“They thought deeply as they read deeply.” N. Carr, The Shallows

shallowsbookcover-222x300On vacation this week, I have some extra time for reading, and one of the books I longed to get back to was Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Norton, 2010).

Chapter four of the book is titled “The Deepening Page,” really a history of how society changed from an oral community to a literate one by the advent of writing and the codex (book). With this “intellectual technology” change came a major transformation of how people thought.

Today I give you a brief section from Carr on how this worked out (there is much more to this fascinating history – and to the main point of the author, and you are greatly encouraged to get this book and read it!):

To read a book was to practice an unnatural process of thought, one that demanded sustained, unbroken attention to a single, static object [as opposed to the oral-tradition culture in which memory played the dominant role]. It required readers to place themselves at what T.S. Eliot… would call ‘the still point of the turning world.’

And then he further explains the development:

Many people had, of course, cultivated a capacity for sustained attention long before the book or even the alphabet came along. The hunter, the craftsman, the ascetic – all had to train their brains to control and concentrate their attention. What was so remarkable about book reading was that the deep concentration was combined with the highly active and efficient deciphering of text and interpretation of meaning. The reading of a sequence of printed pages was valuable not just for knowledge readers acquired from the author’s words but for the way those words set off intellectual vibrations within their own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the prolonged, undistracted reading of a book, people made their own associations, drew their own inferences and analogies, fostered their own ideas. They thought deeply as they read deeply (pp.64-65).

But then, even on vacation those “quiet spaces” for “prolonged, undistracted” book reading can be easily interrupted by one’s surroundings.🙂

reading-on-deck

Published in: on November 17, 2016 at 11:08 AM  Comments (2)  

Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West (review article) – creation.com

This interesting review of a significant book by Kevin Swanson (image on the left) grabbed my attention today when I received my Creation.com email summary of available articles online.

Though essentially a critique of Charles Darwin and the influence of his magnum opus On the Origin of Species (1859) on modern society, Swanson shows how this work with its defense of an atheistic worldview had a profound effect on other literary giants in the 19th and 20th centuries. And what is striking is that all of these men who are mentioned came from a Christian background – including John Dewey, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, and John Steinbeck. Hence, the title of the book.

You will benefit from this review. It is thought-provoking and helpful in making connections to the state of our present society. And perhaps it may lead you to want to read the full book too.🙂

Below are the opening paragraphs of Jerry Bergman’s review. Follow the link at the end of the post to read all of it. Information on the book may be found here.

The fact that Christianity has lost an enormous amount of cultural influence in Australia, Western Europe, and America is without dispute. In fact, Christians have lost ground in every cultural area of leadership and influence in Europe, America, and Australia since around 1700. What is also without dispute is that we can trace this decline through a number of key scientists, philosophers, writers, and other public figures. Apostate documents how and why the decline and fall of Western Christian civilization occurred. It is specifically the story of several influential men whom Swanson calls apostates. Swanson’s concern is for the young, noting as evidence that “the Southern Baptist denomination reports … a full 88% of children raised in Christian families leave the church as soon as they leave home” (p. 254).

The luminaries covered included Rousseau, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Dewey, Mark Twain and, of course, Charles Darwin, the topic of chapter ten. All of these men of renown had a significant impact on our Western culture. Most of them were born into a Christian family, but rejected this worldview and, instead, put their faith in a worldview called secularism (p. 1). Their influence was first felt in the universities and, eventually, in the public schools and the mass culture. Western society has moved far away from teaching “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all” in the 18th century New England Primer to Heather has Two Mommies (1989) and, finally, to the modern hostility against Christianity that Swanson documents.

Source: Apostate The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West review – creation.com

Pew Report: Americans Still Love Libraries, Especially the Books

library-world historyAs you might guess, we always appreciate good news on the library front, especially when reports say that people still love libraries, especially the books. This recent Pew report, therefore, was music to my ears. I want to shout (sing out!), “But, of course, how could it be otherwise!”

Part of me understands why our society would question the value of libraries today. Technology dominates the scene. Visual stimulation abounds as never before. And so, reading is down, no matter what form it comes in. With that, books can be perceived as being on the demise.

Yet, the library still stands in the center of our culture as a powerful source of information and means to obtain knowledge in all areas of life. And while the Internet may be often viewed as the source of information today, the ‘common’ book is still a mighty means. Once inside a library, PC’s and laptops may beckon, but those stacks of codexes are a irresistible draw. The books still define what a library is about.

In case you are in doubt, read this Pew report, part of which is quoted below (with the link to the rest afterward). Better yet, visit your local library this week. Find out what’s to love. The Seminary library (and bookstore!) is open too.🙂

More than half of all Americans 16 and over used a public library in the past year, either in person or via the the Web, according to a survey report on library use released this week by the Pew Research Center. The survey also found that Americans continue to view public libraries as vital to their communities: some 77% say that public libraries provide them with the resources they need, and 66% say the closing of their local public library would have a major impact on their community.

Source: Pew Report: Americans Still Love Libraries, Especially the Books

“‘Take your time,’ the books whispered to me in their dusty voices. ‘We’re not going anywhere.'” ~ N.Carr

That was just a digital dalliance [That is, spending time in the computer room while a student at Dartmouth College]. For every hour I passed in Kiewit [the computer room], I must have spent two dozen next door in Baker [the main library at Dartmouth].  I crammed for exams in the library’s cavernous reading room, looked up facts in the weighty volumes on the reference shelves, and worked part-time checking books in and out at the circulation desk. Most of my library time, though, went to wandering the long, narrow corridors of the stacks. Despite being surrounded by tens of thousands of books, I don’t remember feeling the anxiety that’s symptomatic of what we today call “information overload.” There was something calming in the reticence of all those books, their willingness to wait years, decades even, for the right reader to come along and pull them from their appointed slots. Take your time, the books whispered to me in their dusty voices. We’re not going anywhere.

shallowsbookcover-222x300This wonderful, personal description of the powerful influence of libraries and books comes from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Norton, 2010), p.12.

We will have more to say on the powerful message of this book later (one Prof. B. Gritters read and recommended this summer), but for now relish the serene and soothing experience of the world of books and the library.🙂

The Medium is the Message: How We Read and How It Affects Us

PrintVsEbook_WB-768x432Yet another article on the ebook vs. the physical book debate?

Yes, but this one is more than that too. This article from the past week (posted August 24, 2016) calls for ebooks and modern technology to master its form so as to encourage more reading in a variety of ways, even as we recognize now that the physical book is here to stay.

The author has some points worth considering, even as I continue to embrace both forms of reading (But you should know my personal preference by now). Case in point: on this rainy Saturday in West Michigan I did some Kindle reading this morning, and then headed out to a local Christian thrift store to browse the books. I walked away with a bag of paperback and hardcover treasures (75% for the Seminary library, it turns out!). It has been a good day for books and reading. I trust for you too.

To read the article by John Bradley, visit the link below. What follows is his opening paragraph and a later one:

New technology masquerading as an old standby sets itself up for failure. Carrying a Kindle in your jacket pocket is certainly simpler than juggling all seven hardback volumes of In Search of Lost Time. But, if the only problem the Kindle sought to solve was luggage space, paperbacks and carryons have long since done the trick. E-readers, and by extension modern technology needs to play to its strengths.

…The common refrain for lovers of the printed word, is that the feel, the heft of a book is what draws their delight. How else to describe the difference between your Nook copy of Infinite Jest and the paperback edition, scuffed and shredded to death from countless bus rides, clipped together and written over throughout, a Field Notes notebook taped to back cover to keep up with characters—speaking from personal experience, there’s hardly a better way to read such a tome.

 

Source: The Medium is the Message: How We Read and How It Affects Us – The Wild Detectives

Published in: on August 27, 2016 at 4:39 PM  Leave a Comment  

New U.S. Head Librarian Portrayed as Liberal Activist

In major library news this week, it seems even our national library is not safe from progressivism. The Heritage Foundation reported on the confirmation of the new person to head the Library of Congress, and judging from this article, it is not good news.

We shall see what transpires with this pick, but the potential for fundamentally changing the nature and purpose of the Library is real. Let us hope that Carla Hayden will maintain the high standards and philosophy of her predecessors.

Below is part of the report; read the rest at the link below.

Conservative critics of President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Library of Congress were blindsided Wednesday when a key Republican engineered her lopsided confirmation by the Senate despite concerns she is, in the words of one opponent, “an unqualified, far-left progressive.”

