What Makes Christian Writing Unique?
What makes Christian writing unique?
Is it just preachy prose or is it something more grand?
That’s a key question each Christian writer must answer.
The Two Paths
This question was sparked by a person in my Facebook feed. Essentially, he was attacking Christian fiction that he thought was straying from his particular brand of doctrinal purity.
He was an advocate of preachy prose. He thought doctrinal correctness was the most important aspect of Christian fiction. Hit them right between with systematic theology, then let the chips fall where they may.
That’s one path. In my view, it’s the path the world, pseudo-spiritual fleshiness and the Devil expect. This type of writing is often little more than Christian propaganda.
And if there’s something people don’t need, it’s more propaganda. Our world is awash with it, whether it comes in the form of politics, advertising or from cultural movements. The world craves something different. People crave authenticity wherever they may find it.
There is a second path.
Song writer and music producer T-Bone Burnett gave us the perfect map to follow. He said, “If you believe Jesus is the Light of the World as I do, there are two kinds of songs you can write. You can write songs about the light, or you can write songs about what you can see from the light. That’s what I try to do.”
I’ve quoted Burnett many times because he has captured, in my mind, the very essence of how to write for Christ.
Be True to God and Yourself
The issue is not about doctrinal purity as my Facebook friend suggests. No, I’m not saying that Christian writers ought to deal in falsehoods. That is a betrayal of faith. But, a writer must be true to God and self, and that often means exploring the borderlines of thought.
It recognizes that Christian faith can sometimes be messy. It cannot be reduced to something like the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Life is complex and stuff happens.
How can we be true to God?
The answer to that is both simple and complex. However, the simplicity of Colossians 3:16 cuts through all the fog of spirituality: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly….”
If your life has been transformed by Jesus Christ, you cannot help but be true to him. Yes, you may have times of confusion and doubt, and even write about them, but our Lord understands that.
How can we be true to ourselves?
C.S. Lewis wrote a book, An Experiment in Criticism, just two years before he died. Lewis is well-known for writing Christian books. Yet, he also wrote many other books that were not on Christian topics, but emerged from his Christian worldview. An Experiment in Criticism is one of those, and though not written for Christians it speaks to the heart of Christian writers.
Here’s what Lewis said about being true to yourself: “The great artist—or at all events the great literary artists—cannot be a man shallow either in his thoughts or his feelings. However improbably and abnormal a story he has chosen, it will, as we say, ‘come to life’ in his hands. The life to which it comes will be impregnated with all the wisdom, knowledge and experience the author has; and even more by something which I can only vaguely describe as the flavor or ‘feel’ that actual life has for him.”
And that is how you can be true to yourself as a Christian who is a writer. You are filled with the Holy Spirit and that reality guides your mind no matter what you may write.
The Role of a Christian Writer
Your role as a Christian writer is to live the Christian life. It is a Spirit-filled life. You need to understand what it means to live that kind of life.
It is not being self-righteous. It is not a matter of spouting platitudes. It is not of needing to win every debate.
It is being connected to the Holy Spirit. That is the essence of spirituality. It is being kind, patient and loving and coming to all topics with the Mind of Christ. This is reflected you what you write not matter what the topic may be.
How do you stay connected to Christ even though you are writing on topics that don’t fit the usual Christan classifications? By having a genuine relationship with Christ in the first place. Then, maintaining that through Bible study, prayer and acts of service. See your relationship with Christ as a bridge to the world, not a barrier.
It’s a matter of being transparent enough, in your own being, to allow Christ shine through you. “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6 NLT).
What Kind of Christian Writer Are You?
Too many Christian books are loaded with preachy sentimentality posing as literature. The guilty parties are not only the authors of Amish bodice-rippers and apocalyptic thrillers, but also those who rant under the guise of “Christian apologetics.”
Look at your writing with a new perspective. A Christian article or book can be on any topic. The single element that makes the writing different is that it is written by someone who believes and lives the Christian worldview.
You do not need to parrot the shibboleths of “old-time” Christian writers. You do not need to pander to the expectations of those Christians who only expect their prejudices to be reinforced. You have the power to share the message of Christ in new ways to people who need to be made new.