Teaching Composition - RR148G14

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: Teaching Composition: Principles and Philosophies
Course: Course - Philosophy of Christian Eduction in Christian Schools
Subject: Subject:Education
Lesson#: 14
Length: 1:15:46
TapeCode: RR148G14
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Philosophy of Christian Eduction in Christian Schools.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.

Teaching of composition, the principles of teaching composition, the basic philosophy. Now first of all, teaching composition means teaching good writing. Not professional writing, but clear, intelligible writing. Second, good writing is clear thinking. Muddled thinking is a headache in every area of life. It is a duty for us, as Christians, to think clearly. Then third, the purpose of punctuation, grammar, etc., is to further clear thinking.

Now, let us pause to analyze the implications of these facts. It is impossible for man to think without words. Try for a moment to think without the use of words. The idea is an impossibility. Everything in us makes us think in terms of words, so that the association, whether it is between ideas or emotions, or feelings, or plans and purposes, is clearly with words. Moreover, we think in terms of a particular language, and the words thereof. There are perhaps two or three of us who are here who are bilingual. How many of you learned a language in the home other than English? About six of us. Well, we find, when we are bilingual, that at some point or other we switch in our thinking from the one language to the other, although we can always fall back on two, and it does add a certain dimension and richness to our ability to think, because words are tools, the greater our vocabulary and the greater the extent of our linguistic outreach, and the earlier we get it, the richer our ability to think and to comprehend things becomes. [00:03:37]

Though implies structure and order so that whenever...[edit]

Though implies structure and order so that whenever we think, we think with words and our thinking has structure and it has order. This is inescapable. If structure and order is inescapable to thinking it must therefore be inescapable to education, and you cannot escape when you teach composition in particular, giving great weight to words, to structure, and to order. Words give expression to ideas, to abstractions, to collective things, to constituent aspects, so that thinking is a verbal skill. By means of words, we are able to dissect things and to analyze them, to put things together, to come to conclusions. Words give us a tremendous range of tools. [

One of the problems of modern mechanics is that because cars are so complex now, unlike what they were thirty years ago, it requires quite an expensive set of tools in order to be able to work on several makes of cars. Similarly, as the world grows more advanced, the number of verbal tools we need to cope with the world around us becomes greater. This is why verbal skills become progressively more and more important with each generation. Consider the difference, for example, in the life of a man who, two hundred years ago, lived on a farm with a reasonable amount of self-sufficiency, provided a fair percentage of his own food and his own clothing, although absolute self-sufficiency has never been a reality, but when men had a reasonable self-sufficiency, the number of verbal tools he needed was far less extensive than what is necessary today, because today we move in a given day through a vast complexity of affairs and things, and we are continually surrounded by tools, equipment, modern devices which have extended the range of our vocabulary and put a demand upon our understanding, upon our comprehension. Grammar gives structure and intelligent sequence, and temporal order to word arrangements, and it enables us to cope with a complexity of things. [00:07:36]

The word grammar comes from a Greek meaning ...[edit]

The word grammar comes from a Greek meaning “to write,” and hence, it has always in mind the ordered sequential arrangement of things in permanent fashion. Thought means words and words mean ideas and structure. It is interesting that one of the names of our Lord Jesus Christ or titles is the Logos, or the word. Our Lord is called the Word because He is the meaning, the structure, the word of life. “All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made.”

Now, the first great heresy within the church that threatened its life for a time was Arianism, named after the presbyter, Arius. Arius denied that Jesus was the word of God. He spoke in favor of a wordless God. Jesus Christ was, for Arius, a supernatural creature, not God but not man. As a result, he was not man’s savior really. Arius claimed to be presenting a higher doctrine of God than did the orthodox scholars and theologians of the Christian church. His god was so great that he was beyond expression in a word. Hence, his god could not give a word either in the person of Christ, the Word, or any word such as scripture. Now, what Arius, in disguised form, was offering was a death of God theology. A god who cannot speak, who is wordless, is an unconscious, in fact, not a living god. Hence, for us, the doctrine of the word of God, Jesus Christ, and the enscriptured word, the Bible, is basic, It declares that we have fully personal self-conscious God who, when He speaks, can only speak infallibly and who can express Himself totally and perfectly in His incarnate word, Jesus, the Christ. [00:10:53]

Today, we have a great deal of opposition to the idea...[edit]

Today, we have a great deal of opposition to the idea of propositional truth. Now, one of you here asked me about the Toronto Institute for Christian Studies. The Toronto Institute for Christian Studies claims to be not a Reformed school of thought, but a reformational school of thought, so it must not be confused with Calvinistic schools. Why reformational? Because it insists that man’s world and thought must be continually subjected to change in terms of an ongoing spirit of revelation. There is no final word for these thinkers. They do not hold to the infallible word nor to the doctrine of creation. Hence, they hold to an ongoing Bartian type of revelation, in which, when we listen to the word in the Bible, the Bible is not itself the word, we are somehow inspired and we hear the word for our time. The Toronto school, like so many, many existentialist schools of our day, is bitterly hostile to the concept of propositional truth.

What is propositional truth? Propositional truth is simply truth that can be stated in propositions, in flat out statements. For example, the first verse of the gospel of John is a propositional statement, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That is a proposition. It does not claim to be a poetic statement. It claims to be a flat-out statement of the truth. The Apostles Creed is a propositional statement. It tells us, in a series of propositions, what the Christian faith is, that we believe in God the Father Almighty, that we believe in Jesus Christ His only begotten son, that he was indeed born of the virgin Mary, that though he was in time crucified and died, he rose again from the dead., and that he now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From beginning to end, the Apostles Creed gives us propositional truths, which give us the truth about the triune God, and about the world. [00:14:20]

Now, to deny propositional truth is really to deny...[edit]

Now, to deny propositional truth is really to deny all truth. It means affirming a meaningless universe. It is an existential position, because it holds that nothing outside of man can be propositional. Nothing outside of man can be true, but we believe, as Christians, not only in propositional truth, but we believe that words are propositions, miniature propositional truths. Words are aspects of our world and our means of assessing, measuring, and weighing truth. Every word is a measured area of reality described. When we use the word “inch,” we have a proposition. It tells us that a given length is so much and no more. It sets forth the proposition in a word. Every word then, when it is properly used thus, is a miniature proposition, and language is a means whereby propositional truths can be set forth. For humanism, all things being relative to man, words cannot set forth propositional truths because there are no truths outside of man.

As a result, whenever and wherever we account an opposition to propositional truth, we need to recognize that we are dealing with the enemies of God and His word, even though as with the Toronto school, they come in the name of that faith. The denial of propositional truth is basic to every denial of the possibility of an enscriptured word. [00:17:20]

Moreover, we believe not only that words are propositional...[edit]

Moreover, we believe not only that words are propositional truths, but that thinking proceeds from thought, and that knowledge is born from knowledge. Man is not a god who has, our of nothing, created knowledge. He is born into a world of knowledge. He is born knowing a great deal, and I am not talking about innate ideas in the humanistic sense. Scripture tells us that the hidden things of God are known by man, so that all men, whether they have ever heard the gospel or not, are without excuse. This is at the heart of the book of Romans. In the very first chapter, St. Paul sets out this fact, and in terms of this fact declares that all men are without excuse. He declares in Romans 1:18 following, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” First of all, there is a universal scope of application here; all men, and then in the far corners of Asia, Africa, the Americas, wherever they might be, wherever or not they have heard the preaching of the gospel or of the Old Testament, they are without excuse, because they hold, or more literally in the Greek, hold down, hold back, suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They know it. It is written in every fiber of their being, that they hold down the truth of God in unrighteousness because they are fallen, because they are sinners. Their whole being cries out and witnesses to God but they hold it down, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” [00:20:29]

No one can say, ...[edit]

No one can say, “Lord, I never heard the gospel. Nobody brought around the scriptures to me.” St. Paul says they are without excuse. God has left His witness in the soul of every man, in every fiber of his being, in all of creation, so that the whole of reality reveals God. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork,” therefore, all men are without excuse because they suppress this universal revelation, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened,” and he goes on to speak of the condemnation of all men, all are without excuse because the knowledge is written there in their being.

