The Principle Approach® and Greek Myths
If you’re like me, at first you may not be sure where to take the topic of studying Greek Myths. In my educational background, home education makes up most of my formal education. And my parents didn’t ever teach us about Greek Myths. In fact, The Little Mermaid was off limits because of the false gods in the film. So, naturally my initial inclination is to also not teach our children about Greek Myths. But my thoughts are different on this topic now. And it’s the Noah Plan® Literature Curriculum Guide that I give the credit to for this decision. However, let me explain what using the Principle Approach® and Greek Myths in a Biblical-Classical homeschool looks like.
The Pagan and the Christian Idea of Man and Government in Literature
Firstly, the Noah Plan® Literature Guide addresses the contrast between the Pagan View and the Christian View of this study. Now, this may sound like an obvious comparison of the two views in regard to the Greek Myths. As in, this is fiction and this is fact. However, it isn’t. Surprisingly, it’s contrasting the view of man and history and so much more than that.
To explain, the Pagan View of man and history addresses the following:
- The Age of Myths: selections from Nathanial Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book.
- Pagan Epic
- Background in Greek and Roman History
Whereas the Christian View of man and history addresses the following:
- Major Novel Study: Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace.
- Background Novel: The Martyr of the Catacombs: A Tale of Ancient Rome, 1882
- The Age of Chivalry: Christianity and English Chivalry
- Background Novel: Men of Iron by Howard Pyle
- Poet for Study: Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson
- Shakespeare, Bard of the Bible
- Classic Narrative Poem: The Courtship of Miles Standish by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
As can be seen, these aren’t all time-relevant works of literature. However, they are each relevant to the Pagan and the Christian Idea of Man and Government for the time period. The Christian Idea of Man and Government carries past Greek History because we see an outcome from it in the founding of America. That is to say, we identify the Gospel moving westward to America. Whereas, the Pagan Idea of Man and Government stops as it has no relation to the founding of our nation. Nor does the Pagan Idea of Man and Government help with moving the Gospel westward.
The Pagan Literature is Carefully Addressed
Since the Greek Myths tie sinful attributes of man to these false gods, there are some details we don’t want our students introduced to. Nor do we want these sinful ideas to be upon which their thoughts dwell or carry toward. Therefore, the reference books for the Age of Myths are carefully selected. Allow me to elaborate with the following example:
- A Wonder Book, for Girls and Boys by Nathaniel Hawthorne. “One of America’s greatest Christian authors has deliberately retold six of the most prominent instructive of the Greek myths. He maintains the identity of the characters and story yet manages to remove the harsh and immoral elements which are present in so many current books on the subject. This is the most delightful book which Nathaniel Hawthorne ever penned and the style is one of beauty and of Christian morality, which cannot be disregard even in dealing with a pagan area of study. Highly recommended.”
The Noah Plan® Literature Curriculum Guide, ©1997 Foundation for American Christian Education, p. 207
This curriculum literature guide also handles other books in this manner, such as Homer’s The Odyssey. And it has notes about how to explain the Christian View of The Odyssey.
St. Augustine Cautions Against Greek and Latin Mythology
Indeed, St. Augustine supports the idea of not emphasizing studies of Greek and Roman mythology:
“For you granted me your discipline when I was learning useless things. Certainly in these studies I did learn a number of useful words: but I could have learned them just as well in studies that were not useless; and that is the safe path along which boys should go.”
The Confessions of St. Augustine ©1963 by Rex Warner, Book I Chapter 15 p. 33
“But how one must condemn the river of human custom!… How long will it sweep the sons of Eve into that huge and fearful ocean which can scarcely be passed even by those who have the mark of the Cross upon their sales? Was it not here, in this stream of custom, that I read of Jupiter thundering at one moment and committing adultery the next?… And which of our long-robed professors nowadays would listen seriously to one of his own school (Like Cicero) who cried out: “These were Homer’s fictions. He merely gave human qualities to the gods. How I wish he had given divine qualities to men!” Though in fact it is truer to say: “Certainly these were fictions of Homer, but his method was to give something of the divine to the wicked men, so that crimes should not be called crimes and that whoever was guilty of such things might appear to be following in the footsteps, of abandoned men, but of the heavenly gods.”
