The Blueness of Transparency (Mundane Meditations)

The Classical Thistle

Not long ago I took a walk through the woods. My aim was to get some fresh air and some space from the craziness of life. I wandered for a while through the trees, thick with leaves that valiantly fought to grant me a respite from the oppressive heat. Soon, however, my path led me out into an open expanse and the full intensity of the sun’s attack was upon me. After finally adjusting my vision in this new brightness, I was struck by a realization—the sky I looked upon was blue.

Now, even a child knows that the sky is blue, but children have not yet ceased to ask why. Why is the sky blue? I suddenly wanted to know. But I didn’t want so much to know the scientific answer to the sky’s color, but the spiritual answer. And the thing that really sparked my interest was that…

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On Running Out of Ink (Mundane Meditations)

The Classical Thistle

mundane meditationsOne of the more ridiculous confessions of my life came not long ago at a professional development meeting. As I sat in a classroom taking notes, my pen stopped working. This annoyance had happened before, so I knew the proper technique to shake the pen, scribble in the corner, and move on. Yet it didn’t work. I tried again, and again, and sat amazed at my inability to make the pen function. By now I had lost all connection with the presentation that was the subject and motivation for which I was trying to repair my pen in first place. So with my mind now 100% on my pen I gave it the necessary attention to realize that the problem was simple: I had run out of ink.

running out of inkBut here is the ridiculous confession I made to a colleague after the presentation: at the age of 34, this was the…

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Monday Musings (November 20, 2017): New Testament “Creeds” and Classical Christian Education

The Classical Thistle

Monday MusingsThis past week I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Providence, Rhode Island. The final paper I attended was not only one of the best of the conference, but also led to some further reflection that I think is helpful for our endeavors in classical Christian education.

The presentation was given by John Dickson and it was entitled “‘Creeds’ as Educational Epitomes of the Gospel.” In this presentation, Dickson suggests that several of the so-called “creeds” of the New Testament (e.g., Phil 2:6-11; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Cor 15:3-5; etc.) are in fact better understood as educational epitomes. The common notion in scholarship revolves around the idea that passages such as those mentioned above are early Christian hymns and creeds that developed in the context of gathered worship. Dickson, however, although not denying that may have been used in such contexts, makes…

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Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology (Book Blurbs)

The Classical Thistle

Book Blurbsmoving beyond the bibleThis is one of the better books I have read in the Counterpoints series. Each of the four main contributors present their cases well and give substantive feedback and criticism to each other in their responses. Additionally, the inclusion of reflections by Strauss, Wolters, and Wright are an excellent addition to provide further reflection from various perspectives that are not “defending their own view”. The most significant weakness of the book as a whole is stated by Wolters when he points out that at least four distinct categories of moving beyond the Bible to theology are presented by the contributors, but not every author addresses every category. In fact, he shows how Webb deals exclusively in category 2 (ethically troubling injunctions), Vanhoozer alone deals in category 3 (forging theological categories), and Doriani is the only one to deal in category 4 (reception history of a theme). Consequently we get only…

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The Doctrine of the Trinity (Book Blurbs)

The Classical Thistle

Book BlurbsReeves, Delighting in the Trinity

Reeves has done a marvelous job of showing the central importance of the doctrine of the Trinity for Christianity. More specifically, it is not the doctrine that is central, but the reality of who God is AS Trinity–Father, Son, and Spirit–that is central to Christianity. Reeves highlights the self-giving, loving nature of the Father, which is magnified by the obedient, loving response of the Son who delights in the Father, and the life-giving love of the Spirit for Father and Son as the foundation for all the Christian life. He gives examples from creation and salvation, as well as frequently showing how a one-person God cannot be loving in his very nature, thus the beauty of this Tri-unity. Reeves helps show how our very identity as creatures created in the image of this Triune God mark us in our very natures as creatures created for love and fellowship. These are…

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The What and the Why of The Classical Thistle

The Classical Thistle

When starting a project, those who initiate the process absolutely must know the what and the why, but almost as necessary for success is that the readership understands them as well. This post explains the why and the what of The Classical Thistle and how we hope it will help advance classical Christian education in the 21st century.

What is The Classical Thistle?

The Classical Thistle was founded in March 2017 and arose out of conversations between its co-founders, Kyle Rapinchuk and Scott McElvain, over a two year period. The conversations centered on the relatively minimal online influence of classical Christian education in an ever-increasing digital age. Although there has been an increase in print publications in recent years, the classical Christian education movement is still largely led by a few voices and a few publishers. We wanted to provide a two-fold service. First, we wanted to increase awareness in the…

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Tremendous Trifles, Mundane Meditations, and Wonder in the Simple Things of Life (Mundane Meditations Series)

The Classical Thistle

mundane meditations

Recently I reflected in my post “‘I’m Bored’ vs. the Cultivation of Wonder” on the first meeting of our newly formed Chesterton Society in Branson, Missouri. In that piece I discussed briefly my own realization, which lies at the heart of Chesterton’s Tremendous Trifles, that our lives should be characterized by making ourselves small and the world big and learning to wonder at the mundane things in life. Chesterton has done this brilliantly in the collection of essays that he calls Tremendous Trifles.

leisure the basis of cultureAround this same time, I finished reading the book Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. In this thoughtful book, Pieper proposes that in order for the perfection of human society, “there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation.”[1] In the accompanying essay in this volume, The Philosophical Act, Pieper explains this contemplation by proposing that “the beginning of philosophy is wonder.”[2]

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An Obituary for the Old Testament

OT obituary

The reports of the death of the Old Testament are, sadly, not greatly exaggerated, though we do perhaps have a bit more time. Moreover, although the death of the Old Testament is immanent if left in its present condition, its death can be avoided, but the work will be difficult. Join us on October 6-7 at fbcBranson for “Christianity and the Death of the Old Testament,” a conference devoted to providing teaching and tools to ensure that we take seriously all of God’s Word and are better prepared to read the Old Testament with Christian eyes. Visit for more details.

