Monday, May 11, 2009

Orderly Writing

I was at a workshop the other day listening to John Erickson (author of the Hank the Cowdog books). He spoke about what it means to be a Christian writer—and I have to agree with his points. Mr. Erickson said that as Christians, our writing—or composing, or cinematography, or architecture—should be marked by excellence and order. Being “Christian” does not necessarily mean having a form of the Christian religion in your story. It does not mean that your music says “Praise ye the Lord!” every song (or some variation thereof). Rather, it means that, regardless of “religious content” our work reflects God’s order and His greatness and leaves the person better for having experienced it.

He put it something like this: Genesis 1:1-2a says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void…” That is God imposing order on chaos. And then there’s Genesis 1:27 “And God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created him. Male and Female He created them.” There is us, made in God’s likeness to do as He does. Therefore, in all our art—writing specifically for me and him—we should impose God’s order on chaos. It’s the only order that works anyway. Leastways, that’s what I understood Mr. Erickson to say.

And it makes sense really. As a Christian, we should strive to be the best. Our craft should be the finest. Do we have to mention God, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or church, or the Gospel? No. Why? Because in everything we do, all should be for the glory of God (Col 3:17). Would God be glorified by shoddy work? I think not. God is the Master Craftsman. His work is always good. Should not we, who are made in His image have good works as well? And I mean “good” as in “morally upright and virtuous” as well as “superior, excellent, skillful” and even “enjoyable” and “satisfactory.”

This does not mean that I think we shouldn’t write books that are “Christian” in the sense that they actually have Christians in them (or the fantasy form thereof). If I thought that, my own work would be ridiculous! But I don’t think that we can use having Christians in our stories as an excuse for weak work. There is a lot of “fluff” (as I call it) out there. Books that have mentions of God and prayer and Christians, and church—or even more than mentions—but do little or nothing to actually leave you better for reading it. There is no substance to them. And a good book needs substance else you’ll never read it again.

Does substance mean “deep theological discussions”? No. But it does mean that it reflects God’s Truth at every instance. That even in fun, God’s law is honored. Even in something as lighthearted as Hank the Cowdog one can see the struggle between what we should do and what we do, right and wrong, good and evil. Hidden unconsciously by the author (so he said) but there nonetheless.

So I suppose my challenge to you, O writer, and myself, is to ensure that your craft and your content are pleasing to the Lord. Strive to become the best that you possibly can. Show God’s order in your work. Hide not your light but rather let it shine that men may glorify your Father in heaven!

In the King’s service,
Rien Takhid


J.R. Parker said...

I was just listening to an audio sermon today that talked about how Christian suffering could include such things as a sinus headache or arthritis, if we don't complain about them, and therefore show others how Christ's makes us content.

Ril Sorenson said...


Great post Rien.