We know the nature of reality because God, who made us, made all things else, and the knowledge of him and through Him of all things is written in all our being, hence, all men are condemned because their problem is sin, not ignorance. If we deny meaning, if we deny truth, if we deny propositional truth that any one point in the universe, we deny it to all, because we deny God as the creator. Thus, language is not only basic to our creation as God’s image-bearers, but also as the medium of God’s revealed work to us and our means of knowing God’s revelation, and hence, we need to know language to know God. Language is very important in the sight of God. It is His means of speaking to us. Remember that the Ten Commandments speaks about language. The abuse of language to blaspheme rather than to serve God is a serious offense. Thus, more important than the teaching of logic is the teaching of language, because the basic logic in all of life we find expressed in words and in the structure of language. [00:23:40]

Now all of this is by way of telling you why it is...[edit]

Now all of this is by way of telling you why it is important to teach composition, because in the teaching of composition, what you are teaching a student is that, because there is a propositional truth that extends from words on up to paragraphs through sentences, into essays, articles, stories, and hence it is important for us to grasp the meaning of propositional truth and to apply it in our speech and in our writing. Hence, not only a good dictionary but the ability to use it is important in teaching composition. It used to be and now is not as common that teachers had, as their resources, books that gave lists of words that are commonly misused so that their teaching could be stressed. You might, perhaps in secondhand book stores, find some such older books and make use of them. But we very commonly today use language improperly. They’re therefore blunting the edge of tools. We are cheapening and destroying language when we use words improperly, and at this point, the dictionary is a health corrective.

I had, when I was at the University of California, in my senior course on composition, a very remarkable old Scot as the professor, G. Dumness Craig{?}, and he was as sharp as the best surgeon in his use of words, and he tried to teach us a precision in our language that left us with a greater love of language because we could recognize the nuances of words, and he was always a delight in his criticism. I recall once when I used the word “raised” improperly in class, I spoke of someone having been raised in such and such a place, and Dr. Craig stopped me and he said, “Raised? Raised, Mr. Rushdoony? Not at all. We raise hogs, we rear children.” Now that’s beautiful. That’s how language should be used, you see? With precision. I’ve never made the mistake since, but you can see the value in refining tools, and words are tools, they are miniature propositional truths which should not be blunted. [00:27:00]

Thus, by stressing the meaning of words and their accurate...[edit]

Thus, by stressing the meaning of words and their accurate use, by assigning pupils words to look up in a dictionary and define properly, we can begin to train them then also to use them in a sentence properly, and to recognize that a sentence is an expanded proposition, and then that a paragraph is a body of thought which has a unity of idea, of concept, and of datum, that it must be logical and consistent. A paragraph is a developed idea. It has a topic sentence which sets forth the idea and then develops the idea to its logical conclusion, and it must be a logical conclusion. It cannot be a false syllogism. It cannot make unwarranted conclusions so that when you teach composition, you see, what you should be doing is to teach your student how think, and how to develop their thought properly.

