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Archives for September 2007
I started this interview a couple days ago, but then was beautifully interrupted with the birth of our son. Now that we’re all home from the hospital, I’ll post the second installment of my interview of Dr. Ryken.
Do you see this study Bible being used in high school and college courses on the Bible as literature?
Dr. Ryken: It became evident early in the editorial process that an evangelical bias was evident in our commentary, even though our focus was on literary issues. Realistically speaking, therefore, while our study Bible is ideally suited for Bible-as-literature courses, it is unlikely to find much use beyond Christian schools and colleges. But I will not prejudge the matter, since my books on the Bible as literature have regularly been used in secular universities, and an online course that I composed and taught for Barnes and Noble University built around one of my books on the Bible as literature was one of their most popular courses.
Speaking as a professor of English at Wheaton College, might you offer your top-ten list of great Christian fiction?
Dr. Ryken: Such a list always reflects personal taste, of course, and this is reflected in my list. Additionally, although in common parlance fiction is virtually synonymous with the novel, the realm of fiction actually extends well beyond the novel. With those provisos in place, here is my own list of top eight: Homer’s ODYSSEY; Shakespeare’s MACBETH and HAMLET; Milton’s PARADISE LOST; Hawthorne’s THE SCARLET LETTER; Dickens’ GREAT EXPECTATIONS; Tolstoy’s THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH; C. S. Lewis’ CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. If I were to add two works to make the number ten, the additional two would not quite be at the high level of the works I have named.
What is the role of Christian literature in the spiritual lives of believers?
Dr. Ryken: Several years ago I agreed to compose an address on literature and the spiritual life. This was a different topic from the one on which I had written books and articles, namely, literature in Christian perspective. When I undertook research to uncover personal statements and anecdotes about how Christians had been spiritually influenced by their reading of literature, I was astounded to discover how important literature is in the lives of many Christians. I had underestimated the degree to which Christian literature can nurture one’s spiritual life and even become the instrument by which people come to faith. I am a Miltonist (specialist in John Milton) by profession, and out of the mass of scholarship that I have read on Milton, my very favorite piece of commentary is the opening statement of someone’s testimony offered when he became a member of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia: “I was led to the Lord by John Milton.”
How should Christians interact with highly-regarded non-Christian literature?
Dr. Ryken: They should interact in the same way that they interact with all of life. They should affirm and be edified and entertained by what is true, good, and beautiful in such literature, and they should set up resistance to what is false and depraved.
7 lbs., 14.4 ounces. Twenty inches long. Mom and baby appear healthy. Thanks be to God.
See more recent photos of Jonathan.
Awhile ago I mentioned the newly released ESV Literary Study Bible, edited by Dr. Leland Ryken and Pastor Phil Ryken. Dr. Ryken, the Clyde S. Kilby professor of English at Wheaton College, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project. I’ll post part 1 of the interview now, and part 2 late tomorrow.
What motivated you to organize this type of study Bible?
Dr. Ryken: The primary motivation was my awareness that the Bible is, in terms of its external format, a literary anthology. That being the case, it deserves to be printed with critical apparatus (as it is called in my discipline) that is literary in nature, along the lines of THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE. Secondarily, I was motivated by my discontent with conventional study Bibles. Conventional study Bibles are useful as reference books, chiefly in their ability to solve localized difficulties in the text, but in my view they do not provide practical help in interacting with the biblical text. Our literary Bible helps readers enter the text and move through a passage.
How long has producing this study Bible been a desire of your heart?
Dr. Ryken: I have been an advocate of the literary study of the Bible for four decades, but it never occurred to me until recently that I could put my knowledge about the Bible as literature into the format of a study Bible. For me the exciting thing in the venture is that a literary study Bible has allowed me to provide literary commentary on the whole Bible. I want to record a huge debt of gratitude to Lane Dennis, president of Crossway Books. Lane gave me two big breaks–the go-ahead to do a whole book on Bible translation and then to do a literary study Bible.
What need to you see it filling?
Dr. Ryken: Many Christians acknowledge in theory that the Bible is a literary book, but they do not know what this means. A literary study Bible shows plainly what it means that the Bible is literary in nature. Additionally, I view a literary approach to the Bible as a common reader’s approach, in contrast to the highly specialized approaches of biblical scholarship. Literary commentary is of practical use in such things as the structure and unity of a passage, the experiential content of a passage (inasmuch as the subject of literature is human experience), and the ways in which an author has embodied his content (the “how” of a piece of writing). I would hope that preachers would use this literary study Bible in their sermon preparation, inasmuch as just a modicum of literary awareness would add a lot to an expository sermon.
Has the literary appreciation of the Bible diminished over the centuries?
