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Between the Lines
by Gene Edward Veith
CHAPTER ONE- The Word and the Image: The Importance of Reading
This book is written to help people be better readers. The title, Reading Between the Lines, perhaps suggests a note of suspicion, that we need to scrutinize everything we read for sinister hidden meanings. My purpose is to promote critical reading, the habit of reading with discernment and an awareness of larger contexts and deeper implications. I will be attacking books that I consider morally, theologically, or aesthetically bad. I come, though, to praise books, not to bury them. The capacity to read is a precious gift of God, and this book is designed to encourage people to use this gift to its fullest.
Nor does reading between the lines imply an over-emphasis upon mere interpretation of literature. Although I hope to show readers how to read closely and understand what they read, I resist treating a poem or a novel like a puzzle that has to be figured out. Once the meaning is deciphered, under this view, we can put aside the book, perhaps wondering why its author did not just come out and tell us the idea in the first place. I contend that the imaginative activity that takes place as the eyes scan the page provides both the pleasure and the intellectual value of reading. Interpretation is important, but appreciation and enjoyment must come first.
Reading between the lines is a figure of speech. Attending to the empty spaces between the lines of print refers to what is left unsaid, to the values and assumptions that are an important dimension of what we read. We might also think of lines of demarcation, or even of battle lines. This book takes the reader between the lines of Christian and non-Christian literature, fantasy and realism, comedy and tragedy. Its method is to draw linesdistinguishing between words and images, the Greek and the Hebraic, the Modern and the Postmodernand to show how Christianity intersects with them all.
The habit of reading is absolutely critical today, particularly for Christians. As television turns our society into an increasingly image-dominated culture, Christians must continue to be people of the Word. When we read, we cultivate a sustained attention span, an active imagination, a capacity for logical analysis and critical thinking, and a rich inner life. Each of these qualities, which have proven themselves essential to a free people, is under assault in our TV-dominated culture. Christians, to maintain their Word-centered perspective in an image-driven world, must become readers.
This is often difficult. We live in a society which sponsors both a mass culture that minimizes reading and an elite intellectual culture which is highly literate but hostile to Christianity. This book is designed to help Christians recover the art of reading and to help them navigate their way through both the classics and the bestseller lists.
Some Christians do not realize that they are heirs to a great literary tradition. From the beginnings of the church to the present day, Christian writers have explored their faith in books, and in doing so have nourished their fellow believers. Some of the best writers who have ever lived have been Christians, working explicitly out of the Christian worldview. To their loss, many contemporary Christians are unaware of Christian writersboth those from past generations and those writing today. This book will introduce readers to these authors who can offer hours and years of pleasure and enrichment.
Although the subject of the book is literature, a host of other subjects will also be addressed. This is because literature, by its very nature, involves its readers in a wide range of issues, provoking thought in many directions. Our discussions of style and literary history will lead to the abortion controversy. Our discussions of comedy and tragedy will lead into the theology of Heaven and Hell. Our discussions of fairy tales will lead to child psychology. Reading can break us out of the tunnel vision of a narrow specialty and lead us into many intriguing and important avenues of thought, a process this book will try to model as well as to explain.
As a guide to literature, this book may be read in different ways. I hope that it can bear a sustained reading from beginning to end. It can also be read in parts. Each section and each chapter is somewhat self-contained. Someone curious about how comedy works or what post-modernism involves can turn to those chapters. With its index to authors, movements, and issues, the book can function as a reference work.
Several kinds of readers should find something of value in this book. Those with little background in literature, including students of various levels, will learn about the techniques of literature and how to read with greater understanding and appreciation. Those with more experience in reading already know such things, but they may find other topics of interest: the contrast between the classical and the Hebraic traditions; the tragic sense of life as opposed to the comic sense of life; my analysis of the role of existentialism and fascism in Modernist and Postmodernist culture. I also address those who wish to take their place in the Christian literary tradition as poets or novelists. I try to show them how Christian authors in every age have used the writing styles common in their day to express the Christian faith.
This book does not deal with all of the theoretical issues involved in the relationship between Christianity and literature. Other books do that well, and I highly recommend them. I hope readers will consult the footnotes as well as the text and that some will go on to read the works of scholarship I cite. I have been free with my quotations in order to give readers a taste of what there is to read. My own approach is that of a literary historian, eclectic critic, and voracious reader for whom Christianity and literature have proven mutually illuminating.
