Interview with Danielle Hitchen

After featuring Danielle Hitchen’s new project on Monday, I wanted to ask her a few more questions about the counting primer specifically and about more general work that she is doing with Catechesis Books. So in this brief interview, we’ll hear how Danielle (and artist Jessica Blanchard) chose the visuals for the book, selected text excerpts to feature on each page, and more. Remember, if you’re interested in Danielle’s project and want to support it, you can do so via their Kickstarter page.

The first thing that stood out to me as I looked at the proofs is that you’ve made some really interesting choices for the topics you cover. It’s a counting primer board book for very small children, but you’re covering things like the two natures of Christ, three persons in the trinity, etc. How did you decide what things to feature on each page? Continue reading

Reviewing “You Are What You Love” by James K.A. Smith

I’m pleased to run this guest review by Dr. Jeffrey Bilbro of Spring Arbor University of James K.A. Smith’s new book You Are What You Love. You can follow Dr. Bilbro on Twitter @jeff_bilbro.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Verses like this one are often cited to urge the importance of Christian worldview training. They seem to indicate that the Christian life is about thinking the right thoughts. Yet in the previous verse, Paul tells the Roman Christians to “present your bodies” to God, linking the way we use our bodies to intellectual renewal. Continue reading

SJWs, the Careerist Peace, and the American Corporation

Ross Douthat has, unsurprisingly, written one of the best things on the recent outbreaks at American campuses protesting, amongst other things, institutionalized racism as well as sometimes real and sometimes perceived insensitivities on the part of campus leadership. In short, Douthat’s argument is that as the old humanism of the university died, it was replaced by a strong left wing ethos in the humanities and a careerist, technocratic ethos in the business schools, engineering departments, and so on. Continue reading

An Open Letter to College Freshmen

Dear College Freshmen,

Congratulations on getting into the university of your dreams.  And if it’s not of your dreams, congratulations anyway.  You have the opportunity before you to join the 10% of people in the world who have a college degree.  That doesn’t make you smart, at least not on its own.  But it does make you rare, and that’s something.

I first wrote a version of this letter two years ago.  Two years is not a long time, even though in internet-time a day is like a thousand years.  This may be a good time to remember that the world doesn’t run on “internet-time.”   The whole business of digital tricks us into believing that nothing is permanent, that everything can be rewritten (like this letter!) or lost to the abyss that is Snapchat.  Yes, I have googled Snapchat and know what it is and why you are using it.  Yes, googling it demonstrates that I am old.  Yes, if I know about it then your parents will soon too.  And no, now that you’re in college you are not free from caring what they think.  They may be relieved to see you go, but they haven’t stopped caring about where you’ll end up.

English: A multi-volume Latin dictionary (Egid...

Repeat daily:  “Books are my friends, not my enemies.”

Don’t believe that business, though, about nothing being permanent.  Oh, all those selfies that you love snapping may not be, which is okay because most of them aren’t very good.  But you’re headed off to The University, where you’ll hopefully confront one or two things that are.  Take time while you are there to consider the great things in this world, and by the word I don’t mean the disinterested dismissal it sometimes is used for or the silly, hyperactive Tony-the-Tiger bastardization either.  I mean the music, literature, art, science, and so on that will overwhelm you, that will fill you with awe and maybe just a little terror, that will impress on you the undeniable sense that your soul is too small for the goodness of this world.  Take up the things that make you wonder whether your life will really amount to anything after all.  Allow yourself to feel the subtle but serious pleasure of distress that you have not yet done anything worthwhile.

Because, you know, you probably haven’t.  Not yet, anyway.  That will come later, when you and the rest of us are ready.  Or maybe never at all.  And that will be okay too, provided that by your character and integrity you are adding to the great store of goodness that makes up the foundations of the world.  The truly permanent things are found there, in the cultivation of courage and honor and justice and truth and kindness and love.  Of those there will be no end.  Make your home with them and though you may die in obscurity, the testimony of your life will be told and retold by those whose lives you have marked.

You should remember that you will need to find a job at the end of this season (you’re welcome, parents–you may pay me now). That does not mean you should only enter disciplines that are directly tied to work.  But it does mean that you should spend your summers well and look for ways to translate the work you do into other, more “practical” arenas.  “Transferable skills” is a term I heard once, and it works here just fine.  Plodding through forgotten bits of Latin may never be “practical”, but the diligence and care you cultivate in doing so will be.  Someone is paying a good deal of money for your degree, so you should do them the honor of bothering to work hard.  It’s not summer camp you’re at, after all, regardless of the playground your admissions counselor used to sell you to come.

