Why Care about Doctrine? To Worship God Aright – Rev. B. Huizinga, March 15, 2018 “Standard Bearer”


The latest issue of the Standard Bearer is now available (March 15, 2018) and among its edifying articles is the second installment of Rev. Brian Huizinga’s little series titled “Why?” penned for the rubric “Taking Heed to the Doctrine.”

In these articles he is answering the question, ‘Why take heed to doctrine?” That is, as Reformed Christians who confess to believe the truths contained in the Word of God and summarized in the Reformed confessions, “why hold on to and pay attention to this doctrine?”

To this question he gives a six-pronged answer, the third of which we reference in this post. That third reply is “worship: because doctrine of the foundation for worship.” Here’s more of what he has to say about this reason for embracing sound doctrine:

The goal of all things is the worship of God. The redeemed church exists for God’s glory. Unlike the reprobate wicked whom God uses to glorify Himself in spite of their hatred for Him, and unlike the brute creation which gives glory to God without conscious awareness of it, believers in the church have an intellectual understanding of God by faith and willingly, consciously, and joyfully extol Him from the heart. But how can we arrive at an understanding of our covenant God apart from a careful study of His revelation to us in the doctrines (teachings) of the Bible? We must worship God in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24); therefore, doctrinal knowledge is a sine qua non for worship.

To put it differently, doctrine exists for the purpose of doxology and is necessary for doxology even as the foundation exists for the house and is necessary for the house. No doctrine means no doxology, and false doctrine tends to idolatry. We take heed to doctrine so that we might rightly know and then fittingly praise our God. 

…When a congregation of believing sinners is brought to stand under the shadow of the cross and see the eternal, unchangeable, particular, saving love of God through a faithfully explained, sensibly applied and dynamically delivered exposition of Scripture by a preacher who cries, “Behold your God!” hearts come alive in fruitful worship.

Who exclaims in doxology, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God…for of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be glory forever, Amen!” (Rom. 11:33-36), but that blessed Jewish or Grecian soul that has sat spellbound at the feet of the holy apostle listening to him explain with careful doctrinal precision the righteousness of God that is revealed from faith to faith?

Who sings in doxology, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen!” (I Tim. 1:17), but that humble speck of dust who has first given himself to serious contemplation of the loaded doctrinal statement, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief,” (I Tim. 1:15) and made it his own?

Who cries in doxology, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of thy glory!” (Is. 6:3) and cries so loudly that the posts of the doors move (Is. 6:4), but that creature, heavenly or other, who has stood in the immediate presence of the enthroned God?

We take heed to doctrine. Why? It is the foundation of our worship. The church must take heed to sound doctrine, for only the foundation of sound doctrine – Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone – makes possible a fitly framed building of doxology to God. Orthodoxy! Orthodoxy not for the sake of orthodoxy; orthodoxy for the sake of doxology.

Precious food for our souls as we live in these doctrinally parched times. May our thirst for God lead us to hunger for His truth, so that we break forth in praise to Him.

Theologians Who Love the Scriptures – K. Kapic

little-book-theologians-kapicIn the final chapter of his edifying little book, A Little Book for New Theologians (and those not so new), Kelly Kapic ends his study of theology and worship with a wonderful chapter titled “Love of Scripture.”

Here he fittingly shows us the place the inscripturated Word of God must have in our lives as the people of God, whether we are trained theologians or amateur ones. One of his closing points is this:

We must never forget that the purpose of the words is to draw us to the Word and thus into the embrace of the triune God. As people who grow to cherish and delight in the sacred writings, we must never forget their fundamental purpose: that we might know the true God and respond to him in repentance and faith, being drawn into communion with him. Strangely – but not surprisingly to any of us who end up professionally handling the Scriptures on a daily basis – there is always the danger to make the Scriptures an end in and of themselves.

And then the author relates the story of Jesus’ “heated discussion” with the Jews over his authority in connection with his practices on the sabbath day (John 5). He ends up admonishing them concerning the truth that the Scriptures (Moses and the entire OT) pointed to Him and, therefore, they ought to have believed on Him (cf. Jn.5:39-40). Whereupon Kapic concludes with application to ourselves:

Jesus here reminds us that the words of Scripture are alive, not because they are intrinsically magical but because by God’s Spirit they reveal the living Word and draw us to the triune God. To study the words but never encounter the Word is not to miss something. It is to miss everything! Studying the Bible alone, therefore, does not make one a good theologian.

