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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Colson on the Importance of Book Learnin'

I think the following piece by Charles Colson from his Breakpoint website is on the button!! Read it, please. The whole thing.

Ever wonder what Jesus meant when He said, “Let him who has ears, hear?” Well, an experience relayed to me by my good friend R. C. Sproul helps us understand the words of Jesus in today’s culture.

Some years ago, Sproul offered a rigorous course in Romans. Two hundred serious disciples signed up. Half-way through the course, Sproul took a week off to enroll in Evangelism Explosion (EE) courses. When he came back, he told his students about EE, including conversation openers like, “Why should God let you into heaven?” On a whim, he asked class members how they would answer.

Anyone who knows Sproul knows he teaches the great evangelical doctrine in Romans, justification by faith alone, in unmistakable terms. Every student should have known the answer. Not so. There were awkward pauses; some people mumbled about living a good life. Only thirty out of two hundred answered correctly. How could this be?

The answer may be found in two contemporary trends. First, modern evangelicalism puts undue weight on experience; if somebody lacks a personal testimony—and the more dramatic the better—he is made to feel like a second-class believer. This heavy reliance on feelings carries over in discipleship and worship. Contemporary music is intended to—and often does—whip people into a spiritual frenzy.

Our literature talks about “feeling” the presence of the Spirit—or experiencing God’s presence. This is all to the good when it results in people making a personal commitment to Jesus. But it can be dangerous when that is all there is. Doctrine may be seen as abstract and inaccessible because it seems unrelated to personal experience.

The second trend has to do with our high-tech age. Today, information is transmitted by images—pictures on televisions and computer screens. Modern technology teaches us in the same way cartoons teach us: images, rather than demanding that we wrestle with tough, analytical concepts. Experts tell us that learning through images rather than words results in a diminished capacity for complex thought.

Department of Education surveys tell the shocking story. In 1992, only forty percent of college graduates were deemed literate; that is, able to read and understand complex arguments and to give comprehensive answers. That is shockingly low. But even worse was the 2003 study, when literacy had declined to an astonishing 31 percent. This is why a group of today’s college graduates could sit through a course on Romans and complex doctrine and not get it.

Of all people, Christians must learn how to engage the mind and to employ reason and logic, to understand difficult concepts and grapple with complex propositions. After all, the Gospel is revealed propositional truth, communicated to us in a complex book. This is why Christians have always championed public education and launched so many institutions of higher learning.

And, want some good advice? Make your kids read books. Following the barbarian conquest of Europe, Irish monks preserved books in their monasteries. As the barbarian hordes receded, they sent missionaries back to the continent to teach reading and the Bible.

Perhaps it is time again for Christians to prepare missionaries—to teach people to think.

He who has ears—let him hear.

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TKls2myhrt said...

That is a bit of good news coming from his camp. It's so easy to critize evangelicalism, but harder to look for the good news. Thanks for posting it!

Anonymous said...

It sounds a little bit like the book "1984." Critical thinking is an important aspect of life- it helps you discern between paths, and between blasphemy and true doctrine. With such a concerted effort, is there any question of demonic forces? This is a good reason to homeschool/private school your children.

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary