Quotes on The Importance of Homer

I have been reading the two great works of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and have come to see just how fantastic Homer is as a writer but also how important he is to Western Civilization. Others agree and below are some collected quotes from brilliant thinkers, both past and present on the importance and influence of Homer throughout the ages:

“Homer is significant because he started The Great Conversation, gave birth to The West, inspired and taught the Greeks and therefore us, wrote virtually perfect poetry, thought about every great idea deeply, embodied them in story and is the best philosopher who ever lived.” —Andrew Kern

    “Reading Homer’s Poems is one of the purest, most inexhaustible pleasures life has to offer-a secret somewhat too well kept in our time”—Eva Brann

    “He (Homer) deserves to be taken up as an instructor in the management and culture of human affairs, and that a man ought to regulate the whole of his life by following this poet.”–Plato’s Republic

      Homer’s Iliad and The Odyssey are “Constructed as well as possible, they come as close as possible for the ideal of a poem”—Aristotle

      “Behold the One whose right hand wields the sword, behold the One who comes before other poets as their Lord, that is Homer, the Sovereign, that is the Bard Supreme, that is Homer.”—Dante

        “It was against the order of nature that he created the most excellent production that can be. For things at birth are ordinary imperfect; they gain size and strength as they grow. He made the infancy of poetry and of several sciences mature, perfect and accomplished. For this reason he may be called the first and last of poets.”—Montaigne

        The Fundamental Laws of Logic

        When I tell people that I teach logic at a classical school, I often get a look and a recurrent phrase that goes something like “I don’t think I could ever learn that because that sounds out of my league!” While some subjects are harder than others to understand, logic has the ability to be easy to learn because we all participate in some form of logical or illogical thought patterns everyday. Often, it may seem daunting because logic uses advanced vocabulary, but once you learn the language, you realize that logic is actually quite easy to pick up. Such is with the fundamental laws of logic; these laws sound wording, but in fact once studied, makes perfect sense. The fundamental laws of logic and thought are:
        1. The Law of Exclusion. This Law basically states that a statement/proposition is either true or false, there is no middle option. the statement “God is real” is either true or false, God can’t be both or some sort of Pandora’s box of being both at the same time; either God is real or he isn’t, either Christianity is true or it’s false.
        2. The Law of Identity. This laws states that if a statement/proposition is true, than it’s true! I know it’s not rocket science, but living in our postmodern relativistic culture, we often here statements such as “Well, the Christian Religion may be true for you, but my truth is something else. Everyone has their own truth and no one can be wrong.” This is logically impossible, either the Christian religion is the true religion or it’s a false one, and the same goes with Postmodernism, Atheism or any form of relativism that would suggest otherwise.
        3. The Law of Contradiction. This Law of thought states that a statement/proposition can’t be both true and false at the same time. I can not both be married and a bachelor, I can only be one or the other. If you were to look outside right now and it was nighttime, you can’t say that it is and isn’t nighttime, that would be crazy. Often opponents of Christianity say that the doctrine of the Trinity is guilty of committing the law of contradiction by stating that the Trinity displays itself as saying that He is one God, yet three Gods. But this is a straw man fallacy, for The Trinity is not “one God, yet three Gods, but is properly defined as One Essence, Three Persons, which is different than saying that God is one person, three persons or one essence, three essences, but is simply One Essence, Three persons. This may be hard to understand, but that doesn’t make it a contradiction, just simply mysterious.
        But how can we know these laws are true? Apologist and Professor J.P. Moreland answers this brilliantly by writing,
        “These fundamental laws are true principles governing reality and thought and are assumed by Scripture. Some claim they are arbitrary Western constructions, but this is false. The basic laws of logic govern all reality and thought and are known to be true for at least two reasons: (1) They are intuitively obvious and self-evident. Once one understands a basic law of logic (see below), one can see that it is true. (2) Those who deny them use these principles in their denial, demonstrating that those laws are unavoidable and that it is self-refuting to deny them.

        What Is The Bible?

        Depending on who you ask, defining what the Bible is can get you answers ranging from “my life source and daily bread” to the “most boring book on the planet, especially by that King James guy.” The Bible can be seen as the only hope this world has at knowing God and his Salvation, to be seen as a collection of myths, folktales and fairy tales dreamed up by unenlightened people. But how should we properly think about the bible? What exactly is the essence of the book millions of Christians hold dear and what others believe is the corruption of humanity and the cause of all mankind’s problems?

