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Posts posted by Rosie

  1. We liked these lectures. They are meant for high school, but my middle schoolers were able to understand them.


    This podcast episode by Phil Vischer about the origins of the universe is simple to understand.


    Here is a long video by John Walton, an Old Testament scholar, about his research. I'd suggest listening instead of watching since it's a bit cheesy visually!


    I like this introduction for middle school aged kids about the intersection of faith and science. (Follow the menu down the right side.)


    This is slightly off topic but this sermon series has at least one sermon on the topic.


    The Author of Life films are well done.


    And, yes, BioLogos has loads of information, including videos!


    I used this video of Bill Nye and Ken Ham touring the Ark Encounter as an example of what NOT to do. There was no true communication happening there. When talking with those we disagree with, we should listen in order to understand and not be so desperate to prove our point that we bulldoze over the other person.

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  2. Re: John Walton - Interesting - I have one of his books in my "to read" pile.  I have seen increasing acknowledgement in most all corners of Christianity that the assumed hard separation between creation and the spiritual bequeathed to us by modernity is a huge problem (certainly Pentecostalism makes quite an effort to overcome this, albeit in a non-sacramental way).  And among traditions with a sacramental history it has resulted in an increased focus on recovering a sacramental view.  I have noticed an uptick in interest in some kind of sacramental view of creation amongst Reformed-influenced evangelicals (makes sense since the Reformed have a sacramental history and are part of evangelicalism); I've seen a surge of interest in Jonathan Edwards, who worked really hard to fight the material-only mechanistic view of the universe.  Mostly this seemed to open up the possibility of a sacramental understanding of sanctification and not justification, but some Presbyterians were trying to get back to Calvin's understanding of the sacraments.  But yeah, rightly or not, I don't associate that with "mainstream" evangelicalism. 


    But it doesn't surprise me overmuch that "evangelicalism as I've experienced it" misses the *possibilities* of evangelicalism.  For all that I grew up in evangelical-adjacent Lutheranism and so imbibed several common evangelical assumptions (80s and 90s era), I'm still an outsider looking in wrt evangelicalism.  I see more of the most common bits of evangelicalism (and evangelical missteps) than anything else.  And all my actual *study* of theology has been within the confessional Lutheran corner of the tradition, as opposed to the evangelical-adjacent corner I grew up in. (Confessional Lutherans hold that, since we Lutherans hold that our confessions, the Book of Concord, are a correct explanation of Scripture, they should therefore *form* our theology and practice, instead of merely functioning as a "stay within these lines" theological boundary.)  And confessional Lutherans have a habit of using evangelicalism as a go-to "how *not* to be Lutheran" example, since most American Lutherans are heavily influenced by evangelical assumptions (as was I). 


    And that can warp one's impression.  When we do X, and contrast the practice of X with someone else's X-contradicting practice of A - it's all-too-easy to assume that:

    (1) since we practice X *because* it is X, and we do not practice A *because* A contradicts X,

    (2) while they *are* practicing A,

    (3) they are practicing A *because* it contradicts X.  (And we can also end up assuming the reverse, that *we* practice X *because* it contradicts A, and thus warp our understanding of *ourselves* in addition to warping our understanding of others.)

    In other words, it is all too easy to define *their* practice of A in terms of how it relates to *our* practice of X.  We see the world in X/notX terms, and it blinds us to someone else's A/notA worldview.  We interpret them as if they *shared* our X/notX premises, only they contrarily affirm the opposite, notX conclusion; and they likely return the favor, assuming we share their A/notA premises while contrarily affirming the opposite, notA conclusion. 


    Here's an example: Let's say that I play music in the background in order to establish music as an omnipresent part of our lives.  And let's say that you only play music when you and your family can devote their full attention to it, to establish the habit of giving music the attention it deserves.  These practices *do* contradict, but they *aren't* opposites of each other.  I'm not playing music in the background *because* I'm trying to establish the habit of giving music only half-attention.  And you aren't limiting music to when you can give it full attention *because* you are trying to limit music to only a corner of your life.  (Those may be unintentional consequences of our practices, but they aren't what either of us is setting out to do.)  But it's awfully easy for me to assume that you are *purposely* doing the opposite of what I am doing because you *want* to accomplish the opposite of what I want to accomplish, and vice versa.  And that means that while *I* am trying to accomplish a *good* thing, *you* apparently are *trying* to accomplish a *bad* thing, and vice versa.  That doesn't really leave much room for seeing any potential common ground between us on this issue, kwim? 

    (And in reverse, sometimes the acceptance of common ground between us and our different-but-both-good practices doesn't leave much room for considering the possibility that one practice may have more negative unintentional consequences than another - since we are "on the same side", we need to accept everything about each other as of equal value - any substantial criticism is treated as a veiled statement that "you aren't affiliated with me".  It's the flip side of being on opposing sides and assuming there is *no* common ground at all.)


    So all that to say, I don't really understand evangelicalism from the inside, and I try to keep my statements appropriately humble, though sometimes I forget because evangelicalism's been a close neighbor for so long and so feels familiar - I think I know them better than I do.  I am trying to learn to understand evangelicalism on its own terms, though I've a long ways to go.




    WRT another example of immaterial creation: the other main category I can think of is that of universals - "what particular things have in common, namely characteristics or qualities", such as truth, goodness, beauty.  Namely, what is the nature of those universals - do they exist out there in the world independently or not?  Realism says they do, anti-realism says they don't, and nominalism splits the difference.  (Nominalism arose in the medieval church in response to the revival of Aristotle and arguably contributed strongly to Reformation theology.)


    Realism is basically the idea that reality exists independently of how people see it or understand it. Reality is what it is, regardless of whether we see it as it is. And when it comes to philosophy, realism is the idea that ideas - like goodness and beauty and human nature - are real things that exist independently of whatever anyone thinks of them, or even *whether* anyone thinks of them. Creation isn't just made up of material reality (like our flesh and bones and blood) but is also made up of immaterial reality (like souls and the essence of humanity and truth and goodness and beauty). 


    However, nominalism rejects the idea of independently-existing immaterial moral essences like goodness and beauty and human nature - general ideas are just human-invented names for things that don't actually exist - only particular, concrete, material objects exist. So "human nature" as its own thing doesn't exist - only individual humans who have some things in common. We might *call* those things-all-humans-have "human nature", but that's just a name we use - there's no *actual* universal "human nature" that all humans *really* share.


    Now, the scientific revolution rests on nominalist assumptions, and kind of kicked pre-modern realism's butt - in our scientific, technocratic West, we're all swimming in nominalist assumptions. Is beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or inherent to what is being beheld? Is the question "can I use thing A to accomplish good purpose B?" a strictly *practical* question (will it work), or is it inherently a *moral* question, too (is it *right* to use thing A to accomplish purpose B)? The first answer to each is nominalist, the second one broadly realist.


    The original point of nominalism was to preserve God's sovereignty over His creation.  Prior to the revival of Aristotle in the 12 and 13th centuries, the medieval church was more Platonic.  The connection between creation and the spiritual was something like this:





    Immaterial Creation



    Material Creation


    The material was encompassed and determined by the immaterial and the immaterial was in turn encompassed and determined by the spiritual.  You could only understand material creation if you understood immaterial creation, and you could only understand immaterial creation if you understood God's spiritual work in creation.  What creation was *for* determined what creation *was* and what it could *do*.  Unbelievers, with no understanding of God's spiritual work, were therefore unable to truly understand the whys and wherefores of God's creation.


