Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter

A recent new title from Crossway that I requested for review relates to a subject that is at once weighty and timely. The book is Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter (paper; 182 pp.).

As the title indicates, this is a modernization of several writings of the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) addressed to depressed and anxious Christians. Drawn mainly from Baxter’s A Christian Directory, Christian physician Michael S. Lundy presents his writings on these subjects in “revised, updated, and annotated” form. Dr. J. I. Packer – a lover of and expert on the Puritans – wrote the Introduction.

The publisher gives this summary of the title:

Depression—whether circumstantial and fleeting or persistent and long term—impacts most people at some point in their lives. Puritan pastor Richard Baxter spent most of his ministry caring for depressed and discouraged souls, and his timeless counsel still speaks to us today. In this book, psychiatrist Michael S. Lundy and theologian J. I. Packer present Baxter’s writings in order to comfort, instruct, and strengthen all who struggle with depression.

The Table of Contents reveals the following layout to the book:

Preface by J. I. Packer
Part 1: Introducing Richard Baxter

  1. Richard Baxter, Spiritual Physician
    J. I. Packer 
  2. Richard Baxter: Perspective and Retrospective
    Michael S. Lundy, MD 

Part 2: Baxter’s Counsel on Depression

  1. Advice to Depressed and Anxious Christians
    Richard Baxter
  2. The Resolution of Depression and Overwhelming Grief through Faith
    Richard Baxter 

Appendix: The Duty of Physicians
Richard Baxter
General Index
Scripture Index

In his “Preface” to this work, Packer writes about “our standpoint” (the perspective of himself and Lundy) in these words:

Our ideal for all Christians, ourselves included, is to live as far as possible in the outgoing love, stability, and joy – along with patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control – that form the moral profile of Jesus Christ in his disciples. We see such living as true human flourishing, and the promotion of it as central to all forms of pastoral care, church worship and fellowship, personal therapy, and Christian family life. And we see depression in all its forms as a prima facie obstruction to this, in which Satan regularly has a hand (see 2 Cor.12:7). We believe that in the wisdom of God thorns in the flesh – mental and emotional thorns included – may become means of spiritual advance that would not otherwise take place. And we believe that greater wisdom in this matter than we are used to is found in the pastoral heritage of seventheenth-century Puritanism. Supreme here is the wisdom of Richard Baxter, who in his day was viewed and consulted as a top authority regarding ministry to Christians afflicted by what was then called ‘melancholy,’ but would today be labeled depression. Our hope is that by presenting what Baxter wrote in this field we may contribute to wise pastoral care in Bible-believing, gospel-centered, Christ-honoring churches at this time [pp.11-12].

If you or someone you know may be interested in reading and writing a brief review of it, let me know and the book is yours or theirs to keep. I believe whoever reads it will be instructed and enriched for his own Christian life and for the counsel of other believers.

Source: Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter

Loving the Word Enough to Read It – Rev. D. Hyde

For our Sunday night post, I take one more look with you at the November 2018 issue of Tabletalk with its theme of “Living by the Word,” that is, living by the Bible as God’s holy Word to us His people.

In one of the final articles on this theme, Rev. Daniel Hyde writes on the critical calling we have to love the Word of God. Indeed, we cannot live by God’s Word unless we love His Word. And, as Hyde states at the beginning of his article, we show our love for God and His Word by reading it. And he points to three ways in which we are to do that. This is the section I wish to quote here this evening.

You have heard me say here before that, while the reading of other good books is a necessity for the Christian, nothing is more important than reading and feeding on God’s book. Hyde affirms that with these three ways to do so in our lives. Meditate on these and profit from them.

Publicly. We love God by loving His Word read publicly. This was done in the ancient Jewish synagogue, as evidenced by Jesus’ entering the synagogue and performing the appointed reading from the prophet Isaiah (Luke 4:16–24). The early church carried on this practice, as Paul tells us (1 Thess. 5:27; Col. 4:16), and continued the practice after the close of the Apostolic age. For example, Justin Martyr said, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” And Tertullian said, “We assemble to read our sacred writings . . . with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast.”