        First, The Bible is God’s Word.  J.I. Packer writes, “What Scripture says, God says; for, in a manner comparable only to the deeper mystery of the Incarnation, the Bible is both fully human and fully divine. So all its manifold contents—histories, prophecies, poems, songs, wisdom writings, sermons, statistics, letters, and whatever else—should be received as from God, and all that Bible writers teach should be revered as God’s authoritative instruction. Christians should be grateful to God for the gift of his written Word, and conscientious in basing their faith and life entirely and exclusively upon it. Otherwise, we cannot ever honor or please him as he calls us to do.” What Packer is getting at is that through and through, The Bible is God’s Word, every portion and every word is from God and divinely reveals to the universe who God is, what his plan for history is and how we are to live. This is great, because it doesn’t mean we are lost in the world trying to find our way, but have a path laid out for us by the one who not only created the path, but walked it Himself. Because it is God’s word, we can trust it, we can truly believe that God is not out to get us, but is for us. God is not a demonic figure, like Descartes’ thought experiment processed about, trying to trick us; God is a good Father who sent his Son, The Word into the world to breath new life into them through The Spirit’s application of the word of God.

        Second, The Bible is a Historical Document. Often times, my students treat the scriptures like they would Hamilton’s or Bulfinch’s Mythology, however, not as if it isn’t true, but that it’s just a story with a lot of weird elements and literary components that seem strange, archaic and hard to understand and not as an actual historical document that records history, like that of the writings of Eusebius or the Venerable Bede. But the Bible is a historical document that records actual history of how events unfolded. That’s why the writers of scripture, particularly Moses and Luke go to such lengths to research family trees and names and places of individuals; to get the meticulous details right, to make sure all the facts are straight, because what they were doing was recording history. So that means Moses did actually part the sea, Jonah was actually swallowed by a fish, Jesus actually rose from the dead.  Because it’s God’s word, this can provide us so much more joy, because these events weren’t just myths, legends or nice stories, but actual events that happened in history.

        Third, The Bible is a Redemptive Story. One of the worst ways I have ever heard the bible explained was by a youth pastor who made an acronym out of the word bible and decided that the bible stood for: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. That is not what the Bible is at all. The Bible is not a manual for leaving earth, since ultimately Christ is returning with the New Heavens and The New Earth, and it’s not an instruction pamphlet like you would get with your IKEA furniture; It’s a story. It’s a beautiful, wondrous story filled with strange creatures, exciting adventures, messed up people, truly terrible villains and a divine Rescuer who is coming to bring about His Kingdom. As people who love stories and were created as story-formed people, we live by the telling of stories. So what better than for God to reveal to us through a story of how a beautiful world was created and mankind flourished, than Adam and Eve fell due to the Devil’s trickery and evil came into the world, but God had a plan, a story that would involve a variety of characters and covenants that would culminate into the Coming of The King, who was crucified and raised for our salvation so that one day The King would Return and bring about His Kingdom on the New Heavens and New Earth forever and ever.

        The Purpose of Theology

        The Reformer and French Theologian John Calvin writes,

         “The whole sum of our wisdom—wisdom, that is, which deserves to be called true and assured—broadly consists of two parts, knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves. The purpose of the first of these is to show not only that there is one God whom all must worship and honor, but also that he is the fount of all truth, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, judgment, mercy, power and holiness. We must learn, therefore, to expect and ask these things from him, and with praise and thanksgiving to acknowledge that they come from him. The purpose of the second is to show us our weakness, misery, vanity and vileness, to fill us with despair, distrust and hatred of ourselves, and then to kindle in us the desire to seek God, for in him is found all that is good and of which we ourselves are empty and deprived.”

        From Calvin’s outlook on the purpose of theology, we can determine three reasons why we should study, learn, grow and pursue Theology:

        1. To Know God-The whole sum and purpose of theology is this: that we may know Him, and not just know about him or know facts and data about Him and His scriptures but that we may truly know and be known by God, like the kind of connection, depth and intimacy you would desire from a friend, family member or loved one, but so much greater than you could ever imagine, because in fact this is what you were made for. The study of theology is different than other disciplines in this respect, for the main subject of theology is God and the goal of knowing his name, his nature, his works, his wonders and his love. And in response to this study, it leads us to prayer and praise and a “kindle in us [for] the desire to seek God.”

