Kevin Swanson introduces Christian Classics Study Guide - Volume I with two claims. First, he says most education is nothing of the kind, and that children are only properly educated when they're taught to love God and pursue righteousness. Second, he believes that, while it's important for students to read great literature by both Christians and non-Christians, preference should be shown to the works of the saints.
The two cities of Man and God, for Swanson, are clearly represented in the world's great literature. Christian students should devote special attention to that produced within the city of God, focusing primarily on the Bible itself and secondarily on those works by godly men and women throughout the ages. It would be a shame for our kids to know more about Milton or Shakespeare than they do about the Bible, but it's equally wrong to think they can understand the Bible better than or without the help of brilliant saints from the past.
With that in mind, Christian Classics Study Guide - Volume I is a high school level introduction to four of the best books written by Christians: the Confessions of St. Augustine, Thomas Á Kempis' Imitation of Christ, the Institutes of John Calvin, and John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Swanson leads students through an investigation of each one both as literature and as a guide to spiritual progress and maturity.
Each text is to be read in full, except Calvin's Institutes (which are abridged) and the Confessions of Augustine (of which students only read the first ten autobiographical books). A good education, Swanson contends, is not measured by the quantity of books a student has read, but by the quality of the books he reads and by how well he understands and is shaped by them.
Students read portions of each text, answer questions in the consumable guide, and define vocabulary words; suggested answers are included in the back. This can work with much or little parent direction, though students generally learn the most when able to discuss ideas and opinions. Swanson believes very strongly in the family's collaborative role for education, and there are questions throughout the guide that could just as easily generate dinner-table discussions as written work.
The Christian's greatest goal is not to be wise in the ways of the city of man, but to know and love his God. This guide helps students on an academic level by providing the basis of genuine literary analysis, while encouraging and leading them toward a better appreciation of God's nature and the ways in which man can know Him. If you want to raise your kids in the fear and admonition of the Lord without neglecting their intellectual formation, Christian Classics Study Guide - Volume I is an excellent place to start.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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