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September 7, 2013 by William H. Scarle, Jr.

By the time this is read we will be three days into the “Days of Awe” which began with Rosh HaShana (The Head of the Year) on Thursday.  In the Hebrew calendar this is a ten day period between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur when the faithful examine their lives to see if there are any unresolved offenses that need to be mended before the celebration of God’s forgiveness in the Day of Atonement, or the day of “covering.”  Jesus referred to this practice in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:23).  Repentance and reconciliation are hard pills to swallow in our self-centered society.  They are however central in biblical religion.

If my plans for Wednesday evening work out, I will have blown the shofar at church to call the congregation to Bible study and a time of renewal entering a new year.

This season not only marks the high holidays on Israel’s calendar but the return to school for most of our young people.  I must confess I could not make up my mind whether I wanted to write on the subject of education or the significance of the high holidays, so this piece is a bit of a mish mash.

John Milton (1608 – 1674) wrote a letter in 1644 to Master Samuel Hartlib in which he describes his view of good education. In that letter he states, “The end then of learning is to repair the ruines of our first parents by regaining to know God aright and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the neerest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.”


In suggesting that education could restore the damage brought about by the Fall Milton echoes Sir Francis Bacon (15561 – 1626).  Both men  had a high view of the Bible.  Bacon states, “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first the volume of Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power.”

Both men had a high view of the role of education in the redemption of humanity from the devastation of Adam’s original sin, and they are to be commended for the standards they set for educational excellence.  However, the Bible is not so optimistic about the power of academic knowledge to cleanse our souls from the power of evil.   In the thinking of Bacon and Milton this over optimistic view of the power of schooling is mitigated by their emphasis on knowledge of the Scriptures as a part of that training.

The sound of the shofar reminds us that cleansing from sin, a most unpopular word in today’s world, requires repentance.  That is because the human will moves us to act in ways that knowledge would teach us to avoid.  The Apostle Paul says in his most reasoned epistle, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing (Rom. 7:19).”

Milton recommends after a day of immersion in the study of Arithmetic and Geometry the evening should be spent in the study of Scripture.  That will likely lead us to a time of repentance and to a good year.  “La Shana Tovah” to you all.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at  END-whs