Let me give you a very obvious example of a false syllogism. First, man is a two- legged animal. Two, a chicken is a two-legged animal. Therefore, a chicken is a man. Well, of course the problem is you have a faulty first premise. Man is much more than a two-legged animal, so if you define man improperly, if your thinking begins with a faulty premise, you have a faulty conclusion. Modern evolutionary thought gives us false syllogisms because it begins with faulty conclusions. Hence, as Christians especially, we need to require precise thinking, the precise use of words, of sentences, of logical development, of thinking in a paragraph. You remember I cited Marcel Duchamp, the artist who, as a radical humanist sought to develop an anti-theological language, a language which did not refer to God. Basic to his premise was the very logical and necessary idea that because language and because words having meaning, they point to a world of meaning and therefore, they point to God. They witness to God. He was right, but a consistently humanistic language he could not develop. It would have no meaning, no word would have no meaning, and therefore, he gave up the attempt to create a humanistic language. [00:30:34]

Now we’re contributing to the breakdown of the theology...[edit]

Now we’re contributing to the breakdown of the theology of language, as it were, if we allow students to do sloppy thinking and writing, to use words carelessly. This is why, when you assign compositions, do something more than the public schools did when you went to school; What I Did on My Vacation. Make them think. Make them develop a body of thought. Perhaps one of the best ways to do that is to give them a verse of scripture and to develop its meaning. The book of Proverbs is a gem for that sort of thing, and some of the finest compositions you could assign would be to take a single verse of Proverbs, and to develop a paragraph based on its meaning.

To illustrate from a couple of the proverbs to show how fruitful they can be: Proverbs 13:24 might be a good one to start with. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Now why, why the chastening? What is its meaning? It’s a good one for students to work on. It might give them some idea why you are, at times, given to discipling them, or in Proverbs 28, we have a magnificent verse, the fourth verse. “They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.” Or the ninth verse. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even as prayer, shall be abomination.” In other words, when you teach composition, don’t forget that you’re dealing with words. Words are miniature proposition truths, and that you’re going to teach more logic in composition than most schools in their advanced courses of logic will be teaching logic. [00:33:34]

Then, to throw out another practical suggestion in...[edit]

Then, to throw out another practical suggestion in the teaching of composition, I believe that one of the most fruitful means of learning to do good writing is to condense as you go to a larger article. Thus, an article in an encyclopedia or an article in a magazine can be assigned to a pupil to take and reduce, let us say, to three pages, or four pages, whatever length you want to give. They can use, if they choose, some of the exact sentences but, by and large, it is to be a condensation. Now, what’s the value of this? Again, the emphasis is on thinking. Comprehending what is in the original and being able to restate it in condensed form intelligently and in an orderly manner. The Reader’s Digest has a magnificent ability to do this. Its writers are very well paid because it’s a considerable achievement to be able to take another man’s thinking and to be able to restate it in shorter form and improve on it. I regularly see articles in the Reader’s Digest which I read in their original and in some other publication, and a good deal of the time the condensation is actually an improvement on the original. The reason for it is that the man who is doing the condensing is a better trained writer sometimes, and he is able to grasp the thinking of the original article and get to the logic of it more intelligently than sometimes the original writer. So, condensation is excellent. [00:36:00]

Sometimes articles in the original might be a very...[edit]

Sometimes articles in the original might be a very poor one. To illustrate, a National Review edited by Buckley has very often a great deal of good material in it but some of the writing in it is really abominable. The writers digress and very often they have a wretched style somewhat in the style of William Buckley. William Buckley’s style gets very cute at times, and he’s more interested in showing off his wit that in developing his argument. Now, assign a bad piece of writing like that and have them condense it and get to the point. You see, composition teaching that simply teaches structure without meaning is missing the boat. The point is to stress the relationship of grammatical structure and composition to meaning. Again, there is an important place in a composition class for all compositions. Since basic to composition is thinking, thinking is something we do both in written form and orally. It is a verbal skill, whether written or oral. Day by day as I have been speaking to you, I have been giving you an oral composition. Sometimes I wander from the point but, by and large, it has a structure. I enjoy all compositions. I like to develop a point and to lead people to see its logical conclusion. All composition, thus, is an exceptionally fine means of developing verbal skills.

