The Internet Is Not a Library

As a librarian in an academic institution (PRC Seminary), I appreciated these brief but pointed thoughts of pastor Kevin DeYoung yesterday about the fact that the Internet is not to be viewed or treated as a library.

He takes his starting point in a new book by Tom Nichols, which is one I would like to pursue.

Below are a few paragraphs from his post. I encourage you to read the rest, especially the next paragraphs, because there he states rather bluntly how the Internet is to be viewed and used.

I’ll have more to say about Tom Nichols’s excellent new book The Death of Expertise in the days ahead, but for now I want to underline one important observation he makes.

Namely: “The Internet . . . is nothing like a library” (110).

In the recent conversation about who’s in charge of the Christian blogosphere, I saw in at least one place that the blogosphere was likened to a great big library—a place where diverse viewpoints are housed, a place where people come to seek truth, a place where ideas are not censored and readers need discernment. Without wanting to deny these general points as they relate to Christians in the blogosphere, I believe it is a necessary part of discernment that we realize the internet (of which the Christian blogosphere is a part) is nothing like a library.

Yes, a library has many different volumes. And yes, we can go there to search for answers and acquire knowledge. But a library is a highly curated collection of knowledge. We have a Michigan State University librarian in our church. She has a master’s degree in library science. She oversees a section of materials related to European history. She is constantly reading through journals and periodicals to find the most important new books to purchase. She also gets rid of old stuff that has proven to be relatively worthless. She is also a wealth of information when people have questions about where to find the best, most important stuff. She doesn’t have an ideological grid when it comes to what goes in the library, but she does have an expertise grid. Almost all the books that get into a library like MSU’s are by people with credentials, with academic positions, or with institutional legitimacy.

Source: The Internet Is Not a Library | TGC

His comments reminded me of the coffee cup I keep on my library desk. I believe I showed you this once before, but this post gives me opportunity to do so again. 🙂

“Ta-ta” to Tautologies

hero-blue-bookToday’s GrammerBook.com email about English grammar is too good to pass up. It fits in well with our “Word Wednesday” feature, besides teaching proper English grammar.

Isn’t it time you say “ta-ta” to tautologies?

Read on, my friends! And you don’t even have to go above and beyond. Just beyond.

Striking the Surplus from Tautologies

The English language includes the tools it needs to communicate with beauty, depth, and precision. Like any other healthy entity, it also moves most swiftly without extra weight. In the world of words, flabby noun phrases are known as tautologies.

Merriam-Webster online defines a tautology as “1a: needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word.”

Common English is rife with such excess. It often occurs because of needless descriptive emphasis or a simple lack of grammatical economy.

GrammarBook.com touched on this issue similarly before in Pleonasms Are a Bit Much. In that entry, we defined a pleonasm as deriving from pleonazein, a Greek word meaning “more than enough.” “The jolly man was happy” is one such example of adding a pound made more of fat than muscle.

We return to this subject and call it by its other namesake so you might recognize this intruder of our language by either ID card it carries.

Tautologies will never be fully edited from spoken language simply because of inherent informality; only a well-trained and -disciplined mind will omit extra words during a conversation in motion.

Careful writers, on the other hand, have the time and the will to infuse their linguistic diets with protein. They cut the sugar and carbs that add calories without nutrients to their thoughts.

They avoid composing phrases and sentences such as:

each and every one  Choose “each one” or “every one”–both are clear when standing alone.

above and beyond   “Beyond” is all you need in a statement such as “Her report went beyond expectations.”

vast majority   You hear it all the time, and you might even use it yourself. If you do, you now recognize that “majority” means the largest part of the group, so you can cast the “vast” and not lose your meaning.

forward planning   If “plan” means “to devise or project the realization or achievement of” or “to make plans” (as in “plan ahead”), is it possible to plan backwards?

mass exodus   Yet another pudgy phrase we hear or use all the time. An “exodus” is defined as “a mass departure,” so we know which word need not join the evacuation.

Trained expert, violent explosion, invited guest, identical match: The line continues out the door and winds its way to the streets of congested communication outside.

You have the power to improve the speed and flow of traffic in English. Just say “ta-ta” to tautologies by reviewing word choices and ensuring you enhance your meanings rather than duplicate them.

Published in: on April 26, 2017 at 9:00 PM  Comments (1)  

PRC Archives – Adams CS Class of 1961

Recently a PRC member wanted some old pictures of Adams Christian School here in Grand Rapids (now located in Wyoming, MI), so I found the box of archived items on this school and she had some items scanned for her use.

