“Fallor ergo sum” – St. Augustine, 1200 years prior to Descartes

Fallor ergo sum!

it's about learning

Do we structure school in such a way that we truly promote and achieve that intricate balance between: 1) wanting to know and to understand and 2) keeping perspective that we have to be wrong quite a bit in order to gain deep knowledge and understanding?

By the time you are 9 years old, you have already learned, first of all, that people who get stuff wrong are lazy, irresponsible dimwits, and, second of all, that the way to succeed in life is to never make any mistakes. We learn these really bad lessons really well. And a lot of us…deal with them by just becoming perfect little A students…perfectionists…overachievers. – Kathryn Schulz, On being wrong TED Talk, near 7:00 mark, March 2011 (emphasis added)

Is the secret to great success never to be wrong? Of course not! I cannot imagine that even one teacher of children (or adults, for…

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Faithful Through The Ages – Mary Slessor

Mary Slessor: White Mother of West Africa

Mary_Slessor

Among those inspired by the life and death of David Livingstone was Mary Slessor (1848 – 1915), who ventured alone into Calabar, a remote area of present-day Nigeria. She was one of the thousands of women who flooded into foreign missions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Scottish Presbyterians sponsored her even as they had sponsored her hero David Livingstone. Indeed, by the time she ventured into Africa in the mid – 1870s, denominational mission boards were beginning to open the doors to women.

Like Livingstone, Mary Slessor had grown up in poverty and had worked long hours in textile mills as a child. Unlike the Presbyterian missionary wives serving in Calabar, she lacked sophistication, and in her leisure time she preferred climbing trees to attending afternoon tea parties. Her initial assignment was to teach in a school at Duketown, but dissatisfied with the social niceties and ample lifestyle of the other missionaries, she convinced the mission director to assign her to a post in the interior, where she adopted the African way of life. She ate native food and lived in a mud hut with her adopted African children — often children who were deemed demonic and rejected by their families.

In the following years she served as a teacher and medical specialist among the local people. On Sundays she traveled on a circuit deep into the jungle, preaching to any who would listen. But always restless, she was convinced that her calling was to preach in an even more remote area. In 1888, with the help of a local chief, she moved “up country” to the Okoyong district. “In the forenoon I was left alone with the mud and the rain and the general wretchedness,” she wrote. “I looked helplessly on day after day at the rain pouring down on the boxes, bedding, and everything.” There was no privacy. Packed tight in the tiny hut with a mud floor were two girls and three boys as well as the locals who “crowded in on every side” — not just men, women, and children, but also “goats, dogs, fowls, rats and cats all going and coming indiscriminately.”

For more than a quarter century she would continue her multifaceted ministry in a region where no missionary had ever gone before. In 1892 she became the first British vice-consul to Okoyong, serving as a highly respected judge among the people. Twelve years later she moved on to an even more remote tribe, always considering her work as paving the way for other missionaries rather than church planting. She turned down a marriage proposal and was unable to work effectively with single women who joined her. Africa was her home, and Africans were her people. Today she continues to be remembered in Nigeria as the great Mother Slessor. Of her legacy, journalist Mary Kingsley wrote:

This very wonderful lady has been eighteen years in Calabar; for the last six or seven living entirely alone, as far as white folks go, in a clearing in the forest near one of the principal villages of the Okoyong district, and ruling as a veritable white chief over the entire district. Her great abilities, both physical and intellectual, have given her among the savage tribe a unique position, and won her, from white and black who know her, a profound esteem. Her knowledge of the native, his language, his ways of thought, his diseases, his difficulties, and all that is his, is extraordinary, and the amount of good she has done, no man can fully estimate. Okoyong, when she went there alone . . . was given, as most of the surrounding districts still are, to killing at funerals, ordeal by poison, and perpetual internecine wars. Many of these evil customs she has stamped out. . . . Miss Slessor stands alone.

If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

by Ruth A. Tucker
The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical “what if?” questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.

Faithful Through The Ages – Marcella and Women in Monasticism

Monasticism attracted more men than women, but from the earliest centuries women did play important roles in houses of charity. In the early centuries, the houses were loosely formed without a monastic rule or formal vows. Marcella (c. 325 – 410) exemplifies this way of life that caught on among other women of the time.

Growing up in Rome, she was influenced by her pious mother, Albina, an educated woman of wealth and benevolence. Childhood memories centered around piety, and one in particular related to Athanasius, who lodged in her home during one of his many exiles. He may have taken special interest in her, thinking back to his own youthful practice of playing church. Athanasius interacted with his hosts on theological matters and recounted anecdotes of his own monastic life. His most spellbinding stories, however, were the miraculous tales of the desert monks. As a parting gift he left behind the first copy of his biography, Life of St. Anthony.

Marcella’s wealth and beauty placed her at the center of fashionable Roman society. She married young, to a wealthy aristocrat, but less than a year later he died. Her time of mourning over, young men soon came calling again. However, convinced that God was directing her to a life of poverty and service, she shocked her social circle when she left behind her fashionable dresses for a coarse brown garment and abandoned her usual extravagant hair styling and makeup. Appearing as a low-class woman, she started a trend as other young women join her. They formed a community known as the brown dress society, spending their time praying, singing, reading the Bible, and serving the needy. Her palatial home was now a refuge for weary pilgrims and for the poor.

