Reading Maketh a Full Man

Many years ago Bacon wrote that reading maketh a full man. No one can be well-informed, well-adjusted and well-developed, unless he cultivates the art of reading avidly what others have written. Even radio and television are incompetent to take the place of this practice.

It makes all the difference in the world, however, what a man reads.



Every consistent reader will become a full man. But this does not yet assure anyone that he will be filled with wisdom and goodness. Men can so read that their lives are filled with evil thoughts, base ambitions, and low morals. Such a person is filling himself but not for good.

In a recent issue of Christianity Today (Oct. 27, 1961) two articles dealt specifically with this matter so important to the welfare of Christ’s church. The editor spoke of a “flood tide of obscenity on American bookstands.” A book long-banned, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, may now openly appear on the market. This has been hailed with glee by many critics. Karl Shapiro went so far as to write, “Let’s put together a bible of Miller’s work…and put one in every hotel room in America, after removing the Gideon Bibles and placing them in the laundry chutes.” Here the lines between good and evil are sharply drawn, and church members do well to take heed.

In the same issue D. Bruce Lockerbie of Stony Brook School pleads for Christian critics. Their significance in our culture is signalized. “One of the most influential men in our specialized society is the critic. His function in every field of artistic development appears well defined: he is a. sampler, a professional taster for millions. With few exceptions the masses of theatre-goers, collectors of art, and book readers rely upon the published reviews of established critics.”

Many of these, however, are not to be trusted by Christians, Often they reserve their “plaudits and praises for third-rate novels and third-rate writers.” Even worse: “the critics have gone farther: they have heaped recognition upon shoddy forms of literature by awarding respected prizes to authors of shallow samples of the decadence of unregenerate mentalities.” There is a lamentable lack: of Christian novelists; still more, a dearth of Christian critics. Calling attention to the work done by some evangelical Christians in this field, including our own Henry Zylstra, Lockerbie urges that Christian teachers of language and literature enter this field more consciously and consistently. Their voices should be heard above the maudlin meanderings of those who have no fear of God before their eyes and thus help to poison the literary wells from which people today so thoughtlessly drink. Here is a real field for Christian witnessing, a mission especially needed in our times.

Just how much attention is given by Christian parents, teachers, and church leaders to the need for good Christian literature of all kinds? We talk much about a full-orbed gospel. If the magazine racks and book shelves of many a Reformed home are any indication of the strength of our convictions and commitments, we fear that we have come to a pretty sorry pass. For many a Dutch and possibly American home it’s house-cleaning time. Well might we begin with the muck and trash which we have permitted ourselves and our children to drag into the sanctuary of our homes which should be “seed-beds of true godliness.” It’s bad that much Christian writing isn’t literature. It’s far worse that much, if not most, of what is recognized as literature isn’t Christian.

Parents, teachers, and preachers ought to remember that by means of their reading our children and youth are filling themselves with something. Whether they will be filled with the good or the bad depends, under God, in large measure upon the guidance which we give.


The Southern Presbyterian Journal often contains pointed paragraphs worthy of being reprinted. We pass on one to our readers which speaks for itself.

“A great many people don’t read their Bibles because, they say, they don’t get anything out of their reading.

“We rather suspect that they read too hurriedly and with their minds focused somewhere else. The Bible seldom speaks its deepest, sweetest words to those who read in a hurry. Nature can tell her secrets only to those who will sit still in her sacred temple till their eyes lose the glare of earthly glory and their ears are attuned to her voice. And shall the Bible do what nature cannot? Never. The man who shall win the blessedness of hearing the voice of divine wisdom must watch daily at her gates and wait leisurely and earnestly at the posts of her doors.”

How do you read God’s Word?


These days the Southern Presbyterian church is engaged in celebrating its centennial. Naturally, one may expect that reference is made frequently to its heritage, which is none other than the Reformed or Calvinistic faith.

Not all within that church-communion are agreed, however, wherein the distinctiveness of this faith lies. Many make use of .the phrase “The Reformed Faith” apparently without really outlining what it is. We leave our readers to judge whether a tendency in this direction may not also be in evidence within the Reformed Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Christian Reformed Church. This practice will produce a dead traditionalism, which, as the Rev. C. Huissen so appropriately pointed out in this magazine not so many months ago, gives birth to an apostate liberalism.

