Oh, this hurts …

One more quote:

Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; but he left the army because, in spite of all his erudition, he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without a degree. He began a paper called The Watchman which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him: “He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one—the gift of sustained and concentrated effort.” In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said himself, “completed save for transcription.” “I am on the eve,” he says, “of sending to the press two octavo volumes.” But the books were never composed outside Coleridge’s mind, because he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline.

—Donald Whitney quoting William Barclay in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (22)

Thanks, Glenn, (I think) for sending that our way!

Is “informed” the same as “wise”?

Rod Dreher writes:

I am becoming the ideal 21st-century American: a soft-bellied physical slacker who knows everything going on right this very second but understands less and less of it. Information is not the same thing as knowledge, and “data” is not a synonym for “wisdom.”

Well said. Read the whole piece HERE.

(Thanks, Matt, for pointing us to this article!)

A Divine Cordial

I recently finished reading All Things For Good (A Divine Cordial was the original title) by Thomas Watson, who was a 17th-century Puritan preacher. I realize that books written by Puritan authors probably don’t take up much shelf-space in the average modern library. This particular book had banded together with Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor and hunkered down on a corner shelf, bravely representing their brethren among the more glamorously-inked lumber that retains the majority in my own library.

However, Watson’s book providentially made it’s way into my hands not long ago and I was surprised at how forcefully relevant it was to me. Watson lays his expository case out in a logical, easy to follow way, just as you should expect from a preacher. But it’s his recognition and use of rhythm and balance that gives the reader so many truth-encapsulating sentences, sentences that stay with him long after the book is closed. I’m posting some of these very sentences here in hopes that you’ll see what I mean, and perhaps go lug a Puritan out from your own shelf.

Though a Christian has not a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Gospel, yet he has a certain knowledge.  … Let us then not rest in skepticism or doubts, but labor to come to a certainty in the things of religion.

Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us.

If God does not give you that which you like, He will give you that which you need.

God will not be an inmate, to have only one room in the heart, and all the other rooms let out to sin.

He who is in love with God is not much in love with anything else.

What shall we think of such as have never enough of the world?

… may not Christ suspect us, when we pretend to love Him, and yet will endure nothing for Him?

Was His head crowned with thorns, and do we think to be crowned with roses?

Just in case …

If anyone’s been wondering about the movie The Golden Compass or about Philip Pullman’s whole trilogy of books under the title of His Dark Materials, I’ve written a few reflections in a document available on BibleDriven.com, at the post HERE.

A Lament and a Poignant Longing

For many of the image bearers of God in our day being literate is neither a goal nor a possibility. They have been rendered functionally autistic through the diversions of digital media, hyper hedonism, and pseudo-education that is more concerned with indoctrination than with the invocation of the muse, whose presence can transport us to unexplored lands of truth, even to eternity.

The National Endowment for the Arts laments (again) that reading is in steep decline. How can I provoke in my students the love of learning, the thrill of discovery, the discipline of finding, testing, and applying ideas? How can I commend reading over watching or playing? I can attempt to be a model of a literate man–a very imperfect one, who got a late start, and who chronically feels his ignorance. I can pray for them to awaken, to begin to disdain the cave they call a home.

— Douglas Groothuis

Reading List 2008

Last year I offered a suggested reading list of six Christian classics (see it HERE) in order to introduce readers to our great Christian literary heritage and asked simply that you commit before the Lord to read those books. A number of folks did just that, with wonderful results for their lives — having their faith strengthened, their hope renewed, their endurance encouraged, their thinking challenged, and their love of God and his Church deepened.

So, still with some trepidation, I offer for your reading pleasure and further spiritual growth the reading list for 2008:

(JANUARY-FEBRUARY) Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality — What does true, biblical, Christian spirituality, grounded in Christ’s finished work, look like in real, everyday life? How do we live our Christian lives both more effectively and freely, every moment, by the grace of God? These are the sorts of issues Schaeffer characteristically helps us think more clearly and biblically about. Read this book carefully and thoughtfully and it will have a profound effect on your life.

