Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Are We The Crazy Ones?

April 17, 2014

What value does our society place on books today? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My wife really likes to watch the Crazy ones, a show starring Robin Williams. I watch it with her, often reading or doing something else at the time. Tonight we saw an episode about a move to save a library, which was not necessarily greeted with enthusiasm by others on the show and the way it was saved by actually staging a fake book burning so that people would get enraged and come out and save the library.

Spoiler alert: It worked.

Yes as I watched, the thought of burning a book was horrendous to me and if someone says “Well Christians burned books in history!” then I would say that wherever that happened that that too was a great evil. I think it would be wonderful to have more of the works that have been lost over time. Now of course, some works are lost just because there was no interest and no one was copying them and some were lost by other circumstances, but it’s a shame when anyone purposely destroys a work of literature.

In the past two novels have been written that deal with books. In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury feared a world where people would have a job of burning books. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley wrote about a world where there would be books, but no one would read them due to their quest for pleasure. Of course, this pleasure was mainly sexual pleasure.

Huxley’s view seems to have won the day.

Now keep in mind, I’m not against pleasure. I think we should enjoy our lives and that includes the sexual pleasure to be enjoyed in marriage. I’m not saying all we should be doing is reading. My wife and I go to a gym regularly and exercise. We have some favorite TV shows and movies we like to watch. We also have a number of game consoles and I do have a reputation as being a good gamer.

But do make sure to read.

In fact, this is my problem with too many Christians and too many atheists. They don’t read enough. Let’s look at some attitudes we see.

For atheists, too many of them are simply only reading what agrees with them. They are not reading works that are outside their worldview that will truly challenge them. How else do so many get suckered into the idea that Jesus never even existed? I found much confirmation of this in looking at the bibliographies in new atheist literature. Works that disagree with them are woefully lacking in reference.

As for the Bible, too many atheists don’t read the Bible and when they do, they make a mistake of not reading it as literature. They don’t read it to first see what the author is really trying to say. I don’t necessarily mean the divine author. Let’s even just go with the human author. Let’s take a book like Romans that is indisputably Pauline. How many are reading it to see what Paul really said? I don’t care if you agree or disagree with him at this point. Do you really seek to find out what he really said?

The Bible is often read only to attack it and then to mock it. Even if someone doesn’t believe in the message of the Bible, to be an educated person in this society, you must be familiar with it. The Bible is without a doubt the book that has shaped Western Civilization more than any other. If you do not understand the Bible, you will be incredibly ignorant in this culture.

Now what about Christians? Too many Christians don’t read what disagrees with them and challenges them, but there is another dangerous idea they have.

“I just read the Bible. That’s the only book I need!”

What nonsense! Now I do not doubt the Bible contains all that is needed for salvation and the message is there, but if you want to truly understand the Bible, you will need to read other books. For instance, if you don’t know the original languages, you will either want to try to learn them, as I am, to seek to understand what the Bible says in the original languages. Until then, you are at the mercy of a translator.

If you want to understand the culture of the Bible, you will need to read about that elsewhere. If you want to know about the history of the Bible, you will need to read that. If you want to know about textual criticism, apologetics, philosophy, etc. all of those are found in books outside of the Bible by people who have dedicated their lives to understanding this book, and for atheists who are still reading at this point, not all of those are Christians.

Beyond that, Christians need to be educated in other areas they talk about. If you want to understand philosophy read giants like Plato and Aristotle. If you want to understand history, choose a period of history and read all you can about it. If you want to understand science, do the same.

Too often in our culture, we are not reading books. I am not talking so much about books being converted to electronic format. I get that. In fact, I own a Kindle as well. (And in fact, would love to upgrade to a Kindle Fire.) I am not talking about audio reading either. I’ve done that too. I’m talking about just not reading books.

Of course, I am not opposed to reading material online. If I was, I would not be writing this blog, but I have a problem when I debate someone and all they link to is wikipedia and think that that constitutes an argument. There’s a reason I never bother to look when someone links to wikipedia in a debate. Nowadays, many of them are going to just YouTube videos. Now there are some good videos out there that explain works well, but there are a lot that don’t and sadly in our age, anyone can look like an authority. (And for those concerned about my own work here since anyone can look this way, feel free to check what I say and also note the link of endorsements on the side of this blog.)

I’m also not saying by the way to only read academic works. I like to read some fiction from time to time. My interest there is mysteries. I just ordered the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel from the library and I eagerly await the next Monk Murder Mystery being a paperback so I can order it on Amazon. I have no problem with reading just for pure pleasure.

My main message at this point is simple. Just read. Try to read at least a little bit every day. There are days I can get really constructive and focused and read a whole lot. There are days I don’t get in as much. Usually Allie goes to bed earlier than I do and I just get up and go to the living room and read. She knows and is fine with it. For me, it is a great way to clear my mind. Then as I go to sleep, I look up a few verses of a passage of Scripture, namely the Psalms I’m going through now, and just think about those verses as I drift to sleep. It seems to work well.