AdamsCS-Spotlight-1961_0001

But left in the folder was a 1961 yearbook – the “Spotlight”, as it was called then. I browsed through it and found some interesting pages that I thought could be shared today here.

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For one thing, the dedication was a nice tribute to the work of Mr. Fred Hanko, as you will see from the above page.

AdamsCS-Spotlight-1961_0002

The mention of his coaching in various sports made me locate the sports team pages and sure enough, Mr. Hanko coached both the boys basketball and football teams.

Yes, FOOTBALL team! And to quite a successful season too – undefeated – and not by slim margins either (note those scores!)! I can’t imagine this was tackle football, so perhaps flag. Someone from Adams can confirm. But it brought back memories of the tumbling class Mr. Hanko taught us during gym class when I was at Hope school. That was a lot of fun!

You may also note some familiar names and faces on that basketball team – including a certain PRC minister of some stature (back row in the center). It seems that this team had it struggles on the court, but still counted it a successful season. Mr. Hanko taught them sportsmanship well.

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Now this last posted page is interesting too. I believe you will notice some familiar people on those intramural teams as well as on the “safety squad.” Can you guess what the latter group’s role was? And that teacher in the upper left-hand corner, I believe that is my former 4th grade teacher at Hope – Miss W. Koole, now in glory (along with at least one other in this picture).

What a blessing our Christian schools and teachers are!

A Look at Calvin College, Betsy DeVos’s Alma Mater – The Atlantic

As discerning readers, you know how much scrutiny our new United States Education Secretary, Mrs. Betsy DeVos, has generated (a West Michigan native). Not merely due to her wealthy background and associations, but also due to her strong Christian (and Reformed – Christian Reformed Church) background, Mrs. DeVos has come under the public’s critical eye, both during her confirmation hearings and now that she has begun her service as head of the Education Department.

That scrutiny now also includes her alma mater, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. In a major piece written by Emily DeRuy for The Atlantic on March 1, 2017, Calvin as both a Christian and Reformed college is closely reviewed. Her Kuyperian neo-Calvinistic philosophy is openly displayed, something our readers will also have a keen interest in.

Below is a portion of the article, available in full at The Atlantic link below.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—It would be easy enough to drive past Calvin College without giving Betsy DeVos’s alma mater a second thought. Six miles southeast of downtown, the school is a sprawling cluster of nondescript buildings and winding pathways in a quiet suburb. But to bypass Calvin would be to ignore an institution whose approach to education offers clues about how the recently appointed U.S. education secretary might pursue her new job, and about the tug religious institutions feel between maintaining tradition and remaining relevant in a rapidly diversifying world.

DeVos is now Calvin’s most famous alum, and in recent weeks, the school has been painted in some circles both online and in conversation as a conservative, insular institution that helped spawn a controversial presidential-cabinet member intent on using public dollars to further religious education. But that is a grossly simplified narrative, and one that obscures the nuances and very real tensions at the school.

And a bit further in her article DeRuy writes, referencing one of Calvin’s professors,

“Our faith commits us to engaging the world all around us,” said Kevin den Dulk, a political-science professor who graduated from Calvin in the 1990s, during an interview in the DeVos Communication Center, which sits across from the Prince Conference Center bearing the secretary’s maiden name. (Her mother, Elsa, is also an alum.)

Den Dulk’s words aren’t just PR fluff; it’s a concept borne out by the school’s 141-year history and the Dutch-influenced part of western Michigan it calls home. The Christian Reformed Church is a Protestant tradition that has its roots in the Netherlands and has been deeply influenced by the theologian Abraham Kuyper, a believer in intellectualism—specifically the idea that groups with different beliefs can operate in the same space according to their convictions while respecting and understanding others. “Fundamentalism is really anti-intellectual and Calvin is the exact opposite,” said Alan Wolfe, the author of a 2000 Atlantic piece about efforts to revitalize evangelical Christian colleges.

Source: A Look at Calvin College, Betsy DeVos’s Alma Mater – The Atlantic

The Reformation’s Impact on Education – Peter Lillback

reformation-educationThe tenth and final featured article in this month’s Tabletalk on the church in the 16th century (the period of the great Reformation) is on “The Reformation and Education.” Penned by Dr. Peter Lillback (Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia), the article briefly summarizes the major impact the Reformers and their biblical principles had on the field of education.