What then? This:

The sacred Scriptures are sacred because, by God’s Spirit, these chosen means reveal God to us and draw us to himself. Here our idols are smashed and our worship is directed to the Creator Lord whose beauty and love is always worthy of our praise. If the Scriptures do not take us to a fuller and richer worship of the triune God, then we have missed the purpose of the written Word. But empowered by God’s Spirit and with a genuine thirst to receive his grace and know his mind, we can search the Scriptures like the Bereans, confident that here the Word is revealed once for all; here is the means by which we can know and live to God, and by this source we can test the claims made about him (Acts 17:11). [pp.117-119]

Shall we make that our deliberate and distinctive purpose as we study theology in the light of God’s holy Word?

March “Tabletalk”: Loving the Neighbor and Resisting the Spirit of Our Age

TT-March-2018We have not yet introduced the March 2018 issue of Tabletalk and tonight affords us the opportunity.

This month’s issue has as its theme “Loving Our Neighbors.” Editor Burk Parsons leads us into a good understanding of the subject and of our calling as Christians in his editorial “Enabled to Love.” Here is part of what he has to say:

Although we often hear about loving God, we don’t as often hear about loving our neighbor. And while we can certainly distinguish between these commandments, we cannot ultimately separate them, for we cannot claim to love God while at the same time hating our neighbor. If we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. What’s more, those who attempt to narrowly restrict the identity of who our neighbor is must remember that Jesus also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:43–45). As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called not only to love our neighbor but to love our enemies, and sometimes they are one and the same. Just as our love for one another demonstrates that we are disciples of Christ (John 13:35), our love for our enemies demonstrates that we are sons of our Father. If we belong to the Lord, we will love the Lord, because He first loved us—enabling us to love Him and our neighbor to such a degree that we would pray for and speak the truth in love to our neighbor. We love our neighbor in the hope that he might know the truth of God and, by His grace, turn to the Lord in faith, believing the gospel as the Spirit enables him to love the Lord and his neighbor, even sinful, albeit justified, neighbors like us.

Subsequent articles in the issue address who our neighbor is and why we should love him, loving ourselves, loving our family, loving the church, loving our communities, loving the unlovely, and Christ and the love of neighbor. Profitable subject, indeed.

It is, however, another rubric article that I wish to draw attention to this evening. Under the rubric “City on a Hill,” Matthew Roberts writes about “Resisting the Spirit of the Age.” In it he tackles the “new” religion of today’s secularists who claim to have freedom from religion. He shows that while they argue that they are free of all gods (especially the Christian one!) and all religious beliefs and practices, in reality they have simply taken another idol god and practice another false religion.

What follows is part of what he says by way of Christian response:

So, then, this is the spirit of our age. How are we to respond? In the same way, of course, that Christians in every age are called to respond to the reigning idols of their day. Let’s go back to Paul in Acts 17.

First, we must get God right (vv. 24–25, 29). The God of the Bible is the only, the true, the ultimate God. There are no fundamentals of human civilization deeper than Him. We must see the secular version of “freedom” not as our friend or a safeguard for our private religion, but as a false, invented deity to be decried and to be denied the worship it desires. There will be no defeating of identity politics and all the horrors of our secular age in any other way.

Second, we must get history right. The “progress” of “freedom” assumed by our age is an illusion and a lie. Rather, history is leading unstoppably from the resurrection of Christ to His return to judge the world (v. 31). The story of now is the story of the risen Christ calling people to turn from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9–10). We live waiting for that day. We therefore need to lose our fear of persecution. It is to be expected for those who refuse to worship the idols of this age. But it will be temporary, and at its end is a crown of glory.

Third, we must get the gospel right. For too long, conservative Christians have presented the gospel as if it were an option, one of the ways in which those who hear us may exercise their (unquestioned) service of the god “freedom.” But the Bible never speaks in this way. Rather, God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). We don’t ask the world to give people permission to worship the Christian God; we proclaim to the world the imperative to worship the Christian God. And attached to that imperative is the promise of mercy to all who come to do so through Christ.

We resist the spirit of the age by refusing to worship the idols of the age. And we do this by trusting, obeying, and worshiping the one true God of this and every age, who has called us to know Him forever through His Son and by His Spirit.