    But Aristotle had a different relationship between the material and immaterial.  And the resulting synthesis between Aristotelianism and Christianity looked, to its opponents anyway, something like this (I am unclear how the scholastics themselves viewed it):





    Material Creation <-> Immaterial Creation


    So you had immaterial creation formed by *both* material creation *and* the spiritual (and material creation as only indirectly affected by God's spiritual work).  Unbelievers *could* understand the immaterial purposes of creation, since they were right there, embedded in material creation to be studied.  But they couldn't understand the spiritual purposes of God.  And to nominalists, this allowed the notions of unbelievers to define what was and wasn't possible for God to do in creation, and thus infringed on His absolute sovereignty. because it limited God to working out His spiritual good in ways that meshed with the inherent immaterial purposes of creation.  To nominalists, it made God's ability to spiritually work in creation limited by the nature of creation itself - and thus claimed that God cannot change what He sets in motion, that He is limited by His past actions - which infringed on God's ability to do absolutely anything.  And to top it off, since the purposes of creation were possible for unbelievers to learn, God was seen as limited to working in ways that unbelievers could conceive of - which is a false limitation, because unbelievers by definition are unable to understand the ways of God.  (Heck, humans in general are unable by definition to fully understand the ways of God.)


    So, to preserve God's absolute sovereignty to do absolutely anything in creation He wanted, nominalists gutted the category of immaterial creation:





    Material Creation -> Immaterial Creation


    Material creation was brought right back under the direct control of the spiritual, while immaterial creation was left hanging off to the side, unable to influence much of anything.  Immaterial creation existed in name only, not as really-existing things.  (And all the important things that immaterial creation was responsible for ended up migrating eventually either to the spiritual or the material.)  But the *nature* of the connection between the spiritual and material creation changed.  Instead of the purposes of creation being embedded *within* creation itself, material creation *had* no inherent purpose.  Instead, God imposed His spiritual purposes from outside creation onto a creation that was itself inherently purposeless - He could do anything He wanted with creation to accomplish His good goals.


    And this changed the nature of humanity's relationship to creation, too.  Being God's stewards of creation means doing God's will in creation.  When God's will was inherent in creation, that meant using creation as it was meant to be used.  But once God's will was imposed from the outside on a purposeless creation, then we too did His will by imposing our wills on a purposeless creation to accomplish His good purposes.  Under nominalism, nothing within creation tells us how creation should be lived in - only God's divine revelation can tell us. 


    And then, per Charles Taylor in A Secular Age, nominalism and scholasticism's autonomous material creation, both Christian, combined to form a worldview quite antithetical to Christianity:


    Material Creation | Spiritual


    This kicked off the Scientific Revolution - the material world could profitably be studied in itself, regardless of what spiritual purposes may or may not exist, because nothing about those spiritual purposes would or could change the nature of material creation.  Ever since Christians have been fighting to keep/regain the primacy of the spiritual and the ability of the spiritual to affect the material, but in practice, this often is reduced to accepting an inherently purposeless, spiritless creation, while maintaining that 1) God and His outside-creation spiritual purposes *do* exist and *should* be lived by, and 2) God reserves the right to intervene spiritually in His material creation in order to change its usual course at any time.  This concedes almost everything - it *accepts* the materialistic view that the "usual course of things" inherently *excludes* all things spiritual; it accepts that "the usual course of things" are things that happen *without* God - that the usual way of the world is to be *without* God.  And as those materialistic assumptions give the spiritual very little to do in our daily lives, it's hard to maintain the primacy of the spiritual.  And I do think those assumptions affect most Western Christians, sacramental and non-sacramental alike, to a greater or lesser extent - it's in the air we breathe.




    The gutting of immaterial creation, and the resulting migration of things from immaterial creation to either spiritual or material, changed the nature of natural law.  And this is pretty important, because a lot of Christian ethical teaching has been based in natural law.  Christians have generally held that natural law is written in creation and so is knowable to an extent by everyone.  Scholasticism tended to see natural law as written into immaterial creation.  But when nominalism followed by the scientific revolution gutted the category of immaterial creation, the only categories that were left were spiritual or material. 


    So for natural law to be written into creation, it would have to be written into *material* creation - and therefore be discoverable by *science*.  Which is quite a change from the based-in-an-objective-immaterial-creation morality of virtue ethics.  For quite a while Christian and non-Christians alike sought to ground morality in scientifically-discoverable material facts - MacIntyre calls this "the Enlightenment Project" - but ultimately it failed philosophically, and the results of that failure have been extending into everyday life.  And one of the impacts is that *Christian* morality - inasmuch as it is rooted in a scientifically-determined-material-only "natural" law - is rooted in a fiction.  And a fiction that people are increasingly coming to realize *is* a fiction.


    One of the main points of MacIntyre's After Virtue is how what he calls "emotivism" (*not* the same thing as "emotional") is a direct result of the failure of modernity to ground morality in anything.  Per MacIntyre, emotivists are people who believe there are *no* objective moral standards, and so all moral judgments are nothing more than covert expressions of personal preference.  Most emotivists take this to be a fact about the inherent nature of moral judgment: just like we moderns say with certainty that no real witches were ever burned throughout history because there are no witches to be burned in the first place, emotivists say with confidence that no one in history has ever appealed to a real, objective moral standard in defending their moral judgment because there are *no* objective moral standards in the first place.


    But MacIntyre's point is that while emotivists *are* seeing something that is really there - that modern Western moral judgments *do* embody this mismatch between how a group of people make moral judgments (as if they are based on rational, objective criteria) and what those moral judgments are actually based on (feelings and attitudes) - they are *wrong* when they declare that the features of these *particular* moral judgments apply to *all* moral judgments everywhere.  In fact, MacIntyre’s “After Virtue†is a book-length argument that the modern loss of objective moral foundations is not universal but historically contingent. 


    I really appreciate MacIntyre here, because he offers an alternative between "upholding objective morality in general requires me to believe that *my* practice of it is still good" (an increasingly untenable position) and "rejecting objective morality in general because *my* practice of it is bad" (a common overreaction to a personal lack of foundation in beliefs).  Aka, it gives me the space to acknowledge that there *is* some truth to observations that many *contemporary* Christians and Christian churches (including me) do indeed suffer from hollowed-out beliefs (including moral beliefs) - beliefs that claim the status of objective, rational truth without any sort of objective, rational foundation – but this doesn’t have to mean that there *never was* any sort of objective, rational foundation for Christianity, only that that foundation has been lost to many of us contemporary Christians.  You can realize that you and your tradition are (currently) lacking in important ways and decide that the problem is with you and your tradition’s *current* understanding of Christianity, instead of deciding that the problem isn’t with you and your tradition’s understanding of Christianity, but with Christianity itself.






    Books that I found helpful re: the changing nature of morality:


    Well, MacIntyre, for one.  After Virtue was mindblowing, as I said.  He has some sequels that are in my Great Unread that answer questions raised by After Virtue: Whose Justice?  Which Rationality?, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, and Dependent Rational Animals.  He has a new book out that is supposed to provide a capstone summary of his work on virtue: Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity that is reputed to provide a good one-volume summary of his thought, though I haven't seen it in person.


    Charles Taylor's A Secular Age is more on the changing nature of the relationship of the spiritual to creation.  It's epic in both scope and length ;).  Its goal is to describe why it was that belief in God was the default in 1500 Western Christendom, while now in the West *dis*belief in God is the default.  I haven't finished this one yet.  I read the first hundred pages probably four times - it's where he describes what it was like to see the world as a medieval Catholic in 1500 - and I read it over and over till I could *feel* what he was describing.  Then I took those medieval assumptions and read the Lutheran Confessions in light of *them* - instead of in light of my modern assumptions - in order to better understand what they were saying and responding to.  James K. A. Smith has a book that summarizes and comments upon Taylor's book: How Not to Be Secular, which I've read and enjoyed.  I quibble some with Smith's take, but it is an accessible, helpful introduction to Taylor.


