The apostle Paul was an effective evangelist in the first century because he was able to understand how people of a different culture thought about the important issues of life, then helped them connect their beliefs to the truth of God. For the church to be successful today, we need the same skill. You would think this should be easy, since we live in our own culture, but author Gene Edward Veith, Jr. believes some of us have missed the transition from modernism to postmodernism. Modernism was marked by a belief in scientific rationalism, humanism, and bias against the past. Postmodernism maintains that there is no absolute truth, that all truth is relative. While a modernist might believe that Christianity is not true because of some perceived scientific or historical conflict, a postmodernist believes that Christianity is not true because it cannot be the only truth or the absolute truth, and is therefore dismissed because it is intolerant.
This is the overview. Veith, a regular contributor to World Magazine, delves into details in four major areas: thought, art (including architecture, television, movies, and literature), society (family, government, and daily life), and religion. I generally avoid philosophy-type books because they are often difficult to understand, but this book is very readable and gives specific examples, an important step in helping me grasp ethereal concepts. Well worth reading to get a handle on what passes for thinking in our times. 256 pgs, pb.
From the captivating introductory question “Why study this stuff?” to the glorious full-color artwork representations to the sheer comprehensiveness of the coverage, these books are enthralling. Omnibus is Latin for “all encompassing; everything.” The publishers couldn’t have picked a better title for this project that has as its goal a six-year theology, history, and literature curriculum that will literally “talk about everything” - all the important ideas from all the ages will be put on the table to explore.
The Omnibus curriculum desires to enable the student to unlock the treasure chest of ideas contained in the Great Books – those which have guided and informed thinking people of western civilization. While you might associate the term with the list compiled and edited by Mortimer Adler, the publishers and editors of the Omnibus have established their own list that overlaps with Adler’s.
Omnibus is both classical and Christian. It was written from a distinctly Protestant viewpoint that is best summarized by the Westminster Confession of Faith. Omnibus I (Biblical and Classical Civilizations) and Omnibus II (Church Fathers Through the Reformation) are 7th and 8th grade texts with emphasis on the logic stage. Omnibus IV - V covers similar time periods but with emphasis on the rhetoric stage. Omnibus III & VI covers modern (1563 to present) times with logic and rhetoric emphasis respectively. In other words, grades 7-12 grades are covered in two, three-year rotations.
Each Omnibus is divided into two semesters with primary (traditional Great Books) and secondary (other) book selections for each. These selections and the course built around them are rigorous; very rigorous. Some parents might be concerned about portions of the content. The editors are clear about several things. First, they assume that evil is to be conquered rather than evaded. Secondly, they assume that godly oversight and protection will accompany the student through this coursework. Thirdly, they see the Christian home as a boot camp where students are taught to handle their weapons - under godly, patient supervision. Lastly, since the Bible includes the same topics as these books there is no subject that this curriculum will raise in the minds of junior or senior high students that would not also be raised as he reads the Bible.
If you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed, relax. These texts will instill confidence even as they make the job easier for you. In essence, they’re comprised of stand-alone guides for reading, studying and understanding these Great Books and the Great Conversation of ideas they represent. Beginning with an introductory worldview essay, a session is outlined for each day a book is to be studied. The number of weeks in a study varies with the selection. Discussion is a major part of every book study. Some days the discussion is general with an eye on comprehension but more often the focus is textual, cultural, and biblical analysis. There are daily reading assignments and almost daily writing assignments plus a large selection of optional activities. The really comforting thought is that the Teacher CD contains complete and thorough answers and talking points for every discussion or question raised.
In addition to the wonderful artwork, other excellent resources are evident. Appendix I outlines a two semester reading schedule. Appendix II is a parallel timeline of events in history, literature, and theology, with miniature art representations or a book cover. The Teacher CD-ROM includes the entire text on PDF files with answers and talking points inserted into the discussion session notes. Additionally, lesson plans, teaching tips, and midterm and semester exams with answers are included. It also includes a grading calculator - an Excel file where you insert a student’s grades. The text does not include the reading selections; you will need to obtain them separately. The editors also mention two beneficial references - Western Civilization by Spielvogel and the History of Art for Young People (we have it listed as Short History of Art) by Janson & Janson. As you look over the reading selections, don’t be surprised to note, “I read this book in college.” These are academically (and spiritually) challenging courses. ~ Janice
First Semester Primary Books: Westminster Confession of Faith, The Pilgrim's Progress, Of Plymouth Plantation, The Social Contract, Foundational American Documents, Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, A Tale of Two Cities.
First Semester Secondary Books: Foxe's Book of Martyrs, Frankenstein, Pride and Prejudice, Gulliver's Travels, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Second Semester Primary Books: Reflections on the Revolution in France, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Lincoln's Speeches, Slave Narratives, The Communist Manifesto, The Treaty of Versailles, The Great Gatsby, Mein Kampf, Philemon, The Epistles of John, The Epistles of Peter and Jude, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Daniel.
Second Semester Secondary Books: Little Women, The Killer Angels, Christianity and Liberalism, The Old Man and the Sea, Animal Farm, Death of a Salesman, Postmodern Times, How Should We Then Live?
Instead of isolating Bible and Christian history from what was happening in the rest of the world, the folks at Veritas aim to incorporate it. They offer four different history time periods (each aimed at a different grade level and designed to take one school year) which take students from creation to the present. The program originally had three parts: teacher's manual, history cards (an absolutely essential element of the curriculum) and a memory song on audio CD. The song is sung by a woman with a pleasant voice at varying tempos and is designed as a type of auditory time line.
The history cards are fantastic! They have many interesting facets (the more you study them, the more you learn). The cards from the various time periods are color coded and numbered - there are 32 cards in each pack. If the cards also relate to Bible history they have another color and another number. Each card has a picture (usually in full color) representing what it is about. For example, the card for Creation has a reproduction of the Creation of the sun and moon from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling by Michelangelo. Many of the other pictures on the other cards are famous paintings as well. Each card has a title and a Scripture reference (if appropriate). They also contain a summary of the event they represent and a list of resources. This information can only be found on the cards and is not duplicated in the Teacher Manual. On the Creation card, examples of the resources are: Child’s Story Bible, pages 3, 4 and Streams of Civ, Vol 1, pages 11-14. Reading whatever is set out on the cards provides the ‘text’.
The Teacher Manual is split into 32 weekly lessons. Each lesson has a worksheet, a project or two, and a test. An example of what you might find in the appendix is a literature unit, an Egyptian decor bulletin board pattern, an Egyptian Feast project, reproducible sheets, great games, and lyrics for the memory song. An enhanced CD-ROM is also available, which includes the memory song for that level, an electronic version of the Teacher Manual, and an instructional video. The enhanced CD will work on either Windows or Macintosh. Because the enhanced CD contains the complete Teacher’s Manual, we sell two kits; one which includes the Teacher Manual book, the card set, and the audio CD (Homeschool Kit), and one which includes only the enhanced CD and the cards (Homeschool Kit w/ CD). ~ Genevieve