This past weekend I had the wonderful privilege of attending the first annual Raggant Fiction Festival at Evangel Classical School. For the better part of the sunny Saturday, we spent our time exploring the value and richness of fiction from a christian worldview. And let me tell you, this was quite an event. There were no clowns, no faceprinting, not even any balloons. But it was indeed a festival. The festive nature of the place was rooted in the heart of the things being accomplished. ECS is a small but mighty institution in Marysville Washington, bringing up the next round of young minds equipped and in love with the true history of words and ideas.
Let me break that down a bit. The classical model equips the mind with the history of words and ideas. It takes the student in a progress of intellectual development that builds and equips them with a mind that hasn’t merely learned, but one that is able to go on learning. It takes them through the progress and history of human thinking and helps them see their place in world. The air of this celebration was filled with names such as Dante, Dickens, Homer, Shakespeare, Augustine, Twain, Lewis, Jane Austin, Calvin, Tolkien and many more. When I was the age of most of these kids I was just discovering what a “chapter book” was.
But that is not all. It equips them with a true history of words and ideas. The ECS school mascot is the Raggant, which is a fictional character who sees all things from one specific perspective. Indeed, the viewpoint from which we learn is exceedingly important. Our view of the world is always subject to interpretation. There is no neutral standpoint. No matter how empirical and scientific we get, we are always looking at the results from a certain perspective, always asking the ultimate question, “What does it mean?” Ultimately, the only perspective that isn’t flawed or finite is that of the One who made all things. If there is a God, then any worldview which does not root itself in His perspective is inevitably faulty. Thus, the classical model takes as its foundation, a view of all things in light of the lordship of Christ, and his purposes.
The final point to be made here is, which is the key to both festivity and education, is love. The world is indeed a beautiful place and a true education must breed love and wonder of that which is studied. It is no coincidence that those who are most richly and widely read also love both to read and to live. In a interestingly circular way, it seems that these qualities feed one another. The more and better we read, the more we will love both reading and life.
Before I finish I must say a word or two about the subject of the event itself. The christian’s relationship to fiction can be summarized by Sean Higgins’ words in the opening talk: “Fantasy remains a human right because we are made in the image of the Maker.” God created us patterned after himself, and one of the essential aspects of that is creativity. Fiction is the projection of our inner realities in a creative and powerful manner. It helps us see ourselves better. It helps us see our world better. It helps us understand God’s word to us and our need in him better. A soul that is seeped in quality fiction literature is a soul that is richly in touch with the multifaceted world in which it lives. The purpose of the adventure is not mere escapism. As Leila Bowers pointed out in her talk, the goal is to keep the closet door open, and to return back to the real world.
Drawing things to a close I must say that, this being my second collision with the modern classicists, I have once again found it most enriching. My appetite has been stimulated. Evangel Classical School is a grassroots endeavor, but I don’t think its going to stay at the same small scale. I for my part, will continue to expand my library, write, and to join the conversation at many more Annual Raggant Fiction Festivals.