        2. To Know Ourselves– Our culture is fascinated with the idea and journey of trying to find our “true selves.” I have never really known what this meant, but for some reason it often seems that the people who go on these journeys already know who they are and are just looking for a reason to travel the world or try new things. However, whatever self we find, it is often a worldly self that has not thought to look in the most fundamental place where to find oneself, that which is in the presence of the Creator. Looking upon the revelation of who God is, reveals in his light who we truly are, what he has made us for and in a primary sense, how far we have fallen. This is what Calvin is getting at when he writes, “The purpose of the second is to show us our weakness, misery, vanity and vileness, to fill us with despair, distrust and hatred of ourselves.” Calvin seems bleak about our standing, however, when looking upon the perfect, holy, righteous God of the universe and then look down in comparison, how could you not feel that way, especially when you know that your finite evil against an infinite God is an enormous tragedy and crime. Calvin is not advocating self-harm or mental abuse, but a realization or hatred of the indwelling sin within us that we were not made to be a body for sin and that we were created for so much more. It is this purpose in theology that leads us to seek out what it truly means to be human, how to repent and confess and follow God in a world against Him.

        3. To Know Salvation-Of course, the logical flow of Calvin’s thought, after looking upon the revelation of the Holy God, and then seeing our rebellious, polluted selves, we can’t help but find a way to be rescued. This is the redemptive purpose of theology, so that we may know salvation, that we may taste and see that God is good and worship Him that despite the fact that we are rebels to His Throne and traitors to His Kingdom, The Son descended from the throne of grace and became man, lived the perfect life and died the most gruesome death, so that his people may know salvation and from rebels, become sons.

         

        Building A Seminary Education (For Free!)

        Education is expensive. However, the ability to grow in the knowledge of various subjects is unlike any other time in history. Our access to books, classes and lectures are now literally just a click of the finger away.

        Below is a list of courses that are free from iTunes University from Westminster Theological Seminary, Covenant Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary that will give you a comprehensive seminary education for free:
        1. The Westminster Standards by Sinclair Ferguson (WTS)
        2. Covenant Theology by Ligon Duncan (RTS)
        3. Biblical Theology by G.K. Beale (WTS)
        4. Biblical Hermeneutics by Vern Poythress by (WTS)
        5. Apologetics by Scott Oliphant (WTS)
        6. History of Philosophy by John Frame (RTS)
        7. Ancient & Medieval History by David Calhoun (CTS)
        8. Reformation & Modern History by David Calhoun (CTS)
        9. The Reformation by Carl Trueman (WTS)
        10. The Puritans by J.I. Packer (RTS)
        11. Calvin’s Institutes by David Calhoun (CTS)
        12. Systematic I: Prolegomena by David Garner (WTS)
        13. Systematic II: Doctrine of God by Scott Oliphant (WTS)
        14. Systematic III: Humanity, Christology, Salvation by Robert Peterson (CTS)
        15. Systematic IV: Spirit, Ecclesiology and Eschatology by Robert Peterson (CTS)
        16: The Pentateuch by Richard Pratt Jr (RTS)
        17: Judges-Poets by Jon Currid (RTS)
        18: The Prophets by RIchard Pratt Jr (RTS)
        19: The Gospels and Acts by Knox Chamblin (RTS)
        20: Romans by Knox Chamblin (RTS)
        21: Pauline Epistles by Knox Chamblin (RTS)
        22: Hebrews-Revelation by Michael Kruger (RTS)
        23: Pastoral Studies by James Anderson (RTS)
        24: Church & Culture by James Anderson (RTS)
        25. Preaching Christ by Timothy Keller (RTS)

        Here is also a link to a couple pages with resources

        1. 250+ Free Online Seminary Classes, Courses, Programs, and Book Recommendations
        2. Westminster Theological Seminary Scholarly Research Page
        3. Monergism’s Directory of Theology

         

        Building An Audio Library

        Listening to audio books has recently become the newest way I am able to “read” as many books as I can, either for my graduate degree or for my job. It is amazing how much time is wasted just sitting in the car driving, so either when I am driving to work, which is thirty minutes both ways, or I am just going for a Sunday drive to get my little girls to nap, I have found these audio tools to be the best way to build an audio library.

        1. Christian Audio is a great resource, which offers one audio book for free every month on top of great sale selections. My personal favorite sale is the twice yearly sale they do where almost their entire audio catalog is on sale for four to eight dollars an audio book, which is deeply discounted!
        2. Audible has a great selection of audio books and its very user friendly, as their app gives you the ability to speed up the book or slow down and it is very much aesthetically pleasing. Sign up for a free trial and get two free audio books, and even if you cancel the membership, you get to keep the audio books.
        3. Lit2Go is a selection of audio books that are of all the greatest classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Crime and Punishment, The Iliad, A Tale of Two Cities and many other classics, ALL FOR FREE! You can download them for easier access through iTunes University.
        4. ReformedAudio has some great Reformed Classics as well ready to download all for free. Machen, Warfield and Ryle are all great suggestions to begin with this site.
        5. LibriVox is a volunteer based site that has volunteers read and record public domain books for your listening pleasure. Harder to use site, but they seem to have some gems, especially classics by Puritans like Richard Sibbes and Thomas Watson that look like great ones to try out.

