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The Vanishing Word (Focal Point) Paperback – 3 Mar 2003

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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Solid discourse on a neglected topic--American visual idols. 17 July 2003
By Douglas Groothuis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Drawing on the work of some of our best social critics (particularly Neil Postman), Mr. Hunt indicts American culture for returning to pagan idolatry--the idolatry of the ever-present visual image. This is closely connected to the cult of celebrity (people "well known for being well known" (Boorstin) not for any discernible achievement) and its accompanying spectacles.
Hunt appropriates some of the insights of C. Paglia that America has returned to a pagan worldview, especially in popular media. As a Christian, however, he refuses to celebrate this, but instead registers a jeremiad--and a very well informed and prophetic one at that. We must return to the Word as our primary way of acquiring and treasuring knowledge. The image, while important in some dimensions, is the easy tool of propaganda and manipulation; it often deceptive, and lacks the conceptual resources available to typography. "In the beginning was the Word," declares the Gospel of John, not "the image."
This book expands on recent articles published in "The Christian Research Journal" and provides a short history of western culture from the vantage point of communications theory (in which the author is trained).
I give the book four stars, not five, only because there is, to my knowledge, very little original material. It is largely derivative; however, Americans seldom fathom the significance of the sources upon which Hunt draws. We should thank him for making them available in this crisp and telling critique.
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Denver Seminary
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Stemming the Tide of the Image Culture 19 Mar 2004
By Anthony T. Selvaggio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Arthur Hunt's "The Vanishing Word" is a helpful and insightful salvo in the battle to preserve the written word in an age enamored with images. Hunt is currently a professor of speech and communications at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Although he teaches speech and communications, his real expertise is in the fledgling discipline of Media Ecology. Media Ecology was a field pioneered by men like Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan. "The Vanishing Word" is essentially a work of Media Ecology and in it Hunt examines our cultural environment and finds it polluted with pagan image idolatry.
Hunt's work is particularly helpful because it begins with an historical analysis of the rise of the written word. Hunt condenses the important events of Western history into readable and accessible chapters. He presents this historical information in a lively fashion by including helpful illustrations and examples. Hunt's Christian presuppositions are certainly not hidden in this book. His history of the word begins with God and Moses and not with Aristotle or Gutenburg.
Following the linear unfolding of history, Hunt notes that a major shift occurred in our culture with the rise of electronic mass media. He contends that this "new" development is bringing our culture back to "old" ideas, particularly pagan idolatry. He writes:
"The old system just keeps coming back. Not that long after the Flood's waters had receded, Nimrod stretched forth his hands to receive the astrological charts from atop Babel's tower. The sands of Egypt were still between the toes of Moses when he proceeded down the mountain of thunderings and lightnings, tablets in hand, only to find the Hebrews dancing around a golden calf. The people of God multiplied under the Roman knife, but then the pantheon strangely reappeared over the church altar. The fire of the Reformation pushed the gods back until the icon-making machines of the twentieth century ushered them back again in living color (155-156)."
Hunt's book also provides a helpful analysis of the shift from modernism to post-modernism. He also makes some penetrating comments about the impact of the image culture on the church, particularly in the area of worship.
I highly recommend this book to pastors, Christian educators and anyone interested in understanding and stemming the tide of the image culture.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The lost art of reading and thinking 8 Jan 2004
By Mark J. Armstrong - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book was a fasinating history and exposition of how the image has led to the decline of civilization. Today's almost total reliance on visual communication may be a dark age greater that the olden dark ages. If you don't believe this last statement, you have not read this book or are blinded by images. This book should convince you to read more and cherish black and white print over the alluring visual medium. The trinity of violence, sex and celebrity accompanys the image. The dangers of technology and media in historical perspective awaits you in this book. Neil Postman would second the motions in this book. I'd like to see a college class on the topic.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A wake-up call for the church 16 Mar 2004
By Gregory Novalis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The author sees the current cultural tendency to exalt visual imagery at the expense of language as a direct assault on Christianity. He warns Christians that the church is being cut off from its word-based heritage, to its great detriment. Superb socio-cultural analysis by a keen-minded Christian scholar, along with a much-needed affirmation that "the Word is everything." Although Professor Hunt builds upon the previous studies of Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, Camille Paglia, and others, his radically different spiritual perspective as a conservative evangelical makes this a highly original work with many entirely fresh insights. Required reading for all thoughtful Christians who would equip themselves better for the "spirit wars" of our time and halt the church's slippage into a mindless paganism.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Powerful words 12 July 2008
By Lisa L. Smartt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm not a professor or a philosopher. I'm a wife and a mom. This book had a positive impact on my life because the author was courageous enough to tell us the truth...the truth about our culture and the dangers of a subtle overdose of celebrity worship, visual images, and watered-down worship. Thankfully, the book was written with concern rather than harsh judgment. The concepts in this book will be with us for a long time. Hopefully, we'll be able to successfully pass them on to our children.
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