Posted: 6/15/18 at 11:10am. Column by Ed Jordan.
Is a pitched baseball active or passive? Some would say it is passive because it plays no role in its delivery.
Others would say that it is active, because it is moving, perhaps changing direction, and has a specific purpose. Is the pitch passive or active? Is the pitch planned, selected, and delivered with a specific purpose, or is it just sent helter-skelter towards the plate?
Is the pitcher who throws the ball actively and personally involved in the throwing process, or just an inanimate channel for delivering a baseball? How about the catcher? Is he or she active in catching the ball, or does the thrown ball land in the catcher’s mitt automatically?
How about the process of sending a message through the words written on a page? Does a writer (pitcher) just randomly write down words and the reader (catcher) briefly glance at them and understand the message?
Some authors and readers seem to think so, as do some lecturers and listeners. I have yet to place a book under my pillow and absorb and understand the whole thing during the night, even if it were an audio book.
Reading a book is an active process. The author must be good at actively engaging the reader, and the reader good at actively processing what the author is communicating. This is just one of the helpful nuggets to be found in Mortimer J. Adler’s How to Read a Book, a book every high school graduate should receive and read.
As we think of the pitcher-and-catcher analogy, coupled with the concept of active versus passive reading, we can turn our attention to the Bible. The Bible is the greatest book ever written and probably the world’s top-selling book every year.
Do you read the Bible? If so, how do you read it? What are your presuppositions about the Bible, its author, and its message? What kinds of themes are covered in the Bible?
The Bible addresses the design, creation, and purpose of humanity. It gives a history of some of God’s interactions with humans through the years. In the Old Testament, God reveals his interaction with those in the early societies, while the New Testament tells us about Jesus.
The book is also about the lengths that God went to in order to save us from death and self-destructive behavior. The book reveals God’s core values and many truths which are as true today as they were in the time of Jesus, and also in the thousands of years before Jesus’ life and ministry on Earth. It is a book containing law, history, theology, ethics, wisdom, poetry, and prophecy.
In Hebrews 1:1–3 (ESV) we read: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power …”
In Hebrews 4:12-13 the Scripture says that God’s words in Bible are alive and powerful, able to enter into our deepest part of our being, able to reveal our thoughts and motives—and that God sees and knows our thoughts and decision-making processes. So the Bible as a book is alive; it is active and powerful, not passive and inept.
Do we come to the Bible as the living, active voice and communication from God to us? Do we consider God and Jesus as the source of those words? Do we read actively, engaging the truths found in the Bible, or just assume that it contains dead words from dead people, long ago buried?
Reading is an active interaction between the catcher and the pitcher—between the reader and the author. I challenge you to sit down with the Gospel of John and ask God to actively engage your current life situation as you read what he has to say about Jesus and our lives. Also consider reading a chapter of Proverbs each day, asking God to give you truth you will need in the practical things you will encounter that day. Approach it as a live conversation between God and you. You just might be pleasantly surprised about what God communicates to you!