A classicist by training and student at heart, new Boyce College professor Tyler Flatt seeks to help students polish the fragments of God’s beautiful design glimmering in the stories and adventures of Greek and Roman civilization.
Raised in a Christian home, Flatt’s father kept in touch for many years with a college professor who passed on many books to Flatt and his brother. It was from the stories he read there, during his childhood in Waterloo, Ontario, that Flatt’s love for the classics was fostered.
“I remember having a Greek mythology book with really vivid pictures of Jason and the Golden Fleece and the Odyssey and those kinds of things, and my imagination was really fired by that,” said Flatt, assistant professor of humanities at Boyce. “I started to believe that all the best stories in the world, more or less, came out of the Greek and Roman civilizations.”
His interest in life of the Romans, their history, and their obsession for everything orderly grew throughout high school, and people around him encouraged him to pursue further academic study. While he had read a lot of the classics in translation, he did not want anything standing between him and the world of the Greeks and Romans. It was then that Flatt decided to learn Greek and Latin and pursue higher education in the classics.
“The first time I read Homer in translation, I remember sitting back in my chair and thinking, ‘I could spend the rest of my life studying this and it would not be a waste.’ And as it turned out, that instinct was right,” Flatt said.
Flatt completed a bachelor’s degree in the classics at the University of Waterloo, but his hunger for learning was not yet satisfied. He went on to earn his master’s at the University of Toronto.
Flatt had always enjoyed visiting relatives in the United States, so the opportunity to apply to doctoral programs there was attractive to him.
“You have to understand, for Canadians, that is fairly exotic,” he said.
To his great surprise, Flatt was accepted at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, and spent six and a half years studying and teaching in a traditional classics program, under the guidance of internationally renowned scholars. Flatt was quickly adopted into a welcoming and close-knit community.
Halfway through his time in Boston, Flatt met and married his wife, Liz, and together they attended City on a Hill Church in Brookline, pastored by Bland Mason, a Ph.D. graduate of Southern Seminary.
Knowing Mason from his time at Southern, Dan DeWitt, former dean of Boyce, would bring students from the Worldview Certificate program to tour Harvard University. When asked for recommendations about who could lead them on this tour, Mason recommended Flatt. After the relationship between Flatt, DeWitt, and Boyce College grew over several years, Flatt was offered a place on Boyce’s faculty in the Humanities department.
“The more I learned about Southern and Boyce, the more I knew there is nowhere else in the world I would rather work. This is it,” Flatt said. “The faculty that is here, the work that they do, the kind of students that are here — I was just really excited about this opportunity.”
“It is a very different culture here than at Harvard, which isn’t surprising,” he said. “To be able to talk with students not only about literary theory, but to do so from a Christian perspective, is not something I have ever had the opportunity to do before. Just being able to pray with students, explain to them why the things they are learning are relevant to their faith, and incorporating all of these things together is brand new, fun, and really exciting for me.”
Flatt considers Harvard a valuable training ground in articulating his views and understanding the views of others. Since he wasn’t trapped in a “Christian bubble,” Flatt finds that he is not only able to effectively simulate the arguments that students will encounter outside of Southern Seminary, but he is also better equipped to prepare students to go out into the world.
“It also helps me to equip students to appreciate what they have here at this institution. It becomes normal to us, but it is not normal in the world. Boyce College is extraordinary, and I don’t just know that in an abstract way, I know that from my experience,” Flatt said.
In the Great Books courses he is teaching, Flatt hopes to provide students with not just a taste, but a deep drink of the classics. Through Plato’s Apology, the epic poetry of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, and more, he plans to provide students with ample evidence that God works through his creation.
“There is not a lot of assembly required. Most of the authors you read, from Plato to Sophocles, to Virgil, to Homer, are all grappling with the deepest, most important questions of human life. You don’t need to superimpose that on those texts, you just cannot avoid it if you are reading them,” Flatt said. “It is one of the reasons I think people in our culture keep coming back to the classics as a source of wisdom and provocative questions about what it means to be human. The richness in our cultural heritage is not buried very far below the surface.”
Flatt’s job, as he sees it, is to link the what the Bible says about who we are, what we ought to think, and how we ought to live with the reflections present in the classical world. While the fragments of God’s design are grimed by the consequences of the fall, he explained, they are there to be polished and made bright again that truth may be reflected through it.
“Grappling with these questions will be extremely enriching,” he said. “I am there to guide and curate this experience for our students, serving as the intermediary and performing the introductions between the students and these great thinkers, and then to say, ‘Go now and dialogue with them.’”