I am told, though, that people like lists these days thanks to Buzzfeed and all that.  So let me distill my advice into seven bits of unquestionably accurate, entirely worthwhile bits of knowledge.  You can thank me in four years, or whenever you finish.

1)  Learn to read things that don’t come in lists or use bold fonts.  See what I did there?

2)   The world is built on discipline.  Embrace it.  Yes, you can and should have fun.  Yes, you will cultivate deep friendships with people and enjoy many of the pleasures this world has to offer.  But discipline and diligence are commodities in high demand and if you neglect them for the next four years you will find yourself in a worse spot than when you started your education.  Start small if you must, and if you’re at all like me you probably must.  Take one morning class every semester that forces you to go to bed relatively early two nights a week.  Delight yourself in the joys of a quiet campus and of the morning weather.  You may forget everything in those classes in ten years, but the habits, disciplines, and joys you will carry with you always.

3)   Read intelligently. Some of the books assigned to you aren’t going to be as helpful to you as others, and you will save yourself a goodly amount of time and frustration if you learn quickly how to identify those.  Talk with people who have taken the class before to discern what should be avoided.

But don’t do that because you’re lazy and don’t want to work hard.  Rather, do it so you can linger over the rest, savoring them and allowing them to permeate your heart and your soul.  Odd language, I know, if you’re hanging out in the sciences or maths.  But don’t let the immediate task of memorizing formulas hinder you from what you’re really doing:  learning how to see the harmonious beauty of creation.

4)  Befriend people you disagree with.  College is just like any other environment:  you’ll gravitate toward the people who are like you.  And that’s not all bad.  But the expansion of our intellectual horizons often happens in the midst of talking with those who see differently than we do.  A harmonious opposition in the context of friendship is a great joy, one that you should consider pursuing while in the university.

5)  Your money matters.  Steward it wisely.  Credit card debt is a real thing, and those student loans you’re racking up?  They probably aren’t going to go away.  Money is easily frittered, especially when the pressure to hang out is very high.  You are an adult, so no one will call if you stay out late and spend every dime you don’t have.  But if you can’t pay your credit card bill, your phone will definitely ring with the sort of calls you’d be best off avoiding.  Don’t leave college any further behind than you have to.

6)  Find the good and praise it.  This is easier said than done.  But it is entirely worthwhile.  Anyone can be a cynic but it takes a humble soul to genuinely rejoice in the good, whether those goods come to others or ourselves.

7)   Save what you read.  Come across a phrase you like?  Write it down.  Hear a point you think is interesting?  Write it down.  You won’t remember most of the conversations you have, or what was said.  But if you leave college with a copious collection of the various excerpts and thoughts that struck you, for whatever reason, you will have a resource to return to for the rest of your life.  Use Evernote for everything you read on the web and a Moleskine for everything else.  Extra bonus cool points for looking like an “artist” with that Moleskine, too.

8)  Question well.  It doesn’t matter what sort of university you are attending:  if you want to get your money’s worth, you should find a community of people who are interested in exploring the world and not resting content with cliches or dismissive answers.  Simply throwing questions around won’t get you very far, though.  Inquire, but pay careful attention to where your inquiries come from and where they are taking you.  The fine art of questioning well  is a skill that will reward you regardless of what vocation you enter.  May I suggest you read my more full treatment on the subject?  (Protip:  The mere presence of a question mark does not indicate a real question is present.) 

Contrary to what you heard at your graduation, college is about as close to the real world as Jersey Shore.  (And if your college is anything like Jersey Shore, you will want to find a new college.)  You’ll never live in close quarters with that many people who have that much in common again.  Nor will you be around so many people who have all been simultaneously dislocated from their 18 years of relationships and dropped into a new environment.  That strange collision is partly what makes the university environment simultaneously so special and deeply dysfunctional.

But that environment, for all its problems, also presents an opportunity to broaden your horizons and enrich your soul through the cultivation of virtue and the pursuit of the permanent goods.  There will be many distractions, many lesser goods and easier pleasures offered to you along the way.  But if you walk onward with your eyes ever fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, then college will provide to you a season of journeying into the deep things of God and his creation, and you will learn to savor them for the rest of your life.

