Events for Summer 2023

Summer is here, and I have some speaking engagements that I’m very much looking forward to. If you’re attending one of these events, be sure to drop me a note so we can connect!

Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference, Robert Webber Center, Trinity School for Ministry, Pittsburgh, PA (June 8-10)

I’ll be helping lead a K-12 education ministry focus group as we study the theme of “Beginning with Moses and All the Prophets: Teaching the Christian Faith from the Old Testament.”

Repairing the Ruins: Association of Classical Christian Schools Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA (June 21-24)

I’m presenting on a Leader’s Day panel on the topic of “Virtue and Spiritual Formation.” My contribution will focus on opportunities to lean into gender distinctives during this present cultural moment.

Stonehaven ACCS-Endorsed Summer Teacher Training, Marietta, GA (July 19-21)

This is the inaugural summer gathering of ACCS schools from across the Southeast! I’ll be presenting plenary talks on “Teaching for Spiritual Formation” and “Liturgies of Time and Space.”

Hope to see you this summer!

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The Trinity in the Old Testament

Logos recently published a piece from me on “How the Early Church Found the Trinity in the Old Testament” for their Word by Word blog. Their blog has several excellent recent pieces on the doctrine of the Trinity; it was an honor to be asked to contribute. In this piece, I focus on three aspects of the Old Testament that are unknown to or under-appreciated by many modern readers—but were nevertheless critical to early Christians’ developing understanding of the Trinity. Here’s my conclusion:

Thus, while it would no doubt be a mistake to say that such an approach to Old Testament interpretation was the only important factor in the development of Trinitarian theology, Christians should be confident that biblical exegesis was indeed very much at the heart of this central doctrine from the very beginning. The Trinity is, indeed, very much in the Bible—perhaps far more than most Christians have ever suspected.

The full piece can be found here, and do check out the Word by Word blog in full. They’ve recently been doing a series on pneumatology, and I have a forthcoming piece on that subject appearing next month

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Christian Education in the Negative World

Note: This piece was just published in the spring 2023 of Classis, the journal of the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS). I’m happy to make the piece more broadly available below:

What time is it? The importance of such a simple question should not be underestimated. Jesus, after all, castigated his opponents for failing to rightly “interpret the signs of the times” (Matt 16:3), which led them to miss the coming of the Messiah. Much better, then, for us to be like the men of the tribe of Issachar, who rallied to David because they “had understanding of the times” (1 Chr 12:32). How we as Christian educators read the present cultural moment will have clear ramifications for our schools and their long-term prospects. This article, then, will explore how classical Christian education has a unique opportunity vis-à-viz the Christian college-preparatory model to rightly discern the times and, by making the hard choices now, to build institutions that will endure in potentially difficult decades to come.

In seeking to discern the signs of our times, Aaron Renn’s “Three Worlds of Evangelicalism” is a most helpful heuristic for tracing patterns of how Christians have engaged and been received in the public square as the process of secularization has proceeded in America. Most notably, Renn identifies a shift that took place around 2014 from what he calls the “Neutral World” to what he terms the “Negative World.” Whereas the former was characterized by a lingering receptivity to Christian beliefs and morality, the remnants of a “Positive World” that saw Christian morality as normative for society and linked Christian faith with good citizenship, the latter is strikingly hostile to traditional Christianity, imposing a genuine cost, social and otherwise, to those who would seek to follow Christ. [1]

Without needing to delineate, much less defend, every aspect of Renn’s paradigm, Renn’s analysis nevertheless sheds light on what appear to be increasing and potentially existential challenges confronting Christian education in this country, particularly those Christian schools that place college admissions at the center of their mission. After all, it would appear that the Christian college-preparatory school exemplifies a fundamentally neutral-world approach to Christian education, generally aiming to prepare graduates to engage culture on its own terms, including on the most elite secular college campuses and in the most prestigious professions. This aspiration is captured in mission statements regarding graduating students who will “transform their world for Christ” or something of that nature. 

A fundamental problem with this perspective, however, is that it assumes the surrounding culture is malleable and open to being transformed for Christ. In the “Neutral World” it may have been possible to find missional success through a strategy of downplaying controversial issues and seeking to find common ground with culture at large. Even then, however, this strategy may have been less successful than its advocates claimed; those Christians who rose to positions of power and influence often found themselves more transformed by the institutions in which they served than vice versa. [2]  In any event, in the “Negative World” it appears far less likely that a “winsome” Christian witness will win over society, much less be able to resist those de-formative pressures increasingly demanding full capitulation to progressive views of race, marriage, gender, and sexuality.