This tied in well with our pastor’s sermon this morning on the first article of our Christian faith: “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” He explained the Heidelberg Catechism’s beautiful explanation of this truth in Lord’s Day 9:

Q. 26.  What believest thou when thou sayest, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”?
A.  That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence) is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father;3 on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body; and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears, turn out to my advantage; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.

What a blessing of God’s grace to know and trust in this one true God, who has revealed Himself to us in His Word and in all His daily providences as our loving Father – for Christ Jesus’ sake!

“Open Book” – Hear R.C. Sproul Talk about His Books and Their Impact

How about sitting in on a “chat” with the late R.C. Sproul and listening to him talk about significant books from his personal library that have impacted him and his work?

A dream? No, a dream come true! Thanks to Ligonier Ministries and Steven Nichols, you can now hear such “library chats” through a new weekly podcast called “Open Book.” What a fabulous idea!

The first one was introduced yesterday (Of course, I listened right away – and the first featured book will surprise you!), and it is a eight-and-a-half minute treasure.

Below you will find the link to the podcast. Here is how it is introduced in the email I received:

Which books influenced R.C. Sproul’s life and ministry? Open Book is a new weekly podcast about the power of books and the people they’ve shaped. In season one, host Stephen Nichols shares never-before-heard moments with R.C. Sproul in his home library. Episode one is now available.

We hope you’ll join us each Thursday as we hear amazing stories and insights that R.C. Sproul gleaned from the books on his shelf. Listen on iTunes, Google Play, RefNet, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher, RSS, or by visiting OpenBookPodcast.com.

Source: Open Book with Stephen Nichols

How to Read More Books | The Art of Manliness

It has been some time since I posted something from “The Art of Manliness,” but this end-of-February post on AOM was saved for a day such as this.

So, on this Wednesday, you men and I are especially addressed with regard to increasing our reading. “And, how do I do that?”, you ask. Take more time to read! Wasn’t that easy?

One of the founders of AOM states this at the outset:

Last year I read over 120 books. When I posted a collage of my favorite of those 120 reads on Instagram, a lot of guys asked me what my secret was for digesting that many tomes in 12 months.

I’ve developed some tactics during my years of reading for both work and pleasure, and I share them below. If you’re looking to increase your physical and mental library and read more books this year, maybe they’ll work for you too.

If you are like me (and you know I am an avid reader), you respond to that by saying, “Wow! That’s impressive! And, there is no way I can read that much in a year.” And that is probably quite true. Reality is, we will not match that. More than likely, not even come close.

But what if we could start by reading 12 books a year – one a month? That’s doable. But HOW?, you say. Listen to Brett’s simple answer and secret:

When people ask me how I read so many books, they’re usually fishing for a speed reading technique that will allow their brains to swallow books whole.

Speed reading certainly plays a role in my reading technique (more on that later), but it’s not my killer secret.

Lean in. I’m going to whisper the secret to reading a lot of books.

Are you ready?

You need to spend more time reading.

But then, we may respond, “Easy to say; a lot harder to practice.” And that too is true. But here are a couple of practical points about finding more time to read:

Schedule time for reading. You can’t in fact find time for reading; you’ve got to make time for it. And the best way to make time for something is to put it on your daily schedule. You don’t need to set aside an hour straight for reading. If you’re just starting off with making reading a priority, you probably don’t yet have the attention span for it, and trying to read that long in one sitting will likely set you up for frustration. Instead, block off 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night for reading. …make those 20-minute blocks if a half hour still seems too long. Instead of doing your typical time-wasting smartphone scan at those times, you’ll read. You’ll be amazed how many books you can knock off in a month by reading an hour a day.

Use spare moments for reading. Even though your daily schedule may seem packed, there are invariably small pockets of time hidden in its interstices that you typically waste. A few minutes of downtime between activities or appointments may seem trivial, but they soon add up to hours, and to entire books read; there’s great possibilities in spare moments!

Standing in line at the post office? Read a book. Cooling your heels at the dentist? Read a book. Pooping? Read a book. Waiting to pick up your kid from school? Read.

Pardon the crassness there, but you get the point, I hope. There is time in every day for reading. More time than we realize. We just need to take advantage of it. And, yes, that means leaving the phone and tablet aside so that we are focused on reading. That is harder. That takes discipline. But you and I can do it.

