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The Lost Seeds of Learning: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric as Life-Giving Arts

  • The Lost Seeds of Learning: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric as Life-Giving Arts

The Lost Seeds of Learning: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric as Life-Giving Arts


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    If we lose the ability to imagine how words are like seeds, we risk presuming that language cannot serve any purpose greater than our own. If we cannot imagine how human words can communicate self-giving life, then we lose the ability to imagine how Christian faith is possible.”

    The verbal arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric are often referred to as tools of learning. But this analogy between words and tools too often relies on the common assumption that the verbal arts are merely neutral tools. Even reimagining the verbal arts as purposive tools that serve a good beyond themselves takes us only so far. We need an alternative analogy to stand against the cultural forces of consumption and production that often shape educational purposes in the age of global information technology. Thus, rather than tools, words are like seeds whose purpose is life-giving.

    The Lost Seeds of Learning invites readers to consider how our understanding of the learners, the teachers, the content, the forms, and the purposes of the verbal arts becomes transformed in light of Christian faith. Recovering the vision of how grammar, logic, and rhetoric can be like seeds and not merely neutral tools helps us remember why these arts are crucial to Christian formation. These arts have an intrinsic purpose not of human choosing and a particular purpose to communicate new life. Such life communicated is a divine gift and the form of such communication can be self-giving. Such verbal giving and receiving is a living knowledge that relies on the testimony of particular persons over time. By imagining words as seeds, Christian educators can cultivate attention, patience, and responsible action rather than distraction, impatience, and paralysis. 

  • Paperback

    ISBN: 9781600514258

    Pages: 288

    Dimensions: 6in x 9in

  • Phil Donnelly PhD, Author

    Phillip J. Donnelly, PhD, is professor of literature in the Honors College at Baylor University, where he teaches in the Great Texts Program and the English Graduate Program and serves as the director of the Great Texts Program. His research focuses on the historical connections between philosophy, theology, and imaginative literature, with particular attention to Renaissance literature and the reception of classical educational traditions. He is the author of Milton’s Scriptural Reasoning (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and is coeditor, with D. H. Williams, of Transformations in Biblical Literary Traditions (University of Notre Dame Press, 2014). He serves on the national council for the Alcuin Fellowship and on the editorial board for Principia: A Journal of Classical Education.

  • “Lamenting modern education’s cheapening of words as neutral tools, Phillip J. Donnelly highlights their purpose, life, and particularity— words are seeds.The Lost Seeds of Learningtakes Christology to the verbal arts (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and teaches us to give ourselves in the words that we speak. Educationally formative, culturally subversive, and theologically profound,The Lost Seeds of Learningoffers a dramatic and much-needed redirection of Christian education.”
    —Hans Boersma, PhD, Saint Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology

    “Only rarely are we privileged to discover a book that has transformative power that enriches reflection across all academic disciplines. Philip Donnelly’sThe Lost Seeds of Learningis just such a landmark work. By showing his readers the pervasive rootedness of words in the Word—from the beginning and incarnate in Christ—and doing so with such teachable examples and pertinent detail, Donnelly has gifted every serious Christian educator with a deeper and richer theological—as well as classical, philosophical, and literary—foundation. This is a learned and carefully written work; if studied with the seriousness it surely merits, it will reseed not only the vocabulary, but the pedagogical framework and intellectual capital of classical Christian learning. This book is a must-read for committed teachers, and I highly recommend it for thoughtful parents as well.”
    —David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Baylor Institute for Studies in Religion and author ofScripture and the English Poetic Imagination

    The Lost Seeds of Learning provides a systematic, accessible, and delightful contribution to the recovery of grammar, logic, and rhetoric in contemporary liberal arts education. Under careful cultivation, the author finds that these delightful kernels of reasoning bear fruit in spiritual wisdom and right conduct. Since Donnelly appears to have drunk deeply from the Pierian Spring himself, we may yet wonder, “WillLost Seedsslake at last the growing thirst for the Trivium?” Alas, no. In fact, it is guaranteed only to whet a ferocious and lifelong craving for more.” 
    —Fr. Francisco Nahoe, OFMConv, Casa Kolbe at Our Lady of Grace

    “InThe Lost Seeds of Learning, author Phil Donnelly brings his knowledge and wisdom to bear, offering a corrective to a formulaic approach to classical, trivium-based education. Donnelly teases out the theological implications of seeing the language arts as organic, life-generating seeds rather than mere tools. Voices like Donnelly’s need to be heard if the recovery of classical education is to continue to deepen.” 
    —Alyssan Barnes,PhD, Senior Faculty at the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education

    The Lost Seeds of Learningexplicates the liberal arts tradition as a way of intimately experiencing the self-giving love of Christ through grammar, logic, and rhetoric. It reveals how the fullness of a liberal arts education is in lockstep with Christian faith, soul formation, and divine encounters. Careful readers of this book will gladly lay down the lost neutral tools of learning as they understand that grammar, logic, and rhetoric are seeds of learning that can communicate divinely given life and are purposive tools that faithfully render reality.”
    —Alison Moffatt, Head of Live Oak Classical School, Waco, TX

    “In the parable of the sower in Luke 8, Jesus relates seeds and words. In his theology of creation, Augustine referred to God’s ideas implanted in creation as therationes seminales, again invoking a link between seeds and words. Phil Donnelly, inThe Lost Seeds of Learning, connects the verbal arts to this lost ancient Christian view as well as to contemporary scholarship. Within this book, the reader will discover “that knowledge is alive,” grammar teaches us to render reality faithfully, and that the highest purpose of human discourse is “the communication of self-giving love so that a new life results.” As keepers of language in the West erect a virtual Tower of Babel and Christians shake their heads in confusion,The Lost Seeds of Learningoffers a way out of the madness. This book is a must-read for teachers of literature, logic, and rhetoric and for anyone seeking to behold how Christ, the Word, informs and transforms our verbal arts.” 
    —Ravi Scott Jain, coauthor ofThe Liberal Arts Tradition andA New Natural Philosophy