by David Seibel, Head of School
This post is a transcript of a chapel talk Mr. Seibel gave on April 29th, 2021. Watch the chapel yourself below. In Hebrews 12:1-2, our theme verses for the 2020-2021 school year, we find a big picture why for classical Christian education.
Three Reasons for Classical Christian Education
At the beginning of this school year, one of our kindergarten students excitedly told her babysitter, “I am so excited! I am going to a new school this year. It’s called a privacy school and we get to wear costumes every day.” Although she meant to say she’d be going to a private school with uniforms, her comment represents a bigger issue that students and parents likely at classical Christian schools face: you do not really understand the why behind the way we do education at CDA.
In this message, I want to give you the big picture why behind the every day way we go about doing school. Because let’s be honest—you are likely friends with kids who don’t have to wear uniforms, learn Latin, study Logic, examine the history of the world, and participate in speech meet.
I’d like to show you three reasons for classical Christian education at Coram Deo Academy, and they come from the 20-21 theme verse, Hebrews 12:1 which says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The three main reasons for why we do what we do at Coram Deo are as follows:
- Every generation needs statues.
- Parents send their kids to finish the race, not just start it.
- The world needs courageous and contagious Christians.
Point #1: Every generation needs statues (atmosphere).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely…”
The author of Hebrews begins verse 12:1 with the word ‘therefore’ in order to explain the next steps for his audience based upon the history lesson in chapter 11. The forty verses in chapter 11 of Hebrews are like the dean’s list or honor roll, because the author lists those whose lives had an outstanding impact on the Kingdom of God. After the brief history lesson outlining the heroic faith of Abraham, Moses, and others. Hebrews 12:1-2 explains the logical impact of these classical heroes on the then-modern-day Hebrews.
The verse points out that these classical heroes of the faith are surrounding the then-modern-day Christians (“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”). When you hear the word ‘surrounded,’ picture a group of soldiers guarding the perimeter of a city in order to prevent a hostile invasion from enemy forces. They are like a cloud protecting them from the heat of the sun in the wilderness. In the first century, the Hebrew Christians were physically surrounded by enemies who opposed their faith and the author is teaching them to spiritually surround themselves with the right heroes in order to renew their minds.
Students, I can tell you who you will be 10 years from now based upon who you spend your time and what books you read. The founders of this school believed this to such a great extent that they made two big decisions. First, they decided that this would be a school for Christian families, because of the power of being in a community of like-minded believers. Second, they decided that we would study the intellectual heroes of human history in our curriculum.
The author of Hebrews argues that these first century Christians would be liberated by knowing about their history when 12:1 says, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” Imagine the parents who heard this letter read in public explaining to their kids the stories of their Jewish ancestors who passed the test and walked by faith. Hear this! If you don’t know where you came from, you will never know where you’re going. Without a sense of origin, you’ll lack a sense of destiny.
The amazing thing about the Bible is that Abraham and Moses would be unqualified to be pastors in your church due to their sins, yet the Bible raises them up as heroes of faith. The reason for this is because their faith was not in themselves but rather in God. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things because of their faith in a supernatural God. And here’s the thing—there are a lot more people who have existed after the Bible who exercised extraordinary faith in their pursuit of truth and goodness.
At a lot of other schools, students are either directly or indirectly encouraged to cancel historical figures who committed certain sins that our society really does not like. In fact, some teenagers spray paint or behead the statues of the historical figures that they don’t particularly like.
At Coram Deo Academy, we believe in heroes and we believe in excellence and we believe in the grace of the Gospel. We believe that studying the heroes of our faith and those intellectual heroes of human history does not make us more sinful, but actually enables us to better put aside every weight and sin which clings so closely. We want to have an atmosphere where big takes care of little and the younger students honor the older students. Instead of exposing every sin of every person in human history, we want to honor those who have gone before us without endorsing their sins or sharing their blind spots. The goodness of studying history is that we can learn about our own blind spots and lay aside every weight and sin.
1 Corinthians 10:11 applies to both the Old Testament and in many ways, human history,
“These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.”
Point #2: Parents send their kids to finish the race, not just start it.
“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”
After realizing the atmosphere of heroes that surrounds us and laying aside every weight and sin, the author of Hebrews tells these classical Jewish Christians that a race has been set before them. This is a common image that Bible uses to illustrate a greater truth. Paul does this in 1 Corinthians 9:24 when he writes,
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”
The beauty of the Christian faith is that Abraham, Moses, David and other heroes passed the baton of faith in God to this first century church of suffering and persecuted Christians. 1 Corinthians 9:24 is highlighting the truth that trophies are given out in this race and not everyone gets one! A verse more similar to Hebrews 12:1 is actually 2 Timothy 4:7 which says,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Paul wrote this to his protégé Timothy from his jail cell right before he died to strengthen Timothy to run his race with endurance. The goal of classical Christian education is not that you would start well but that you would finish strong.
