Thursday, November 29, 2007

Books a plenty

I mentioned Allan Bevere's blog a couple of posts ago. Well I'm going to draw attention to one of his posts again,
Elements of Good Preaching #3: The Life of Study. Allan makes the point that preachers (one of the comments adds that anyone who desires to grow spiritually) should be constantly reading. And not just the Bible. Preachers should constantly be upgrading their knowledge base by reading from various fields including theology, pastoral ministry, and biblical studies. John Wesley said,

I want to know one thing, — the way to heaven; how to
land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach
the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down
in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God!
I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius
libri. [A man of one book.] - Preface to Sermons of John
Wesley, volume 1.

Wesley read the Bible, spoke the Bible, taught the Bible,
and lived the Bible the best he could. But he also read other books.
His life was measured by his reading of the Bible. But his mind was
enriched by the reading of other books.

Anyone who visits my office will see plenty of books. If you go to my home you will find books. If you look on my computer you will find a large folder of e-books that I have downloaded. Reading is my primary source of information. It may be reading on the internet (although you always need to fact check the internet). Or I may pull a book off of one of my shelves. At any time I could be reading from 3 to 7 books. It may not sustained reading. I may read a little each week. But I constantly have books available.

There are some who call the age we are shifting through the "post-literate" age. By that, most mean that we are visually, image, and icon oriented for a our information. Pictures (still and moving) are replacing text as our primary medium of learning.

The simple truth is that we don't read as much as we used to. In days gone by, the newspaper was the main source of, well, news. Now we have multiple 24-hour news services available on our televisions. Talk radio has replaced the editorial page as the opinion platform with talk radio hosts become stars in their own right. The internet puts more information before us than any person had available in the previous two thousand years combined (or so it seems).

We all need to grow our brain matter. According to the Literacy Company, more than 20 percent of adults read at or below a 5th grade level; more than 3 out of 4 of those on welfare, 85% of unwed mothers, and 68% of those who are arrested are illiterate; 44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child. 50% of American adults are unable to read an 8th grade level book.

With all of the increase in information available we seeing large numbers of people who can't read or understand it. Prior to the Renaissance (the explosion of culture, art, and learning from 14th to 17th centuries) the ability to read was mostly limited to the clergy and the very wealthy. With the coming of the Renaissance, and especially the printing press, more people had access to books and written material. The spread of the Protestant Reformation, the revival of John Wesley, and the birth of the United States of America all took advantage of the ability to read and the availability of material to read.

There is a lot more I could push on this. But I've gone far afield from where I intended this post to go. So I want to come back around and encourage you to read more. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read your Bible. Read outside of your interests. Read people you know you will disagree with.

Here are some suggestions:

The library. If we don't support this wonderful blessings in our community, they will go away.

The Guttenberg Project - This is an online collection of over 20,000 free books you can download to your computer.

Wowio - This is a subscription based service. You register and can download up to 3 books a day for free. They have many subjects and areas of interest. (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

Plough Publishing House - This is the printing house of the Bruderhoff religious community. There are some outstanding titles on this site. You can download them for free. (You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

I am sure there are many other websites for downloading electronic books.

Then there are bookstores a plenty.

Get out there and read. Give a book for Christmas. Spend some time developing the gray matter. And pass it on to others.

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