    David Wells has a four book series on the effects of modernity on the church: No Place For Truth, God in the Wasteland, Losing Our Virtue, and Above All Earthly Powers.  I'm only in the first one, but it's been packed with great stuff.  He also has a more popular, summary book of the above quartet: The Courage to Be Protestant, but I've not seen it.


    In a more popular vein, I really enjoyed Nancy Pearcey's Saving Leonardo.  It's an analysis of various artists and artistic movements that looks at how their work embodied what they believed.  And it also works as a survey of the dominant beliefs from Kant till today and how artists lived them out in there work.  I found the introduction a little too strident for my tastes, but the analysis was excellent.


    In a different vein, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr was a wonderful look at the ethics of technology - how every technology has a view of how the world is and how humans are embedded in it.



    There are tons of other books - many are in my Great Unread - I have probably a half dozen books that analyze how we got from pre-modernity to modernity alone - but I'm trying to stick to books I've read or mostly read.  I'm going to throw in two exceptions here, though.  One is The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher.  I'm just in chapter four, but it's a readable, accessible intro to the broad threads of the above books, plus it spends most of its time proposing *solutions*.  The other is Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry, Hans Boersma.  I have it, but I'm still working through his scholarly work on sacramental ontology (which is awesome).  But it's a popular presentation of a sacramental view by an evangelical.  (He has a new book on Scripture as Real Presence that is going on my to buy list.)


    Also, virtue ethics people here have recommended these three books as a trio:

    (1) C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man - explains the problem (lack of virtue) and why it's a problem

    (2) Joseph Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture - explains the solution philosophically

    (3) David Hicks, Norms and Nobility - explains how to put the solution into practice wrt education

    I've read (1) several times and loved it (didn't truly follow his argument till the third time through, though), and I'm partway through (2) and appreciating it.  ((3) is languishing still among the Great Unread.)




    Hope all the above helps and isn't too overwhelming :shifty.  (I've now spilled over 10,000 words on this thread :yikes.) 


    Really quick (too late ;)), I agree with pp that one's view of sin is important - it's one place where I strongly differ from medieval scholastics and it does change my metaphysics relative to theirs (and also relative to modernity). 


    Plus another theological difference that affects a sacramental view of reality is an analogical vs univocal view of the relationship between human qualities like love, truth, etc and God's possession of the same qualities.  Sacramental people tend to have an analogical view - humans and God are radically different, and so describing God using qualities that are in creation (love, etc) is only an *analogy* to what God is actually like.  However, a univocal view of those qualities means that there is no difference in *kind* between human love and God's love (for example), but only in *degree* (God's love is infinitely *greater* than ours, but it looks like ours).  (Nominalists tended to have a univocal view of universals, which contributed to their view that how those universals appeared in creation necessarily defined how those universals existed in God.)  Anyway, an analogical view maintains a huge gulf between the *nature* of God and creation, which paradoxically allows for a closer union between God and creation without subsuming God into creation (pantheism).  A univocal view erases some of the differences in essence between God and creation, and so it has to impose a greater metaphysical distance to maintain the innate difference between God and creation.


    THANK YOU, forty-two, for every one of those 10,000+ words! Truly. I've read through what you've written three times now, and I'm starting to understand a little better. I think especially this spiritual/immaterial/material distinction has A LOT to do with the many questions I've been facing for years. I need to read up on it more. Thank you for the book list! I've added many to my wish list.


    If you'd care to explain your view of sin, I'd love to hear it. No pressure, though! You've written enough for me to mull over for quite a while!


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  3. I do agree with much of what's been said already. I would also say that it's not only the Protestant lack of a sacramental VIEW of reality, but that in combination with no actual EXPERIENCE of sacramental reality. In other words it takes more than just an intellectual understanding. But you have to live it to experience it and that means doing, which brings us back to works. So if there's already a struggle with the false faith/works dichotomy, then it's hard to move forward in that understanding and experience.


    I was actually reading an old blog post by my favorite blogger where he points out that virtue is more the power to carry out the manifestations of character rather than the qualities of character themselves. So if that's the case then good habits become even more important.


    Another thought I had is that the Orthodox have a concept that's probably pretty foreign to Protestants (based on my limited understanding) and that's the concept of synergy. Basically it means that while God is the only one who actually *saves* us, we are called to work with Him as He effects that salvation. We have a part to play and it's not merely an acceptance of salvation. It's an active work that begins at baptism and continues from then on. For Orthodox salvation is just the beginning. Our ultimate goal is theosis - becoming like God. So we have to work toward that hand in hand with Him. Christ is Risen and has already saved us all. Death is overcome. So now begins the work of becoming whole once more, as we were meant to be. And it IS work. We don't just sit back and say that everything is finished. The foundation of the relationship has been laid (or maybe we should say re-laid) and now we must build on it.

    Thank you, Lisa! I appreciate hearing (reading) your thoughts. I may have something more to reply once I've had time to think through this more. (Maybe I can be a closet sacramentalist at a Presbyterian church! Lol. I'm also a wannabe Anabaptist. And I'd like Hillsong style music without the hype/lights/etc. and with lyrics that always have depth. I'm all over the place!!)



    I suppose one's understanding of sin plays a big role here as well. That's probably a whole other thread in itself. :)

    Oh, I would love for you to dive into that one!



    (And by the way, I just realized that you are the Rosie from Education Unboxed! And I wanted to tell you that your videos are awesome and have been SO helpful!! Thank you!!!)

    You're welcome! I'm glad they've been so helpful to you!!

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  4. I think with the spiritual/non-spritual question, it actually helps a lot just to get it really firmly in mind what Paul is on about when he talks about this.  


    Specifically when he talks about being raised a spiritual body.


    It's a common problem in Christianity that people think the teaching is that we die and become spirits, or even angels, and live in Heaven.  That isn' the teaching - being a sprit in Heaven is only meant to be a temporary state.  Ultimately, we're told that creation is made anew, and we regain our bodies, but they are changed - perfected.  This seems to be what Paul means when he talks about the spiritual - not the destruction of the flesh, but it's perfection.


    After all, we don't believe the material world is bad - we believe God made it, and it's good - why would that be destroyed or lost?  By nature, human beings are physical beings - that is what it is to be a human.  If you have no body, you are no longer complete, you are missing an essential part of yourself.


    Once we understand that physical reality is good and indeed capable of being holy, it really begins to change the way we think about all these kinds of problems that include the physical world.  Over time, it just begins to look a little different.  Even if you don't become a full-blown sacramentalism, the idea of the Eucharist begins to look different, for example - the idea that God touches us directly and physically, as well as in a non-physical way, begins to make sense - or through art and images - because we really are physical beings, and he dresses us as whole beings.  The Incarnation looks a little differerent too, much more of a real unity.


    Thank you for this. It reminds me of what I've read from N.T. Wright. He is an Anglican, which I believe is also a sacremental group. Many evangelicals are reading him right now, and there seems to be a shift toward this way of thinking.


  5. I think having difficulty with understanding sacramental views of reality and with not equating the immaterial and spiritual are both related to how modern Western culture has a sharp division between the material, scientific world and everything else.  It kind of smooshes everything that is "not material" into the same box - treats some very dissimilar things as effectively the same.  And as both immaterial creation (like the soul) and God (who is spirit) are "not material", they are thrown together into the same box.  And mostly religious people are quite busy with just trying to maintain that "not material" doesn't mean "not real", and the details kind of get lost in the shuffle.  Which is a shame, because imo the details are pretty key to establishing that the immaterial and the spiritual are indeed as real as the material.


