It is the little foxes that spoil my vineyard and leave me fruitless. I just shot one of those foxes that gnaw away at my life by the minutes. My fox wanted to watch part of an episode of my favorite sci-fi series while I ate lunch. It was tempting, but I shot him instead by reading something beneficial, substantive, enlightening and humorous. (I will tell you more about what I read in a moment.)
This Spring I read the little text, Why Jhonny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon. He wastes not words and his treatise wants not for shooting every stinking fox from twitter to Netflix. The two reasons Johnny can’t preach, says T. David Gordon, are he can’t read and he can’t write. It comes down to our constant feeding upon the trivial from all our electronic devices. Even the television news, whatever the slant or claim not to be, trivializes the news by pretending to give an in-depth report on all sides and issues on any given serious issue in just with 30 or 40 seconds. He calls us to start reading great books including great poetry, (he notes generally prior to WWII).
This Spring I also became acquainted with Anthony Esolen, professor of English Literature. He is a master of the art of English language. His book, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child is excellent according to my son. On a podcast, I heard him bemoan that his students don’t know who Samuel Johnson is. “Samuel Johnson, who is Samuel Johnson?” I wondered, quietly so as not to be shamed by the good professor. I put my internet connection to good use and in short order gained a basic acquaintance with one of the great scholars of English prose and poetry. Next, I downloaded a free Kindle edition of that great Oxford professors poem, “The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749) and Two Rambler papers.
This past Tuesday night I started reading, Johnsons’ The Vanity of Human Wishes. I felt the warm embrace of my language as it came to life and drew me close and spoke with passion about our human fallenness.
I followed this with the great Puritan writer, John Owens, The Mortification of Sin. Owen speaks to the one who is in Christ (see Eph. 1 etc.) carefully exegeting Scripture to show our secure position in our savior and the filling of the Spirit, both of which make us able to be killers of sin in our lives. “No man should think he is making any progress in holiness if he does not walk over the dead bodies of his lusts.” I slept well that night.
So what did I read while I ate my lunch? An article by Prof. Esolen at The Imaginative Conservative, entitled, “Read Literature to Learn and Love the Truth”. You must read it. (Paragraph two made me laugh out loud. It was as informative as it was humorous.) I didn’t miss that sci-fi series at all and I have, as this article reveals, something to say to you which may prove encouraging (just don’t turn this into Prof. Esolen or Prof. Gordon. I fear it may become all filled with red marks. Hey I am working on it, Ok! See chapter three of Why Jhonny Can’t Preach.)
Hey, kill FOX and read tonight.
P.S. I think all of us in the pews need to read Why Jhonny Can’t Preach.