My daughter gave me a booklet to read entitled, Classical Education & the Homeschool, by Douglas Wilson, Wesley Callihan, and Douglas Jones. As I read it, I felt as though I were waking up. I love reading scripture, but I’ve not enjoyed reading books for a while now. I can’t find any that draw me in, spark my imagination, or provide an entertaining escape—all the reasons why we read.

As I was reading this booklet, I read the following facts about Scripture, God, Words, and the imagination.

  1. God created the world by speaking.
  2. The Fall came through false speech.
  3. The Law came in ‘ten words.’
  4. Redemption came through the Word made flesh.
  5. The Holy Spirit was poured out through the tongues of many nations.
  6. And in the end, we will be judged ‘by every idle word’ we speak. (p. 20)

These six facts show us the power of words/language. We want to read words that mean something to us—that have the power to change us. The authors say, “The invisible world of our personality takes on physical features, whether through these material squiggles of ink or voice sounds. In every case, hidden things are revealed.” (p. 20)

Good stories convict.

The authors relate how Nathan used an imaginary story to confront David with the sin of killing Uriah and taking Bathsheba as his own wife. The sinful act did not convict David, but the story of a man’s beloved lamb given up to die made him angry. He wanted retribution. Through Nathan’s story, “Imagination was able to reorder the world and break through a wall of sin.” (p.21)

I loved how the authors explained, “the most ordinary pieces of language demand imagination.” Here are their examples:

  1. We speak of personal difficulties as if they were actual heavy things (burdens).
  2. Goals as if they were targets (“I’m hunting for a job”).
  3. We speak of beauty as a physical force (“She Knocked me out”).
  4. In Scripture, grace produces ‘fruit,’ faith is a ‘substance,’ and Christ is a ‘lion.’ (p. 21)

“Language can help us transform the world for the better. When God renamed various saints in Scripture, he was starting them on a new course, a new creation.” (p. 22)

“All the arts begin with imagination and language. And they allow us to see things in other ways, in creative ways. They redraw the world and can wake us out of our laziness. They can remind us to love the beautiful and despise the evil.” (p.22)

The authors relate that, “Language and imagination come through most powerfully in fiction…. A well-exercised imagination is crucial to making moral and rational judgments….Those who lack a dynamic imagination will never be able to grow into mature wisdom….many thinkers have pointed to the fact that moral judgments involve the imaginative act of placing yourself in the other person’s place, the act of sympathy.” (p.23)

God’s commands, “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mt. 22:39) and ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn. 15:12)—require us to imagine one person as another, one situation in terms of another, Christ as us.” (p. 23)

Reading therefore becomes so very important to developing imagination in children and maintaining imagination as we age. I have found that recently my imagination is slipping and I need to wake it up again by reading great books.

The writers of this booklet give reading lists at the end of the book to get you started on reading great books. I will include a few here:

  1. The Bible
  2. Epic of Gilgamesh
  3. The Iliad and Odyssey by Homer
  4. On the Nature of Things by Lucretius
  5. The Apocrypha
  6. The Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews by Josephus
  7. In Praise of Folly by Erasmus
  8. Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther
  9. Utopia by Thomas More
  10. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  12. The History of Christian Doctrine by Berkhof
  13. Idols for Destruction by Schlossberg
  14. Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (pp. 49-50)

I will confess that other than the Bible, I have not read any of these books, although I recently bought a used copy of Idols for Destruction, and have read excerpts from Pilgrim’s Progress. But, I want to start. I want to learn. I want to improve myself.

If you have read any of these books, please comment below and share with us if you liked the book, didn’t like it, found it inspiring, etcetera. Do you have a reading list of classical literature that you are working to read through presently?