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.

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?”

More Book Art: The Work of Jacqueline Rush Lee | Book Patrol

Still Harmony: The Work of Jacqueline Rush Lee | Book Patrol.

JTL Vascellum 2013

For our first “Friday Fun” item today we post another book artist’s work. I am amazed at what people can do with old (or newer), discarded books. I think you will appreciate the artistry involved in this woman’s work.

Here’s the introduction to this “Book Patrol” post and two of Lee’s works. Visit the link above or the artist’s direct link imbedded below.

Jacqeuline Rush Lee has been creating bookworks for over 15 years. Her work has been and remains a staple in most anthologies that deal with contemporary bookworks. 

In 1998 Rush devised an experimental process where books and periodicals were fired in controlled kiln environments and transformed into what Rush calls “fossilized” books where “the books were no longer recognizable in their usual context, but transformed into poetic remnants of their former selves–ephemeral and ghost-like forms suggesting internal landscapes and a trajectory of time, transformation and memory…”

These “poetic remnants” emit a still harmony that retains the power of the book while transforming them into spectacular works of art.

JRL Lorem Ipsum III (Summer Reading Series) 2010-2012

Published in: on May 1, 2015 at 6:31 AM  Leave a Comment  

April “Tabletalk”: “Our Shameless World” – Andrew Davis

Our Shameless World by Andrew Davis | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-April 2015You will recall from our previous Monday posts this month that the April issue of Tabletalk is devoted to the theme of “shame.” The third main featured article on this subject is the one linked above, written by Dr. Andrew David, pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, NC.

His article treats the shame that we find in the world about us, due to the fall – a shame we participate in also, but a shame we are also called to respond to properly as Christians. Davis uncovers “three ways our world displays corruption in the matter of shame”. These are “delighting in what is shameful”, “suppressing true shame”, and “seeking to shame the righteous.”

I will pull a few paragraphs from Davis’ article, encouraging you to read the full article at the Ligonier link above. There is good reading here for us, relating to how we handle the shame found in the world – and in ourselves.

The world delights in bold sinners who flout God’s Word and expect no punishment whatsoever. Our culture celebrates the skillful cold-blooded assassin, bold thief, self-righteous vigilante, foul-mouthed recording artist, creative rebel, blasphemous stand-up comedian, naked actress, fornicating “glamour couple,” self-worshiping athlete, occultic mystic, and the like. Perhaps the clearest example in our day has been the movement of homosexuality from something almost universally seen as shameful to something that ought to be delighted in. The gay rights movement is seeking not merely tolerance of what God calls sinful, but society-wide celebration.

…Conversely, our world also heaps abuse on those who stand up for righteousness in our corrupt age. Isaiah 5:20 captures the defective moral compass of our age: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness!” So our culture delights in what is shameful and is ashamed of what God finds delightful. I recently saw a T-shirt that proclaimed, “Homosexuality isn’t shameful; homophobia is.” The new term homophobia (c. 1969) implies that biblical conviction on that sin is itself a form of mental illness. When University of Missouri football player Michael Sam declared himself to be gay, his fellow students gave him a standing ovation at a basketball game. Anyone who refused to stand and cheer certainly would have been made to feel ashamed.

…Christians should display humility in the matter of shame and set an example to the world. We should own that our sin is a shameful thing, and that feelings of shame are reasonable responses to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:21). In our evangelism, it is essential to proclaim the law of God to bring about that conviction and the corresponding feelings of shame in our hearers. But we should also display and proclaim the joy of full forgiveness that the cross of Jesus Christ lavishes on anyone who believes in Him alone. As Romans 10:11 says, “Everyone who believes in him [Christ] will not be put to shame.”

Heaven Tourism Books Pulled from Nearly 200 Christian Bookstores – ChristianityToday.com

Heaven Tourism Books Pulled from Nearly 200 Christian Booksto… | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

90-minutes-in-heaven-9780800759490Here is a healthy development in the world of Christian books: removing from shelves and stores books purporting to relate one’s experiences of going to heaven – a wildly popular form of writing, publishing, and reading these days. And part of the reason for doing so is also good – the sufficiency of Scripture to tell us about the afterlife.

“CT” carries this story from Baptist Press in this week’s summary of Christian news (“Gleanings”). I post the first part of the story here; find all of it at the “CT” link above.

NASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay Christian Resources has stopped selling all “experiential testimonies about heaven” following consideration of a 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife.”

