Fresh Words, Fresh Language, Fresh Blood
For some time, I contemplated starting a blog. When I made the decision to move forward, an unanticipated question arose: What shall be my first post? You always remember your first. Recently, while listening to an episode from Tony Reinke’s podcast Authors on the Line, I found my answer.
In the episode, Reinke interviewed Pastor Douglas Wilson (also posted on desiringgod.org here). The main talking point was the use of metaphor; but a subtheme, as least as I heard it, was how to communicate effectively.
Early in the interview, Reinke asked Wilson this question:
Was there an ‘ah-ha’ moment in your life or ministry when you discovered the importance of non-fiction imagination to communicate divine truth?
Here is Wilson’s response:
The first resolve was when we were first establishing Credenda as a magazine. I grew up in an evangelical household; I’ve been around missionary newsletters my whole life; I’ve seen Christian magazines and publications and books, etc., for a long, long time. And one of the things that they all had in common, or seemed to me to have in common, was their boringness, their blandness.
So in the acceptable world of evangelical discourse, you have the bland leading the bland… When we were first setting out with Credenda, this was a central resolve… I wanted to write about theology, and history, and doctrine, and culture in a way that was engaging and interesting—not boring. It might be infuriating or it might be exasperating, and you might be tearing your hair out, but you don’t want to put it down. (emphasis added)
Pastor Wilson’s point: Christian writers are [on the whole] bland and boring, and I do not want to be either.
It’s not my place to say whether the appraisal was accurate then or if it remains true today. I have not been around Christian publications long enough or broadly enough to say either way.
And part of me wonders if Wilson, if asked, would say his critique of a few decades ago still holds today. Perhaps he would say that it is still true, at least broadly, though there are many great exceptions. This would be my evaluation.
But to Wilson’s own takeaway (namely, to move beyond bland and boring), I feel a strong resonance. When he says, “I wanted to write about theology, and history, and doctrine, and culture in a way that was engaging and interesting—not boring,” I say, “Amen. Preach it, preacher.”
I see this as a sensible and timely pursuit, not simply because I personally like to read the type of writing Wilson wants to produce, but also because of the cultural shift away from the historic message of Christianity.
Two Ways to Lose the Christian Message
There are two ways to lose the historic message of Christianity.
On the one hand, we can lose it by cutting ties with the actual historic message—the centrality of the announcement of the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. This is the death of severing the veins from the heart. Blood will not flow when the pathways are disconnected from the source. And of this type of ‘death,’ I do feel that I know enough to say that it is rampant today—a lifeless Christianity, not lifeless because Christianity is lifeless, but because it’s not Christianity. As an example of this ‘death,’ consider how often Christianity becomes mere rule keeping devoid of the gospel. That’s not Christianity; it’s mere religion disconnected from the source of salvation, the foundation of forgiveness: the person and work of Jesus.
However, on the other hand, we can lose the historic message of Christianity by saying the message in the same way that we have always said it. This is the death of recirculating oxygen-depleted blood.
I was reminded of this recently when I asked my young children what made someone a Christian. Their first answer: “Ask Jesus into your heart.”
Well, okay, I guess that could mean something helpful, but what does this phrase even mean? It’s an example of language that has lost meaning because it’s expected; it’s been recirculated too many times.
Not stale, not rehearsed, not clichéd language—we need fresh words, fresh language, fresh blood. In these, there is life. And in the pursuit of these, I launch a blog—a first I want to remember.
May God use it to “fan into flame” (2 Timothy 1:6) the craft of speaking and writing the historic message of Christianity in accessible and riveting language. May God use it to pump fresh, oxygen-rich blood into the body.