“Written to be Heard”

My review of Paul Borgman and Kelly James Clark’s book “Written to be Heard”, on how we miss one of the most important dimensions of the Gospels when we only read our Bibles.

Goals of the Book:
What if we were not getting all we could out of our Bibles? What if the medium through which we receive the Bible wasn’t the one that the biblical authors had chosen as their primary motive for getting their message to us? Borgman and Clark, in Written to be Heard argue just that.

We Americans are used to owning more than one physical copy of the Bible. More than that, we are used to, well, not really reading those Bibles. But when we do, we, as a culture, have been formed in ways not conducive to reading well and paying attention for long periods of time. Not only that, but our minds don’t process information that has been read the same way that we process information that we are hearing or having presented to us. Because of this, American Christians aren’t in a great place vis a vis their Bibles.

Why Should I Care?:
We don’t want to lose any of our Bibles, right? If every word in the Bible is a revelation from God to us, every single word is important! And James Jordan notes that the form itself is important, and the structure of the text is just as important as what it says. In light of this, if Borgman and Clark’s central claims, that the Gospels and Acts were to be performed, it is tantamount that we investigate the claim and interact with the Bible the way that the authors intended.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Book:
Overall, I think this book is worth dealing with. In terms of the argument, I think the authors did a great job of tracing a logical argument and providing enough examples to follow through with their claims. I left the book more convinced that I need to hear the Bible and maybe find some way to have it performed.

But more importantly, as someone prayerfully looking to enter the ministry, I want to grapple with this book for what it means in a church setting. How much more should we acknowledge the need to read Scripture? How much more important is it for the reader/pastor to be more theatrical in their reading? If this helps open up more of the Scriptures to God’s church, then the whole endeavor will be entirely worth it.

The one thing I do have to note is that some of the concepts may not be entirely interesting to the lay reader. That’s not to say that it was extraneous or useless; just that it may not reach the popular levels that this concept may want to. I would love to see more popular level interactions with this text to see what this information would do in the hands of lay people!

All in all, I think this book is worth engaging with. You can grab more information at the Eerdmans website here. You could also pre-order it on Amazon, but it seems like there is a 1-2 month wait, so you might also consider Christianbook.com or Barnes and Noble!

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