Summoned by Bishop Damasus (who arranges lodging at Marcella’s hospitality house), Jerome arrived in 382. It was an exhilarating time for this woman of letters, who had immersed herself in both Greek and Hebrew, to be entertaining one of the great minds of the age. He spent the next three years in what he called her “domestic church,” translating the Bible into Latin. She learned under his teaching even as she critiqued his translation. He spoke and wrote of her Christian devotion and scholarship and commened her influence on Anastasius, bishop of Rome — particularly in his condemning Origen’s doctrines, which Jerome declared a “glorious victory.” Indeed, his admiration of Marcella was unbounded, not only for her intellectual acumen but also for her deference to men who might be threatened by her vast store of knowledge.

Marcella, however, was also known for her efforts to restrain Jerome from quarrelling with his opponents — or at least helping him control his legendary temper. Eleven of his extant letters are addressed to her, and she is mentioned in many of his other writings. In one of his letters he responded to her query about the truth of Montanism. Someone was apparently attempting to convert her, and she was deeply interested in what she is hearing, though suspecting that the claim that they possess a more authentic spirituality might have been false. Jerome writes a lengthy point-by-point refutation of the movement and then concludes:

It was at the home of Marcella that Jerome first met Paula, a devoted and scholarly woman who would become his long-time intellectual counterpart. When Jerome returned to the Holy Land, Paula relocated there as well. They invited Marcella to join them, but she remained in Rome to oversee her growing house of virgins, where she was addressed as Mother. But hard times were ahead of her. She was in her late seventies in 410, when the Goths, led by Alaric, pillaged the city. Soldiers stormed the residence, demanding she relinquish her hidden jewels and wealth, which long before had been sold to fund her charitable work. When she had nothing to give them, they struck her down. She was taken to a church set up as a sanctuary, but she died the next day.

If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

by Ruth A. Tucker

The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical “what if?” questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.

If you want to sing out

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
’cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are

And if you want to live high, live high
And if you want to live low, live low
’cause there’s a million ways to go
You know that there are

Chorus:
You can do what you want
The opportunity’s on
And if you can find a new way
You can do it today
You can make it all true
And you can make it undo
You see ah ah ah
Its easy ah ah ah
You only need to know

Well if you want to say yes, say yes
And if you want to say no, say no
’cause there’s a million ways to go
You know that there are

And if you want to be me, be me
And if you want to be you, be you
’cause there’s a million things to do
You know that there are

Chorus

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
’cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are

Faithful Through The Ages – Justin Martyr

Quote: “No one who is rightly minded turns from true belief to false.” (Justin Martyr)

Unlike many other noted Christians of the early centuries, Justin (100 – 165) was an adult convert to the faith. Reared in a prosperous pagan family in Samaria, he was well educated and he retained his property and his philosopher’s gown after his conversion. Indeed, he was convinced that he had found the true philosophy — philosophy discovered only after studying the sterile gospel of the Stoics and Plato, who gave “wings for his soul” but ultimately left him unsatisfied.

Then, around the year 130, a chance meeting with an old man by the sea transforms Justin’s life. The man points him not only to the prophets whose words had been fulfilled in Christ but also to Christians who had suffered and died for their faith. “A fire was suddenly kindled in my soul. I fell in love with the prophets and these men who had loved Christ,” he writes. “I reflected on all their words and found that this philosophy alone was true and profitable. That is how and why I became a philosopher. And I wish that everyone felt the same way that I do.”

So convinced is he that he becomes an evangelist to the educated intellectuals of the ancient world. His debating skills are widely recognized, as are his teachings and writings. He is a Christian apologist who retains his pagan philosophy insisting that the truth of pagan philosophy, particularly Platonism, serves as “a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.” Indeed, more than any other prominent Christian apologist of the early centuries, he unabashedly embraces philosophy, much to the chagrin of his critics. Greek philosophy, he believes, is drawn from the Old Testament; and Socrates and Heraclitus are men of true faith, as are Old Testament saints. For Justin, Christ, the Word (Logos), is absolute truth and all truth is thus the truth of Christ.

Justin defends the way of Christ on two fronts: Judaism and paganism. While residing in Ephesus, he debates a Jewish scholar whose arguments are found in Justin’s treatise The Dialogue with Trypho. Here he asserts that the old covenant is replaced by the new, even as Gentiles are the new Israel. He later founds a school in Rome, where his focus is on pagan philosophy. In his First Apology, offered “on behalf of men of every nation who are unjustly hated and reviled,” he argues that the Christian faith is not a dangerous religion to be feared. Addressing his treatise to the emperor, he insists Christians are the “best helpers and allies in securing good order, convinced as we are that no wicked man . . . can be hidden from God, and that everyone goes to eternal punishment or salvation in accordance with the character of his actions.” Written in 155, the Apology is an attempt to justify the faith and show that paganism is an inferior imitation. More importantly, it elucidates the conduct and religious practices of Christians. Their worship is straightforward religious devotion. The emperor has nothing to fear.

But holding high Greek philosophy and making the faith to appear reasonable and rational was not enough to satisfy the Roman authorities. In 165 Justin was arrested. Had he been tempted to buckle under the threat of death, he might have recalled the old man who, on the shore many years earlier, had pointed him to Christ, emphasizing the courage of those who were faithful unto death. Like them, he now refuses to forsake Christ and sacrifice to the gods. “No one who is rightly minded,” he tells the prefect, “turns from true belief to false.” According to tradition, Justin was martyred in Rome under Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

by Ruth A. Tucker
Buy the book!
The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical “what if?” questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.