I’ll tell you why I work here—I want to see you discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness in mind, soul, and body. Many people have big dreams but they lack the discipline to make anything of great importance happen. I used to want to be a pastor of adults but I decided to work with children when I read this quote from Frederick Douglas,
“It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.”
Here’s what we know about kids entering college today: 70 percent drop the baton of faith and don’t hand it on to their kids. We want to pass on this faith that we have received as well as the practices of discipline that we know you need.
I’ll just highlight that this is why we have you memorize so much. We believe at Coram Deo that memorization feeds the imagination. We want to fill your minds with thoughts that will inspire feelings to run your race of faith with endurance. Not only do we seek to give you direction to run the right race, but we also seek to impart to you the discipline you’ll need to finish. This is why we devote so much time and energy to having you give speeches and write papers. We know that the genuineness of your character will be tested and we want you to be durable disciples not fragile sissies.
Point #3: The world needs courageous and contagious Christians (life).
“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
For this message to be distinctly and consistently Christ-centered, and not just classical, you need to hear the final point which is the engine of my whole argument. Jesus Christ is the first and final source of all truth in the world. There is a possibility to do good without God in the world. In fact, it happens all around, and God makes the sun shine and the rain fall on both Christians and non-Christians alike because we all bear his image.
He is the ultimate Hero that inspired the other heroes who have gone before us in both the Old Testament as well as in church history, and in the history of the world. Thus, we should not look to Abraham, and Moses, and David, but instead look beyond them to where they looked, to Jesus Christ. Our classical heroes did not know all that we know about Christ’s crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and enthronement, but we know that Jesus Christ is in the Old Testament concealed but in the New Testament revealed.
At Coram Deo, we want you to be courageous and contagious like Jesus Christ was before the Roman authorities. He was both contagious and courageous; the verse says, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of being contagious: he was able to look past the cross to the glory that was to come due to his atoning death. He knew that there was a price to pay for the purchasing all of God’s children. However, He was able to go to the cross and not yell at the Romans but instead say, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” That’s what it means to be contagious and we want you to have this type of faith as you run your race. This is why we have sayings like “Cover it with love” and “valuing others more than self” and we participate in guilds. We want you to learn how to do hard things and see the reward that is behind the difficulty.
We also want you to be courageous in your faith like Christ is. He was able to stand in the face of evil and not be tossed to and fro, but rather was steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of His father.
The way this impacts the way we do school at Coram Deo is that we hold all truths up to the light of the glory of God. We believe that all truths are God’s truths and that each area of study can be better understood in light of Christ’s work on the cross. We can study God’s world in light of God’s world.
Here’s what I mean—when you become a Christian, you begin to approach your education because the life of the mind matters. Paul writes that in 2 Corinthians 5:17,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Christ’s redeems, renews, restores, and repairs the ruins of your fallen mind. I think if you study Math because you want to make a lot of money or you want to be an engineer, that’s not really a Christ-centered approach to math. And if you only approach history in order to get a certain grade, that’s not really worthy of the glory of God. Instead, every area of truth is an opportunity to feed your imagination, awaken wonder and worship God for the beautiful things He has done.
Coram Deo means before the face of God, and we believe that all of your life relates to God’s glory. Instead of acting one way while your at school, another way at practice, and another way at church, we want to see you students be courageous and contagious Christians who are the same person everywhere you. We don’t think that there’s a secular sacred divide and this is why we say Soli Deo Gloria and you’re wearing it on your vests today. Bach used to write SDG on the bottom of all of his musical compositions because he believed that producing beautiful music was a way he could glorify God.
Some of you need to come to Christ because you are far from God and you are still in your sin, still in Adam. Others of you know Jesus but need to write your name on your paper, and turn in your homework. Some of you just need to be kind to your sister. I’ll tell you this as we close—CDA exists so that you would submit your entire life to Jesus and have the posture of a sacrificial servant. Your posture ought to be like the sacrificial lamb. Did you know that the priest would grab the animal by the nape of the neck to pull back its head and expose its neck so that it could slit its throat? Christ sacrificed himself for us willingly, obediently, joyfully, and now we should sacrifice our entire lives in service to the King in complete obedience.
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