Will we commit to it? Find a book at home and start reading it. Of course, now. You won’t believe how relaxing it is. 🙂

Or you can finish reading this good, motivational article. Here’s the link to the rest of it.

Source: How to Read More Books | The Art of Manliness

What the Church Loses as She Abandons the KJV – “Authorized” by M. Ward

authorized-ward-2018We are beginning to look at a new book that examines Christians’ use and misuse of the King James Version of the Bible. The book is Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, written by Mark Ward and published by Lexham Press (2018).

In our first post we introduced the book and gave a glimpse of its contents, leaving a quotation from the author’s introduction. Today let’s look at chapter 1, which Ward titles, “What We Lose as the Church Stops Using the KJV.”

Ward makes this comment to start the chapter:

Much of English-speaking Christianity has sent the King James Version, too, to that part of the forest where trees fall with no one there to hear them. That’s what we do with old Bible translations.

But I don’t think many people have carefully considered what will happen if we all decide to let the KJV die and another take its office.

There are at least five valuable things we lose – things that in many places we are losing and have already lost – if we give up the KJV… [p.7]

Those five things are these (first I will quote them, then I will reference one further):

  1. We lose intergenerational ties in the body of Christ.
  2. We lose Scripture memory by osmosis.
  3. We lose a cultural touchstone.
  4. We lose some of the implicit trust Christians have in the Bibles in their laps.
  5. We lose some of the implicit trust non-Christians have in Scripture.

Ward makes good points in connection with each of these, but we will focus on what he has to say about #2 – and his point ought to be well taken:

When an entire church, or group of churches, or even an entire nations of Christians, uses basically one Bible translation, genuinely wonderful things happen. An individual Christian’s knowledge of the Bible increases almost by accident, because certain phrases become woven into the language of the community.

…Christians in my growing-up years were constantly reinforcing each other’s knowledge of the KJV every time they mentioned it in conversation. We were teaching each other Bible phrases when we read Scripture out loud together in church. (Corporate reading from five different translations just doesn’t work. I’ve heard it done – no, attempted.)

People can memorize any Bible translation on their own, but the community value of learning by osmosis is eroded when people aren’t reinforcing precisely the same wording. It helps to have a common standard. That standard doesn’t have to be the KJV, of course. [This is going to be the author’s thesis throughout, in spite of what he says positively and powerfully here and elsewhere about the Bible with which he grew up.] But no other translation seems likely to serve in the role. If indeed the King is dying, it is just as sure that none of his sons or cousins have managed to become the heir apparent.[pp.8-9]

That last point is, indeed, putting it mildly. As the modern versions have proliferated, Christians have been tossed hither and yon on the sea of Bible versions – to their spiritual detriment, we believe. And yet we recognize that the KJV has issues with modern Christians – even our own children and young people. Why? And what can be done about it?

Next time we will consider more of what Ward has to say about this matter.

Help and Hope for the Bullys and the Bullied – The March 2018 “Beacon Lights”

Anti-Bully BL-ad-2018

As we pointed out in a post a few weeks ago, the March 2018 issue of the Beacon Lights (the Protestant Reformed youth magazine) is devoted to the subject of bullying. Now that it is out and available, we can encourage you to get it and read it so as to benefit from its timely theme.

This is not an easy subject to treat. Not least of all, because it convicts all of us of the sins of bullying that we have committed. And that exposes us in the sins of hating our neighbor and of hating the God who made our neighbor, as the editor and other writers for this special issue point out.

But is there hope for us? And is there hope for those who have experienced the painful reality of this sin? Yes, indeed there is. And, as we might know, it is found alone in our Savior, Jesus Christ and in His sin-crushing, peace-making, love-producing cross.

The editorial by new editor Dewey Engelsma, “Delivering the Helpless,” is as significant as his story that precedes it, “Murder on a School Bus.” Read the latter first and weep, for yourself and for those we have hurt in such a way. And then read this from Engelsma’s editorial:

Where then for relief, for the bullied, the bully, and bystander alike? For that we must look to the one of which Job was merely a type. And it is that someone greater that not only provides a perfect example of a holy life, but himself gives courage to the redeemed bystander, so that they no longer stand idly by, but jump up to the defense of the bullied person, and show “mercy and compassion every man to his brother” (Zech 7:9).