The first chapter explores why reading has always been so important to Christianity. Words and images promote two totally different mind-sets. Christians must be people of the Word, although the old temptation to succumb to graven images is present in a new form in the television age. The second chapter describes the good and the bad pleasures that reading can promote. It discusses such topics as the different kinds of bad language and the need to cultivate the art of criticism and to acquire a taste for excellence.
The next section contains chapters on each of the major genres of literature: nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Each chapter explains the inner workings of the form and focuses on Christian writers who excel in each genre.
The next section examines the diverse modes of literary expression: tragedy, comedy, realism, and fantasy. Whether a work of literature makes the reader cry or laugh, whether it imitates the world or creates a new oneeach mode of literature can open the mind and the imagination in significant ways.
The next section surveys literary history. Chapters on Medieval and Reformation literature, Enlightenment and Romantic literature, and Modern and Postmodern literature show how and why literature has changed, and how Christian writers have managed to be relevant in every age.
The last chapter explores the relationship between authors, publishers, and readers. It examines the workings of the literary establishment and the Christian alternatives. It shows how Christian readers, by patronizing worthy writers, can have a major impact on the literary marketplace and thus on the culture as a whole.
The Ethiopian eunuch was reading a good book, but that was not enough. Philip asked him, Do you understand what you are reading?
He replied, How can I unless someone explains it to me? (Acts 8:30, 31).
Philip should perhaps be the patron saint of literary critics. The critic simply hopes to do the work of Philip, offering explanations and interpretations as he and the reader bounce along in the chariot. The center of attention should be the bookultimately, the Bookthrough which the Living Word, the author and finisher of our faith, reveals Himself (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).
This particular book, by the same token, is meant to call attention to other books, and ultimately to the depths of truth and meaning expressed in the written words of Scripture. My central purpose will be served if through this book a reader discovers the poetry of George Herbert or the childrens stories of Walter Wangerin, gains insight into Scripture by noticing its parallelism or nonvisual imagery, or turns off the TV one night to settle down with a good book.
The Word and the Image: The Importance of Reading
Will reading become obsolete?
Some people think that with the explosion of video technology, the age of the
book is almost over. Television monitors, fed by cable networks and video
recorders, dominate our culture today.Our fads and fashions, politics and
morals, entertainment and leisure time are all shaped and controlled by
whatever is transmitted on the diode screen. As electronic communication
develops at an astonishing rate, who is to saythat such arcane skills as
reading and writing can or even need to survive?
One thing, however, is certain: Reading can never die out among Christians. This is because the whole Christian revelation centers around a Book. God chose to reveal Himself to us in the most personal way through His Wordthe Bible. The word Bible is simply the Greek word for "the Book." Indeed the Bible is the primal Book, the most ancient of all literary texts and the source of all literacy. Reading the Bible tends to lead to reading other books, and thus to some important habits of mind.
PEOPLE OF THE BOOK
The centrality of the Bible means that the very act of reading can have spiritual significance. Whereas other religions may stress visions, experiences, or even the silence of meditation as the way to achieve contact with the divine, Christianity insists on the role of language.1
Language is the basis for all communication and so lies at the heart of any personal relationship.2 We can never know anyone intimately by simply being in that persons presence. We need to have a conversation in order to share our thoughts and our personalities. By the same token, we need a conversation with Godtwo-way communication through languagein order to know Him on a personal basis. Just as human beings address God by means of language through prayer, God addresses human beings by means of language in the pages of Scripture. Prayer and Bible reading are central to a personal relationship with God. Christians have to be, in some sense, readers.
Creation itself was accomplished by Gods Word (Hebrews 11:3), and Jesus Christ Himself is none other than the living Word of God (John 1:1). The Word of the gospel, the good news that Jesus died for sinners and offers them eternal life, is a message in human language which calls people to salvation. "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" - Romans 10:17.3 Gods Word is written down in the pages of the Bible. Human beings, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have recorded what God has revealed about Himself and His acts in history. In the Bible, God reveals His relationship to us, setting forth the law by which we should live and the gospel of forgiveness through Christ. As we read the Bible, God addresses us in the most intimate way, as one Person speaking to another.
When we read the Bible, we are not simply learning doctrines or studying historyalthough we are doing those things. "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" - Hebrews 4:12. As we read the Bible, all of the senses of "The Word of God" come togetherGods creative power, His judgment, Jesus Christ, and proclamation of the gospeland are imprinted in our minds and souls. In the Word, the Holy Spirit is at work.
