Literature tends to polarize Christian readers: either you shouldn't read any of it, or you should read as many books as you possibly can. Both attitudes are extreme, but where's the happy medium? Leland Ryken has spent much of his professional career helping people to find it by placing the reading and study of literature squarely in the context of biblical truth.
His latest effort is also his most specific to date. Christian Guides to the Classics deal with particular classic works, presenting a sort of Christian CliffsNotes. Lest you turn away in disgust with images of cramming for high school exams filling your head, however, these slim little volumes are better than anything of their kind, combining intelligent Christian analysis with historical background and context.
Each book begins with a short apology for reading literature, along with basic guidelines for reading and interpreting. Then there's a "The Book at a Glance" section, a brief essay on "The Author and His Faith," a look at the book as representative of its genre, and some preliminary remarks.
Ryken then goes on to offer chapter-by-chapter (or section-by-section) summaries of the work with running sidebar notes, critical examinations, and reflection/discussion starters. Every volume ends with a glossary, a list of further resources, and a recap of the major themes of the work under discussion.
The best part of Christian Guides to the Classics is that Ryken is so thoroughly Christian in his approach. He doesn't try to baptize pagan literature, or find redemptive themes where there are none. Instead, he shows how Christians should approach literary art, and how they can respond to it as faithful professors of the Word of God. And the tools he offers aren't limited to the books covered in this series: Ryken equips readers to engage any and every book they encounter from here on.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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