I fear a culture that does not read. A culture like this is uneducated and is easily swayed by every wind that comes along. At this point, I honestly don’t care if you agree with me as a Christian or not. I simply ask that you read. If you want to remain an atheist, at least seek to be educated on both sides in your atheism. If you are a strong Christian, by all means keep reading your Bible, but make sure to read the works of other great minds that have bent the knee to Christ and sought to pass their wisdom on to you. They have much to teach you.

I just hope our culture is willing to learn.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Why Reading Is So Important

August 20, 2013

Does it matter that you read? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Right now, I’m a bit ticked off. Why? I get up this morning and I’m just browsing Facebook and one of the first stories that I see is this one about a librarian who I immediately find disgraceful. Those interested can read the story here.

Basically, there’s a boy who has won the reading contest every year and she wants him to step aside and is even thinking of turning the contest, which it is, into a pull a winner out of a hat deal. Many kids are doing the bare minimum of reading just to attend a party. Tyler, the boy who is winning every year, is not.

I have been an avid reader all my life. Growing up, my great love was mysteries. I went to the library and checked out and read all the Hardy Boys books that I could find. Then, having read those, I actually went and read Nancy Drew. Heck. Who cares if the hero is a female? It’s a mystery. My mother read Mary Higgins Clark and I started reading all the books of hers that I could.

And honestly, I wish I’d done more. I had no particular subject matter driving me when I was younger or I would have likely read more.

Today, I study apologetics and I find reading to be immensely valuable. I had read the whole Bible by the time I was in 7th grade and from them on and still today, I start right over and go through the whole book again when I’m done. I can easily say the Bible is the book I have read more than any other.

When I first started into apologetics, my parents started to panic some. Why? Because I came home from the bookstore constantly with more books. It’s not that they complained about me reading. Of course not! Their concern was “How will we have room for all of these books?” In fact, when I got married, I had to share living space with someone and so I had to part with several books. Right now, the bookshelves in here are still full and I’m having to pile books on top and still more are coming in. Allie really keeps hoping I’ll get most of the books on the Kindle instead.

How could I not encourage reading?

What are the benefits of reading?

The more you read, the less likely you’ll be caught flat-footed. Learn the subject matter you want to know well and read on it. You’re not going to be able to be a master of everything. That’s fine. Choose what you want to be proficient in and go for that area. Enjoy it to the best of your ability and read in it. That way, you will know the facts the best in the area that you’re reading in and be able to explain why you believe what you believe. (This doesn’t apply to just Christians. I’d encourage this for everyone)

Read both sides of the argument. It’s easy to know your worldview is right when you read one side. It’s in fact easier to know it when you read both sides. Why? Because you yourself have witnessed the comparison and allowed your worldview to be tested by the best that is out there. Of course, for this, I encourage reading only the best books that you can by those who you know have done their homework.

Also, when you read, you hear more in your own mind than your own thoughts. Now none of us I suspect have mastered this yet, but I know when I’m going through a tough time, I don’t just have the tape recorder of my own head going. I have thoughts from several other sources. I have Scripture. I have philosophers I have read. I have great ideas of scholarship. I have wisdom from numerous places stored in my memory based on the things that I have read. When I want to know my Christianity is true, I don’t ever go and try to find a subjective feeling. I think on the things that I have read and examine them and see if I have missed anything.

Furthermore, I think this is biblical. We are to be informed in our faith and wise. Now to be sure, not everyone is meant to be a scholarly type. Not everyone will sit and read continuously. That’s okay. At least have something that you’re always going through even if you’re just reading a few pages a night before you go to bed.

Read something also that sparks your attention. Some books are bad. Some books are just boring. Not everyone is an engaging writer. If the book you’re reading is not a good book and you have no personal obligation to read it, then don’t bother.

Also, fiction can be highly beneficial. I don’t read a lot of it, but you can still get something good out of it. I still like to read Mary Higgins Clark. If someone dropped a Hardy Boys on my doorstep, I’d probably read it. I have also read all the Monk mystery novels and when Smallville was out, yep. I read those too.

You could consider the fictional classics. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” is actually written from a Christian worldview. There’s something to get you started talking to fans of Twilight. You could read the Greek plays, Aesop’s fables, or Grimm’s fairy tales. (Which I also understand to be from a Christian worldview) Of course, many of us already know about classics like the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings.

I would add one caveat. Still make sure you take time for your own family. Even Ecclesiastes says too much study will make you tired. There is a time for play. I still do some gaming, though usually while listening to a podcast to get the most out of my time. I also know that if Allie really wants to do something with me, that’s the time to put the book away. I still make the time. For instance, when she’s gone to sleep, I will often get up and go into the living room and just mind my own self getting in some late night reading.

The librarian in the above story I consider disgraceful. I’m a graduate of Johnson University (Formerly Johnson Bible College) around here and still go to the library and many of the professors have sadly agreed with me that I use the library more than most students. One professor told me about seeing a student over the summer and asking “What are you reading over the summer?” and getting the answer of “Nothing.” I complimented him on his self-restraint in not smacking the guy right then and there.

I say this and I think people of every worldview could agree with it. Read. Years ago, I went back to my old high school and went to an English class I used to belong to and the teacher introduced me to the students. What did I find myself telling the students to do without prompting from the teacher? Telling them to read. It was the most important advice I could give.

It still is.

In Christ,
Nick Peters