Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction

A friend sent me notice of Alan Jacob’s, The Pleasures of Reading (OUP). He says it is being hailed as something akin to Adler’s How to Read a Book. But my friend (who is quite the reader) says that it reads more like Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism. Either way, if it will help me help my students, members, and children treasure reading more than texting, then I am all for this work. Hopefully I can get Jacobs to sign a copy for me when he is in town. From the publisher:

In recent years, cultural commentators have sounded the alarm about the dire state of reading in America. Americans are not reading enough, they say, or reading the right books, in the right way.
In this book, Alan Jacobs argues that, contrary to the doomsayers, reading is alive and well in America. There are millions of devoted readers supporting hundreds of enormous bookstores and online booksellers. Oprah’s Book Club is hugely influential, and a recent NEA survey reveals an actual uptick in the reading of literary fiction. Jacobs’s interactions with his students and the readers of his own books, however, suggest that many readers lack confidence; they wonder whether they are reading well, with proper focus and attentiveness, with due discretion and discernment. Many have absorbed the puritanical message that reading is, first and foremost, good for you–the intellectual equivalent of eating your Brussels sprouts. For such people, indeed for all readers, Jacobs offers some simple, powerful, and much needed advice: read at whim, read what gives you delight, and do so without shame, whether it be Stephen King or the King James Version of the Bible. In contrast to the more methodical approach of Mortimer Adler’s classic How to Read a Book (1940), Jacobs offers an insightful, accessible, and playfully irreverent guide for aspiring readers. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of approaching literary fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, and the book explores everything from the invention of silent reading, reading responsively, rereading, and reading on electronic devices.
Invitingly written, with equal measures of wit and erudition, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction will appeal to all readers, whether they be novices looking for direction or old hands seeking to recapture the pleasures of reading they first experienced as children.


A contemporary companion to Mortimer Adler’s 1940 classic “How to Read a Book”

“As so many recent studies have suggested, the activity of reading itself is seriously threatened in this digital age. But Alan Jacobs — bless him — has an approach that will warm the hearts of serious readers and lead many prospective readers into the deeply satisfying swells of good prose. Reading should be a pleasure, and Jacobs shows us how to make sure we take delight in this work, which is not work at all. This is a witty and reader-friendly book, and it’s one I would happily give to any potential reader, young or old.” — Jay Parini, author of The Passages of H.M. and The Last Station”A vigorous and friendly exhortation to get back into the kind of reading that made you a reader in the first place.” –Library Journal

Product Details

176 pages; 5-1/2 x 8-1/4;ISBN13: 978-0-19-974749-8ISBN10: 0-19-974749-0

Alan Jacobs is a professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois. His books include The Narnian, a biography of C.S. Lewis, Original Sin: A Cultural History, and aTheology of Reading. His literary and cultural criticism has appeared in the Boston Globe, The American Scholar, and the Oxford American.

Mark Noll’s Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind available for pre-order at Amazon

Mark Noll’s highly anticipated sequel to The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994), Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, is available for pre-order through Amazon. Order it now and it will get here in time to make your summer reading pile! Scandal was a very important read for evangelicals. Reading it helped me think critically and soberly about the right goals for both my students and fellow church members, and how best to achieve these goals as we strive toward the enjoyment of Christ together. I look forward to Noll’s further thinking now almost twenty years later and how his reflections will help me think about achieving the goal of Christ with all my mind in the digital age, post-literate age, and age of terrorism.

From the publisher’s description:

In The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994) Mark Noll offered a bleak, even scathing, assessment of the state of evangelical thinking and scholarship. Now, nearly twenty years later, in a sequel that is more hopeful than despairing — more attuned to possibilities than to problems — Noll updates his assessment and charts a positive way forward for evangelical scholarship.

Noll shows how the orthodox Christology confessed in the classic Christian creeds provides an ideal vantage point for viewing the vast domains of human learning and can enhance intellectual engagement in a variety of specific disciplines, including history, science, and biblical studies. In a substantial postscript he candidly addresses the question How fares the “evangelical mind” today?

