Thursday, March 12, 2015


Are We To Teach Reading?

Desiring God talk with Tony Reinke about reading. He makes some good points:
1. What is the use of reading for a spiritual life in general? And can illiterate Christians (e.g. in the medieval age) also be faithful Christians?

These are important questions, so thank you for the opportunity to talk about reading.

In his wisdom, God ordained literature and literacy to play a central role in revealing his unfolding plan throughout the ages. Literacy is so central to God’s design that more than 300 verses in the Bible speak of what is written, a reference to what has been recorded previously (e.g. “It is written . . .”). Scripture is consistently looking back and re-evaluating what has been written as a guide and guard for the future. God’s written word is the hallmark of biblical spirituality.

The apostle Paul penned this truism: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). As we look back on the ancient revelation recorded on the pages of Scripture, we find a fresh vision for the unseen future ahead of us. Literature and literacy unite historical reflection and future anticipation into one noble, transcendent purpose.

But is it possible for illiterate Christians to be faithful Christians? The answer is yes — and many of the first Gentile Christians would stand as proof of this point. While literacy among first-century Palestinian Jews was quite strong, the literacy rates in Roman provinces hovered around 10 percent; meaning most of the first Gentile Christians were illiterate and solely dependent on oral communication (Harris, Ancient Literacy). However, this inability to read, in itself, did not prohibit their fidelity to the gospel.
And some pretty bad ones:
4. Is not a plea for reading and meditation just a kind of conservatism? Should we not instead look for new ways of finding God, for example like with the old Roman-Catholic “books for the layman” (religious art)?

Intuitive spirituality is reckless, but we’re all guilty. We are drawn to seek God apart from his revelation. As men intuitively grasp for God, one grabs the leg of an elephant, another grabs an ear, another the snout, but with our intuitive spirituality we can do little more than gather in a circle around an animal we presume to be our god. God is never far from us, and yet we follow our intuition and think it will lead us to God — when in reality our intuition only leads us into the temple of ignorance built for ‘The unknown god’ (Acts 17:16–34). If Christ has been raised from the dead, we have no excuses for God-ignorance (Acts 17:30–31). God is close to us, so close he can be found in his Son, Jesus Christ, as revealed in Scripture.

Likewise, visual-oriented spirituality is incomplete. Images can present to us the world as it is, but pictures cannot interpret what we see. Language communicates to our minds the meaning behind the images we see with our eyes. This explains why old silent movies needed text slides, why new movies need writers and dialogue, and why newspaper photographs need captions. Language brings precision and clarity of meaning to what we see with our eyes.
There is an exclusivity to this guys approach I find really troubling. Yes, precision and rational thought are deeply important - but God wishes to reach us in every part of our being.

I am a hyper-rationalist - it comes from being a science type. Words are not precise enough for me - I need mathematics which is the most precise language we have yet to come up with. And yet asd I grow in Christ IO find myself draw to other forms of expression. I find things I once dismissed reaching me on levels that might have previously even denied the existence of. I just cannot help but think that this interview is one step too far.

The point that scan reading of the Internet is not enough is a good one. There is a place for it, but there is also the need to stop and read in depth. I could not agree more, but to then move on an declare the supremacy of reading over the religious arts is a huge mistake. The approach should be all of the above. We should be moved, influenced and learn from the arts, and then process that learning with a mind shaped by reading. God wants to reach our rational mind and he wants to transform us on the basest of levels - instinct and emotion - things our minds often cannot control.

This is not an either/or or a better/worse - this is a both/and.


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