Tag s | Theology

What Language Do You Speak?

Are you born again? Have you been slain in the Spirit? Have you walked the aisle to receive the baptism of the Saints? Are you washed in the blood, blessed by grace, favored for your labors? Have you testified, been sanctified, and placed a hedge of protection around yourself? Do you covet prayers? Are you blessed with singleness? Do you know folks who are lost, caught up in the world, surrendering to the flesh, or backslidden?

Do you commit the unpardonable sin, as a writer, of (a) talking this way and (b) writing this way?

I spoke at a writers conference in Vancouver, BC the other week, and was fascinated by the makeup of those attending. There were those who believed in God and Christ, some who believed in God, some who believed in neither, and even someone, I was told, who hates God. And yes, this was a Christian writers’ conference. So you can imagine how interested I was to engage folks in conversation. And within an hour, I realized something was missing.

No, not God. He was there, shining out in the people I met and talked with. Yes, even through the one who hates Him. Funny how He can do that. No, what was missing was Christian-ese. Those phrases and words we hear so often in our Christian circles, and that, if I’d said them in this place with these folks, they would have been sure I was speaking in tongues! Oh, wait…not sure they’d know that one, either. <smile>

Seriously, it was fascinating to me listening to the group of writers the many ways they talked about God and faith, all without using the terms that too often pepper the speech of those in churches or Christian circles.

I’ve counseled writers for a lot of years that you don’t have to use explicit or graphic language or scenes to depict evil, darkness, or depravity. You can show the depths of human nature far more effectively by language that’s evocative, not explicit. It’s what is implied and hinted at that hold real power. Think about it. That monster in the close or under your bed was terrifying. You never saw it or heard it, but you knew it was in there and it was awful!

In the same way, when we seek to depict God and Christ and what it is to live an authentic life of faith, we need avoid those pet phrases and words that Christians too often love to use. Write about God, yes. But in terms your readers will connect with and relate to. Be clear, be honest, and please, please flee Christianese. For one thing, too many people won’t understand it. (It’s kind of like when I explained to a nonpublishing friend that the typesetter had to kill the widows and orphans on the page and be sure nothing bled into the gutter. His response: “Who knew publishing was so violent an endeavor.” He had no idea…<grin>) For another, it’s stereotypical and clichéd.

Being a good writer means you paint pictures with your words. So make sure, when you paint the picture of God and Christ and faith, that you do so with words that are emotive and clear and beautiful. Because, my friends, there is nothing more emotive, clear, and beautiful than God. And Christ. And a life of faith.

Do I hear an amen?

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Grace is Amazing, But Hard to Explain

I am not a Bible theologian, so today’s blog is pushing me way out on the plank over the pitching seas of exegetical danger, so I apologize for offending those with seminary degrees and those who are infinitely better qualified to write on this subject.  As a friend stated in …

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Editing the Bible

I always thought it was interesting that Christian publishers employed Bible editors.  Of course, they are not there to edit the Bible text, but to work on the extra-Bible notes and additional material that might end up in a study or devotional Bible.

It got me thinking that there is a lot of stuff in the Bible that is just downright disturbing if you want to maintain a simplistic easy-to-accept view of God.  So, if I set out to edit the Bible text, what material could I personally do without?  Here are some things I would rather not have in the Bible: (There are others, but these just come to mind)

Cain killing Abel episode in Genesis 4 Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 Numbers 14:26-33 – Moses and Aaron are not allowed to enter the promised land. Isaiah 55:8 – My thoughts are not your thoughts… Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15 – If you don’t forgive others, then I won’t forgive you. Matthew 7 – Judge not Luke 12: 49-53 – Jesus causes division. Acts 5 – Ananias and Sapphira If you do all things well, but not love, the truth is not in you (1 Cor. 13:1-3) And the toughest passage in the Bible…”I never knew you” in Matthew 7:23

Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek, but I have always felt that one of the facts that validate the authenticity of Scripture is that it contains real life.  Let’s face it, most of Scripture is the story of sinful people doing sinful things and God responding, with the ultimate response (so far) in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

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The Painful Side of Publishing

We’ll get back to focus next week, but something has been weighing heavy on my heart and I want to share it with you.

We all know that publishing is a tough gig. It was proven yet again by what happened last week with the B&H Publishing Group’s fiction division (see Steve’s blog about it). It’s easy to commiserate with the authors impacted by this sudden change, to pray for them and encourage them. But I saw something happening in a number of blogs and author loops, and I confess it troubles me. What I saw was people making caustic comments about the publisher and about the people who work at the publishing house. Even to the point of questioning their faith. As in “How can they call themselves a Christian publisher and do something like this?”

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Does God Need a Makeover?

I have had some interesting conversations over the last few weeks with several different authors about the fact that God often doesn’t do things the way we expect. In fact, there are times when God’s ways—and the ways of those He used–seem…

Strange.

Unfair.

