As seen in Lady Philosophy’s use of poetry, there is no issue in using poetry to express philosophy.

On the other hand, it may appear that Boethius’ poetry is merely for emotional healing as opposed to philosophy itself. According to Aristotle, the purpose of art is to produce the appropriate emotional responses. Aristotle states referring to the use of proper language in Tragedy, “in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play . . . through pity and fear [effect] the proper purgation of these emotions (1.6). Through artistic poetry, man is able to respond correctly to the depicted image depending on how the image is portrayed. If this is the purpose of art, poetry ought to be a result of philosophy as opposed to an instrument.

According to Boethius, however, poetry is not merely for emotional healing. C.S. Lewis observes in The Discarded Image that all that is in the Consolation is meant purely for philosophy as part of the disciplines and propriety of his trade since it is certain that Boethius chose to write philosophically (77). This indicates that his philosophy and thus the poetry he uses are not for mere emotional healing. This can be observed in the last poem that Boethius delivers in the dialogue, which contains no mention of the self and gives complete focus to philosophy (123). This type of poetry is fitting in philosophy because in philosophy one is focused on truth. Boethius therefore considers poetry as an instrument in philosophy.

Of course, one may argue that poetic form would hinder the freedom of language and thought that is found in prose. Prose is surely simpler than poetry since it is without meter and form. Surely, there is a certain beauty in the freedom of words since prose is the natural form of language. People do not speak naturally in poetic verse. Hence, prose would be simpler to understand and thus a better form of expression in philosophy.

Conversely, poetic form is the sanctification of language and therefore thought. It is a better form of expression than prose simply because it is meant to be spoken. Since all thoughts are in words, all thoughts involve images produced by the senses. When a person thinks of a word, that person in his mind produces an image of sound, sight, touch, smell, or taste that corresponds to that word. By engaging in poetry, one expresses an image far more complete since poetry improves the image of one’s words. Poetry involves the use of breath, tongue, lip, and teeth to express with sound and rhythm an image far more meaningful than mere prose. In a poem, phrases are intentionally formed so that the sound and rhythm of one’s words express an image accurately. Poetical images in this sense portray one’s experiences much more truthfully because they further utilize the capabilities of language to express the whole of one’s experience and relay a better image to the mind. By engaging in poetical philosophy, one therefore better expresses the beauty of wisdom. Boethius states to Philosophy, “You are the greatest comfort for exhausted spirits. By the weight of your tenets and delightfulness of your singing you have so refreshed me that I now think myself capable of facing the blows of Fortune” (47). Lady Philosophy through poetry is able to express philosophical conclusions with the beauty of words. Because man’s capacity to understand is determined by the capabilities of his language that form his thoughts, the beauty of wisdom is therefore better expressed in the beauty of words. Since wisdom is beautiful, the words of man ought to express this beauty as well, especially if man desires to appreciate wisdom to his greatest capacity. Poetry is therefore the purification of language and thought in that it expresses one’s ideas more adequately than prose.

It is in the very form and conventions of poetry that the mind of man transcends itself. In The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G. K. Chesterton, Gabriel Syme, a philosopher and poet, rebukes the anarchist poet who abandons all conventions and laws in poetry by stating:

It is you who are unpoetical . . . The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train may indeed go anywhere . . . But man is a magician and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria and lo! It is Victoria (4–5).

In this monologue, Chesterton illustrates the beauty of order and convention. It is the victory of man to have order and convention because that is where goodness and truth lie. In language, man’s victory is therefore found in the very order and conventions of poetry. Man essentially “hits the mark” in poetry where his expression of an idea is one with the form, sound, and rhythm of his words. Lady Philosophy states:

For I have swift and speedy wings
With which to mount the lofty skies,
And when the mind has put them on
The earth below it will despise[.] (86)

The aim of philosophy is to raise the mind of man to transcend the self, meaning that one will gaze upon the divine and understand truth. Since man thinks in words, the usage of poetry improves man’s capacity for meaning in language and therefore thought. As a result, man is able in poetical philosophy to further experience the divine and thus achieve victory in thought by beholding the divine with a poetical image.

