Problem Solved! — NOT!

Sometimes my office receives submissions for books that claim to solve a problem or provide the answer to a question that has been plaguing mankind since it was known to be an issue. To wit:

  • Why the death penalty is Biblical.
  • Why the death penalty is not Biblical.
  • Why there is climate change.
  • Why there is not climate change.
  • Why Dispensationalism (or another Bible interpretation) is right.
  • Why Dispensationalism (name any Bible interpretation) is wrong.
  • How God created the universe.
  • Prophecies the Bible proclaimed exclusively to the author.

Because puny little man needs something to stew about, some questions and problems will never be “solved” because two sides will form an opinion and no amount of logic, bullying, or even love will cause the two sides to agree. But those engaging in love live in a more Christlike manner than bullies. They will disagree gently and then everyone gets to eat apple pie together. But still, they will disagree.

The problem-solving author may have a large Sunday school class, or even an entire church or group of churches, plus all the author’s family (even the braggart brother-in-law) in agreement that the author has solved the problem. Unfortunately for the author, these groups do not encompass the entire reading public. And not even the entire pool of editors.

So what is the problem-solving author to do?

  1. Convince readers the topic is worth addressing.
  2. Show why readers look to YOU as an authority on this issue.
  3. Resist the urge to claim to have solved the problem.
  4. Present the answer as a viewpoint.
  5. Support the viewpoint with plenty of academic and practical evidence.
  6. Invite readers to come to their own conclusions.

A position of humility will convince readers interested in your topic to join the debate. You may not bring everyone to your side, but at least you will have been heard…and read.

Your turn:

What topics do you want to read about?

What problem do you want solved?

Other than the Bible, what is the best nonfiction book you’ve read lately?

27 Responses to Problem Solved! — NOT!

  1. Avatar
    Nancy Massand July 19, 2018 at 4:03 am #

    I like David Brooks’ The Road to Character. Rather than moralize at us, he tells well reseached and diverse stories that take us to a higher plane.

    • Avatar
      Janice Tanaka July 19, 2018 at 7:25 pm #

      There is another author I can suggest who was a master at using stories to teach while avoiding the trap of moralizing. His name was Arthur Gordon. I only recently stumbled upon his writings in a used book store on Maui. I can’t ever imagine giving away my now, dog-eared copy of “A Touch of Wonder”. Reading his book is like sitting at the feet of wise father.

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      Tamela Hancock Murray July 19, 2018 at 8:35 pm #

      I’ll have to check these books out!

  2. Avatar
    Damon J. Gray July 19, 2018 at 5:34 am #

    Not too long ago, I had a doctrinal discussion with my pastor, and I prefaced the discussion by telling him that I was not trying to persuade him of anything, but that I wanted him to understand with absolute clarity why I saw it the way I did, so much so that he could say to someone else, “This is not my viewpoint, but let me explain to you how Damon views this and exactly why he sees it that way.”

    We talked for over an hour and had a delightful conversation.

    • Avatar
      Amanda Wen July 19, 2018 at 5:42 am #

      That’s fantastic! I wish everyone handled disagreements wjth such aplomb. If they did, the world would be a much happier place.

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    Loretta Eidson July 19, 2018 at 5:51 am #

    I’ve been reading The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer. I think this would be a fun book to teach to writers someday.

  4. Avatar
    Judith Robl July 19, 2018 at 6:08 am #

    My Wednesday lunch prayer partner and I disagree on several points.

    But we love one another and agree in prayer weekly.

    It may not last. We’ve only done it for forty years. (wink-grin)

    • Avatar
      Shirlee Abbott July 19, 2018 at 7:07 am #

      Praying with someone is a game-changer, Judith. There’s room at the foot of the throne for disagreement. Mean-spiritedness, not so much.

      I suspect God gives his children varied opinions on purpose, to keep us balanced and humble. Someone recently told me that political arguments among Christians come up because one side focuses on God’s love and the other on God’s justice.

      • Avatar
        Judith Robl July 19, 2018 at 7:59 am #

        I would agree, Shirlee. We each see only as much of God as we are able to comprehend. There is no way to stretch a finite human mind around the entirety of our infinite God. When we each remember that we only see a portion, it’s easier to let the other person’s perspective enlarge our own.

      • Avatar
        Tamela Hancock Murray July 19, 2018 at 8:36 pm #

        Wow, Shirlee, that’s an amazing point!

  5. Avatar
    Kelly Wegscheid July 19, 2018 at 6:10 am #

    I want to see a solution for abortion. And I want to read more personal stories and encounters from the battle field. That’s why I’m writing about it. 😉

  6. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 19, 2018 at 6:40 am #

    The topic I would have wanted to see addressed, when I was younger, was how I would face cancer and death, if such were to be my fate. I didn’t see how I’d escape a kind of existential despair that would ruin my character and blight my remaining days.

    So I did everything possible to try to get myself killed quick. Didn’t work. God had other plans. I crashed aeroplanes, got shot, got blown up, got knifed, got dragged through treetops whilst hanging under a helicopter, made Barbara VERY angry, and none of it killed me.

