Blog

The Eternal Things

By: Caleb Sasser, Chair of Upper School Humanities Department at WCA
After a whirlwind few weeks we have found ourselves living in a world where terms like “social distancing” and “shelter in place” are common parlance. We live in a world so different from the way it was just a few short weeks ago that we question whether anything is the same. When we do see things that are completely unchanged, such as the relentless approach of spring, the song of a Robin, or the bloom of a flower, they strike us as almost odd or discordant. Our world seems frozen in place, so it is strange to see spring move on. As we feel gloomy and downtrodden, it is odd that crocuses and daffodils are as beautiful as they ever were.We live in a time when it seems like everything is changing, when history is being made, a time of upheaval; and we are not particularly enjoying it. As Tolkein reminds us in The Fellowship of the Ring:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Scary as these times are, they are historically the times when the Christian church is strengthened. There are many reasons for this, but one is that tumultuous times cause us to be hyper-aware of the mutability (or changeability) of things we formerly thought immutable and direct our attention to the truly eternal, unchangeable, immutable things. That is what a WCA education is all about. Our desire is to direct our students’ attention to the eternal things. We desire to be constantly directing our students to love God and the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that we see in the light of Him.

Have you ever noted that one of the primary reasons for praising God in the Psalms and throughout the Old Testament is that God does not change? Remember the refrain of Psalm 136? “His love endures forever”? God does not change, though all the world around us does. David praised Him for this, so did Moses, Jesus, the apostle Paul, and so has the church throughout the ages. As God does not change neither do the things we see only in light of Him: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Truth is still true, goodness is still good, and flowers are still beautiful. That is why our educational endeavor at WCA is more important now than ever, we all are badly in need of a vision of the eternal things.

I will conclude with the words of the Apostle Paul as he points his students to the eternal things:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

A Response to Lewis

The ability C.S Lewis has to convey such a deep meaning with only two sentences is unmatched. In 1942, Lewis delivered a sermon entitled “The Weight of Glory.” To conclude his speech C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” These two sentences encapsulate the verses in Genesis 1:26-27, which proclaim man was made in the image of God or imago dei. Man is unique. There is nothing ordinary about his possession of a soul, his ability to decipher morality, his capacity to create, or his imperfect reflection of his intelligent maker. No man is ordinary because he is formed in the image of God.

No one has ever spoken to a mere mortal, because all men’s souls last for eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that “God has placed eternity in the hearts of men,” saying that all men desire to live forever, and all men in fact, will live forever. The unconverted soul perishes eternally, while the converted soul will rejoice eternally. C.S. Lewis says this to remind his listeners that every word they say, action they complete, and smile they share, can have an impact on the kingdom. Man has intrinsic value because he is made in the image of God. Eternal glory is more than enough incentive to share the Good News with everyone.

This is the “weight of our [future] glory,” that we might share the truth that all men are valuable and created in the image of God, so that all men may know that their sinless Savior died for them, and they have the chance to be glorified in heaven and perfectly reflect Christ. This quote is more than a reminder–it is a call to action.

Lifelong “Learner” Not Just “Earner”

By Kristen Zuccola, Upper School Dean

The text of Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem depicts Equality 7-2521, an attractive, well-built, astute man whose ultimate goal is to rise to the vocation of “thinker” in the House of Scholars, but his aspirations are not possible in the dystopian society of a Dark Age during which workers submissively accept assigned vocational roles. Equality 7-2521 is a street sweeper. For him, there is no discretionary time. He and his fellow citizens work in gender-specific assignments separate from family, separate from love, separate from everything that makes man man except for the toil with which he was cursed in the Garden of Eden. This is no life. 

This tragic dystopia is a far cry from today’s society in which men and women are encouraged to pursue the formulation of family in any form, follow their dreams by becoming all that they can be, and fulfill the vocational goal of earning large sums of money while enjoying leisure time. Humans live in an era of choices, dreams, and plenty. We are the happiest and the best that we have ever been….The world is now, almost perfect. 

Crime has nearly diminished; disease has been eradicated; poverty is virtually non-existent; suicide is unheard of; marital relationships remain intact; depression and anxiety are essentially but memories in the annals of psychological history. We are living our best lives…right now. 

