Thursday, December 18, 2008

Writing to be understood

This morning CBC radio did a piece on a book entitled "How To Profit From The Coming Rapture: Getting Ahead When You Are Left Behind," by Steve and Evie Levy, better known as Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman. It is a sarcastic spoof on how-to investment guides and the dubious theology that controls the wildly popular and all too profitable "Left Behind" books. 

While I do think that the sincerely held beliefs of others should be treated with respect sometimes sarcasm exposes suspect theology in a way that polite discussion cannot. But more than that, what caught my attention in light of the recent discussion about books here on my blog, is that books like the "Left Behind" series are a good example of books that publishers find hard to resist because of the income they generate, and yet, in the long run they have little value beyond that of highly improbable 'Christian science fiction'.

Sadly they sell so well because there are too many who are uninformed regarding genuine biblical eschatology. Furthermore, this kind of material makes Christians and Christian theology look foolish and does more to confuse people than anything else. I have met few students who are not greatly relieved to discover that there are much better ways of assembling the pieces of the eschatological puzzle than what is presented in popular Christian literature and preaching.

But there is a long way to go before the mainstream Christian public understands these things. This is where we need good theology written in a way that 'normal' people can understand. Many of the brilliant intellects who write are out of touch with people in the pews, not to mention those outside of the church. These same writers think they relevant etc., and therefore fail to realize that 'normal' people do not understand what they are talking about. Many academic writers are not 'normal' themselves in terms of their intellects and their day-to-day experiences, and as a result, many people who could benefit from their instruction gravitate towards material that they understand and find relevant but is, unfortunately, theologically naive and inaccurate.

As I see it two things must happen. First, the Christian community must not just publish academic type books and/or very simplistic books, but books that strike a balance that informs, teaches and gives people a desire to learn more. Second, we must work and pray that God will give his people an appetite for truth and not for what Paul talks about as "false doctrines, myths and endless genealogies... things that promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God's work--which is by faith" (1 Timothy 1:3-4). Another way to look at it is in terms of edification. Our goal should be to build up our brothers and sisters, and this, more than ever, means speaking and writing in a way that common people can understand while at the same time moving them deeper into the riches of God's revelation.


Ian Hall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ian Hall said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I remember the one time I picked up a "left behind" novel in a Christian bookstore. I didn't buy it - reading the back cover was enough to convince me that my money could be better invested elsewhere. It tells us something of the weakness of modern Christianity that the "left behind" rubbish sell in their millions.

jbranch said...

Well said.

Foundthisbook said...

Hey I just want to see if you have ever read the Left Behind series by Tim LeHaye? I know they are trying to build a community of us fans of the series. If you want to join the group we are at

Please stop by and say hi. Hope to see you there!