The Senate voted 74-18 to confirm Carla D. Hayden, who leads Baltimore’s public library system, as the 14th librarian of Congress.

…Critics said Hayden falls short of the scholarly credentials traditionally expected of the nation’s librarian of Congress.

However, Blunt, chairman of the Rules and Administration Committee, scheduled a June 9 committee vote that recommended Hayden’s confirmation to the full Senate.

“Hayden has made a name for herself in the far-left community as a radical activist,” the conservative group Concerned Women for America wrote Blunt and the committee before that vote. “This position is not one for radical activism, but for academic honesty and integrity.”

Before the Senate vote, Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, called Hayden “an unqualified, far-left progressive.”

“Republicans should be very concerned about what her confirmation could mean for the Congressional Research Service, which is the research arm from which they get unbiased, nonpartisan research,”  von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal.

“This is someone so far to the left that The Nation magazine ran a headline when she was nominated about how a ‘radical librarian’ may soon run the Library of Congress,” von Spakovsky said in an interview just hours before Blunt’s unexpected move to bring the nomination to the Senate floor.

Hayden, 63, succeeds James Billington, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan who served for 28 years before retiring last fall.

Source: GOP Senator Gets Obama’s ‘Far Left’ Pick Confirmed

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Published in: on July 16, 2016 at 1:27 PM  Leave a Comment  

Final Thoughts… on Words and Books – M.B. Lubbers

In the latest issue (June 2016) of the Adams’ Announcer (Christian School where some of our grandchildren attend) Mrs. Mary Beth Lubbers reflects on her impending retirement as a Christian school teacher – after 45 years!

Mary Beth is one of my favorite teachers – and I didn’t even have her for one. She taught several of our children in South Holland, IL, instructing them with “old-school” philosophy but with fresh ideas and daily enthusiasm for learning. Our children still speak of her influence on their lives.

Mary Beth (Mrs. Lubbers!), we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your faithful work as teacher for those 45 years! We will miss you and your inspirational teaching. But know that it lives on in the hearts, minds, and lives of our covenant children.

Her article, titled “Final Thoughts”, includes some of her punchy insights into today’s educational world, some of which I would like to include here today, especially her thoughts on word-use and books. I think you too will appreciate her “final thoughts.”

After so many years of dealing with the word ‘friend’ as a noun, I cannot see myself using ‘friend’ as a verb, as in the popular: ‘I will friend you.’ Similarly, the word ‘listen’ has always functioned in our language as a verb or verbal; how can I switch to calling it a noun as CNN so frequently does with its glib: ‘Take a listen.’ The word ‘like’, of course, currently qualifies as any part of speech one wants it to be. Those are grammatical adjustments I am unwilling to accommodate. But, I predict these aberrations will eventually nudge their way into our lexicon. So, it comes down to ‘Mrs. Lubbers, get on the train or get off the track.’ Well, I am getting off the track even as I continue to rail against such nonsense.

On top of all that, ‘computer-ese’ is not my second language. …For me, chrome is a shiny decoration on a fast car. It will never be a Chromebook. I recognize books as beautifully bound in leather with wonderful papery textures that respond to one’s very touch. They hold the link of letters and words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs that fire the imagination and magnify our small worlds. And I really am convinced that Johann Gutenberg’s printing press of 1440 was the first and last great invention A.D. I have always taught from books, and if I lacked the books, I am pretty sure, by now, I could teach and inspire kids from my head and heart. The spoken word. Stories that come alive. Poetry to delight the senses.

Well said, Mary Beth. May we carry on the ‘good fight’ against verbal and grammatical nonsense and FOR good books and traditional reading.

Book Alert! Christianizing the World – David J. Engelsma

christianizing-world-DJE-2016Time for another book alert, this time relating to a new publication from the Reformed Free Publishing Association. The book is titled Christianizing the World: Reformed Calling or Ecclesiastical Suicide?, and is the substance of a speech given by emeritus professor David J. Engelsma (PRC Seminary) in 2014 in the Grand Rapids, MI area.

