A famous anecdote was published in the New York Times in 1940 as an advertisement for Mortimer J Adler’s work “How To Read A Book.” As I read it again today I was reminded to read the Scriptures in a similar way. Slowly, anticipatorily and intimately. One of the most important aspects of reading Scripture is to begin seeing the details that submerge the text. When we read to quickly we miss most of what God is trying to say, and the transformative application stays shallow.
As you read this week, slow down, soak in the details, ask questions about the text as if you were a CNN reporter. Remember those first love letters that you received?
Your heart began to race…
You could smell her perfume…
You held it gently and ravaged each word with your eyes…
You stopped breathing as the words created an alternate reality…
You were removed from the moment and immersed in a world where letters have the power to free you, or even crush you. Then, the letter was secreted away to a special place that you probably still have, and the letter still holds her magic.
Remember how you poured over the words? Letter by Letter, word by word, thought by thought. No matter how many times you read it it still made your heart skip?
If you’ll approach the Bible that way, you will definitely begin to see things you never saw before!
How To Read A Love Letter
This young man has just received his first love letter. He may read it three or four times, but he is just beginning. To read it as accurately as he would like would require several dictionaries and a good deal of close work with a few experts of etymology and philology.
However, he will do all right without them.
He will ponder over the exact shade of meaning of every word, every comma. She has headed the letter, “Dear John.” What, he asks himself, is the exact significance of those words? Did she refrain from saying “Dear-est” because she was bashful? Would “My Dear” have sounded too formal?
Maybe she would have said “Dear So-and-so” to anybody! A worried frown will now appear on his face. But it disappears as soon as he really gets to thinking about the first sentence. She certainly wouldn’t have written that to anybody!
And so he works his way through the letter, one moment perched blissfully on a cloud, the next moment huddled miserably behind an eight ball. It has started a hundred questions in his mind. He could quote it by heart. In fact, he will- to himself-for weeks to come.
To ponder…ruminate…chew…devour…savor…dwell in… absorb…
These are the ways to read the holy.
Speed reading in order to absorb content might fill your information tank, but it will never touch your soul.
In my book Sacred Space, one chapter is dedicated to his pursuit. Read the chapter titled “Sacred Words” and there you will find some more tools to learn how to navigate the sacred.
We are a not-for-profit educational organization founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery—three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos—lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.
Three hours with Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, lively discussing the art of reading, on one DVD. A must for all readers, libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.
I cannot exaggerate how instructive these programs are—we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.
Please go here to see a clip and learn more:
Max Weismann, Co-founder with Dr. Adler