        Building A Kindle Library

        We are living in The Digital Age. What people would pay loads of money for in the past now can get these books and resources for either free or a few pennies. The devices we have now can hold thousands of books in the palms of our hands that we can take wherever we go and read whenever the time is right. Below is a list of free online books to give you a kindle library that would rival what ancient libraries only could dream they could have in their collection.

        Classics

        1. The Great Books of The Western World
        2. The Harvard Classics
        3. Classics of The World by Open Culture

        Theology

        1. R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Question Series
        2. Desiring God (John Piper & Co.) Free Ebooks
        3. The Ancient Church Fathers
        4. Monergism Books
        5. Calvin’s Commentaries and Institutes

        Websites for Kindle Deals

        1. Challies Kindle Finds for Christian
        2. Gospel Ebooks
        3. Ebook Friendly

        P.S. Also, a great way to get free pdf copies of books is if you own a blog and are willing to write book reviews for the books they send you for free. I utilize both Crossway Publishing and Netgalley as great ways to review and get kindle books for free!

        Carpenter’s Rules of Decorum 

        Over at the Circe Institute blog, writer and teacher Joshua Gibbs posted a fantastic article about his “Rules of Decorum” for his classroom and I felt inspired to come up with my very own. Read both his and mine. Enjoy!

        Carpenter’s Rules of Decorum

        1. You are here for a reason. Whether it’s because your parents agree with classical education, or because you needed to be challenged intellectually, the most important reason you are here is because God has placed you here, ultimately to grow you to be like Christ and prepare you to walk in His Way in a very dark world. Remember that, it will ground you and help you have gratitude in the future.

        2. You are to love and be loved, which can be the hardest thing to ever do or accept. Your classmates and sometimes your teachers will push your buttons and you will want to react in a negative and sinful way because part of you thinks you are better than them in some capacity. Don’t. When interacting with others remember to love as Christ loved you and to count others more significant than yourselves. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

        3. Words are the most powerful force in the universe. God created the cosmos with His word; Christ came into the world being known as The Word; The Spirit regenerates through the preaching of the word and God has given you the power of words. To build up or tear down, your friends, your family, your teachers, your school with the words that come out of your heart is your choice. Use them wisely.

        4. You are primarily Image Bearers, not “rational animals” or “thinking things.” Therefore your education is not to just fill your brains with facts and information, but to transform your hearts that you may taste and see the beauty, truth and goodness of God. My job is to share with you the stories, ideas and lives that have changed the world and point it all to Christ so that you can see how Christ is the true key to all wisdom and knowledge, and that, as Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

        5. Participation Matters. Don’t waste your education by just cruising through class and life. Use these years to be involved, discover new subjects, debate clashing ideas and become passionate about something that isn’t trivial. Be ready for class by getting a good night sleep, eating a good breakfast and come ready to explore new worlds through the study and discussion with your classmates on theology, history, philosophy and the classics. 

        6. Homework Matters. I know you have probably encountered some poor sap that gets assigned busy work just to add a grade to the gradebook or heard of a teacher abolishing homework. My homework, which 100% of it is reading great books and writing essays on important topics, is not busy work. It’s work, that’s for sure, but it’s work meant to challenge you, to inspire you and help you see the world as God created it. It’s to make you ask yourself if you believe what you believe to be really real. My assignments are to make you examine your soul and go in search of the truth, as you discuss it with your parents at the dinner table, your classmates in the lunch room and with me during breaks. So do it and do it with a heart that knows that I made it for you.

        7. Find a subject you are passionate about and discover everything you can about it. History, Science, Theology, Mathematics, Philosophy or Literature; there are countless possibilities that await you. But love it. I read 150-200 books on theology, history and philosophy a year, not so I can just become a better teacher and more knowledgeable in my subject, but because I love it and I love what I do.

        8. Read books. You have 60 years on this planet left, don’t waste it on garbage. Read books outside of the classroom, ones that you enjoy or read on a whim whatever looks good. Just read and then come tell me about it. 

        9. Life is tough. My door is always open if you want to talk about life, theology or stuff that you are passionate about, but know that my goal is always to help you become more like Jesus, even if it is challenging and hard. 