We all know that this is untrue. We are, perhaps, much closer to the culture in which Rand imprisons her character, who proceeds to seek knowledge as his liberator throughout the text. 

You see, society tells us that who we are is what we are, what job we perform, that our vocation is our identity. Education has become a means to an end— we are educated so that we may work. Education is only as useful as it will help us to acquire gainful employment. Any growth apart from one’s earning potential is superfluous. We have been duped. We have fallen for the bait and switch. We have sought to gain the whole world; as a result, some of us have lost our souls.

It all begins with this: we have been led to believe that financial success will lead to happiness. We only become “learners” to become “earners.” Follow this logic with me. We need education so that we may become workers so that we can earn money so that we can be happy. However, we are not happier, and we are not richer. According to Ryan McMaken of the Mises Institute, NYU economist Edward Wolff’s research indicates that the median net worth of American homes between 1969 and 2013, when compared in 2013 dollars, has actually decreased. This means that Americans are actually less wealthy. Even with more dual-income homes, Americans are less happy. Depression, oft called “the disease of modernity,” has exponentially increased. In a study published by the American Medical Association called “A 40-Year Perspective on the Prevalence of Depression,” we learn that between 1970 and 1992, the rate of depression has increased (Murphy et al.). According to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System data, between 1999 and 2017, the rate of suicide in the United States has increased 33% (Keller). 

I propose a different paradigmatic understanding of education: Education liberates man, enabling him to better live in this world, share the Truth, love others, and emulate the one in whose image we have been made— the Lord. We need education in order to be liberated from the self-centeredness that plagues man, that we may consider others above ourselves. We need education that we would be liberated from the imprisonment of ignorance that we may be more fully able to recognize ourselves in relation to a holy God who has ordered His creation.  We need education to be liberated from lies and ultimately dismiss the schemes of the devil. We need education so that we can intimately learn of the glory of God’s creative genius. We need education so that our creativity, which appropriately models a creator God, can be both developed and refined. We need education so that we can be sanctified, ever growing into the likeness of the omniscient God we serve. 

The purpose, then, of education, is far less about vocation than about fulfilling the more global calling of man— to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength. Education done correctly for the right purposes can cultivate the mind, body, will, and affections. 

Having escaped from his vocational imprisonment, Equality 7-2521 together with the Golden One, a beautiful woman whom he first meets while sweeping next to the field in which she works, finds an abandoned home in the forest from the “Unmentionable Times.” Within its walls, they find shelves and shelves of books. He takes the name “Prometheus” after the Greek figure who championed mankind, defying the gods by giving man fire. In this story, we do not model Rand’s pursuit of individualism or rejection of authority. Instead, we recognize the liberating power of knowledge, of education, and its essential force in truly living. We recognize that the good God we serve has entrusted man, who has been made in His image, with yielding dominion over this world for the sake of the kingdom. In doing so, we must not degrade this mighty task as simply a quest for employment as an inanimate cog in the economic machine. We educate not to GET but so that we are better equipped to GIVE, that we may serve Him better. We can find true joy in becoming the one whom God the Father, Creator, and Redeemer intends for us to become. 

Works Cited

Keller, Jared. “The U.S. Suicide Rate Is at Its Highest in a Half-Century.” Pacific
Standard, The Social Justice Foundation, 4 Dec. 2018, psmag.com/news/the-suicide-rate-is-at-its-highest-in-a-half-century.

McMaken, Ryan. “Median Household Wealth in America Is Going Nowhere.” Mises Institute, Mises Institute, 20 Sept. 2018,
mises.org/wire/median-household-wealth-america-going-nowhere.

Murphy, Jane M., et al. “A 40-Year Perspective on the Prevalence of Depression.” Archives of General Psychiatry, American Medical Association, 1 Mar. 2000,
jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/481578.

 

Into The Beautiful

WCA had the joy of celebrating our Inaugural High School Commencement this past May.  Below is the key note speech presented by Kathy Foldesy, our Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Upper School Teacher.

Mr. Nicholas and the Board of Trustees, Headmaster Whiteman, honored Graduates and distinguished guests, it is truly my delight to address you today at the inaugural graduation of students from Westside Christian Academy Upper School. It has been an honor and a privilege to partner with the families of our students for 19 of the school’s 22 years. I speak from my heart with deep gratitude to the Lord for His faithfulness.