Certainly the Word of the gospel can be proclaimed orally and not in writing alone. In church we hear the Word of God preached, and even in casual witnessing, the Word of God is being shared. In cultures that lack Bibles or people who know how to read them, the church has managed to survive through the oral proclamation of the Word, although often with many errors and difficulties. Still, the priority that God places on language and the idea that Gods Word is personally accessible to us in a book has meant that Christians have always valued reading and writing.
Even when books were rare and expensive, having to be copied out by hand, so that common people remained uneducated, at least the priests had to know how to read. The Reformation was providentially accompanied by the invention of the printing press, enabling books to be cheaply mass-produced. This meant that the Bible could be put into the hands of every Christian. Every Christian, therefore, needed to learn how to read. Universal literacy, taken for granted today, was a direct result of the Reformations reemphasis upon the centrality of Bible reading, not only for theologians but for the spiritual life of every Christian.
Missionaries to nonliterate cultures often begin by mastering the peoples language and giving them a system of writing. They then translate the Bible and teach the people how to read it in their own language. The Word of God begins to transform its readers. Once people know how to read the Bible, of course, they can read anything. Tribes go on to discover modern health care and the need for social change, just as the Reformation Christians, empowered by Bible reading, went on to develop scientific technology, economic growth, and democratic institutions.
When ideas and experiences can be written down, they are, in effect, stored permanently. People are no longer bound by their own limited insights and experiences, but they can draw on those of other people as well. Instead of continually starting over again, people can build upon what others have discovered and have written down. Technological, economic, and social progress become possible. The impact of writing can be seen plainly by comparing nonliterate cultures, many of which still exist on the Stone Age level, with those that have had the gift of writing. Nonliterate peoples tend to exist in static, unchanging societies, whereas literate societies tend toward rapid change and technological growth.
Christians, along with Jews and Moslems, are considered "people of the Book." Such reverence for reading and writing has profoundly shaped even our secular society. Certainly, non-Biblical cultures have made great use of writing, but this was almost always reserved for the elite. The religious idea that everyone should learn how to read in order to study the Bible (a view implicit in the Hebrew bar mitzvah and carried out in the Reformation school systems) would have radical consequences in the West. Universal education has led to the breaking of class systems, the ability of individual citizens to exercise political power, and a great pooling of minds that would result in the technological achievements of the last four hundred years. It is no exaggeration to say that reading has shaped our civilization more than almost any other factor and that a major impetus to reading has been the Bible.
ELECTRONICALLY GRAVEN IMAGES
Reading has been essential to our civilization, yet today its centrality is under attack by the new electronic media. If reading has had vast social and intellectual repercussions, we should wonder about the repercussions of the new media. Can democratic institutions survive without a literatethat is, a readingpopulace, or will the new modes of thinking lend themselves to new forms of totalitarianism? Can educational and intellectual progress continue if visual imagery supplants reading, or will the new information technologies, ironically, subvert the scientific thinking that created them, resulting in anti-intellectualism and mass ignorance?
Such issues are critical for the culture as a whole, but they are especially urgent for the church. Is it possible for Biblical faith to ?flourish in a society that no longer values reading, or will the newly dominant images lead to new manifestations of the most primitive paganism? Ever since the Old Testament, graven images have tempted Gods people to abandon the true God and His Word. Today the images are graven by electrons on cathode ray tubes.
Neil Postman is a media scholar and one of the most astute social critics of our time. His writings focus, with great sophistication, on how different forms of communication shape peoples thinking and culture. Postman says that he first discovered the connection between media and culture in the Bible: "In studying the Bible as a young man, I found intimations of the idea that forms of media favor particular kinds of content and therefore are capable of taking command of a culture." He found this concept in the Ten Commandments: "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" - Exodus 20:4 (RSV).
I wondered then, as so many others have, as to why the God of these people would have included instructions on how they were to symbolize, or not symbolize, their experience. It is a strange injunction to include as part of an ethical system unless its author assumed a connection between forms of human communication and the quality of a culture. We may hazard a guess that a people who are being asked to embrace an abstract, universal deity would be rendered un?t to do so by the habit of drawing pictures or making statues or depicting their ideas in any concrete, iconographic forms. The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking. Iconography thus became blasphemy so that a new kind of God could enter a culture. People like ourselves who are in the process of converting their culture from word-centered to image-centered might profit by reflecting on this Mosaic injunction.4
According to Postman, "word-centered" people think in a completely different mode from "image-centered" people. His distinction is especially important for Christians, for whom the "Mosaic injunction" is eternally valid.