    With respect to not equating the immaterial and the spiritual, let's consider the soul as an example.  On the one hand, it is very much *not* material - can't weigh it, can't measure it.  On the other hand, as Christians, we affirm that our souls, like the rest of us, are *created* by God.  And God, as our Creator, is *not* part of creation.  That means he's not material, of course - but it *also* means that He's not *immaterial* in the way we think of the soul, because our souls are just as created as our bodies.  So if God is spirit, then "spirit" and "spiritual" (meaning "of God") must be a quite different thing than "immaterial creation".


    The way I've come to think of it is as two separate, but related, distinctions.  The top-level distinction is between the spiritual and creation (and is largely drawn from the Bible), while the secondary distinction is between immaterial and material creation (informed both by the Bible and by Greek philosophy).  But if you smoosh those two distinctions together into one - the spiritual on one hand, and material creation on the other (and no good place for immaterial creation as both immaterial *and* created), it warps how one considers both creation and the spiritual.  Particularly it lends itself to gnosticism, which considers salvation to apply to the soul only, and considers the material body to be either irrelevant to salvation (so go nuts with fleshly living) or the chief enemy of salvation (so you need to beat it into submission to be saved).  (I've a book, Against the Protestant Gnostics, that argues that there's a ton of gnostic influences in contemporary American evangelicalism.)


    Now, virtue ethics rests on a particular view of the relationship between material and immaterial creation (that's largely Aristotelian).  And sacramental views of reality rest on certain views of the relationship between the spiritual and creation - where the connection between the spiritual and creation applies to both material and immaterial creation alike.  (You know, I keep saying "sacramental view of reality" as if there's only one of them, when actually there's a lot of different views, some of which are mutually exclusive.  Thus the change to sacramental views of reality.)  And they aren't the same thing, although how one views the nature of the relationship between the spiritual and creation affects how one views the nature of creation, and vice versa. 


    And when the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment adopted the assumption that creation=nature=material, it excluded *both* immaterial reality *and* spiritual reality from having any objective, material effect on material reality.  The effects of both immaterial reality and spiritual reality were limited to affecting immaterial and spiritual realities only - the only point of contact with the material world was through the human soul.  This places a sharp division between between material reality and non-material reality - it generates the assumption that the usual way of things is either to be material-only or to be non-material-only. 


    And that messed with *both* Aristotelian views of reality *and* sacramental views of reality, both of which hold the opposite: that the usual way of things is for creation to be *both* material and immaterial, that the usual way of things is for the spiritual to suffuse *all* of creation.  Aristotle believed that everything in the material world had inherent-in-nature immaterial qualities and purposes - not just humanity, but everything.  And sacramental views of reality hold that God spiritually sustains *all* of creation - and thus the spiritual suffuses every part of creation - that it is *impossible* for *anything* to be "material-only" - material creation would fall apart and blow away the *instant* God wasn't supernaturally, spiritually upholding it.  "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). 


    That's a key difference in assumptions: do you assume the spiritual is inherently *absent* from creation (unless and until proven otherwise (modern)), or do you assume the spiritual is inherently *present* in creation (pre-modern)?  Does something extra have to happen in order to have the spiritual be present in the material world?  Or is the spiritual *inherently* present all the time?


    Pre-moderns aren't trying to tell *whether* the something non-material is present - something non-material is *always* present.  Instead, the key question is: what is the *nature* of the non-material thing present?  Is it from God, or is it from something evil?  But moderns have added a third category: is something from God, from evil, or just mundane material reality only?  And we've gotten so used to explaining the world in mundane material terms that we assume the natural state of things is to be mundanely material - that's probably *the* non-sacramental assumption.  And it places a ton of distance between our lives in creation and the spiritual, to the point that we wonder if we are just imagining the existence of the spiritual :(. 


    But sacramental views of reality assume the opposite: that reality *is* inherently spiritual just as much as it is inherently created. 


    Now, of course sin is messing all this up.  Because of sin, the spiritual is hidden from us.  We sinful people cannot see the hidden spiritual work of God except with eyes of faith.  But what is the nature of that hidden spiritual work?  Is it merely hidden from our sight but actually all around us, embedded in every corner of creation - right *there* to be seen if only we could see it?  Or is it hidden at a great distance from where we are?  Are those eyes of faith seeing *what is really there* (sacramental view) or are those eyes of faith seeing the *results* of what *should* be there and what *will* be there when Jesus comes again, but what *isn't* there right now but instead is working from a distance (non-sacramental view)?  Does sin make it impossible to *see* the spiritual in creation, or does sin also make it impossible for the spiritual to *be* in creation?  IOW, is the reason that sinful man is incapable of seeing the spiritual apart from God due to a deficiency in *man* (he cannot see what is really there) or is it also due to a deficiency in reality (because of sin, there can be nothing spiritual in creation to see)? 


    Is God's spiritual work hidden from us because *God* can't hack being in the same place as sin, or is God's spiritual work hidden from us because *we* sinful beings can't hack being in the same place as a righteous God?  We sinful beings experience our separation from God in all our lives - we feel a distance physically, relationally, morally, temporally, metaphysically, practically.  But is God really so thoroughly absent from our mundane lives as we think and feel He is?  Modern assumptions about the inherent separateness of the material and everything non-material place everything spiritual - including God - at a distance from the material world.  Those assumptions lead us to assume that God's *absence* is the default reality - and we blame sin for the necessity of His absence.  But what if He's really much more *present* than we give Him credit for - and it's because of sin that we don't *notice* that reality for what it is?




    The question I posed in my previous post - how do we know if something is spiritual or if it's strictly material - only comes up when you assume that it's not just possible but *normal* for things to be strictly material. 


    And I think it also relates to assumptions about how non-material (spiritual) justification strictly affects the non-material soul, and sanctification is the physical working out in the body of the already-achieved spiritual salvation of the soul - which itself assumes that the only way for the spiritual/non-material to affect the material world is through how the soul affects the body.  In other words, I think that many modern Protestants assume that anything that attempts to affect the soul other than salvation is by definition an attempt at works righteousness.  Also, I think that many modern Protestants assume that for our actions to stem from our justification, they have to stem from the soul, and not start with bodily actions.  Otherwise they are "merely" physical actions done apart from Christ, and so also works righteousness.  In other words, "inward" actions stemming from salvation go like this: Spirit->soul->body.  Any actions that *start* with the body *cannot* be prompted by the Spirit, since the (non-material) Spirit only affects the (material) body through the (non-material) soul - so they are "outward" only actions and thus done apart from God. 


    And virtue ethics runs afoul of both of those positions.  Virtue ethics allows for an outside-in approach to building character, where the actions of the body shape the character of the soul just as much as the reverse:  Body <-> Soul.  So with the above assumptions, you end up with Spirit->soul<->body, which isn't exactly what Protestants are looking for.


    But if you separate out immaterial creation from the spiritual, then virtue ethics slots in like this:




    Body <-> Soul

    Which keeps the relationship between creation and the spiritual one-way, from God to us - there's no place for *any* changes to the body *or* soul to add to what God is giving us.


    Plus, combined with sacramental views of reality, there's a place to understand *all* good works - whether done by Christians or non-Christians - to be spiritually, supernaturally wrought by God.  (In such a way as to be to *no one's* spiritual merit, although they *are* of spiritual effect to those who are *already* spiritual - i.e those who are *already* made spiritually alive.  It's *our* sinful separateness from God that makes God's spiritual creation be of no spiritual effect to us, not any inherent spiritual lack in God's work in creation.)

    Could you give another example besides the soul for something that is immaterial but not spiritual?


    What you're saying about the spiritual not being separate from creation reminds me a bit of some things in John Walton's books on Genesis. He's a professor at Wheaton College, so I'm wondering if there are more evangelicals than you think who may think that way? Of course, He's also an Old Testament scholar, so he would be much more familiar with a pre-modern point of view than your average evangelical off the street....


    This is so interesting. I'm taking it all in and am not ready yet to comment intelligently. I want to mull it all over and come back, though. Thank you for taking the time to write all of this out.



    I think it's important to remember that training in virtue doesn't mean that we will end up with a "product". The pursuit of virtue only begins in this life, it doesn't end here. Our faults and our sins will beset us our entire lives, so instead of looking to FIX problems (with the implication that once it's fixed it's done and over with), we have to focus on EQUIPPING our kids to struggle with the temptations and faults that they will face throughout their lives. They need tools to help them through the struggle and they need us to step up and model how to use those tools (the most important of which would be repentance!).So instead of focusing on the sin and a perceived lack of grace, you might try to frame the situation as an opportunity for practice and learning. And when they (and you) mess up, just get back up and try again next time.

    This is a good reminder. Thank you.


    Another way to look at good works/virtuous deeds is to see them in light of our relationship with Christ. Good works are the way in which we actively pursue that relationship, so if we love Him, or want to love and know Him better, we have to learn to speak his "love language". We pray, fast, and give alms, follow the commandments, in order to deepen the relationship. It becomes a joyful outpouring of love rather than an obligation or a proof of anything.

    Lisa, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I see that your signature says you are an Orthodox Christian. Do you see your beliefs on this topic aligning more closely with the Catholic and Lutheran perspectives represented here than what you know of Protestant beliefs? Do you agree that a sacramental view of reality makes virtue ethics non-problematic?

  6. Thank you so much, everyone, for fleshing this out for me. You're taking my foggy thoughts and making them sharper.

    After Virtue was one of my first introductions to alternatives to modern Western morality, and it was mindblowing.  I barely understood a third of it - enough to become aware of my modern blinders and the nature of modern moral thinking, but not enough to understand the older alternatives.  After three years of reading and research on the differences between ancient and medieval and modern assumptions, I am now able to understand a *lot* more of what MacIntyre is saying about the nature of the older forms of moral reasoning.

    Would you mind listing the best resources you've come across? This is an interesting topic to me.


    I think there's something to this. I do think most Christians would agree that salvation *begins* at a single moment in time (conversion). And that most would also agree that the Christian life involves a lifelong process of "working out our salvation with fear and trembling". So I think most Christians would see the Christian life as involving *both* a single moment in time *and* a lifelong process. As well, I think most Christians would see the Christian life as involving *both* God's grace *and* our responding with good works done in faith.

    But does *salvation* involve both a single moment in time and a lifelong process? Or is it both started *and* completed in that single moment?
    Do we receive God's saving grace throughout our Christian life? Or is God's saving grace given just once at our conversion?
    Does *salvation* involve both God's grace plus our works-done-in-faith? Or does it involve God's grace alone?
    Is the Christian life (which involves *all* of *life*) centered around salvation alone? Or does the Christian life involve salvation plus works-done-in-faith?

    When salvation is a lifelong process, it functions naturally as the sole top-level category of Christian life, encompassing both God's grace and our response of good-works-done-in-faith. But when salvation is a moment in time, then for all its doctrinal primacy, there is substantial temporal, logical, metaphysical, and practical distance between salvation and the rest of Christian life, between salvation and good works.

    And in practice this seems to go hand-in-hand with rejecting a sacramental view of reality. It certainly weakens sacramental practice, because why receive the sacraments frequently when you've no idea how the saving grace given in and through them fits into the Christian life?

    My experience is that non-sacramental views of reality changes how legalism and works righteousness are understood. In talking with non-sacramental Protestants, I've found that many of them have no idea how the sacraments could be anything *but* works-righteousness. Is a human physically doing something in Holy Baptism? Check. Then Baptism involves works and thus to say Baptism saves is to say that works contribute to salvation. For grace to be grace *alone*, it has to be given immediately (without physical means); grace given through physical means (water and Word) and so received by physical means (hearing the words, having water poured over you) is inherently grace mixed with works. There's this assumption that anything that a human does physically is a "work" in the works righteousness sense. So for something to be 100% God's work, there cannot be any human action involved at all (not just no *meritorious* human activity) - which means there can't be any physical *means* involved at all. Which pretty much eliminates a sacramental understanding of the sacraments as well as a sacramental understanding of creation (where the spiritual is united to the material).

    I'm not sure a "salvation as a single moment of time" theology, that has that sort of big, huge separation between spiritual salvation and physical good works, would have a clear place for virtue ethics, which assumes a tight connection between our material bodies and our immaterial souls. (Also, I think the rejection of a sacramental view of reality can lead to equating the immaterial and the spiritual, and separating the two is pretty essential imo to keeping virtue ethics from going hardcore legalistic.)

    However, I think we Protestants can distinguish (not put distance between, but distinguish) God's work of salvation and our response to His work of salvation while still holding that we receive God's saving grace continually in our Christian lives - and thus keep salvation as the sole top-level category of Christian life. This, along with a sacramental view of reality, helps to maintain the primacy of God's saving work along with its tight connection to the important-yet-secondary nature of our response to salvation in our Christian lives not just doctrinally, but also temporally, logically, metaphysically, and practically. The issue of how our works (done body-and-soul) relate to our salvation (which likewise affects both body and soul) has already been worked out, and there's a natural place to slot in virtue ethics, with its tight connection between our material bodies and immaterial souls, under "important-yet-secondary".

    OK, I have no idea what your last paragraph means, but I'm gonna keep trying! Lol


    My religious experiences have all fallen within the non-sacramental Protestant category, and your explanations do sound like what I've always heard. I'm very interested in other views, though. We are currently at a Presbyterian church which definitely teaches that huge separation between spiritual salvation and physical good works. We don't consider ourselves Reformed/Calvinist, but I can see how the theology is making this topic difficult for me to wrap my mind around. I have no understanding of a sacramental view of reality, and I have no idea how to NOT equate the immaterial and the spiritual. (If you have more to share on that, I'd love to hear it!)

    I'm really stuck right now in trying to figure out how to handle the issues of failure and sinfulness and virtue and grace with my kids. We deal with perfectionism and pride and selfishness and laziness, etc. every day (as I'm sure all families do), and I sure wish I had a solid foundation to stand on when speaking with my kids about it.



    This is getting way more into theology of grace than the OP probably cares about

    Not at all! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, as they are helping to bring clarity for me! I appreciate you stepping in with the Catholic point of view since I'm so unfamiliar with it.



  7. As I understand it, virtue ethics sees three parts to morality and living a good life:


    *human-nature-as-it-could-be-if-it-fulfilled-its-telos (fulfilled its true end)

    *the moral precepts which enable man to pass from one state to another

    And the virtues are the habits which enable a person to fulfill the moral precepts and so make progress toward fulfilling their true end as a human, toward becoming fully human.


    Christianity says that the ultimate end of humanity is to be united with God. And that sin is what separates us from God. And that no amount of striving to live in world as a righteous person would do will *ever* get us even one step closer to being reconciled to God (and so truly righteous). Trying to get closer to God or to become more spiritual through our own efforts is moralism. So, whatever the place of the virtues in human life, it *cannot* be to overcome the spiritual and eternal effects of sin - aka the virtues cannot in any way assist in our salvation.