“If what we claim about Jesus is true, then evangelicals should be among the most active, most serious, and most open-minded advocates of general human learning. Evangelical hesitation about scholarship in general or about pursuing learning wholeheartedly is, in other words, antithetical to the Christ-centered basis of faith. Yet if there is an evangelical coloring to this book, and if evangelicals are the ones addressed most directly, I also hope that Catholics, Orthodox, other kinds of Protestants, and representatives of the world’s proliferating indigenous churches will find encouragement for approaching human learning as a distinctly Christian enterprise. In addition, I hope that nonbelievers and believers adhering to other faiths may find some clues in these pages for why at least some Christian supernaturalists are wholeheartedly committed to the tasks of learning.”
— from introduction

About the Author

Mark A. Noll is Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

Westminster Bookstore – Reformed Books – Low Prices – Flat Fee UPS Shipping – A Gracious and Compassionate God: Mission, Salvation and Spirituality in the Book of Jonah [New Studies in Biblical Theology Ne Timmer, Daniel C. 9780830826278

 Westminster Bookstore – Reformed Books – Low Prices – Flat Fee UPS Shipping – A Gracious and Compassionate God: Mission, Salvation and Spirituality in the Book of Jonah [New Studies in Biblical Theology Ne Timmer, Daniel C. 9780830826278.

Comprehensive Nature of Christian Engagement with Culture

“Any Christianity worth its salt will be a challenge to the pocketbook, the flag and the shrine.” (William J. Larkin, Acts Acts: IVP New Testament Commentary, 283. Commentary on Acts 19:23-27.)

Of making many books (and summer reading) there is no end: Ryken 1 Kings, 45% off

I recently told my Historical Books’ students about the new commentary on 1 Kings by Ryken:

I received announcement today of a new commentary on 1 Kings by Ryken that looks very useful for the task of exposition of 1 Kings…. Good commentaries on 1 and 2 Kings are very hard to find. Many commenters get lost in the history of the monarchies [seemingly] because they do not understand how narrative works. Few commentaries make appropriate application to modern church and culture, as many writers do not know how to move from Law to Gospel (Christ). Ryken is pretty good at this in his other commentaries, yielding fruit akin to what we teach you in [the interpretation series] courses and demonstrate in the Bible courses. So I suspect it will be the same for this one.

Westminster’s bookstore currently is offering the commentary at 45% off

This summer I have several books on the docket to complete before the start of the fall semester. These include works by Alexander, GrudemLeithart, MacArthur, Timmer, and Waltke. I am going through the excellent volume by Sailhamer as I am using it for a summer course in the Pentateuch. I still am trying to find a way to incorporate Hamilton’s outstanding work into a course. Then again, I haven’t figured out how to incorporate my own work into a course. Maybe you can give me some suggestions.

Time probably will not permit me to get as far as I would love to in the festschrifts to Piper and Carson, but I want to make an attempt to be in the Reformed-know. However, I most likely will fail quickly at that task, since I have no plans of jumping on the groupie wagon for Allison’s recently released, Historical Theology (Zondervan); in this vein, I simply want to finish the small text by Haykin (and in a related vein – and vainTrueman). Groupies, have it without me!

Two days ago I received by mail Metzger’s, The Gospel of John: When Love Comes to Town for a book review I intend to write. Just yesterday one of my colleagues suggested that I should pick up William Golding’s Pincher Martin: The Two Deaths of Christopher Martin, since I place Lord of the Flies on my list of the top three pieces of British Literature. (Huh?) No, the “Huh?” is for Pincher Martin, not Lord of the Flies as a top-three.  Lewis, Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury, and Golding each tried to warn us about where we were headed with “progress,” but we did not listen. Yet I also need to listen to Solomon. So maybe I will be cautious in slipping Golding into my travel bag. What I really need is for someone to slip me some money for all of these titles.

Douglas Wilson Study Guide for Calvin’s Institutes Available

This summer I have the exciting privilege of walking with two young men through Calvin’s Institutes using the Beveridge edition, Douglas Wilson’s new work, A Study Guide to Calvin’s Institutes, and Anthony Lane’s, A Reader’s Guide to Calvin’s Institutes. I am eager to have my own theological axe whet as we go through the Institutes together. (I am not a Calvin or Institutes’ expert, so I will gain help from David Hall and Ford Lewis Battles.)

On Wilson, see the product description below. You can peak at the book here. The Beveridge edition of the Institutes is available for Kindle.