As children of the Reformation, we experience and benefit from that impact in our own homes, churches, Christian schools, and Seminaries to this day. As we do so, – and as we need to remain in that heritage – we need to be grounded in those same biblical principles of education. Reading this brief article will help.

I post a few paragraphs from Lillback’s article tonight, encouraging you to read the rest at the Ligonier link below.

The Reformation has been an extraordinary force for global education. The Middle Ages gave birth to the first European universities that trained a select cadre of scholars. But in the Protestant Reformation, the quest for universal education was unleashed. Martin Luther, a professor at the University of Wittenberg, early on called for the magistrates to establish schools so that children could learn to read the newly translated Scriptures and benefit from the learning of the ages. Later, John Calvin, in the French context, established the Academy of Geneva that became the center of Reformed theology.

The educational methods of the Reformers reflected their theology. The goal of general literacy manifested the Reformation principle of the priesthood of all believers—all Christians have the spiritual privilege to read and to study the Scriptures for themselves. Sola Scriptura—the Scriptures as the only infallible source of saving knowledge and true wisdom—was buttressed by pedagogy consistent with Scripture. For the laity, this was accomplished by biblical literacy and catechisms. For adults and church leaders, confessions of faith served as summaries and standards of biblical doctrine and practice.

…The Reformation’s educational reforms also affected university studies. Speculative medieval scholasticism was replaced by a biblically grounded systematic theology. A worldview shaped by a belief in a sovereign Creator who rules an orderly cosmos encouraged the investigation of the empirical sciences. Linguistic studies accelerated. Latin was dethroned as the only scholarly language, since the common tongues of Europe had become capable of scholarly discussion due to the elevation of these languages by the translation of the Bible. Nevertheless, the study of the languages of biblical scholarship—Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—increased as a trained clergy became a reality. The Reformation’s educational impact spurred the printing industry, spawning libraries and advanced study in various disciplines. Some of the renowned academic centers greatly shaped by the Reformation are the universities in Wittenberg, Geneva, Zurich, Heidelberg, Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh.

Source: The Reformation and Education by Peter Lillback

“Ignorance is not a Christian virtue.” – J.P. Moreland

love-god-mind-morelandThe following quote comes from the section “A Biblical Sketch of the Value of Reason,” where J.P. Moreland treats the nature of God as the God of reason and revelation.

What a contrast the God of the Bible is with the god of Islam, who is so transcendent that his ways are inscrutable (beyond understanding)! How different He is from the irrational, fickle, finite deities of the Greek pantheon or other polytheistic religions! These mythological ‘gods’ exhibit the folly of human emotion and the danger of ignoring revelation. The God of the Bible requires teachers who diligently study His Word and handle it accurately (compare 2 Timothy2:15 and 1 Timothy 4:15-16). He demands of His evangelists that they give rational justification to questioners who ask them why they believe as they do (1 Peter 3:15). On one occasion His chief apostle, Paul, emphasized that his gospel preaching was by way of ‘words of truth and rationality’ (Acts 26:25, NASB) when Festus charged that his great learning was driving him mad (Acts 26:24, NASB). No anti-intellectualism here! By contrast, the monistic religions of the East promote gurus who offer koans, paradoxes like the sound of one hand clapping, upon which to meditate in order to free the devotee from dependence on reason and enable him to escape the laws of logic. The Buddhist is to leave this mind behind, but the Christian God requires transformation by way of its renewal (Romans 12:1-2).

Is it any wonder that we Christians started the first universities and have planted schools and colleges everywhere our missionaries have gone? Is it any wonder that science began in Christian Europe because of the belief that the same rational God who made the human mind also created the world so the mind would be suited to discern the world’s rational structure placed there by God? God is certainly not a cultural elitist, and He does not love intellectuals more than anyone else. But it needs to be said in the same breath that ignorance is not a Christian virtue if those virtues mirror the perfection of God’s own character.

Taken from J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (NavPress, 1997), pp.44-45.

Published in: on October 5, 2016 at 6:41 AM  Leave a Comment  

Love God with All Your Mind – J.P. Moreland

Why have we lost, or neglected, the ability to disciple the mind for Christ?

In part, it may be that we have confused the need for a childlike faith (that is, an attitude of profound trust in God, and a faithful love for Him) with childish thinking. The apostle Paul, for one, had no confusion on this point. Reading any one of his epistles will show you that. And even Peter – the everyday workman, the fisherman – was no intellectual slouch, judging by his writings. What we have, everywhere in scripture, are profoundly intelligent teachings poured out from minds that are also inspired and centered in a love for God.

