Join Dr. Ann in a captivating conversation with Dr. Scott Masson as they delve into his rich educational journey and his passion for classical education. They discuss the modern university’s departure from Christianity and the consequences of removing God from academia.
Dr. Masson is an Associate Professor of English Literature at Tyndale University in Toronto, Canada. With a background as a tenured professor, former pastor, public intellectual, and proud Member of the Upper Mohawk band in Canada, he has delivered lectures and written extensively on a wide range of topics. As a dedicated husband and father of two, Dr. Masson resides in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His passion for classical education has influenced his children, who now share his love for literature, music, mathematics, and the life sciences. Join him on YouTube as he shares his expertise and fosters a lifelong love of learning.
You can find Dr. Ann’s books, newsletters, and other information at https://RestoringTheMosaic.ca
Would you like to support Dr. Ann financially? You can donate by going to https://RestoringTheMosaic.ca/donate
Please be sure to like, subscribe and share!
Dr. Ann Gillies (00:13):
Hello everyone. Welcome back to Truth Talks. So today I have with me Dr. Scott Massen. So, we are going to talk a little bit about Scott's personal story, I guess a little bit. But more centered on his educational experience and his teaching experience as well as his passion for classical education. So, I'm going to just read some of his bio because I want you to just get a little bit of an idea who we're talking with today. So, Dr. Masson is an associate professor of English literature at Tyndale University in Toronto, Canada. He teaches on the subjects ranging from literature, from the literature of the Graeco-Roman period, the Bible as literature, Shakespeare, Milton, Seventeenth-century lit, romantic literature, the work of CS Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, science fiction and more. Wow, that's a mouthful. I haven't finished yet. Dr. Masson received his doctor, degree of doctor of philosophy in 2001 from the University of Durham after living and studying in Dusseldorf, Germany for three years. So that sounds really interesting. I think that we want to talk about that. It was here he fell in love with languages becoming a German translator while learning classical Greek and Latin at university. Okay, that just boggles my mind.
So, we're talking to a linguist. Some of Dr. Masson's research interests are expressed in his book, Romanticism, Hermeneutics and the Crisis of the Human Sciences. So, this is really pertinent. I haven't read this book yet by the way, which I'm like, I got to get this. And it lies in exploring the way that humanities have been repealed and replaced (so true) by the human sciences and the new constructionist, constructivist. I was always saying constructionist, but constructivist anthropology. So, he's also a proud member of the Mohawk band in Canada, and he's lectured and written on a variety of topics. So, he's a proud father of two amazing children and has an amazing wife. So please welcome with me, Dr. Massen, and we are going to hit the road running here. I want you to talk a little bit about, let's talk about Germany, about your education and some of your experiences that led you on the path to where you are now.
Dr. Scott Masson (02:43):
Sure. Thanks Ann. Great to be with you. I'm going to backtrack a little bit before I go to Germany. So I grew up in London, Ontario and grew up in North London and stayed in London to study at Huron College, which is a small liberal arts college. It's the sort of the founding college for the university of, used to be called the University of Western Ontario. Now it's called Western University. I'm not quite sure why,
Dr. Ann Gillies (02:43):
Dr. Scott Masson (03:14):
They made that change a few years back. But I studied English and History there. I did a double major and I actually didn't even intend on going down that path. I was thinking of being a business major because I didn't know what I wanted to do coming out of high school. I was not really gripped by the education I had in schools. I didn't work very hard and I was not enthused about education. I did reasonably well, but not particularly well. I found that coming to university was a very different experience for me because I, in first year English, even though I intended on doing business, I took one English course just as a, well, what should I add as my fifth course? And my professor was a Christian and she encouraged us to read the Bible to help us to study English literature. She said that really, if you don't have a good knowledge of scripture and the stories that are in it and the basic theology that's present there, she said, you're not going to understand most of the writers in the English tradition up to the Second World War. She said, but even after that, there are allusions to previous writers and you simply are going to miss them all and it's just going to go over your head. So, you really should get going on that.
Dr. Ann Gillies (04:47):
Dr. Scott Masson (04:48):
And there were sounds of mockery in the classroom, not me, I didn't do that, but I was a little bit surprised by it. But when she heard the sounds of mockery, she said, you people, I heard that and you people are making judgements about a book that you've never read before, I suspect. And she said, this is an institution of (inaudible) people that reject things that they haven't read. Ignorant. And we're here to dispel ignorance not to encourage it. So, I think you should actually do what I told you to do.
Dr. Ann Gillies (05:28):
Wow. I like her.