In an important book on education, Postman explores the differences between the mental processes involved in reading and those involved in television watching. Reading demands sustained concentration, whereas television promotes a very short attention span. Reading involves (and teaches) logical reasoning, whereas television involves (and teaches) purely emotional responses. Reading promotes continuity, the gradual accumulation of knowledge, and sustained exploration of ideas. Television, on the other hand, fosters fragmentation, anti-intellectualism, and immediate gratification.5
Postman does not criticize the content of televisionthe typical worries about "sex and violence" or the need for quality programming. Rather, the problem is in the properties of the form itself. Language is cognitive, appealing to the mind; images are affective, appealing to the emotions.
This difference between symbols that demand conceptualization and reflection and symbols that evoke feeling has many implications, one of the most important being that the content of the TV curriculum is irrefutable. You can dislike it, but you cannot disagree with it. There is no way to show that the feelings evoked by the imagery of a McDonalds commercial are false, or indeed, true. Such words as true and false come out of a different universe of symbolism altogether. Propositions are true or false. Pictures are not.6
Postman goes on to connect the newly emerging dominance of electronic images over words to habits of mind that are having monumental social consequences: to the undermining of authority, the loss of a sense of history, hostility to science, pleasure-centeredness, and the emergence of new values based on instant gratification and the need to be continually entertained. The new media direct us "to search for time-compressed experience, short-term relationships, present-oriented accomplishment, simple and immediate solutions. Thus, the teaching of the media curriculum must lead inevitably to a disbelief in long-term planning, in deferred gratification, in the relevance of tradition, and in the need for confronting complexity."7 The social acceptance of sexual immorality, the soaring divorce rates, and the pathology of drug abuse may well be related to this pursuit of instant pleasure at all costs.
And yet, human beingsmade as we are for higher purposes can scarcely live this way. The untrammeled emotionalism, the isolation, and the fragmentation of mind encouraged by the new information environment lead to mental illness, suicide, and emotional collapse. "Articulate language," on the other hand, according to Postman, "is our chief weapon against mental disturbance."8 If the trends he sees continue to develop, Postman foresees a future in which we have "people who are in touch with their feelings, who are spontaneous and musical, and who live in an existential world of immediate experience but who, at the same time, cannot think in the way we customarily use that word. In other words, people whose state of mind is somewhat analogous to that of a modern-day baboon."9
The impact of the TV mentality on politics is already clearly evident. Rational, sustained debate of issues has been replaced by "sound-bites"brief "media events" that can play on the evening news. Political campaigns are managed by "image consultants," and candidates are chosen for their charisma and the way they appear on TV rather than for their ideas and policies.10 American democracy was the creation of a word-centered culture and a literate populace.11 Whether the traditions of freedom and democracy can be sustained without that basis is questionable. An easily manipulated population that cares mostly for its own amusement may be more ready for tyranny (which can keep the masses happy with "bread and circuses") than for the arduous responsibilities of self-government.
The impact of the new mentality upon religion is even more significant. The appeal of the New Age movement with its almost comical irrationalism is evidence that categories such as true or false, revelation or superstition, have become irrelevant for many people.12 The sophisticated and affluent pay large sums of money to hear the wisdom of ancient Egyptian warriors or extra-terrestrial aliens purportedly taking over the bodies of the "channelers." Well-educated socialites plan their lives by horoscopes. Trendy movie stars solve their problems by means of magical crystals. How can anyone believe such things? If people stop thinking about religion in propositional terms (part of the heritage of "the Word"), abandoning truth or falsehood as religious categories, then belief hardly enters into it. Even among Christians today, religious discussions often focus upon "what I like" rather than "what is true." Those whose main concern is self-gratification search in exactly the same way for religious gratification.
Of course, Christians know that there is nothing "new" in the New Age movement, which the Bible terms demon possession, divination, and idolatry. The New Age movement is simply the paganism of the Old Age. Such primitive and oppressive superstitions squelched human progress for millennia. Ironically, our advanced technology is resulting in a new primitivism, in which the gains of thousands of years of civilization are glibly rejected by a post-literate culture that closely resembles pre-literate ones. Even infanticide, a commonplace practice of pagan societies, has become socially acceptable in the form of abortion on demand. As Scripture warns, graven images can lead to paganism of the most horrific kind.