In poetical philosophy, man further conforms to the likeness of God by imitating this cosmic idea of expression as seen in the Trinity. In poetry, the words of man become flesh as they are imaged forth in being spoken. St. Augustine, a prominent bishop and theologian from the early church, states in Confessions that the Word is “spoken eternally and by it all things are uttered eternally” (226). Since the Word as the image of God is eternally spoken, it is conclusively part of the nature of God to express Himself through the Word. The Word is one with God in being an image. Man therefore through poetry imitates the divine because in poetry the images of his words become one with his ideas. It is thus a part of man’s nature to know the self through the images man produces in words. The words of man become flesh in being spoken and a truthful image when attuned to one’s ideas. By attuning one’s words to reality in poetical philosophy, one therefore imitates God in a cosmic idea of expression where the meaning of one’s ideas and the image of one’s words are one.

In conclusion, although one may condemn poetry as unfit for philosophy for its imitational and therefore deceptive qualities, poetry is a justifiable and beneficial instrument of philosophy because poetry, the sanctification of language, enables the mind to transcend and experience the divine. Art itself is more than mere imitation; it is the expression of an image through which man is able to come to know reality and the self. In poetry, one better expresses knowledge because there is a greater capacity to express the self; poetry is meant to be spoken such that it involves the use of sound and rhythm to express an image far more meaningful than mere prose. Although the forms and conventions of poetry may appear to hinder the freedom of thought, poetry is in actuality the victory of man through which man is able to express the meaning of his ideas and in expressing philosophy to the self, transcend earthly things to view the divine. Through poetical philosophy, man imitates this cosmic idea of expression as seen in the incarnation where the Word became flesh. Poetry is thus a beneficial instrument of philosophy because in poetical philosophy, man accomplishes greater heights. In other words, man achieves victory in thought.

Music: the Food of Love

For these past few months, I studied and researched the philosophy of music for my final presentation on Dante’s Purgatory. This study is one of my favorites as I am a musician. After researching poetry last semester, I realized that I had not developed a philosophy for music, which is the reason why I decided to study music this semester. In this presentation, I argue that music in Purgatory is for the purification of the soul as opposed to the mere sway of emotion. My major sources include Dante’s Divine ComedyThe Fundamentals of Music by Boethius, The Republic by Plato, and Treatise on Happiness by Aquinas. The words below contain some of my overall thoughts on the nature of music and its effects on the soul.

Music is the abstract art of sound. For there to be music, there must be harmony because music is created through the harmonious union of pitch and time. Harmony is the relation between objects. Of course, there is dissonance music. However, dissonance exists through some degree of order since there must be at least two notes that are unified, and thus in harmony, to be dissonant. Dissonance is by definition a clash between components. Music as an art form is abstract because it does not refer to language; although language is an ordering of vowels and consonants, the music of language would refer to the pitch and rhythm of one’s voice rather than speech itself. Music therefore does not pertain to certain situations and is thus an abstract art.

The harmony of music is analogous to the harmony within man. According to Boethius, there is music in everything that exists because everything that exists has harmony. It is through harmony that everything exists because in order for something to exist, its components must be formed harmoniously according to its proper nature. Thus, harmony within music is the same as the harmony within the universe and soul. Boethius further argues that harmony is capable of depicting the states of man. This can be seen in the harmonious union of reason, sentiment, and instinct in man. It is through this harmony that man reasons, feels, and acts. This concept can be seen in the fact that people are attracted to music that pertains to their situation; the harmony of music is then in conjunction with the harmony within man. As a result, music is capable of influencing the soul at its core. Since music and man are created in a similar likeness, man by contemplating certain harmonies within music, contemplates a certain type of harmony that can be found within the self.

Since music expresses harmony, music produces proper sentiment. Sentiments are trained dispositions that determine one’s knowledge of qualities. The development of sentiment is important for the soul because it produces proper responses to ideas such as being awed by beauty or loving truth. Music trains the sentiments by associating sentiments with certain ideas.

The sentiments produced by music are indeed proper because music expresses the Forms. The Forms are abstract, universal concepts distinct from space and time. They are qualities that objects share such as goodness, beauty, and justice. Music expresses the Forms because harmony, melody, and rhythm are capable of communicating universal ideas in abstract forms. This is evident since music is a universal language such that a quality depicted musically is universally received as that quality. For instance, music that depicts happiness can be translated into several instances of joy because that music depicts happiness itself. Because music is an abstract art, the ideas expressed musically are the Forms of these ideas because music expresses the nature of qualities. Music therefore produces proper sentiment because these sentiments are proper responses to the Forms.

