Friday, January 4, 2013

Reading in the Light

This book was made for us, reader. It is about reading. Specifically, it is a theology of reading. And so we begin book club for 2013 with Tony Reinke’s Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading, and my hope is that this book will be a useful way to begin your reading this year and will shape your thinking about reading for years to come.

Reinke splits his book into two parts: theology and practicality. In his Introduction he lists questions which form the basis for the book. The questions create a wide brief which Reinke will aim to answer in the book (such a small book!). He even offers a caveat on the second-half of the book, asking the reader to, “Please remember whenever I give advice in this book, it is nothing more than that- advice. It’s not a law or a command. Please listen to the advice, try it out, learn from it, improve it, or simply drop kick what doesn’t work for you.” (p. 18) Good, let’s focus on the theology then.

In the first chapter, Reinke establishes the primacy of the written Word of God at Mount Sinai. Of course, God speaks and establishes his covenant long before the Ten Commandments are given to Moses on Mount Sinai. But the point Reinke is making is this, “Mount Sinai demands that we distinguish between temporary books and the eternal Book, between a decomposing paperback from the pen of a sinner and a smoking stone tablet from the finger of God. If we fail to make this distinction, if we fail to prioritize the eternal Word over temporary books, our reading will never be distinctly Christian.” (p. 28) Reinke’s focus is unashamedly on the written word and our reading and response to it as shaped by the written Word. There is, of course, much more that can be said about Scripture as revelation, and if you are interested Peter Jensen’s The Revelation of God is a good place to begin.

In establishing this basis for the primacy of the Word of God in our lives Reinke raises important ideas about the nature and authority of Scripture. Following this he looks at our personal need for the Gospel, reading the Word of God is different to having a personal faith in the Word made flesh. This is an important distinction to make and Reinke shows how our faith, which necessarily shapes our worldview, will then impact on how we read. If we live sincerely as Christians, if our public and private selves are the same then what we read and how we read will be impacted by our life in Christ.

T. S. Eliot wrote in Four Quartets,
                                    The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
                                    Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
My interpretation of this is shaped by my understanding of the humility of Christ and my need to follow after Him, to be like Him. The Word incarnate will not only shape my reading of Scripture but my reading of all words.

The questions Reinke raises in his Introduction are important questions for those who read. This is a good book; it is also a pithy book. Turn off the television. Silence your phone. Read.

About our Contributor: Siรขn Lim enjoys reading, whether in silence or aloud, alone or with others. She has trouble understanding why some people don’t like to read, and became a high school English teacher, in part, to rectify this in a small section of the population. Currently she is completing a MA which gives her the opportunity to read widely and deeply. Her current interests include Heidegger and his impact on modern literature and life, and in dinosaurs, diggers and traffic lights, thanks to her two young sons, whom she enjoys reading to. 

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