Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Brief Review of Annual Summer Training at Logos School, Moscow Idaho

From Kent Brandenburg:  Our other pastor, Dave Sutton, and one other man who also teaches in our school, Bethel Christian Academy, traveled to Moscow, Idaho last week to attend the Annual Summer Training of the Logos School, the school founded by Douglas Wilson, whom some call the father of modern Christian classical education.  I asked Pastor Sutton if he wouldn't mind giving a critique or review of the time there, because I thought it would be of interest to our readers.  By the way, although this is unusual for us, we don't view attending a conference such as this to be scriptural fellowship.  We are not working or cooperating with Logos or Christ Church in church ministry.  Dave Sutton said there seemed to be about 200 in attendance.  There is a lot someone could get from what Wilson and the Logos School do there, but I asked Dave if he would especially focus on what he mainly saw was different from us.

By Pastor David Sutton

Last week I attended the teacher’s and administrator’s conference hosted by the Logos School in Moscow, Idaho.  I am sure most people who read this blog recognize the name Douglas Wilson, who was one of the founders of this school.  It is a classical Christian school.  I have read Wilson’s books on classical Christian education, and several years ago a friend invited me to spend several days observing the content and teaching methods of his Christian school, which is also classical in its approach

I have to admit that I am impressed with the thinking and reasoning skills of students who are classically trained.  So one of our teachers and I went to the conference to glean from what Logos does.  The conference was extremely organized; and the speakers were thoughtful, helpful, and obviously intelligent.  They do a lot well, and I learned things both educationally and administratively from them.

I went to the conference knowing that our church is very different from the beliefs and practices that Douglas Wilson and those around him have.  However, I do know they are thinking people, and I figured I would benefit from their insight into education.  At the same time, I wanted to get a better grasp on classical education, and identify what really makes it tick.  What I gleaned from my conversations with the school leadership is that worldview is essential.  I know how I look at the world and how a Christian is to think and what life is to be based on; so okay, let me see your worldview.  I’m ready.   Here’s my observation:

First, they spend more time quoting C.S. Lewis, Herodotus, or some other classical scholar than they do Jesus, Paul, or anybody else in Scripture.  I’m not saying that they used zero Scripture: they did use Scripture; but the Bible was not the focus of their system.  They use the Trivium model of instruction as outlined by Dorothy Sayers in her article The Lost Tools of Learning.  (The three stages of learning are the grammar stage, the logic stage, and the rhetoric stage.)  These stages correspond to the learning sequence of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom found in Proverbs 2:1-6 and 4:5-7.  Dorothy Sayers may have recognized through observation the sequence Solomon wrote of.  But if I am going to incorporate a style of pedagogy, I want to do it because the Bible says it, not because Dorothy Sayers says it.  At the conference, Sayers was mentioned more than Solomon.  What does this say about worldview?  The Bible takes a back seat to the experts.  This undermines the teaching that the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.

Second, when they did use Scripture, it was often with a glancing blow.  If they read a verse to make a point, they did not comment on the verse, did not drill down on it; they just moved on (the plenary sessions were better).  Logos School does a sterling job getting students to think logically and deeply and to speak persuasively.  But think about what? Speak about what?  Ultimately, isn’t our thinking to be based on the specifics of what Scripture says?  I mean chapter and verse, so that our students are settled on doctrine and practice.  Jesus said that we are to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.  If what I observed is the modus operandi  for a conference for academic leaders, what is happening day by day at Logos, and what are they promoting to the schools attending the conference?  To me it is a worldview that is very general in nature.  They say they want to influence society for Christ, but if we don’t teach our children carefully and thoroughly from the Scriptures, they will be drawn away, despite any logical and rhetorical skills (cf. Eph. 4:11-14).

Finally, their application of Christian worldview is inconsistent and pragmatic.  What I mean is this: they teach their students to identify virtuous character traits in a given piece of literature, because who can argue against such behavior.  Parents want this.  On the other hand, when it comes to the age of the earth, they do not take a position.  Why?  They can’t get away with taking a side.  The issue is too controversial, and they risk losing students.  They are not neutral on alcohol, though.  But that one, they can get away with (unfortunately).   Kind of reminds me of the time Jesus asked the religious leaders if John’s baptism was from heaven or of men.  After mulling over their quandary, they said, “We cannot tell” (Mt. 21:25-27).  They were plenty bold, when they thought they had the upper hand; but when an honest answer would hurt them, they went PC.   Not a very good worldview.

Again, Logos School does a lot of things well, and I am glad I picked some of those things up.  But their worldview is not as Bible-centered as they think.


KJB1611 said...

Douglas Wilson's baptismal regeneration is also not a little bit of a problem, since his false gospel means he is going to hell.

Kent Brandenburg said...


We're not doing an all out review of Douglas Wilson. This was a review of what was seen. Are you opposed to classical education?

Kent Brandenburg said...

To know what Wilson believes, this is a good place to get it from the horses mouth:

Here is one statement by Wilson from the above pdf on what he believes on baptism and its relationship to justification. It is far off scripture and what we believe. These types of statements confuse the doctrine of salvation in a big way.

"I believe that a child in a believing home is federally holy before baptism, and that is the reason he is to be baptized. When he is baptized, his organic inclusion among
the covenant people is being ratified in some sense. He is formally and sacramentally joined to "the way of righteousness." When an adult convert comes in by means of baptism, he is also being joined to the way of righteousness, or, if you like, the way of justification. Peter speaks of the apostates departing from this way. So yes, in some sense, the word justification could legitimately be used to describe what occurs at baptism. But such a use of the word is likely to confused with the sense of justification as it applies to men who are actually being declared right with God. Consequently, I would generally want to avoid talking this way unless there was some pressing reason for it (like having to exegete 2 Pet. 2:21). I have no problem with the same word having different uses and definitions, but we do have an obligation to keep the various uses from getting all jumbled up. That is why, when I address things like this, I speak of "an unjustified member of a justified community." I would rather speak in paradox than in equivocation or confusion. Not all the sons of Sarah are sons of Sarah."

KJB1611 said...

Dear Pastor Brandenburg,

I think classical education could be great, but I would teach everyone Greek instead of Latin, et cetera.

SCH said...

What is classical education?

Dave Sutton said...


Classical education is an approach to education that gives students the tools to learn on their own. It teaches students how to learn. It divides up the K-12th grades into three categories called the Trivium—the grammar stage (K-4th), the logic stage (5th-8th or 9th), and the rhetoric stage (10th-12th). It approaches learning each subject through these three stages as well. Classical educators teach content that the ancients studied, like logic and rhetoric as courses, Latin, and the best literature; then they apply teaching techniques consistent with the age level.

SCH said...

Is classical Christian education the same thing as classical education?