Music is therefore a means to behold goodness. As stated before, music produces proper sentiment. In Dante’s Purgatory and Paradise, music is configured to associate wonder and love with goodness. Music itself is an endeavor to experience goodness, since people naturally are pleased by harmonious sounds, which is goodness, while cringing at dissonance. Hence, in music man learns to behold goodness in a truer form by associating the positive sentiments of wonder and love with goodness.

Thoughts on Poetry

Boethius was in mourning of life

Till Philosophy comes and cures his strife

With poetry and prose, instruments used

For thinking pure thoughts to be cured

Though Plato says, “Boo! Poetry’s an imitation to you,”

The Lady replies, “Poetry raises man’s mind

And gives a glimpse of the divine.”

This was a poem I wrote for my presentation on poetry. Overall, I thought it was a successful presentation. It was a lot of fun. I originally was not very interested in poetry so this was a new topic for me. Anyways, the following are some of my conclusions about poetry and its use in philosophy.

Poetry is more than an imitation. It is rather the expression of an image through which man is able to know his ideas. Imitation is a technique used to create art and is not the art itself. This can be seen in the fact that art is always directed towards an idea which is beyond the technique used. The images that man creates become his knowledge and of course by being an image it expresses itself. In the case of poetry, the words used become a way of thinking about an idea. In a sense, all people who think and express are artists. However, the ones who are more artistic are the ones who express themselves more accurately.

Poetry sanctifies language and therefore thought. As art, it expresses through meter, rhyme, rhythm, etc., which in turn further infuses meaning into one’s words. Words always portray an image. Through poetry, this image can be further expressed. For example, rhymes can be used to connect ideas or the rhythm may be used to express certain feelings. Man’s thoughts are in a language, whether that be in words or pictures. By bettering words, one betters thought. In a way, poetical images are much more truthful since they communicate far more in its technique. It sanctifies language in which it conforms the poetical image of our words to our ideas.

Therefore, poetry is a useful instrument in philosophy since if one betters thought one betters understanding. Through the beauty of words, one is able to express the beauty of wisdom. Since wisdom is beautiful, one’s language and thus thoughts ought to reflect this beauty. In poetical images, man is able to behold the beauty of wisdom. Plato describes the philosopher as one who loves wisdom. Poetry is a means to express the beauty of wisdom and thus to love wisdom.

By using poetry, one imitates this cosmic idea of expression as seen in the Incarnation where the Word became flesh. The Word is the image of God and as St. Augustine describes is being expressed eternally. In poetry, one’s words become flesh merely because it is spoken. Poetry involves the use of breath, tongue, teeth, and lip to express an image. In this sense, our words become incarnated. Hence, one imitates the idea of the Incarnation through poetry.

I consider poetry, and all art for that matter, the victory of man. In art, man “hits the mark” where the meaning of one’s ideas are expressed artistically and truthfully. It is in the very order and conventions of art that man reaches greater heights. Essentially, order and convention are goodness. Thus, in poetry man achieves victory in thought.

Is Manipulation Okay?

So I am taking a class on Shakespeare and one of the questions asked for As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing was whether or not manipulation is ever okay. Of course, it is granted that not all manipulation is right. Those who persuade others to do wrong are not acting in love towards one another. And yet, it seems that there may be manipulation that is justifiable.

First of all, I do not associate manipulation necessarily with deceit. Deceit often involves manipulation. However, not all manipulation is deceitful. For example, a person in a speech may place jokes here and there to cause people to laugh. This can be considered manipulation and yet it is without deceit. The jokes merely present hilarious phrases that call for laughter. Hence, I will consider manipulation as presentation, the way one communicates ideas that may be either true or false.

It is given that man is influenced by many things in life. This includes friends, music, art, circumstances, etc. It is also true that people are influenced by what people say, which is often how people are manipulated for better or for worse. One of the questions asked during class is whether or not this takes away free will. I do not think any persuasion from mere mortals can accomplish this. If manipulation or influence could take away the will of man, man would be like an animal or anything in nature for that matter. He would react based upon various stimuli, which would imply that man’s actions are dictated by nature and hence without choice. However, it is seen that man is able to make choices since he is able to make wrong choices which would be against nature. Since man is able to make choice, any action taken is the responsibility of the person who acts as opposed to circumstance and manipulation. Of course, it is granted that the person who manipulates and causes others to stumble is not without guilt. However, any person who is manipulated is nevertheless responsible for his own actions.

No person can be without influence, especially since man bases his actions on experiences. It would be worse to be without influence because that would mean for one to be without knowledge since knowledge is influential. It is man’s responsibility to choose the surroundings in his life. Man ought to therefore choose wisely to the best of his ability the most beneficial circumstances.