Best wishes as you pursue the end of our exploring,


PS  And if you’re off to a Christian college, well, I’d encourage you to read these too.

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Modern Literature?

Back during the halcyon days of the Bush administration (ha!), I read a piece in Touchstone which bemoaned the dearth of Evangelical modern literature. Evangelical professor David T. Williams surveyed the fiction produced by his tradition over the past century and found a great deal of “schlock and kitsch” but nothing “recognized as having literary value by the literary world.” Williams noted Christian authors from other traditions finding success, specifically Flannery O’Connor, and attributed this lack to several hallmarks of Evangelical doctrine and practice:

Our failure to encourage our people to apply doctrine to the realities of life; our failure to include in our theology the whole counsel of the God who called Bezalel and Oholiab and gifted them as artists; and our pragmatism, an uncritical reflection of American culture rather than a biblical mandate, with our mystery-impoverished worship tradition are all simple failures to be what we claim to be, faithful to Scripture.

I chafed.

I chafed mostly because I believe that, despite the prevailing stereotype, Evangelical aesthetics are well formed. For example, the musical tradition of Evangelicalism, from Watts and Wesley to Tomlin and Getty easily excels that of other streams of the Christian tradition. Why wouldn’t there be Evangelical writers producing creative works of fiction as well?Chris Tomlin

But while the piece stuck in my craw, I struggled to formulate a reply. After all, I couldn’t name a current Evangelical literary star either. Finally, this month, two articles combined to explain this phenomenon.

First, in First Things, Randy Boyagoda penned a piece with the following provocative beginning:

I’m sick of Flannery O’Connor. I’m also sick of Walker Percy, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Dostoevsky. Actually, I’m sick of hearing about them from religiously minded readers. These tend to be the only authors that come up when I ask them what they read for literature.

These writers brilliantly and movingly attest to literature’s place in modern life, as godless modernity’s last best crucible for sustaining an appreciation of human life’s value and purpose that corresponds to our inherent longing for the good, the true, and the beautiful. But what else do they have in common? They’re all dead.

Boyagoda admits that every strain of Orthodox Christianity is batting .000 when it comes to producing a living literary giant. (Paul Elie made much the same point in the New York Times last year.)

Perhaps then, the failure of an Evangelical darling to emerge shouldn’t be so much of a surprise. Maybe the problem lies in the institution of modern literature itself. Continue reading

The Quick and the Dead

This is the final reflection in a series on questioning and education in response to Matt’s new book.  Cate MacDonald led things off, David J. Gilbert continued it, and Jonathan Mueller closes things down here.  Like them, Jonathan teaches in The Academy at Houston Baptist University

It is all too easy to deliver a bad speech. One reason for this is obvious—if the speaker is not skilled in rhetoric or the subject difficult, the audience may easily become disengaged. During this sort of speech, if you have the misfortune to be in the audience, you are likely to consider many things, none of which the speaker intends. Intellectual exchange between the speaker and the audience dies a horrible death, and though much is said, little is learned.

There is a second kind of deadening that comes about for the very opposite reason: a speaker may be so skillful in rhetoric that the audience becomes charmed to the point that they stop really thinking.  During this sort of speech, if you have the dubious fortune to be in the audience, you are likely to think many things: How convincing! How true! How amusing! You will walk out of such a speech feeling very clever, but if someone asks you what this speech was about, you may only be able to stammer out a few memorable lines before thinking well, you just had to be there. And that is true—but you have left the room, and the spell is broken.

But why should I call this a “deadening”? Isn’t this a sign that the audience is really listening to a well-delivered speech? Possibly, and I have seen that happen as well. But I choose to describe that scenario as “dead” because the intellectual activity in the room is one-sided, since at a certain point a charmed audience is engaging mainly by accepting rather than in lively exchange, that is, by thinking, reasoning, and questioning.

In Book II of the Republic, Plato gives an example of a bad speech that serves as the catalyst for the rest of the dialogue. Shortly after the quest for true justice begins, the proto-Nietzschean-sophist-extraordinaire Thrasymachus delivers a speech that champions injustice, calling it the “advantage of the stronger,” and decries any concern for true justice, as it is rarely beneficial. Socrates, through a series of questions and short speeches, gives a retort that completely silences Thrasymachus.  Glaucon, the brave young companion of Socrates, is dissatisfied by this exchange, and says “Thrasymachus seems to me, like a snake, to have been charmed by your voice sooner than he ought to have been.”