In this connection one of the writers of the Journal found it necessary to point out that the distinctive feature of the Reformed faith is not its presbyterial church polity, as some in that denomination would affirm. He warns that in view of all the talk about church union, believers ought to be fully aware that not differences in church organization but in doctrine need ironing out. And these must be faced fully and frankly.

We can therefore appreciate the lucid statement on “The Reformed Faith” which appeared on the same page. It is the paraphrase of an answer given by a pastor to one of his parishioners who wanted to know what the Reformed faith is. Here is a fine compendium which can serve all Calvinistic Christians well.

“The Reformed Christian believes that he is justified by faith in Jesus Christ through the immediate work of the Holy Spirit in his heart; hence he is not a Roman Catholic.

“The Reformed Christian believes in the Trinity, therefore in the full Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ; so he is not a Unitarian.

“The Reformed Christian believes in the sacraments and the Word of God as means of grace; so he is not a Quaker.

“The Reformed Christian believes in the prior work of God’s grace in the human heart leading to salvation; and in the Predestination of all things according to God’s sovereignty; so he isn’t a Methodist.

“The Reformed Christian believes that the priesthood of all believers has replaced a special priesthood; and that ordination is by the Holy Spirit and not by any power granted in human succession; so he isn’t an Episcopalian.

“The Reformed Christian believes that Baptism represents the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the believer; and that the Promise is to believers and to their children who are also heirs of the Covenant; so he isn’t a Baptist.

“The Reformed Christian believes in a representative government rather than a purely democratic government; so he isn’t a Congregationalist.

“In addition to these denominational distinctives, the Reformed Christian bases his relation to God and his hope of salvation on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, incarnate Son of God, crucified for our sins, raised for our justification, reigning in the hearts of His people by the Holy Spirit and coming again in time to judge the quick and the dead. He also believes in the fellowship of believers on earth and in fruitful Christian living.”


Under this title Emerson W. Shideler, associate professor of philosophy at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, has written a thought-provoking article in Christian Century. He attempts to face squarely the dilemma which troubles many Protestant parents who use the public schools for the education of their children. Such people, if they think at all, are aware of the conflict created in the minds of the children who hear one thing at home and in church and another in the school. If the present drift continues, the author is convinced that either the Protestants will be driven into the secularists’ corner or else they will oppose public education itself.

He presents in summary form what he considers to be the solution.

This is to be found “in a clear understanding of what Protestant theology implies with respect to the nature of education.”

He is convinced that “indoctrination” as practiced by parents and churches is hostile to the real spirit of Protestantism. Now he unfolds his opinion, which betrays .in how far the American religious world has saturated itself with Barthianism and existentialism. “Truth itself, in this view, is not something final and absolute and complete in propositional or creedal form. It is not a specific body of content at all. Instead, truth is the living relationship in which man confronts his existence in God. In Christian terms, truth is the life in Christ that one shares in dialogue with God.”

From this Shideler concludes, “The theological reason why Protestants must protect the integrity of the public schools against those who would silence debate and exploration in those classrooms rests upon the view of man that says ho has not yet found the full truth in any area, or the complete meaning of his existence.” Therefore “all who would tap public funds must be willing to participate in the free market of ideas in public debate.”

We wonder whether the writer means what he says.

On this basis every evangelical Christian teacher would have the right to present his or her personal convictions concerning the Bible, God, Christ, salvation, and heaven and hell. Likewise the Roman Catholic may openly affirm as his conviction and present for further discussion and argumentation his views of the church. The doors are swung wide open to the atheists and the agnostics. Also the most radical Communists may press their point as their faith-commitment. And so we go on and on and on…

Aside from the fact that this is now forbidden by law, the children in such schools would become more confused than they already are. We lay an intolerable psychological and spiritual and mental burden upon immature and unformed minds. We rear a generation that will be still more confused and filled with contradictions than the present one. If this is Protestantism, God save us all from it!

Thank God, there are thousands and millions of Protestants who know better. They believe in indoctrination, in training up a child in the way he should go. Nor do they accept the palpable misrepresentation of what true “indoctrination” is, as given in this article. Here again we are reminded of God’s precious provisions for his people. He does not let them stumble in the dark and fumble for the truth. In the Christ of the Scriptures he gives us “the truth,” which makes us free.

Note: The theory of Professor Shideler is subjected to an exhaustive analysis in a series of three articles by Dr. Paul Schrotenboer in the following issues of TORCH AND TRUMPET. Man. Ed.