Where else for relief but the cross that stands at Calvary? At the foot of that cross three parties come together in peace at last, the bullied, the humbled oppressor, and the repentant bystander, all clinging to the One crucified. For it is the bullied child herself, the reed that was not broken, and the flax that was not extinguished, who finally by the grace of their Savior experienced “judgment unto victory” (Matt. 12:20). It is the bully himself who is transformed by God into a blessed peacemaker, and who now is at peace with his God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

And for you, the young person who doubts they have the strength to stand up for the bullied person? You are right. When God’s people rely on their own strength, “even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall” (Isa. 40:30). You don’t have the strength. You will fail time and time again. Until you finally find your strength in the Son of God, the Son who not only stood up for you, but gave himself for you (Gal. 2:20). This is the one who empowers you courageously to defend the weak and powerless, so that when you have against all odds delivered “him that had none to help him,” your victory cry will be, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

In that light we can weep for joy, even as we seek the joy of those wounded spirits among us.

Shall we fight the sin and find the joy in Christ alone?


If you are not yet a subscriber, visit the Beacon Light’s subscription page where you will find information on how to become one. Now would be a good time to join the ranks of young (and old) Reformed readers.

Doing Theology to the Glory of God

TT-Feb-2018Today I did some final reading of the main articles in the February 2018 Tabletalk. The theme this month, as we pointed out earlier this month, is “Doing Theology,” a favorite subject and activity of Ligonier’s founder, Dr. R. C. Sproul, who passed away late last year.

Today I read the final article on this theme, “The Goal of Doing Theology” by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. It too is a fine contribution to the subject, as Ferguson shows us plainly from the Word of God that we are called to do theology with one main purpose in view: the glory of our God – soli Deo gloria!

I’ve pulled a few of his thoughts together from the online version, which you may reference above to read the entire article. It will be to your profit to do so, even if you think you are not a theologian. Because, remember, as “R.C” liked to remind us, “everyone’s a theologian.”

…Theology is a joyful and glorious activity because it is ultimately about the glory and joy of our God. Its goal is that of the angels, indeed, of God Himself: this combination of glorifying and enjoying God, which is to the unbeliever the ultimate contradiction but for Christians the discovery of our destiny.

From there, Ferguson takes us to the letters of the apostle Paul, in particular, to Romans. Here is part of what he says about Paul’s perspective in this letter:

Next to the Lord Jesus, no one has embodied what this means more fully than the Apostle Paul. His thirteen letters (totaling a mere seventy pages in the Bible on my desk) turn out to be heavier than a man can lift, so densely packed are they with theology in all its forms. And the style? Soli Deo gloria.

Sit down for an hour with a concordance and look up the verses in Paul’s letters that contain the words “glory” and “glorify.” It will leave you breathless, at least metaphorically. The glory of God is the magnetic pole of his thinking. He had seen it in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). And those who have seen this glory can never be satisfied unless they taste more of it, and think more clearly about it. Like a young man who has seen a “glory” in a young woman (1 Cor. 11:7), we long to know more, to meditate lovingly, and to describe eloquently. Theology is simply eloquence about God, called forth by His glory.

And, speaking about that marvelous section of Romans, chapters 9-11, he writes this:

These three chapters, then, are perhaps the headiest theology anywhere to be found in Paul’s letters. But what they reveal is that the doctrines of creation (from Him), providence (through Him), redemption (by Him), and final consummation (to Him) all are shaped by this one great end: the glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

From this Ferguson draws this fitting conclusion:

…There is a grandeur to this perspective because it makes sense of cosmic reality; it humbles and exalts us; it leads us to our true “end.” In Thomas Aquinas’ summary, theology teaches God, is taught by God, and leads to God. What more can we ask for if indeed the chief end of both men and angels is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”?

Is that the controlling purpose and the driving principle of all our theologizing? If not, it is not worth anything – not for the here nor for the hereafter.

God’s Work through the Means of Grace: It’s All So Ordinary

Means-of-Grace-3The following are theologian Michael Horton’s further thoughts on being content with God’s “ordinary” means of grace for the Christian’s faith and life:

‘Expect a miracle!’ That’s good counsel if there is a promise in Scripture to back it up. The problem today is that many Christians are not looking for God’s miraculous activity where he has promised it, namely, through his ordinary means of grace. Through these means, he has pledged to raise us from spiritual death, to forgive sins, to assure us of God’s favor, and to conform us to Christ’s image.