And therein lies the rub for the Christian college-preparatory school model: to the extent that its telos is bound up in prestigious college admissions and career success, it is vulnerable to the pressures of society more broadly and college admissions offices more specifically. The pressure in the “Negative World” will always be to compromise away from traditional Christian orthodoxy, and to the extent that a school’s parent community is more invested in worldly “success” than Christian formation, the actual gap between such a “Christian” school and a non-Christian one will only further shrink.


Indeed, this process of secularization has already played out at many Christian college-preparatory schools even in the time of the “Neutral World,” with cultural compromise already baked into institutional DNA. Thus, such a Christian school might hold a Prom but play only the “clean” versions of the otherwise explicit tracks. It celebrates Black History Month, but does not observe Lent. It gives scholarship money to athletes who can fill out sports teams but not to pastors’ families who have a single income because the mom has chosen to stay home with her kids. It employs several college counselors, but not a single chaplain. Its board is full of successful business executives, but no ministers. Its curriculum is heavy on Advanced Placement (AP) courses that are ever more explicit in their obeisance to the newest fads of progressive ideology, but light on goodness, truth, and beauty. Its classrooms are filled with the newest and most “important” technologies, while its disciplinary meetings are consumed by issues related to the ill use of those very same technologies.

In other words, too often in the Christian college-preparatory school world the underlying assumptions of modern education are neatly dressed up in Christian trappings; a Christian vocabulary is applied to the various aspects of the school’s work without any actual transformation of what the school is doing or how it is operating. While this tension may have been present in the college-preparatory model from the beginning, the shift to the “Negative World” will only further destabilize this approach to Christian education as it imposes ever greater costs in pursuit of its stated aim.

In particular, those Christian schools that continue to affirm traditional Christian teaching regarding marriage, gender, and sexuality should expect to face intense pressures to compromise or abandon the faith once delivered for all. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock and President Biden’s signing of the 2022 Respect for Marriage Act, we should not be surprised by advancing efforts to strip orthodox Christian schools of their Title IX exemptions. [3]  Nor is it difficult to imagine a world in which private colleges and universities refuse to accept students from “hate schools,” as would follow the logic of an Arizona school district that recently ended its student-teaching partnership with a nearby Christian university on account of Christian wrongthink. [4] To the extent that institutions of higher education are ever more increasingly the vanguard implementing the new, illiberal “successor ideology,” with its creed of diversity, equity, and inclusion and its ever-expanding rainbow flag before which we all must bow, the traditional college-preparatory model for Christian schooling looks ever more naïve and incoherent.

In this “Negative World,” classical Christian education provides a durable alternative to the model of Christian college-preparatory schooling. As ACCS schools have demonstrated, it is possible to avoid the de-formative pressures of the college-preparatory model without slipping into a fundamentalist, anti-intellectual, world-denying posture. The telos of cultivating goodness, truth, and beauty by preserving and transmitting the Great Tradition that is our common heritage anchors such schools amidst the tides of liquid modernity. It will, we hope, be precisely graduates of these schools that will be best poised to rebuild our colleges, workplaces, and communities when our national collective fever breaks and the work of rebuilding begins anew.

And yet, the booming growth of classical Christian schools in the last few years offers a particular challenge to our movement. As leaders of classical Christian schools, we need to ask the hard questions of whether this new wave of growth stems from a genuine desire by parents to see their children formed into Christ’s likeness, or whether it simply reflects families who are tired of critical race theory and the “genderbread man” in other schools but who are still hoping for iPads in kindergarten and who judge a school’s success by its number of Ivy League admissions. It may be tempting to maximize this present season and fill as many seats as possible, but to the extent that we fail to partner with families who truly understand the “Negative World” and its consequences for our schools’ mission, we open ourselves up to the same vulnerabilities to which Christian college-preparatory schools are currently exposed.

What is needed, then, is clarity: in our admissions materials, our websites, our marketing, our open houses, and more. Time and again, we must emphasize that our telos is not elite college admissions or career preparation (though we certainly think our students will be well-prepared for whatever God may call them to!) but rather the spiritual, moral, and virtue formation of our children’s souls. Ongoing programming to catechize parents in the distinctive mission of our schools, and continual training on how to navigate the challenges posed by our present cultural moment, will also serve to strengthen our parent communities around our mission.

Undoubtedly, there are many Christian college-preparatory schools staffed with teachers and administrators of true conviction, who may still have the ability to discern the signs of the times, catechize their communities, and prepare for more difficult days ahead. How much more, then, should we in the classical Christian education movement lead the way in creating the kinds of Christian schools that will not only survive but thrive in the “Negative World,” and whatever else may lie ahead. Let us, then, in this year of celebrating the life and legacy of St. Athanasius, be prepared to stand contra mundum for the sake of Christ our King.