The Confessions of St. Augustine ©1963 by Rex Warner, Book I Chapter 16 pp. 33, 34
Augustine’s Education and the Trivium
Of note, the classical education is often times defined as the Trivium. That being said, it’s often said that the effect of the Trivium is seen in Augustine’s writings due to his classical education. However, do consider that the Trivium is a natural way of learning. As such, it’s not unique to a classical education. You can read more about this explanation of the Trivium at the Principle Approach®: Biblical-Classical Education article. And you’ll also learn how Biblical-Classical educators see the Trivium differently than Greek-Classical and Christian-Classical educators do.
The Pagan Divinities Identified
Yes, we do address the identification of the pagan divinities. Although, with a Biblical-Classical education, we don’t have our children memorize them. Nor do they dress in costumes like these false gods. Because they’re a reflection of a godless, internal man who is without Salvation through Christ. But we do converse with our children about how sorrowful it is for those souls without faith in Christ. And the Noah Plan® doesn’t have us address them with young children. In fact, it isn’t until the fifth grade that we introduce them to our students.
Instead of disconnected facts and ideas, Biblical-Classical homeschoolers learn how each pagan divinity is assigned fallen attributes of mankind. And they learn that this is problematic for people. Plus, they learn about how:
“These divinities, moreover, were not manifestations of supreme power and intelligence, but were creations of the fancy, as they came from popular legends, or the brains of poets, or the hands of artists, or the speculations of philosophers.” (Beacon Lights of History, John Lord)
Additionally, the Noah Plan® Literature Curriculum Guide lists the Christian view of each pagan god.
A Study of Contrasting Influences
Modeling after the teaching style of Jesus Christ, we use contrast “as a means of heightening the appeal to the distinctly Christian idea of man and government-the flow of force and power in an individual’s life.” (Verna Hall)
So, this is how the approach looks for Biblical-Classical homeschoolers when teaching this to our students:
“The pagan world is heartless; the individual is at the mercy and disposal of unpredictable forces and events. Propitiation and sacrifice must be made over and over again to satisfy these superhuman gods and goddesses. Consider a world where the external is more important than the internal, where a strength is measured by muscularity, where the intellect is measured by sophistry-false reasoning-and where the supernatural powers of man-made deities are bandied about among the gods whose own jealousies and domestic follies and sins are visited upon the poor humans who created them.”
The Noah Plan® Literature Curriculum Guide, ©1997 Foundation for American Christian Education, p. 221
What a contrast to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And we take our students through this contrast, highlighting our Savior and how He is perfect. Indeed, Jesus Christ is elevated.
Is There Anything to Appreciate About the Greeks?
Of course there is. And Biblical-Classical homeschoolers point such things out to their students. For instance:
“The Christian scholar admits the presence of the pagan elements in our national heritage, but he recognizes that without Christianity these elements would not have been found useful. Like the pillars of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens, or the seats in the crumbling Colosseum in Rome, they would lie in the dust of the ages-monuments to a dead past. But, with the quickening spirit of the Gospel’s westward move the best elements of the pagan past were utilized, particularly in America where the liberty of the individual could choose to use what served best to embellish the “Grand Temple of Civilization.” Thus, the Founding Father generations utilized the marble columned buildings to suggest dignity and order as they constructed the new capitol of the nation in Washington on the Potomac River. Many of the homes of the New Republic-the worlds’ first Christian Republic-utilized classical architecture to express the beauty of Christian constitutional liberty.”
The Noah Plan® Literature Guide, ©1997 Foundation for American Christian Education, p. 218
Without doubt, there’s a great deal more we can cover with our students. But always, Biblical-Classical homeschoolers teach students how to reason from Scripture. And we always point them to Christ as the Focal point of History. And a key tool in helping us teach this way is the Noah Plan Literature® Curriculum Guide.
The icing on the cake? For certain it’s the Biblical worldview results that stem from a Biblical-Classical education. See the results from the PEERS Test for yourself.
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