And yet, evangelicals too have been seduced by the electrical graven images of television and the kind of spirituality that it encourages. In his study of contemporary "TV ministries," Postman is remarkably charitable towards television evangelists, but he shows how the medium itself inevitably distorts the Christian message:
On television, religion, like everything else, is presented, quite simply and without apology, as an entertainment. Everything that makes religion an historic, profound, and sacred human activity is stripped away; there is no
ritual, no dogma, no tradition, no theology, and above all, no sense of spiritual transcendence. On these shows, the preacher is tops. God comes out as second banana.13
Postman quotes a religious broadcaster who
admits that in order to attract an audience, TV ministries must offer people
something they want.
You will note, I am sure, that this is an unusual religious credo. There is no great religious leaderfrom the Buddha to Moses to Jesus to Mohammed to Lutherwho offered people what they want. Only what they need. But television is not well suited to offering people what they need. It is "user friendly." It is too easy to turn off. It is at its most alluring when it speaks the language of dynamic visual imagery. It does not accommodate complex language or stringent demands. As a consequence, what is preached on television is not anything like the Sermon on the Mount. Religious programs are filled with good cheer. They celebrate affluence. Their featured players become celebrities. I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.14
Since Postman wrote these words, we have seen the collapse of various television ministries. The moral and spiritual failures of the TV preachers may well be a symptom of the shallowness of the TV theology, which lured them away from the spirituality of the Word.
The problem, however, is not only for TV ministries. As evangelicals, we too are tempted to conform to the world rather than to the Word, just as the children of Israel were tempted by their neighbors graven images and the thought-forms these embodied. We too often stress feeling rather than truth. We tend to seek emotional religious experiences rather than the cross of Jesus Christ. Because we expect worldly "blessings," we do not know how to endure suffering. We want to "name it and claim it"instantlyrather than submit ourselves without reservation to the will of God. We are impatient with theology, and we dismiss history, thus disdaining the faith of our brothers and sisters who have gone before us and neglecting what they could teach us. We want entertaining worship serviceson the order of a good TV showrather than worship that focuses on the holiness of God and His Word. We want God to speak to us in visions and inner voices rather than in the pages of His Word. We believe in the Bible, but we do not read it very much.
Like the ancient Israelites, we live in "the land of graven images," amidst people who are "mad upon their idols" (Jeremiah 50:38).15 Also like them, we subtly drift into the ways of "the people of the land" unless we are rescued by the Word of God.
THE IMPORTANCE OF READING
Postman may well be exaggerating the dangers of television and its impact on our lives. He himself does not advocate the elimination of television, as if that were possible or desirable. Instead, he argues that its worst effects can be countered by a reemphasis upon language in our schools and culture, providing a stabilizing balance to the role of the media.16
The electronic media still employ language. The gospel can be effectually proclaimed in a television or radio broadcast. For that reason, Christians can and should become involved with the new electronic media. The radio is intrinsically an oral medium, and so is quite appropriate for the oral proclamation of the Word. Straightforward Biblical exposition and preaching can be effectually broadcast on television, although presentations that feature people speaking instead of images are often derided as "talking heads" by media experts. Billy Graham does not stage "media-events"; rather, he broadcasts actual revival services in front of real people in real cities. Christian journalists should by all means produce Christian news and documentary programs. Religious drama, a time-honored contribution of Christian literature, especially deserves expression on television and ?lm.
The Word of God proclaimed orally has always been central in evangelism and in the life of the church, and the electronic media can transmit that Word to the ears of millions of listeners. Nor are all "images" necessarily in opposition to Gods Word. I have elsewhere written about what the Bible says about the arts, and I have found that sheer iconoclasmthe rejection of all artistic images as idolatrousis not Biblical.17
However, Gods people have always had to be very cautious lest, without thinking, they slip into the ways of their pagan neighbors. The forms can distort the messagean evangelist broadcasting over the airwaves is not exactly the same as a pastor addressing his congregation or a Christian personally witnessing to a friend. The intimacy, the person-to-person presence is lost in an electronic broadcast, and the temptation may be to manipulate the unseen audience or to entertain them by sub-Biblical teachings. This need not happen, but religious broadcasters will have to struggle against the demands of the electronic media. Christians must become conscious of how the image-centered culture is pulling them in non-Christian directions. The priority of language for Christians must be absolute. As the rest of society abandons language-centeredness for image-centeredness, we can expect to feel the pressures and temptations to conform, but we must resist.