Kyle R. Hughes (PhD, Radboud University Nijmegen) is Lower School Principal at The Stonehaven School in Marietta, GA, and author of three books, including most recently Teaching for Spiritual Formation: A Patristic Approach to Christian Education in a Convulsed Age (Cascade, 2022). He also serves on the clergy team and as Director of Catechesis at Christ the King Anglican Church in Marietta, GA.


[1] See further Aaron Renn, “The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism.” First Things, February 2022:

[2] To take just one example, consider the disappointing tenure of evangelical Francis Collins at the National Institutes of Health; see further Carl R. Trueman, “The Failure of Evangelical Elites.” Classis 29.2 (2022): 3-9.

[3] See, e.g., Sarah Posner, “Andrew Hartzler Wasn’t Allowed To Be Gay on Campus. So He’s Suing.” Politico.

[4] See “Arizona School Board Ousts Christian Student Teachers.” Alliance Defending Freedom.

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Christian Education as Soulcraft

I recently had the privilege of giving an interview to Blake Adams at Modern Reformation on the subject of “Christian Education as Soulcraft,” which was published online and in the January/February 2023 print issue of the magazine. Our conversation ranged from the intersection of Christian education with monasticism and asceticism to some of the major shortcomings of Christian schooling today. Be sure to check it out! The full interview can be found over at Modern Reformation here.

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2022 Year in Review

With the publication of Teaching for Spiritual Formation in January (along with a related article for the International Journal of Christian Education on the role of asceticism in Christian education), I marked the end of a seven-year period of always working on a major writing project. Granted, this is still four years less than George R.R. Martin has (supposedly) been working on The Winds of Winter, but I suppose I haven’t been as distracted with producing a tv show or being a celebrated conference figure (just wait!). In any event, since working on my dissertation from 2014 to 2017, I then moved right into adapting it for publication with Brill. Upon the release of The Trinitarian Testimony of the Spirit (2018), Cascade invited me to write a more popular-level version of my research (How the Spirit Became God, 2020), which then flowed right into my contract for Teaching for Spiritual Formation (2022), also with Cascade.

I was, of course, exceedingly grateful for these opportunities to publish my work, but the constant sense of impending deadlines hanging over every break or vacation was wearing on me (and, understandably, my family as well). And so the majority of 2022 was, at long last, a writing break (if not a life break: the summer of 2022 involved transitioning to a new job, a new house, and a new puppy, among other things). By fall, though, I was itching to get back into the groove of research and writing, and it’s been a productive season: two chapters (forty pages, 11,000 words) towards my next book.

2023, then, will be focused on completing the new book project, currently titled Scripting the Son: Seeking the Voice of Christ in the Old Testament. This project builds on the half of my dissertation not developed in How the Spirit Became God and reflects upon the role of prosopological exegesis in the development of Christology in the pre-Nicene period while also drawing in some of my other interests, such as the emergence of the rule of faith (regula fidei) in the early church. I’ve just written a major section on Hebrews, and I’ve enjoyed getting a chance to spend time in an epistle I haven’t worked with much in my career before now. I’m now looking forward to rekindling my relationship with Justin Martyr, whose exegetical genius, in my mind, continues to be under-appreciated.

Scripting the Son is due for publication with Cascade in 2024 as part of their new series Studies in Early Christology. It’s shaping up to be a great series, and I’m honored to be a part of it. In the meantime, I’ll keep pushing out content related to Teaching for Spiritual Formation; I’ve already excerpted the book in a couple places but will have additional spin-offs and interviews appearing in early 2023. I’ve been so heartened by the response to this book, and am so grateful for those who have taken the time to reach out to me with words of encouragement regarding how the book has helped them or their school take the next steps in forming students into Christ’s likeness. I expect this won’t be my last entry into the area of the philosophy and practice of Christian education, but alas that won’t be on the docket this year.

Thank you again to all of you who have read or shared about my work. May you have a blessed 2023!

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Book Reviews: Yu, Williams

I’ve added two recent book reviews that I have recently had published in Review of Biblical Literature here. Interested in the Apostolic Fathers? I’ve reviewed Chun Ling Yu’s Bonds and Boundaries among the Early Churches: Community Maintenance in the Letter of James and the Didache. Interested in the early Christian apologists? I’ve reviewed D.H. Williams’ Defending and Defining the Faith: An Introduction to Early Christian Apologetic Literature. The temptation is always to sign up to do more book reviews (free books! learn new things!) but they are, surprisingly, a fair amount of work!

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Teaching for Spiritual Formation, Teaching Ascesis

It’s been about six months since the release of Teaching for Spiritual Formation, and I’ve been very pleased with initial interest in the book! As I anticipated, teachers and administrators in classical Christian schools have resonated the most with the book, but it’s been great to see other groups engage with the book’s ideas as well. The book hit “#1 New Release” status in “Adult Christian Ministry” on for a couple of days around its release, so many thanks to everyone who bought a copy.