Glaucon then proposes to take up Thrasymachus’ argument in a dialogue with Socrates, so that they can better see where the argument leads. Plato’s move here suggests that dialogue necessarily imposes a certain amount of justice on its participants, more than may be attainable in a speech.  Any sophist can give a speech, but seekers must ask good questions, and follow the argument where it leads.

While the exchange between a speaker and an audience may become dead, the space between a good question and an answer is always lively (just think how lively the space is between the question “will you marry me?” and the response).  The best questions are ones that enliven persons, and cause them to seek out the truth. Matt  says it well in The End of Our Exploring: “questioning is a form of our desire… [Questions] make us feel as though there is something incomplete that we desire to resolve.”

This desire that spurs us on, that enlivens our hearts and minds, has the power to change our lives for the better in a lasting way. It draws us to participate with Truth itself; but this is a long and difficult path. Mattie Ross, the heroine of Charles Portis’ True Grit, points out that “There is nothing free except the grace of God.” All else is dearly bought, and well-worth a lifetime.

Short-term Missions Trips and Cultural Institutions

money and short-term missions

What is the best way for us to use our money to serve and promote the kingdom of God and the common good in our home places?

In a recent piece for Christianity Today, Doug Banister described one of the problems with short-term mission trips:

I spent many years taking mission trips to Tulcea, Romania. We shared the gospel, cared for orphans, and started a medical clinic. It seemed that God moved in powerful ways. Then my friends Jon and Toni moved into one of Knoxville’s marginalized neighborhoods. Jon invited me to go on prayer walks with him on Wednesday mornings. I saw syringes on playgrounds, prostitutes turning tricks, hustlers selling drugs. Our walks led me to volunteer at the elementary school in Jon’s neighborhood. I’d assumed all the schools in our city were pretty much the same. They aren’t. Kids with B averages in Jon’s school score in the 30th percentile on standardized tests. Kids with B averages in my neighborhood score in the 90th percentile.

Along the way, a pastor named Johnny began showing me what the city looked like from the front lawn of his cash-strapped inner-city church. As I spent more time in Knoxville’s at-risk neighborhoods, I realized that I knew more about poverty in Tulcea than I knew about poverty in Knoxville. I was pursuing the common good of a city across the world while neglecting the common good of the place where I lived.

Banister went on to talk about all the things that the $3,000 used to send one teenager or college kid overseas could do in Knoxville. And Banister isn’t the only one rethinking the short-term missions trip. Banister raised many of the most common objections to short-term trips and they’re all sound, but I want to expand on his point just a bit.

It’s common for evangelicals in thinking about the best way to use their resources to look for discrete, one-time actions they can take with their money. So we can spend three grand to go on a trip to Poland or we can spend three grand to buy books for a local school or put a roof on a widow’s house. These are all worthy pursuits and no reader should think that I’m condemning any of them. But just as we can say “spending locally may be better than spending internationally,” on these sorts of outreach, I want to push it still further and say “spending on local institutions may be better than spending on discrete, one-time events.”

To take only one example, what if instead of spending thousands of dollars on mercy projects for area families living in poverty, we started spending money to set up a vocational training program to teach home improvement, maintenance, and other handy-man type projects? Obviously we’d still need to do something different to help the elderly widow who needs a roof (and that may well be simply buying the roof), but what if you hire someone to teach workshops for people in your area on doing general home improvement projects?

By approaching it that way, you’re equipping people to promote the common good of the city from the bottom up, rather than the top down with one well-moneyed social body throwing money at social problems. You’re also empowering them to take care of themselves as much as they’re able, rather than depending upon assistance from some well-intentioned patron who can quickly turn into a tacitly dangerous paternalist.

But we can push this idea a bit further too. As Christians, we believe that any social problem is at its roots a worship problem. People misplace their love and that drives them to making socially and individually destructive choices. So what if we pursue setting up programs and institutions that help shape our loves in healthier, Gospel-shaped ways? Toward this end, I can think of few investments more worthy of our support than setting up inner city Christian schools that offer affordable–or even free–tuition so that poor families can send their children to a school that will train them to live well in God’s world. (On this note, may works like the one being done at Restoration Academy continue to flourish.)

Next to that, we’ll need to have educated leaders in our local churches with that rare combination of deep knowledge of the Christian faith and church and of the unique realities of life in their particular community. This will mean having something like seminary-level theological education available locally to church leaders.