        10. My little girls are my world. Treat my daughters like the heavenly royalty that they are when they come visit daddy at work and the odds will ever be in your favor. 

        11. It is known that there is always a possibility for a jam session. Beware, with just the right words, I will break out my air guitar and rock out, classical style. Welcome to The Jungle. 

        12. Food is the way to my heart. Subway. Chipotle. Buffalo Wings. This is my love language…just in case you need ideas for Christmas gift(card)s. 

        How To Read The Classics

        There are a handful of books about reading books, such as Mortimer Adler’s How To Read A Book, Harold Bloom’s How To Read And Why, and probably my favorite in the genre The Pleasures of Reading in An Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs, that have really helped readers become better readers. But how should we read classics? Let me offer a few helpful suggestions:

        Read with Patience

        Classics are not to be skimmed or speed read through. These books are life changing and in order for them to do work on our souls, it takes time, a long time in fact. Growth takes time. The power behind the ideas and stories contained in these books need to be chewed on, soaked in and let loose so that we may challenge them or accept them and then apply it. But don’t give up on a book, keep reading, plugging away and maybe even rereading it. As author and writer Italo Calvino once wrote, “Every rereading of a classic is as much a voyage of discovery as the first reading…every reading of a classic is in fact a rereading.” 

        Read with Good Friends

        I owe a lot of my thoughts and ideas to the minds of the group known as The Inklings, occupied by the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. They started this group to have one purpose: to read the Icelandic legends and stories together. Reading the classics with friends enriches the story because they often see things different than you. That is probably one of my favorite parts about studying at a school like St. John’s College is being able to read books and hear the different ideas, stories and world views that help me see different ways of looking at the text and making connections. Reading with friends is always an adventure in itself when reading the classics. 

        Read with Food and Drink

        C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.” Now you won’t find this suggestion in many reading manuals, but I honestly believe there is no better way to enjoy a book than alongside some great food and drink. A nice lager or stout while reading Lord of The Rings, or chocolate deserts with The Chronicles of Narnia(Maybe even some Turkish delights!) makes the reading experience so much more enjoyable. 

        Maybe that can be an adventure in itself, deciding which food to eat that thematically fits with the classic your reading! Which of course, sounds like the best (and most hobbit-like) kind of adventure. 

        How To Study The Classics

        Classics are a challenge to read. I once had a student admit that he had read one single page for an hour trying to understand what was going on in Cervantes Don Quixote and finally went to google to help him figure it out.  With the obstacles that classical books present us, we need resources that will help us in our quest of not only understanding the book, but coming to enjoy it more by spending time studying it for all its wisdom and worth. Below are a list of resources that should be able to help readers along the way. 

        Study Guides
        Study guides are great little tools for helping readers get a grip on a text. Often they are concise, easy to read and can summarize a textual problem in a way that helps the reader be able to go back and read a passage again with a sort of confidence of knowing what is actually happening

        1. Crossway’s Christian Guides to the classics are limited but they have a great deal of information and wisdom from a Christian worldview provided by a world class professor in Leland Ryken at an affordable cost.

        2. Harold Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations can be a bit pricey and offer some sketchy modernized views on classic works, but it gets the job done and can offer great insight if read with a critical mind. These books are expensive to buy so definitely check your library for copies first. 

        3. Sparknotes is like a teacher’s worst enemy, right next to Wikipedia, but both are so valuable (and free!) Tread wisely as sometimes it may seem like a good idea to just read the spark notes instead of the book, but it just isn’t the same as reading the actual book and won’t stick to your soul like a classic work.

        Textbooks 

        Textbooks on classics can really help give a broad overview on how they have influenced throughout the ages and how they interact with other classics in the great conversation. Don’t feel the obligation to read these word for word but use them as tools to give you a deeper picture.

        1. The Great Books Reader

        2. The Book of Great Books

        3. The Western Canon

        4. The Great Tradition

        5. The Great Books: A Journey

        Courses

        One of the things I love most about living in our times is our access to quality education at little to no cost if you are trying to learn without getting a degree. iTunes University has redeemed my morning commute with all the awesome courses they offer from schools like Yale, Westminster and Cambridge for free. Open Culture has a variety of lists such as courses on Literature, History and Philosophy that will get you started! Also, make sure to check out Covenant Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary or Westminster for solid theology courses. Carl Trueman on The Reformation, Ligon Duncan on Covenant Theology and John Frame on Philosophy have been awesome so if you need recommendations or a place to start, start with those. Enjoy!