Imagine with me freshly fallen snowflakes flowing effortlessly down from a cobalt blue sky. It’s a crisp morning but not cold. The sun’s rays reflect off the crystals so that the glitter of light dances across the inviting blanket of an untouched expanse.  This untrodden terrain lay before the inaugural class of 2019 in late 2015. The path that they would forge would greatly parallel the steps of WCA forefathers who, like these students, courageously stepped onto unsurveyed territory. For both groups, obedience to the call of God upon their lives took courage to be the first.

Marcus Tullius Cicero aptly instructs us that, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born, is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors in the records of history.” Where did their history begin? To be sure, the firm foundations of faith in Jesus Christ were laid in the homes of each of our graduates. A Christ-centered household is one that enjoys God’s favor and lovingkindness. Katie, Coleman, Joanna, Kayla and Brady are overtly thankful to their parents. Home is where they took their first steps into the arms of their parents. Their parents were the first to demonstrate Christ’s love to them; their parents were the first to tell them the truth about Christ’s work on the cross and the forgiveness of sins; their parents were the first to pray for their hearts to come to a saving faith in Him. Hand in hand these students attended church with their parents where excellent Bible teaching allowed them to form a right view of the world. We are so thankful to celebrate the truth of God’s Word through the goodness nurtured in Christ-centered households, which was the start of something beautiful. Their parents were also the first to commit to enrolling their children in a brand new high school. Together, they stepped into God’s provision.  Our graduates and their parents progressed ahead with confidence but also with understanding of the risks involved. They blazed a trail, a trail on which parents partnering with teachers, have impressed God’s commands on their hearts so that they would talk about them when [they] [sat] at home and when they walk[ed] along the road, and when they [lay] down and [arose] (Deuteronomy 6:7). The class of 2019 is now paved into the records of WCA’s history.

Here, students are being taught that the truth, goodness and beauty of every present moment rests on humility. From his ponderous reflection in Confessions, Augustine resolved, “But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in Him but in myself and His other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.” The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is good news. Each one of us can live forgiven from the selfishness of sin. Confess your sins to a holy and living God. Receive the atonement that Christ provided by dying on the cross. Surrender to Him, so that He becomes the Lord of your life, and you will live every moment as a child of God, saved by grace and bound for an eternity with your heavenly Father. THIS is the biblical truth that WCA integrates with academic excellence.  Our students are becoming leaders committed to impacting the world for Jesus Christ.

This evening, the Class of 2019 will join the ranks of those who have gone before, recorded as the beloved adventurers in WCA’s history. Brady, Kayla, Joanna, Coleman and Katie. The inaugural graduating class. They sit before you; they are educated; they understand how to see the world through the eyes of Scripture; they have a Christian worldview. They can articulate winsomely from history or accurately calculate trigonometric functions.  They are a diverse group of learners – some preferring to read, quietly, solitarily, others prefer to debate raucously with proclamation and passion. Right here, right now we are celebrating! We delight in this moment. Take a deep breath – take it in. Class of 2019, you are our joy. Truly, you have worked zealously.  Each one of you has finished with honors (impressive). You are cohesively the class of 2019 yet each distinctive with your own unique giftedness. You are so dearly loved. You are diligence epitomized…faithfulness unwavering. You are young men and women of integrity who desire to give glory to God. We celebrate this moment of abundant life in this place.

To experience the zest of life recall days of old, relish in the immediate moments before you, and see the potential that the future holds. You are at the precipice of your future. The untouched expanse before you is bright, sparkling with optimism.  God has set eternity in the hearts of men; he wants you to look forward with hope to the future. The Scriptures tell us that people who lack vision will perish. Logic would conclude that people who embody vision flourish. Therefore, seek God and allow Him to direct your steps. Know the Truth; hold tight to the good path He has marked out for you.  The unmarked path of newly fallen snow glistens before you. Go and make your way into the beautiful.

The Battle for the Intellect and Hearts of Our Children

By Kristen Zuccola, Upper School Dean and Humanities Chair

Verses 10-12 of Ephesians 6 say, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ” Paul, the spiritual and likely intellectual father of Timothy wrote these words warning the people of Ephesus to be aware of the invisible attacks on their thinking.

