I love books!
For those of you who have known me long enough, this comes as no surprise.
I currently have 20 different wish lists on my Amazon account totaling 267 different books (yes, I just added it up for the sake of this blog!). These wish lists range from theology to poetry to cultural criticisms to education. I love to read and I am beginning to believe that I am a generalist. I am interested in many different subjects and I want to learn about all of them.
I believe this is one of the reasons I am attracted to education. Doug Wilson once said that true education is selling someone in the love of books. I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more! Looking back over my life I have learned a lot from my formal education but that is not where I have learned the most. The most effective educators I have encountered have been the ones who encouraged or forced me to educate myself.
When I say “forced me” I do not mean that they were bad teachers and I was forced to teach myself. What I mean is that they taught in a way that mad me want to research the topic further for myself. These teachers were able to present the subject matter in such a way that it bore down on the students to such a degree that they must do something with the information. We were forced to either sit back and let the words roll over us, or we were forced to respond; and such a response necessitated research, research that went beyond the class curriculum.
As Christians we are necessarily people of the Word. Jesus is the Word become flesh (John 1). Moreover, it is by the word of Christ that we are made new (2 Corinthians 4). This being the case, Christians should be a peculiar people inclined towards words because we are in The Word.
Unfortunately, in our current context (21st century America) the Christian church is increasingly being drawn toward an image-based understanding of reality in contrast to a word-based one. Images are important, they do a wonderful job of revealing emotion and feeling. However, images fall short in clearly relaying objective truth. That is where words are necessary. Consider the following quotation from Kevin Meyers’ book, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes:
It might be that one of the reasons there is so little in the way of shared norms in our society is that our shared mode of knowledge, television, works against the communication of norms. A culture that is rooted more in images than in words will find it increasingly difficult to sustain any broad commitment to any truth, since truth is an abstraction requiring language. (pg. 164)
What happens when language is superseded by images? The communication of any truth is blurred by the sentiments of images. Like I said earlier, images are important because they powerfully relay emotion. However, when the image is used in attempt to relay truth at the expense of the word the only possible outcome is a break down of society.
If the Christian Church in the West has any hope of persevering it must return to a love of words, furthermore, it must return to a love for The Word.
Christians should be reading great literature. We should be a people who are well versed in great stories and deep thinkers.
Instead many of the most prominent Christian leaders have not even read the Reformers because they are too busy being “culturally relevant” and spend their time working on the video for their next sermon series on marriage.
We need a reformation. I believe that a small step in that direction could be to turn off the television and read more books!
Food for thought.