And yes, everything I’m proposing will cost a decent chunk of change. But, to take only one example, sending myself and five friends to Zambia six years ago cost American Christians around $24,000. As much as I enjoyed my time in Zambia, I can’t help wondering if there may have been better uses for that money. Suppose American Christians simply scaled back their short-term missions trips and used that money to build local institutions–how much money would that free up? If the stats cited by Banister are accurate, even a 25% reduction in short-term mission trips costs would free up $400 million. I can think of a few seminaries and universities that could use that money–and a few cities that could use schools, vocational training programs, and seminary-type education who could use it too.

(For further reading: CT has covered the issue in the past and Relevant looked at the topic earlier this week as well.)

photo credit: via photopin cc

The Surprising Similarities Between First Dates and Bad Textbooks

This is the second reflection in a series on questioning and education in response to Matt’s new book.  Cate MacDonald led things off and David J. Gilbert, who teaches in The Academy at Houston Baptist University, continues it here. 

Way back in the earlier days of the 21st century and the second year of my undergraduate career, I had a friend, Salvatore,[1] who made a list of questions. The list grew. A few times here and there he’d find me, check his shoulders, lean in secretly and knowingly whisper, “David, I’ve added to my list….it’s getting good.” So it had 50, now 100, now 150 questions on it.

And all the questions were his preparation for a first date with a girl.

“How many siblings do you have, and are you close?”

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

“Why did you choose your major?”

If my memory serves me correctly, Salvatore had never been on a date before. Or if he had, he still found it quite uncomfortable to summon the first date conversation–I mean, who doesn’t get that? And the anticipation of the date-convo was even worse—I am, of course, entirely sympathetic with Salvatore on this one.

Word has it, the date did not go so well. Word has it, the whole thing felt like an interview. Worse, an interrogation. Word has it, they did not see each other again.

I’ve thought of Salvatore’s list many times since the waning days of 2002. Sometimes I think I should write my own list of questions. Surely my own list of questions would counter the absurdly long quiet spaces that assault me on dates. It should have worked, Salvatore’s list, shouldn’t it have? Questions initiate the work of a conversation, right? So a whole lot of questions should directly proportion a whole lot of good conversations. Right?


Way back in the earlier days of March of this very year and the third month of my new employment, I found myself pre-reading a popular textbook for high school students which emphasizes the importance of reading great texts and asking questions of those texts. I am a faculty member of The Academy at Houston Baptist University, a classics program for high schoolers. On paper, I should dig this textbook. But for some reason, in practice, the pages just irritated me. And that might be because the questions irritated me.

“What is the conflict set up by Homer in The Iliad?”

“Who was it between and what was it over?”

“In the Greco-Roman understanding of the the[2] universe, is there both a seen world and an unseen world?”

“How is the seen and the unseen world related?”[3]

My mind went back to Salvatore’s date preparation.

Now, in a lot of ways, I don’t want to knock my friend Salvatore, who was, generally, a strong conversationalist. For one thing, in the years since he collected questions for girls, he has gotten married to a wonderful woman; so the dude’s learned a thing or two. For another thing, I think getting in the habit of asking questions is not only a good habit, but sometimes a difficult habit to master. I mean, also, who’s gonna knock a guy for not being simultaneously and immediately good at dialectic and talking to a member of the opposite sex?

It seems that the problem with Salvatore’s list and the textbook’s irritating questions lies in a practical fallacy. In one sense, there’s nothing wrong with any of the questions either listed by Salvatore or the textbook. In a certain way these questions are legitimate and can contribute to a meaningful conversation.

However, there’re also problems with these questions. They feel tired. They feel easy. They feel inauthentic and robotic. They feel boring. They seem in ways to miss the point of questioning in the first place. In Salvatore’s case they feel scripted (because they were), and thus miss the opportunity to really get to know another human being. In the textbook’s case, they lack momentum to begin a real discussion.

I do not think that questions have intrinsic value, the way that people and goodness and truth do. But I do think questions are a major way to get to truth and goodness and relationship. And really good questions strike up really good discussions. And a really good discussion is one that invites interest, and human interaction, and concern about things bigger than our docile, default expectations and beliefs. If there isn’t a genuine curiosity in a dialogue or educational experience, there will be besting the other with one’s prior assumptions and expectations. Sometimes, at best, we’ll pander to what we think the other person wants to say. A really good question is not good in itself, but is good because it is the conduit by which we can peck at the hidden truths of God. And, you know, maybe after a bit, in the later days, we come to have some good answers.

