I (Jeff) recently started teaching apologetics to the youth at the church I pastor (Lebanon Presbyterian Church), in South Carolina. Obviously I hope that the material sticks with the youth for the rest of their lives. I believe the best way to learn a subject, or even to teach a subject is by way of the Trivium. Trivium means, three ways, which are: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. These three ways correspond to the particular ages of a person, and how a person at a particular age learns the best (there is some overlap). For example, the Grammar stage was also called, by Dorothy Sayers the “Poll-Parrot” stage. She said, “The Poll-Parrot stage is the one in which learning by heart is easy and, on the whole, pleasurable; whereas reasoning is difficult and, on the whole, little relished. At this age, one readily memorizes the shapes and appearances of things; one likes to recite the number-plates of cars; one rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things” For more information on the classical model of education click here. By the way, this method of learning can be applied to any subject, by anyone.
Since many in this class have never heard of apologetics, my goal is to teach this class using the classical model of education. I’ve stated (with the help of others) in the following ways what I intend to accomplish with this class, which coincide with the trivium:
(1) Knowing what you believe (grammar stage – knowledge. Memorize facts)
(2) Knowing why you believe what you believe (dialectic stage – understanding. Discover facts)
(3) Being able and willing to explain what and why you believe (rhetoric stage – wisdom. Explaining the facts)
(1) A Confident Christian – knowing what you believe (Grammar stage)
(2) A Clear thinking Christian – knowing why you believe what you believe (Dialectic stage)
(3) A Courageous and Graceful Christian in every encounter – being able to communicate what you believe and why (Rhetoric stage)
(1) Head – knowing what you believe (grammar stage)
(2) Heart – knowing why you believe (dialectic stage)
(3) Hands – being able and willing to communicate what and why you believe (rhetoric stage)
I am trying to accomplish two things with this class, at least for a portion of the class. I have a young lady who expressed interest in becoming a member of the church, so I’m including material that I would cover in a “new members class.” Currently I am answering the question “Who is an apologist?” while at the dealing with the material contained in the first membership question of the PCA, “Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving his displeasure, and without hope save in his sovereign mercy?” There are some obvious topics that are in back of this question, such as God as creator and man as creature, the fall, sin, etc. So, the past two weeks we’ve talked about these topics.
The youngest in my class is 9 years old and the oldest is 16. There will be a lot repetition at times, almost like learning Greek paradigms, but this should benefit the entire class. Sometimes we’ll cover all three stages of learning in a single class, but the focus, at least for a time, we’ll be in the grammar stage.
I’m not sure if the classes will be helpful to our readers, but I’ll post links to the first three, just in case.
I haven’t introduced any books to the class; we’re just not there at this point, but I would recommend the following for an introductory class on apologetics:
Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word, Voddie Baucham Jr.
I’ll leave you with the following quotations which, in my mind are so important:
“In the study of history the first step is to learn the facts. No amount of topical study, no amount of reflection on the principles of the history, will result in anything better than a mental jumble, unless the memory has first retained the framework of the fact.” – J. Gresham Machen, The New Testament: An Introduction to its Literature and History, 9.
“The real job of every moral teacher is to keep bringing us back to the simple principles which we’re so anxious not to see.” – C. S. Lewis