Product Description

“Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from the Himalayas, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately . . . I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.” – Karl Barth

About the Author

Douglas Wilson is the pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho, and editor of Credenda/Agenda magazine. He is the author of many books, including Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Reforming Marriage, and A Primer on Worship and Reformation. He is also co-author with Christopher Hitchens of Is Christianity Good for the World? He and his wife Nancy have three children and fifteen grandchildren.

Book Review: Loving the Church, by Brian Croft @

Courtesy of 9Marks

By John Crotts

Reviewed by Brian Croft

Shepherd Press, 2010.
140 pages. $13.95

In the last several years, many evangelical Christians have begun to take two vital institutions more seriously: the family and the local church.Yet what would happen if, instead of seeing these two institutions as partners, we began to pit one against the other? Hard to imagine.

Nevertheless, it is happening. This is the primary reason why John Crotts, pastor of Faith Bible Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia, wrote Loving the Church: God’s People Flourishing in God’s Family.


As a faithful pastor of the same local church for over fifteen years, Crotts is burdened to equip Christian families to devote themselves to spiritual growth in the home. Yet among some evangelicals, he sees that that growth is being “disconnected” from any commitment to a local church (ch. 2). If you are familiar with many of 9Marks’ resources, you will not find this book to be full of new insights. Yet the author approaches his topic in a fresh and accessible way: he simulates a conversation with five Christians at a coffee shop.

The book proceeds in two main sections. Section oneexamines what the Bible teaches about the church. In this section Crotts does an excellent job of allowing the Bible to define the “blueprint of the local church,” its value to Christians, and why every Christian should be engaged in and committed to it.

Through his fictional dialogue, Crotts addresses some of the questions that Christians who neglect the church most commonly ask about the church. Further, Crotts highlights some key aspects of the church, such as Christ’s headship, the authority of God’s Word, elders, deacons, and the role that each Christian is to play (ch. 5).

Section two applies section one’s biblical arguments in order to help the reader understand how to act upon what God’s Word has revealed. Though the author’s focus is on families, every chapter can easily be applied to an individual Christian.

This section is practical and accessible. It accurately lays out how Christian families should see the local church as not only central in God’s plan for them, but also as a tremendous benefit, not a burden, to them. Through many helpful illustrations, Crotts shows how it is a benefit to a Christian and their family to submit to Christ and his plan for the church (ch. 7), to allow pastors/elders to teach and shepherd them (ch. 8), to serve alongside deacons (ch. 9), and to embrace the fellowship and accountability that every Christian needs in order to walk faithfully with Christ (ch. 10).


There are many benefits to this book for Christian families and individuals alike. In addition, here are some ways this book should particularly benefit pastors:

1. It’s a good tool for teaching people about the local church.

This book is a fun, easy read, yet it is chock full of rich, biblical content that would provide any Christian with a deeper understanding of the local church.

2. It highlights the significance of your preaching ministry.

Because the sermons of “famous pastors” have become so easily accessible, many so-called ordinary pastors grow discouraged and insecure about the value of their own preaching. Crotts encourages pastors to stay faithful in their preaching labor because God’s plan is for local churches to be led and fed by individual shepherds who watch over them:

When you are a member of a local church, God’s Word is applied specifically to you and your family by leaders who know you and see you functioning within the body of Christ. The specific elders that Jesus raised up in your church are personally charged to watch out for your soul and the souls of your family members.(96)

3. It reminds us why the biblical standard for a pastor exists.

A husband and father is called by God to shepherd his family. However, God’s plan is not that a Christian man should shepherd alone. Who helps that man shepherd his family? Who shepherds that man to faithfully shepherd his family? Pastors, we do! The author vividly portrays the pastor’s biblical calling (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 1: 5-9, 1 Pet. 5: 1-4) in order to help the reader realize that each family needs a shepherd outside themselves, and the husband/father needs assistance in his shepherding task.

This book speaks a piercing word to pastors. It reminds us of the biblical standard to which God calls us. And it reminds us why we must continue in faithfulness to that standard, for the sake of our own family as well as the local church that has been entrusted to us (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

Brian Croft is the senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville Kentucky and is the author, with Phil Newton, of Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals (Day One, 2011).

March/April 2011

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