Johnny Can't Preach Because Johnny Can't Read
In his book, Why Johnny Can't Preach, T. David Gordon argues that much poor preaching stems from an inability to read and appreciate literary texts. Today's reader, he asserts, knows how to read for information, but has largely lost the skill of appreciating the artistry with which texts communicate. If preachers lack this skill, their exegesis of the biblical text and their preaching of that text will inevitably suffer.
In yesterday's post, Darin announced the release of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, and How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth. These three books teach how to read an English translation of the Bible accurately and effectively. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart do a masterful job of encouraging readers to notice and appreciate the literary artistry of the biblical text, and they somehow manage to do it in a way that reads like a friend talking about a good book over a cup of coffee. If Gordon is correct that our ability to read texts effectively has diminished, then these books by Fee and Stuart are an extremely important corrective.
I'm especially excited about How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Where How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth teaches important concepts and offers numerous examples, How to Read the Bible Book by Book ensures that you know how to apply those concepts to whichever passage you happen to be studying.
We've formatted How to Read the Bible Book by Book as a Reference tool, so you can display it in a parallel pane alongside your Bible text as you read. This is particularly effective when you want just enough help in reading a passage to keep reading effectively, but not so much that you're no longer reading the passage for yourself. Put another way, the danger of turning to commentaries too quickly is that you end up viewing the biblical text through the lens of the commentary rather than reading the passage for yourself. But what about those times when you get stuck or confused and need a little help? The brief passage summaries in How to Read the Bible Book by Book offer helpful guidance without distracting you with too much information or telling you what the commentator thinks the passage means.
In previous blog posts, I've explained how I usually turn to concise commentaries when I need help understanding a passage, saving the more in depth commentaries for those times when I want to dig deep. That way I can get the help I need without getting bogged down. Lately I've begun turning to How to Read the Bible Book by Book even before consulting my concise commentaries, simply because it's designed to offer what I've been using those commentaries for: a little guidance in how to read the text more effectively.
If Gordon's critique about reading texts for information without appreciating their artistry strikes close to home, I strongly recommend these books as a helpful antidote.