Sunday, September 30, 2007

Reading Between the Lines, by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. - Preface

We begin with a criticism, if you like, of Gene Veith's book Reading Between the Lines. When I say criticism, I mean it in its literary sense, not in the pejorative. This is a book review.

Veith's intention, as written in the very first line, is "to help people be better readers." He contends that mere interpretation of literature is not the end-all of reading. Instead, he argues that appreciation and enjoyment must precede interpretation.

He wishes to show us the assumptions and values (that which is "between the lines") of what we read.

In a rather crucial statement, Veith says that in a world of images, Christians must continue to be people of the Word. For a parallel book on this subject, see Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman. One of the more interesting conclusions Postman draws is from the Second Commandment, which says not to worship graven images. Postman is interested in this commandment, because he says that there must be some significance in the medium of communication, if God is concerned enough about it to devote an entire commandment to it. So Veith is concerned about how reading affects the imagination, not just the intellect.

The study of literature, as Veith says, is going to take us into a host of other subjects, because literature, by its very nature, "involves its readers in a wide range of issues, provoking thought in many directions."

He footnotes some books that deal more comprehensively with the relationship between the theoretical issues in literature and the Christianity: Leland Ryken in particular, and Susan Gallagher and Peter Lundin.

Then he moves on to summarize the chapters in the rest of the book. The book is organized into four main parts: 1. Introduction (two chapters). 2. The Forms of Literature. 3. The Modes of Literature. 4. The Traditions of Literature. Each chapter is somewhat self-contained, making it a good reference book.

In the Introduction, we have Ch. 1, dealing with the distinction between the Word and the Image. Also, Ch. 2 is entitled, "Vicarious Experience and Vicarious Sin: The Importance of Criticism."

In Part 2: The Forms of Literature, there are three chapters, one each on nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

In Part 3: The Modes of Literature, there are also three chapters, one each on tragedy and comedy, realism, and fantasy.

In Part 4: The Traditions of Literature, there are four chapters, one each on the Middle Ages and Reformation, the Enlightenment and Romanticism, Modernism and Postmodernism, and the Makers of Literature.

I definitely think that this book will be an important one in the fight against deconstructionism and other silly modern ideas.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Assumptions and Directions

Now that the main purpose of this blog is established, I'd like to outline the general procedure and logical progression I plan to take.

1. The first assumption is that the Bible is the Word of God, inspired, and inerrant in its original languages. It is the truth, the only rule for faith and practice. We may trust it implicitly. If I were asked why I start here, I would say that I can't really start anywhere else. If I were asked how I am so sure that the Bible is the Word of God, I would answer that it is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, Who seals the truth of the Word to my heart. That's my epistemology, how I know what I know.

Now, this starting-point many people could interpret in different ways. Here are a few:

A. The liberal, or older modern view, which states that "some parts of the Bible are the word of God, and that other parts are the word of man. They believe that they can decide for themselves which part is true and which part is false."1

B. The neo-orthodox view, sometimes called Barthianism, holds "that the whole Bible is the fallible word of man. But they say that when people read these words of man, God somehow uses these words so that through them they receive (in their own minds) the true word of God."2

C. The Reformed view, which holds "that the whole Bible (every single word) is the truth of God. No part is uninspired. And even when the Bible is read by an unbeliever it is still the word of God from cover to cover."3

It is this third view that describes my position.

2. The second assumption, based on the first, comes from the Bible, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, where it says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." This says that not only is all Scripture the Word of God, but it is all profitable and useful. So there aren't any unimportant verses.

3. The third assumption has to do with logic. I'm not really intending this blog to be about logic; however, I fully intend to use biblically-based logic everywhere I can. Biblically-based logic is the surest path to truth that exists (note I did NOT say it was the ONLY path to truth!). We ignore it at our peril. I believe that we get logic from the Bible, not the other way around. Logic is an attribute of God, one that He has given to man, to some degree. It's part of what it means to be "in the image of God."

Now those are the assumptions. In what directions do I intend to take this blog? There are several. Firstly, I want to establish the legitimacy of classical exegesis. Secondly, I wish to use this classical exegesis to examine several good texts I think important to the discussion. One such text will most definitely be Reading Between the Lines, by Gene Veith. Another will be An Experiment in Criticism, by C. S. Lewis. Thirdly, I wish to use classical exegesis to examine several bad texts I think important to the discussion. The most important of these will be On Grammatica, by Jacques Derrida. Derrida appears to be the source not only of the idiotic critical theory known as deconstructionism, but also of that ugly movement known as post-modernism. Here I mean ugly in its literal sense. Finally, after understanding the method of deconstructionism, I intend to use it on itself for a little fun. This would be argumentation in the nature of reductio ad absurdam: reduce a system to its logical conclusion, which turns out to be silly. If we make no mistakes in this sort of reasoning, then we will be forced to conclude that the system is inherently flawed somewhere.

That is the idea, ladies and gentlemen!

In Christ.

1 G. I. Williamson, The Shorter Catechism for Study Classes, Vol. 1, pp. 6-7.

2 Ibid., p. 7.

3 Ibid., p. 7.