Step one generation away from the New Testament writers to meet the men who were discipled by the apostles and you will find treatises, apologies, and circular letters of stunning intelligence from those intensely devoted Church fathers.

Faith and a disciplined mental life were not natural enemies then. A well-informed mind held a place of honor. And it was believed that the Christian mind could be the best mind.

love-god-mind-morelandTaken from J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (NavPress, 1997), p.15.

Prayers for the New School Year – Samuel Johnson

studying-libraryI have posted here before prayers appropriate for the beginning of the new school year, and with the start of our Seminary semester yesterday and the start of many Christian schools last week and this week, it it fitting to do so again.

Recently I came across a prayer of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) in the book Acceptable Words: Prayers for the Writer (Eerdmans, 2012). That prompted me to search for more, which I was able to find  online here.

I hope that you find these prayers to be profitable, whether you are a student or a parent, a teacher or a professor, a librarian or a laborer.

This brief one is quoted in Acceptable Words:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, without whose help labour is useless, without whose light search is vain, invigorate my studies, and direct my inquiries, that I may, by due diligence and right discernment, establish myself and others in thy Holy Faith.

Take not, O Lord, thy Holy Spirit from me; let not evil thought have dominion in my mind. Let me not linger in ignorance, but enlighten and support me, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This one is titled “Before Any New Study”:

ALMIGHTY God, in whose hands are all the powers of man, who givest understanding, and takest it away; who, as it seemeth good unto Thee, enlightenest the thoughts of the simple, and darkenest the meditations of the wise, be present with me in my studies and enquiries.

Grant, O Lord, that I may not lavish away the life which Thou hast given me on useless trifles, nor waste it in vain searches after things which Thou hast hidden from me. Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit so to shun sloth and negligence, that every day may discharge part of the task which Thou hast allotted me; and so further with thy help that labour which, without thy help, must be ineffectual, that I may obtain, in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy glory, and the salvation of my own soul, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

And when we fail to be diligent in our tasks and studies, this daily prayer is certainly fitting (“After Time Negligently and Unprofitably Spent”) :

O LORD, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down upon me with pity. Forgive me, that I have this day neglected the duty which Thou hast assigned to it, and suffered the hours, of which I must give account, to pass away without any endeavour to accomplish thy will, or to promote my own salvation.

Make me to remember, O God, that every day is thy gift, and ought to be used according to thy command. Grant me, therefore, so to repent of my negligence, that I may obtain mercy from Thee, and pass the time which thou shalt yet allow me, in diligent performance of thy commands, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Challenges Faced by Seminary Students: Interview with Ligon Duncan

300x466_interview_duncanThe August Tabletalk includes an interview feature with Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, chancellor and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary.

Among the questions he was asked – and answered well – was the one below, about incoming seminary students and the challenges of the studies for the ministry. With the PRC Seminary opening its doors today, his thoughts make for a timely post.

In light of what he says (and there is much more!), do remember to pray for the students (and professors!) as they take up their studies with a view to the ministry, whether for the first time or for a new semester. And don’t forget our interns who are out in the churches for the first part of their final year!

TT: What is the most common misconception that students entering seminary have about their education? What direction would you give them in light of this misconception?

LD: Students are often unaware of the kinds of difficulties and challenges that await them in seminary. They may anticipate three or four years of spiritual retreat, and when the reality that they encounter doesn’t look like that, they get discouraged.

So, for instance, one of the great challenges of seminary is that we combine rigorous academic study with discipleship for personal spiritual growth and practical preparation. These are hard to do simultaneously and they present challenges to seminarians. Those who struggle with academics can become discouraged (even though they may be godly and naturally adept at important aspects of ministry). Those who are good at academics can struggle with pride (and fail to understand that good grades do not necessarily translate into ministerial effectiveness and fruitfulness).

Combine this with the fact that many seminarians are struggling to make ends meet, working multiple jobs, depending on spouses to work, rearing children, and trying to serve in the local church, and they can feel (and truly are) pulled in a thousand directions. Spiritual struggles can easily ensue in this situation.

To prepare for this, (1) seminarians need a supportive local church and good pastoral care; (2) they need to be aware of these challenges ahead of time; and (3) they ought to read preparatory books such as The Religious Life of Theological Students by B.B. Warfield, Preparation for Ministry by Allan Harman, and How to Stay Christian in Seminary by David Mathis.

To read the rest of the interview, use the Ligonier link below.

Source: Leading an Institution: An Interview with Ligon Duncan by Ligon Duncan

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.