“A mighty fortress is our God
A bulwark never failing…”
Through the turning of more than 500 calendar years, these words have rang out in churches, homes, and hearts around the globe - and are still sung on the regular by students and teachers at Veritas Academy.
What a powerful reminder for all of us - young kids, teenagers entering the world and workforce, parents, grandparents, and adults alike - that as believers in Christ we have a mighty fortress where we can abide when turbulence rages around us.
There are plenty of stirring new worship songs released in recent years that minister to our hearts. But sometimes it’s these old hymns - with words and melodies repeated by the cloud of witnesses who came before us over the centuries - that prove to have the most staying power in our souls.
And now here we are, at the dawning of yet another new year that promises new ideas, new opportunities, and, yes, new songs to sing. Good things are sure to come, indeed. And as any year does, the next 12 months will also bring new challenges, new troubles, new enemy onslaughts that will require a mighty fortress, an unfailing bulwark.
Whether you welcome 2022 with open-armed optimism, or are tiptoeing in with trepidation, the fact remains: you will face a barrage of new things (both good and bad), and you will find the need of old truths on which you can rely.
It’s a good time to remind ourselves of the need to strike a balance between what’s new and what’s true.
A New Year: Taking Stock of What Changes and What Remains
So, speaking of the need for a mighty fortress…the last two years have been tumultuous, no?
Actually, scratch that. The tumult, though magnified by a pandemic and wave upon wave of social injustice causes, didn’t really begin in 2020. As Billy Joel declared decades ago, “we didn’t start the fire.”
Yes, the rapid-fire pace at which our culture presented with the latest tragedy or cause du jour seems to have accelerated in recent years (read an interesting article by Dr. Carl Trueman on some of the impacts of the ever-shifting moral tastes of popular culture). But the reality is that thousands of years ago, even Heraclitus famously said “change is the only constant in life.”
The new year is a time we often welcome change. As a school, there are numerous new and exciting things on the immediate horizon (and plenty of change that began last year). Our recent building purchase brought a flurry of wonderful new developments around Veritas Academy, like an HVAC system, fresh paint, additional classroom spaces, and an in-the-works master plan to guide our projects into the future.
In a recent video message to our school community, Head of School Ty Fischer remarked that a new year is a good time to take stock of what’s really important to keep and what to cast off.
“Some things can change readily - like the colors of our walls,” Ty said. “Other things should never change, like our commitment to Christ and to providing a classical Christian education.”
At Veritas, he goes on to say, we often think about the new and the true.
“Our culture often seems to think that the new trumps everything. Here, we appreciate the new, but we want to also cling to what’s true.”
Ancient Truth for Young Lives
At first glance, one may think that a classical education is entirely about the old and traditional. Even the primary definitions of the word “classical” (standard, classic; of or relating to the ancient Greek and Roman world and especially to its literature, art, architecture, or ideals) may lead a person to visions of togas, ancient ruins, and all things, well, old.
But just like Martin Luther’s aged hymns provide wisdom and comfort even in today’s climate, so too do we realize that often that the time-tested things can be most useful in an ever-evolving, chaotic world.
Our very name testifies to this commitment. Veritas = truth. And truth is constant, no matter the whims or weather of our culture. The truth to which we adhere is God's infallible Word. Our God, who is making all things new and yet is the Ancient of Days, eternal and unchanging. Though unchanging, He is never stagnant.
It is this life-giving Truth that we live for at Veritas, and that daily guides our students and teachers. Yet, though many of the methods and words we apply have ancient roots, life and learning is anything but stale or stagnant.
That's because having a firm foundation on what's true provides great freedom and joy. Though we have traditions at school that are repeated day after day, year after year, they provide a springboard to meet new challenges and welcome new seasons with confidence.
Classical Christian education has a way of bringing truth to life, and of making use of the “ancient paths” in a way that prepares students for new life in an ever-changing world. You, too, can follow suit!
Applying Classical Christian Ways for New and Uncertain Days
Read things that stand the test of time
There are some fantastic authors out there today, with eye-opening insights and heart-pounding stories to challenge and inspire you. By all means, read them (with discernment). But build your reading repertoire with the classics that have shaped history.
Veritas students read the masterpieces of the Western world, Great Books which, though not "easy reads" help us better understand our history, human nature, cultural ideas, and more. The books that have stood the test of time – those to which historians, scholars, and the general public alike return again and again – are classics for a reason. Your life will be enriched by many of these in ways that the latest bestseller might not offer.
Repeat truth over and over
Write it on your doorposts. Bind it to your foreheads. Sing it to one another, until it is firmly planted in your heart and on your lips. Find those scripture verses that give you a stronghold when you feel weak.
Especially in Grammar School, Veritas students repeat the basics of what they're learning through songs and chants regularly. Through this repetition, the facts are cemented in their minds, formed and ready to grasp when they need to build upon them.
Know what's true, and repeat it – out loud, in writing, in your heart – so you can readily grab hold of it and build upon it in every new challenge that comes this year.
Employ critical thinking
Classical Christian educations dedicates the middle school phase to the study and practice of Logic. Students at a stage of development ripe with a desire to reason and argue are given the tools of thinking critically through ideas and identifying fallacies, so that when they tackle the concepts found in Mein Kampf or The Communist Manifesto later in high school – or when they encounter the latest postmodern idea in college or adulthood – they can pull from these skills.
You may have never taken a formal logic class (a big benefit of classical Christian education in itself!), but you can still pull from what you know to be true and use those truths to inform sound reasoning, so that you are not "tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)
Above all, keep God at the center
All truth is God's truth.
Augustine and Aquinas iterated this concept, and a classical Christian education centers all learning around it. God is sovereign and the perfect Creator of all things. With Christ as the cornerstone, all knowledge is passed through the prism of His glory, and through this process we can better perceive the beauty of mathematics, the wonderful complexity of science, the masterful story of history, and so on.
He was before the beginning. He will be beyond eternity. And his standard of truth remains. And so, we train ourselves to "take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ," (2 Corinthians 10:5) and recognize that "the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 2:6)
A Veritas student, Harman McKnight after his sophomore, remarked (in response to a discussion about how he sees God at work in math) that "after this year, I found that every single detail that we learned not only has a purpose, but exists in God's creation. Just in trigonometry, I've learned that God gave us the ability to measure angles to build incredible structures, or find our position in the world simply by measuring the angles of the stars."
Ty concluded his video message with these words:
“At Veritas, we teach our students to find those things that are good and permanent and true, because on those things you can build a thriving and joyful life.
“Here’s to the new year. And here’s to both enjoying those things that are new and clinging to those things that are true.”
If a classical Christian education is something you desire for your family, we invite you to visit us for a school tour to see our students and teachers in action! Opportunities to visit abound this winter and spring, and now is the time to begin thinking about enrolling your students for next school year. Click the button below for more information!