chapter  5
40 Pages

Protestant Influences in Grammar Schools and Universities

In all West European schools and colleges offering a humanist education, there was a tension between using classical and Christian sources. Where many Greek and Roman authors had described the unpredictable and even reprehensible behaviour of the gods, or equated the good life with virtuous behaviour and moderation, the Bible and other Christian sources spoke of a single, absolutely unchanging God, and of man as incapable through original sin of meritorious actions, though able through divine grace and faith in Christ’s sacrifice to hope for perfect happiness in heaven. That salvation was not to be sought by pursuing the golden mean between extremes in all things here on earth, but by looking upwards at unattainable perfection, and striving to resist the temptations of the dark powers below. Nor was it to be sought primarily by outwardly praiseworthy actions, but by looking inwards to judge one’s feelings by the light of an informed conscience. However, in the previous two chapters we have encountered many texts which in English grammar schools were treated in such a way as to imply that the moral teaching of the Greeks and Romans could legitimately be used as a supplementary reservoir from which to draw examples of correct behaviour in a Christian country. If teachers did spend time explaining the differences as well as the similarities between classical and Christian mores, or showing how to resolve any discrepancies which arose between them, this has not left much evidence in the kind of materials we have been examining in the last two chapters.