This series of integrated humanities classes prepares students to enter into the “Great Conversation” that has shaped the thinking and culture of western civilization by exploring the great works that make up that conversation. In order to cover the rich complexities of the material sufficiently in two 90 minute class periods per week, we will read passages from certain books, while reading the entirety of others. We will springboard from our reading of these great books into worldview discussions during class and outside of class using online discussion boards about the big ideas that have fascinated man from the beginning of time, and seek to understand it all from a solid biblical perspective. The Omnibus book series around which this course is built was designed in such a way that the primary books intertwine and connect in various ways with the secondary set of books; we will draw from both lists while still leaving some of the reading material for later. Note that specific readings may vary somewhat year to year based on teacher preference. Official book and materials lists will be distributed to registered students in late spring.
The Great Conversation 1
Since the dawn of time man has sought answers to the big questions. How did we get here? Who are we? Where are we going from here? Who is God? What is truth, beauty, goodness? In this course we will examine some of the most influential works of the ancient world and the answers to these and other questions proposed by the greatest thinkers of the times. In this integrated approach to the great books we will study works of philosophy, theology, and literature in historical context, considering how western man has sought to find meaning, expressing himself in a multitude of genres. Students will learn how to fine tune the skills of discussion and debate, and how to critique every worldview through the lens of Scripture. An underlying assumption of this course and all others is the reality that Jesus Christ is at the center of history. Events before Him anticipate His coming (Genesis 3:15). Events after His resurrection hearken back, seeking to more fully comprehend it all (Romans 11:36).
Typical Readings: The Holy Bible, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Code of Hammurabi, The Odyssey, The Histories, The Oresteia
, The Last Days of Socrates, The Early History of Rome, The Aeneid
, Till We Have Faces
, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters and Augustus Caesar’s World.
Optional Textbook: Omnibus I – Biblical and Classical Civilizations
The Great Conversation 2
With the first advent of Christ and the growth of the church in the early centuries, western man looks back, seeking to understand what it all means. How did the Gospel message, spread by a rag-tag band of disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, conquer the Roman Empire? How would the Church help establish a new civilization as the old Roman civilization crumbled? Was the result the so-called “Dark Ages,” or is this medieval period full of light and promise, much more than is often realized? This course will focus on the great works of theology, philosophy, and literature and seek to understand them all in the historical context of the medieval world. As with all courses in The Great Conversation series, students will be encouraged to hone their skills in discussion and debate, as we seek to critique all worldviews from a biblical perspective. The key event bringing the course to an end will be the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603.
Typical Readings: The Holy Bible, Great Tales from English History (Robert Lacey), The Hobbit, Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, Return of the King, Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Bede), Nine Tailors, Rule of St. Benedict, Beowulf (Heaney translation), Macbeth, Henry V, Inferno (Esolen translation), Canterbury Tales, The Reformation (Stephen J. Nicols), In Freedom’s Cause (Henty), King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table and Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.
Optional Textbook: Omnibus II – Church Fathers through the Reformation
The Great Conversation 3
As western man enters into the seventeenth century after the birth of Christ he wrestles more and more with the issue of authority. Medieval assumptions are questioned as The Great Conversation continues. This course will focus on various modern works of theology, philosophy and literature, seeking to interpret them in light of their historical context, and critique them using Scripture as the final authority. Eighteenth century Rationalism and nineteenth century Romanticism will be examined in terms of their influence on the thinking of the modern western mind. The philosophical implications of World War I and II will be discussed as well as the advent of modern totalitarianism and communism. The course will end with a consideration of where current western man finds himself in terms of God’s overall plan of redemption and where he is headed from here, gleaning wisdom from God’s Word.
Typical Readings: The Holy Bible, The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Of Plymouth Plantation, The Social Contract, Foundational American Documents (Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, US Constitution), selected Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers, A Tale of Two Cities, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Burke), Gulliver’s Travels, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, selected speeches of Abraham Lincoln, The Communist Manifesto, The Treaty of Versailles, Mein Kampf, Animal Farm, 1984, The Great Gatsby, and How Should We Then Live? (Francis Schaeffer).
