The library: “an oasis of bookish tranquility”? – N.Carr

A particularly striking illustration of how the Net is reshaping our expectations about media can be seen in any library. Although we don’t tend to think of libraries as media technologies, they are. The public library is, in fact, one of the most important and influential informational media ever created – and one that proliferated only after the arrival of silent reading and movable-type printing.

A community’s attitudes and preferences toward information take concrete shape in its library’s design and services. Until recently, the public library was an oasis of bookish tranquility where people searched through shelves of neatly arranged volumes or sat in carrels and read quietly.

Today’s library is very different. Internet access is rapidly becoming its most popular service. According to recent surveys by the American Library Association, ninety-nine percent of U. S. public library branches provide Internet access, and the average branch has eleven public computers. More than three-quarters of branches also offer Wi-Fi networks for their patrons’ use. The predominant sound in the modern library is the tapping of keys, not the turning of pages.

shallowsbookcover-222x300Taken from Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Norton, 2010), chapter 5, “A Medium of the Most General Nature,” p.97 (slightly edited).

I am thankful to report that the dominant sound is our Seminary library is still the turning of pages and the dominant sight that of students reading in their carrels. In the classroom, however, the tapping of keys is prominent (the sound of the professor’s voice is still dominant – 🙂 ).

Biblical Success – January 2017 “Tabletalk”

tt-jan-2017Last week we took a look at an article in the January 2017 issue of Tabletalk, but not one on the theme. Tonight we will do so.

The theme this month is “Success”, a timely topic at the beginning of a new year. Having read a couple of articles on the theme now, I can say there is much profit in treating this subject from a Reformed and biblical perspective. For starters, I suggest you may read the editor’s editorial – “True Success.”

I read the second featured article today, titled “Biblical Success”, written by Dr. Iain Duguid, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, and found it very edifying. Perhaps nothing new in the article, but healthy reminders of how we as Christians must measure true success according to the Word of God and according to Jesus Christ our Savior.

I pull a couple of paragraphs from it, so that you too may benefit from Duguid’s thoughts. As always, the full article is available at the Ligonier link below.

Of course, biblical wisdom does not simply turn conventional wisdom on its head so that now the poor and lowly are automatically counted successful while anyone with wealth or rank is dismissed out of hand. There are certainly people in the Bible who used their wealth or high position wisely, such as Joseph or Daniel. Even in a pagan environment, these men served the Lord faithfully at the highest level of government. Likewise, Joseph of Arimathea used his wealth to provide a tomb for Jesus after His crucifixion (Matt. 27:57–59). But more than wealth or position, what these men had in common was that they served the Lord and His kingdom first, with the resources He had given them.

This is surely what it means to succeed from a biblical perspective. In place of serving the goals of our own personal kingdoms, whatever they might be—comfort, approval, money, and so on—the successful person puts first God’s kingdom. He is willing to give up any of these things if they get in the way of serving God, or to use them for God as resources over which he is a steward who will one day be called to account (see Matt. 25:14–30). The successful steward is not the one who is entrusted with the most resources, of whatever kind. It is the steward who is faithful with the resources with which he has been entrusted (Matt. 25:21).

And then at the end, Duguid points us to our exalted Savior and the success we find in Him alone:

…One day, every knee will bow before Him and acknowledge that He is the true measure of success.

As a result, all those who are united to Christ are linked forever to His glory. The measure of our success cannot be defined by what we accomplish here on earth; it has already been defined by the fact that we are in Christ. It is this that frees us to spend ourselves and everything we have in service to Christ’s kingdom. And it is this that also frees us from crushing guilt over our past and present failures to take up our cross and follow after Him. Whether I “succeed” or “fail”—by whatever standard—ultimately counts for nothing. What counts is the fact that Christ has succeeded for me, in my place. My only hope and boast rest not in my faithfulness but in the fact that whether I am rich or poor, prominent or obscure, weak or strong, my faithful Savior has loved me and given Himself for me. That is all the success I—or anyone else—will ever need.

Source: Biblical Success by Iain Duguid

The State of Theology – Ligonier

tt-dec-2016This month’s Tabletalk includes  an interview with Ligonier Ministries’ Chris Larson and Stephen Nichols about the 2016 survey Ligonier did on the “state of theology” in America.

It is a revealing study, as you might imagine. It is designed to be useful for churches and ministries, and I believe it ought to be looked at by the PRC as well. If we are going to do outreach and missions in this country, we have to know where people are at theologically in this time.

If you have not heard of this report before, you will want to read this interview and then visit the special website on the survey that was conducted.

Below is a portion of the interview; find the rest at the Ligonier link beneath the quote.

Tabletalk: Why did Ligonier do the State of Theology survey?

Stephen Nichols: One of the cardinal rules of giving a speech is “Know your audience.” Back in 2014, we partnered with LifeWay Research to conduct a survey of the theological beliefs of three thousand Americans. We decided to undertake the survey again in 2016 and expand the visualization of the data into a new website, TheStateOfTheology.com. Our ultimate purpose for this survey is to help churches, Christian ministries, and Christians live as the body of Christ in our place and in our time.

Chris Larson: Dr. Sproul has said often, “Everyone’s a theologian.” And the point he is making is that everyone has an opinion on theological matters, but not all opinions are created equal. Some are right, some are not. This study demonstrates the stunning gap in theological precision and awareness throughout our nation. We are a ministry that seeks to serve the church by providing helpful resources that God’s people can use as they grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. This ongoing survey can be used to focus our aim as Christians as we proclaim the light of God’s truth to a darkened world. We believe it is essential to know the core beliefs of Americans and share those findings freely with pastors and church leaders.

One of the most significant questions in the survey concerned beliefs about Jesus Christ. This is what the men say on that:

A third question involves the identity of Christ. Actually, we can look at two questions and see some significant theological confusion. When asked if Jesus is truly God and has a divine nature and if Jesus is truly man and has a human nature, a strong majority of 62 percent agree. Six out of 10 Americans think Jesus is the God-man. Yet, consider this. When asked if Jesus is the first being created by God, 53 percent agree. This is a contradiction. To say Jesus is created by God is to deny His divine nature and to deny that He is truly God. To say that Jesus is the first created being is actually to repeat a heresy that echoes through the early centuries of the church, the heresy of Arianism. The answers to this question reveal that this old heresy is still prevalent. When put over and against the question that asks if Jesus is truly God, this question also reveals how confused Americans are on essential issue of the identity of Christ. “Who do you say that I am?” was a question Jesus Himself asked. We must point people to the right answer.

Source: The State of Theology by Various Teachers

“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.