Rising to the Challenge

Homeschool GraduationRising to the Challenge – James Stobaugh Interview, Part 2

Inadequacy. It’s probably one of the primary reasons many homeschool moms struggle and eventually give up homeschooling. I know I constantly struggle with inadequacy. I consistently find myself asking questions—and I’m sure you do as well—such as:

  • I never learned this in school myself. How can I ever teach it.
  • I was unmotivated as a student myself when I was that age. And, I I’m an unmotivated teacher. How can I possibly motivate my student to excel?
  • My kids don’t respond well to me. How will they ever learn!
  • I’m so disorganized. I never carry through with the homeschool plans I’ve made.
  • If I homeschool through high school, I’ll ruin them!

 The siren call of inadequacy. Satan whispering in our ears: “You can’t do it. You’re not capable. Your kids will be ruined and it will be your fault. Certainly scripture promises that God equips us when He calls us, is strong when we are weak, is adequate when we are inadequate…but did He really say…?” Echoes of Eve reverberating through our souls.

The truth is—and you know it—that God DOES equip us, strengthen us, and is more than adequate in and through us. You do know it. It’s scriptural. It’s truth.

 I preface this newest post with these thoughts, because if you’re like me, you can read the rest of this post and feel so incapable. You’ll recognize the truths you’re reading and think, “Exactly…how can inadequate me ever accomplish all that needs to be done.” But, Mom, please remember as you read these truths penned by James Stobaugh to allow God to inspire you. Don’t give in to fear, to the whispers of Satan, the echoes of Eve. Remember as you read that God will equip and strengthen you. That is truth. So read…and get excited!

In my last post I had asked James Stobaugh if there was anything else he’d like to share – anything burning on his heart – that he’d like to share with homeschool parents who are looking at his curriculum. His response was much broader in its application than just to his new curriculum. His response encompassed homeschool education as a whole. Here’s what James wants to share with you.

James: The heart of these American, British, and World Literature courses is the notion of rhetoric, which is the ability to communicate effectively through the written and spoken word. Written and spoken are the crucial concepts of understanding rhetoric. We can communicate well enough by sending a photograph of something or a CD with music describing something, or painting a picture of something, but that is not rhetoric. Rhetoric is a discipline demanding that a writer dutifully follow laws of grammar, logic, and communication to explain and to describe something.

Quality rhetoric is important and necessary. I agree with Greek philosophers that a democracy demands a responsible, well-considered rhetoric. It is absolutely necessary that we participate in legitimate conversation about important issues. Rhetoric will help us do that.

Rhetoric demands that we reclaim the use of metaphor. A metaphor is a word picture. It describes one thing with a dissimilar thing. It demands discipline and control. A four-year-old cannot understand predestination, for instance, unless the communicator pulls out experiences and images that are familiar to the four-year-old. To describe predestination from the perspective of a seminary professor might be accurate, but it is not rhetoric for a four-year-old. We can take a picture of a sunset and send it to millions of people via e-mail, but that is not rhetoric either.

 Rhetoric is the attempt to communicate [a sunset] by the use of the spoken or written word. Thus, metaphor is at the heart of rhetoric, and rhetoric is at the heart of classical education.

 Rhetoric is also at the heart of apologetics, a systematic argumentative discourse in defense of Christianity. It is my prayer that these courses will ultimately prepare your students to think apologetically. To ignore rhetoric is to invite ourselves on a dangerous search for truth. Our mindless search for relevance and literalness has gotten us pretty lost in the cosmos. When something we seek is so easily obtained by computer chip or digital photograph, then we lazily refuse to engage ourselves in the discipline of metaphor, or even of thinking.

For example, love is not easily photographed. Only the metaphor does it justice. Question: if we lose the written metaphor, will we also lose love? How can we understand 1 Corinthians13 without first understanding metaphor? Metaphor, or comparison between two ostensibly dissimilar phenomena, is absolutely critical to understanding abstract theological concepts, and, for that matter, it is critical to creative problem solving.

 The problems of this age demand a kind of thinking that is promoted and encouraged by rhetoric. The problems of this age will “literally” remain unsolved. However, rhetoric, through the power of metaphor, will invite this generation to look for more creative solutions. Immorality, for instance, will not be removed unless we look to the written Word, that is, the Bible, for answers. Nothing in our experience offers a solution. We will not understand the Bible unless we can employ metaphorical thinking. How else will we apply the Savior’s ethical teachings spoken 2000 years ago?

Metaphor, along with other mysteries, has become victim of 20th century pretension, pomposity, and obsequious thinking. Loss of metaphor is only the beginning of the problem. Could it be that great literary works are no longer read—and if they are—there are no rules for interpreting them? In philosophy, indeed in all communication, truth and reality are considered relative. Without rules the rhetorician is invited to come to any kind of conclusion and is on shaky ground. At times it seems that evangelical Christians, who believe in a personal relationship with God, as well as non-Christians, have both sold out to modernity. We have both embraced a sort of existential faith instead of a confessional faith: if it feels good do it and believe it. Unless evangelicals participate in serious apologetics, God will be “weightless.”

 The rise of relativism has had disastrous results. Rhetoric ferrets out truth. If there is no truth, can there be any sense of authority? And can a society survive if there is no authority? Without a legitimate, honest, well-considered rhetoric, will history be reduced to the “pleasure principle”?

 In some ways American Evangelical Christianity’s loss of rhetorical skills—and I think rhetoric is akin to apologetics—has presaged disaster in many arenas. Without rhetoric, we Christians have no tools to engage modern culture. In some ways we have lost mainline denominations to neo-orthodoxy, and we have lost universities to liberals. Where is a modern Jonathan Edwards? A modern C. S. Lewis? Good thinking and good talking may redeem the Church from both the Overzealous and the Skeptic. Rhetorical skills may help us regain the intellectual and spiritual high ground we so grievously surrendered without a fight. WE Christians have conceded much of American culture to modernism by our inability to merge thought and communication in cogency and inspiration. We fail to persuade the modernist culture. Without the main tool to do battle—rhetoric—evangelicals allow orthodoxy to be sacrificed on the altar of relativism. Basically, American Literature, British Literature, and World Literature are more than 3 challenging English courses; they are an attempt to equip this generation of students to participate in apologetics.

 Me: Thank you again, James, for taking time to talk to homeschool moms, to encourage us and spur us on in this endeavor! Moms, if you would like an opportunity to win more than $160 worth of James Stobaugh’s new literature curriculum, don’t forget to check back on November 16, Free Book Friday!

 James P. StobaughFree Book Friday

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