Thursday, July 29, 2004

Reading & Reasoning

"Christianity depends on reading.
Therefore, Christians have to read."
Gene Edward Veith

Someone actually suggested that our own children read because they got their parents' genes. Well, genes have no more to do with reading habits than being born of Christian parents makes anyone a Christian. But I have to admit that the environment plays an influential role.

In our home, reading takes the place of TV (ours broke down 4 years ago and we have not replaced it). Yes, there's the occasional dvd movie (our TV receives video signals from the player only), but as adults who are already avid readers, we tend to read 2 or 3 books at any one time. Understandably, libraries, bookstores, second-hand bookshops, and book sales, become popular haunts. It's not hard to imagine therefore why our kids got bitten by the book bug. Friends who visit are surprised at the library that's the Tan Residence. "Have you read all these books?" they ask for the 1000th time. My guess is they know the answer (no, I have NOT read all the books on our shelves) but as conversation starters go, it beats being asked if our children have a problem socialising!

More than just books is the attitude we share for life-long learning. Whether we read for instruction or for leisure, we tell our children not to be afraid of questions and ideas, because they're essential to learning. I realise of course that it's not the number of books you read but how well you read that matters. Reading well is reading critically - which is what good readers do. Reasoning is the corollary of reading. It's the ability to separate fact from fiction, what's true from what's real, and finally, the profound from the trivial. With practice, the mind is sharpened and our esteem for truth deepened, wherever it's found - because all truth is ultimately God's truth.

The great protestant reformer John Calvin has this to say:

"The human mind is fallen as it is, and corrupted from its integrity, is yet invested and adorned by God with excellent talents. If we believe that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we should neither reject nor despise the truth, wherever it shall appear unless we wish to insult the Spirit of God."

If we want to develop our critical faculties, reading ranks high on the to-do list. This is followed closely by reflection and discourse. These last 2 disciplines are hard to exercise these days, because both require time - preferably lots of it. You need space to think through what you're reading; you need time for meaningful exchanges, to talk things out, someone to bounce ideas off. Sadly, our activity-mad culture has already encroached into our churches and homes, robbing us the quiet necessary for reflection, meditation, talking, and listening.

In an age where truth has taken a back seat, it does not require a genius to figure out how this dismal state of affairs came about. It makes me wonder if we will be able to emulate Paul's courageous defense before Festus in Acts 26:25 where he declared:

"What I am saying is true and reasonable."

Making an argument for faith on the basis of truth and reason starts with reading well. I sure hope our children will be able to take a stand like Paul and echo these same words with equal passion and confidence.

No comments: