TV: The Cyclops That Eats Books – L.Woiwode

Last Saturday I stopped at a local thrift store and found a few more treasures in the book department. One is a collection of speeches give at Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, MI), which are often reprinted in their monthly publication Imprimis.

The book is titled Educating for Liberty: The Best of Imprimis 1972-2002 (Hillsdale College Press, 2002), and among the great printed speeches in it is the one given by Larry Woiwode in February of 1992, the title of which is in my heading above. Woiwode is a former college professor turned novelist, and of interest to our readers, an OPC elder (For more details on him, visit his website.).

CyclopsThough his speech may be a bit dated, it is a powerful description of what television has done to our reading abilities and desires. Today, we may add the book-devouring influences of laptops, video games, tablets, and “smart” phones.

You may find the entire print version at the Imprimis archives, but I give you just a few samples of what he has to say here:

What is destroying America today is not the liberal breed of one-world politicians, or the IMF bankers, or the misguided educational elite, or the World Council of Churches; these are largely symptoms of a greater disorder. If there is any single institution to blame, it is, to use the cozy diminutive, “TV”.

TV is more than a medium; it has become a full-fledged institution, backed by billions of dollars each season.  Its producers want us to sit in front of its glazed-over electronic screen, press our clutch of discernment through the floorboards, and sit in a spangled, zoned-out state (“couch potatoes,” in current parlance) while we are instructed in the proper liberal tone and attitude by our present-day Plato and Aristotle-Dan Rather and Tom Brokow. These television celebrities have more temporal power than the teachings of Aristotle and Plato have built up over the centuries.  Television, in fact, has greater power over the lives of most Americans than any educational system or government or church.  Children are particularly susceptible.  They are mesmerized, hypnotized and tranquilized by TV.  It is often the center of their world; even when the set is turned off, they continue to tell stories about what they’ve seen on it.  No wonder, then, that as adults they are not prepared for the frontline of life; they simply have no mental defenses to confront the reality of the world.

The Truth About TV

One of the most disturbing truths about TV is that it eats books.  Once out of school, nearly 60 percent of all adult Americans have never read a single book, and most of the rest read only one book a year.  Alvin Kernan, author of The Death of Literature, says that reading books “is ceasing to be the primary way of knowing something in our society.”   He also points out that bachelor’s degrees in English literature have declined by 33 percent in the last twenty years and that in many universities the courses are largely reduced to remedial reading. American libraries, he adds, are in crisis, with few patrons to support them.  Thousands of teachers at the elementary, secondary and college levels can testify that their students’ writing exhibits a tendency towards superficiality that wasn’t seen, say, ten or fifteen years ago. It shows up not only in the students’ lack of analytical skills but in their poor command of grammar and rhetoric.  I’ve been asked by a graduate student what a semicolon is. The mechanics of the English language have been tortured to pieces by TV.  Visual, moving images-which are the venue of television-can’t be held in the net of careful language. They want to break out. They really have nothing to do with language. So language, grammar and rhetoric have become fractured.

Recent surveys by dozens of organizations also suggest that up to forty percent of the American public is functionally illiterate; that is, our citizens’ reading and writing abilities, if they have any, are so seriously impaired as to render them, in that handy jargon of our times, “dysfunctional”. The problem isn’t just in our schools or in the way reading is taught: TV teaches people not to read. It renders them incapable of engaging in an art that is now perceived as strenuous, because it is an active art, not a passive hypnotized state.

Passive as it is, television has invaded our culture so completely that you see its effects in every quarter, even in the literary world. It shows up in supermarket paperbacks, from Stephen King (who has a certain clever skill) to pulp fiction.  These are really forms of verbal TV-literature that is so superficial that those who read it can revel in the same sensations they experience when they are watching TV.  Even more importantly, the growing influence of television has, Kernan says, changed people’s habits and values and affected their assumptions about the world. The sort of reflective, critical and value-laden thinking encouraged by books has been rendered obsolete. In this context, we would do well to recall the Cyclopes-the race of giants that, according to Greek myth, predated man.

Tub Lit: New project offers waterproof books | Book Patrol

Tub Lit: Kickstarter project offers waterproof books | Book Patrol.

bibliobath Shakespeare

Just in time for summer outings at the beach, cool nights in the hot tub, or relaxing moments in the tub (or spa), comes news of a most practical literary development – waterproof books!

That’s right, you can now sit on water’s edge at the lake or let the bubbles splash water on your book without fear of damage. Now, titles are limited at this point, but Shakespeare and Mark Twain are not such bad places to start.