In light of this verse, I ask, “Who are your intellectual fathers?” That is, whose life philosophies drive your thinking, your motives, your decision making? Yours perhaps is Martin Luther or Charles Spurgeon. Maybe, however, you “subconsciously” ascribe to the philosophies of men who neither loved nor worshipped the one true God. In his book Atheism Remix, Albert Mohler explains that none of us lives in Martin Luther’s world; few live legitimately fearing we, or someone we love, “would die before nightfall.” In the 1500s, however, this was a reality; the life expectancy hovered between thirty and forty years of age. Today, it is seventy-five to eighty. Thus, the majority of the population doesn’t face the reality of eternity on a daily basis. We, as Christians, KNOW of eternity, but do we live each day in light of it?

Fewer than two hundred years after Luther, the intellectual tool of doubt emerged with the Enlightenment as did the fierce independence of man, man who could finally reroute rivers and communicate over long distances and cure diseases. It has become and remains praiseworthy in academia to doubt all things— not the least of which include the existence of God, the culpability for our sin, and the need for a Savior. Finally, atheism has grown up on the shoulders of the four men to whom Mohler refers as “the four horsemen of the modern apocalypse”: Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud. I ask you a rhetorical question, “Have any of these intellectual fathers parented you? Parented those who taught you?”

You may shake your head but nod on the inside. Do you hesitate to witness to a person because he thinks like philosopher Nietzsche that “God is Dead?” Is that hesitation a miniscule subscription to the beliefs of a man whose philosophy ushered in the Third Reich? Maybe you don’t pray for a certain thing, thinking that you must simply stay tough through life’s minor challenges. Karl Marx said that “Religion is an opiate for the masses.” Do you think that you should be strong enough to overcome life’s difficulties without God? Then Karl Marx has whispered in your ear, “You shouldn’t need the opiate.” Maybe you think man as nothing but the sum of his parts— Darwin. Maybe your fleshly desires drive your decision making— Freud.

In a world where man is driven to earn more, experience more, love more, win more, acquire more, more, more, more, we fall prey to the lessons of the intellectual forefathers whose philosophies point us in any direction but heavenward. In the Upper School, we are methodically instructing the truths of the world, God’s world, saturated with His Truth, His Word. Ephesians 6 says that we struggle “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” We are in the business, then, of equipping the minds for battle.

While magnifying great Christian thinkers like Luther, Sproul, and Augustine, and more, Upper School students in grades 7-12 look at the writings of the intellectual giants whose words continue to whisper to us through commercials, popular music, contemporary literature, and politics. Through the lens of scripture, we read Nietzsche and Marx wearing the belt of truth. Wielding the sword of the spirit, we read Twain, whose antagonism to Christianity saturates his literature. With a willingness to open our mouths boldly to proclaim the Gospel, we read Crane, whose Naturalistic literature systematically teaches the reader that man is a higher form of animal, driven by instinct alone, who will live, die, and then cease to exist.

Teachers who love these students teach the Truth: that there is but one Father, one who is intellectual as well as spiritual. He wants more from us than to just think. He wants us to obey, serve, protect, abide, and love. Through a classical approach to learning including carefully selected texts, weekly lecture, memorization of scripture, recitation of seminal texts, lively discussions, speech making, and more, students’ minds and hearts are consistently directed to their Heavenly Father as the one who not only created all so-called intellectual fathers, but who also reigned over them all. In the Upper School, we worship through our learning.

Parents, I encourage you to prayerfully consider what the Lord might have for your sons and daughters. Here, we endeavor to, as we must, pursue success in the worldly goals of achieving great test scores and getting into good colleges, but even-the-more we want to come alongside you in the training and intellectual equipping of your children to fight the fight against the cosmic powers over this present darkness. Last semester we memorized Ephesians 6 and will continue to memorize God’s word so that students know intimately the words of the One who made them and loves them. It is our prayer that they will know him as the father of all things, and rather than seek alone to live in the world, that they will seek— in all of their pursuits— to glorify Him. We worship through our learning, not for our own selfish gain, to win the whole world, but for the sake of the Kingdom.