Saturday, July 14, 2012

more on reading Lit

Here are more highlights from Tony Reinke in Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading (Crossway, 2011).  

On imagination and the gospel:

We imagine because God imagines. In fact, before the world began, everything merely existed in God’s imagination. Entire chapters could be devoted to God’s imaginative genius on display in creation: the design of the sun, planets, plants, animals, molecules, DNA, and more. 

But God’s imaginative genius is also displayed in the gospel. Think about it. The gospel weaves together a genealogy of dodgy characters into an unlikely ancestry for the Savior. The gospel was foretold by centuries of ancient prophecies, many of them fragmented and scattered throughout the Old Testament, to a people who could not make sense of it all. In time, the genealogy and the prophecies merged together into a cohesive plan that led to the birth of the incarnate Son of God.

So ingenious is the gospel plan, that when men and Satan conspired to kill and bury the Savior, they only hastened the Father’s plan for his Son’s victory. This entire plan developed in God’s imagination long before the world existed (Eph. 3:7–10; 1 Pet. 1:18–20).

We imagine because our Creator imagines. And with our imagination we can now “see” eternal reality (2 Cor. 4:18). This divine imagination, this ability to see the unseen, is a skill God has given us for our spiritual profit. 

On reading Christ-centered theology:

Christ is the centerpiece of Scripture, the focus of heaven, and the stage that displays God’s glory. “For in the cross of Christ, as in a magnificent theatre, the inestimable goodness of God is displayed before the whole world,” John Calvin wrote. “In all the creatures, indeed, both high and low, the glory of God shines, but nowhere has it shone more brightly than in the cross.”

Theologically weighty books about Christ are essential for the soul—for men and women. And although women purchase the 
majority of books released by Christian publishers, women are far less likely to read theological books, writes counselor and author Elyse Fitzpatrick. In her 2003 evaluation of the Christian publishing industry, she writes, “Many women are intimidated by the thought of studying something that is ‘theological’ in nature. They are afraid of being bored, looking foolish, becoming unattractive to men, or becoming divisive.” And she confronts women who would rather read only novels as a way to escape personal disappointments, and who read these books to “build fantasy castles filled with knights on white steeds who will come to rescue her from her mundane, stressful, empty, or disappointing life.” Rather, she offers this challenge: “Let’s become known as a generation of women who delight in, tremble before, receive counsel from, drink, devour, digest, muse upon, and absolutely cherish God and the truth that He’s revealed about Himself and about ourselves. Let’s not worry about whether we look dumb or too smart.” 

On reading for pleasure:

I do not use reading to avoid reality, but I do read to temporarily escape to another world. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Now there is a clear sense in which all reading whatever is an escape. It involves a temporary transference of the mind from our actual surroundings to things merely imagined or conceived. This happens when we read our Bible or history books, and no less when we read fiction. All such escape is from the same thing; immediate, concrete actuality. The important question is what we escape to.”

If time allowed, I would march across Middle Earth annually.  Escaping into this foreign land is not an escape into unreality, but is very often an escape into a more blunt form of reality. 

“The end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing.” Good literature instructs the reader as it delights the reader, because thoughtful readers are “putting together what should never be split—excitement and knowledge, joy and truth, ecstasy and value."  

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