…Typically, we identify ‘acts of God’ with the big stuff: earthquakes, hurricanes, and parting seas. Or perhaps a better way of putting it: we identify the big stuff with what can be measured and recognized as an obvious miraculous intervention by God. Millions of people around the world will turn out for a prosperity evangelist’s promise of signs and wonders. But how many of us think that God’s greatest signs and wonders are being done every week through the ordinary means of preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper?

…If our God is so keen to work in and through the ordinary, maybe we should rethink the way we confine him to the theatrical spectacles, whether the pageantry of the Mass or the carefully staged crusade. It takes no honor away from God that he uses ordinary – even physical – means to bring about extraordinary results. On the contrary, it underscores the comprehensive breadth of his sovereignty over, in, and within creation as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

To be content with Christ’s kingdom is to be satisfied also with his ordinary means of grace.

…Just as we wouldn’t have expected to find the Creator of the universe in a feeding trough of a barn in some obscure village, much less hanging, bloody, on a Roman cross, we do not expect to find him delivering his extraordinary gifts in such human places and in such humble ways as human speech [preaching], a bath [baptism], and a meal [the Lord’s supper]. This can’t be right, we reason. We need signs and wonders to know that God is with us. Yet it is only because God has promised to meet us in the humble and ordinary places, to deliver his inheritance, that we are content to receive him in these ways.

CNN will not be showing up at a church that is simply trusting God to do extraordinary things through his ordinary means of grace delivered by ordinary servants. But God will. Week after week. These means of grace and the ordinary fellowship of the saints that nurtures and guides us throughout our life may seem frail, but they are jars that carry a rich treasure: Christ with all his saving benefits.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter 7 of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I am currently making my way through. The chapter is simply titled “Contentment.” The paragraphs I have quoted are found on pp.139-49.

Horton’s words leave us with some questions: Are we content with God’s ordinary means of grace? And if so, are we using them as He intends?

What’s the Value in Reading Secular Classics? – L. Ryken

litclassicsAs we continue working our way slowly through Leland Ryken’s recent book, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we are up chapter 9, where he treats “secular classics” (pp.80-90).

After defining what he means by “secular” (“a non-Christian work that does not explicitly endorse a Christian view of reality”, p.80), and distinguishing various types of literature that fall into this category, Ryken seeks to answer the question, “Why should Christians read secular classics?” And he begins with this point:

“One of the values that secular classics offer us is implicit in my labels the literature of common humanity and the literature of clarification. The subject of literature is human experience. Literature overwhelmingly ‘delivers the goods’ in putting us in touch with bedrock human experience. Flannery O’Conner said that the writer ‘should never be ashamed of staring’ at life (Mystery and Manners). The same is true of readers. One of the functions of authors is ‘to stare, to look at the created world, and to lure the rest of us into a similar act of contemplation’ (Nathan A. Scott, Modern Literature and the Religious Frontier). As we stare at human experience, we come to understand it. Literature gives us knowledge in the form of right seeing, and this applies to secular literature too.”

But to that Ryken adds this value:

“Christian and secular classics both give us this form of knowledge, but the clarifying power of literature (its focus on human experience) assumes a larger proportion of the take-away value when we read secular literature. We do not have our souls nurtured in the same way that we do when we read Christian literature, so truthfulness to human experience and clarification of life loom larger as the things that occupy us.”

And finally, the author adds this point concerning the value of reading non-Christian works of literature:

“…Reading secular literature can help us form a bond with the human race, and sometimes this is even truer when we read the literature of unbelief. Literature highlights the human condition to which the Christian faith speaks. Often we feel this more strongly when we know that we are being addressed by an unbelieving author who gives testimony to a viewpoint of experience that we do not know directly.”

GuidetoClassics-LRykenWhat do you think of Ryken’s answer to that question? Is there value in reading secular literature? If so, how should the Christian read them in a distinctively Christian way?

Next time we will consider Ryken’s points about “how not to read a secular classic” and “how to read a secular classic.” His points will certainly help us further answer the question concerning whether we should read secular literature.