Dr. Scott Masson (05:29):
Yeah, no, me too. And I was struck by that and struck by the fact that somebody actually had convictions and was willing to push on them. So, I tried to do what I was told. I found it a difficult task, but I tried to do that, but it had a real effect on me that she had convictions and that led me. I studied Milton's Paradise Lost, which I also found very influential. In fact, so much so that when I did 17th century literature a few years later as an English major, I was convinced that I wanted an education like Mr. Milton would've had. So, I read his treatise Of Education and that will lead to other things we we'll probably talk about later, but led me to Germany because he had studied various languages.
And when I finished my degree, I went to the Pontifical Institute here in Toronto and asked them if I wanted to be a Medieval or a Renaissance scholar, what should I do? And they said, you have to do languages. You simply, there's no way around it. You have to do Latin and you have to do at least two modern European languages. So, I went to Germany and met a friend there who I'd met my fourth year undergrad, and I slept on his floor for three months while I was finding my bearings there and started studying German, which was not my intention. I thought when I went over there, I thought I was going to build on my French that I'd studied for years in school but ran out of money and didn't know anybody in France and wasn't going to go there with no money. So, I stayed in Germany, started studying German and met some of his friends and they were studying classics. And I thought, oh, that's what Milton did. That's what I want to do. So, I started studying German as well as Greek, and I was learning Greek through German simultaneously, those two things. So, my head was exploding,
Dr. Ann Gillies (07:44):
My head's exploding listening to you.
Dr. Scott Masson (07:47):
Yeah, yeah. I realized something I didn't know before, which is that I had a gift for languages. I just didn't know that maybe because I'd never worked at it and I had no opportunity to use languages if you grew up in Ontario or in London. At any rate, nobody speaks other languages. At least they didn't when I was there. But I did very well. I got admitted to the university. I passed the test to get in to study as a student in the University of Dusseldorf. And after a few years I was quite fluent. And yet I was realizing at that point I didn't want to stay in Germany indefinitely. And I wanted some sort of an official document that would demonstrate that my ability with German was that good and that was a diploma. So, I just went in to do the translator certificate and I was in a room full of people who hadn't seen me before. Well, I hadn't seen them before, but they said, what are you doing here? And I said, I'm doing the test for the translator certificate. And they said, yes, but you're not in our class. And I thought, there's a class?
And they said, yes, we've been studying for two years for this exam. And I thought, oh.
Dr. Ann Gillies (09:13):
You missed that memo.
Dr. Scott Masson (09:16):
I missed the memo. I had no idea. But of course, there'd be a class I stupid. I should have thought of that. But anyway, I passed it. So, I'm certified translator, and as I said, I did Greek and Latin and I did it sufficient to have studied them there in Germany. But then I thought, I don't want to spend my life studying to be a classics scholar. I want to apply it in some way. I think the classical knowledge is important, but I want to get back to what I loved about English literature. And that was really the Christian worldview that I found in it. But I was not a Christian at this point. I was still not a Christian.
Dr. Ann Gillies (09:59):
So what attracted you to that worldview though? I mean, first of all, the commitment and the conviction of this teacher who broadened your understanding in literature through scripture, through the Bible. But what was it that really kept you there?
Dr. Scott Masson (10:21):
I was convinced that it was true, that what I read, what I read and what I was reading from the authors was true. And it was presented in a beautiful fashion that seemed to be all explanatory, all-encompassing. It was a whole worldview that included law and politics and art and ethics and personal relations. And it just,
Dr. Ann Gillies (10:48):
It's all there.
Dr. Scott Masson (10:49):
If you look at, it's all there in the medieval Renaissance period. It's what Lewis now, CSS Lewis calls the discarded image. Well then it was not discarded. It was a way of understanding the world in which simply they lived in that world and it was very coherent and it was very harmonious and it was very beautiful. And for me, this was a very powerful idea and Christ was in the center of that. And so, I left Germany to study in England in part because of another Christian professor I had at Huron College of Medieval professor by the name of Elizabeth Rebel. And she had mentioned derma as a good place to go. So, I just threw in an application without having gone there before in my life and arrived there and found that I could not study medieval or renaissance literature even though it was in the prospectus because the medievals was on sabbatical. The Renaissance literature professor, I think, I don't know if she had a breakdown or there was some sort of issue. So, I couldn't study anything before the 18th century, and I didn't want to do that. I wouldn't have gone to Durham if I'd known that. But I was there, I did well, I got a first class honors degree there and they offered me full funding to do a PhD. Okay, great. Except I was not satisfied with what I was studying there. And I came to find Christ in literature, and I'd not found him there.
But that summer between my master’s and PhD, I met somebody in a pub who was about to study an MA in medieval at Durham. And she was defending her faith in front of a number of atheist professors, historians, and a few others. And they were ridiculing her beliefs and even her intellect on these things. And I found her rather compelling. I thought she defended herself very well and she knew what she was talking about. And we struck up a conversation. She invited me to her church. And that then was a transformative moment in my life because then I found Christ ironically through, I'm in my late twenties at this, I think I'm 27. Through a pub I get brought into a church and then that changes my whole trajectory and my PhD.
