Loving God With Our Minds in Milton’s Paradise Lost

Perhaps there is no work of imaginative literature in all the Western canon more preeminently about loving God with our minds than John Milton’s Paradise Lost. This session will highlight three ways that Milton’s poem invites its reader to consider what it means to love God with our minds. Practically, the poem presents several vivid episodes which ask whether and when a mental act is a sin. Philosophically, the poem has a deeply Christian epistemology that challenges our enlightened liberal notions about intellectual freedom with the idea that our reasoning is limited by foundational assumptions we make about the world. In other words, “Believing is seeing.” Poetically, Paradise Lost invites us to identify with Satan to find his bitterness tragic and his unconquerable will heroic. This imaginatively leads us to the inevitable result of this rebellion — vileness must be embraced if we will continue in sin. That’s heady stuff, but students love it when presented in the right way. This session will focus on how to bring this famously difficult poem to life for our students so that it can become relevant to their spiritual and mental lives.

Jeremiah Forshey

Jeremiah Forshey has been with classical Christian schools since 2004, teaching literature, logic and rhetoric classes for Redeemer Classical School in Harrisonburg, Virginia, The Geneva School in Winter Park, Florida, and now at New Covenant Schools in Lynchburg, Virginia. He currently teaches American literature, British literature and senior thesis, and serves as lead teacher in the School of Rhetoric. He holds a master’s degree in English literature and languages from James Madison University. Jeremiah lives with his wife, Elisa, and their three children in the “Seven Hills” of Lynchburg, Virginia, which can be found in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. They live in a house that was finished the same year as The Great Gatsby.

The Clean Sea Breeze of the Centuries: Literary Experience as Perspective on Culture

One of the primary benefits of reading literature is that it allows us to inhabit another person’s experiences, to see the world through other eyes, and to perceive it with other minds, and in so doing, broaden our own limited experience of the world. In particular, C. S. Lewis says that in reading “old books,” we can temporarily view our own culture from outside its assumptions and blind spots. In literary experience, especially the experience of “old books,” we have the powerful and rare opportunity to gain an outside perspective on our own contemporary culture, and so to know it and ourselves more fully. The purpose of this session is to model and discuss the benefits of opening the first day of a humanities class with an excerpt of Lewis’s essay, “On the Reading of Old Books,” in order to give students an elevated sense of purpose in their reading and to establish a central metaphor—Lewis’s “clean sea breeze of the centuries”—that class discussions will frequently return to as they compare the older cultures the class reads about with our own. Secondarily, the session will offer brief observations on a belief and a practice that students bring from our culture into the classroom: the belief that individual choice is the highest good and the practice of reflexive irony.

Jeremiah Forshey

Jeremiah has been at classical Christian schools since 2004, teaching literature, logic, and rhetoric classes for Redeemer Classical School in Harrisonburg, VA; The Geneva School in Winter Park, FL; and the New Covenant Schools in Lynchburg, VA. He is currently the American Literature and British Literature instructor for the New Covenant School of Rhetoric. He holds a master’s degree in English from James Madison University, but an undergraduate degree in computer science has allowed him some occasional forays into mathematics and programming.