The Outlook, Old School Printed Stuff, and Faithfulness

There is a lot of good stuff in The Outlook. I am thankful for the Reformed Fellowship, for their courage in standing up for God’s Word as confessed by the Reformed Churches. By contrast, there are popular magazines that seek to serve roughly the same segment of the NAPARC world which are, to speak bluntly, not as faithful. At least one of the competitors to The Outlook seems to have deliberately steered a neutral course between confessional orthodoxy and the Federal Vision despite the near universal rejection of the FV by the NAPARC churches. To refuse to identify clearly with Reformed orthodoxy (and to yet pretend to be Reformed on the basis of a vague claim to a “Reformed” world and life view) is actually to reject the Reformed faith in an important way. Whatever a “Reformed” world and life view means, it surely begins with the gospel does it not? Either sinners are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, or they are not. Because of this particular magazine’s tolerance and even occasional support for the FV, I refuse to contribute to it, even though they have asked more than once. Each time I tell them this: until the magazine makes clear its unqualified theological commitment to the historic and confessional Reformed doctrine of justification and its opposition to the federal vision and to those institutions and persons who promote it, I don’t see how we can cooperate. Ironically, for this particular magazine, there seems to be no ambiguity about the days of creation. They are strict 6/24 creation folk but latitudinarian on the gospel and on sects the corrupt the gospel. This is a bizarre sign of the times.

One does not find such upside-down priorities in The Outlook. There’s another thing to like about the The Outlook: Most of it is still seen only in hardcopy. However old fashioned that may be, it might be a good thing. Perhaps it’s not as much old fashioned as old school. This is an issue on which I’ve changed my mind over the last few years. My experience suggests that it is more effective for some parts of the magazine to be read in hard copy. I do think it would be helpful for essays to be accessible online. It’s not an either/or choice, but there’s a case to be made for reading some things in hardcopy. It would probably be more timely to publish news online and it would be helpful to have a searchable archive of past articles online.

Nevertheless, I am increasingly convinced that, for thoughtful, reflective engagement with a text, hard copy works best. I find that students (and email correspondents) do not really read online texts very closely. It might be a confusion of media. It’s one thing to breeze through ephemeral email. It’s another thing to breeze through assigned readings. In the Doctrine of God course, from the time students began to read some of the assigned readings on screen, their comprehension dropped measurably. Where students who did the same reading in hard copy seemed to grasp the material, few students seem to grasp the very same material by reading it on screen. Test scores for that portion of the course dropped markedly, even after students were notified of this problem and trend.

In recent issues of The Outlook one finds essays about the dogmatics of Herman Bavinck (Cornelis Venema), a series on the Nine Points adopted by Synod Schereville (2007) of the United Reformed Churches against the Federal Vision, Zacharias Ursinus, on the differences between Rome and Protestants (by D. G. Hart and John Muether), and Bible Studies among other things.

If you’re interested in faithful expositions of the Reformed faith as confessed by the churches and thoughtful reflection about what it means to be Reformed today, The Outlook is an excellent source.

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  1. Good points on hard copy vs. online. I find that online is fine for short bursts of reading, but whenever I come across something longer or more substantive I have to print it out in order to digest if properly. Plus online can’t give the added pleasure that an attractively designed periodical or handsomely bound book can give.

    Thanksgiving blessings to you.

  2. If we didn’t have hardbound copies of books, magazines, etc. bookshelves would be unneeded. Sauder furniture would take a serious hit!

    I don’t understand why hardbound readers would do better than e-readers. The ephemeral aspect does get at something.

    Would it be a valid comparison from a handwritten cursive letter compared to what is sloshed down on a post-it?

  3. Hi Durell,

    It has to do with the nature of critical reading vs. casual reading. When texts are read casually arguments are missed, facts are ignored, and points are missed. In ephemeral “literature” (e.g. an email that says, “Have you seen this?”) there’s not much at stake but in an essay that makes a series of linking arguments, missing one or two can mean that the reader misses a major portion of the essay.

    See Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book

  4. “See Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book”
    -I read that book on recommendation of dad Rod on WHI. Wierdly enough, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Reading as in eyes passing over the text versus reading and comprehending whatever the author said.

    -On a more humorous note: Let’s push seriousness of content farther, hard cover vs. paper back. Maybe that’s the edge RRC needs to give sales a stiff kick in the seat of the pants.

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