Even–dare I say it?–wrong.

Think about it.

The person who came to work in the field just before the day ended got paid the same as the folks who’d worked all day.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he wouldn’t let the Israelites go.

God promised Abram and Isaac that their descendants would be more than the sands on the beach…and gave them wives who were barren.

God gave a prophecy to Rebekah about Jacob, which she “helped along” by some of the most blatant favoritism found in Scripture.

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Think Before You Read

by Steve Laube

I collect books. I graze through them like I’m at an all-you-can-eat buffet. I sample this tidbit and that. Eventually I get enough to eat or have found the right morsel to consume until it is finished.

It helps make me an eclectic sort. But there are days, even weeks, where I must discipline myself to become immersed in extraordinary writing. It is there where the soul can be fed and nourished.

I came across a quote from the great Charles Bridges, a well respected pastor in the Church of England whose Exposition of Psalm 119 (published 1827) is a masterpiece. A couple years later he wrote a book directed at those in the ministry. But I thought it applicable to everyone who reads. Especially in our modern era of content consumption without digestion.

Ardent minds wish, and seem almost to expect, to gain all at once. There is here, as in religion, “a zeal not according to knowledge.”— There is too great haste in decision, and too little time for weighing, for storing, or for wisely working out the treasure. Hence arises that most injurious habit of skimming over books, rather than perusing them. The mind has only hovered upon the surface, and gained but a confused remembrance of passing matter, and an acquaintance with first principles far too imperfect for practical utility. The ore of knowledge is purchased in the lump, but never separated, or applied to important objects.

Some again need discretion in the direction of their study. They study books more than themselves. They lose themselves in the multiplicity of books; and find to their cost, that in reading as well as “making books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Bishop Wilkins observes, “There is as much art and benefit in the right choice of such books, with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the election of other friends or acquaintances, with whom we may most profitably converse.” No man can read everything; nor would our real store be increased by the capacity to do so. The digestive powers would be overloaded for want of time to act, and uncontrolled confusion would reign within. It is far more easy to furnish our library than our understanding.

May you be inspired to think about what you are reading and why you are reading it.

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Ready, Set…WAIT!

Ah, New Year’s. When hearts soar with best intentions and resolutions tumble around us like snow-melt waterfalls. Our hearts and minds surge with all we want to be, all we hope to accomplish, all we regret and want to change…

Okay, now, show of hands: How many of you make New Year’s Resolutions?

Again, show of hands: How many of you KEEP them??

If you were here, watching me, you’d notice my hand is down. I’ve made hundreds of resolutions over the years, and I’ve broken almost every one. It took me a lot of years to understand that this fact doesn’t make me bad or weak-willed or a failure. It took me several more years to realize that the new year isn’t, for me, about resolutions. It isn’t about saying what I will and won’t do.

It’s about listening.

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What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Three)


So, there I were, surrounded by publishing professionals, faced with the question of whether or not we liked–or respected–our end consumer: the reader.

Publishing folk are a freaky bunch. They love to think and debate and share ideas and dissect and explore. Get a whole room of editors going and nothing is sacred. At the same time, everything is. At their core, publishing professionals recognize–and love–the power of words. Spoken, written, sung from the rooftops–words contain the power to create and cultivate, encourage and empower…or decimate and destroy. These particular folks also love God and His Word. So their drive is work on books that impact lives rather than books that just entertain.

So, what did they say, these learned, insightful, imaginative folks? At first, nothing. They stopped–really stopped–to consider the answer to whether or not they like the reader. Publishing pros are great at pondering.

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What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part Two)


So what are some of the answers I’ve been given to the question “What makes a Christian book Christian”? Consider the following:

Written from a Christian world view Story offers hope Core of the story shows importance of faith in Christ

Similar to the things you all wrote in your comments (though I think your responses went far deeper.) But I’ve also been peppered with the following critical comments regarding Christian books:

It’s safe It doesn’t challenge the status quo It doesn’t leave anything unsettled, everything’s resolved Quality doesn’t match that of ABA books Easy answers Doesn’t make readers think Affirms readers beliefs and perspective
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What Makes a Christian Book “Christian”? (Part One)


I had this discussion over a year ago on my blog, but thought it would be a good discussion for all of you, too. In some ways, publishing is in a state of unbelievable flux. In others, it’s utterly grounded and unshakeable. Good and bad on both sides.

But here’s what I find fascinating–and a bit worrisome. There’s a seemingless endless debate on what makes a Christian book Christian? Is it the context of the book or the faith of the author? What’s in the book or what isn’t? The tone or the specifics? Believe me, when I find myself in this debate, the answers come fast and furious and are as varied as can be. But before I share any thoughts or conclusions, I want to know what you think.

So, as a reader or a writer, what are you looking for in a book from a “Christian” publishing house? Or from a Christian writer.
What do you expect to find.
What do you expect NOT to find?
What makes a book “Christian”?

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