As a family. We love God by loving His Word read as a family, if the Lord provides us with a family. Moses exhorted the Israelites to teach the commandments to their children (Deut. 6:6–7). Family Bible reading is necessary to propagate the Christian religion in our children. Studies show the rising generation in American churches leaving those churches; is it any wonder when parents, especially fathers, are not taking the time to read the Word with their children? Ignorance of Scripture leads to ignorance of Christ.

Privately. We love God by loving His Word read privately. Psalm 1 speaks of the singular “man” (v. 1) who is blessed because “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (v. 2). To read the Word and meditate on the Word as a believer causes one to be like a well-watered and fruitful tree (v. 3). Psalm 119 is also the meditation of an individual believer: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). Meditating on the Word makes one wise (v. 98), makes one godly (v. 101), and gives us a spiritual delight as the Word is “sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103). This is why one writer said, “To neglect [the reading of the Word] is to despise our own souls, and deprive ourselves of the advantage of God’s instituted means of grace.” If we love God, it is our duty to read the Word of God.

To read the entire article, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Loving the Word

Where Is the Word of God? November 2018 “Tabletalk”

The November 2018 issue of Tabletalk centers on the theme of “Living by the Word of God,” an extremely important subject in our day of moral relativism and Scripture-denying doctrine, and that within the nominal church and among many professing Christians. As Christians we claim to be “people of the Book,” the Word of God. But as this issue shows, that begins with a right understanding of what this Book is, and then with a practice that matches what we confess it to be. If this Book is indeed the Word of God, then we must truly live by it. If you are in need of those reminders (and aren’t we all?!), then read on!

In addition to the daily devotions (on the gospel of John), I have been working my way through the various articles, including editor Burk Parsons article titled “Our Only Infallible Rule.” He makes a powerful point in his introductory comments on the theme:

Anyone who says the Bible is boring isn’t reading the Bible with a heart of faith, and anyone who says the Bible is easy to read isn’t really examining the Bible. The Bible never actually calls us simply to read it. It calls us to study it, examine it, search it, meditate on it, hide it in our hearts, and let it dwell in us richly. Yet many Christians seem to read the Bible as quickly as they can so that they can tell everyone they have read it. We do indeed need to read the Bible—sometimes multiple chapters and entire books in one sitting—yet we are also called to study it so that we do not simply allow the sacred Word of God to pass before our eyes without properly considering its manifold splendor. Not only that, but many professing Christians don’t read the Bible much at all. Many are looking for a special word from God while their Bibles sit on their shelves gathering dust. If we want a special word from God, we need only open the Bible and read it, and if we want to hear a special word from God, we only need read the Bible aloud. For the Bible is the special revelation of God, and it is our only infallible rule for faith and life.

The first main article I read on Sunday is the one in the title to this blog post, “Where is the Word of God?” by Dr. Michael J. Kruger. After explaining that God’s Word is “the ultimate standard for all of life,” he goes into the importance of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura. But then he also issues some cautions about misunderstanding and misapplying this truth, one of which is this one:

Of course, like many core Christian convictions, the doctrine of sola Scriptura has often been misunderstood and misapplied. Unfortunately, some have used sola Scriptura as a justification for a “me, God, and the Bible” type of individualism, where the church bears no real authority and the history of the church is not considered when interpreting and applying Scripture. Thus, many churches today are almost ahistorical—cut off entirely from the rich traditions, creeds, and confessions of the church. They misunderstand sola Scriptura to mean that the Bible is the only authority rather than understanding it to mean that the Bible is the only infallible authority. Ironically, such an individualistic approach actually undercuts the very doctrine of sola Scriptura it is intended to protect. By emphasizing the autonomy of the individual believer, one is left with only private, subjective conclusions about what Scripture means. It is not so much the authority of Scripture that is prized as the authority of the individual.

The Reformers would not have recognized such a distortion as their doctrine of sola Scriptura. On the contrary, they were quite keen to rely on the church fathers, church councils, and the creeds and confessions of the church. Such historical rootedness was viewed not only as a means for maintaining orthodoxy but also as a means for maintaining humility. Contrary to popular perceptions, the Reformers did not view themselves as coming up with something new. Rather, they understood themselves to be recovering something very old—something that the church had originally believed but later twisted and distorted. The Reformers were not innovators but excavators.

Kruger has other good points that are worth your reading. Follow the link below to read his full article.