    But what about the temporal effects of sin? Is there a place for the virtues in how we live out our faith in creation? I'd say yes.


    Here's how I think of it. It's a commonplace that who we are on the inside (our soul: mind, emotions, will) affects what we do in outwardly, in the world. Virtue ethics says that that connection goes both ways: that what we do outwardly *also* affects who we are on the inside. What we *do* affects who we *are* just as much as who we are affects what we do. And so virtue ethics is about building character from the outside in. In building up the habits of acting as good people act, we shape ourselves into good people.


    However, as Christians, we know that being a temporally good person doesn't do a dang thing in helping us become *eternally* good people. Virtue ethics describes how good temporal actions build up good temporal character; Christianity describes how no amount of good temporal character can do anything to make us eternally righteous (whether before or after conversion).


    However, once *made* eternally righteous by grace through faith in Christ, we are to live out that eternal righteousness in our temporal lives. Being a good person before the world doesn't contribute to our eternal life (which has already begun now), but our eternal life absolutely contributes to our being a good person before the world - and as Christians, we *are* to be good people as God defines good. Doing good works in the world *is* indeed good. And when we are spiritually alive in Christ, our temporal good works become *spiritual* good works as well.


    Practicing the virtues doesn't make us more saved and it doesn't make us more spiritual - but it does make us temporally more able to do good in the world. And that's a good thing both temporally and spiritually :).




    One thing that gave me fits for a while on this topic was confusing the material/immaterial distinction with the created/spiritual or temporal/eternal distinction (especially wrt the body/soul distinction). I assumed that the "outwardly only" good works in Paul meant "the body's outward actions were good, but the soul's inner state was bad", and that the contrasting being good "inwardly" meant that the soul's inner state was good. And since "being good inwardly" required forgiveness of sins, that didn't play nice at all with virtue ethics' focus on building up good character in the soul through doing good actions with the body. Sounded like trying to be saved through your works.


    But I eventually disentangled that unbiblical dualism from Paul's Biblical distinction between outward temporal-only good works that can be done apart from God and inward spiritual-and-temporal good works that can only be done when reconciled to God, and realized that material creation could be spiritually united to God, too. Outwardly only good works are those done body-and-soul apart from God; inwardly good works are those done body-and-soul by those reconciled to God. The connection between material and immaterial creation is entirely separate from the connection between creation and the spiritual (meaning "of God"). And so virtue ethics' two-way connection between the actions of the material body and the character of the immaterial soul is entirely different from, and doesn't impinge on, the one-way connection between God and His material-and-immaterial creation.


    I have a sense that you answered all my questions here, ... if I can only understand it! I'm gonna keep reading this and look into the book you mentioned, too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Like 1
  8. Such good thoughts. Thank you, everyone!


    I posted this same question on a private Facebook group, too, and it led to quite a bit of interesting discussion. I'm going to copy and paste some things I wrote there to see if any of you have more to say...

    Maybe I just like the word virtue better than character since I don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to it as much as to the former? It does seem, though, that there is a difference in the tone between the two. Character makes me think of trying to be a good little Christian girl (moralism). That gives me an “ick†feeling inside because that’s what I excelled at when I was younger and it led nowhere but pride. When I hear these people from Circe and Classical Academic Press, etc. talk about virtue, it just seems different somehow. I haven’t yet put my finger on exactly how, though.


    So, here is an example of what I would consider moralism (and where I have a negative gut reaction to the word character)


    The Good and the Beautiful Level 3 Sample

    This is a sample of The Good and the Beautiful curriculum that I keep s
    eeing praised everywhere. I really like the look of it (and that it’s free!) except that I think her conception of what teaching the Good and Beautiful should look like is very different from mine somehow. Specifically I’m talking about pages 18 and 87. Something about that just makes me get that “ick†feeling inside when I read it. I couldn’t pull off reading that to my kids. Maybe because I was so steeped in legalism and moralism when I was young I’m overly sensitive to it now?




    ____________, I really like your last sentence. Maybe that is why the Circe/CAP people talk about using story so much. And not moralizing. (I'm thinking specifically about Andrew Kern here, but also maybe Andrew Pudewa, and Adam Andrews/Center for lit people) "Living" a story along with a main character who has flaws and struggles to overcome them seems like a more genuine and appealing way to learn and love virtue.

    And, yes, I agree that the heavy handed approach does seem tacky. It lacks what I think Andrew Kern would call incarnation. And it doesn't seem like a good way to develop love for a thing.



    Andrew Kern on moralizing...


    Moralizing Stories


    How to Avoid Moralizing Stories (and Why It's Important)


    How Do You Avoid Moralizing a Morality Tale?




    I wonder if this trouble with character/virtue training vs moralism is more of a problem for Protestants than Catholics (and Orthodox?). I’m getting that sense. Is it because of the Protestant focus on being saved by grace and not by works? Are we (protestants) hyper-sensitive to anything that looks like works-based righteousness? I really don’t know much about Catholic doctrine, so I’m stepping into unknown waters here. Catholics, please correct any mistakes I make here.

    Or could it possibly be the difference between WHEN Protestants and Catholics believe a person is regenerated. Catholics believe that happens at infant baptism, I think. Protestants believe it happens when a grown person hears the call of the Holy Spirit and makes a conscious choice to follow Jesus. (I know there are myriad ways to express this and I’m sure I haven’t done it to every Protestant’s satisfaction here, but I’m focusing specifically on the TIME in life that this happens.)

    So. from the Catholic perspective, one is baptized into the Faith and is already covered by grace, and a pursuit of virtue is the process of partnering with God as one grows in faith. And from the Protestant perspective, we can’t know someone else’s heart so we can’t be sure that our children are already “in†(sorry if that seems coarse). Therefore we aren’t guaranteed that the process of sanctification has already started in our children. (I believe that is a premise of the book Give Them Grace, if I remember correctly.) And, if the process of sanctification hasn't already begun, then any virtue/character formation that happens is an opportunity for our children to feel like they can be "good" on their own and not realize their need for salvation.





    Also, if someone were to ask you (or any Catholic), "Why do I need Jesus?" What would the answer be?

    I think for most protestants the answer would begin with something about being a sinner. And, with that as a premise, virtue training (t
    raining someone to be less sinful, essentially) could potentially be a bad thing if it causes one to not see him/herself as a sinner. Virtue training could make the premise seem false, which would make the conclusion about needing Christ false as well. I believe this is what ________________ was saying above.



    If we need God's grace to grow in virtue, then how do you explain those who are virtuous without being followers of Jesus?

    It seems like their lives are proof that it is possible without God. - Not that perfection is possible - though maybe the ancients believed that theoretically, I'm not sure - but that being a virtuous person is possible.




    Ironically, Center for Lit just did a podcast this week on this very subject. I'd been wondering what their thoughts were since they are very Protestant with a strong focus on man's sinfulness. Here's the link for anyone interested: Educating for Virtue

    And a few other links from Classical educators about virtue education:


    The Liturgical Classroom and Virtue Formation by Jenny Rallens

    Intellectual Virtues by Christopher Perrin


    Mimetic Teaching and the Cultivation of Virtue by Andrew Kern


    Why (and How) Memory Cultivates Virtue by Jenny Rallens


    The Centrality of Virtue in the Ancient View of Education by David Diener



  9. I’m intrigued by all I’m hearing/reading on virtue training within Classical circles lately (Circe/Andrew Kern, Classical Academic Press/Christopher Perrin, etc.). But I have some questions…


    What exactly are virtues? How do they differ from the fruit of the Spirit? DO they differ? If not, why does the Bible say the fruit of the Spirit comes from God (Spirit), yet those in the Classical Christian tradition are saying that virtues are trained and built through human effort? How is virtue training different from moralism?


    Anyone have insight, resources, etc.?

  10. UPDATE:


    I met with the girl and her mom yesterday! It went well!


    I was wrong about the ACT. It is the PERT test that they want her to take. So she'll only need to get through Algebra 1.


    I've decided I don't like Math U See. From what I can tell, not enough time is spent on mental math, he teaches multiplication via skip counting (which doesn't work for kids who can't do rote memorizing well), and I prefer the way beast academy teaches the multiplication algorithm.


    The girl is very sweet and willing to learn. She did struggle to subtilize when younger. She now has dot patterns memorized. She struggles remembering a list of numbers (numerals) if she can't write it down. She struggles with algorithm steps. Very unsure about multiplication facts. Has difficulty with time and measurement. She says the numbers on the clock are wrong somehow. I sensed some math anxiety and low self-esteem, which makes sense considering the circumstances.


    Digit span seems within normal range. I might still have her work on that, though. She has facts to 10 memorized and knows how to cross over/bridge ten because of using RightStart years ago before they switched to MUS. (Though she had been trying to do the addition algorithm in her head for mental math which would cause a working memory overload)


    We worked on mental addition (adding tens then ones) with the MUS blocks, mostly within 100 but some larger. She did great. Then we moved on to multiplying by 4. I taught her to say "of" when she sees a multiplication symbol so that she would grab 4 of the 7 rod for 4x7. Then split it in two pieces. Figure out 2x7. Then double that. We worked up to problems like 21x4 and 53x4 (with blocks and drawings). We did a few x8 problems. We talked about and modeled the commutative property.


    It was actually quite enjoyable working with a young adult! No fidgeting. Lots of motivation. Good articulation about needs and understanding. The mom told me today that the daughter said she really understood what we did, so I'm anticipating future sessions going well, too.


    If anyone has more insight now that I have more information, I'd love to hear it!

    • Like 1
  11. For homework, see if she's willing to do about 15 minutes+ day of Khan Academy for homework. I would start at the 3/4th grade level. Create a coach account and you can watch her progression. If she knows fractions then start at 5th. Hopefully she will gain some confidence and move through the lessons fairly quickly. If she gets stuck, can you load her Khan in your tutoring sessions and help her with those lessons she's struggling with. 


    As far as tutoring, I kind of use Lial's to get problems from.  I don't give the students the books. If we are working on adding and subtracting, I write problems on notebook paper and my students solve the problems. If I need some word problems I will pull some from Lial's or other appropriate textbook that I own and we practice those. 


    You can even look at Khan's scope and sequence to determine what skills you may want to teach in each grade level. So, if she's working on 3 or 4 for homework (independently for the most part) then you can start teaching 5th grade skills (review +-x/ and progress from there. 


    I was thinking of having her do 1-1.5 hours per day of some type of homework. I'm not sure if she'd make much progress with just 15 minutes per day. I like the idea of using Khan, too, though. And teaching ahead of what she's practicing.

    • Like 1
  12. I tutored a young man (I think he was maybe 23 at the time) who needed help with word problems.  We used the Singapore Challenging Word Problems books (grades 3-4 mostly).  He was so motivated that he didn't care about the juvenile looking pictures all over them.


    If I was going to tutor an adult in arithmetic/prealgebra, I'd use Lial's Basic College Mathematics as a spine and a repository of problems, but I would do all the teaching myself (so I wouldn't just hand her the book).  I would have her try to do each example problem.  If she can do it easily, then I'd immediately move on to the next problem.  If she can do it with a little prodding, I'd assign one or two problems as homework.  If she needs a lot of explanation and practice to do the problem, then I would assign several problems as homework.  I would bring in other resources/approaches when we got to whatever is hanging her up conceptually--MUS blocks, the Singapore model method for word problems, etc.  BCM will take you through a bit of prealgebra and pregeometry.  I've used Lial this way, and it works like a charm (it was with Intermediate Algebra, though, and not BCM).


    I like this idea. It would give convenient problem sets when I need them.


    If you have all levels of MUS available, you could also do what I described above with that (and I did--I went through Beta-Zeta with my son in about 6 months--you'd probably want to condense that into 2-3 months).


    I don't have any of MUS, though I do have the blocks and she's used MUS up through multiplication (mom said it got confusing then so they switched to LoF) so I'm going to teach the way I've always taught with Cuisenaire rods, but using MUS blocks instead.


    I would not waste time on Lial's Prealgebra.  If you just want to get through the basics of algebra and geometry quickly, you could use MUS.


    How far you get is going to depend on how motivated she is to learn.  Unfortunately, a major thing the ACT is testing is fluency, and it takes time to develop that.


    Yeah, I'm prepared to tell them that it's going to take more time than they'd hoped for. I still haven't met with her, though, so I'm waiting to see exactly where she's at and how quickly she picks things up before I make any judgments.


  13. Another vote for Basic College Math.  It has a basic arithmetic review but the text really starts after long division has been mastered (without decimals).

    It goes back through fractions, decimals and percents (and other topics) from the beginning.  It does not look like an elementary text so this is a bonus at this age!


    If your student is 'neurotypical' then there is a chance you can go from BCM into Introductory Algebra (Algebra 1) in one year (but it would be a FULL year)

    --you could skip the Pre-Algebra text (even though it is an awesome text!).


    Most 18 yr olds who are still struggling with the basics have some sort of dyscalculia and may not be able to move into high school maths.


    Good luck-- I wish you and her the best!


    ***  wanted to add that the Pre-Algebra text is similar but starts out with negatives and basic equation solving (multi-step) and then reviews fractions, decimals, percents... but has negatives and variables in those chapters too... the text has quite a bit of basic algebra.  Struggling students may have a hard time with the multi-step and abstract problems...  Most of my students work the BCM text before the Lial Pre-Algebra text.


    Thank you! This is helpful. I'm going to buy BCM.


    • Like 2
  14. If she needs to have an ACT score for whatever purpose, look at requesting for accommodations



    If it is for community college, Accuplacer test with accommodation might work better. The Accuplacer test is untimed compared to ACT which is timed. My oldest did well for the ACT but he was exhausted by the time science section comes around which is why I won't recommend that "timed torture" unless an ACT score is needed. The science section on ACT is quite reading intensive.

    "ACCUPLACER accommodations are available but are not approved by the College Board. Contact the test center at your college or other institution for more information"




    Link is to the student booklet from ACT. It has a practice exam in there. My slow speed reader couldn't finish any of the ACT sections when he took it. My fast reader just finished for the English sections, some time to spare for Math and was too exhausted to care for Science.



    I'll pass this info on to the mom. Thank you!!


  15. It's troubling -

    actually neglectful IMO - that a mom who knows she has severe difficulties herself would let it go so long. A large part of your challenge will be to communicate diplomatically about how much you can do at the last minute (and at this point with that much deficiency, even a whole year is the last minute). You have to make your own assessment because I wouldn't put much stock in what a parent who let this happen has to say. The ACT is probably not realistic. "Visual learner" though mom may say she is I don't know how much you'll be able to do with geometry and trig if basics are still an issue.


    Yes, I agree that it seems unrealistic. Since I haven't actually met with her yet, though, I'm waiting to make any solid judgments about the situation for now. We'll see what happens. No matter what, I'm gonna do the best I can to help her out!

  16. Do you have the red ACT book? Not everything in the public school textbook is tested either.



    I don't. Thank you for the recommendation!

