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Friday, October 19, 2012

The Three Essential Books

John Amos Comenius was not alone in his revolutionary biblio-centric approach to life and learning. Just as Calvin and Knox enlarged and developed the practical ramifications of the Reformation Luther had initiated, men like Alexander Richardson, William Ames, and John Alsted, along with Comenius (a student of Alsted), developed their sweeping ideas in a 17th Century movement historians call the Pansophic [or Encyclop√¶dic] movement. 

Pansophism was indeed a movement. A movement that lasted for about 150 years, and provided a curriculum driver for early Harvard and Yale. Dr. David H. Scott calls the movement Integrationism, and he refers to the men who developed it as Integrationists. [Dr. Scott is an authority on the Puritan curriculum known as technologia, which was used at Harvard and Yale. This, along with Jonathan Edwards, was the focus of his Ph. D. dissertation at the University of Notre Dame, published in 2003, From Boston to the Baltic: New England encyclopedics and the Hartlib Circle. If you're not inclined to read dissertations, I recommend Dr. Scott's shorter article, "A Vision of  Veritas: What Christian Scholarship Can Learn from the Puritans' 'Technology' of Integrating Truth." Click here.]

Comenius's educational aim was to harmonize three "books" which he saw as essential for pansophic education: 1) the book of God's Word [the "special" Revelation of the Bible], 2) the book of God's works [the "general" revelation of creation], and 3) the book of reason [or logic].

While there is no direct evidence in the minutes of the meeting on December 27, 1643, in which the overseers of Harvard discussed the crest of the school, Dr. Scott sites other evidence supporting the belief that the three books in the Harvard crest are the three "books" Comenius saw as essential to pansophic learning: the Bible, creation, and enlightened reason. These were the three essential books required for authentic education.


This drawing of the original Harvard crest and motto appears on the website of the Harvard Graduate Christian Community, a student organization related to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and affiliated with the Harvard chaplains.
The following comment accompanies this drawing: "The motto of the University adopted in 1692 was 'Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae' which translated from Latin means 'Truth for Christ and the Church.' This phrase was embedded on a shield...and can be found on many buildings around campus including the Widener library, Memorial Church, and various dorms in Harvard Yard. Interestingly, the top two books on the shield are face up while the bottom book is face down. This symbolizes the limits of reason, and the need for God's revelation."
[To visit this website, go to http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~gsascf/

 The three books can also be seen embedded around Yale, including the example below, where the books appear above a passageway near a courtyard on campus, below the window and to the right:


Below is a close-up of the three books, with "reason" submitted to God's Word and God's works:


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