Source: Where Is the Word of God?

The Benefits of Reading “Promiscuously” – J. Milton & K. Prior

reading-well-priorIn making her case for ‘reading well” in her new book by that title (On Reading Well, which I just picked up at the local Barnes & Noble store), that is, for virtue, author Karen S. Prior begins by referencing her previous title Booked, in which she emphasizes the importance of reading “widely, voraciously, and indiscriminately.” In doing so, she points out the spiritual lessons she learned while reading widely, or as she calls it reading “promiscuously,” drawing from a famous book by John Milton (though perhaps not as well known as his Paradise Lost).

This is how she references Milton and his work Areopagitica:

Areopagitica makes a deeply theological argument, one that Christians today, particularly those nervously prone to a censoring spirit, would do well to consider. Grounded in Protestant doctrine (as well as the polarized political situation surrounding the English Civil War), Milton associates censorship with the Roman Catholic Church (the political as well as doctrinal enemy of the English Puritans) and finds in his Reformation heritage a deep interdependence of intellectual, religious, political, and personal liberty – all of which depend, he argues, on virtue. Because the world since the fall contains both good and evil, Milton says, virtue consists of choosing good over evil. Milton distinguishes between the innocent, who knows no evil, and the virtuous, who know what evil is and elect to do good. What better way to learn the difference between good and evil, Milton argues, than to gain knowledge of both through reading widely: ‘Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.’

Perhaps we struggle to understand Milton’s point here. Let me try to clarify it. I believe that, being the good Puritan that he was, Milton would never say, “In order to appreciate virtue you ought to go out and experience or enjoy vice (sin).” But he is saying here that there is a way to learn (and to choose) virtue, and that is by reading about evil. In that way of “the scanning of error” through the world’s books, you learn to see evil for what it is (“sin and falsity”), in order that you reject it and choose the virtuous (“truth”) instead.

Is that not one of the reasons why Christians ought to read widely? Milton makes a valid point, to my thinking, and Prior is right to direct us to it so we too may learn to read well and find “the good life through great books” (the sub-title of her new book).

We’ll return to more of Prior’s spiritual lessons on reading as I move through the book.

New Shipment for Bookshelves in the Philippines

In the “good news in books” department, this new post on the Kleyn’s blog (PRC missionaries in the Philippines) certainly qualifies. Their November 2 report (last Friday) on the latest shipment of books from the RFPA warmed my heart – and should yours too.

Visit the post at the link below and learn in word and pictures all that is involved in collecting, shipping, receiving, and organizing these books for assisting the believers in that far east country in spreading the Reformed faith and in building a good Reformed library.

In the end, Sharon leaves us with this comment:

 We take this opportunity to thank the Protestant Reformed Churches in America for their collections for this cause, which collections allow us to make all this literature available to Filipinos at affordable prices so that they are able to “give attendance to reading” (I Timothy 4:13).

We rejoice with them in this wonderful means of spreading the gospel and of building up the saints. May we continue generously to support this worthy cause.

Source: Kleyns In The Philippines: * New Shipment for Bookshelves

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 9:41 PM  Leave a Comment  

Rhythms of Piety – Jon D. Payne on the Importance of the Weekly Sabbath

It should be no surprise, then, that God designed the Christian life to possess rhythms of piety. These rhythms of piety include the weekly cadence of the Lord’s Day, as well as regular (even daily) times of private and family devotion (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.6).

The Lord’s Day has fallen on hard times. We need to recover the day that God Himself established to be a spiritual blessing to His church—a weekly occurrence of rest from our ordinary activities for the purpose of God-centered worship, renewal, and fellowship (Gen. 2:1–3; Ex. 20:8–11; Mark 2:27). Our loving heavenly Father set apart an entire day of the week for us to cease from our hectic schedules, to “be still, and know that [He is] God,” and to abide in Christ through the soul-nourishing means of grace (Ps. 46:10; Acts 2:42; WCF 21.5).

The weekly observance of the Sabbath— especially in the gathering of the church for morning and evening worship—is intended to be a primary rhythm of Christian discipleship in order that our faith might grow and mature (Ps. 92:1–2). It’s no wonder that Matthew Henry wrote, “The streams of religion run deep or shallow, according as the banks of the Sabbath are kept up or neglected.”