LifeWay told Baptist Press about its decision to halt sales of heaven visitation resources today (March 24) in response to an inquiry about the book 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, which is being made into a movie slated for release this fall. The book recounts Piper’s supposed experience of heaven following a severe auto accident and has sold 6.5 million copies in 46 languages.

…Though LifeWay “was not mentioned in the SBC resolution affirming the sufficiency of biblical revelation and affirming the truth about heaven and hell,” King told BP in an interview, “the resolution was approved overwhelmingly and was considered during our process.”

The resolution, adopted by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in June, warned Christians not to allow “the numerous books and movies purporting to explain or describe the afterlife experience” to “become their source and basis for an understanding of the afterlife.”

…The resolution affirmed “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ – ChristianityToday.com

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

marriagepic-1Christianity Today’s latest “Gleanings” feature (March 18, 2015) carried this note of further apostasy from the teaching of God’s Word about marriage on the part of the mainline Presbyterian church in this country.

Below is the first part of that story; for the full news item, visit the “CT” link above. The report includes a map showing how the various states have voted to this point (Michigan has not yet decided.)

May the Lord call out of this apostate denomination those who are truly His and who desire to be faithful to His Word and the true Presbyterian heritage (Rev.18:4).

The Presbyterian Church (USA) will now define marriage as a “unique commitment between two people,” rather than a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman as an act of Christian discipleship.

Last June, the PC(USA) general assembly voted to change the language in its Book of Order, the denomination’s governing constitution. Following the vote, a majority of the PC(USA)’s 171 presbyteries also had to approve the measure for it to go into effect. On Tuesday, this number (86) was reached.

The conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) criticized the denomination’s shift.

“In terms of the PCUSA’s witness to the world, this vote demonstrates a complete accommodation to the prevailing winds of our culture,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, PLC president, in a statement. “Any prophetic voice that the denomination may have once had to speak truth and call people to repentance is now lost.”

Help Yourself Read Slowly and Attentively – A.Jacobs

PleasureofReadingBkThis is a situation… which seems to lend itself to advice, to recommendations [Jacobs is referring here to the distractions our modern technology forces on us daily with regard to good reading.]. But what would be the point? We all already know what we need to do if we want to get back to reading slowly and attentively. Shut down the computer; put aside the cellphone. If the temptation to check email or texts or Twitter is too strong, then take yourself somewhere where the gadgets aren’t. Lock them in the car before you enter the coffee shop with your book; give them to your spouse or partner and request that they be hidden, and then go into a room with a comfortable chair and close the door behind you. It’s not hard to come up with handy-dandy practical suggestions; what’s hard is following them – or rather, even wanting to follow them. What’s hard is imagining, fully and vividly, the good things that happen when we follow through.

Alan Jacobs in The Pleasures of Reading in a Age of Distraction (Oxford, 2011), 84.

Genesis 2-3, Adam and Eve, and John H. Walton: An Explosive New Book

So they are back in the news (yet again): Adam and Eve and all that — GetReligion.

One of the most heated and significant debates taking place in the church at present is that centering on the historicity and authority of Genesis 1-3 in the light of the ever-dogmatic claims of evolutionary science and the unceasing pressures of its professing Christian adherents. That debate includes, of course, the reality and accuracy of the account of the creation and of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

One professing Christian professor/teacher after another continues to fall for these evolutionary claims and to cave in to these pressures, which means that they tinker and tamper with the sacred Scriptures in its early chapters. And this is happening at even the most historically conservative Evangelical colleges, universities, and seminaries.

Lost World of Genesis 1 - JWaltonMore recently John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL (and formerly of Moody Bible Institute), has “progressed” from a traditional Christian understanding of Gen.1-3 to a view that makes room for an evolutionary understanding of the origins of the world and man.

Richard Ostling carried this report of a new book by Walton set to be released by InterVarsity Press this month which, in his words, has the nature of “an incendiary device about to explode.” This will be a book to watch, as well as to read and critique carefully, from the Bible and the historic creeds of the church. I plan to ask for a review copy, so if any of you are interested, let me know.

Here is the opening paragraph’s of Ostling’s story; to read the rest, visit the link above.

On the religion beat, the news often consists of new books about old texts with old stories, and the oldest old story of them all is the Genesis portrayal of Adam and Eve. Their status as the first humans and parents of the entire human race is a big biblical deal, especially for evangelical Protestants.

