Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Needed: Really, Really Good Writers

I was pulled a bit away from the topic of literature in my last post. Those who read this blog know that I believe that all virtuous vocations are honoring to God and equipped to bring Him glory. My focus this week is not on work more generally, but on the specific need for excellent Christian literature.

If you are a parent of a literate child, or if you are the friend of a talented collegiate writer, do us all a massive favor and encourage said writer to write for the glory of God. It may be that God will call them to other things, but we should nonetheless encourage the development of excellent Christian writing. The word is a powerful unit in society. Christians should not cede the literary sphere to the lost. We should seek to raise up a new literary tradition capable of engaging the hearts, minds, and imaginations of readers of all types and ages.

This will likely take place through a good deal of education, a rich background filled with meaningful connection to gospel-centered Christianity, and and lots and lots of practice. I would encourage Christians who aspire to be writers to get maximal training for their craft. Lewis, Tolkien, and other important authors of the Christian tradition obtained numerous degrees in search of development and excellence. If you are a young Christian writer, seek the development of your skills. Do not think that you should start writing simply because you have good ideas and can craft good prose. Hone your writing. Get excellent training. Try to go to top-level universities where you will be strenuously challenged and comprehensively educated. Do not settle for easy allegory and simplistic metaphor. Your story or novel is not good simply because it is Christian. It needs to be objectively good--no, objectively excellent. Do not make the all-too-common evangelical mistake of thinking that shoddy material is worth people's time simply because it's evangelical. There is no surer way to turn a potential audience away from your work than to make this error.

Develop your abilities, immerse yourself in the body of Christ, and associate yourself with interesting Christians, who think and talk about things and who are a bit eccentric. Draw literary-minded Christians around you and resist the snippety comments from believers who mistakenly think that writing literature is a waste of time better used for more "spiritual" ends. If such sniping persists, gently and kindly list off hundreds of names who were converted to Christ through C. S. Lewis's writings. Then, go back to being creative. Attend conferences, write excellent authors, and study their work. I basically taught myself to write rap lyrics by simply listening to rap with an analytical ear. The same can be done with any discipline.

Tomorrow, we'll look at what good Christian literature should include. With that advertisement completed, for the rest of us who aren't writers, we should find a literary Christian to encourage. Pray for them, push them to merge creativity and orthodoxy, and encourage them. Be a positive presence in their life, remembering the tremendous power God has given literature to express beauty and win hearts. Maybe if enough of us do so, we'll see a Lewis come around in our time.


Blogger Jed said...

I like the idea of hanging around slightly eccentric people--I do it all the time.

Also I think that perhaps C.S. Lewis was a genius. I read a biography which stated that in the weeks leading up to his death, he read the Illiad in Greek, the Aeneid in Latin, and the NT in Greek. For a scholar of English literature (Milton), that is remarkable. Also Lewis was not a good writer: most of his works were dictated (e.g. Mere Christianity, Abolition of Man). I was slightly disappointed when I found that out. Also for what it's worth, legend has it that Oxford philospher E.G. Anscombe once humiliated Lewis in the Q and A after he gave a paper at Oxford. His argument for the existence of God was so badly destroyed that he gave up apologetics for 10 years. I'm not sure whether this is apocryphal or not--one of Anscombe's students is one of my teachers so I suppose I could find out. I suppose the moral of the story is that arguments don't have to satisfy the scrutiny of the most elite of analytic philosophers to be successful in apologetics.

10:44 AM  

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