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Further Thoughts on Reading for the Love of God

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Reading for the Love of God. Jessica Hooten Wilson. 2023. [March] 208 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Imagine you are resting in a cave on an unpopulated Greek island.
While I haven’t changed my overall rating of the book. I have done a quick check of all the notes I made while reading the book. There were many points that I found thought-provoking. These points got overlooked in my initial review earlier today. I might have made the book seem more “negative” than I think is fair.
Quote: If we were to read the Bible on its terms, we would become different people, converted by the practice. Christ’s vision would become our vision. Why and how we read matters as much as what we read.
Agreed. I don’t know that the average reader reads the Bible with transformation truly in mind. But the Bible not only records past miracles, but is used by the Holy Spirit today to bring about the new birth. The Word–written, spoken, heard–is the primary means for reaching the lost. How wonderful it is and yet how rare it is to truly keep experiencing the Book with awe day after day.
Quote: It is not enough to read the Bible; you must eat the book. You must delight in its honey. Suffer in your gut. And then prophesy. If you want to know how to eat the book, learn how to read–not only the Bible but other great books as well–as a spiritual practice. In reading other books, we practice reading the Bible; and in reading the Bible, we read other books by that lens.
I like the [Scriptural] imagery of eating the Book. Not sure exactly what she means by “then prophesying.” This next is important for understanding the purpose of the whole book. But it still strikes me as slightly fuzzy and vague. I think the “other great books” is probably the books that make for a classical education, a traditional “classic” education. I don’t think she means just any book, or even any old book. I have an idea–perhaps falsely–that she has a snooty definition of what literature is and isn’t, of what is LITERARY and what isn’t. I am not at all sure that in reading other books we practice reading the Bible. I’m not sure what this translates to in practical, actual terms. I do agree wholeheartedly that “we read other books by that [the Bible] lens.” It makes sense to view the world through a biblical lens. It makes less sense to bring other books…to the Bible…and view the Bible through the lens of other books.
Quote: Augustine compares reading pagan writers to the Israelites carrying gold out of Egypt…Augustine claims that we may find truths within pagan literature. We must sift through the superstitions to claim the moral goods.
I agree in part. I think the key is to be well-grounded in the Word of God so that you can read with discernment. To discern between gold and fool’s gold, you need to know the real deal. Not just have a vague, fuzzy, general idea of what truth is–but be well grounded in it. So much of the false has veins of half-truths or semi-truths running through it. It isn’t always clear as day what is TRUE and half-true. If you lack a foundation, reading books with things that sound true but aren’t really true can be very dangerous to your world-building.
Quote: We also must admit that the Holy Scriptures are difficult to understand. Perhaps, then, we consider outside reading as preparatory for reading the Bible.
Here’s where I think I got super-confused and flustered. I remembered this one line no matter how much more I read. But rereading it in context, it is more clear that she was referring to the actual mechanics of reading. There is a growing process–you grow from identifying and sounding out letters to reading words, then stories, etc. You keep learning new skills and techniques. And these basic building blocks of deciphering text you do carry with you no matter what you’re reading–including your reading of the Bible. But I do still find it a slightly odd inclusion to this book. “We practice how to read well and increase our ability to read so that we can know the Scriptures better.”
Quote: Even literature that does not necessarily teach us spiritual truths can be loved for its beauty. Beautiful things still draw from that eternal fount, which is God.
True. Or mostly true. I would say that there are instances–for example–the lyrics to a song, a poem–that can *sound* beautiful, but are so false that the beauty is tainted. But that is neither here nor there.
Quote: If we are going to read–the Bible included–we should learn how to read well. We should become readers who do not read for our own gain but who read as a spiritual practice, always open to how the Lord is planting seeds in our heart, teaching us more about him, and showing us ways of living more like Christ in the world.
I think she’s saying that God isn’t restricted to using only the Bible. God can use other texts, other books, to “plant seeds” and “teach.” We can be inspired by other texts to “live more like Christ.”
Quote: While we need such practices of silent reading and meditation, our current culture distracts us from this practice. We are losing our patience for sustained, silent reading….We should protect space in our days for silent reading with the same fervency with which we should clear out our schedules for prayer and devotion. Time spent reading might be fertile ground by which the Lord shows us who we are. With that time, the Lord can weed out the lies of culture, convict us of our fallenness, and reveal to us our higher destiny in him. Whereas we may be deformed by hours of screens, we can be recast in his image by the practice of silent reading.
There’s silent reading and “silent reading.” Reading with absolute silence…and any reading not done aloud. I’m not always the best for reading in absolute silence. But there are layers of distraction. And you can be focused in on the text with background noise as well as being distracted while reading in absolute silence. Concentration doesn’t always correlate with outside distractions. Also, I think there is some bias. There are spiritual truths to be found in some films, shows, etc. To say that only books have worth is silly.
Quote: We misuse literature when we only use it or when we use it for an end other than the enjoyment of God….Art, literature, and the Bible itself are to be used and enjoyed similarly, insofar as they point you to God….reading as a spiritual discipline applies to those works of art that are to be, as Augustine writes, both used and enjoyed.
Chapter three is where things started going zoom-zoom-zoom over my head.
Quote: If we are to read spiritually, we must begin by loving books in a similar fashion to loving our neighbors, seeing the book as an opportunity to practice charity.
Books give readers a chance to grow in empathy.
Quote: The early church exegetes practiced reading according to these four senses: the literal, figurative, moral, and anagogical meanings of the text. The senses matter because every element of creation possesses at least a twofold significance: word and meaning, law and spirit, body and soul.
This chapter made NO sense. If reading with these so-called four senses really mattered, she would have explained it clearly, practically, giving readers a basic understanding, a solid foundation for putting these into practice.
Quote: The best books are those that demand rereading; we call these classics.
I agree with rereading.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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