At this point, let me say that some cultures have a great emphasis on verbal training in the form of storytelling. I come from a background where storytelling is quite a refined art. Southern culture and Southern culture is unique, by the way, it’s a different culture from that of the rest of the country. Southern culture places a great deal of emphasis on storytelling, on all composition, and this is why Southern preaching is in a class all by itself. A good old fashioned Southern preacher can play with his audience. He can make them laugh and cry, he can make them do just about what he wants. He can lead them down the path with him as he explores an idea. That’s marvelous. This is why composition has an important part in any training of your pupils, and this is why, of course, a return to a stronger family life will play a part in the development of oral compositions. It is in areas where children are not very vocal, they do not see parents indulge in a great deal of storytelling, or partake in it, that you find people more incoherent as they grow up. If you come from a background that is Southern and has a strong emphasis on the storytelling, don’t underrate it. You are richer by far than most people in the modern world. The average modern is incoherent when it comes to being able to tell a story. He simply cannot do it. [00:40:49]

Has it every occurred to you why, today, a very large...[edit]

Has it every occurred to you why, today, a very large percentage of our comedians are Jewish? It’s because in the Jewish culture, storytelling is still so important, and therefore, as far as the sense of timing is concerned in storytelling, you have a percentage of Southerners who make the grade, and the rest are Jewish. They have the oral skill as a part of their home background. It is important, therefore, to make our children aware of that, and it’s important, and certainly preaching that emphasizes it will help children develop it.

Our goal, moreover, in composition, is not to teach creative writing. By now it should be clear to you that I do not like the term “creative writing.” The word creative once was used solely with reference to God. He is the creator. Man’s thinking is analogical; thinking God’s thoughts after him, so to stress creative writing means to ask the child, as it were, to think independently of God. A great deal of modern writing is creative writing. It is trying to invent worlds and ideas that have no reference to God but are in total independence from Him. But we are emphatically creationists. We believe that God created all things, and that our function is to think God’s thoughts after Him, so that instead of encouraging creative writing, we encourage good writing. Writing that explores the possibilities of God’s world. Writing that develops the principles that scripture lays down for every life and thought. Teaching composition, thus, has a central place in the school’s curriculum, and the composition teacher must, at all times, recognize that the basic skills, if they are not there, are never going to be learned and you have to be ready to go back and do remedial work with your students if they have not in the process been property instructed, or else to set up as a separate part of the school some kind of remedial program. [00:44:19]

One of the things that amazed me when I was still a...[edit]

One of the things that amazed me when I was still a university student, and the first of the students who had not been exposed to phonics were coming to the university, was the fact that they could not use the card catalog in the library. They did not know the alphabet, and if you do not know the alphabet, how are you going to use the card catalog to do some research. So that all you could tell these students as they asked for help, “How do I find so-and-so’s works, where do I look?” was to write out the alphabet for them and to tell them to go home and memorize it. A very large percentage of your transfers will not know the alphabet and therefore, cannot use the dictionary. So, it is necessary to be aware that you do face these problems.

Well, I think this is as good a point as any to stop as any, and perhaps we can get into some aspects in terms of your questions. Yes?

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] Very good question. What about Peter? Where did he get his skill? Was he, in fact, an ignorant fisherman? No, he was not. We know a great deal about the education of the average person in Judea and Galilee in our Lord’s day. First of all, they were at the very least bilingual. They spoke Koine Greek because it was the language of trade and business. They knew modern Hebrew, or Aramaic. They went to school, and the schools taught by Levites, because that was the function in Israel of the Levites, among other things, instruction. These schools were very, very thorough. There was a proverb, very commonplace, going back into Old Testament times, and which still survives to this day among orthodox Jews, that a man who did not teach his son the Torah, or the law, and a trade, taught him to be a thief. This means that they were taught, systematically, the Old Testament scriptures, because the term “Torah” meant the whole word of God, normally. Their schools were very thorough and systematic. They were not illiterate, they had a highly developed education. [00:48:14]

This, in fact, was one of the things that fostered...[edit]

This, in fact, was one of the things that fostered Phariseeism. The Jews could, very rightly, feel proud as they compared themselves to other people, but they carried this to the “nth” degree and developed a Pharisaic pride. Among no other people in Antiquity was there such a high degree of education. Today we do not compare to Judea and Galilee in our Lord’s day in the education of our children. We may have more higher institutions of learning and that sort of thing, but as far as the average man’s education was concerned, they were far ahead of us. They thus, had a mastery of Hebrew. They could read fluently the whole of the Old Testament. They also knew Greek, could read and write it fluently. They were thus, not uneducated, and their problem was that they went out into the Gentile world that the Gentiles were so far inferior to them. That very early in the history of the church, this lead to problems between the Jewish converts and the Gentile converts. They were on different levels intellectually and morally. Consider the problems in the Corinthian church. Consider the fact that, among the Greeks who represented the elite in the Greco/Roman empire, fornication was no sin. In fact, there were many in the Greek tradition who thought that sins were purely spiritual. What you did with your body was not a sin. So it created problems for the Jewish converts. It did lead to Phariseeism. It was so easy for them to look down on all others. So, we must never be guilty of believing men like Gibbons and other skeptics who look down on the disciples as though they were ignorant fishermen.

As for Peter, remember, Peter was able to leave his fishing boat and follow our Lord because his father was continuing with the business. He had a fleet of ships, so Peter came from a well-to-do family. James and John similarly. Remember, during the trial of our Lord, how was John able to gain access for himself, and Peter, into the house of the High Priest? He was a relative. He was related to one of the most powerful, wealthiest, most educated families in all of Israel; the High Priest. We are told that in his gospel. These were not hicks. They were very well-educated people. Moreover, many of the early converts from the Greco/Roman world to the faith were men of importance; lawyers, and philosophers, and teachers, so the myth that they were nothing but slaves and ignorant fishermen is nonsense. [00:52:30]

We read in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, in the last...[edit]

We read in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, in the last chapter, Paul sends greeting to those who are of Caesar’s household. Now household there has a different meaning than it has today. It meant “cabinet.” So, right up into Caesar’s household, or cabinet, you had Christians, important men in the Empire. So, we can’t underrate what these men were. Yes?

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes, now first of all, on principle, everyone who was a Galilean was declared by the Pharisees to be unlearned. Second, it meant that they had not come and trained with them. It was the pride of the Pharisees that they represented learning. Therefore, no matter how much education you had, you were ignorant unless you had sat under their feet, in their particular schools. Yes?

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes, exactly. Well put, and you don’t have to go to Oxford for that. All you have to do is to go to our state universities, and if you’ve gone to a Christian school or a college, in fact, if you’re a Christian, you’re ignorant. I’ve heard university men say of prominent scientists who’ve graduated from their own midst, and the minute they find that they believe in six-day creation, “Well, of course, he’s obviously ignorant.” Yes, did you have something further to ask? Oh, alright. Yes? [00:54:42]

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] The question is would I relate for all of you the story of Arius’ death. I have an account of the death of Arius in my book The Foundations of Social Order. You know, church history is full of stories like this, and someday maybe somebody will write it, because when you leave out stories like the death of Arius, you lose a lot of the flavor of church history. Well, Arius, because of his unbelief, was very much in favor with politicians. Christianity had been recognized sometime previously by Constantine, but the successive Emperors actually were unbelievers at heart. They wanted to use the church to provide morale for the empire, but they did not want the church to stand in terms of its faith, and its ability to condemn them for their own conduct. And so the emperor at that time finally decided that he was going to put a ban on all orthodox believers and bring in the heretic, Arius, to the capitol. A parade was going to meet Arius at the edge of the city and escort him in to the capitol church. The night before the parade was to begin, an ancient presbyter in that church knelt in prayer at the front of the church, and all night prayed with intense grief. “Oh Lord, let not this heretic come into thine house. Destroy him, O Lord. But if not, take away my life and let me not see him enter into this house where thy word has been proclaimed.” Well, in the morning they met Arius, and the parade began, the royal or imperial troops and all the unbelievers and heretics in the city hailing Arius. He was going to be made the bishop. He was going to rule the church and run out all the true believers, but at a particular point when they came to a construction site, Arius asked that the parade be stopped. There was an outhouse there for the construction workers. It was nothing but a hole with a wall around it, and he excused himself to go there. They waited and waited and waited. Finally they went in after him and found that apparently he’d had some kind of seizure and fallen head-long into the pit, and there smothered to death. Well, at that all the believers in the realm rejoiced and said, “So may all thine enemies perish, O Lord.” As I said, church history is full of such stories, that you cannot find them in any of the church histories written now a days, and it’s a pity.

In one case, a German king took an oath to the Lord and said that if he was telling a lie, may the Lord strike off his right hand. We went out and lost it immediately in battle. Any other questions now? Yes? [00:58:41]

[Audience] {?} in order to get some of these ideas {?}

[Rushdoony] Well, of course you can begin with Genesis 3:5. There you have humanism in its first entrance into history, and then develop the meaning thereof. If you find some of them interested, you might play some of these tapes to them, but you must stress the significance of humanism and what it’s doing, because they must see the issue clearly. Yes?

[Audience] {?} You talked about {?} wondering {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes, very good question. Very, very good one. The question is, I’ve spoken about the necessity about oral and written composition. What about listening? Well, that’s an important question, because for one thing, pastors are severely limited if people are not trained to listen. Now how do you develop the listening skills? It is through a disciplined education. It is through drill. As a person writes and talks under a discipline, they are able then to listen with discipline. Perhaps the extreme of this was reached in the Scottish Kirk. I’m not holding it up as an example. For one thing, I would be wade{?} and found wanting immediately. Maybe that’s why I don’t’ like it, but the kind of education that came in after John Knox and his followers was so rigorous in Scotland, so highly disciplined, that preaching in Scotland normally lasted a couple or hours and longer. I would perish under such preaching, I’m afraid. But the preachers wouldn’t have three points, they would have twenty-four and twenty-five points, and the members we know from many, many sources as a result of examination and as a result of women questioning each other at their meetings during the midweek get-together, could recite in order every one of the twenty-four and twenty-five points, and the text given by the pastor to illustrate that point further in addition to the basic text. They did this without taking notes. [01:02:16]

Now this should give you an idea how far we have declined...[edit]

Now this should give you an idea how far we have declined, you see. We cannot today follow thinking that closely and with that careful a memory. It is because our education has stressed so little memorization and drill, and recitation. The children you are teaching in Christian schools will be able to do better at that than you, and their children better than they, because we will, I believe, move back to that kind of disciplined education, but it does seem staggering to us, does it not, that people could listen to so long a sermon and then recite every point and every subtext used to illustrate every point. [

But let me give you an illustration out of my own experience. My father had an old country schooling. After that, he went on to the University of Edinburough for his advanced degrees. He could, right up until the last, and he died at eighty, tell you the name and author of every textbook he had from the first grade on through. He could also remember all of his algebra and his geometry, and all the theorems of geometry, and I forgot them in a year or two after I finished my geometry. He remembered them all, and he was not the only one. Those who went to school with him, he didn’t go much further than grade school in the old country, still had the same kind of memory. Total recall, and it was because of the kind of drill and discipline they had in their schooling, and it’s something we don’t have now, you see. So, we don’t realize the potential of our minds that a fraction of its total potentiality.

Now consider what will happen when we begin to do that again with our children’s children, when we have a highly disciplined and self-conscious Christian education. It will mean that man’s capacity for learning will be greatly magnified. There is still, incidentally, I am told, no computer invented that has the capacity for the human mind, for storage and for recall, and we utilize but the very smallest fragment of it. So, as we develop the writing and the speaking abilities, we emphasize drill, we will also develop the listening ability. Any other questions? Yes? [01:05:48]

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] What was that again?