Since no evangelical school outranks Wheaton College (Illinois) in prestige and influence, journalists should get ready for an incendiary device about to explode in March.

A book by Wheaton Old Testament Professor John H. Walton will upend many traditional – or certainly “evangelical” – ideas about Adam and Eve. Moreover, “The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate” comes from the certifiably evangelical InterVarsity Press. Click here for the online press kit (.pdf).

The author’s views have been evolving (so to speak) since 1998, when he decided Genesis, like other ancient writings, offers a “functional” rather than biological depiction of God’s creation process. He explained this in “The Lost World of Genesis One” (2009, also from InterVarsity), and a more scholarly version, “Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology” (2011, Eisenbrauns). He then depicted an historical but “archetypal” Adam in “Four Views on the Historical Adam” (2013, Zondervan).

Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right. – The Washington Post

Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right. – The Washington Post.

YP reading-1Here is another striking report (posted Feb.22, 2015) on the reading preferences of those who have grown up with digital content (young people known as “digital natives”). Once again, reading printed material is the choice for such college-age young people who read for “pleasure and learning.”

Warms my heart – and I do a fair amount of digital reading during the course of a day too. But when I can grab that printed book or magazine or newspaper in hand and feel the pages between my fingers and read the content on real paper – ah, I am a happy man. And I haven’t even mentioned the smells! :)

What’s your preference for reading – digital or print? What would you say is the percentage breakdown for your reading on any given day?

Here’s the first part of the news item as it was carried by the Washington Post; find the rest at the link above.

Frank Schembari loves books — printed books. He loves how they smell. He loves scribbling in the margins, underlining interesting sentences, folding a page corner to mark his place.

Schembari is not a retiree who sips tea at Politics and Prose or some other bookstore. He is 20, a junior at American University, and paging through a thick history of Israel between classes, he is evidence of a peculiar irony of the Internet age: Digital natives prefer reading in print.

“I like the feeling of it,” Schembari said, reading under natural light in a campus atrium, his smartphone next to him. “I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.”

Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally. A University of Washington pilot study of digital textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free.

“These are people who aren’t supposed to remember what it’s like to even smell books,” said Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication. “It’s quite astounding.”

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety – Reformation21

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety – Reformation21.

Ash WednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent on the church’s calendar – at least if you are Roman Catholic (preceded by “Fat Tuesday” and Mardi Gras, those paragons of piety!), Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican (especially later).

But of late it has also become fashionable for Protestant groups (“evangelicals”) and even Reformed folk to get excited about Lent and start practicing its customs, from fasting and fish-feasting to having ashes put on one’s forehead.

That’s why I appreciated Carl Trueman’s forthrightness in addressing this evangelical trendiness in this online article posted at Reformation21. He makes some excellent points about why Reformed Christians do not need Lent – with or without its ashes.

I give a few paragraphs here, encouraging you to read the full article at the “Ref21″ link above.

It’s that time of year again: the ancient tradition of Lent, kick-started by Ash Wednesday. It is also the time of year when us confessional types brace ourselves for the annual onslaught of a more recent tradition: that of evangelical pundits, with no affiliation to such branches of the church, writing articles extolling Lent’s virtues to their own eclectic constituency.

… The imposition of ashes is intended as a means of reminding us that we are dust and forms part of a liturgical moment when sins are ‘shriven’ or forgiven. In fact, a well-constructed worship service should do that anyway. Precisely the same thing can be conveyed by the reading of God’s Word, particularly the Law, followed by a corporate prayer of confession and then some words of gospel forgiveness drawn from an appropriate passage and read out loud to the congregation by the minister.

An appropriately rich Reformed sacramentalism also renders Ash Wednesday irrelevant. Infant baptism emphasizes better than anything else outside of the preached Word the priority of God’s grace and the helplessness of sinless humanity in the face of God. The Lord’s Supper, both in its symbolism (humble elements of bread and wine) and its meaning (the feeding on Christ by faith) indicates our continuing weakness, fragility and utter dependence upon Christ.

…Finally, it also puzzles me that time and energy is spent each year on extolling the virtues of Lent when comparatively little is spent on extolling the virtues of the Lord’s Day. Presbyterianism has its liturgical calendar, its way of marking time: Six days of earthly pursuits and one day of rest and gathered worship. Of course, that is rather boring. Boring, that is, unless you understand the rich theology which underlies the Lord’s Day and gathered worship, and realize that every week one meets together with fellow believers to taste a little bit of heaven on earth.

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