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A History of Biblical Preaching from the Old Testament to the Modern Era) contends that in the modern world "casual television and junk reading dilute the content of the mind...and the interior life has become bloated with malnourishment." In addition, he says, many Christians believe that the Bible contains all the truth they need about the world, so they do not read beyond the Bible. The author maintains, however, that "all Christians need to read broadly, deeply, and copiously." He asserts that reading is vital to an engagement of the mind with serious issues of faith and culture. Reading, he notes, opens us to insights about issues and people; it stimulates the imagination and introduces us to beauty. In a series of insightful chapters, Larsen provides short, thematic summaries of more than 500 thought-provoking works of fiction, poetry, drama and biography that incite the imagination. He arranges the chapters according to historical period; for example, in "Identifying Our Assets from the Middle Ages," Larsen ranges over Augustine, Jerome, Dante, Aquinas, Bernard of Clairvaux, Beowulf, Chaucer and the Arthurian legends. In each of his summaries, the author is attentive to the lessons that Christians can take from these writings. Such interpretive lenses sometimes cloud Larsen's summaries, however. For instance, he remarks that "the actual state of Willa Cather's spiritual life is questionable...and whether she had truly come to terms with God at her death is a matter of conjecture." Such remarks fail to consider the power of the writing and turn readers away from the very fiction that Larsen urges them to read. While his book is an admirable attempt to recover the importance of reading for the Christian life, Larsen's comments are often too narrow to be helpful.
Great works and authors of the world are introduced and reviewed artistically, intellectually, and theologically. Persons discussed include Plato, Milton, Dickens, Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, Mark Twain, and C.S. Lewis.
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