Dr. Ryken: Awareness of the Bible as being literary in nature has ebbed and flowed through the centuries. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, scholars like Luther and Calvin, as well as most English literary authors, had a grasp of the literary dimension of the Bible. The Romantic movement of the nineteenth century represented another flowering of literary interest in the Bible, but it was unaccompanied by an evangelical view of the Bible’s status as God’s inspired word. In the last half century there has been a discernible interest in the Bible as literature by literary critics and biblical scholars. It is fair to say that few Bible readers today read the Bible with literary awareness.
Update: Read Part II of this interview.
Update: This resource is now available for 40% off ($29.99).
Nine Marks and Matthias Media ministries are hosting a conference entitled: Gospel Growth versus Church Growth: Understanding the difference sets you free.
Dates: Tuesday, October 30 to Thursday, November 1, 2007
Location: Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC
Registration Ends: October 10, 2007
Speakers: Phillip Jensen, Mark Dever, and Tony Payne
About the Conference:
It’s hard for pastors not to be mesmerized by church growth. Who doesn’t want their congregation to grow? Who doesn’t want to see numbers and budgets increasing year by year? And who isn’t greatly interested when the latest growth model comes along, the latest research, the latest insight that promises us the key to such growth?
But there’s growth and there’s growth.
Understanding what the New Testament means by growth, and how that growth happens, sets us free. It liberates us from anxiety and self-doubt, and from the slavery of chasing the latest program.
Dr. Mohler commends newly released The Death of the Grown-up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization by Washington Times columnist Diane West. Many other titles have argued that 20 somethings are putting off adult commitments (such as marriage and family) until later in life. Ms. West contributes to this discussion by noting that the converse is also true: older adults today increasingly act like adolescents and identify with adolescent culture. Whereas teenagers of a previous generation took pride in identifying with adult culture, the trend is now the opposite. Says West:
“That was then. These days, of course, father and son dress more or less alike, from message-emblazoned t-shirts to chunky athletic shoes, both equally at ease in the baggy rumple of eternal summer camp. In the mature male, these trappings of adolescence have become more than a matter of comfort or style; they reveal a state of mind, a reflection of a personality that hasn’t fully developed, and doesn’t want to – or worse, doesn’t know how.”
The second part of the book argues that this pattern of “arrested development” leaves American civilization unprepared to confront challenges like Islam and terrorism. It sounds like The Death of the Grown-up is a worthy addition to a growing body of literature on an important cultural issue. The book carries some strong endorsements:
“Diana West’s analysis of American culture and society is filled with sharp insights and critical judgments that are illuminating and provocative. The Death of the Grown-Up delivers an honest perspective on the many forces and pressures challenging 21st century Americans.” —Lou Dobbs, CNN
“The most intriguing question about American culture today–even more intriguing than, “When and why did men start to hug each other?”–is the question Diana West tackles in this penetrating and witty book: “When and why did Americans decide to stop growing up?” Actually, I have a depressing feeling that the two questions are related.” —George F. Will
”This is a vigorously argued, far-reaching and timely book which should be read especially by those content to drift along with the noxious tide of fashion.”—Paul Johnson
“Diana West’s brilliant and irreverent skewering of America’s fixation on youth is a wake-up call for every individual who wants to see Western civilization endure. West makes the provocative case that a mass cultural obsession with perpetual adolescence has eliminated adulthood from the human experience, leaving our society effectively undefended as we confront the challenges ahead, especially the menace of Islamofascism.”—Tony Blankley
“With keen wit and unparalleled insight, Diana West traces the national decline of adulthood and the rise of the permanent adolescent class in American life. From James Dean to Elvis to Bill Clinton, from “anything goes” to “whatever,” un-parents have succumbed to the Teen Age. But what makes West’s invaluable analysis stand apart is her connection of the death of the grown-up to the post-9/11 political, intellectual, and moral paralysis that imperils us today. Her impassioned message: We cannot defend our identity if we have no clue about who we were and are and should be. We cannot defend our existence as long as we mollycoddle a generation of self-absorbed brats. West administers an overdue spanking to the cultural relativists: Wise up or we will all pay dearly.”—Michelle Malkin
“This is a brilliant book that devastatingly dissects our politically correct society. In a book that will be read for generations, Diana West has written one of the most important books on our culture, politics and society that I have ever read. Diana has masterfully recognized and explained how certain trends within Western culture have fundamentally altered Western identity and weakened our resolve to combat a fierce enemy, radical Islam. A must read for anyone who wants to understand why, all too often, many in the West are apologetic when confronted with the excesses of radical Islam and what we need to do to win the war on terror. This is a phenomenal book that will truly alter the way you view society. It is masterful.”—Steven Emerson
”Diana West has written a book not to be missed by anyone concerned about the future of America and the West. With wide- ranging scholarship and a lucid and sprightly prose style, she chronicles and analyzes the unprecedented transfer of cultural authority from adults to teenagers. The unhappy consequences range from the obliteration of traditional standards in almost all areas of life to a multicultural relativism that lowers our defenses against elements of a civilization that would destroy us. West has mounted a much-needed counterattack in the service of Western values and common sense.”—Judge Robert Bork