Here’s the story line – you can even support the project if you wish. A rather novel, ambitious project, wouldn’t you say?!

The latest crowdsourced gem for the book crowd comes to us from Bibliobath.

Thanks to Wing Weng and Jasper Jansen, a Dutch-Chinese couple based in Amsterdam, we finally have the waterproof book!

They have 4 titles ready to go; a selection of short stories by Mark Twain, one of the selected poetry by W. B. Yeats, an edition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and a special Kickstarter-only edition of the Chinese classic The Art of War.

Published in: on July 3, 2015 at 6:42 AM  Leave a Comment  
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PRC Archives: Mystery Church Bulletin

For this Thursday – PRC archive day! – we post a bulletin recently found in some materials we are sorting.

I have edited the cover, removing the name and information of this PRC, but left you the image of the impressive structure. I have to admit I did a “double take” when I saw it, wondering if I was reading the cover correctly. But I have confirmed from those who know that this was indeed one of our PRCs (I SO want to give you a hint here, but I will refrain.).

MysteryBulletin-2015-cover_Page_1

I have also scanned the inside and present that to you intact. The announcements and names in the bulletin will be your hints. You will recognize some of them. Now you just need to make the proper association.

MysteryBulletin-2015-inside_Page_1

Have fun with this one! I will eagerly anticipate your replies. :)

Luther, Libraries, and Learning (2) – John W. Montgomery

Wittenberg, Germany

Wittenberg, Germany

Last week Thursday we pointed you to an interesting book from Prof.D. Engelsma’s library (which we are working through this summer) – In Defense of Martin Luther, a wonderful collection of essays by John Warwick Montgomery.

In the third section of the book I discovered an essay that grabbed my interest – “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”  a defense of Luther’s (and the Protestant Reformation’s) love for, support of, and call for schools and libraries. After answering several attacks against Luther and the Reformation on these matters, Montgomery proceeds to a positive defense of Luther’s position on education and books.

Today we follow-up on our post from last week with another significant quote from this essay, which I believe worthy of your attention too. This is from that section that follows the previous one from which we quoted:

In the educational efforts of the early Lutheran reformers, schools and libraries went hand in hand. The concern for establishing suitable book collections is evident not only in many of the visitation articles and agenda drawn up during the period, but also and especially in the formal Kirchenordnungen [church ordinances or church order], drafted chiefly under the influence of Melanchthon (for central and southern Germany) and Johannes Bugenhagen (for northern Germany). In the work of Bugenhagen – like Melanchthon a colleague of Luther at Wittenberg – bibliothecal concern is particularly evident. The following typical Kirchenordnungen regulations are the product of his influence:

A library shall be erected not far from the school and the lecture hall, wherein all books, good and bad, which shall be acquired for this purpose in this city, shall be assembled; they shall be arranged in orderly manner, especially the best, each near others of its kind [this must have been the early classification system]; keys thereto, one or four, should be in the hands of some, viz., the rector and sub-rector and superintendent, that no damage may be done.

The old useful books should be brought together in the cities and kept safely in a library. The deacon of the treasury shall, as much as possible, increase the library every year, especially with German Bibles and volumes of Luther’s works. The parish clergy shall pray and exhort the people to increase the libraries through legacies [A great idea!]. The pastor and deacons shall see to it that an inventory is made and the library assiduously guarded.

The result of such regulations was the establishment of numerous church and school libraries… (p.127-28).

Fascinating, is it not?!

Prayer in Times of Great Peril – Valley of Vision

Once again the Lord’s sovereign hand has struck some of our families and congregations with the sudden death of a loved one, shaking us to the core, humbling us, teaching us, driving us to Him through Jesus Christ, our only Help and Hope.

In light of this I post this prayer titled “Peril” from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Banner of Truth, 1975). You will see that it is a cry for help raised “out of the depths” (Psalm 130:1), and yet a prayer of faith, with the child of God still clinging to the Lord of mercy.

At the end is a video recording of this prayer which may also be listened to and prayed in this way.

Peril – The Valley of Vision

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
    in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
    and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
    and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
    in horror and distress unutterable.
Help me, O Lord,
    to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
    for better, for worse, without comfort,
    and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
    morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
    so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
    a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.
All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
    sweetens every fear,
    reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
    brings real good out of seeming evil,
    makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
    to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
    and to teach me to live by faith upon
        thy blessed self.
Out of sorrow and night
    give me the name Naphtali –
    ‘satisfied with favour’ –
    help me to love thee as thy child,
    and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

Encouraging Church Members to Study (Read!) Theology – David Garner

Theological Fidelity: An Interview with David Garner by David Garner | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

300x467 Interview_GarnerThe interview feature in the June Tabletalk is with Dr. David Garner, associate professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The entire interview (linked above here) is profitable, but I found this section especially encouraging. Here Garner talks about the importance of church leaders encouraging their members to study theology – including recommending reading resources.

Read on and be encouraged to study theology by reading good books! Don’t forget, your Seminary library is here to serve you too in this endeavor!

TT: What are some practical ways church leaders can encourage laypeople in their congregations to study theology?

DG: Due to the blessing of education and the accessibility of digital and print materials, congregation members can study Scripture in ways unprecedented in earlier generations. This privileged task bears a double edge. Accessibility and opportunity create accountability. With vast resources at our fingertips, should not this generation of believers imbibe the deep things of God and evidence unrivaled love and obedience to the Lord Jesus?

As church leaders, we must read and then recommend certain readings energetically and discerningly. We can vet and stock church libraries and encourage church reading groups. We can commend resources when teaching or preaching and pen our own theological and pastoral reflections for our congregations, aiming to whet their appetites.

Further, we should aid our congregations in cultivating biblically contoured minds and hearts. We should pray with the Apostle Paul “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:17). As part of this call to spiritual recalibration, we should expound how theology speaks into all spheres of life. Christ’s lordship is comprehensive (Eph. 1:15–23), and God’s people must come to know, love, and delight in this precious, poignant, and piercing reality.

Luther on the Christian Life (1) – C.Trueman

The 3 R's Blog:

Luther on Chr Life -TruemanWith Justin Smidstra’s permission, I re-post his recent review of a book I have mentioned here as well: Carl Trueman’s new title, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom (Crossway, 2015).

Justin plans to do a chapter-by-chapter review of the book, so look for more to come here as well as on the Young Calvinists blog. Thank you, Justin for your permission, and for the fine start to your review of this significant book.

Originally posted on Young Calvinists:

An excellent book has come off the Crossway presses earlier this year. Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Truman is a title worth buying and reading. There are numerous books about Martin Luther available today. Many are large and imposing to the average reader. Truman’s book balances brevity with depth of content. The chapters are of a manageable size for an evening’s read and the material treated in each is digestible in one sitting. What is the aim of this book? As the title indicates, this book is part of a series which offers the perspectives of prominent churchmen of the past on the Christian life. Truman’s installment in the series deals with Martin Luther’s view of the Christian life. As Reformed Christians our roots are deeply ingrained in the soil of the “Lutheran” Reformation as well as the “Calvinist” Reformation. We rightly consider Luther one of the fathers…

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Published in: on June 29, 2015 at 9:09 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Prayers of J.Calvin (20)

JCalvinPic1On this Sunday night we continue our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in 2015 – last on June 7), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his nineteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 5:4-9, which includes Calvin’s commentary on 5:7, “How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery….” Here is what he says on this passage:

Now this passage teaches us, that they who go astray, when allured by God’s paternal kindness and bounty, are on that account the more unworthy of pardon. When men grow wanton against God, while he is kindly indulging them, they no doubt treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath, as Paul tells us in Rom.ii:5.

Let us then take heed, lest we indulge ourselves, while God is, as it were, indulging us; and lest prosperity should lead us us to wantonness: but let us learn to submit ourselves willingly to him, even because he thus kindly and sweetly invites us to himself; and when he shews himself so loving, let us learn to love him (p.270).

And here is the prayer with which this lecture ends:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are at this day inclined to those vices, to which we learn thine ancient people were too much given, – O grant, that we, being governed by thy Spirit, may not harden ourselves against those thy holy warnings, by which thou daily reprovest us and our sins, but that we may be teachable and obedient: and as we have hitherto too much resisted thee and carried on war with thy justice, may we learn to fight with ourselves and with our sins, and rely on thy word, until we gain the victory, and at length attain that triumph, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. – Amen (p.274).

Remembering the Sabbath, to Keep It Holy ~ Sean M. Lucas

Remember the Sabbath, to Keep It Holy by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-June 2015This month’s issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries devotional magazine) is devoted to the theme of keeping the law of God (ten commandments).

The fourth featured article by Dr. Sean M. Lucas (linked above) treats the fourth commandment, which is part of the first table of the law, defining our relationship of love to our loving, redeeming Father in Christ Jesus. In this fourth word to us, His redeemed and renewed people, God calls us to keep the sabbath day holy – for His glory and for our good.