[1] I always call my friend “Salvatore,” because it’s long for “Sal” and I always wanted to call someone “Salvatore” and plus, both are fake names.

[2] This is an actual typo in the text. I leave it because I find the lack of attention to the interrogative sentence indicative of the project as a whole—it’s also typed completely in comic sans. Granted, my evaluation of a given typo depends entirely on the quality of the book at hand. Sometimes, my reaction is loving sorrow paired with willing forgiveness; sometimes my reaction is, instead, lots of judgment. Also, these are actual questions listed in discussing The Iliad. I refrain from any commentary, like the kind my colleague offered when he heard the third question, and exclaimed, “What single Greco-Roman understanding of the universe?!?!!?”

[3] I guess the previous question was answered before publication?

A Reading Guide for 2013

In the Andersonian fashion of asking questions, I submit that one of our urgent questions is this: What are the possibilities of the vita contemplativa in the late modern world? In Human, All Too Human, Friedrich Nietzsche lamented, “Because there is no time for thinking, and no rest in thinking, we no longer weigh divergent views; we are content to hate them. With the tremendous acceleration of life, we grow accustomed to using our mind and eye for seeing and judging incompletely or incorrectly, and all men are like travelers who get to a land and its people from the train.” What a sharp observation! We moderns view life from a train window – blurred. Nietzsche continues:

The farther West one goes, the greater modern agitation becomes; so that to Americans the inhabitants of Europe appear on the whole to be peace-loving, contented beings, while in fact they too fly about pell-mell, like bees and wasps. This agitation is becoming so great that the higher culture can no longer allow its fruits to ripen; it is as if the seasons were following too quickly on one another. From lack of rest, our civilization is ending in a new barbarism. Never have the active, which is to say the restless, people been prized more. Therefore, one of the necessary correctives that must be applied to the character of humanity is a massive strengthening of the contemplative element. And every individual who is calm and steady in his heart and head, already has the right to believe that he possesses not only a good temperament, but also a generally useful virtue, and that in preserving this virtue, he is even fulfilling a higher duty.

How, then, can we moderns, in our train-zooming and bee-buzzing world, undergo that “massive strengthening of the contemplative element”? In my own life, I try to slow the acceleration through five practices: lectio divina, liturgy, cooking, walking, and reading.

For this post I will focus on reading. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then after years of rapturous listening to Ken Myers, host of Mars Hill Audio, I’ve developed his gift of bibliography. Other than John Wilson, editor of Books & Culture, I’m not aware of any contemporary Christian who has a more refined taste in books than Myers, who consistently brings forth treasures from his deep-sea diving in the sea of published works. Permit me to be a bibliographic fascist of sorts, dictating what new and forthcoming titles sound promising from various publishers.

My favorite American academic publishers are the trinity of Ivy League schools: Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

From Harvard: Literary critic David Mikics demonstrated his virtues as a slow reader in The Art of the Sonnet, so I am excited to read Slow Reading in a Hurried Age (October 2013). As an instructor of literature, I goad my students to control their “ecosystem of interruption technologies” in order to develop the habits of deep attention, otherwise the reading of Great Expectations or Crime and Punishment is nearly impossible. Mikics shows “exactly how the tried-and-true methods of slow reading can provide a more immersive, fulfilling experience. He begins with fourteen preliminary rules for slow reading and shows us how to apply them. The rules are followed by excursions into key genres, including short stories, novels, poems, plays, and essays.”

If we follow Nietzsche’s exhortation to “weigh divergent views,” then every Christian should engage the secular humanism of philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum. In Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice (October 2013), she asks this big question: “How can we achieve and sustain a ‘decent’ liberal society, one that aspires to justice and equal opportunity for all and inspires individuals to sacrifice for the common good? In this book, a continuation of her explorations of emotions and the nature of social justice, Martha Nussbaum makes the case for love. Amid the fears, resentments, and competitive concerns that are endemic even to good societies, public emotions rooted in love—in intense attachments to things outside our control—can foster commitment to shared goals and keep at bay the forces of disgust and envy.”

Another divergent view that should be weighed is Albert Camus, the most honest atheist that I’ve encountered. Continue reading