The Head, Chest, Abdomen and Feet: Educated for Eternity

Mar 24, 2021 | Kristen Zuccola, Humanities Teacher

Scottish fantasy writer George MacDonald tells the coming of age story of the character, Anodos, who, on the eve of his 21st birthday is given a key. With this key, he unlocks a compartment of a long-forgotten desk, from which emerges a fairy. The next morning, he awakens to see his bedroom transforming into a fairyland of sorts. He is ushered into this fairyland, a dreamlike place, where he discovers that he is in a “chronic condition of wonder.” CS Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, holds MacDonald’s novel, Phantastes in such high regard that he claims that the novel “baptized his imagination.” Much like Anodos, CS Lewis’s characters can live in the world of men and, through deep pools while wearing rings or through the doors of wardrobes, cross into other worlds. As Christians, we find ourselves in similar circumstances: we live with one foot in this world and one stepping into another. The classical Christian approach helps students reside concurrently in both the temporal and eternal. WCA students, particularly in their Upper School years, are being equipped to live with one foot in the world of men and the other in the eternity of God by examining three components of the complete man borrowed from Plato’s Republic: the head, which is the source of reason; the abdomen, which is the source of the appetite; and the chest, which is the source of the will.

First we will look at the head, the source of reason. The world sends a very clear and unbiblical message to our students. That perspective is that a man’s intellect is his own to develop for the purpose of achieving worldly success: securing a good job, earning the adulation of others, acquiring wealth and power. From this perspective education serves the man, not God. With a foot firmly planted on the eternal things, students learn that because they are made in God’s image, they are stewards of their intellect; in addition, it is not the core of who they are, for they are image bearers whose purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. In this context, he is a man who will one day love and lead his family well. She is a woman who will create beauty. They will seek and proclaim truth. Each will invent things that will bring God glory, not destroy mankind and their families. What a better way to learn and grow than to understand the One in whose image we were created. That is why we endeavor to step into the world of the eternal as a faithful body who prays, studies and recites Scripture, and sings songs of praise. That is why we continue to hold fast to Proverbs 9:10, which says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” With two feet, one planted in this world, one stepping into the next, students grow ever-more equipped to use their minds to the glory of God, not themselves.

Second, we will look at the stomach, the source of appetite. In this world, man loves that with which he is familiar. Students are under the continual barrage of images, pop culture, and branding familiarizing them with things about which God tells them to take warning: love of money, power, laziness, physical beauty, and more. We also know that man becomes enslaved to those things for which he hungers and thirsts. We know that God has put eternity in the hearts of men, so it is fruitful to direct their feet into the world in which it is natural to love that which is good, true, and beautiful: learning, engineering, composing, order, discovering, competing, hard work, camaraderie, physical fitness, studying, creating, teamwork, athletics, serving, and the outdoors. Even when a student’s feet are in two worlds, with proper training, he can be equipped to love the things for which he should have an appetite. James 1:17 tells us that every good and perfect gift is from above.

Last of all, we will look at the chest, the source of the will. The foot planted in this world is led by catch phrases “Follow your heart”; “Your truth is your truth”; and “Whatever makes you happy.” Upper School teachers regularly direct students to heed the first commandment: Thou shall have no other gods but me. The autonomy that teenagers developmentally seek must be pursued within the confines of God’s order. This means that they learn to sit under the authority of their teachers so that they can sit under the authority of their parents and ultimately the authority of God. They read literature that helps them analyze the will of man when he attempts to be his own deity. This enables students to, from a distance, analyze false teachings. That way they can fortify their thinking against falling prey to infectious and contagious ideologies.

Living an abundant life with one foot in the world of men and one in the kingdom of God is possible with the grace of God, and made easier by an education that trains the whole person to become a man of virtue. In the Upper School, we continue to examine the degree to which students plant their feet in this world while preparing them to step into the eternal.