What follows is a part of how Dr. Lucas explains this commandment, specifically joining it to its fulfillment in our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may truly find rest for our weary souls. Find the full article at the Ligonier link above.

Jesus does these things [worships in the synagogue and heals the sick] because He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23–28). He is the giver of the Sabbath as the Creator. He is the One about whom the Sabbath testifies. And, as Redeemer, He has started time anew through the resurrection. Indeed, on the Sunday of His resurrection, time began again; the first day of the new creation started. The Sabbath rest secures its meaning on Resurrection Sunday, setting the day for Christian worship (1 Cor. 16:2Rev. 1:10). We remember this day to the Lord’s service in worship and mercy, in response to God’s good command and Christ’s gracious gift.

We who trust in Jesus not only find rest for our souls Sunday by Sunday, but we also have the promise of entering into the final Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:9–10). We testify each week that we have rested from our works—from our attempts to placate God or earn His favor, even in how we “remember the Sabbath.” Instead, we “rest in and receive” Jesus. In Him, we find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28–30).

That’s why the Sabbath day brings real rest and refreshment. We aren’t in a frenzy trying to earn God’s favor. Rather, the Lord of the Sabbath Himself has raised us and will raise us from the dead (Eph. 2:4–6).

Because I did not as yet introduce this June issue of Tabletalk, I include here the introduction to the theme of God’s law as found in Editor Burk Parsons’ opening article “Gospel Religion” (please read the entire article – brief and profitable).

Christianity is not a religion of moralism, it is a gospel religion of grace. It is a religion established on a relationship. It’s not either/or, it’s both—a relationship and a religion. They are not mutually exclusive, and we do well not to pit one against the other. Our gospel relationship with Jesus Christ, by grace alone through faith alone, is the foundation for our all-of-life-encompassing gospel religion. Our relationship with Christ naturally leads to pure and undefiled religion (James 1:26-27). Religionis a helpful word we use to describe our Christian faith, which encompasses every aspect of our Christian lives, rooted in and flowing out of our spiritually regenerated new hearts and minds, and founded on the relationship that God has established with us by uniting us to Christ.

Our religion is established on Jesus Christ, who did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). Christ fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law in His life so that His death would be a perfect atonement for our sins. Indeed, we are justified by works—His works, not ours. Christ perfectly kept His Father’s list of do’s and don’ts for us. And He did so not so that we might ignore God’s commands, but so that we might no longer be slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness. Christ frees us by faith that we might bear fruit. To be sure, we are saved by faith, not fruit, but we won’t be saved by fruitless faith. God’s grace enables us and His Spirit sustains us, helping us in our weakness to pursue holiness as we rest in the holiness of Jesus Christ. For, as Martin Luther said, “Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.”

Bestsellers ≠ Best Books

Bestsellers ≠ Best Books.

read-good-christian-booksThe “Aquila Report” in its latest summary of church news this past week (June 23, 2015) carried this depressing “Christian” book news. It has been this way for some time now in the Christian publishing business, but it is nevertheless discouraging that such drivel continues to be so popular, especially when there is so much good material being published.

You have heard me say before, “read more and read better.” I hope this applies to books such as these too. Yet, these lists are a clear window into the “Christian” culture of books and what people like/want to read in our day.

Let’s help point Christians – new and old – to sound, biblical, Reformed literature that will grow their minds and souls, their faith and life. What kind of list would you put together if someone asked you for some good reads?

Here’s the first part of the news item as carried by the “Aquila Report.” Find all of it at the link above.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has compiled a list of the best-selling Christian books of 2014. I was scandalized at the results, as was Adam Ford of the Christian webcomic, Adam4d.com. His response is hilarious and right to the point. The recent Pew Report on American religion claims a 7.8% drop in the Christian share of the population. The survey also claims that 19.2% of those raised Christian will abandon that affiliation. If these books are characteristic of the thought and theology most associated with Christianity in America, perhaps it is not surprising that many are leaving and fewer people are joining.

These are the top ten Christian best-sellers of 2014:

  1. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence: “After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her. It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue….They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.”
  2. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back: “A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.” Not to be confused with The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven whose subject later revealed his heavenly tour was just a hoax.
  3. Heaven is for Real Movie Edition 
  4. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts
  5. Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change: “In this riveting book, New York Times best-selling author, Pastor John Hagee, explores the supernatural connection of certain celestial events to biblical prophecy—and to the future of God’s chosen people and to the nations of the world. Just as in biblical times, God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen. The question is: Are we watching and listening to His message?”
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