In the middle of the 6th century, Cassiodorus writes in his Institutes of Divine and Secular Learning about his desire to establish a school devoted to the training of Christian men in Scripture and in the basics of a classical education. He goes on to explain that because of the upheaval of his times he was unable to start the school. Instead, he says,
I was moved by Divine Love to devise for you, with God’s help, these introductorybooks to take the place of a teacher. Through them I believe that both the textual sequence of Holy Scripture and also a compact account of secular letters may, with God’s grace, be revealed. These works may seem rather plain in style since they offer not polished eloquence but basic description. But they are of great use as an introduction to the source both of knowledge of this world and of the salvation of the soul. I commend in them not my own teaching, but the words of earlier writers that we justly praise and gloriously herald to later generations. For learning taken from the ancients in the midst of praising the Lord is not considered tasteless boasting.
This vision expressed by Cassiodorus is not unlike our own. We also live in times when there is a great need for excellent Christian education, as many of the treasures of the past are being forgotten. Cassiodorus saw clearly how the learning and eloquence of the classical past could and should be harnessed for the study and teaching of Scripture, and for the edification of the church. In short, he delivers a powerful defense of classical and Christian education. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that it is from Cassiodorus that we get the division of classical education into the seven disciplines of the Trivium and the Quadrivium. Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric are the practical disciplines that must be mastered in order to study effectively the more abstract disciplines of the Quadrivium—Mathematics, Music, Astronomy, and Geometry. This system of learning has endured the test of time, and, until the earlier part of this century, was the basic template followed in most of the western world. Cassiodorus.org follows in this tradition, as we offer classes in Logic, Rhetoric, and Latin.
Most important of all is Cassiodorus’s praise of the Lord in the midst of this learning, and his concern for the salvation of souls. The learning he advocated was only a tool, and only a good tool, in so far as it was used for the kingdom of Christ. This is very much our attitude as well. We at Cassiodorus.org hope “to herald to the coming generation learning taken from the ancients, in the midst of praising the Lord.“