    If the aim is to qualify for something like the Tennessee or Georgia's Hope Scholarship, then the required minimum ACT score could be achievable with test prep and ignoring non-tested topics for the time being. It is the composite score they are looking at so her English can help pull up the composite if her language skills are strong.


    She has dyslexia, so language skills probably aren't strong.


    My kids Geometry and trigonometry pull their math score up on the ACT. My kids are stronger in visual spatial actually so the geometry topics in ACT was less effort than algebra.


    Her mom said she is a visual learner. I could do some work on Geometry, too, I suppose, while she's learning the arithmetic basics.

    MEP is free and not childish.


  17. Another thing I'm thinking over is whether there are some topics that are okay to skip over and, if so, what they are. I'm so used to teaching every tiny little thing to mastery. But does she really need to know how to add 99 (or 98 or 199) in her head? Is it alright to help her understand the long multiplication and long division algorithms and why they work but not go bigger than numbers in the thousands place? She can use a calculator for the big numbers. It seems like the benefit of learning those algorithms is really just to gain greater number sense about the distributive property. Otherwise it seems like a waste of time when we have calculators at our fingertips all the time. I mean, my kids use Beast Academy and AoPS. There are lots of things in there that the average kid doesn't NEED to learn. I guess I need to get clear on what are the bare necessities....

    • Like 1
  18. Yes, what Alessandra said is the elephant in the room. Kids can make a lot of progress with good intervention, but there's still just also reality. You have to see how much deficit there is, how deep the holes go, before you have some sense of where she will get to.


    Yep. I meet with her for the first time next week, so I won't know until then where she's really at. My guess is that it is too much to expect her to take the ACT this year.


    That's really awkward to say a dc with dyslexia is reading to learn math, hmm. I don't know, just chewing on the irony there. 


    You're talking about Life of Fred, right? I agree. I plan on suggesting something else - just have to decide on what.


    I have the hardwood fractions puzzle from RS, which they no longer make, alas. That thing has been brilliant for my ds. They also just released a new fractions level. I agree a lot of kids, with and without disabilities, proceed forward without really understanding fractions. I have spent a lot of time developing is-ness with my ds on fractions. Like we're obsessively small in our steps with it. Flip over two cards, pick one to show how many parts are in the whole, pick the other to show how many of those parts you have, now lets compare and see who won and talk about it... And we use the hardwood fractions puzzle for it. Day after day after day.


    He doesn't yet get multiplication and having multiples of something, so he's sort of formative on his equivalent fractions. That's the math SLD showing up or the autism or both, don't know. For him, to have 3 of twos is rocket science. I just slowly keep exposing him. It's formative, like he's starting to get it. It's just not all the way there to be something he can harness. But we haven't done Ronit Bird multiplication. She wanted the bridging more solid, and he's just coming along there. 


    So Bird suggests having a solid basis in addition/subtraction before moving on to multiplication? I'm trying to decide whether to stick with a mastery approach like that or to introduce all sorts of concepts with the blocks at the same time. I mean, I'm used to introducing kids to things like square numbers and the distributive property and multiplying teen numbers while they're still working on mental math within 100. You can work on the mental math WHILE learning the other concepts with the blocks. Hmmmm....


    We've done less with math and more with behavior, sigh. Anyways, my ds' hole is so deep and the digging so slow, that my perspective is probably skewed. You're just going to meet her where she is. But yeah, she'd like to be through MUS algebra 1 even to break a 19 on the ACT, I would think. Even with time accommodations, she still has to be able to read it. Or will they read it to her? I mean, it's a big hill. 


    Yeah, it is.


    They could consider an extra year of high school...


    Well, this is her extra year....


  19. Struggling with basics, like multiplication and fractions

    Her mom struggles with math

    Her mom wants her to take ACT at end of year


    The combination of factors does not compute for me. Imo, not a realistic goal.


    I agree, but I haven't actually met with her yet, so I'm holding off on making judgments too quickly. Maybe the situation is different than I currently think it is. I'll find out in a week!


    Is ACT necessary, or would Accuplacer be a possible choice?


    I've never heard of Accuplacer. I'll look into it. Thanks!



    How nice to see you here! I taught dd basic math when I homeschooled her in middle school. (Bricks and mortar elementary school had used Everday Math, useless. Everything had to be retaught.)) Math became dd's favorite subject, and your videos were her favorite part! We started using big whiteboards -- though not as big as your table -- and that was a gigantic help, as my dd is a visual learner.


    Thank you for mentioning that! Lots of people use our site but I rarely hear their stories. I'm so glad you found it helpful ad enjoyable!


  20. If they will do the MUS placement tests, that can verify her mastery of the material they've done so far. That will give you some information. If they will go back through the lettered levels, that will let you know if there are things to go back and catch or if she's ready to move forward.


    I'll definitely have her do this.


    Yes, a basic psych eval will include IQ and achievement testing, which can help identify SLDs. 


    If she mastered well what they covered with MUS, I would probably just pick up with MUS and move forward. The board might have brouhahas over it, but reality is it's FINE and would get the child's test scores up. However if she did not *master* what they covered with MUS, then that's going to bring the question why. If the parent was busy and handing it off and there's a lack of instruction, that's different from a math SLD.


    I'm fairly certain the mom was working alongside her, but she struggles, too. She said LoF helped her (mom) finally understand fractions.


    There actually is some new-ish testing for math SLD, but they look at number sense. Technically SLD math is a number sense disability. So kids could be brilliant at upper level math but still demonstrating a math disability. So even merely seeing low achievement isn't really telling you it's an SLD, because the question is why it's low. 


    Would you mind explaining the bolded sentence a little more? Do you mean they can do the procedural algorithms/formulas but don't understand the concepts?


    Does this dc have ADHD? Why is the mom assuming she'll get accommodations? The writing portion of the tests has faded in popularity, so she might not even need it. She's thinking extra time? 


    The 18yo has dyslexia. That is why the mom is assuming she'll get accommodations. Yes, she wants extra time. I'm not sure about ADHD.


    Thank you for helping me think through this. :) According to the mom, the daughter is a visual and kinesthetic learner. So I'm counting on the MUS blocks to help a lot. I've used Cuisenaire rods to teach for years, including kids with dyscalculia - though they were elementary age - and I looked through a couple Ronit Bird books when I was making the videos in my signature, so I'm pretty confident that I can help her. I have a friend who teaches high school level math that I can hand her off to if necessary, but it really sounds like the girl is struggling with the foundational basics, so that will have to be dealt with first.


  21. Have you given her a MUS placement test? How does her current level of proficiency compare to her level of instruction? You'd first like to know why instruction with what is generally a good program for kids who struggle (MUS) isn't sticking. You don't know if you're dealing with a math SLD (in which case nothing you own fits possibly) or something else.


    I haven't begun working with her yet, so no placement tests have been taken! I just sent her mom a message asking why they switched from MUS to Life of Fred. She is currently working through LoF PreA with Physics. All three of the girls in the family (other two are 10th and 8th grade) are in PreAlgebra right now. I know their mom struggles with math, so I'm not sure if it's the instruction that's been lacking or if they all have math learning disabilities. The mom is going to get the 18yo tested soon to see if she can get accommodations for when she takes the ACT/SAT. Would that show whether or not and what type of learning disabilities she has?


    Why do you think the curricula I own wouldn't work for someone with math learning disabilities? What curricula would you recommend?


    EDIT: The mom just texted back to say MUS got confusing, and then they had a family issue and just switched to LoF. I guess I'll have to find out more in person once we start tutoring.

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