The Gospel Coalition is highlighting the work of Grove City College Associate Professor of English Dr. Jeffrey L. Bilbro.
This month, the influential evangelical network published Bilbro’s essay “Attend to the Eternities amid the Noise of the News” on its TGC website thegospelcoalition.org as part of its longform series, which offers a deeper dive into an particular issue to equip, inform and encourage Christian readers.
Bilbro expounds upon the idea that the sheer volume – and speed – of news coming at us may damage our ability to see what’s really going on and respond appropriately. It’s not a new problem, he writes: “Fake news, sensationalized headlines that would be labeled ‘clickbait’ today, and yellow journalism all developed in the 19th century.”
Citing Henry David Thoreau, who lamented the onslaught of information contained in a single weekly newspaper and instead devoted his attention to “the Eternities,” Blaise Pascal and others, Bilbro makes the case that our news consuming habits can shape and distort character as well as worldview. “We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as innocent and ingenuous children, whose guardians we are, and be careful what objects and what subjects we thrust on their attention,” he writes. “Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.”
The essay is adapted from Bilbro’s book “Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News,” which was published this year.
In it, Bilbro lays out the case that “we are being not merely informed but also formed” by our news diet to the point that our news consumption can shape “how our brains function,” according to publisher Intervarsity Press. Bilbro offers a historical, theological and literary perspective on the subject to help readers understand better what the news is for and how to read it well – to “understand our times in light of what is timeless.”
“Reading the Times” has been well reviewed in Christianity Today, Publishers Weekly and other outlets and picked up endorsements from Christian thought leaders.
"There may not be any greater need in this moment—for both the church and the larger culture—than a practical theology of the news. ‘Reading the Times’ is a book that addresses a discipleship crisis of our day. It may be a generation too late, but it's not a moment too soon," said Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor and author of “On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books.”
Jessica Hooten Wilson, scholar in residence at the University of Dallas and author of “Giving the Devil His Due: Flannery O’Connor and The Brothers Karamazov,” said she was “grateful for a book that steps back from the flash and distraction of headlines to think deeply about the purpose of the news and how Christians are called to engage … a relevant and timeless book about how Christians should belong in but not of this world.”
Bilbro’s previous books include “Loving God’s Wildness: The Christian Roots of Ecological Ethics in American Literature,” ”Wendell Berry and Higher Education: Cultivating Virtues of Place” with Jack Baker and “Telling the Stories Right: Wendell Berry’s Imagination of Port William,” edited with Baker. He is also an editor at Front Porch Republic and a contributor to The Liberating Arts. For more, visit jeffbilbro.com.
For more about the Department of English at Grove City College, visit gcc.edu/engl.