This article first appeared in the Nov. 15, 2013 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.90, #4)
This is the text of the speech Rev. Huizinga gave at the annual meeting of the RFPA on September 19, 2013.
Picture a banqueting table—not round, but rectangular in shape, like that at which a wedding party typically sits. There are five positions at the table, that is, five chairs and five table settings. In position five is seated a man who has before him an empty plate. Next to him, in position four, is a man who has before him a plate on which sits a good hearty meal. Next to him, in position three, is a man who not only has before him a plate on which sits a good hearty meal, but this man takes his fork, selects a choice bite, and moves it toward his mouth so that he can taste it. Next to him, in position two, is a man who not only has before him a plate on which sits a good hearty meal, and he not only selects a choice bite with his fork and moves it to his mouth, but he puts it into his mouth and chews the food. In position one, at the other end of the table, is a man who has before him a plate on which sits a good hearty meal. This man selects a choice bite, brings it toward his mouth, puts it into his mouth, chews it, and swallows it. He continues eating until his plate is empty.
If we were to name the men at this banqueting table, then seated in seat five is the “empty-plater”; in seat four the “full-plater”; in seat three the “taster”; in seat two the “chewer”; and in seat one the “devourer.”
Hear the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 15:16: “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.” Jeremiah ate God’s words.
We have been given the figure. Now the reality: The good hearty meal represents sound, spiritually-edifying literature. The man represents the reader.
At one end of the table, in seat five, is the “empty-plater.” This man owns and reads nothing. His life is altogether devoid of sound, spiritually-edifying literature. In seat four is the “full-plater.” This man owns books. Walk in his house and see the books on his shelves. He reads none of them. In seat three is the “taster.” This man owns books and looks at them. After receiving a new title from the RFPA, this Book Club member holds his book in his hands and reads the back cover and even the table of contents. He pages through and looks at any pictures. If his friends are discussing the book after church, he will know what book they are talking about, although he cannot contribute to the discussion because he has not read it. He reads the front cover and the sympathy expressions on the back of hisStandard Bearer, but little else. He tastes his books. In seat two is the “chewer.” He owns and reads good books and magazines. They do not nourish him in any significant and lasting way because he often skims through them or reads out of necessity, and thus does not reflect and contemplate. However, he does have a general knowledge of the content of the book. In seat one, occupying the other end of the table, is the “devourer.” At his own pace—some devourers eat quickly and some devourers eat slowly, but both devour their meal—he reads his books and magazines (and Bible!) and they impact his life. Excitedly he talks to others about the content of his literature. To use the words of Jeremiah, the words he reads are the joy and rejoicing of his heart. One book after another his soul devours, and his love for and gratitude to God grows.
“Empty-platers” have no books. “Full-platers” have books, but do not read them. “Tasters” taste books. “Chewers” chew books. “Devourers” devour books. All sit at the table.
Where do you sit at the table?
Where are your children seated?
Where will the next generation sit?
It is the concern of the board of the RFPA that we are generally drifting away from seat one (“devourer”) and toward seat five (“empty-plater”). No one would say that as churches we are sitting in seat five, although some individuals do. But concrete evidence indicates we are drifting in that direction. The board of the RFPA notes continual decline in Standard Bearer subscriptions. At present only 64% of Protestant Reformed households subscribe to the Standard Bearer. That means 36% do not. Over one-third of our households do not even subscribe to the Standard Bearer, the unofficial magazine of our churches since 1924! Alarming! Of the 64%, how many are actually reading their Standard Bearer cover to cover? Furthermore, how many consistories give a book to the young people who have made confession of faith? Probably many do. Of all those who have made confession of faith in the past, say, fifteen years, and received a book, how many have read through that book?
Surely we read. Surely we have young people who read. But are we drifting down the table in the wrong direction? The purpose of this address is to encourage the reading of good, solid, spiritually-edifying literature, particularly among the next generation. Today and tomorrow may we find ourselves seated at or near position one and saying with Jeremiah, “Thy word was the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
For sake of clarity, there are a few more comments by way of introduction. First of all, when I speak of reading, I am not referring to all forms of literature, though reading widely is obviously important and necessary for a good education. I am speaking of that good, sound, spiritually-edifying literature that includes the Bible and the confessions, but also anything that is an explanation of biblical concepts or sets forth the life and practice of the Bible. Most certainly I am not here referring merely to works of Protestant Reformed authors. Included in the scope would be devotionals or a collection of meditations, works of church history including biographies and autobiographies, commentaries, theological treatises or
dogmatics, theological journals, books on the Christian life (whether treating dating and marriage or enduring suffering or family worship or financial stewardship), helps for Bible study, books addressing contemporary issues in the church (on worship or doctrine), and certainly the publications of the RFPA, the Standard Bearer, but also the Beacons Lights, the Perspectives in Covenant Education, Salt Shakers out of Singapore, and also various online sources. This list is by no means exhaustive, but you understand the general scope to which I refer: good, spiritually-edifying literature.
Secondly, when I refer to the people of God reading, I do so organically, and not head-for-head. There are those who will never be able to read, perhaps because of mental disabilities or other conditions.
Thirdly, although I speak of books, I recognize some people do not read, for example, The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink in an old paperback, but on their tablet. I am not excluding tablets or the like from this address, though I speak of books.
Finally, in the near future, someone—probably a teacher and at a gathering broader than the annual teacher’s convention—must speak on the place of reading in education. For I have been told recently that the philosophy of education is changing, radically changing. Future teachers are taught that children need to know only one thing: how to find the answer. They do not need to be lectured to (a method proven ineffective); they do not need to read books (they do not retain the information anyways). They do not need to know who the first president of the U.S. was, or if the earth rotates around the sun or the sun around the earth. Children must be taught one thing: how to find the answer. In their hands they will have powerful tools capable of giving them all the answers. They need only to know how to use their tools and how to discover the answers. This philosophy will have significant implications for catechism and preaching and life in the church in general. And as one astute observer recently pointed out, this is all preparation for the coming of the Antichrist, for he will come and tell the ignorant masses what to think, what is truth, and what they need to know, and who will know any better? Destroyed for lack of knowledge! However, I am not addressing the place of reading in education.
The subject of this address is encouraging the next generation to read good literature throughout all of their life. Why? Next time we will consider the necessity and even urgency of encouraging the next generation to read. The urgency arises out of reading’s very significant place in God’s covenant and reading’s disappearing significance in the modern world.
Brian Huizinga (Wife: Michelle)
Ordained: September 2011
Pastorates: Hope, Redlands, CA - Sept.2011Website: www.hopeprc.org/cgi_bin/sermon_search.php
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