Introduction - The Liberal Arts Tradition

A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education

Kevin Clark, DLS and Ravi Scott Jain


The Paradigm of the Liberal Arts Tradition

The liberal arts tradition has both unified integrity and inner connectivity.

There are two main divisions of knowledge in the liberal arts:-

  1. Trivium (The meeting of three paths) incudes grammar, dialectic and rhetoric.

  2. Quadrivium (the four ways) includes arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

The ancients believed these seven subjects formed in the soul the intellectual virtue necessary for acquiring true wisdom.

The crisis in modern education is the failure to cultivate these traditional arts of learning.

As people are formed in God's image, we need to be cultivated in body, soul, mind, will and affection.

It is argued that the seven liberal arts need to be part of a larger model which also includes piety, gymnastic, music, liberal arts, philosophy and theology. (PGMAPT)

Definition: True Christian classical education is the transmission of the culture of the Church through a faculty of friends who love the truth by cultivating virtue in the students in body, heart, and mind, and nurturing their love for wisdom and faithful service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grounded in Piety, Governed by Theology

Classical education is different as it focuses on shaping loves.

Personal values were intentionally passed down and lived out. Piety, the proper love and fear of God and man was the critical virtue (Proverbs 9:10) Piety started with knowledge but required faithful devotion manifest in action.

Education comes from a Greek word in the NT that implied the goal of education was the passing on of the culture of the Church which included the piety, virtues and wisdom and student grew in the grace of God.

The curriculum was grounded in piety and governed by theology. Theology offered nourishment to the lower disciplines, allowing each subject to explore the artistry of a creative God.

Gymnastic and Music: The Training of the Bodies, the Tuning of the Hearts.

Humans are unities of body and soul, mind, will and affections. Gymnastic and music education trains the bodies and tunes the hearts of the young after piety was developed at an early age. For music education, the focus was not on instruments and singing, but on the poetic mode of knowing.

The training of the heart of love what is lovely helps nurture the virtues of courage and temperance (bodily restraint). It teaches proper passions more than skills and content. By awaking wonder, children are able to grow into lifelong learners.

The Liberal Arts: The seeds and Tools Of Learning in Language and Mathematics

The liberal arts provide the essential tools for all subsequent learning. The arts of language and mathematics are the seeds and tools of learning. Recovering the primacy of these arts is a pivotal piece of the paradigm of the liberal arts tradition. They train students on what and how to think.

The liberal arts are the seven unique skills used to create and justify Scientia (Science). Knowledge can be justified that it is true through the liberal arts.

The liberal arts when coupled with piety, gymnastic and music do not comprise a complete education. They are seeds and tools of learning used in all other studies.

The goal of education is for our knowledge of God, man and creation to come to full flower in wisdom, and for this wisdom to help us better love and serve our neighbour.

Liberal arts cultivate reason and as a result, develop the virtue of wisdom.

The study of liberal arts is the foundation that is designed to discipline reason. This makes the acquisition of all later studies most simple and effective.

Philosophy is the Love of Wisdom in Natural, Moral and Divine Reality.

Philosophy is the word used to describe the unity of knowledge that covers all subjects. In the medieval system, there were three branches:-

  1. Natural philosophy - home for natural science

  2. Moral philosophy - home for social science.

  3. Divine philosophy - (Metaphysics) - the study of being.

The liberal arts were used to demonstrate something as true. As seeds of learning, they preceded the sciences.

For the ancients, the notion of the cause was bigger than it is for us today. Today we just study simple cause and effect. For Aristotle, there were four causes to be studied in science:-

  1. Material cause - What is this thing made up of? What is its matter?

  2. Formal cause - What is the essence or form of a thing? What is this thing?

  3. Final cause - Enquires about an object's purpose. What is this thing for?

  4. Efficient cause - What made this thing occur?

Calling And Culture Determine Curriculum

There is a biblical calling of parents to raise their children in the paideia (broad, cultural education) and pass on the culture of the church.


The school is or should be a faculty of friends who love the truth, and Christian culture turns on the anticipation of the ultimate festival, the marriage feast of the Lamb. THUS, the instruction of the liberal, common and fine arts in this Christian context form an excellent basis for a curriculum for friends on the path to a festival.

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