Clapham Christian Classical School

Clapham Journal

Beauty and the Christian, Classical Education

By Doug Reynolds, Head of School

This week we commenced our sixth year at Clapham School. We give great thanks to God for sustaining us thus far. This year he has given us a number of milestones to celebrate: it’s our first year as a PreK through Class Eight school, one hundred students are enrolled, and we welcomed thirty-two new students (our largest group ever)!

These are wonderful things to celebrate as we begin a new year, but they are not the reason we are here at Clapham. We are here, as our vision states, to help grow our students into mature men and women who are serving Christ throughout the world. As I have read and contemplated this throughout the summer, I have been reminded of the centrality of beauty to accomplishing this vision.

 

Beauty and the Christian, Classical Education


As a classical school, we study beautiful works ranging from literature to music to art! These works have stood the test of time, over many centuries, and we ask our students to engage and learn from them all day long.  We diligently listen, gaze, retell, discuss, and consider beautiful things in many different aspects of our curriculum. Beauty is really central to our curriculum here.

 

But how does it fit with our vision?

 

As a Christian school, we see all this beauty as pointing back to God, who is the creator and sustainer of all things. He is the source of beauty and his creation is a reflection of his character. Beautiful things, then, become a means of knowing God more, and knowing God more helps us serve him more fully.

 

However, a deep appreciation of beauty, which in turn can embolden service, does not always come easily. In fact, many beautiful things take hard work and attention to understand and love. This is where our third aspect of the school comes in: joyful discovery. At Clapham, we believe that struggle and delight go hand and hand, and through the rigor of the exploration of beauty our students can begin to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8, ESV). We offer our students the opportunity to push themselves to love higher things; things which more purely reflect God’s goodness in the world.

The study of beauty also means our students have an opportunity to grow in peace, and heartfelt service is rooted in this concept. I’m reminded of the passage from scripture wherein Jesus uses two examples of beauty from his creation:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  (Matthew 6:26-29, ESV)

The birds and the lilies, both examples of beauty from creation, act as reminders of how valuable we are to God. When we gaze on the created order, we are to remember our own value as creatures made in his image and redeemed by his grace. This realization brings with it peace. In fact, Jesus, in the same passage, reminds his followers to not be anxious four different times. Beauty, then, acts as a kind of antidote to the anxiety that can so easily ensnare us in this world.

 

Peace and joy are gifts from God which he provides as we contemplate and know him better through beauty, and also know ourselves better by understanding how deeply he cares and provides for each one of us – far more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. What more could we want for our children than for them to know more deeply how valuable they are to God? We pray this for every new and returning student at our school for this coming school year, and look forward to the beauty ahead.

 

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