Summary: Chances are most regular church attendees can rattle off the gist of John 3: 16…often called “the gospel in a nutshell.” There’s truth in that statement, but it may leave some with the assumption the rest of the Bible is just Commentary!

Am I safe this morning to assume that even if you haven’t read it, or subscribe to it… you know what I’m talking about when I mention the New York Times? Of course, it is a well know newspaper and it’s been around for years. How many you have heard it referred to as “the gray lady.” It picked up that nickname due to its volume and depth of coverage. But, something new has been added. A year ago, the editors decided to devote pages two & three of each issue not to important and timely articles, but to summaries of articles appearing elsewhere in the paper. Sort of like a table of contents.

They did this to address two complaints customers were voicing. Some readers said they didn’t have enough time to read the fuller articles. Other readers said because there was so much in each issue, they often overlooked articles they really cared about. There is evidence however, says at least one observer, the change is a snapshot of a larger trend in our world, which may or may not be for the good.

Nicholas Carr is a professional writer who writes for a publication entitled “The Atlantic.” Carr watches and writes about technology, business and culture. As a writer, he spends a lot of time online and has done so for more than a decade. Anyone who has spent anytime on the internet knows how valuable it is for doing almost any kind of research. Days of searching and lengthy visits to a library now can be done online from home in a matter of minutes.

Carr suggests the Times new feature is a result of how the Internet is rewiring not only our reading habits, but also the circuits in our brain that have to do with cognition, or in other words, our ability to acquire knowledge. The “net” has become “the conduit for most of the information that flows through his eyes and ears and into his mind.” The problem, as Carr sees it, is that all this comes at a price: The Internet not only supplies stuff to think about but also shapes the very process of thought!

Carr notes recent studies show that as people view material online, they usually skim rather than read deeply. They hop from one source to another and rarely return to any they’ve already visited. The authors of a study form the University College London concluded internet users are not reading online in the traditional sense and “there are signs that new forms of ‘reading’ are emerging as users ‘power browse.’” They added, “It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.”

Carr puts forth further evidence quoting Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University. She worries that the kind of reading the Internet promotes aims at “efficiency” and “immediacy” and may be withering away our capacity for the kind of deep reading called for by books. When we read online, Wolf says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information” who don’t engage our ability to make “the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply.” The pictures in our minds…

Carr notices that loss when he does reading not on the Net. He used to read pages of material comfortably; he now finds that his concentration drifts after a couple of pages. He gets fidgety and easily loses the thread of the material. He writes, “I feel as if I am always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” He quotes others in his article giving similar reports.

Deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we get from the author’s words, but for the intellectual sensations those words ignite within our own minds. In the quiet space opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by an other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, fosters our own ideas. Deep reading, Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.

Here’s the bottom line to what we’ve been talking about so far…. It is very possible the NY Times has taken to summarizing articles because they are afraid people just don’t want to read so much anymore. In addition, it’s possible the Internet is at least in part, responsible for the decline in deep reading.


So, now let’s do some deep reading of john 3:

Chances are not all the verses we read this morning are on the tip of your tongue, but most regular church attendees can rattle off the gist of John 3: 16… which is often called “the gospel in a nutshell.” Now surely there’s truth in that statement, but it may also leave us with the assumption that if we can recite John 3: 16, we pretty much have the complete Christian message and the rest of the Bible is just commentary.

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