Religion in the Humanities Program

Gregory of Tours begins his History of the Franks as follows:

As I am about to describe the struggles of kings with the heathen enemy, of martyrs with pagans, of churches with heretics, I desire first of all to declare my faith so that my reader may have no doubt that I am Catholic. I have also decided, on account of those who are losing hope of the approaching end of the world, to collect the total of past years from chronicles and histories and set forth clearly how many years there are from the beginning of the world. But I first beg pardon of my readers if either in letter or in syllable I transgress the rules of the grammatic art in which I have not been fully instructed, since I have been eager only for this, to hold fast, without any subterfuge or irresolution of heart, to that which we are bidden in the church to believe, because I know that he who is liable to punishment for his sin can obtain pardon from God by untainted faith.

I believe, then, in God the Father omnipotent. I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord God, born of the Father, not created. [I believe] that he has always been with the Father, not only since time began but before all time. For the Father could not have been so named unless he had a son; and there could be no son without a father....(source)
And thence he continues with a somewhat expanded recitation of the Nicene Creed.

Gregory of Tours considered it important to explain his beliefs before embarking on his history so that the reader might understand that the author of this work was a believer in eternal truth, and thus trust his account of historical events. Much has changed in the discipline of history since Gregory's day, but an author's beliefs are still taken into account -- though usually because we want to understand what biases the author brings to his work.

As Catholics, we might preface our work as Gregory did, by reciting the Nicene Creed. However this still might not provide you with the answer to a question you may be asking: What religious assumptions are written into the Humanities Program?

In relation to the high school program, the answer is effectively: none. The high school program is composed entirely of primary and secondary sources, while we provide merely a list of works and notes, along with suggestions for possible modifications. These works provide a wide variety of viewpoints on religious subjects: pagan, Catholic, Protestant, agnostic, and atheist. We certainly include a number of religious texts in the program, but these works are necessary for a clear understanding of Western culture. No matter what your own system of beliefs, you cannot understand the ancients without reading pagan works; the "Dark Ages" and medieval period without reading the lives and works of the saints; the Reformation and Counter-Reformation without reading both Catholic and Protestant works; and the Enlightenment and modern periods without reading the works of secular humanists. However, the high school student is nearing maturity, and there is no better time to begin encountering this wide range of philosophies.

For the elementary program, the question may well be of much more concern to you. Children in early elementary school are at a very impressionable age, and as parents we certainly are careful in choosing books which we believe to accurately reflect the truth for our children.

So where does the Elementary Humanities Program stand on religious issues?

A number of stories from both the Old Testament and the New Testament are included in the elementary program. We have two purposes in presenting them there. First, we feel it is important for the student to understand where these stories fit chronologically in the history of the Ancient World. Second, we believe that in order to understand Western Culture it is essential to know the stories that most people have believed for the last 2000 years, even if you yourself are not Christian.

Thus, in the case of stories for which there are few or no sources other than the Bible (e.g. the Exodus story or stories about events in the life of Jesus), we have stayed close to the Biblical account rather than indulging in speculation on "what might really have happened" which is in fact based on little more than the author's assumptions. We believe that this is the most historically honest approach, and it leaves the decision of how to frame these stories up to the individual parent.

However, while some classic elementary history texts by Christian authors make an effort to frame the flow of history within the context of Providence, we have chosen not to make any such attempt. While we certainly don't deny that God's providence is active in the world, we do not see it as the place of a history book to attempt to define in just what way it may be active. All empires, nations and intellectual trends have their faults as well as their virtues, and it seems to us unwise to attempt to rule on "what God wants" in terms of political and cultural movements, rather than in terms of personal holiness.