Textbooks: A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson (required); Omnibus III – Reformation to the Present (optional)
The Great Conversation 4
Covering the same time period as The Great Conversation 1, level 4 takes the student deeper into the works of many of the same authors. Homer, Plato, Livy and Virgil are some of the thinkers whose works are explored on a new level. Taught alongside several books of the Bible, the primary source writings in level 4 force the student to interact with brilliant minds of the ancient world and begin to shape his own burgeoning rhetorical skills and more eloquently critique the Graeco-Roman worldview through the unchanging truths of Scripture. The Great Conversation courses 4, 5 and 6 are recommended for the high school student.
Typical Readings: The Holy Bible, The Iliad, The Peloponnesian War, The Bacchae, The Republic, Nicomachean Ethics, The War with Hannibal, On the Incarnation, Cicero: Selected Works, Documents of the Christian Church, Eclogues and Georgics, Letters from a Stoic, and City of God.
Optional Textbook: Omnibus IV – The Ancient World
The Great Conversation 1+4
This course is designed for students who begin The Great Conversation series in ninth or tenth grade and can benefit from a survey of ancient works before moving on to the upper levels of The Great Conversation. As a combination of levels 1 and 4, we will examine key works of the ancient world and the discuss answers to the big questions proposed by the greatest thinkers of the times. As with the other levels of The Great Conversation, students will learn how to fine tune the skills of discussion and debate as we examine works of philosophy, theology, literature and history, and critique every worldview through the lens of Scripture.
Typical Readings: The Holy Bible, The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories and The Landmark Thucydides (Robert Strassler, ed.), The Oresteia, The Last Days of Socrates, The Early History of Rome (Aubrey de Selincourt, trans.), The Aeneid, The Republic, Nicomachean Ethics, On the Nature of Things, selected works of Cicero, Metamorphoses, and Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
Optional Textbooks: Omnibus I and/or Omnibus IV
Prerequisites: Students must be enrolled in 9th grade or higher with no prior exposure to The Great Conversation series.
The Great Conversation 5
What is Truth? What is Goodness? What is Beauty? The great writers, artists, theologians, and philosophers of the Medieval period wrestled with these great issues. Contrary to popular belief, the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire were not dark and dreary; instead, they were characterized by advancements in many fields, including art, architecture, science, as well as theology. This course, which covers the same time period as The Great Conversation 2, digs even deeper, exploring the great issues of truth, goodness, and beauty through the eyes of men like Augustine, Dante, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, and Edmund Spenser. Not only will students continue to refine their skills of discussion and debate, they will learn how to take a role in leading those discussions.
Typical Readings: The Holy Bible, Myths of the Norsemen (Roger Lancelyn Green), Confessions, On Christian Doctrine, The Consolation of Philosophy, The Koran, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis), St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi (G.K. Chesterton), Summa Theologica (Kreeft editor), Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise, Canterbury Tales, Prince, Othello, The Praise of Folly, Here I Stand (Roland H. Bainton), Institutes of the Christian Religion, and Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves: Book 1 of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (Roy Maynard).
Optional Textbook: Omnibus V – The Medieval World
Prerequisites: Minimum age of 14, with exceptions granted.
The Great Conversation 6
As we turn our attention to the future, it is clear that the moral, religious, and cultural consensus that marked our recent past is now giving way to a more fragmented, diverse, and unsettled foundation – one in which no consensus can be agreed upon concerning truth and what is good. This course is designed to provide a walking tour of the people, ideas, and books that have brought us to our present day. Using various works of theology, philosophy and other literature, consideration and thought will be given to how the modern ideas of the Enlightenment and Romanticism gave way to different manifestations of materialism, socialism, and existentialism in the 20th century. Specific emphasis is given to how God’s word of truth and the person and work of Jesus Christ provides the interpretive lens for us as God’s people to navigate this new world in a way that is for our good and His glory.
Typical Readings: The Holy Bible, Paradise Lost, Leviathan, Pensees, Portable Enlightenment Reader (Isaac Kramnick), Self Reliance, Civil Disobedience, Leaves of Grass, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Huckleberry Finn, Four Quartets, Interpretation of Dreams, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denosivich, The Stranger, Letters from a Birmingham Jail, Origin of Species, Heart of Darkness, Of Mice and Men, The Sun Also Rises, and Beyond Good and Evil.
Optional Textbook: Omnibus VI – The Modern World
Prerequisites: Minimum age of 14, with exceptions granted.
Note that The Great Conversation 1 & The Great Conversation 2 are considered to be “School of Logic” courses and will not earn high school credit. The others all earn 2.5 credits, 1 in history, 1 in literature and 0.5 in theology, and they will be displayed on the transcript as three separate courses.