Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Contrasts Review: Reading

A Contrasts Review is where we contrast very different kinds of material
to better understand them all.

Veith, Gene Edward, Jr. Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature. Wheaton: Crossway, 1990. 254 Pages. Paper. $19.99. www.crossway.org (LHP)

Arthurs, Jeffrey D. Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture: The Transforming Power of the Well-Spoken Word. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2012. 137 Pages. Paper with DVD video. $19.99. www.kregel.com (LP)


We've all heard poor reading of Scripture in a public setting. 
At one time or another, we have all likely been intimidated by great literature or confused why "junk food" books have broad popular appeal. 

This review focuses on reading from and with a Christian worldview.
 

A 1990 modern classic by Dr. Veith gets a new cover!


Reading Between the Lines was foundational reading for me as a new pastor in the early 2000's.

Gene Edward Veith Jr. (PhD, University of Kansas) is provost and professor of literature at Patrick Henry College and the director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary. He has been a columnist for World magazine and TableTalk, and is the author of a number of noted books on Christianity and culture, including God at Work.

Here is a guidebook for those who want to learn how to recognize books that are spiritually and aesthetically good—to cultivate good literary taste. Gene Edward Veith presents basic information to help book lovers understand what they read—from the classics to the bestsellers. He explains how the major genres of literature communicate. He explores ways comedy, tragedy, realism, and fantasy can portray the Christian worldview. These discussions lead to a host of related topics—the value of fairy tales for children, the tragic and the comic sense of life, the interplay between Greek and Biblical concepts in the imagination, and the new "post-modernism" (a subject of vital importance to Christians).

In the pages of this book, readers will meet writers, past and present who carry on a great literary tradition. By supporting worthy authors, Christians can exert a powerful influence on their culture.
(Publisher's Website)

This is a title needed now more than when it was new over twenty years ago before the rise of ebooks. Read it in ebook or paperback and be reminded why reading is important. We as Christians are people of the Book. Learn to cultivate good taste in what is universally good and godly, rather than vicarious sin experiences (cf. 46). Learn to appreciate fiction and fantasy as a lens to examine your own worldview (Chapter Eight). 

Dare to attempt the good Doctor's reading list (as I have) toward those ends (225ff).

Much more could be said about the author's conversational style and erudition. I will say this: He doesn't rub his intelligence, vocabulary, or education in the reader's face. In fact, he shares just enough to enlighten the reader so that we are no longer intimidated, discouraged, or overwhelmed by the wealth, breadth, and depth of the writing that Western Civilization has to offer, both objectively good and bad and subjectively tasteful or tasteless.

I was blessed by my first reading of this Christian guide to literature and doubly so in this 2013 reprint of Reading Between the Lines.


I see a need for better training for public speaking in general and for the public reading of Scripture in particular. This new offering from Kregel may be of help to you and your congregation.

How would your church be transformed if reading Scripture was a highlight of your services? Increasing the quantity and quality of Scripture-reading in your communal worship is a powerful way to reach the hearts of your congregation.

Grounded in both solid theology and communication theory, Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture will teach readers how to present Scripture in a compelling way. The book's comprehensive approach includes everything from simple delivery skills to the history of public reading, how to build a culture that values public reading, group reading, and how to prepare yourself spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for public reading.

The included DVD offers instruction, demonstration of the concepts and sample readings by Dr. Arthurs.
(Publisher's Website)
Christian traditions differ on the propriety of lay readers during Christian worship. I do not believe reading God's Word publicly during Divine Service is given to everyone. Reading is interpretation. Pastors are (and should be) best suited for the task. I am more than uncomfortable to have female readers to avoid any confusion with the Office of the Holy Ministry (cf. 1 Corinthians 14). Even when my Elders assist with the Old Testament and Epistle readings on a Communion Sunday, I do (and should) have an expectation of some preparation and seriousness about the task of sharing God's Word with the congregation. We all occasional stumble when we speak or read aloud, but the reason should not be unpreparedness.

The author wishes to "increase the quantity and quality of Scripture reading in church services" (110). A DVD accompanies the book to model what he teaches in the text. He shows at least a passing familiarity with Luther (e.g. 35) in a book that is usable by Lutheran congregations. Some of his advice is taken for granted in many circles (use of a translation as opposed to a paraphrase, have an introduction to the text to be read, 55). I suppose I should not be surprised at the low bar many set for the high calling of proclaiming Christ and Him crucified and risen for the forgiveness of our sins. 

I pray that Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture may be a blessing among readers of the Word in congregations and seminaries around the world.



Whether we read God's Word or the literary treasures of this world, preparation and thought is required. A Christian worldview is essential. And we ought always have an answer in Christ for those who ask us about our hope and why we Christians are salt and light in a dark world.



The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a permanent member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.