This summer I had the privilege of (virtually) sitting down with David I. Smith, director of the Kuyers Institute at Calvin University and author of the book’s foreword, to discuss Teaching for Spiritual Formation on his “Faith in Teaching” podcast. You can check out the episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.

One theme of the book, the role of asceticism in Christian education, was in need of expanded treatment beyond what it received in Teaching for Spiritual Formation, and so I wrote an article for the International Journal of Christianity and Education titled “Teaching Ascesis: Recovering the Neglected Center of Early Christian Pedagogy.” You can download it here with institutional log-in; otherwise, the abstract gives a sense of what the article is about:

This article aims to recover the foundational importance of training in ascesis for Christian education. For early Christian pedagogues such as Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom, education was seen not so much as the transmission of information as it was an invitation to a life of virtue and faith; to this end they especially encouraged teaching that would promote an ascetical lifestyle and therefore greater communion with God. By examining two key patristic texts connecting pedagogy and asceticism, this article outlines an approach that can enable modern Christian teachers to engage their students with ascetical practices that will contribute to their spiritual formation and counter-cultural witness.

There will be some more media related to Teaching for Spiritual Formation coming out later this year; I will post again when it becomes available. In the meantime, if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, be sure to get one! And, if you have read it, know that a review and/or a rating on sites like Amazon can go a long way to helping with the book’s discoverability, so if you haven’t left one yet, please consider doing so. Many thanks!

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Teaching for Spiritual Formation Now Available!

Just wanted to drop a quick line to say that Teaching for Spiritual Formation is now available at Amazon and other retailers! I pray that this book blesses many Christian schools and teachers, with the wisdom of the church fathers leading us forward in our work. Enjoy the read!

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2021 Year in Review

“Two weeks to flatten the curve” has become “two years…to something,” but even amidst all the disruptions of yet another Covid-impacted year, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to continue teaching, writing, researching, and catechizing.

This year’s major project was the completion of Teaching for Spiritual Formation, my new book on the intersection of Christian education and patristic teaching that will be published next month by Cascade. While I was able to complete the manuscript in the spring, some completely understandable delays pushed editorial work on the manuscript from summer to fall, with the final indexing work being completed just before Christmas. Having now published two books with Cascade, I can confidently say that their team is a delight to work with, and would highly recommend them to friends looking for a publisher. I’m particularly grateful to David I. Smith for kindly providing a foreword to the book, and to Dan Beerens, Brett Edwards, and Bruce Lockerbie for their gracious endorsements. I pray that the book resonates with Christian educators across a wide range of schools, stimulating new ways of thinking about what it means to teach in such a way that we are forming our students more into Christ’s likeness. The pre-order page should be live within the next week or two, and the book will be broadly available for order from retailers such as Amazon by the end of January.

Related to this book, I was invited to submit an article to a special edition of the International Journal of Christianity and Education, which is scheduled for publication in the spring 2022. This article, “Teaching Ascesis: Recovering the Neglected Center of Early Christian Pedagogy,” aims to recover the foundational importance of training in ascesis for Christian education. For early Christian pedagogues such as Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom, education was not seen so much as the transmission of information as it was an invitation to a life of virtue and faith; to this end they especially encouraged teaching that would promote an ascetical lifestyle and therefore greater communion with God. By examining two key patristic texts connecting pedagogy and asceticism, the article outlines an approach that can enable modern Christian teachers to engage their students with ascetical practices that will contribute to their spiritual formation and counter-cultural witness.

It is interesting to me that the most-viewed pages on this site continue to be those about prosopological exegesis, which was the subject of my doctoral dissertation and featured in much of my early research. Looking ahead to 2022, I think it might be time to go back to this subject and do some more work, especially with respect to how prosopological exegesis contributed to the development of early Christology. I hope to have more news on this front soon. Happy New Year!

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SBL 2021: See You in San Antonio!

It will be wonderful to re-connect with friends at this year’s Society of Biblical Literature meeting in San Antonio. For readers who will also be in attendance, be sure to drop by my session on Sunday!

S21-315 Contextualizing North African Christianity
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 304C (Ballroom Level) – San Antonio Convention Center
Theme: Prophets and Prophecy in North African Christianity
Alden Bass, Oklahoma Christian University, Presiding (5 min)

Kyle R. Hughes, Whitefield Academy
The Spirit of Truth: Revisiting the Prophetic Work of Tertullian’s Paraclete (25 min)
Tag(s): Early Christian Literature (Early Christian Literature – Other), History of Christianity (History & Culture), Religious Traditions and Scriptures (History of Interpretation / Reception History / Reception Criticism)
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