The Journey

The Classical Thistle

The Journey

By Kyle Rapinchuk

(Download The Journey PDF)

journey smallIn his well-known Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples that the road to salvation was narrow and hard, but the way to destruction was wide and easy (Matt 7:13-14). He told his disciples to take up their cross daily and follow him, to follow him on the road to Calvary (Luke 9:23). Jesus told them “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And the way through Jesus was and is sill the way of the cross. The early church understood the significance of these statements, and early Jewish converts to Christianity called their faith “The Way” (Acts 9:2) before being given the title Christians (Acts 11:26). The Scriptures are replete with similar metaphors. For example, Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks…

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NikabrikI’m not very old, so I realize I haven’t seen a large number of presidential elections, but my sense is that we have perhaps never (or at least rarely) found ourselves in the same kind of political climate as we find ourselves today. Whether it’s radio, television, Twitter, or Facebook, opinions abound on what to do about the presidential election in November. I typically don’t weigh in on politics. I didn’t plan to weigh in, at least not in this way, in this election either. Yet seemingly daily I find another high profile Evangelical pledging support for Donald Trump. Moreover, I find seemingly hourly someone telling me that a vote for anyone other than Trump is a vote for Hillary. I try to be patient and gracious and recognize the merit in other people’s positions, even when I heartily disagree, but this rhetoric of a vote for another candidate being a vote for Hillary is getting frustrating. I do understand the concern. I do understand that, in general, voting for someone other than Trump makes Hillary’s election more likely. But that does not mean that I have voted for her. The same cannot be said for Evangelicals who support Trump. If he wins, and he is the kind of president I think he would be (it’s not a pretty picture), then they will have to answer for that vote, because they have issued it for him directly and purposefully.

I recently read an editorial by a woman saying that any who fail to vote for Trump and thereby vote for Hillary (there is the false logic again) will give up their right to “be martyrs” when Hillary takes away our rights. No! Because my non-vote for Trump is also a non-vote for Hillary. I may be #neverTrump, but I’m also #neverHillary. If Hillary does what she may do as president, then I can, within the bounds of our Democratic Republic, peacefully yet vocally disagree. By not voting for Trump, I retain the right to do the same if he wins. The author of this editorial fails to recognize that a vote for Trump so that Hillary does not win is (quite literally) a vote for Trump. And if Trump wins and does what I think he would do as president (did I mention it’s not pretty), it is she, not I, who have given up her right to “be a martyr.”

But some would say, “Trump is bad, but Hillary is worse. I think in that case it is better to vote for the lesser of two evils.” Setting aside that this may prove to be an incorrect judgment of character, I find this logic scary as well. As I was reading last night, I came across a poignant passage of prophetic political discourse that motivated me to write these thoughts. The motivation came, as it so often does for me, from a work of fiction—to be more precise, a work of fantasy, or a fairy tale, if you like, by C. S. Lewis. The book is Prince Caspian and the insight is from Nikabrik. If you haven’t read Prince Caspian, or need a bit of a refresher, Nikabrik is a bit of an unsavory character. But this is what made what he says so poignant. No Evangelical I know reads Prince Caspian and says, “That Nikabrik is a wise character worthy of imitation.” And yet, the words I am hearing from many Evangelicals sound eerily similar to Nikabrik’s political philosophy. As the characters involved discuss plans for installing Caspian as king and preparing for war against the Telmarines, Caspian asks Nikabrik if he believes in Aslan. Nikabrik replies, “I’ll believe in anyone or anything that’ll batter these cursed Telmarine barbarians to pieces or drive them out of Narnia. Anyone or anything, Aslan or the White Witch, do you understand?” To Nikabrik, the White Witch is better than the Telmarines because she at least cared (or better, pretended to care, but it is clear she only cared about herself) for the dwarves. Enter Trump and Evangelicals. Somehow many Evangelicals have begun to believe that Trump is better than Hillary because he at least cares (or better, pretends to care, but it is clear he only cares about himself) for the values of Evangelicals.

If a person genuinely wants to vote for Trump because one thinks him a “good candidate with flaws,” then vote for him (though I disagree with his or her character assessment). But if someone wants to vote for Trump as the lesser of two evils, despite serious concerns about his character, simply because they want to avoid the cursed Telmarines (I mean, Democrats), then I urge you to pick up Prince Caspian and imagine how poorly things would have gone if Nikabrik had succeeded in his way. As for me, I won’t be Nikabrik and I will trust in Aslan and vote for the candidate as close to Caspian as I can find, even if he has no chance to win. Who knows, maybe Aslan shows up with the Dryads in our day, too, and brings victory we never could have imagined.