The rhythms of piety are not limited to the Lord’s Day, however. We also seek God during the week through regular Bible reading and prayer. A consistent rhythm of private and family devotions, in addition to weekly Lord’s Day observance, helps to foster a consistent and growing walk with the Lord (Deut. 6:7–9; Ps. 63; Mark 1:35; Eph. 6:4).

To neglect these rhythms of piety can leave one vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, the seductive temptations of the world, and the sinful wanderings of our own hearts. The disciplines of grace are means by which we daily put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10–20).

Dear Christian believer, perhaps it’s time to renew your commitment to the rhythms of piety.

Drawn from the weekend Tabletalk devotional for Oct.20-21 (cf. link below). After describing how God has designed and built the “beautiful and instructive rhythms of nature” into the creation, Dr. J. Payne writes about the “rhythms of piety” God has also designed and built into the Christian life.

Good food for thought as we begin this new week and seek ” a consistent and growing walk with the Lord.” Fellow believers, shall we renew our commitment to God’s “rhythms of piety”?

Source: Rhythms of Piety – October 2018

10 Popular Quotes from John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion” | LogosTalk

Earlier this week Logos.com published this post on its “LogosTalk” blog, and I took note of it, hoping to also use it for a Reformation reflection post this month. Today we do so.

The post selects ten “popular” quotes from John Calvin’s magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011). Here is part of the introduction that went with the post:

This week we are celebrating the 501-year anniversary of the Reformation by discounting many Reformed resources and featuring Reformation excerpts and reflections on the blog. Enjoy this post about French Reformer John Calvin. John Calvin is one of the most important thinkers in Church history and the author of one of the most influential works in all of the Western canon, the Institutes of Christian Religion.

Calvin’s Institutes hold a prominent place on the reading lists of theological students and scholars around the world and has left its mark in the fields of theology, philosophy, social thought, and legal theory. First published in 1536, it became an instant best seller and has been republished and translated nearly 100 times in dozens of languages.

Calvin’s magnum opus is loved for its comprehensive treatment of the Christian faith, its logical cohesion, and its beautiful, moving prose.

You will also want to note that Logos is having a massive Reformation collection sale. If you are not familiar with them, now is a good time to do so. They specialize in Bible study software and helps, as well as digital book and magazine collections, featuring fantastic collections (including Reformed titles) as well as individual titles. The PRC seminary library has a basic collection to which it is constantly adding items. You may obtain Logos 7 Basic free by visiting the Logos website.

And here are the first four of those quotes; find the others at the Logos link below.

1. On knowing God and self

“Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. […] The knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.”

— Book 1, chapter 1, section 1 (I, i, 1)

2. On the effect of knowledge of God

“The effect of our knowledge rather ought to be, first, to teach us reverence and fear; and, secondly, to induce us, under its guidance and teaching, to ask every good thing from him, and, when it is received, ascribe it to him. For how can the idea of God enter your mind without instantly giving rise to the thought, that since you are his workmanship, you are bound, by the very law of creation, to submit to his authority?—that your life is due to him?—that whatever you do ought to have reference to him?”

— I, ii, 2

3. On false worship

“Those, therefore, who set up a fictitious worship, merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies; indeed, they would never dare so to trifle with God, had they not previously fashioned him after their own childish conceits.”

— I, iv, 3

4. On chance and providence

“Suppose a man falls among thieves, or wild beasts; is shipwrecked at sea by a sudden gale; is killed by a falling house or tree. Suppose another man wandering through the desert finds help in his straits; having been tossed by the waves, reaches harbor; miraculously escapes death by a finger’s breadth. Carnal reason ascribes all such happenings, whether prosperous or adverse, to fortune. But anyone who has been taught by Christ’s lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered [Matt. 10:30] will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God’s secret plan.”

— I, xvi, 2

Source: 10 Popular Quotes from John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion | LogosTalk

Free Reformation Resources – Ligonier and Monergism

We are entering the final week leading up to Reformation Day 2018 (October 31). As always, there are plenty of good resources available to help you deepen your understanding of the history of this great gospel movement and intensify your commitment to the truths recovered during the 16th century.

