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The Importance of Scripture Memorization

Timothy Larsen, Carolyn and Fred McManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, reflects on the importance—and difficulty in today's age—of Scripture memorization:

A few particularly rewarding, compact, and potent [biblical] texts are worthy of not only deep reading but even memorization. This is the most counterintuitive of practices for my students. Why memorize a text that you can access electronically any time you wish? This attitude indicates a failure to grasp the way in which a text can permanently inhabit one's inner life. Ask yourself: If you were stranded, what resources would you have by heart to sustain you? Who are you without Google?
When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was able to address a shocked nation promptly and off-the-cuff, quoting Aeschylus from memory: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." I wonder which of today's public figures have such rich and resonant resources within them.
Increasingly, therefore, I am trying intentionally to practice two countercultural habits: first, reading long, substantive books; and second, memorizing short but weighty texts.

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