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The Seven Liberal Arts, Paideia, & Ordo Amoris

God’s order of creation establishes man and woman as mother and father blessed with the mandate to be fruitful and multiply. This beautiful structure of the family is a pre-fall institution. In this state, the children of Adam and Eve would have exercised the same intimacy with God as their parents. They would have walked with God, communicating with Him directly and perfectly exercising dominion over the created universe. Because of the fall, mankind has destroyed this relationship. However, we rejoice at its restoration through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection which defeated sin, death, and the devil. This victory leads us to our final sanctification culminating in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. Until that time, the Holy Trinity blesses us with the ability to temporally participate in our restored relationship with God, allowing us to better understand what it means to be fully human.


We practice our restored humanity through the same avenues which Adam and Eve used in the Garden before the fall: Through control of language, we better understand and communicate with the Logos and through mastery of number we exercise our dominion over creation. Consider how walking with God in the garden blessed Adam with the chance to verbally engage with the Trinity, an action that certainly occurred through mastery of language; or how Adam’s God-given vocation of taxonomy required him to categorize and compartmentalize characteristics and traits with orderly numeric precision.


It should not surprise us that when great thinkers such as Boethius and Cassiodorus codified the seven liberal arts, they were divided into two distinct categories: the trivium (mastery of language – grammar, logic, & rhetoric,) and the quadrivium (mastery of number – arithmetic, geometry, music, & astronomy). These arts connect man to the correct use of his freedom; the freedom that Adam and Eve once experienced in the Garden, and the freedom that we have because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Trinity Classical Academy embraces the seven liberal arts as the academic and cultural content required for the highest form of learning. Colloquially, this form has become known as Christian classical education.


The method and content contained in the seven liberal arts is rich and beautiful. However, this post is not to meant develop and describe them in detail - I will leave that to the curriculum directors! Instead, I would like to explain the umbrella under which Christian classical education falls. Christian classical education is a time-tested educational system which establishes a Christian culture and community, called paideia, that both explicitly and implicitly educates children and parents to embrace their restored humanity through Christ’s actions on the cross. In the 6th Chapter of Ephesians, St. Paul commands the Christian fathers in Ephesus to not “provoke [their] children to anger but bring them up in the paideia of the Lord.” Paideia has no direct English translation; however, its purpose is the development of virtue that becomes embodied and repeated in the hearts and minds of students.


The words of Paul beautifully mirror the words of the Shema found in Deuteronomy chapter 6, where Moses describes what it means to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and body. This love is more than just a weekly chapel and memory verse; the Shema imbeds our love for God into everything we do. It is the love we should talk about around the dinner table. It is why we go to work to support and provide for our families. It is what we should raise up on our lips at our child's soccer practice. It is the thing that should inspire a young student at her music lessons. It is all encompassing! And, when we fully immerse ourselves in this love, we will come to know and participate in the paideia of the Lord, growing in both virtue and wisdom. In a Christian setting, this virtue and wisdom flow from what St. Augustine referred to as the ordo amoris, or rightly ordered affection. We are what we love, and as Christians, we are blessed to know agape, or God’s perfect love, given to us through the Holy Trinity. It is through Holy Scripture, liturgical worship, and catechesis that we come to better understand and practice it.


TCA strives to build upon this rich tradition of Christian classical education found in God’s Word to develop a Christian paideia in the modern world that inculcates the truth of scripture into every aspect of our existence. In this way, the community at TCA understands that curriculum and content are important in the classroom to develop virtue and wisdom, but that the culture of our school is just as important to this end. I hope you will consider becoming a part of it! Godspeed.



By: Mr. Thomas Harner, President and Founder of Trinity Classical Academy

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