For example, to mark Reformation Week 2018 Ligonier Ministries is giving away a free e-copy of the book The Legacy of Luther, written by a variety of men in celebration of last year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Here is the note and the link:

He was one of the most influential men of his day. His posting of the Ninety-Five Theses sparked the Protestant Reformation. In him, we find an example of bravery, conviction, and dependence on God’s Word at all costs.

Meet the Reformer who set the world ablaze. In The Legacy of Luther, edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols, fifteen distinguished scholars and pastors survey Martin Luther’s life, thought, and lessons for today. In honor of Reformation Week, you can download the ebook edition for free. This book is an uncompromising reminder that, like Luther, we must stand firm for the biblical gospel.

The offer is good through Oct.31, so be sure to get your free copy before then.

Also, Monergism website also has been offering some good free ebooks (now up to 400!), including Luther’s Tabletalk. Here’s the information they provide for this free title:

Luther’s Divine Discourses (as this book was known) stirred up so much anger in the Roman Catholic Church that all copies were ordered to be burnt under an edict by Pope Gregory XIII. One copy was found by Casparus Van Sparr in 1626, whilst building on a house once owned by his grandfather in Germany. The book was wrapped in a linen cloth treated with beeswax and buried in the ground – it was perfectly preserved.

An English friend of Casparus, Captain Henry Bell, brought the book back to Britain and began the work of translation several times but never completed it. He received a vision of an old man who told him he would complete the translation. Two weeks later he was arrested and spent the next 10 years in jail during which time he completed the work and produced what we now know as Tabletalk.

This collection of informal comments was gathered together by Antony Lauterbach and John Aurifaber, who were very close to Luther towards the end of his life.

And, we hope you check out the Reformed Free Publishing Association’s website as well. There you will find a variety of books and ebooks on Reformation subjects, including the fine collection of essays on Reformation 500 published in Here We Stand.

It’s a good time of year to add to your library and to your reading list – as well as to your gift list with Christmas coming up soon!

Communing with God through His Word – N. Stewart

The October 2018 issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine) has the theme “Perfectionism and Control.” The articles deal with the basic issues involving God’s sovereignty and our responsibilities in the Christian life. Some of the subjects dealt with are:

  • The Illusion of Control – T. Brewer
  • Planning for the Future While Trusting God’s Provision – M. Emlet
  • The Place of Godly Ambition – D. Dodds
  • Ordering the Home without Being Controlling – P. Tripp

Burk Parsons summarizes the theme in his editorial for “Coram Deo” under the title “Out of and under Control.”

But tonight, as the Sabbath comes to a close, I want to point you to a few outstanding thoughts from Neil Stewart’s article for the rubric “Heart Aflame.” You will see the title from the heading to this post and the link below at the Tabletalk website. He begins his article with these important words:

Communion with God in Scripture is one of the great distinguishing marks of a Christian, an acid test of true spiritual life. Whatever else we are as believers, we are people who meet God in the Bible.

At the end of his next paragraph he adds that God’s glory may be seen in creation and in providence, but not like it is in Scripture:

There is enough in nature to leave us without excuse (Rom. 1:18ff), but there is not enough to renew us deep within. This peculiar glory belongs to Scripture alone (Ps. 19:7). We may see His glory elsewhere, but only in Scripture do we hear His voice. How should we then approach the Bible?

In answer to that question he has seven (7) wonderful points. Tonight I share a couple of them with you, hoping that you too will capture the vital importance of reading and studying God’s Word. We have said it here before and repeat it now: there is no more important book in all the world for you and for me to read and receive.

1. Come fearfully. God is in this book. Scripture is the breath of His mouth (2 Tim. 3:16), the Word of His Son, the light of His presence (Ps. 109:105), the unveiling of His mind (1 Cor. 2:16), the bread of His baking (Deut. 8:3), the mirror of His glory (2 Cor. 3:8), the energy of His creation (Gen. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:6), the repairman of His image (John 17:17), the irrigating water of His life in the soul (Ps. 1:2–3), and the sword of His Spirit (Heb. 4:12). We should read “rejoicing with trembling” (Ps. 2:11).

3. Come thoughtfully. Scripture does its best work in us when we linger and hide its truth deep within. “Thy word I have hidden in mine heart [not scattered carelessly across its surface] that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119:11, KJV). Skimming Scripture will not lead you down into the depths of the deep things of God. Memorizing portions of the Bible will be of tremendous help here. Try to stretch your capacity beyond a verse or two, consigning paragraphs and even whole chapters to your heart. Then you will enter into the psalmist’s experience, “As I mused, the fire burned” (39:3).

7. Come expectantly. The closest possible connection exists between God and His Word. Why do you think He made the universe with words, when a mere thought would have done it all? Was it not to teach us the glory of His voice? When He speaks, nothing remains the same; everything changes. And when His Son came into the world, how does He introduce Him to us? As His Word, His voice of self-revelation, through whom He made all things (John 1:1–3). So, when we come to the Bible, we should come expecting to meet the Lord Christ. It is His book. It is all about Him. He is the righteousness of the Law, the wisdom of the Proverbs, the singer of the Psalms, the king on the throne, the voice of the Prophets, the sacrifice on the altar, the judge in the end, and the glory of it all. He is all of this in union with us, His people.

This book is alive with the life of Christ. It comes to us as a spiritual virus. Most viruses, of course, take life from us; this one has quite the opposite effect. It infects us with a restorative glory. Reading it, our vision returns, and we see things as they really are.

Source: Communing with God via Scripture

Reading for Virtue’s Sake: A Conversation with Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs | Public Discourse

The authors of two new books on reading agree: reading good literature well is not only enjoyable, it is also a veritable school of virtue. The pleasure to be gained by reading well is a skill that, like virtue itself, is achieved through practice.

Such is the brief description of this instructive interview with authors Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs. Both present an interesting perspective on the power and purpose of good reading, by which we also mean reading good literature, books that teach universal virtues and, of course, book that teach distinctively Christian virtues.

We post a portion of the interview here; there is plenty more to read and digest in the rest of it. Follow the link below for that.

David Kern: Both of your books are about the ways literature can cultivate virtue in readers, so I have been thinking about the extent to which a teacher should explicitly state that the books she is teaching have been chosen for that end. Should a teacher directly tell her students that she is teaching, say, Persuasion, because of its capacity to make readers virtuous? Or should she let the book do its work secretly, if you will?

Joshua Gibbs: I think it depends on the audience. When I read my little girls The Velveteen Rabbit or Frog and Toad Are Friends, I don’t tell them that I want these books to help them develop virtue. Similarly, on the rare occasion that I teach a room full of adults, I don’t often lay all my cards on the table and say, “All right, people, let’s learn to be good.”

High school students are a little different, though, because they are more apt to believe that the value of a book depends on its being entertaining, enjoyable, thrilling, funny. If a lit teacher passes out copies of Augustine’s Confessions to high school sophomores and pretends the book is going to be a page-turner, he is deceiving his students. If you give a high school student a book that is difficult and dull (when compared with, say, The Maze Runner), you need to explain why these qualities should not turn them off from reading it. “When the book is difficult to read, the book is doing its work on you.” Acknowledge that the difficulty comes from the moral gauntlet the book throws down. A book suited to virtue often requires multiple readings, although exciting books generally do not. That is what makes them exciting. But explaining that a book is hard to read (yet worth reading) will usually lead to a discussion of virtue.

What you do not want is for high school students to believe that adults find Augustine’s Confessions as enjoyable to read as they find The Maze Runner, and that once you’re forty, Augustine is downright titillating.

Karen Swallow Prior: When I teach general education courses in English, the students are usually first- or second-year students who are not majoring in English. I like to begin these classes with something that I refer to as the biblical basis for the study of literature. I’ve found that students, especially Christian students, are so utilitarian and pragmatic in their worldviews that describing the sheer goodness of literary study helps them overcome barriers to reading literature and reading it well that they don’t even realize they have. I cover over a dozen points in this lecture, and only one of them addresses virtue directly. In other words, there are many, many reasons to read good literature (particularly for the Christian), including the joy of it. Yet all of these reasons contribute to cultivating virtue in the reader who reads well.

How do you respond to these initial thoughts about reading and virtue? Would you consider this a goal of your own reading? What type of books are going to help you accomplish this goal?

Source: Reading for Virtue’s Sake: A Conversation with Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs | Public Discourse