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Why the library was more popular than the movies last year: Our counterintuitive culture and biblical truth

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Category Culture

US adults took an average of 10.5 trips to the library in 2019. We went to a movie at a movie theater 5.3 times, which came in second place among our cultural activities, according to Gallup.

We might assume that the difference is because of movie home streaming services, but books are more available through iPads and other devices than ever before. Perhaps Americans want to experience the ambiance of a library; but seeing a movie in a theater is an experience you can’t fully replicate at home, either.

It turns out, people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine visit the library much more than other groups. That seems like good news for the future of books and libraries.

However, Gallup says this is probably because people in college frequent the library to study. Countering this good news, people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine also visit casinos the most.

All this to say, explaining the culture is complex. Few trends have single causes. Few facts have single sources.

We can see why postmodern people claim that all truth is personal and subjective. But such a claim is inherently contradictory (“there is no such thing as absolute truth and I’m absolutely sure of it”). And it belies a larger issue at work here.

Just because something is complex doesn’t make it subjective. I would guess that the functions of your car’s engine are more complicated than you could easily comprehend. (I stopped working on my own car when I sold my 1965 Mustang many years ago.) The fact that I don’t understand how my laptop works doesn’t mean that computer engineers share my confusion.

Living in a complex world actually requires more foundational commitments, not fewer.

Our counterintuitive culture and biblical truth

When I try to navigate the traffic challenges of Dallas, I accept the guidance of Google Maps at face value, knowing that their analytics know more than I do about upcoming traffic and the fastest routes. When my computer stops working, I accept the guidance of our ministry’s Stanford-educated IT director, knowing that he understands what seems mysterious to me.

In my experience, postmodern thinkers brand as personal and subjective those truth claims they wish to avoid considering. If the Bible forbids what someone wants to do, the easy solution is the claim that biblical interpretation is personal. If orthodox morality across multiple centuries unanimously prohibits what someone wants to affirm (such as same-sex marriage), it’s far easier to claim that all morality is subjective.

God’s word consistently claims to be objectively true and divinely inspired. In fact, it claims to be “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correcting, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, my emphasis).

Of course, we would expect the Bible to make this claim. The Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, and other religious books similarly claim to contain objective truth.

To test whether the Bible is objectively true, see what happens when you do what it says. J. V. L. Casserley, an Anglican theologian upon whom I wrote my doctoral dissertation, noted: “A man who jumps from a tenth-story window doesn’t break the law of gravity—he illustrates it.”

I’m reminded of the time a ship’s captain navigating through a foggy night saw what appeared to be another ship’s lights. To avoid a collision, he signaled the approaching ship: “Change your heading ten degrees west.”

Back through the fog came the reply: “Change your heading ten degrees east.”

The captain replied with clear irritation: “I am an admiral—change your heading ten degrees west.”

Came the response: “I am a seaman fourth class. Change your heading ten degrees east.”

Furious, the admiral blazed his message: “This is a United States Navy vessel under orders of the U.S. government. Change your heading.”

Back came the reply: “Change your heading. I am a lighthouse.”

Live by the truth. Speak the truth. Or you’re sailing your ship in a foggy night. And the rocks are near.

What heading do you need to change today?

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