Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Prof Mortimer J. Adler
I've been reading the classic book by one of the world's all time great educators (Prof. Mortimer J, Adler) called How To Read A Book. It was first published in 1939. It is an amazing book. I'm impressed by what Professor Adler has written, but I'm particularly impressed with the way he has said it. Reading the book, you may not notice what I notice. But I am desperately keen to learn all I can about the best way to help others learn. Therefore, when I am in the presence of greatness I have my learning receptors maxed out. What I noticed was this: Professor Adler continually reminds his readers. Whenever he introduces a new thought about the subject at had, he will explain it, illustrate it, restate it, then show how to use it. When he has finished he helps his readers to take note of the main point about what he has just said. By the time I got to the 349th page of his book I realised that he subtley, continually, inconspicuously, reminded his readers about the main points of what he was saying. As a teacher, he had obviously learnt some profound things about how people best learn: they need reminding. Upon reflection, it seems to me that the best teachers are the ones who introduce something then in a number of ways remind their students about it. We are creatures who relish reminding.
Romans 15:15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God

If you've ever had the thrill and blessing of organising an event, you will have discovered the surest way to guarantee its success is: reminding. One of the most frustrating things I encountered as a Youth Pastor was getting the phone calls from youth about half an hour before an event to find out what was happening that night. Although, now that I think about it, it may have been more frustrating organising, promoting, hosting an event, only to have youth forget that it was on(?). Kim and I soon learned that we had to phone each of the kids just prior to the event to remind them that it was on in order to get them there. Organisers who refuse to remind will soon become former organisers!

Reminding can be tedious. Last week I met with a seasoned politician who gave me some advice. "If you think people heard you the first time, you're wrong. If you think they heard you after you told them six times- you're wrong! It's at that point when you think that you have repeated yourself so many times that no one could possibly have missed what you said that people are probably now just starting to listen." Just a reminder. No, not just reminder, but a powerful appeal to the very thing that somehow defines who we are. We all need reminding.
Psalm 71:16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

Have you ever noticed how often the Bible both repeats itself and orders that certain things (ceremonies, stories, rituals) be repeated? Being reminded helps us to stay focussed and therefore purposeful. Eugene Peterson says that the Sunday church service is largely about coming together to be reminded. He says this reminding is actually calibrating. That is, it helps us to bring back into focus that which has gone hazey. We celebrate a Holy Communion ritual to remind us. We sing songs that remind us of God's redemptive acts and greatness. We give financially to remind ourselves that God is our Provider. We pray to remind ourselves that God is our loving heavenly Father. We give heed to the Word preached to be reminded of what God has said. We meet together to be reminded that we are not alone in our struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Numbers 10:10 On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.

In the Old Testament parents were told to continually remind their children of God's Word. Most usually, when God sent prophets to Israel before they prophesied they reminded. Nearly all of the Old Testament prophets were historians- ministers of reminders. It seems that God ordained the Seven Feasts of Israel as reminders of not only what He had done, but even more startlingly, what He was going to do. Today under the New Covenant we celebrate some of the residual of these feasts but we are now reminded of what God has already done. Added to this, the Church has introduced cultural reminders, such as Christmas and birthdays to celebrate God's miracles. As we approach this Advent (the "appearing" of our Great God and Saviour, Titus 2:13) Season, we are both reminded and reminding. We are reminded of the greatest miracle the world has ever known, that God became a man and dwelt among us, and we are reminding the world of this shocking and morally confronting truth. I only say all of this by way of reminder.
1Corinthians 15:1Now I would remind you, brothers,* of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,

    Father, we are reminded of your great faithfulness in Your Book of Reminders, the Scriptures. We are reminded of times past in our own lives when you have blessed, rescued, and healed us. Help us to be reminded more often of who You are and what You have done for us. Forgive us for forgetting the wrong things and remembering the wrong things. Help us to forget well the things You tell us to ignore, and help us to remember well the things You want us to be reminded of. Make us all ministers of reminding to a world that has largely forgotten. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. We are a not-for-profit educational organization, founded by Mortimer Adler and we have recently made an exciting discovery--three years after writing the wonderfully expanded third edition of How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren made a series of thirteen 14-minute videos, lively discussing the art of reading. The videos were produced by Encyclopaedia Britannica. For reasons unknown, sometime after their original publication, these videos were lost.

    Three hours with Mortimer Adler on one DVD. A must for libraries and classroom teaching the art of reading.

    I cannot over exaggerate how instructive these programs are--we are so sure that you will agree, if you are not completely satisfied, we will refund your donation.

    Please go here to see a clip and learn more: