Tag Archives: grace

What 500 years and 5 Million books can tell us about culture and Christianity.

Behind the scenes and in dusty libraries everywhere Google has been scanning books into their every growing database of information. As of 2010 Google said it had scanned 15 Million books into their system. This is amazing!

However, to feel the WOW factor enter the Ngram Viewer. From the subset of 5 million books the Ngram, one of Google’s amazing free online tools, allows user create statistical data about the frequency of any particular word or phrase over the past 500 years. You can also limit the time frame (anywhere between 1500 and 2008) for a more detailed look at a particular subset in history.

If it sounds confusing, or geeky it’s because you haven’t tried it yet.

Below are just a few of the many samplings I ran in the Ngram Viewer:

Heaven & Hell

Jesus & Sin

Personal Relationship with God

Personal Fulfillment

Rapture of the Church

Freewill, Predestination, Arminianism, & Calvinism

*Admittedly the Ngram Viewer is not a perfect tool. It relies on the ability of the computer that is scanning the books to properly interpret the word. An “S” printed in calligraphy might be scanned as a “F” thus making it appear that the term “best” was in sparse usage in the 1700’s.

* Secondly the Ngram Viewer does not give us detailed look into any particular study or field, for example Christianity. However, it does give an interesting sweeping view of culture and how certain words or phrases fluctuated in frequency and usage.

My suggestion… try it for yourself and share you results.

http://books.google.com/ngrams

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Imitation of Christ

I’ve begun to read the classic devotional Imitation of Christ by 15 century author Thomas à Kempis. This book has cut me the core with the turn of every page. It is written with short 1-2 page chapters addressing different aspects of the Christian life. I can hardly put the book down, but in this momentary pause I wanted to share some of Kempis insights that have meant the most to me.

Chapter I

“What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but rather a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without the grace and love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”

Chapter III

“What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day?”

“If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the Day of Judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.”

Thomas à Kempis constant call for humility and excessive of faith and love through action has become another voice reforming what I believe it is to be and live as a Christian.

If you haven’t read this book… Read it. If you haven’t read it recently… Read it again.

This book is public domain, so for those who don’t want to purchase a copy you should be able to find a free copy online somewhere.

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