Dr. Ann Gillies (13:31):
So, did you actually get to study Medieval and Renaissance?
Dr. Scott Masson (13:37):
I never did. I never did.
Dr. Ann Gillies (13:39):
Isn't that interesting?
Dr. Scott Masson (13:41):
Not at the graduate level. I mean, I did it as a matter of personal interest, but I did not study medieval or renaissance literature in my grad studies. I ended up doing 18th and 19th century literature primarily, which I don't particularly like. It's not that I don't like it, I like it, but I find that this is where everything starts to go wrong,
Dr. Ann Gillies (14:08):
Things go downhill.
Dr. Scott Masson (14:09):
There's a pivot point in the early 19th century when the modern university moves away from Christian theology and the worldview that was rooted in really the bedrock of the university. It's a medieval Christian institution, it didn't exist in the ancient world,
But it shifts away from that to the extent that theology is not even studied as a matter of knowledge in most universities. So, the German universities move away from that and the American universities then follow the German example, et cetera, et cetera. And I was having to think all through all of these things. I had no Christian mentors as professors or so forth. So, I had to start to rethink everything for myself and finished my PhD. And that in itself is a story, but I don't know if we want to get into that. But found I had to learn to fight for my Christian convictions, newfound Christian convictions as a secular academic.
Dr. Ann Gillies (15:10):
Exactly. So let me go back to what you were finding. So here you are in 19th century literature, and everything starts to really do the snowball down the hill. It was like the whole constructivist stuff was probably not there but was leaning that way. And then that really, I think if we can talk about that for a minute, where you see it, maybe that's part what you talk about in your book as well, that decline and moving away from a Judeo-Christian ethic within the universities. And then subsequent to that, what has transpired and well, where we're at today is just a gong show. But anyways, that's my intellectual opinion there. Anyways. Yeah, speak to that a little bit.
Dr. Scott Masson (16:12):
Sure. So, in the early 19th century, there's a widespread departure from belief in God, and it starts in the enlightenment. There's a widespread belief in reason,
But reason detached from God and where reason and faith are seen as contraries, really, there's no such thing as a rational faith. Reason is presented as something that operates not just independently, but in ways that are against faith, which is presented as really as an emotional crutch, as much as anything else. But it's not really, there's no content to the Christian faith. It's not to be seen in a rational way. It presents Christianity really as an anti-intellectual endeavor, which would've surprised the medievals who are rational about absolutely everything. Absolutely everything is rationally conceived and rationally considered and rationally explained. Anyone who has any understanding of the period would immediately say that. So, the caricature of Christendom as an irrational construct set up by clerics to support their own power and self-interest would baffle anyone before that. So it literally is, it's slanderous and simply false. And that was evident to me as an undergraduate before I was a Christian, that caricature of Christendom from the Enlightenment philosophers was simply, as I say, slanderous. There's no basis for it whatsoever. But it was influential and it was influential in what came after in the modern university. Whereas I say theology was banished from the public university entirely. And so not only was that, but all the other subjects that had been attached to theology. Theology was the queen of the sciences. So, it was the one that presided over the other ways of knowing
Philosophy, History, sciences, as we would call them now, the natural sciences. Those would've had some sort of relation to theology and a philosophy of theology there. Those were now detached from that. And then they were reattached to our own historical attempt to understand ourselves from the perspective of the present. So then new disciplines emerged that had never existed before. Like anthropology, which is man's study of mankind going backwards and sociology, which is a social way of explaining how the present arrives from the past. And even psychology, the study of the mind from the perspective of a human being.
Dr. Ann Gillies (19:17):
Dr. Scott Masson (19:17):
And actually within psychology, they don't even know what psychology is for that matter, the discipline of psychology, they're not quite sure what the psyche is. It's a big in our day, it's the brain.
Dr. Ann Gillies (19:28):
Right. And I just so get what you're saying because I know for me, I didn't start higher education until I was 38 years old. It's a long trajectory. So, I'm a pseudo-academic as far as I'm concerned. But when I went to do my PhD, I was thinking, I don't want to go back to the States. I'd done my master’s at Liberty because it was convenient. I had children at home. And anyways, it was just a really good, and it was good, the classes were good and everything, but I went to the Ontario universities and all I got was this constructionist viewpoint and I'm like, okay, I'm not happy with this. And so, I ended up going back to the States and doing my PhD Philosophy of Professional Counseling at Liberty exactly because of what you're saying. Because there's no basis for the psyche in modern psychology in any psychology, I guess. And I have this whole spirit, soul and body philosophy, and that's what I hold to. And theologically, I believe that's where we need to be kind of anchored in that first of all, we're spirit and anyways, this isn't about me, so go about that.