(MARCH-APRIL) Jonathan Edwards’s The Life and Diary of David Brainerd — David Brainerd was a passionate, self-denying, praying man of God, who said on his 24th birthday, “I hardly ever so longed to live to God and to be altogether devoted to Him; I wanted to wear out my life in his service and for his glory ….” That would have been in 1742. In 1743, he gave himself wholeheartedly as a missionary to Native Americans in the northeast. In the fall of 1747, he died of tuberculosis. He was 29 years old. This is a book that will convict our lack of prayer and ignite in us a spirit of prayer.

(MAY-JUNE) J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism — The title says it all: theological liberalism is not the same thing as Christianity! That’s the case Machen argues, and this is a classic book in the great battle for Truth and the true Faith once and for all delivered to the saints.

(JULY-AUGUST) Harry Blamires’s The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? — Blamires was a student of C. S. Lewis and offers to us in this book the basics of a Christian worldview and an understanding of how being a Christian affects the way we think about all kinds of things. Foundational reading!

(SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER) Os Guinness’s When No One Sees: The Importance of Character in an Age of Image — An exploration on how to change the ways we live for good. Chapters include “The Importance of Character,” “Character in the Crucible,” “Cultural Erosions of Character,” “Spiritual Foundations for Strong Character,” and “Heroes of Character.”

(NOVEMBER-DECEMBER) Paul Little’s Know What You Believe — This book is a wonderful summary of the basics of the Christian faith. You might also want to follow this reading with his next, entitled Know Why You Believe.

Once again, this offers a very “do-able” schedule of one book every two months. I encourage you to take the plunge into our greater Christian literary heritage, this aspect of “the communion of the saints,” to hear the instruction of those who’ve gone before us, and then faithfully to pass it on to those who follow.

Hurry up, please …

As I was thinking of life today, particularly my own — where I’ve been, where I am now, and what might be left — I ran across again a statement from Goethe that was especially poignant: “We learn only in old age what happened to us in our youth.” I’m learning something of the truth of that, and something of the regret that accompanies it. Oh, I’m thankful, so very much, for the life that I’ve been given, but the older I get the more I wonder whether I’ve done very well at redeeming the time. It made me think of this passage also from Michael Dirda (see Ben’s post below):

In mid-career, the Russian short-story writer Isaac Babel was arrested by the secret police and never seen again. As he was hustled away, Babel was heard to shout, “But I was not given time to finish.” Who is? Whatever you intend to accomplish with your life, you’d better get a move on, before that last call unexpectedly rings out, “Hurry up, please. It’s time.”

The Results of Good Reading…

A friend of ours, Bethany Mendenhall, has posted some thoughts about her recent reading of one of the modern American classics, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, on her blog. In addition to being moved by the story, she made the connection to the importance of the author’s work in its contemporary setting as well as its applicability to today. As a result, she has started a conversation, through comments on the piece, about truth with a couple of readers.

This is what we hope will happen as we read and think and then express these thoughts to others.

Make sure you read Bethany’s post.

It’s Better in Egypt …

 …But what more oft, in nations grown corrupt,                   

    And by their vices brought to servitude,

    Than to love bondage more than liberty,

    Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty…

-John Milton, Samson Agonistes

 

Americans can still be smart and creative, but the pressure of the times is oriented toward quickness–we want instant messaging, live news breaks, fast food, mobile phoning, and snap judgements.  As a result, we are growing into a shallow people, happy enough with the easy gratifications of mere speed and spectacle in all aspects of life.  Real books are simply too serious for us.  Too slow.  Too hard.  Too long.  Now and again, we may feel that just maybe we’ve short-changed our better selves, that we might have listened to great music, contemplated profoundly moving works of art, read books that mattered, but instead we turned away from them because it was time to tune in to Law and Order reruns, or jack into a Warcraft game on our home computer, or get back to the latest made-for-TV best seller. 

…In short, we turn toward the bright and shiny, the meretricious tinsel, the strings of brightly colored beads for which we exchange our intellectual birthright as for a mess of pottage.  For all too many twenty-first century Americans, only the unexamined life is worth living.

-Michael Dirda, Reading Beyond the Best-Seller List: A Polemic and a Plea