    So now that the thing which I had greatly feared has come upon me, I find it’s kind of an anticlimax.

    I’m still me; I still make stupid jokes about serious subjects, and am still interested in the stuff I was interested in before. Every day hurts way more than I could have imagined, and there’s no physical comfort to be found, but the angst und weltschmertz that I thought would be my lot are notable in their absence. (I cause them in others, instead.)

    I’m not sure how it developed this way; it’s not that I suddenly ‘found Jesus’ (He’s pretty big, and kinda hard to lose, yeah?), but with the slowness of a winter dawn I realized that this is NOT the end, that life after life (to steal from Raymond Moody) is more real than the keyboard under my fingers.

    Others have written of this…Kara Tippetts, Kate Bowler, Randy Pausch…but their learnings have not been mine; brilliant people, they peeled back the layers of sorrow and longing to discover the grace in dying.

    Me, I had too many beers, and rode a horse up the stairs and straight into God’s drawing-room. And even God rolls His eyes as He’s watching after babies, drunks, and dumb animals.

    They say that if you sit on the bank of the Congo you’ll eventually see the bodies of your enemies float by, and thus the answer to that long ago question.

    I just had to wait for it.

    And yeah, I’m going to try to put it into a book, because lifting terror is a pretty neat mission at the end of life, but a) I don’t have a lot pf physical energy left, and b) it’s REALLY hard to write, without sounding like either a pompous ass or a “Whoa, dude, watch THIS!” yahoo.

    “Whoa, dude, watch THIS!” They may become my last words after all.

  7. Avatar
    Ed Lane July 19, 2018 at 9:25 am #

    I’d love to find an author who can explain why lives vary in length so much. Our limited human minds can’t seem to figure out why some die in war at age 21 while others like Hezekiah are granted extra years!

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 19, 2018 at 9:46 am #

      Ed, for what it may be worth, I’ll have a lash at this one.

      We have a world that’s fallen, and the upshot is that we have to exercise free will, sometimes in the face of what seems like overwhelming circumstance, to choose God.

      The requirement for free will carries with it the abrogation of divine causality; we can’t assume we’ll be ‘protected’ if we’re ‘good’, because for the whole thing to have any sort of internal consistency there has to be a randomness to disaster. Our freely choosing God is meaningless if we’re assured a positive temporal outcome.

      So the early death and the extra years are not judgements, but part of the landscape to which the Fall consigned us.

      Obviously, I’m no theologian, but this has made pancreatic cancer easier to bear, and I can, through my own actions and attitude, turn it into a blessing.

  8. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D July 19, 2018 at 9:31 am #

    Tamela, it’s my goal through my writing, to help those who have become unexpectedly unmarried. I realize that I will not solve every problem the recently widowed or divorced person faces but I want to reach out and help them as they ask the question “What do I do now?”

    My books also show them that they’re not alone; I do this by including stories with every chapter. Sometimes folks who read my blog postings on my Suddenly Single Tips website have told me that they are simply glad to hear that there’s someone who did something really dumb that they would never think of doing (like lighting a fire when a squirrel gets stuck in their chimney- this is not recommended until you want a grilled squirrel for dinner). It makes them feel better as they face their own personal “new normal.”

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray July 19, 2018 at 8:39 pm #

      What a great ministry! I hope those who will be inspired by your work will find your site, Sheri.

  9. Avatar
    Claire O'Sullivan July 19, 2018 at 11:20 am #

    Hi Tamela,

    Such a timely discussion in our position today. The world has been evil for a very long time, and Scripture proves this time and again. What we see today is in our limited understanding of prophecy (only 1/3 of the Bible!). The time short– how do we express this? Not just prophetically. Our lives are short. What do we do with the years we have to advance the Kingdom?

    As a writer, I strive to address social issues vexing one’s soul as having witnessed, been through it or counseled without judgment, and in lay terms, being led through the Word of God.

    Often my characters come from different backgrounds. One a Lutheran and one a Baptist. But in each point, they agree on one thing (at least) salvation by faith through grace. That is what we teach and should teach.

    Many people do not understand the Trinity, yet one GOD. I have the barest of expressions / analogies for the skeptic to ‘get it.’ Not perfect, but there. So in social media and writing, I want to help those non-believers (and those who do believe but don’t know how to explain in lay terms) how possible the Trinity could exist as one, and how God in flesh came to die for sin (in lay terms again).

    Ha, ha that’s it. In a nutshell: How God exists as one, the Trinity, how God could possibly show up fully man/fully God at the same time the Father watches from heaven, and how His forgiveness gives us life. In unity of spirit, we are one body of believers and all else are points of view, man’s interpretation.

  10. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca July 19, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

    What problem would I like to see solved? The middle east conflict.

    I recently read “Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor” by Yossi Klein HaLevi. The author explains his faith and experiences as an Israeli and invites a conversation from people whom he identifies not as his enemies, but as his neighbors.

  11. Avatar
    Maco Stewart July 20, 2018 at 5:52 am #

    Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules, no contest.

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