Dr. Scott Masson (20:55):
No, it's not, but it's a very interesting topic and this is the problem. So, if we want to have rather than a God-centered system of learning and we want to make it a man-centered, then we have the problem, which doesn't seem like a problem to them, but is a very big problem. Well, what is a human being?
And if we are going to determine what a human being is, then from a scientific point of view, the problem is that the subject who's determining what the object, let's say a human being, is the object that we're studying. We're the person studying it. And so, we're involved in the experiment of we're claiming objective knowledge over our human nature, and yet we are part of the experiment. We're implicated in it. It contradicts our claim of objectivity because we're always biased about our study of ourselves. We don't want to see certain things about ourselves. And we do want to claim divinity for our rational powers. (inaudible)
Dr. Ann Gillies (22:08):
We want to claim that we are (inaudible)
Dr. Scott Masson (22:09):
Want to deny things like sin. And so, the modern academy totally ignores sin as an aspect of human nature and it wants to present, again, its rational faculties as effectively superhuman when they're plainly not. The theories that were held to be objective in a generation before are often overturned in the next generation anyway. And that's how modern science makes progress.
again, it's not objective. It's not what would in the medieval period be called science. It's objective, real, true, and unchanging. That would be what knowledge is. That would be then true. It would not be probable. It would be true what modern science calls truth is often just probability that is verified by experiment to be more and more probable to the point where we can now say, okay, we're pretty certain about that. We can now present that as a plausible theory. But then that objective way of looking at things can easily be overturned by a new paradigm that explains the reality better. So, it never attains truth, it just attains high probability. Whereas the medieval worldview, they have it explicable to the point where it is an absolute certitude. Anyway, this would get us in very deep weeds Ann, on this to talk about problems with this. But that shift from God as the center of the objective way of understanding things to human beings, being at the center of it, is the problem of the human sciences that I talk about in my book.
Dr. Ann Gillies (23:53):
And there's something else I was thinking as you were discussing the objective looking, we're studying ourselves and there's no absolutes, there's no morality. It's all very, it's subjective in that sense. But here we are at this place and time in our history continuum. It's not like that. It's experiential. The study of everything academic now is only through experience, subjective experience, which is so to me, it's just mind boggling. And so we're in this place where educationally and then in society that there's so much confusion, so much speculation, so much that is unprovable. And yet it's out there as this is it, this is it, this is the thing. This is like absolute accurate scientific knowledge. And we've come to that place, I think by and large through all those things that you were talking about. It's really interesting.
Dr. Scott Masson (25:15):
So, there's this combination of radical subjectivity where things are, an individual can claim, this is who I am, this is the way things are. And nobody else perceives this. They can't see it at all. I identify as a
And nobody else can see that I'm a dragon. But I identify that way. And the state of affairs as that radically subjective claim, which is how I feel, I feel like a dragon. So, I am a dragon.
Dr. Ann Gillies (25:48):
Therefore, I am,
Dr. Scott Masson (25:50):
Therefore, I am so, therefore I am. And so that is plainly from an objective scientific perspective, lunacy is verified as that is something that everyone else must ascent to agree to and state as the objective status of that person. Well, for me, this is a case in point of the form of knowledge that we have shifted into with the modern education starting to break apart. Because what is called science is now plainly anti-scientific. And yet we're saying, and we're bringing laws in, we're bringing policies in that say, you must act as if this were true, even though it's not true.
Dr. Ann Gillies (26:39):
And you must lie to people.
Dr. Scott Masson (26:41):
And so, it's untenable and it's manifestly destructive of the person concerned as well. It's not even in their own interest that we affirm them in their flight from reason. And what we're saying then is we don't care about reason at all. We just care about authority. And if we only care about authority and we don't care about reason, we no longer care about a common world that we share. We simply want power to accumulate to those who have the power and have the means of exercising the power. And that is a totalitarian world. And again, that's what we're living in right now. We're facing.
Dr. Ann Gillies (27:24):
So, Dr. Masson, I wonder if we can segue somehow into, because of all of the experiences and particularly your educational experience and deep understanding, you have developed a passion for classical education and I'm hoping that we can talk about that. Let's just take a moment, take a bit of a break and kind of move into that over the next session. Thank you for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed and more than enjoyed. I hope you really take away a lot from Dr. Masson's interview and that you will think very deeply on the whole issue of education and what's happening in our public system, what could be the antidote to that in classical education as he talks about that. So please pick up his book and check out his YouTube channel and we'll see you again next week.
You've been listening to Truth Talks with Dr. Ann Thank you so much for joining us today. You can find Ann's books blog and sign up for the newsletter by going to RestoringTheMosaic.ca.