Why Study?

To SRHI,

What are you eating? There was a passage that I was reading in 1 Corinthians that I thought would be good to share with all of you. Paul states in 1 Cor. 3.1−3:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready; for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

As they are dependent upon others for all their needs, infants are always being fed until they learn to feed themselves. In the same way, the spiritually young are unable to feed themselves with the Word of God. Of course, believers are not meant to stay young in the faith. Believers are meant to grow in their faith. However, in spite of this, many do remain young due to their lack of biblical and theological knowledge, which is what I hope to address in the following thoughts.

The reason why I want to draw attention to the importance of studying Scripture is because there is so much to know. Our knowledge of Scripture and therefore of God is the foundation of our Christian walk. Scripture is not the end goal (that would be Christ), but it is a means to Christ. As we start the new school year, I hope to encourage all of you to grow in studying God and His Word diligently as part of conforming to the likeness of God. Now is the time for us to really focus on learning how to study Scripture as we become thinking, adult Christians.

What I hope to address in the following paragraphs is really why we as followers of Christ need to study Scripture. The main point that I want to get across is this: scriptural knowledge is the foundation for our faith which therefore is necessary for a higher level of communion with God and spiritual guidance.

Sermons and Sunday school lessons are not meant to be the whole of our Christian education. Of course, we do need each other and most importantly, what the other person knows of God, but it is not enough to always be sitting in lectures, to always being fed as opposed to learning to feed ourselves. Oftentimes, we hear people disagree on what the Bible means in certain passages. One thing that we do not want is to take someone else’s word on what the Bible means based on their authority, especially when it is something as important as our knowledge of God and His Word. Besides that, should we ever be satisfied with knowing only what the teachers know? Of experiencing God secondhand through the teacher’s experience? When we only listen to lectures for our Christian education instead of reading the Word for ourselves, we are not forming our own beliefs of who God is, but a conglomeration of other people’s experience. Until we wrestle with our faith and come to our own conclusions as to why we believe what we believe, our faith is not our own. The only way for us to develop our own beliefs is to read from the Word itself and come to an understanding of who God is. The teachers have already struggled with their questions of who God is to them. If we have not, then we are experiencing secondhand accounts of God. We have the living Word in our hands through which we can hear the very voice of God. To put it simply, like any other great book we want to hear Scripture in the author’s own voice, especially since Scripture is the greatest book. Of course, we can hear the voice of God elsewhere, but Scripture itself is the means that God has given us to commune with Him, to be conscientiously aware of His presence.

This leads me into my second point. The Bible is a means for us to know, love, and commune with God. As seen in the passage above, God does not mean for us to remain infants in the faith. This is apparent. What is less apparent is that our knowledge of the Word determines our capacity to love God. In order for us to love anything, we must know what or who it is. Can a person love what he does not know? If we do not know the object we claim to love, we love a false image. Consequently, if we do not know who God is, we do not love God, but a false image of God. In order to spend time with God, we therefore need to know who He is. Biblical studies enable us to know and therefore love who God is.

Hence, personal study is essential to being a good Christian because it functions as the core of one’s faith. One’s knowledge of Scripture and God is meant to be the foundation for all thought and actions, which leads me into my third point. We act based on what we believe. We know what is right based upon what we know of God ultimately because God defines goodness. When we are without knowledge of God and hence virtue, we may commit acts of virtue, but we will not be virtuous ourselves. One is never accidentally virtuous. If we blindly follow the lead of others who tell us what is right without studying why, we may not be committing wrong, but we are certainly not committing any right. The person who commits right acts without right reason does not seem to me to be a good Christian. We are responsible for our beliefs and consequently our actions. If we do not study the Word, do we know why we love God and others? How we are to live in the City of Man while being a citizen of the City of God? Can we be conformed to the likeness of God without knowledge of God?

In conclusion, we ought to be Christian scholars because we cannot expect to be good and virtuous Christians without personal study. One way in which we can enhance our pursuit is by spending time reading and studying the Word of God, asking questions, and discussing the various passages with others. When we have this burning passion to know God more, we may as a group even want to pursue theological studies. As we become adult Christians, we should be able to articulate our faith and know what is in Scripture. In the end, we will be held accountable for our beliefs by God such that we are going to have to answer to God why we believed what we believed. After all, God commands each of us to love Him with all of one’s mind.