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Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide…

Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature (Turning Point…

by Jr. Gene Edward Veith

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I read this book when I was a student and really enjoyed it. It was well written and full of interesting ideas. It reinforces the importance of reading and its role in developing your minds critical evaluation skills. It gives understanding about how a Christian can reconcile their beliefs with many types of literature - even when it runs contrary to your beliefs.

It has been a few years since I have read it, but it is one of the books that I have kept even through many moves between states and even international. ( )
  Jemima79 | May 30, 2009 |
This is a fascinating book and one from which all readers can benefit not just Christians.

I have given some extracts from the book to give you a flavour of the text. The rest of the book is just as interesting and illuminating.

The author argues that the capacity to read is a precious gift of God. She states that Christianity and literature are mutually illuminating

The imagination activity provides both the pleasure and intellectual value of reading: Appreciation and enjoyment must come first.

When we read, we cultivate a sustained attention span, an active imagination, a capacity for logical analysis and critical thinking, and a rich inner life. Critical reading is the habit of reading with discernment and an awareness of larger contexts and deeper implications.

.She reveals that words and images promote two totally different mind-sets.


Reading the Bible tends to lead to reading other books, and thus to some important habits of mind. The centrality of the Bible means that every act of reading can have spiritual significance.

Prayer and Bible reading are central to a personal relationship with God. As we read the Bible God addresses us in the most intimate way, as one Person speaking to another, thus a two way dialogue is created.

When ideas and experience can be written down, they are, in effect, stored permanently. People are no longer bound by their own limited insights and experiences, but they can draw on those of other people as well. Instead of continually starting over again, people can build upon what others have discovered and have written down.

Reading has shaped our civilization more than almost any other factor and that a major impetus to reading has been the Bible.

Is it possible for Biblical faith to flourish in a country that no longer values reading?

There is a connection between forms of human communication and the quality of a culture.

God is to exist for us in the Word and through the Word, a conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking.

“Word-centred” people think in a completely different mode from “image-centred” people.

Reading demands sustained concentration, whereas television promotes a very short attention span. Reading involves (and teaches) logical reasoning, whereas television involves (and teaches) purely emotional responses. Reading promotes continuity, the gradual accumulation of knowledge, and sustained exploration of ideas. Television, on the other hand, fosters fragmentation, anti-intellectualism, and immediate gratification.

Language is cognitive, appealing to the mind; images are affective, appealing to the emotions.

It is the difference between symbols that demand conceptualisations and reflection and images that evoke feeling.

Electronic images create habits of mind that have monumental social consequences, to the undermining of authority, the loss of a sense of history, hostility to science, pleasure-centeredness, and the emergence of new values based on instant gratification and the need to be continually entertained. Electronic images direct us to search for time-compressed experience, short-term relationships, and present-oriented accomplishment, simple and immediate solutions. Thus it leads inevitably to disbelief in long-term planning, in deferred gratification, in the relevance of tradition, and in the need for confronting complexity.

The untrammelled emotionalism, the isolation, and the fragmentation of mind encouraged by electronic images lead to mental illness, suicide, and emotional collapse.

Articulate language is our chief weapon against mental disturbance – it is an integrating process.

Christianity is a serious and demanding religion. The priority of language for Christians must be absolute.

Thinking, planning, imagining, creating – processes encouraged by reading – remain essential to society.


Books can engage the inner mind more deeply than the external images of television and film.

Pleasure and recreation are excellent reasons to read.

Our reading habits, as well as the other pleasures of our lives, need to be disciplined. That discipline must be based on knowledge, understanding, and a cultivated taste.

Reading provides mental training for empathising with real people,

Vicarious experience can be more enjoyable than real experience.

Insensitivity to aesthetic decorum is perhaps one of the worst weaknesses of contemporary literature.

The pornographic imagination is intrinsically limited.

Unless you understand that Christianity considers sexual love to be a sacred thing, you can never fully understand why it insists that sex be set about with exclusions and restrictions. All sacred things are.

In the Christian consciousness words are of staggering significance, underlying existence itself, defining personality and enabling relationships to occur. ( )
1 vote TheTortoise | Nov 29, 2008 |
This is one of the best discussions of objectionable elements from a Christian perspective that I am aware of. Veith is probably more permissive than I would be, but I found his viewpoint helpful as I work to articulate my own.
  mebrock | Jan 2, 2008 |
I read Reading Between the Lines soon after getting my MA in English from a state university (early nineties). Though my emphasis had more to do with linguistics than literature, I needed to take a substantial amount of literature classes. I was frustrated because college in postmodern America isn't about opening minds, it is about changing minds. Though I learned valuable concepts, I enjoyed very few of the classes. My first job after receiving my MA took me away from my family for a year, which gave me time to read books, several of which rocked my world, and this book was one of those books. This book is everything that was missing in my literature classes.

What makes writing this comment about the book difficult is that it has been many years since I have read it, and I lost the copy with all my notes in after giving it to someone to read. This last sentence shows two things. I considered the book important enough to risk losing it. (an interesting thought, huh?) And though I can't remember many specifics of the book, I know what the trajectory of my life since that book, and that book is a part of it.

Gene Veith starts out by showing the importance of reading and the importance of the written word, especially to the Christian. Then he deals wth the form of literature, that is, nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, followed by the modes or types of literature, and finally, the traditions of literature in which the author surveys the major phases of Western Literature. The author ends the book by writing about writers and writing, which I found to be encouraging.

I would like to say that the trajectory of my life included becoming a renowned poet, but I can say that the book opened up an area that had been shut off to me. ( )
1 vote taterzngravy | Feb 11, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0891075828, Paperback)

Here is a guidebook for those who want to learn how to recognize books that are spiritually and aesthetically good--to cultivate good literary taste. Gene Edward Veith presents basic information to help book lovers understand what they read--from the classics to the bestsellers. He explains how the major genres of literature communicate. He explores ways comedy, tragedy, realism, and fantasy can portray the Christian worldview. These discussions lead to a host of related topics--the value of fairy tales for children, the tragic and the comic sense of life, the interplay between Greek and Biblical concepts in the imagination, and the new "post-modernism" (a subject of vital importance to Christians).

In the pages of this book, readers will meet writers, past and present who carry on a great literary tradition. By supporting worthy authors, Christians can exert a powerful influence on their culture.

"What a superb resource this is! It resonates with profound perceptions of how good literature works to enrich and illuminate us. Dr. Veith proves himself once again to be a knowledgeable guide through the landscape of the written word." --Luci Shaw, author of God in the Dark and Polishing the Petoskey Stone

"Veith makes it clear that the joys of reading can be deep joys of the type which can enliven our souls. This book should raise significantly the cultural level of evangelicalism." --Dr. Edward E. Ericson, Jr., Calvin College

"Reading Between the Lines is thoroughly readable and thoroughly literate--a magnificent blending of history, literature, and theology that will be welcomed by professionals and laity alike." --Dr. Wayne Martindale, Wheaton College

"Ed Veith has written on important topics with his usual clarity, good sense, organizing ability, and comprehensiveness. The scope of the project is impressive." --Dr. Leland Ryken, Wheaton College

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:50 -0400)

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