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] The text in scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit playing in us with groanings which cannot be uttered. However, you see, it is the Holy Spirit rather than us. We cannot think without words. The Holy Spirit can express our prayers directly and immediately to the Father. So, we cannot ascribe that to ourselves. Then, the child, before the child learns to speak can feel hunger or frustration, and so on, but that it has ideas, I question. Because it doesn’t have the tool wherewith to develop ideas. It has the mental capacity for them, but it still doesn’t have the tool. So, there’s no way we can say that the child has ideas, abstractions, until it’s developed the verbal skills. Any other questions? Yes?

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] Could you speak a little louder?

[Audience] {?} deaf and dumb {?}

[Rushdoony] If someone is deaf and dumb, do they have no capacity to think? Well, we have an experience of that. Helen Keller, you remember, was totally deaf and dumb, as well as blind. That’s the only case, and she did write about what life was like, and it was like being totally locked up, unable to give expression to any feeling, or to formulate anything, until this one very patient nurse taught her a language. So, it was a total imprisonment and a blank for her. The mind was there, but it had no way of giving expression to anything. Yes? [01:08:52]

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] No, I haven’t.

[Audience] {?} very complex {?} amongst themselves {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes, that’s not unusual. It’s maybe the first time they developed that, but twins have often developed a language amongst themselves. It will be a means of private communication. I have two cousins who are twins, and about the same time they picked up words from their parents and began to speak, they developed at the same time a language between themselves, which they retained until after they started school and then dropped. It’s not unusual. Twins, being very close, will often do that, and children will often make up words, so that they will sometimes persist in calling something other than what you name it. They prefer it. For example my youngest daughter has three girls. The youngest was just born in March. The other is slightly more than two, and the other four, four and a half. The two year old, very early, invented several words because she didn’t like the English words, they were too difficult. Her sister’s name, for example, is Christine, so she called her Bobby, and to this day she’s still Bobby. Now Jennifer speaks fluently now, but she’s retained that name and several words that she will use. She prefers them. She doesn’t like the feel of the English word, so she retains words. They’re very apt at doing that, and at the same time, my other daughter, because she was working, was my oldest daughter, was leaving her daughter, Sarah, who is slightly younger than Christine and Jennifer, with Martha. Well, Sarah and Jennifer very quickly invented a few words to leave out Christine. They were a little closer in age, and Christine tends to be bossy and domineering, so they had their own few code words, just between themselves. The mind of a child is a tremendous thing, it has all the IQ of an adult and a great deal more flexibility so their ability to invent words in order to communicate is a very real thing.

[Audience] {?} [01:12:39]

[Rushdoony] Yes...[edit]

[Rushdoony] Yes. Well, I would question whether or not they cannot speak. They may not want to. I used to know someone, a PhD, a member of the University of California at Berkeley faculty who admitted that when she was four and a half, they took her to a doctor for examination because she could not speak, but never uttered a single word, and of course she understood everything. She said, “I just didn’t feel like talking.” It gave her a great deal more freedom, you see, to do her own thing. So, we’ve got to be careful when we deal with children. Never underestimate their intelligence. Yes?

[Audience] {?}

[Rushdoony] Yes. What could we substitute for the phrase “creative writing?” I suggested one at the table at dinner yesterday when we were discussing this, although I don’t like the association it has with a certain radio, or television preacher whose theology is very unsound: Possibility thinking. Christian fiction is possibility thinking, it is developing the possibilities of God’s world, putting things against one another to develop a theological point, and that’s very different from imagination which has a bad connotation in the Bible, as well as creativity, which has a theological connotation. Well, if there are no further questions, you’ll have a somewhat longer break between now and the next period. [01:15:06]

End of tape