Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Why Christians Should be Writers

"In the Beginning was the Word"

Why did I choose this title? Well, fate/destiny/whatever had it that I end up writing content for online clients. That's what I have been doing for 2 years straight now. All through my school years I never realized that the only subjects I did well in were grammar and composition. And then I ended up writing for websites of the some local and foreign ministries. 

To tell you the truth, this  medium of communication has done wonders for me. But most importantly, it has helped me better to communicate the Gospel and my convictions with others. So today, I will be discussing why more and more Christians should take up this activity, whether as a profession or a hobby.

God Chose this Medium

God has revealed Himself to mankind in several ways. But when God finally chooses to have His Testaments recorded for eternity, He uses the written word. 

It is interesting also to note that when the Almighty was making provisions for these Holy Writings, He didn't merely dictate out words to stenos. Rather, He used the full spectrum of thought and expression that human authors utilize while composing literature. So you have Moses who starts out with a creation of the universe, goes on natural history, tell us about origin of the Hebrews, spells out the Levitical law in minutiae, and ends with his sermons to the children of Jacob as they are about to enter the Promised Land. 

He is then followed by those who chronicled the development of religion and politics in Israel, taking right us to the poetic wonders of King David and Solomon. This poetic effect rings up in the books of the prophets as well, especially the "fifth gospel", Isaiah. 

But the story doesn't end here, for you are taken right into the (theological) biography of Jesus of Nazareth, after which we find the history of the movement he inspired and how it spread during the time of Nero. But perhaps nothing reiterates my point of God using all literary genres imaginable to reveal His will when we find early the apostles writing letters to each other and to the believers across the Roman world. The story ends with the Book of Revelation. Now read as a powerful message from God, Revelation was initially outlawed as a political manifesto, literature written to invoke rebellion against the state. 

Yes my friends, God spoke. But He spoke in a way that humans would understand the message. 

Breaking away from Judaism

Jesus was a Jew, and so were the apostles. Make no mistake about it. They were Jews of the first rank, always going to synagogue on Sabbath. But the message of Jesus had these early followers at loggerheads with the Jewish establishment of the time, resulting in the birth of a separate movement that later became known as Christianity. 

Compare this with the fact that as Emperor worship became mandatory in the Roman Empire, Christians and Jews began to be seen as dissidents since they refused to call Caesar "Lord". Add these two together, and now you have a nascent community that has a lot of explaining to do; why do you call Jesus the Messiah, and why don't you bow down to the Emperor?  

So what did Christians do? They picked up the pen! 

Church fathers, who once sat in the feet of the Apostles now had the responsibility of instructing and encouraging believers, exposing heresies, and providing reasons for their faith to the world at large. Their letters and commentaries are a great addition to the treasury of Christian literature 

But the early believers also got their hands on something wonderful: the codex. This book-like structure invented by the Romans was used heavily by the Christians to make copies after copies of the New Testament, no matter how rough they were. As a result, the Christian message survived the persecutions that lasted for 3 centuries. Even today we have almost 6,000 copies of the New Testament in Greek alone! 

Codex Siniaticus

All Throughout the Ages

The writing habits of the faithful didn't cease throughout history. The most notable examples are the commentaries and translations of the 16th century Reformers, names like Calvin and Luther. On the more literary side, there are examples like the "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. Despite having puritan overtones, this book has managed to inspired millions of English-speaking since its publication.  

The Existing Need for Written Material

All the information present above culminate on the point that literature is our Christian heritage. God used it, the prophets used it, and so did the Church fathers and the most prominent Christians in history. Yes, it is good to read. Everyone should be a reader, for it is this habit that makes us better human beings. But a great many of us should be writers as well. Whether it is fiction, journalism, or theology, the medium of scribbling remains as effective today as it ever was. 

With digital tools at our disposal, we now have greater opportunities to share the message you once received to the world using the Biblical precedent of utilizing all genres imaginable. This blog has been a poor attempt at this.

Examples of Christian Writers 

Finally, here is a list of Christian writers who personify what I am trying to convey through is article:

We don't even know the guys full name. He wasn't even part of the original followers of Jesus. But look what he has left the Church with. "The Gospel according to St. Luke" presents the story of Jesus as the epitome of compassion and mercy. He heals people and mingles with poor and down-trodden. He is the "Light to the Gentiles" and the Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep and goes to search the one that is lost. He is the one about whom the prophets of the old prophecy. 

Luke follows his Gospel with "Acts", which is the history of the early Christian movement. Sir William Ramsay comments:

""Luke is a historian of the first rank" and "should be placed along with the very greatest of historians" (The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament)

His secret to writing? Killer research (Luke 1:1-4)

William Barclay
William Barclay has become synonymous with New Testament commentary worldwide. His prolific writing career is highlighted with his magnum opus, the 17-volume commentary of the New Testament. Barclay became a legend in own lifestyle. While there are many distinct features of his commentaries, I personally admire his knowledge of the Greek language. As someone put it, Barclay was "perfectly at home with Aristotle, Thucydides, or Herodotus"

His secret to writing? Sleeping 5 hours a day, removing the hearing aid for maximum concentration, vigorous study, and possibly chain smoking!

John Stott
Expositor extraordinaire, Stott envisaged a time when literature from the third world Church would come forth and wake the Christian west out of it's materialism. Keeping his commentaries and writings on Church issues aside, he is best known for "Basic Christianity" which in my view is a must-read for the new believer or anyone interested in a simple, to-the-point presentation of this religion. Of course the "Cross of Christ" still remains perhaps the best treatment on the sacrifice of Christ. 

His secret to writing? Faithfulness to the Word, and some privacy.

C.S. Lewis
If you haven't heard about this man, you haven't read a lot, religious or otherwise.  Pope John Paul II commented: "C.S. Lewis knew what his apostolate was, and he did it!" Enough said.

Clives Staples Lewis studied and then taught at Oxford, after which he held the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge. His writing prowess is evident by his comfortable adaptation to a variety of genres like biography, apologetics, and children's fiction. 

The Chronicles of Narnia," has sold 100 million copies in more than 45 languages, and has also been turned into a movie series. His "Mere Christianity," published in 1952, was rated "best religious book of the 20th century" by the U.S. magazine Christianity Today.

His secret to writing? Ask the man himself

J. R. R. Tolkien
Lord of the Rings, anyone? On a side note, this Roman catholic was the man responsible for C.S. Lewis's conversion to Christianity with whom he formed a literary group, "The Inklings"

His secret to writing? Invent people, nations, maps, and languages. 

Philip Yancey
Yancy serves a continuing inspiration to aspiring writers like me. With the instinct of a journalist, he touches upon the deepest issues faced by believers in this world. "Where is God When it Hurts?" was my guiding light at a time when someone threw questions of mortality at me. 

Billy Graham comments:

"There is no writer in the evangelical world that I admire and appreciate more."

His secret to writing? He has let it all out!
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