The book is occasioned by the recent translation and publication of Abraham Kuyper’s major Dutch work on common grace and  addresses the contemporary theological and ecclesiastical fascination with this doctrine, especially as it relates to Christianity’s calling in regards to culture – summarized by the author as “Christianizing the World.”

This is how he describes it in his preface:

For many years, it has been widely accepted in Reformed circles worldwide that the theory of common grace developed by the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper and the project of Christianizing the world by this common grace, which Kuyper exhorted, are Reformed orthodoxy. Of late, this thinking spreads among evangelicals both in North America and across the world.

…Few, if any, question this quixotic (ad)venture with regard to its biblical and Reformed bases. Conservative and liberal Reformed theologians, scholars, churches, and seminaries alike enthusiastically endorse and promote the project and its theological foundation and source in a common grace of God.

This book examines the theory of common grace and its cultural ambitions in light of the Reformed creeds and holy scripture, particularly the passages of scripture to which Kuyper and his disciples mainly appeal. The book also calls attention to the deleterious effects of the theory of common grace upon the churches and schools that have adopted it and put it into practice (p.9).

Below is the publisher’s description of the new book:

This book is a critique of Abraham Kuyper’s cultural theory of a common grace of God and of the grandiose mission of this grace, and of those who confess the theory and evidently intend to promote it so that it accomplishes the end Kuyper claimed. The book exposes Kuyper’s biblical basis for his theory and its practical mission.

The first and main part of the book is a much-expanded version of the public lecture given in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2014 under the auspices of the evangelism society of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan. The second part of the book consists of questions raised by the audience at the conclusion of the lecture and of the answers by the speaker at the lecture.

  • 192 pages
  • hardcover
  • ISBN 978-1-944555-02-3

As you can judge, the book is a significant work in light of the contemporary Reformed-Christian scene. This is a work you will want to read carefully and reference repeatedly if you are interested in the Reformed doctrine of grace and in the calling of the Christian in this world.

Visit the RFPA website for information on ordering this new title.

Honest Christian Book Titles

heavenisforrealThis humorous jab at modern Christian book titles appeared on the Aquila Report (April 16, 2016) and I saved it for a good “Friday Fun” item. So here it is – at least the first five. For the rest, visit the link provided above or below.

What would happen if Christian publishers were actually honest with their book titles? You’d probably end up with books like this.

Don’t Waste Your Life: A Millennial’s Guide To Making Semi-Rash Decisions Out Of A Wartime Mentality

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: How To Not Talk To Girls Until You’re 25 Years Old

Heaven Is For Real: A Book About Heaven From The Perspective Of A Four Year Old Who Had A Near Death Experience And For Some Reason We Believe Him More Than The Bible

Strange Fire: John MacArthur’s Lifelong Rivalry With Benny Hinn

Blue Like Jazz: It’s A Journey, An Authentic Journey, and I Want To Invite You Into My Story

Source: Honest Christian Book Titles

Published in: on May 6, 2016 at 6:21 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Theology of Donald Trump – M.Horton | Christianity Today

This is an insightful commentary by Dr. Michael Horton (Westminster Seminary, CA) on the “theology” of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump and of the throngs of Evangelicals who have jumped on his political bandwagon.

We give you just a snippet of the article, encouraging you to read the rest at the CT link below.

I am not a politician, but a minister who teaches theology. As a citizen of this great republic, I have convictions about domestic and foreign policy, but none of that qualifies me to join the fray of political experts and pundits. I am qualified, however, to engage the topic of significant support among self-identified “evangelical voters” for Donald Trump and what this means, not for the country but what it suggests about significant segments of the US church.

While a theological analysis of other candidates would suggest many equally troubling assumptions of their evangelical followers, no candidate is more identified with the word evangelical as is Trump. The loyalty of his self-identified evangelical followers is especially startling to many.

Let me suggest that the slender thread connecting Trump to the church is his occasional holiday appearances at Marble Collegiate Church, made famous by its pastor for 52 years, Norman Vincent Peale. Blending pop-psychology and spirituality, Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) remained on The New York Times bestsellers list for 186 weeks. Nicknamed “God’s Salesman,” Peale was criticized for trivializing Christianity. Reinhold Niebuhr said that he “corrupts the gospel,” and that he helps people “feel good, while they are evading the real issues of life.”

Source: The Theology of Donald Trump | Christianity Today