Cultivating Affections

  • Cultivating Affections

  • Dr. Ralph Spraker

    Organizer
    March 4, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    Why it is important not only to instruct students—but to cultivate their affections so that they love the true, good, and beautiful.

    Two common analogies used for Classical Christian instruction are farming and husbandry. Farming is labor and time intensive since soil must be plowed and prepared before a crop can be sown. Then, a crop must be cultivated and nurtured to promote its growth to maturity to prepare for harvesting. “When you cultivate something, you work to make it better. The word implies a level of care that is reminiscent of gardening. To cultivate anything requires an attention to detail, an understanding of what is being cultivated, and a lot of patience” (Cultivate, 2022).

    I understand, believe, and confess that Classical Christian Education SHOULD cultivate and nourish human souls to pursue a life-long alignment of their mind and their body’s affections to The True, The Good, and The Beautiful. An excellent, American example of a Classically-trained Christian would be Jonathan Edwards who wrote A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (Edwards, 1746).

    In Affections, Edwards portrays our human soul as having two faculties of learning. First there is “Understanding” by which our soul perceives, speculates, discerns, views, or judges things. Additionally, our human soul has “Inclination” or will by which the soul is: inclined or disinclined; pleased or displeased; approves or rejects. According to Edwards, Affections are the “more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul” (Edwards, p. 96).

    To Edwards, true religious Affections are objectively grounded in the transcendently excellent and amiable nature of divine things, as they are in themselves (Edwards, pp. 240-252). True religious Affections are primarily founded on the loveliness of the moral excellency of divine thing; a love to divine things for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excellency is the first beginning and spring of all holy Affections. (Edwards, pp. 253-265).

    In The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer uses a two-story house to illustrate (see attachment) the modern (false) dichotomous conception of truth very similar to what C.S. Lewis uses in Abolition of Man. Schaeffer’s first floor consists of Rational and Logical Knowledge or facts and realities of the physical world. The second floor is Non-Rational and Non-Logical Knowledge or opinions, beliefs, moral judgment, and religious faith (Schaeffer, 1985). Each story of the house has nothing to do with the other story. Moderns consider Faith irrational.

    In Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis portrays how Modern and Classical worldviews (see attachment) organize categories of Magic, Science, Religion, and Technology differently. Though Magic manipulated reality mutually with Technology during the medieval world (i.e., “The Discarded Image”), it has since been supplanted by Science in modernity. Based on progressive belief that Science seems “to prove more effectively,” it has now been grouped with Technology leaving Magic and Religion in the realm of the “unprovable.”

    Thus, Edwards, Schaeffer, and Lewis help us to identify central tenants of modern, progressive education AND our need as Classical Educators to nurture the Affections of ourselves and our students to The True, The Good, and The Beautiful. Augustine understood this and added the component of ordinate love. The dear doctor of grace prescribes the cure for our Affections.

    “And thus beauty, which is indeed God’s handiwork, but only a temporal, carnal, and lower kind of good, is not fitly loved in preference to God, the eternal, spiritual, and unchangeable good. When the miser prefers his gold to justice, it is through no fault of the gold, but of the man; and so with every created thing. For though it be good, it may be loved with an evil as well as with a good love: it is loved rightly when it is loved ordinately; evilly, when inordinately. It is this which someone has briefly said in these verses in praise of the Creator: “These are Thine, they are good, because Thou art good who didst create them. There is in them nothing of ours, unless the sin we commit when we forget the order of things, and instead of Thee love that which Thou hast made” (Augustine, 410).

    References

    Augustine, A. (410). De Civitate Dei (Vol. XV.22). (M. Dods, Trans.) Logos Virtual Library. Retrieved from https://www.logoslibrary.org/augustine/city/1522.html<w:sdtpr></w:sdtpr&gt;

    Cultivate. (2022). Retrieved from Vocabulary.com: https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/cultivate

    Edwards, J. (1746). A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections . Yale University Press.

    Schaeffer, F. A. (1985). The God Who is There. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

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