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Teaching Classics As Christian Education Books

What makes a story worth reading is simply its applicability to the life of the reader. If a story cannot connect to the life of the reader and apply a universal theme, then a book isn?t worth reading. This is especially important when teachers decide which Christian education books to use in their classrooms. Since Christian schools are blessed with the added benefit of studying novels and stories from a Christian perspective, many classics can also be used as Christian education books. To powerfully connect with students and encourage them to reflect on their lives as young Christians, consider teaching the following three classic books and short story:


Christians who risked their lives to save the Jewish families during World War II, sometimes we must engage in civil disobedience to man?s laws when they violate the higher laws of God.



Later in the novel?s storyline, Jim is held as a slave on the Phelps? farm. Although Tom Sawyer knows Jim is actua
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
As the quintessential American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the Christian education books that should appear in every Christian high school?s curriculum. Huck Finn tells the story of two runaways who meet on Jackson?s Island. Huck escapes from his abusive Pap and meets Jim, a runaway slave who fears he?ll be sold to the deep south. Together they begin traveling down the Mississippi River in search of the Ohio River that will bring Jim north to the free states. Along the way, Huck is forced to make the decision of whether or not he will continue to help a black man escape. Even though it?s against the law, Huck firmly decides to help Jim. As Christians, we too may need to make a difficult decision of whether to follow the law if it?s against our beliefs in God?s Word. Like the lly a free man as proclaimed in Miss Watson?s will, Tom convinces Huck to keep Jim as a slave. Tom inflicts suffering on Jim by forcing him to live in cruel conditions in his slave cabin, symbolizing the inhumane treatment of blacks during the times of slavery in the United States. Though its partner book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, contains a rather childish story, Huck Finn deals with much more complicated themes that are still applicable to Christians today more than 120 years after it was first published.

Les Mis?rables by Victor Hugo
Revered by many as one of the greatest stories of all time, Les Mis?rables is a novel full of themes of grace, redemption, and love. When Jean Valjean is released on parole, he is a bitter and angry man, hardened by 19 years in the quarries. He also finds a world that refuses to open its doors to an ex-convict, except for one bishop. Even after Valjean betrays the bishop?s trust, the bishop, like Christ, offers immediate forgiveness. Valjean is confused by the bishop?s compassion, but he promises to become a new man. Though Valjean lives an honest life and becomes blessed with great wealth, he is forced to constantly run from his past. He must make many difficult decisions that test his faith in God and commitment to living a Christian life. As Christians, we should look at the decisions Valjean makes and analyze if we truly strive to live a holy life as he did, or if we take the easy way out by seeing how close we can live like the world and still be a Christian.

The Odyssey by Homer
Written over 2500 years ago, The Odyssey is one of the oldest books of the world. However, books don?t become classics just because they are old. Instead, they must still connect to readers today. For The Odyssey, its theme is one of the most popular of all literature: a desire for home. Following the Trojan horse victory in the ten-year war at Troy, Odysseus is cursed with a ten-year journey back home to Ithaca. Along the way, Odysseus must overcome lotus plants that remove a desire for home, giant Cyclops, the six-headed monster Scylla, and the giant whirlpool Charybdis. Worst of all, after he finally returns home, he must regain control of his kingdom and defeat the suitors vying for his wife, Penelope. Although Christians don?t physically face science fiction monsters in real life, the journey of Odysseus parallels the same journey we all take in life, as we try to reach our heavenly home. Along our own odyssey, we too will face temptations, struggles, joys, physical pains, unexpected trials, and deaths of loved ones. However, all that matters in the end is our loyalty to Christ and the home He has prepared and reserved for us.

?The Lady, or the Tiger?? by Frank Stockton
A short story written in the late 19th century, ?The Lady, or the Tiger?? received almost instant popularity because of the story?s unique ending, or lack thereof. The story takes place in a kingdom ruled by a semi-barbaric king, whose form of government is strikingly simple. If a person is guilty of a crime, he is placed in a spectator-filled arena to decide his own fate. There are two doors to choose from in the arena. Behind one door is a tiger which means certain death, and behind the other is the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. If the guilty man chooses the tiger, his punishment is deserved; whereas, if he chooses the lady, he is given a second chance in life. However, the story takes an unusual twist as it focuses on one man whose crime was falling in love with the king?s daughter. The princess discovers behind which doors the lady and the tiger are standing. In addition, the princess learns that the woman behind the door is indeed very beautiful and a woman whom she hates. On the day of the decision, the young man is placed in the arena and instantly looks to the princess. Convinced in his heart that she knows the outcome of each door, he watches as the princess points to the right, and then the story ends.

Though most readers are initially outraged by the ending, Stockton purposely makes no hint as to the fate of the young man. Each reader must decide the man?s fate for himself based on his view of humanity. If we view life with the approach that it?s all about us and our desires, then the princess chooses the tiger. After all, if she can?t have her lover, then no one can, especially a woman she despises. However, if we live our lives making decisions based on how those decisions impact others, then the princess points the young man to the lady. Putting her own desires aside, she will give the one she loves new life and hope.

Although these four classics are not specifically Christian education books, when viewed from a Christian perspective, they are all powerful tools to help students see their place in this world as Christians. More importantly, these Christian education books emphasize that the decisions we make in life, no matter how large or small, reveal our human tendencies and our desires of how we can live our lives for God and walk in His ways.

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