One way to do this is simply to read. A growing problem is illiteracymany people do not know how to read. A more severe problem, though, is "aliteracy"a vast number of people know how to read but never do it. If we cultivate readingif we read habitually and for pleasure, reading the Bible, newspapers, the great works of the past and the present, the wide-ranging "promiscuous reading" advocated by the Christian poet Milton18we will reinforce the patterns of the mind that support Christian faith and lead to a healthy and free society.
Even if the masses sink into illiteracy and drug themselves by "amusement," the influential and the powerful will still be readers, as they are today. In the ancient pagan world, reading was a zealously guarded secret for the priests and the ruling elite, who, because they had access to knowledge, had access to power. Postman explores the paradox of a society increasingly dependent upon its scientists but undermining the literate thought-forms science demands. "It is improbable that scientists will disappear," he concludes, "but we shall quite likely have fewer of them, and they are likely to form, even in the short run, an elite class who, like priests of the pictographic age, will be believed to possess mystical powers."19
Thinking, planning, imagining, creatingprocesses encouraged by readingremain essential to society. Even television shows must have writers. Without people oriented toward language, very little would be accomplished. The point is, the wielders of influence will always be those who read and write, who still work within the framework of language. If Christians remain true to their heritage, if they train themselves to be people of the Word and pursue the disciplines of reading and writing, their influence will be felt once again as it was in the formative moments of our civilization.
1. For the centrality of language to Christianity and its implications, see Jacques Ellul, The Humiliation of the Word, trans. Joyce Main Hanks (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985).
2. See Francis A. Schaeffers discussion of the centrality of language to personality and relationships in He Is There and He Is Not Silent, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1982), 1:323, 344.
3. Except where otherwise indicated, quotations from the Bible are taken from the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973). See chapter 5, n5.
4. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Viking, 1985), p. 9.
5. Neil Postman, Teaching as a Conserving Activity (New York: Delacorte Press, 1979), pp. 47-70. Postman was also the author of Teaching as a Subversive Activity, which promoted radical leftist educational theories. In this later book, Postman recants much of what he had earlier advocated. Postmans first book is still on the reading lists of many teacher education programs while his new defense of conservatism in education is strangely missing.
6. Ibid., p. 57.
7. Ibid., p. 77.
8. Ibid., p. 79.
9. Ibid., p. 72.
10. See Postmans chapter "Reach Out and Elect Someone" in Amusing Ourselves to Death, pp. 125-141.
11. See Postmans chapter "Typographic America" in Amusing Ourselves to Death, pp. 30-43.
12. See Postman, Teaching as a Conserving Activity, pp. 76, 78.
13. Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, pp. 116, 117.
14. Ibid., p.121.
15. For a sophisticated exploration of idolatry as it relates to the contemporary domination of images, see Ellul, The Humiliation of the Word, especially his chapters "Idols and the Word," pp. 48-111, and "The Religious Conflict Between Image and Word," pp. 183-203.
16. Postman, Teaching as a Conserving Activity, pp. 15-25, 129ff. Postman is also somewhat hopeful about computers which require "languages" and modes of thinking analogous to human language. On the other hand, the cutting-edge of computer research is "computer visualization." The advances in computer animation have caused some experts to predict the further eclipse of language as a means of thinking. Computers will operate "in a vocabulary of images, not words. In effect, the sort of literacy that computers will demand will be visual. Computers are now moving us into a post-visual, post-literate culture where the interactive story board is
going to be the media metaphor of choice." Michael Schrage, "Computers Shift Culture to Images," The Milwaukee Journal, 7 January 1990, p. 5J.
17. See my book, The Gift of Art: The Place of the Arts in Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983) and my upcoming book on art for the Turning Point Christian Worldview Series.
18. John Milton, "Areopagitica," in The Students Milton, ed. Frank Allen Patterson (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957), p. 738.
19. Postman, Teaching as a Conserving Activity, p. 78.
Dr. Gene Edward Veith is Dean of Arts and Sciences at Concordia University, Mequon, Wisconsin.. A member of the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Dr. Veith is also the author of Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), and a contributor to Here We Stand!: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996).
Preface from Reading Between the Lines by Dr. Gene Edward Veith, copyright 1990.Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187.Copies can be purchased for a total of $15 by calling the Issues, Etc. resource line at 1-800-737-0172.
Acts 8: 30, 31
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Hebrews 12: 2
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 11: 3
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
John 1: 1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Jeremiah 50: 38
A drought on her waters! They will dry up. For it is a land of idols, idols that will go mad with terror.
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