28 June, 2010

Is It Time to Move Forward?

I just got back from the 10th annual meeting of the CCLE at St. Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, Missouri (or rather, I got back last Wednesday, but had to turn my attention to the far more pressing matter of house painting before I could turn my attention to this post).

In any event, back in Concordia I had a chance to make two presentations, one rather brief, advertising the upcoming conference, Lutheranism and the Classics at Concordia Theol. Sem., Ft. Wayne, the other more extended, discussing the North American [Lutheran] higher education scene with these Lutheran folks interested in classical Lutheran education. By the end of the session, the group in attendance expressed overwhelming support for moving ahead with the formation of an institution of higher education here in North America on the Wittenberg model. The group included laity and clergy, academics and non-academics alike. Many expressed to me that there's a real a thirst and desire "out there" among Christians of the Augsburg Confession for such an education at the higher level, and another put the urgency of the case like this: "Strike while the iron's hot."

Are we, then, to move ahead? Initially this will require assembling an exploratory/investigative board. But before even doing that, I'd like to know what you think. What do readers of Ren. Mus. think about inchoative planning toward a Gnesio-Lutheran institution of higher education? Please register your thoughts!

14 June, 2010

From the Fish's Mouth

Amongst a spate of recent articles extolling the virtues of a traditional humanistic education (more on which in coming days) comes this, from the [Stanley] Fish's mouth, really a review cum reflections on three recent books on traditional, aka classical, aka humanistic education. To whet the appetite I give you this:
Begin with “a well conceived, coherent, sequential curriculum,” and then “adjust other parts of the education system to support the goals of learning.” This will produce a “foundation of knowledge and skills that grows stronger each year.” Forget about the latest fad and quick-fix, and buckle down to the time-honored, traditional “study and practice of the liberal arts and sciences: history, literature, geography, the sciences, civics, mathematics, the arts and foreign languages.”
Need one say more?
For the rest of the article, click here.

11 June, 2010

Springer on Aesop

Issues, Etc. has kindly granted us permission to link Carl Springer's recent interview on his work on Luther's edition, which never came to print, of Aesop's Fables. For more, click here.

02 June, 2010

Rescuing the Humanities from Themselves the Wittenberg Way

James Mulholland’s recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece, “It’s Time to Stop Mourning the Humanities,” provides a compelling case for making a different case about the humanities within the larger university and contemporary culture. Chief among his recommendations is developing a non-esoteric vocabulary for and about the humane disciplines so that the humanities may, once again, be made conversant with the larger culture, to which we at Renascentes Musae say, “Yea and Amen.”

Indeed, where the humanities stand today in North America is linked in no small part to the adoption in the late 19th century of the German university model of higher education. Within that model, all disciplines are, well, disciplines, each with their own “scientific” language, and this language has grown ever more esoteric over the years and is now encumbered, especially in the literary disciplines, by the linguistic overlays of over a century of critical fads, ranging from the New Criticism to today’s post-modernism. Humanists use this critical vocabulary, every bit as esoteric as the language of quantum physics, to justify their disciplines within a university system organized around the German principle of Wissenschaften, “sciences.”

In other words, humanists’ practice of talking about what are essentially everyday literary phenomena, for example, in an impenetrable jargon meant only for specialists demonstrates, at least to humanists, that the humanities have arrived: quantum physics with its complicated conceptual framework and equally arcane vocabulary has nothing on the humanities. It is, in fact, difficult to see just what function within the university the humanities any longer have apart from being that field upon which scholars demonstrate their intellectual agility. The artifacts of humanities—the texts and monuments and deeds of the past—frequently serve as the material for just that.

The Wittenberg approach differs from the contemporary model in some basic ways. First, the Wittenberg model doesn’t adopt an instrumental view of the artifacts of the humanities. The Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid, to mention but a few works, are, rather, viewed not as things through which we create an esoteric message, but as things that create their own message. The reader in this model is the one addressed.

And that brings us to another point. The humanities looked at in the Wittenberg way—and you can see this in the Wittenberg approach to Scripture—have an intrinsic value. As bearers of a message, they demand to be heard. And since they demand to be heard, the first interpretive act is that of the text on the reader, not vice versa. In other words, the Aeneid first asks of me how it is that I, like Aeneas, do or do not fulfill my obligation to ancestors and posterity, gods and nation. This line can be repeated and deepened across the range of works that constitute the artifacts of humanistic inquiry.

But it’s just here that the humanities come in for rough weather, because the German-model university in its contemporary incarnation is, or is thought to be, valueless (actually, it’s rather the case that the university is permeated by values—frequently, however, they just don’t happen to be those expressed in the Great Tradition). Which suggests that Mulholland’s idea of finding a new justification for the humanities within the university may be a losing battle. If we let the humanities speak simply and as they are, they bear a message we’re not willing to hear, unless we can first hedge and criticize.

But not in a university or college conceived of in the Wittenberg way. There, where a regard for text and message lies at the heart of the intellectual enterprise, the humanities are not just top-dressing, they are the guts of the educational endeavor, its marrow, each reading of a text a little workshop in letting the text interpret the reader, and not vice versa; each interpretation by the reader of a text an act of charity that allows the text, as speaker, to make its claim upon the reader, as audience, as is only proper in a civilized society.

This in turn emerges from and is part and parcel of the high Lutheran regard for Scripture, which “is not of private interpretation” because it’s a public address by the Most High God to a fallen and dead humanity that He wishes, through His Word, to heal and raise and vivify.

And herein lies the relevance to Lutheran higher education of the humanities, a “cultural” and “university-wide” relevance hardly imaginable in the broader culture and broader university culture of today, but no less significant for that fact—in fact, all the more necessary.

01 June, 2010

Orthodox Lutherans in Academia

A Registry of Lutheran Faculty to help Lutheran students attending college at secular or non-synodical conference schools is underway at orthluthia. This is a website that will help you or your friends and relatives or parishioners get in touch with confessionally-minded faculty at colleges and universities across the States and Canada and may even help advise you on where to attend college.
If you are a faculty member at a school not owned and run by the LCMS, WELS, ELS, or CLC but are a consciously confessional Lutheran, see as part of your vocation as a Christian on campus aiding students to remain steadfast in their faith and confession, and wish to be contacted by such students, please write to jonbruss@yahoo.com with your full name, institution, department, email address, parish affiliation, and synodical affiliation.
Here's what orthluthia says about itself:

Most college students raised in Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, and Evangelical Lutheran Synod households do not, for whatever reason, attend synodical colleges. This website is for them and their families, because their continued connection with the Evangelical Lutheran Church is of utmost importance. In the presence of the Means of Grace—the Word and the Word in the Sacraments—faith in Christ is created, fed, and nourished. Apart from the Means of Grace, this faith withers and dies. It’s quite that simple.

Ironically, in the face of the increasingly confusing and pluralistic spiritual marketplace of academia, the Lutheran chapel network across North America is, with some certain bright exceptions, being cut, curtailed, or undercut. Simultaneously, many Lutheran chapels have traded in their birthright to vigorous and unapologetic Lutheranism in doctrine and practice for a pottage of a vague and light pan-Christianity that fails to embrace the Lutheran distinctives.

Orth[odox] Luth[erans] i[n] a[cademia], orthluthia, is designed to put students from orthodox Lutheran homes into contact with orthodox Lutheran faculty. Those listed here have volunteered their names and contact information because they want to help students maintain their confession in the face of indifference on the one hand and animosity on the other. If you are student or family member or pastor of a student, please use this site! It’s meant to be used, not looked at.